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My Writing Process--Blog Roll!

My Writing Process, or, Making It Up as I Go Along

Last week, I was asked to participate in a “blog roll” by the amazing Kay Bratt , a child advocate, humanitarian, and the bestselling author of the beautiful, poignant Scavenger’s Daughters series. Kay’s new book is BITTER WINDS, and it’s here:

SD_BitterWinds(Isn’t that a gorgeous cover? All of hers are like that.)

As you can probably imagine, I was so flattered to be invited by a writer (and person) of Kay’s caliber that of course I said yes! And here’s Kay’s wonderful post about her own process.

So anyway, the idea is that I explain how I make stuff up, er, I mean, plan and write books. Yeah, that’s it. That’s the ticket. “Magic” is only one word and I’m supposed to answer five questions, so here we go, I’ll give it a shot.

I just put out my new book, JUST NOT MINEso I’m in between-projects mode, which always feels so strange. When I don’t have a book going, I tend to mooch around disconsolately, unable to settle on anything productive. It’s not a pretty sight. But I’m about to start working on an idea for a new U.S. series, which I think will be romantic suspense, set in North Idaho. Unusually for me, I also have THREE New Zealand books I want to write! Normally, I only have one book in my head at once. We’ll see what happens next—your guess is as good as mine.

This is a tough question to answer. I am a horrible judge of my own work. I always feel like a “street poet” I used to see in Berkeley, where I live. She came over in a restaurant many years ago and said, “You wouldn’t want to buy my stupid poetry book, would you?” One of the guys I was with DID buy it, and even read it. Unfortunately, he was the brother of the guy I was dating, and much, much nicer. Wrong brother.

But I digress. I think (I hope) I’m funny, which you don’t always find in Romance. I hope I write alpha males who are also decent, good guys whom a reasonable adult woman would actually want to marry, and grown-up heroines who have real human fears and failings, but are struggling along as best they can, putting one foot in front of the other and coping, as women do. I hope I write mature relationships where the drama rises organically from the couple’s own issues. None of those things is unique, but those are the qualities that I think readers enjoy in my work. Oh, and that some of the books are about New Zealand rugby! That’s a difference. :)

A lot of people seem surprised that I write Romance, and I get asked a lot, directly or subtly, “When are you going to start writing REAL books?” Never, I suspect. I love writing Romance. I write for smart women who need a break. From heavier books, from their busy, stressful lives, whatever. When I’m reading for pleasure, I like knowing things will be all right. The good guys will win, the killer will be caught, the couple will get their Happily Ever After. If I want to be depressed, I can read the paper! Plus, Romance allows me to explore all different kinds of relationships, and all different kinds of love: children and parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, love of country. It’s not just about a man and a woman. I’m interested in character, and Romance allows me to write the kinds of character-driven books I enjoy reading.

Umm … This is that “magic” thing. I walk around for a week or two after a new book comes out with my head clanging emptily. Then some people start talking in my head, and ideas start flitting in and out again. I go on lots of walks or runs, and the talking gets more fleshed out. Within a couple weeks, I have about half the scenes of the book worked out, all in my head, nothing on paper. If the book is in a new area, I’ll do a lot of research: online, interviews, etc. I print out a calendar and write out the timeline. Then I start writing. Sometimes in order, sometimes jumping all around the book. I work like a crazy person for about six weeks for a 100,000-word book, with it filling my life and heart and mind. I walk or run or drive, people start talking, I come home (or go to the coffee shop) and transcribe. I start each day by editing what I wrote the day before, which pulls me back into the book.

But mostly, magic. At least that’s how it feels. Exactly like some old woman came up to me and gave me three magic beans, and I planted them, and suddenly I had this power to enter other people’s heads and make up their stories. That’s how it feels when you don’t start writing fiction until you are over 50. It’s a whole new world.

I hear about people who are working on four projects at once, or who have their titles and outlines and characters for the next four books all planned out, and I can’t imagine. I also can’t imagine sitting down and writing for four hours or eight hours or whatever, getting up and saying, “All right. I’m done until tomorrow.” When the book fills my head, my head is FULL, and I’m … a little obsessive.

One of the best things about this journey has been meeting not only my wonderful readers, but also other authors (which is new for me, and very exciting). Here are some awesome people who are going to be answering these questions next (and I’ll link to their answers just as soon as they do):

Brenda Novak is—well, do I really need to tell you who Brenda Novak is? Bet not! Let’s just say that Brenda’s latest book in the Whiskey Creek series, COME HOME TO ME, was an RT Top Pick and an Amazon Editors’ Choice as one of the Top 10 Romances of the Month. Add that Brenda is up for a RITA this year, and you’ll see why I about fell out of my chair when she asked me to participate in her release day Facebook party for COME HOME TO ME. She’s got a great how-I-got-into-publishing story, too, which I hope she’s about to share with you.

Wayne Stinnett is a bestselling author of military/sea adventure novels. Not what you were expecting, huh? I asked Wayne to participate with me because his story is a little bit like mine—he came late and unexpectedly to novel-writing. Wayne is a tough guy with a tender heart, a former Marine (whoops, I’m not supposed to say that. Once a Marine, always a Marine!), and NOW a FORMER long-haul trucker who quit the day job just about a month ago after a rapid ascension through the publishing ranks. His first book in the Jesse McDermott series, FALLEN OUT, is selling like hotcakes on Amazon right now. Get it for the man in your life, or, if you’re like me and love a good action story, for yourself!

Here’s Wayne’s blog post about his own unlikely journey.

Susanne O’Leary’s books frequently hit the bestseller lists too, but more importantly, they’re fun! I think our books actually have a lot in common, which is why I asked her to do this tour with me. They’re mostly set in Ireland (some in France), and are funny, warm, and sexy stories. She knows what she’s talking about, because she lives in Ireland and used to live in France, and her books have a great sense of place. Her latest in the Kerry series, HOT PURSUIT, is set in Dublin and the west of Ireland, and is, as one reviewer notes, a “mixture of suspense, humour, and romance.”

Here’s Susanne’s blog post about her process. I didn’t know until this that she was the wife of a diplomat! Fascinating.


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Lucy Varna
Lucy Varna
9 years ago

Rosalind, your books *are* real! In fact, they’re so real that I recommended you to my local library today. Their display of beach reads didn’t seem complete without your books there.

Keep up the good work!

Rosalind James
Rosalind James
9 years ago
Reply to  Lucy Varna

Oh, thank you! It makes me so happy to hear that people enjoy the books. And thank you for the recommendation! I’m in just a few libraries, I think–but so proud about every single one of them. I grew up half-living in the library. It’s so cool to think of my books being on a library shelf now.

Lucy Varna
Lucy Varna
9 years ago
Reply to  Rosalind James

I worked in this library for three years, so I’m really familiar with its collection and clientele. When I walked by that display, your name popped into my head as a good addition, particularly since, as I recall, the library has few if any fictional works set in New Zealand. Plus, there’s a built-in fan base, based on other books of a similar nature (nice, solid, romantic beach reads). If the library manager decides to add your books to the collection (no guarantee; she’s new and still learning), then the good news is that they would be available throughout the… Read more »

Lucy Varna
Lucy Varna
9 years ago
Reply to  Lucy Varna

Whoops! I meant Columbus, not Columbia. Not quite awake yet! ;)

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