… how do you start your novels? Where do the ideas come from? How do you get the words on paper?
As you can see … it varies!
With my historical series sometimes there is one event in history that sparks my interest. For From Dust and Ashes it was the true story about a Nazi Officer’s wife going into a concentration camp to feed and care for prisoners after liberation. For Night Song it was the true story of an orchestra of prisoners who welcome their liberators by playing the Star-Spangled banner.
From there I considered “whose story” it was and how they connected to the event. In From Dust and Ashes the story started with the event. In Night Song the event was at the end.
Other times when my books start with a question:
What would happen if a Jewish woman pretends to be Aryan to hide herself and then gets pregnant by a Nazi officer (Arms of Deliverance).
What would happen if the Germans discovered one of their key scientists on the atomic bomb project was adopted and Jewish by heritage (The Swiss Courier, co-written by Mike Yorkey).
What would happen if a young artist travels to Spain to marry her fiance and a civil war breaks out the day she arrives (The Chronicles of the Spanish Civil War Series).
One time I started a novel because a World War II veteran asked me, “Would you write about my story–the Bataan Death March?” I said yes even before I had a story. But as I researched, the story emerged. (Dawn of a Thousand Nights)
In my soon to be released novel, Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie Montana, my friend Ocieanna and I tried to figure out a way to use story elements that readers love but to do it in a way that wasn’t cliche. We incorporated a mail-order bride, an orphan train, homesteaders, and a handsome circuit preacher into one book! It is fresh and fun while also connecting with what readers like.
After I get the “big idea,” I then zone in on the characters. It’s really their deepest motivations and fears that fuel the rest of the plot. The plot emerges as they strive for what they desire most … and can’t have.
Completely different was my work with Guidepost in a continuity series. The characters were set for me, so my goal was to consider what would really shake these characters out of their comfort zone. A garden robber (Sweet September), runaway (Every Sunrise), visiting country music singer making a video (Sunflower Serenade), and 130-year-old mystery (All Things Hidden) did the trick.
When it comes to the actual writing, I always start on page one and then move around after that. I write scenes as ideas or research or plot twists hit me. Writing all the cool, important stuff first is a great way for me to make sure there are no sagging middles! Once the major scenes are written then it’s just a matter of stringing them together.
How about you?