Saturday, March 13, 2010

Yet More Questions

Way down the posting trail . . . going back to January . . . there's a bunch of postings answering questions I got asked here and there. 

I didn't finish with them.  Here's some more:

You have questions?

12) You had some fresh and unexpected twists -- did these come to you with your first draft or did you work in these twists during your revision process?

I am delighted you think some of this was fresh and exciting.

Let me talk about the blindness plotting because it's fairly typical of how this works.

Annique's blindness was part of the original planning of the story. This was also the plot idea I had the most doubts about. I liked writing it, but I didn't think it would sell. Even in the final manuscript I was wondering if I shouldn't rewrite and pull it out.

I still don't know if the book wouldn't be better without it.

The blood relationship between Annique and Galba was also part of the original plotting. I needed this to make Annique's final welcome into the British fold plausible.

So, yes, the action/suspense/spy plot of the story was pretty much in my head when I began writing.

But then you have the surprises.
Annique's special memory was something I came up with the second or third or fifth draft of the story. Originally I had her smuggling around a book with all this information in it. Awkward and unworkable.

So some plot twists were there in the original basket.  Some of the plot ideas I started with got tipped out of the basket along the way.  And then there's some interesting stuff I picked up as I wandered tra la la down the path and I didn't think of it at all till I was in the middle of writing.

12)  Any authors or books you feel you learned from either fiction or non-fiction?

I steal from only the best, so   You know how they have these questions on interveiws about what books most influenced you?

I love this, because I pick up stuff everywhere and I just wish I could acknowledge it all.

When I was in grammar school, Fifth Grade maybe, I read Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead. The book said that the different roles taken by males and females, even the different temperament that is assumed to be proper to each sex, is determined by the society rather than by anything innate.

I never write a female character without asking myself . . . 'this bit that my heroine is doing -- is this something I could see a male doing? Am I assigning this character a 'female' role and making her passive or dependent by doing so? What am I saying about the female spirit when I write this?'

Fiction that influenced me? . . . well, it's all the usual suspects:  Bronte, Heyer, Austen, Sayers, Dunnett, Sergeanne Golon and another writing team, the Curtises, R.A. Heinlein, Bujold, Lackey,and Zelazny, (all great S.F. storytellers), Tolkien, (is there anyone who doesn't put Tolkien on these lists?)

Current Romance greats would include -- and Lord, this is not limited to these wonderful writers -- SEP, JAK, NR, Kinsale, Ivory, Chase, Kleypas, Beverley, Gabaldon, Gellis, Quinn, Putney, Balogh.
I've read every word these writers have in print.  I keep learning from them.

(ETA.  It was pointed out to me that I've used 12 twice.  Well, heck.)

14)  How do you feel winning the RITA impacted your career if it did?

The conventional wisdom is that winning the RITA has zero effect on sales. Readers have never heard of the award. They don't know what it means.  Marketing mavens who will slap on a big cover quote from the 'Yellowknife Morning Chronicle' won't bother to mention the RITA.

But writers know what the RITA means.  Writers award the RITA. This is writers honoring other writers.  So much an honor.  I'm still stunned whenever I see the golden lady sitting on my shelf.

Going back to the practical of whether a RITA win has an effect on sales . . .
There's this -- while readers maybe don't know the RITA, the people who work in agenting, editing, marketing and publishing Romance do. The book buyers for stores know what the award is.
So maybe the RITA will give me just a little blip of recognition with these folks.
It can't hurt, anyway.

I haven't run out of these questions, y'know.  I just figure folks are getting bored, along about now.
Not that that makes me turn off the spigot on a posting, generally.
Anyway, I'll be back with the other Q&A


  1. Anonymous4:23 PM

    I'm confessing ignorance here, but what is the title of the lovely painting and who is it by?

  2. Ah. That is 'Waterbabies' by Herbert James Draper, 1863 to 1920. Find it at Art Renewal Center at

  3. I notice you have two questions 12s and no question 13. Which leads me ask another question. Are you superstitious? *grin*

  4. Annique's memory is so integral to the story and who she--as much as her blindness, I think--that I am gobsmacked to discover you hadn't worked it out ahead of time. I feel all hopeful that the truth of a character can emerge this way.

    Jo, you give us the most tantalizing insights into writing and into the forthcoming novel and WIP. I hope you know we're paying attention. I find myself thinking all the time about the little details of Maggie's and Justine's stories you've revealed, while recognizing that these hints will actually result in my being more filled with wonder when I come across them in the context of the novel. I'm confident my speculations will be wronger than wrong, in the same way I knew but didn't know Annique was blind.

  5. @ Linda --

    I didn't do the double 12s on purpose.

    You know how there are folks who add long columns of three digit numbers in their head
    and other folks who squint and think a while and say --"Oh right. 804 is bigger than 367 isn't it?"

    The second group . . . that's what I'm in.

  6. Hi Annie --

    It comes back to how you write.

    Folks who polish scene by scene are going to have their plots worked out beautifully.

