I’m revisiting one of my earlier blogs today to remind myself what it is that prompts me to write a particular story. Every one is different. An idea can be triggered by a photo, an overheard conversation, a personal experience, a snippet of news, a throwaway remark by a friend…the list is endless. In the case of Kissing Maggie Silver it was two things. The first happened when I was on holiday and I visited a nature reserve in New Zealand. It is a place where seals, penguins and sea birds are allowed to breed and feed naturally without any interference from the rangers who protect them. The peace and the wild beauty of the place is magical, and especially memorable is a spectacular beach of pale sand that belongs to the tiny blue penguins that live there. No human have walked on it for many years. Instead the penguins and visiting seals are viewed from camouflaged hides that are built into the surrounding cliffs. Although I didn’t know it when I visited, it would eventually become the place where Ruari, the hero in the book, would live, work and learn a lot of lessons about himself.
The second inspiration was a photograph of a lovely red-haired model whose clear gray eyes seemed to be full of wistful longing. Although I can’t remember what she was advertising, I couldn’t get her face out of my head and thus Maggie Silver was born.
Once I’d found Maggie Silver I knew she, too, would visit that beautiful beach in New Zealand one day; the problem was how to get her there. I knew it was so far from her own life experience that she had a long way to go…much further than the geographical distance she would have to travel…to reach it. As soon as I understood that, then her whole personality clicked into place.She was the youngest of a large family, the only girl, used to being teased and treated as little more than a child. She was also kind, helpful, sparky and full of life. Deep down, however, she was still immature and lacking in confidence. I also knew she was someone who was actually more comfortable with her own company than she realised.
Ruairi was far more difficult. I knew he was the person who would open up the world for her, but how? His face came to me long before I knew he was a wildlife photographer and there were no prompts. He just appeared, fully formed, in my imagination, the absolute counterweight to Maggie. After that it was only a matter of time before his tan skin, his size and strength and his casual confidence turned him into a world traveller, someone who could quickly be at home wherever he was.
After that it was easy because I already knew that Maggie had fallen in love with him when she was far too young to know what her feelings meant. I knew, too, that she had always had a special place in Ruairi’s heart, so all I needed to do was to find a way for them to meet up again, and with Maggie’s large and ever present family ruling her life, it wasn’t difficult. What was difficult was finding a way for them to be alone.
Then there were the small glitches in their personalities that I had to overcome; Maggie’s temper and her tendency to feel sorry for herself, and Ruairi’s obstinacy. Maggie had to grow up and Ruairi had to learn that sometimes he was wrong. Fortunately they had good people on their side, people who wanted the best for them because they loved them, and because they knew, even if Ruairi and Maggie didn’t, that they were absolutely right for one another.
To find out what happened read the excerpt below to see how mixed up they are. Then go to Kissing Maggie Silver
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Forty minutes later, still not sure how she had been talked into it, Maggie was adding items to a shopping list while Ruairi overtook a couple of drivers who were looking for parking spaces in the town centre, and turned into a side street.
“As long as you don’t mind a short walk there’s bound to be a space down here,” he said.
“Walking is fine,” she stowed the shopping list in her bag. “It’ll be good to move a bit faster than child’s pace for a change.”
He smiled as he slotted the car neatly into a gap between two parked cars and killed the engine. “Are you getting fed up with your domestic responsibilities?”
She shook her head as she opened the passenger door. “Not really. I love the children… it will just be good to stretch my legs.”
As they set off towards the town centre her hand brushed against Ruairi’s. Despite all his good intentions, and without allowing himself to think of the consequences, he seized it and pulled her close to his side. She didn’t look at him as she curled her fingers into his. Instead she tried to make a joke of it.
“I’m not Sophie or Amy you know. I can walk safely on my own.”
He slowed them both to a stop. “I’m not in any danger of ever confusing you with Sophie or Amy,” he said quietly, and then he did the one thing he’d told himself he was never going to do again, he kissed her.
