. How do you create your characters? Do you have a specific method?
They really just “come to me” for the most part. Sara, the main character for the Dream Series books, appeared more-or-less fully formed along with the original idea for the books. For the supporting characters, I usually start with the role I want them to play, or the relationship I want them to have with Sara. In the second book, DREAM DOCTOR, for example, Sara is in medical school, so I knew she needed a study group that she would spend most of her time with. And I knew that I wanted one of them to be someone she already knew, and another one to be someone older, who she would see as a possible model for herself a few years in the future.
For the person she knew, I took a very minor character from the first book and just gave her a little deeper relationship with Sara (and then a plot for her suggested itself and she became a much more well-defined character). For the older person, I decided that with Sara being a newlywed in the book, I wanted her him to be someone who was married for a fairly long time, with kids and a house, etc, and the character of Joseph came out of that.
2. Do your characters come before the plot?
Definitely. Although I’d say it differently: the characters, and their internal struggles, their hopes and fears, drive the plot. In each book of the series, the plot came out of something I wanted to challenge Sara with. In the first book, she’s growing up, and she has this new talent to step into people’s dreams, which she never asked for and doesn’t really want. But she has no choice, and she has to cope with it. In the second book, she has to learn about being a newlywed, and balancing life and her studies, and also learn that she can’t save everyone – and the main plot and the subplots all touch on those themes. And so on, throughout the books.
3. Do you know how the story will end before you begin? In a general way or a specific one?
Absolutely. I always have a pretty clear general idea of the ending, and for the last three books, I’ve known pretty much exactly what the ending scene would be. How I get there is sometimes a roundabout journey, though!
4. Do you choose settings you know or do you have books of settings and plans of houses sitting around?
Both. The first book, DREAM STUDENT (and the second, as well) takes place at a (very) thinly-veiled version of my college. The house that Sara’s in-laws own is pretty much my cousin’s house, where I spent most Thanksgivings and Christmases. The apartment building Sara lives in in the fourth book is the building I actually lived in when I moved to Washington, DC. But I also have settings that I need to research, and I have a ton of background material for that.
5. Where do you do your research? On line or from books?
Pretty much all on-line. But it’s not just wikipedia and so forth. I’ve made great use of online forums and blogs to ask people for specific experiences and details that I needed to know about for the books. People have been extremely helpful, too!
6. Are you a draft writer or do you revise as you go along and why? Do you sketch out your plot or do you let the characters develop the route to the end?
I revise as I go along – usually I go over each chapter several times, editing slightly each time, before they’re sent out to my beta readers.
I do sketch out the plot in broad strokes, but the characters sometimes go off on their own, or demand more screen time, and I mostly let them do it. I’ve only “overruled” them once, really. In the fourth book, DREAM FAMILY, Sara has a traumatic experience, and one of the signs that she’s not over it yet is her inability to put her wedding ring back on. In-character, the next step in that plot was going to be that she would purposely break her own finger so she’d have a good excuse for not being able to wear it. But I decided that was going too far. I’m still not sure what I think about that – it was absolutely something that she was capable of doing at that point.