    Me . . . I sorta grope along a maze, in the dark, bumping into things. I write scenes that go to waste because I change the story and never get to use them. I slap boards over the gaping plot holes underfoot and teeter past and just keep going.

    Anyway -- having got the bright idea of giving her an eidetic memory so she didn't have to run around with papers stuffed in her metaphoric bustle, I says to myself -- "Oh good. That simplifies things." Which is a sign you have improved the plot. And then I thinks, "Hey. This works really cool with the blindness." So I went back and retrofitted all the passages about blindness to incorporate having that kind of memory.

    Am I talking about the Maggie story and JUSTINE? I probably shouldn't. But that's where my mind is right now, of course.

    There IS one part of Forbidden Rose I don't want to telegraph. Not a surprise, exactly. Just a small bit folks might like figuring out for themselves.

    I'll post pictures about that part when the book's been out for a while.

  7. I am firmly in that second group, too. Numbers and me...we have an adversarial relationship. Even when I fight dirty, they win. *sigh*

  8. Anonymous12:14 PM

    I do numbers just fine (although I started school in France and for a long time had to count in French to remember which was 11 and 12 in English). I have trouble with where the letters in the alphabet go. I cannot without singing the alphabet song tell you if, for example, J comes before or after M.

    Jo, I love it when you go through your mailbag.

  9. Anonymous12:18 PM

    That was me as Anonymous, btw. I'm at work and my Google account doesn't register.

  10. Originally I had her smuggling around a book with all this information in it. Awkward and unworkable.

    Anyway -- having got the bright idea of giving her an eidetic memory so she didn't have to run around with papers stuffed in her metaphoric bustle, I says to myself -- "Oh good. That simplifies things." Which is a sign you have improved the plot. And then I thinks, "Hey. This works really cool with the blindness." So I went back and retrofitted all the passages about blindness to incorporate having that kind of memory.

    Jo, these details make me delight all the more in the following:

    Annique: "I am not a valise to go carrying papers about the countryside."

    I can't think of anything better for a writer of historical romance than discovering at a remarkably young age that gender is a construct. Hurrah for Margaret Meade, even if many of her actual findings have been discredited. And hurrah for whoever gave you access to works by anthropologists at a tender age. And hurrah for you for reading it, of course.

    I suppose most of us for whom books were a refuge during childhood stumbled onto unlikely works simply because they happened to be lurking in our houses or we tripped over them at the library. A friend of mine tells her students they have no business being English majors if they haven't caught themselves reading cereal boxes.

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. @ Martha --

    My son was in German schools for a while and learned his geography in German. That means he has odd names for lots of places in the world.

  13. @ Annie --

    I've never been too sure that Mead wasn't actually right in the info she collected. The revisionists are largely asking folks -- "What kind of sex did your grandparents have?" and getting answers like, "For Heaven's sake. Granny didn't do any of that. I mean -- she's my grandmother!'"

    I was very lucky in that I grew up in a house filled with books. One of the downsides of the e-book revolution is that kids will grow up in a household where they never stumble across Suetonius.

    Doesn't everyone read cereal boxes?

  14. I loved that Annique was blind! I couldn't imagine taking that out. To me, it made her so much more powerful and vulnerable at once. I remember when I first discovered that twist and I fairly leapt out of my seat with excitement. God, I love that woman. What I would give to sit down with her for tea...

  15. ps- I am visiting your blog this morning to look for your post on deep pov (with all the links) and make some notes. Studying my craft...

  16. Everything is different now, two days later. I am rejoicing and chagrined at once. How did I not know this before? But I know it now!

    Through the eyes of the POV chara, everything stems from them, places them in their environment, opinion and intention and reaction, memory, notice.

    Oh, but I have been writing from above! Not within. I didn't get it before but now I do. An entire revision is called for. Already pages are melting, shifting, emerging cleaner and stronger. Now I know what felt empty, how to shift it. Funny, how many passages I am deleting then adding back with the smallest, most poignant words. Words from the pov chara. I am inside, finally!

    I get it now! She laughs.

  17. Me again, still stalking your blog, with a question about paragraph breaks this time. When to isolate sentences and when to string them together into a powerhouse of ideas.

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  18. @LL --

    I am so glad to think that the postings I did on POV have helped another writer. Just makes me pleased as punch.

    I'll be at the Surry International Writers Conference next October and doing a workshop or two on POV. One will be a sorta 'Master Class' with advanced writers. I am daunted in general, of course, but also not sure what I will have to say to them that they do not already know.

    So -- come early October -- I'll go back and think about POV and crib from my old exercises and maybe do some posts in the blog here about POV . . . all in preparation for that Master Class. Or afterwards as part of the recovery process.

    I have to say that being IN deep character POV makes it so much easier to write. It's like finding the right place to stand when you're lifting something.

  19. @ LL


    I've never talked about this, really, because it is -- once you get past the obvious stuff -- very much an art.

    Let me think if I have anything at all useful to say about paragraphing -- in which case I will bring it up and make a post our of it.