It was a tentative kiss, no more than his lips brushing hers, but this time the connection was immediate. It felt as if a thousand volts had surged through him as she responded, and forgetting they were in a quiet suburban street, he let her soft lips become his whole focus. For what seemed to be a very long time they explored one another’s mouths, their breathing erratic as they pressed against one another, the fact that they were on a public street the only thing that stopped their feverish hands from roaming across bodies suddenly hot with desire. Ruairi didn’t come to his senses until a couple of teenage boys cycling past made ribald comments. When he heard them he drew back from Maggie with a wry smile.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean that to happen.” Her face was flushed, her lips still slightly parted as she looked up at him.
“I know you didn’t,” she said, her voice and her gaze steady. “I know you are going away again Ruairi, and I know there won’t be a place for me in your life when you do but…but can’t we pretend it’s not like that, just for today.”
At a complete loss for words, he stared down at her. She was keeping whatever was going on inside her head to herself. All he could see reflected in her wide grey eyes were his own feelings of desire and frustration. It brought him to his senses and, his heart heavy, he shook his head.
“You know it doesn’t work like that Maggie. If we take today, then we’ll want tomorrow too, and the day after that.”
“And would that really be so terrible,” she whispered, her face pale now, her body rigid in the circle of his arms.
“Yes, because then I’d break your heart,” he said, letting his hands drop to his sides.
The Hollywood Collection
Sheila Claydon writing as Anne Beverley
I wrote this book a very long time ago and it was originally published by Silhouette as a Sapphire Romance. Now that it is due to be republished by Samhain Publishing under its Retro Label I have revisited it, and the reasons I wrote it. After more than 25 years it’s hard to remember but one thing is the memory of a magazine shot of young man who was being hailed as the next big fashion designer. He was tall, slim and very handsome and he had a shock of tight dark curls. It was that picture that triggered the story although the young man is not the hero. Instead, he is the heroine’s brother and the catalyst for the book. As an up and coming young fashion designer he is the person who designs the Hollywood Collection and persuades a bevy of beautiful film stars to model it for him. Then he hands over to Samantha who as well as being his sister is his office manager, fashion show organiser and general dogsbody. I can’t actually remember where she came from…she is probably an amalgam of a whole lot of people fashioned into someone who is the complete opposite of her brother.
As for the other characters…well they are all pure Hollywood, but you’ll have to read the book to find out who they are and after so long it might be impossible to guess. Nowadays that young curly-haired fashion designer is bald and the film stars who triggered the characters are all very old. They are still around though, and I know who they are. I wonder if you will too when you read the book.
The Hollywood Collection is due to be published next week by Samhain Publishing. It is already available for pre-order.
After a break from writing and blogging due to family commitments, I am back. It’s not all good, however. As I said in last week’s blog, the visit to my website after a two month break has been a salutary one, as has the experience of revisiting my latest work in progress, Pathway to Success. The website needs improving, the WIP has been pared back to a mere skeleton of its former self, and I am working hard to improve both of them as quickly as possible. Today, however, I want to talk about something else. Pathway to Tomorrow is the the first book of my Pathways Trilogy and it was published by Books We Love earlier this year. I want to tell you how I found the hero for this book…because until I find my hero, I can’t write the story.
Every book is triggered by something. In the case of Pathway to Tomorrow there were two ‘somethings.’ The first was a house and the second was a jazz band.
I live close to a beach fringed with pinewoods and wonderful, wild vistas. The area is criss-crossed with bridleways that are well used by horse riders and dog walkers alike. Consequently, when a wealthy business man purchased a derelict farmhouse and then closed the bridleway that edged his land, it caused a great deal of local upset. Horse riders and dog lovers who had used the path for years all protested. In the end, common sense prevailed. The new land owner opened up the bridleway again and dealt with his own privacy by planting hundreds of trees and bushes and installing a lot of fencing, so nowadays everyone is happy. In my imagination, however, there isn’t a businessman. Instead, Marcus, my hero, lives in that hidden house.
And that brings me to another equally important part to this story. The trigger that helped me find Marcus in the first place.
