A friend and fellow critique partner. A woman of many names and talents.
1. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?
My characters very often are inspired not only by people I know or admire, but also by other fictional characters – a lot of times, there'll be something a specific character in a TV show or movie does or says that sparks the creative juices. Some tossed off line of dialogues, or a simple expression will spur that whole “What if?” thing in my head. It’s nothing very regimented, just sort of train-of-thought brainstorming. I’ll jot down a few ideas as to who the character is – whether it be their emotional makeup, or their physical appearance. Once I have the basics set (though they are always subject to change), then I start thinking about who would make the best partner for that character. Sometimes that character is inspired in a similar fashion, other times, it's just someone in a certain situation or with a certain problem that works well with my initial character. By this time, I’ve moved to my spreadsheet, where I use multiple worksheets to track the details such as character’s physical traits, personality traits and interests, and scene and plot ideas.
2. Do your characters come before the plot? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?
Characters definitely come first. All of my ideas spring from that. But I don’t have any set routine, other than my spreadsheet. I have general ideas as to what the plot will be, but often it’s barely a sketch. While I do keep that worksheet with plot and scene ideas, often those are only bare bones, and the plot is very fluid as the story progresses. There are often surprises too – like in my current WIP, when a was working on a scene, and all of a sudden, my hero had not only a deceased wife, but a toddler son as well. I never originally planned for that, but it just fit perfectly and gave the character more depth as far as his internal goals.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
I usually do have some sort of idea how it should wrap up – getting to that point is a different story. But most of the time, I know exactly what the last scene should be. Sometimes it’s only a vague idea, other times, a very specific and detailed scene. I've even been known to write that scene before I actually finish the book, especially in those cases where the scene is specific. Usually, though, the final version of the scene changes as the story progresses. Sometimes, that last scene ends up being the penultimate scene or there might be several more after it. It depends on how the story has progressed. Occasionally, that ending gets tossed altogether because it doesn’t work anymore based on plot changes I make throughout the story.
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
I like to use setting I know, but put my own personal twist on them. For instance, the Magiste books take place in New Orleans, a city I love. But I changed it up enough to make it a slightly alternate reality. Or, as in the case of The Taste of Magic, I made up my own country, but based on a real one. In my sci-fi story, we’re in a place I haven’t been in a very long time – the mountains of Pennsylvania. And other than the fact that my hero comes from another galaxy, it’s real PA, not an alternate.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
I research everywhere and every way I can – but mostly online, which can be tricky, since there is so much mis-information on the web. But I’ve found some reliable places over the years that I count as my “go-to” sites. I I find books that fit what I need to know, I buy them. I have quite an extensive library of all sorts of books. I just wish I had more bookcases so they’d be better organized! Most of them are dog-eared, or tagged for the places where I need specific information, and I've even highlighted and written in several of them. The bulk of my library consists of books on Edward I and the 12th and 13th centuries in England and Scotland, one of my favorite time periods. I also have lots of books on witchcraft, magic and fantasy. Those are fun to read because they can spur more ideas.