Wednesday, November 26, 2014

germination-- where it comes to writing

Writing a new book always starts long before my fingers touch a keyboard. Right now I have two books running around in my head with one probably coming before the other and neither started. I thought writing about my process might help others who would like to write but are stymied as to how to get to the point.


When I finished the book Arizona Dawn, there was an epilogue, which the story needed. In writing it, a new character was introduced. I had begun to think while writing Dawn that I wanted another story that involved ancient Arizona ruins and archaeology. 

During my many times in the American Southwest, I've spent time in Sinagua, Hohokam, and Anasazi ruins. Some have been protected as national monuments, but many are hidden away in canyons. The best, to experience, are those which not many people visit. When at such places, you can almost feel the ones who lived there hundreds of years before. They are spread across Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. 

That timeless quality, the energy, and the beauty of those locations will be the setting for much of this fourth Arizona historical romance. Having researched and been to where I felt their magic, I believe I can bring not only them but those who explore them to life.

Women in the late 1800s were beginning to have the option of careers that were more exciting, such was the character of Grace's beautiful blonde college friend, Holly Jacobs, who had come to visit her. The third book didn't get into the why of her arrival, but the heroine, Grace, knew there had to be a reason she had shown up in to Tucson. 
"Holly had been beautiful in college, but that beauty was eclipsed by the woman who stood before her-- high cheekbones, full lips, lush blonde hair, and big eyes, the picture of feminine perfection."      from Arizona Dawn epilogue
Holly isn't just beautiful but also intelligent with a degree in archaeology. As an archaeologist, her character has a lot of potential. The early 1900s were pretty much a Wild West in that field before the rules became more codified. I had read books on these early archaeologists-- think Indiana Jones, well, maybe not quite that far out. Often the women were married to an archeologist but why not a heroine who was one!

1900 was a complex time for women, as while they could get into professions, previously impossible, they still had limited rights. Women, for instance, could not vote for President, until the 19th Amendment, ratified August 18, 1920. So while Holly could do many things, as a single woman, including own property, men still had very dominant rights over their wives and daughters legally speaking.
The concept of a new American woman emerged after 1900. Writers and commentators described the “new woman” as independent and well-educated. She wore loose-fitting clothing, played sports, drove an automobile, and even smoked in public. She supported charities and social reforms, including women’s suffrage. She often chose to work outside the home in offices, department stores, and professions such as journalism, law, and medicine that were just opening up to women. The image of the “new woman” also usually made her white, native born, and middle class.
By 1910, “feminist” was another term being used to describe the “new woman.” Feminism referred to a new spirit among a few middle-class women to liberate themselves from the old notion of “separate spheres.” An early feminist writer condemned this traditional view of the role of women since it prevented their full development and robbed the nation of their potential contribution. from Bill of Rights in Action
The author Zane Grey wrote about these independent women, and it wasn't flattering. He saw them as needing to be more modest and more connected to nature. Sometimes a hero taught Grey's heroines the proper way, but often it was the land.

So this was an exciting if challenging time to be a woman. Many options were out there, but also potential pitfalls. This is not to say some women didn't walk independent paths earlier; of course they did. Just there were more of them by 1900.

An early question for me was what made Holly leave her wealthy home in Chicago? I wanted something that could really happen and might lead a woman to leave comfort and head for wilderness.  I found two reasons-- one related to something I'd gone through-- the other a bit more exciting.

As I got a better handle on Holly and her character, I began to consider who the hero would be. There were two possible men from Arizona Dawn. One was the Yaqui brother of that hero. He was working through resentments and not nearly as strong a man as his brother, but could that be changed? The other was a lawyer who was a lot tougher than he looked. Both these men had  hoped to win the heroine in Arizona Dawn; so giving a romance to one would only seem fair-- or would it...

More and more I began to think of another possible romantic partner-- one who offered more challenges and was as complex as Holly. I realized his potential while we were driving south through Nevada and Arizona. He had been in Arizona Sunset and then my short story, Connie's Gift. He appealed to me on many levels. He was not a man who would be looking to court anyone and not remotely the man Holly would logically choose. Would he actually be her hero though or a sacrificial hero who had to give it all up to assure her happiness? Three possible love interests but one really had my heart. When I get to where I begin the book, I will know for sure how it works out-- it's the path along the way where the adventure in writing changes things.

In my books, an important character is the villain. I write what I call romances with an edge, which means there is most often someone with bad intentions-- of varying levels. Villains must have genuine reasons to do what they do. Sometimes there can be multiple villains. Other times it narrows down to one dominant. Sometimes I like to use this character's point of view in certain sequences. The drawback is it takes away any chance of the reader not knowing who to watch out for but it's fun to write 'evil' points of view while also writing more noble ones-- the juxtaposition of dark and light.

The new story will also be about the work of archaeology, the discoveries that are to be made. Even today archaeologists don't just dig for pots or physical items, but it's the story they are looking to discover or prove. There is an interesting one to be explored in Arizona, one that Holly might be eager to prove or disprove.

The real digging, in any book of mine, is into the characters. I am only interested in writing character driven stories. Without that, I'd not be willing to put out the work that is required to write a book. I'd be bored before I got a week into it. When the story is character driven, events that happen are all part of the person growing or not. Actions have consequences. Working out those consequences is what makes writing so enjoyable for me.
 
Romero Ruins


For physical inspiration regarding the region and nature, I have many landscape photos of ruins throughout the area. The question becomes choosing the right ones and then adding the elements to it that make an exciting plot..

Serious writing of a rough draft likely will probably not begin until January after a lot more research. The ruins in the story can and probably will be imaginary but must feel as though they are real. I am in no hurry because, for me, creating a story mostly happens before the first word is written down as I begin to take notes and create a character list, gather photos that will inspire and might end up on a cover. I won't start typing until I am ready to go all the way with it. I don't want another one hanging out there for a year.

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