More than a year ago I was invited to listen to the The Red Stripe Band a fantastic and fun jazz band that has played all over the world and been feted by many big names but, when I happened on it, was performing at a small venue in the Yorkshire Dales. Go to my blog post Serendipity to read about it.
On that evening I ‘discovered’ Marcus when the pianist began to play, although to save his blushes I must make it clear that Marcus is not the pianist. He is actually an amalgam of the whole ethos of the band; someone who lives and breaths music and loves to share it with others. He changed during the writing of the book too. It always happens when a writer lets the hero take over which is what I do. And when he ‘told’ me he couldn’t perform any more but had to concentrate on composition and film scores…well I had to let him. Who am I to argue with someone as single-minded as Marcus? I still owe many thanks to the Red Stripe Band, however. It was there at the right time, when I needed some inspiration, and I have dedicated my book to it. Thanks for the music Red Stripe.
But what about Marcus’ story?
Well, when he bought the derelict farmhouse next to Jodie’ Eriksson’s riding school he didn’t know whether to be amused or irritated by her angry reaction to his plans. Then her sister Izzie visited him and made things a whole lot worse…or was it better…because now he had an excuse to see Jodie again.
Although, when he sees her, it’s not exactly a meeting of minds, they do discover they have one thing in common; they both believe they know what’s best for Izzie, and for Marcus’ son Luke. It turns out they’re wrong. The children they thought they were protecting need to be set free. It’s Jodie and Marcus who have the problem; but can two broken hearts ever make one whole one? The battle lines that were set when they first met have long since been breached, but the war won’t be over until Jodie learns how to trust again, and until Marcus allows himself to believe in his son.
Next week I’ll be talking about The Hollywood Collection my latest book. It is being published mid November by Samhain Publishing under its Retro Lable and is now available for pre-order. I also hope to get my subscriber link up and running shortly.
Why did I stop blogging?
I’ve been away from my blog for two months. Why,? Well because family from Australia and China came to stay, and what a wonderful time we had – especially at the family get togethers when cousins, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles and grandparents all met up, some of them after several years apart. The experience reconfirmed what I already knew – that a close and loving family is a blessing that should never be neglected or forgotten. The visit did, however, make me neglect my blog and my writing, but surprisingly that is something that has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The work in progress wasn’t going well, probably because I was distracted by all the arrangements that had to be made prior to the visit. The blog was suffering too. My weekly posts had dwindled from three to two and then, finally, to one a week, so I knew something was wrong. I didn’t allow myself time to think about what it might be though. Instead I just kept struggling to produce more of the same. What a mistake that was. Revisiting my website after two months showed me how much it needs upgrading and how my posts need a sharper focus. There will be no more promoting of other people’s books for a while either because now it is time I concentrated on my own books, and to do that I need a plan.
Can I be a better blogger?
I’m certainly going to try. I’m going to work on my website too, but like anything worthwhile, it’s going to take time. As well as creating content I have a great deal of learning to do to even begin to match the thousands of skilled people out there in the blogosphere.
Why do I want to do this?
Because I’m a writer, and writers like to write, so what better way to hone my creative skills than having to come up with a new and interesting blog topic every week. Also, I have products I want to sell – my books. These are published by several different very supportive publishers but, in today’s unforgiving publishing world, I also have to do my bit if I want readers to find my books – and why would I write if I didn’t? I want people to find them and read them. I want my books to allow them to escape from their everyday lives for an hour or two and join me on a journey, and if they learn something along the way or begin to look at something differently, then I’ll be satisfied.
How am I going to do this?
I’m going to crib from some experts. When I first started blogging I discovered Kristin Lamb and her books We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, and Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer. Nowadays, I still follow Kristen but I have added another guru to my list. This is Molly Green whose weekly blogs of tips and suggestions are presented in bite-sized chunks that I find very easy to follow. Apologies here to both Kristin and Molly though because my website and blog have a long way to go to match up to theirs and that certainly isn’t the fault of my unsuspecting blogosphere tutors.
When am I going to do this?
