In The Writer's World

Wynne was over to dine last night, and after we’d finished up and were enjoying our coffee she asked me, “Well Mom, so who is who in the novel?”

The answer is nobody. I had an idea for Ted, and he quickly morphed into someone else quite different and more diabolical than the character he was intended to be. Carolyn originally was a man–a sick and angry one at that–who plotted vengeance against Ted but didn’t kill him. Dwight was someone else entirely, but he became a person who wanted to fix  Ted. Once on the pages, however, he eliminated himself as a contender for murderer. (Oops, I just outed one of my red herrings!)

Tiffany Maxell originally had a very large butt! She became little and waif-like, and she gained the appearance, though not the personality, of someone I knew minus 30 years (who now is  deceased). The book began in my mind as a battle between the mostly male titans in my fictitious Oregon wine industry and ended centered on the females.

How did this occur? An Unholy Alliance is not the story I began with or anything close to it. Nor are the characters. Nestor Pullman seemed to leap onto the page unbidden to fill a role I didn’t even know needed filling. Angel became a major player. Zephyr morphed from a fashion-conscious victim into a goddess-like force. Lucita, like Nestor, appeared out of thin air just when she was needed most.

All in all, it was quite entertaining.

I worked for more than 20 years using my journalism degree, learning and writing about wine and food. I only knew how to write about what was in front of me. This process of fiction is something brand new. Do I need to tell you I love it? Do I need to say I feel blessed?

When someone tells me they like the book it is a cherished affirmation. The magic that occurred during the process of writing An Unholy Alliance is the gift. It’s something I don’t yet understand.

What I do understand are the things I did that prepared me for the eventual outcome. No, I didn’t get up early every morning and crank away for two or six hours like Walter Mosley or Stephen King, but at times I managed to suit up and show up. In the middle of the draft, I had to go back and do detailed character sketches of every character I’d depicted to date because I didn’t know my own people! (Thank you Elizabeth George for your wonderful Inspector Lynley series, and more particularly for your instruction and insights in your book Write Away.) I consulted several friends who are avid readers and listened to what they said. (Again, thank you!)

I have just checked Elizabeth out of the library again–both a Lynley and a copy of Write Away.  The friends have been alerted. There is a cast of new characters to inhabit  Emma’s  world. What magic comes of it will be as much a surprise to me as it is to y’all, but Emma and Melody are off on another adventure, so stay tuned.

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