Louise Allen is another of the M&B authors that I can talk to for hours about history. (And she doesn’t live that far from me, so now that my school run is a bit more manageable we’re doing lunch…) I’ve been privileged to see some of her collection of Regency costume prints (and a shoe that gave me a bit of a lightbulb moment), and her books are autobuys for me because they’re cracking stories and she REALLY knows her history. Oh, and I have desk envy. (You’ll see why in a minute.)
Over to Louise:
Where does all that inspiration come from? It’s a question I get asked all the time. The answer is that usually I haven’t a clue – and I guess that’s the same for many fellow novelists. C S Forrester said that his brain was like a swamp: things fell in, sank to the bottom and every now and again after they had decomposed enough they’d float to the surface again, transformed into a plot or a character.
I’d like to think my brain isn’t quite so swamp-like, but I suspect it is closer to a bag full of knitting wool or embroidery thread. It starts off tidy, with everything neatly in balls or skeins and somehow, by a mysterious process, when you open the bag there is a multi-coloured tangle.
Very, very rarely I can trace where a plot idea has come from. Usually they arrive out of nowhere, what my husband calls a “what-if”. What if a ship was wrecked - how would the survivors’ lives be changed? That became the Danger & Desire trilogy. What if someone needs a bodyguard but doesn’t want one? That became The Dangerous Mr Ryder. Sometimes a character arrives – Mr Ryder himself strolled into another book altogether instead of the middle-aged Bow Street Runner who was supposed to arrive, so I had to give him a book of his own before he took over. Occasionally there is a snatch of dialogue, quite without a plot to go with it. I write them all down and hope one day I’ll discover where they fit.
I ought to get my ideas in my writing studio/library in the garden. Actually I spend an awful lot of time in there gazing blankly at the flowerbeds, the view or the bird feeders. Real inspiration usually comes in bed, in that lovely halfway stage between waking and sleeping. Then I can go to the studio and write it all down (when I’m not admiring the weeds). As I’m not Tracey Emin I’ll show you a picture of the studio and not of my bed!
Where’s your most creative place? I’ll send a signed copy of one of the Danger & Desire trilogy to the writer of whichever comment Kate draws from the hat.
An Earl Beneath the Mistletoe in Snowbound Wedding Wishes anthology. Harlequin Historical November 2012
Forbidden Jewel of India Mills & Boon and Harlequin Historical January 2013