As soon as possible, but let’s be realistic – it will be a work in progress over the weeks and months ahead as I juggle completing my latest book with the time needed to promote others, and especially The Hollywood Collection (Sheila Claydon writing as Anne Beverley) which is due out later this month. It is being published by Samhain Publishing under it’s Retro Label and is ready for pre-order.
What happens then?
If I get it right I will have an all singing, all dancing blog that will entertain, showcase my books, give me an outlet for my latest thoughts and, most importantly, let me share what is happening in my writing world. Reader, I hope you will join me as I tackle the task I have given myself. It’s not an easy one because the sharp technological learning curve I’ll be following must go hand-in-hand with my thoughts about books, plots and characters – and as anyone will know who has read my books, that hero that I am always chasing can be a great distraction at times.
My work in progress (WIP) is Pathway to Success, the second book in my Pathway Trilogy. The first book, Pathway to Tomorrow was published by Books We Love earlier this year. I will be talking about it in my next blog, and about The Hollywood Collection in the one after that. In the meantime I’m going to learn how to let readers subscribe to my blog so you can stay with me all the way. I need you to do this because the other thing that will make me a better writer is reader feedback – about my books, about my website and about my blog content.
I hope to see you next Monday. Have a good weekend.
KEEPING UP WITH MR. JONES by Sofie Couch (A sweet romance) Feb 2013
When I invited Sofie Couch to join me on the Casting Couch I wasn’t sure what to expect because she seems to live a hectic life. In her own words she writes and lives a romantic comedy all of her own thanks to the fun lunacy that accompanies teens, unschooling, home renovation, a hundred pound dog that thinks she’s a cat, a cat that thinks she’s the alpha dog, chickens, and nightly coyote raids. All this drama takes place in Central Virginia and Sofie says it could never be turned into a novel because everyone would think it was just too far-fetched to make plausible fiction. So with all this in mind I’m not sure what sort of answers I’m going to get.
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What prompted the idea for this book because it is certainly different from the usual sweet romance?
The title. I just love a May-December romance!
I agree it is certainly intriguing, probably because it is something few of us ever experience. Did you work through the plot first and then cast the characters, or was it characters first?
Both! I typically work big-picture – going back and forth, tweaking characters, tweaking the plot. Honestly, this book began with the title and the question – Who is this mysterious Mr. Jones and why can’t the heroine keep up with him? Oooh, and what if she is considerably younger than him? And what if I hobble him, physically? Oooh, what if he’s temporarily hobbled because she ran him over with her car? What kind of woman would run a man over with her car?… and it just goes from there with “what ifs”.
I once attended a problem solving seminar that was aimed at business executives who were managing health projects, and part of the solution was the ‘what ifs’, so I’m fascinated that you have applied the same thing to writing a book.Which characters were the hardest for you to develop and why?
I always struggle with the heroine. Because she has to begin with a flaw that she will over-come, you have to look pretty close to home – yourself –and who likes looking at their own flaws under a magnifying glass?
Very true. That makes writing a book a bit like therapy! How did you decide how your characters should look? Did pictures inspire you or did you just rely on an active imagination? Maybe you even based them on someone you know or someone you saw walking down the street. Do tell!
I am always purposefully vague about physical descriptions unless it’s going to have an impact on the plot. I think I have good motive! I once wrote a children’s short story, Chameleon Cloth, for Cricket Magazine. When an author is contracted, the magazine partners the story with an illustrator, but beyond the words in the story, the author has no input in the creation of the illustrations. I was positively floored by the illustrations that were created to accompany the story Chameleon Cloth! I learned so much about my character that I wasn’t conscious of when I created the characters. Ever since, I’ve left all physical descriptions vague on purpose. Readers bring their own lens to the story and part of that perspective includes their own ideals of physicality.
That’s very interesting because I’m the other way around. I have to know how my characters will look before I can write about them. How did you develop their character traits? I know some people use Tarot or Astrology. Others produce detailed life histories. One writer I interviewed is so organized she even uses a Goal, Motivation and Conflict chart. What about you?
