Am I a pantser or a plotter, or both? When I started writing novels I was a terrible pantser, my first novel meandering all over the place. Soon I had a 7,000-word behemoth of a manuscript. And I had no idea publishers had word limits. I ended up doing massive edits and cutting that book into two books. I still write by the seat-of-my-pants in some ways, but now I have a semblance of a plot in mind, and I definitely keep my word limit in check.
Which comes first, characters or plot? A story idea comes first, then the main characters emerge almost simultaneously. The characters often tell which way the story will go after I get to know them better. Then I try to make the plot more exciting, more structured, each scene with a beginning, middle and end: or hook. Plus, each scene should advance the plot or enrich—round out—the characters. No wandering off into historical details that slow the flow as I love to do.
What am I working on now, and is it part of a series? I just finished a novel, On a Stormy Primeval Shore, set in New Brunswick, Canada in the eighteenth century. This story is part of my publisher’s Canadian Historical Brides Series. I pored through research books, helped ably by my research partner, Nany M. Bell; and I’m thrilled to be part of this series. I learned so much about Canadian history, the people who settled it, the Acadians and Loyalists who fled the American Revolution. Each book showcases a different province in various eras.
I became so interested in the Loyalists that my next novel is about a Loyalist female spy.
Do I use a particular object or place in my stories? I seem to gravitate toward healing herbs. I’ve used them in at least three of my books. I love the idea that these old-time cures can be found out in nature. And many modern medicines are derived from herbs or other plants, such as aspirin came from birch bark. My current heroine in the Canadian book uses herbs and makes tinctures and syrups from them for healing. As for place, I’ve used Cornwall, England in many of my books. The rough country and independent spirit of the Cornish appeals to me. I’m edging my way to this side of the pond for future novels.
Do I write every day or when the spirit hits? I try to write every day. But often inspiration will strike me when I’m away from the computer, and I must jot down ideas, send myself an email, or if I’m home, rush into the office and write. I really hate it when I’m in the shower and an idea pops into my head. I told my husband I need to invent a waterproof writing board to hang in the shower. He gave me the strangest look at that idea.