Friday, May 4, 2012

How She Does It - Juliet Waldron

Juliet is a fellow Books We Love LTD author and I have enjoyed several of her historical romances.

How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific process?

Historical fiction based on the lives of real people is a different ball game from fiction. In that case, ithe research will tell you who these people are. I did begin my Mozart’s Wife with a rather different image of the composer from the one with which I ended. I read his letters and masses of primary source material. These led me to the character I eventually created. Far less is known about his wife, Constanze, and so she is more fictionalized. Actions spoke louder than words in her case, and I found my way to her character by putting myself in her POV and looking for the reasons why she acted as she did.

Now, a character who is entirely fictional is very different animal. They fly in through the window. I sometimes construct astrological charts to help me get clear about them. Caterina, in Red Magic, is an Aries with plenty of other fire signs in her chart, and she is impulsive, opinionated and physically gifted.

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?

Oh, yes, my characters always come before the plot. My fictional characters show me where I’m going, but sometimes I have to wait for them to figure it out themselves and then tell me. Plotting without a historic framework to lean upon is sometimes frustrating for me. I’m thinking about a sequel to Red Magic at the moment, a kind of "Next Gen" story, but it’s sketchy at this point. Every now and then I set down a few paragraphs to nail down images, but I’m not really “writing” yet. My “dollies” need to flesh out a bit more before they can carry off walking and talking.

Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general or specific way?

Not always, even with a genuine historical. I’ve had my narrators go on talking long after the character who initially fired the story has died. (Their lives, after all, aren’t over!) I’d have to say “general idea” is more my style—probably a foggy one at that.

Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses?

I’ve had to research settings and adhere to what I discovered for my books like Mozart’s Wife. I think it’s important to have a strong sense of place in historicals. Setting is not just a painted-on backdrop, but an integral part of the world you are hoping to create. An authentic setting can be essential to the plot.

Where do you research? On line or books?

I began writing before there was the sort of ‘net we have now, so I incline toward books. Initially I researched through interlibrary loans and got my rarer books in State Libraries, sometimes having to read them with cotton gloves in the reading room while taking notes. It’s a lot easier to hit Google these days, and there is an absolute cornucopia of info piling up in cyberspace. It’s quite astonishing and wonderfully convenient. Readers are more sophisticated too, so it’s in a writers self-interest to do the scut work to “get it right.”

More later


Roseanne Dowell said...

Great interview. I remember those days of having to research at the library. Now, I mostly use the internet.

Ginger Simpson said...

Very interesting interview, gals. I've read and enjoyed Juliet's historical, Genessee, and now I'm reading Red Magic. It's very apparent that she does her homework. :)

Ginger Simpson said...

Have I mentioned how much I hate these stupid "captcha" letters. :) I have to type them again just to complain about them. :)

Janice Seagraves said...

Very good interview. Now I'm wondering about Mozart's Wife and how you portrayed her.

Juliet Waldron said...

Thanks ladies for stopping by to take a look at my interview. It always is fun to do these, because you get a chance to reflect a bit on your writing process--always a good thing.

Pat Bertram said...

I always enjoy seeing how other authors approach the writing process. Best of luck with your books!

Anonymous said...

Lovely interview. It's obvious from Ms. Waldron's books that they are character driven. Her historical details are are not only spot on, they are integral to the stories and add a whole dimension of plot for those characters to drive. Well done.

Deborah J said...

Great article. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Margaret Tanner said...

Great blog. I am always interested to find out how other historical authors conduct their research. The internet does make it easier for us, but I still like doing the more manual aspects of research, museums, libraries, cemeteries, family histories etc.