I definitely use a goal, motivation, conflict outline. In order for the character to grow by the end of the story, I have to know what it is they want, why they want it, and why they can’t have it, in order for that character to grow enough to know that what they think they always wanted is probably not the thing they should strive toward. (Clear as mud, right?) The secondary characters are composite characters. All are basically good people, who have temporarily lost their way.
So even your baddies are goodies. I like it. But good or bad, all characters have goals. Can you sum your characters’ goals in a word or two, or are they multi-layered? Did the characters in Keeping up with Mr Jones keep to their original goals or did things change as you wrote the book? If they did, then please give some examples.
Easy peasy. The heroine’s goal, motivation and conflict is basically the blurb on the back of the book: The life Felicity Quinn has worked hard to obtain is falling apart. Her oldest child is a pot head, her daughter dresses like a hooker, and her youngest child has a penchant for collecting dead animals. When her husband announces he is leaving her for his young office assistant, Felicity tackles the problem – like she does everything else – head on. But just when she thinks things couldn’t get worse, she bumps into her eccentric neighbor, Mr. Jones,… with her car. Taking care of him might be more than she bargained for, because what woman half his age could keep up with Mr. Jones.In a nutshell, the heroine wants to preserve the life she has built, (her long-term goal), despite the nagging suspicion that it’s all beginning to unravel. Conflict arrives in the form of obstacles that threaten her family unit and their lifestyle and a marriage beyond repair.
I feel breathless just reading that bit Sofie. Even the blurb makes this sound like a fast paced story that will keep the reader chained to a chair until it’s finished. Now comes the crunch question. Do you like the characters in your book? Are they people you would want to spend time with and if so, which one is your favourite, and which one would you most like to meet and why? That might be the same person of course, but there again, it might not!
The hero – hands-down. He has an immaculate work ethic, he’s considerate and he’s great with kids. If that’s not sexy, I don’t know what is!
How true that is. He sounds like the hero every reader is looking for. Thank you so much for joining me on the Casting Couch today Sofie. I will look forward to reading Keeping up with Mr Jones
Thanks for hosting me, Sheila! Fun questions.
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Well I think this picture of Sofie says all there is to say about a fun writer who knows just what makes a hero sexy, and also how to dig her heroine out of a hole. I love the quirkiness. This is a writer who does not take herself seriously and it is easy to tell from her interview how engaging her books are. Sofie Couch writes sweet romance and Young Adult paranormal/mystery from her home in Central Virginia. In addition to raising her own “pa’r-a-normal young adults” she lives a sweet romance with her husband of 20 years.
Keeping up with Mr Jones is available at http://www.amazon.com/Keeping-Up-Mr-Jones-ebook/dp/B00B9P2RXI
Sofie can also be contacted on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sofie-Couch-Author
Also on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sofiecouch
Most girls would jump at the opportunity to model for a brand new cosmetics line, but Lisa Morgan is different. She resists being the “face” of Golden Girl until she learns it’s the only way she can save the career of the man she has come to love.
Within days her new and glamorous lifestyle leads her into a web of jealousy and competition that she doesn’t understand. The man she loves is fighting with another for power over the company, while the old man in charge prepares to die. And when Lisa realizes that his last wish is to see the Golden Girl campaign succeed, she knows she’ll never be able to back out of the agreement, even though it is tearing her apart.
This Retro Romance reprint was originally published in 1983 by Sapphire Romance when Sheila Claydon used the pseudonym Anne Beverley
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At last she’s here! A journey that started in the eighties is drawing to its conclusion. Lisa Morgan, the golden girl of French cosmetics company Genet Matthieu is back, and very welcome she is too.
She started as a figment of my imagination when I was a wannabe writer in the early nineteen-eighties using the pseudonym Anne Beverley, and she holds a special place in my heart because she eventually became the heroine of the first book I had published. Now, thirty years later, she is back again thanks to Samhain Publishing which has republished Golden Girl under its retro label. This time though, Lisa looks a lot more feisty than the girl she was in the eighties. A glance at the cover and you can see that she’s taken ownership of her sexual appeal and is prepared to use it if it will help to save the men in her life from despair and defeat.
