August 18, 2014 by Pamela Nowak
Many thanks to my friend and fellow author Liesa Malik for inviting me to be part of this blog hop! For those who are new to blog-hops, we each tackle the same set of questions as the blog hops from one of us to the next. Liesa and I know each other through Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers…the same way I know our next blog hopper, C.R. Richards. I consider both good friends and am delighted to be hopping with them.
If you don’t know Liesa, here’s a bit about her.
Liesa Malik is a freelance writer and marketing consultant, originally from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, but currently living in Littleton, Colorado, with her husband and two pets. A graduate of the University of South Florida with a degree in Mass Communications, Liesa has built on her writing interest with long-standing membership in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and recently joined the board of Rocky Mountain Mystery Writers of America. Most days you can find Liesa either at her desk, at a local ballroom dance studio, or on the web: www.liesamalik.wordpress.com.
In case you missed Liesa’s blog last week, here’s where to find it: http://liesamalik.wordpress.com/.
So, let’s get hopping!
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?
I have just sold an exciting new project to Five Star Frontier Fiction. It’s entitled Escaping Yesterday and is my first historical romance set in the Edwardian Period rather than the Victorian. For this story, I chose Denver’s original Elitch’s Gardens for the setting and can’t wait until readers can share the wonderful details I was able to work into the story—the original roller coaster and carousel with its hand-carved animals, the theatre, Mary Elitch and her bears, the magnificent gardens, and even an ostrich.
Despite all its colorful details, the new story has the deeply conflicted characters I love. Convinced her ten-year-old daughter Elsa is about to become another victim of her predatory uncle, incest victim Lottie Chase flees New York. Abandoned in Denver by a so-called friend, Lottie must find a job. Hoping her skills as a Coney Island huckster will land her one, she goes to Elitch’s Gardens, a growing amusement park. Instead, Mary Elitch Long offers her a job as an animal tender and a nurturing environment for Elsa. Lottie’s love of amusement parks leads her to push expansion ideas to grow the new park and collect broker fees in the process. Garden manager Caleb Hudson suspects she is trying to swindle the Longs and wants to preserve the peaceful refuge of the garden areas. Caleb, a veteran of the Spanish American War, suffers from PTSD and screaming roller coaster riders often trigger flashbacks. As Lottie and Caleb butt heads on park expansion plans, they discover a growing passion. They experience one-of-a kind experiences with a hot-air balloon, the exciting new roller coaster and the grand carousel. As they battle coercion from Lottie’s former friend, their individual demons, and the threat that Lottie’s uncle will seize Elsa, they realize the only way to escape their pasts is to face them head-on.
Escaping Yesterday is scheduled for release in September 2015 from Five Star Frontier Fiction.
HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE?
The typical western historical romance features cowboys, ranchers, or Texas Rangers as its heroes with the plot centering around land issues or outlaws. Readers of my stories know my novels don’t fall into that pattern. I love writing about settled areas and my characters occupy more unique roles: undertakers, telegraph operators, attorneys, librarians. My heroines are strong and independent.
I also love deeply conflicted characters who have much to learn about themselves. Their issues are complicated and modern themes such as addiction, dysfunctional families, abuse, gender roles, equal rights, and now incest and PTSD take center stage within my historical settings. I also can’t resist using real events, people, and places to anchor my stories.
None of this is completely unique but it is atypical. Catherine Anderson is a shining example of an author who loves conflicted characters and Deeanne Gist is a master at using real people, events, and places along with unusual roles for her characters.
WHY DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU DO?
My style reflects what I love to read. Of course my love of history and research shape the period within which I choose to set my books and the depth of real-life that populate them. The deep characters come from my belief in the change that is possible in each of us and from realizing that modern problems are really so modern. For years, I eagerly anticipated books by LyVerle Spencer and Maggie Osborne and I suspect my writing tends to reflect my admiration for the work they produced.
HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?
Usually, a story idea is prompted by something I’ve seen or read about. It might be an event, a profession, a place, or a person that intrigues me. I’ll use that seed as a springboard to fashion a plot, brainstorming possible conflicts or characters to combine with it. Sometimes, it’s several sparks that come together. Once I settle on the core of the conflict, I start building characters with goals and motivations, inner problems, relationship barriers, faults and strengths.
Then, or sometimes at the same time, research begins in to setting. As I discover facts to use in the story, it might reshape the characters or the basic plot. I look for details that will color the story and anchor it in history.
By this time, I’m ready to look more closely at the relationship and determine turning points. Once I have those, I use a storyboard to set those turning points and build scenes that will lead up to them. Then, the writing begins and I realize the characters’ motivations don’t always fit into my nice tidy plot. I’ve learned to let the characters drive the story rather than to force them into an author-driven plot. As long as they reach the relationship turning points, I’ll let them lead.
In the end, I might have to surrender a few wonderful historical details because they are no longer workable within the plot but I have a stronger story because the characters have driven it. Hopefully, my readers feel the same way.
Wow, what a set of questions! I hope you have learned a bit more about me as I’ve answered and I urge you to check out C. R. Richards as she continues this blog hop two weeks from now, on September 1 (Labor Day). Cynthia is a great friend and she takes us to a completely different genre. Here’s a bit about her.
C. R. Richards is the award winning author of The Mutant Casebook Series. Her literary career began as a part-time columnist for a small entertainment newspaper. She wore several hats: food critic, entertainment reviewer and cranky editor. A lover of horror and dark fantasy stories, she enjoys telling tales of intrigue and adventure. Her most recent literary projects include the horror short story, Lost Man’s Parish and an upcoming novel length dark fantasy thriller, Pariah. She is an active member of EPIC and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.
You’ll find Cynthia at http://deepthoughtsandjunk.wordpress.com/.