Of course a book written thirty years ago has a different take on life and love than nowadays and so do the hero and heroine. They are more chaste and buttoned up. The villain of the piece is just as bad as the villains of today though except that he does eventually see the error of his ways and reform. Would that happen now or is it ‘once a villain, always a villain?’ I’m not sure.
When Golden Girl was first published romantic fiction didn’t have the world market it enjoys today. There were no eBooks either. It was all paperback and most avid readers of romance received their books by mail on a monthly basis. One thing that hasn’t changed though is the way the protagonists fall in love. Love, as they say, makes the world go round although, in the case of romantic novels, usually only after a great deal of misunderstanding and despair and Golden Girl won’t disappoint in that respect.
One other thing before you read the extract below to see whether you would enjoy experiencing life and love in the eighties. I was once briefly the face of a cosmetic range – not like Lisa though – the cosmetics were so cheap and cheerful that they bombed without trace after a very short while and no, I didn’t experience any of the difficulties that beset Lisa. Nor did I meet someone like Paul Genet…that came much later!!! It was fun while it lasted though, even though I never made it to Paris, and it did give me the idea and material for my very first romantic novel, so it was win win all the way.
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An extract from Golden Girl: At the Golden Girl cosmetic range launch party.
Stranded in her ornate chair Lisa grew hotter and hotter, the occasional ministrations of the make-up girl as she puffed a light covering of powder over Lisa’s nose doing little to refresh her. Finally, unable to bear the discomfort any longer, she beckoned to one of the waitresses. The girl came over, a smile on her pleasant face. She nodded conspiratorially as Lisa whispered to her. Some minutes passed and when she returned with a laden plate her face was flushed and she was followed by the tall figure of Paul Genet.
He thrust a glass of champagne into Lisa’s hand and took the plate from the waitress with a nod. The girl smiled timidly up at him, unable to keep the admiration out of her eyes, before she hurried away.
“I didn’t realise that my cousin intended to starve you,” he observed drily as he placed the plate on her lap.
“Thank you.” Lisa answered coolly, steadfastly ignoring the sudden hammering of her heart as his hand brushed against her dress. She gave him a frosty smile and began to eat the delicacies on her plate. That her hunger had vanished and her throat almost closed up at his sudden presence was not apparent as she ate and drank steadily and Paul, after a glance at her proudly aloof profile, nodded curtly and left.
She watched him stride across the room seemingly unaware that the eyes of many of the glamorous women present were devouring him. When he left the foyer the breath of a sigh hung in the air for a fleeting moment. With the rerun of the hubbub Alain became the centre of attention. Although technically as handsome as his cousin, he lacked Paul’s charisma and when they were together he seemed a paler shadow of the older man. Paul, as managing director of Genet Matthieu, had had no choice but to attend the launch party, but now, as the afternoon drew to a close, he left the floor to Alain as innovator and master of ceremonies.
Relieved of his cousin’s powerful presence, Alain revelled in the attention lavished on him. His tall figure, slim and elegant in a pale lemon suit, black silk shirt and tie, became animated as he entertained an admiring bevy of ladies.
Sitting forgotten, her head aching, Lisa heard him arrange for the party to continue at an expensive restaurant. Remembering Paul’s remarks about Alain’s abuse of company money she smiled grimly to herself, and as the now depleted group of editors and buyers accompanied Alain to the huge revolving entrance door, she stood up and stretched the stiffness from her body. The movement attracted attention and Alain, with a word of apology to the waiting group, hurried across to her. Before he reached her his voice rang clearly across the foyer.
“You are free to go now, Lisa. I won’t need you until Monday morning.” His dark face was only visible to Lisa as he spoke and the vicious twist of his lips was for her benefit alone.
Angrily she watched him walk away and then she sank down wearily, her head resting against the ornate back of the uncomfortable throne. Tired and depressed, she sat uncaring, unaware of the sympathetic glances of the waitresses as they tidied away the day’s debris. Only when the army of men came in to dismantle the display did she again become aware of her surroundings.
“Cheer up, love!” One of the older men gave her an admiring grin as he opened his ladder beside the display. “It might never happen!”
“That’s the trouble,” Lisa answered with a watery smile. “It already has!”
Gwen’s Honor by Sandra Wilkins (January 2013)
Gwen Sanders never imagined that her dream of writing a novel would disrupt her engagement and force her to choose an inconceivable path. Although engaged to Walter Manning for more than two years, she has lived away from him and worked as a society reporter for the Shawnee Globe. But an unexpected reconnection with the handsome Josh Flynn, her childhood sweetheart, leads to jealousy from Walter. Gwen insists that she loves Walter and would never be so dishonorable as to break off her engagement…Yet she can’t brush off the feeling that her lack of enthusiasm and mounting pressure from wedding preparations are pointing her in a different direction—one that would shake her comfortable life to its foundation. Faced with an impossible decision, Gwen must choose between honor and love in this historical romance set in the Oklahoma Territory.
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Sandra Wilkins is an author whose passion for historical fiction has led her to write the kind of romantic novels that reflect the wholesome values found in Oklahoma at the turn of the last century. Gwen’s Honor is the third novel in The Heartland Romance Series from Montlake Romance. The entire series is set in Shawnee just before statehood came to Oklahoma. The first installment, Ada’s Heart, follows an actress, Ada Marsh, who quits her old way of life and befriends two other young women, Rose Dennis and Gwen Sanders. Rose’s Hope continues with their friendship while Rose decides whether to turn her hopes toward a grieving widower with an infant or to another more persistent suitor. Gwen’s Honor continues the journey as Gwen is forced to choose between society’s expectations and her true feelings.
Sandra says that her aim when she writes is to take her readers back to a simpler time while also showing them how life today still parallels that of the past. I am so pleased she has decided to join me on the Casting Couch today because I want to learn more about how she puts together stories that illustrate this.
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Welcome Sandra. I am intrigued by the sentiment behind your determination to write historical fiction. What prompted the idea for this book?
Gwen’s Honor is the third and final book in the Heartland Series. The others are Ada’s Heart and Rose’s Hope . These are the first two novels I wrote and had published. I came up with the idea for the series many years ago when I worked at an independent book store. I had two good friends I worked with, and thought strong friendships would be a good basis for a set of stories. The three of us were the inspiration for my three main characters—Ada, Rose and Gwen. But I must say that my characters soon became their own women. I love sweet historical romances, so I picked the setting in a real town I know well, Shawnee, Oklahoma, and placed the books in the few years before Oklahoma became a state.
That is so interesting. I love that you based the idea for the series on your own life experiences and set it in a familiar place. That must make it special for you. Did you work through the plot first and then cast the characters, or was it characters first?
It was definitely the characters first for me. I may not have every trait or flaw figured out when I begin, but I can see them in my mind’s eye. I normally create my characters first. I’ll have a few ideas for scenes when I start (and write them down so I don’t forget) and I’ll know generally where I want the story to end. Then I try to connect scenes that I see in my head.
Can you give an example of this technique from a published story?
When I began to write Gwen’s Honor, I had a pivotal scene in mind toward the middle of the book where Josh, her childhood sweetheart, tells her about his feelings, but I had to figure out how to write around it so he didn’t look like a cad or she didn’t seem like a loose woman. It was important to me that she maintained her honor throughout the book.
It sounds as if you had a very clear idea of ‘who’ Gwen was right from the start. Which characters were the hardest for you to develop and why?
For me, it’s usually the secondary characters. I don’t always know how much they’re going to be involved with things so I have to figure them out as I go along. As far as individuals go, however, in this book it was Gwen’s fiancé, Walter Manning, who was the most difficult. As I wrote about him in all three stories, I tried to figure him out. I didn’t want him to appear too mean or unsympathetic, but I also didn’t want readers to feel too sorry for him either.
Mmm. Now you have me intrigued. It doesn’t sound as if Walter Manning is the hero! How did you decide how Walter and the rest of your characters should look? Did pictures inspire you or did you just rely on an active imagination? Maybe you even based them on someone you know or someone you saw walking down the street. Do tell!
Besides the three main characters, others are usually just figments of my imagination, BUT when I wrote Gwen’s Honor I had a definite person in mind. I admire Josh Groban’s singing and even used the mood from some of his songs as inspiration for scenes, so when I needed a handsome, confident young man to come back into Gwen’s life, I just had to use Groban’s good looks and even his first name—Josh. Hope he doesn’t mind!
He wouldn’t be good inspirational hero material if he did Sandra. How did you develop the character traits of everyone in the book? I know some people use Tarot or Astrology. Others produce detailed life histories. One writer I interviewed is so organized she even uses a Goal, Motivation and Conflict chart. What about you?
I’m not that organized for sure! I mainly just figure it out as I go along.
That’s a bit like getting to know real people and gradually learning what they’re like. What about their goals though? All characters have goals. Can you sum your characters’ goals in a word or two, or are they multi-layered? Did they keep to their original goals or did things change as you wrote the book? If they did, then please give some examples.
In Gwen’s Honor, Gwen knew she needed to return to her hometown where her fiancé was waiting, but she had the goal of writing her first novel. In the story we see how she accomplishes it, but then her life takes a turn that she never would have imagined for herself. I, of course, knew what was going to happen to her.
Motives drive a character so how did you discover your characters’ specific motives? Were they based on back-story or did they develop as you wrote the book, the same as their characters did?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t imagine I put that much thought into it, really. It’s a little of both for me. Gwen’s back-story had a huge role to play in her life though.
Given that you had already written about her in two previous books I can see how that would be the case. So, last but not least, do you like the characters in your book? Are they people you would want to spend time with and if so, which one is your favourite, and which one would you most like to meet and why? That might be the same person of course, but there again, it might not!
I do like my characters! Some are sweet, some are talented, some are funny. Gwen, Josh and her cousin, Luke, are my favorites. I’d love to have them over for some good old-fashioned cookin’ and listen to them joke around—after all they’re much funnier than I am!
You seem to know them so well in your mind that you can probably almost imagine what that would be like anyway Sandra. Thanks so much for sitting on the Casting Couch. It’s been fun getting to know you and the characters in Gwen’s Honor.
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Sandra Wilkins always wanted to be a writer. She wrote her first novel in high school, and tried to polish it and get it published for years. After several rejections she put that book aside and, instead, came up with the idea for The Heartland Romance Series. Which just goes to show that persistence pays off in the long run.
Nowadays she is a home schooling mother of two daughters who finds time to write in spare moments. She has now begun a new series set in historic Chandler, Oklahoma, and is enjoying inventing new characters and stories.
Gwen’s Honor is available at http://www.amazon.com/Gwens-Honor-Heartland-Romance-ebook/dp/B008RBT4JM
Her Proper Scoundrel by A.M. Westerling
Buy this Regency set romance at:
First Degree Innocence by Ginger Simpson
A Contemporary Mystery Romance
Sentenced to ten years for a crime she didn’t commit, will Carrie Lang find someone who believes in her innocence? Experience the cold, gray walls, a devilish matron, the prison bully, and a scheme that pits Carrie against the closest friend she has inside. What part will her surprise visitor play in Carrie’s bid for freedom?
Next week it will be A M Westerling
PARTISAN HEART – Book 2 – Tango of Death Series - Poland 1943-During WW II
Resistance movements occurred in every occupied country by a variety of means, ranging from propaganda to outright warfare and the recapturing of towns, as well as hiding crashed pilots.
PARTISAN HEART tells the story of a Gypsy girl who follows her beloved into the forests of Poland and the Ukraine. Their partisan group is willing to risk their lives blowing up train trestles, attacking SS killer squads, and to infiltrate Nazis intelligence to destroy Nazi Germany. Resistance does exist. If nothing else, to die with dignity is a form of resistance.
GYPSY SPIRIT – Book One of the Tango of Death Series is available at
JEWISH SOUL - Book three of the Tango of Death Series is available at http://www.amazon.com/Tango-Death-Jewish-Soul-ebook/dp/B00CS7TCPMCS7TCPM