I was recently asked this question by a friend, and I could not answer her to my satisfaction. When I ponder the idea, I can’t even come up with a clear reply. I suppose I find inspiration in everything . . . every experience, every memory, every “thing” that brings me joy and in which I’m interested, and that would include all the beautiful created stuff on Earth. Now that’s a looong list!
I write about things I like, so I can experience them more fully, and I also write about situations that I’d like to be in but will never be able to do, for various reasons. So yeah, I live vicariously through my characters. I would think most authors do this. It’s kind of a cool way to live a life that is much larger and more interesting than the one you currently have. ~
I started trying to write (I say trying because I had an awful lot to learn, but didn’t know it at the time) when my daughter was a baby. She will turn forty this year, so that tells you how long I’ve been at this. My first impulse to write came from reading the Harlequin Romance books that were popular back in the 80’s. Some of the books were quite good, but some of them . . . well, let’s just say I knew I could do better. So I poked at it, just for fun, to see what might happen.
Before I could get very far with my new ambition, another baby came along and so I had to set writing on the back burner for awhile (as any mother will understand) although I didn’t give up on the idea. I scribbled some thoughts here and there when I had time, and a few years later I joined a book club where you’d buy one book a month at a discount. These were books for writers and they covered everything you needed to know to be successful. I was thrilled, and it was easier to read while my kids were little than to write.
I homeschooled my children from kindergarten age through high school, so that adventure took up every last bit of time I had. Yet, I did manage to read every book I could get my hands on that taught me how to write. I spent many years on that project and learned a great deal. When my kids were old enough to begin pursuing their own interests, I found I had small chunks of time here and there where I could think my own thoughts and maybe, just possibly, create a story that could be interesting. For the next several years, I tried to write as much as I could and did manage to produce a fat novel, but when it came time to find an agent, which you had to do back then, the real struggle became apparent—because it was just about impossible to get anyone to look at you unless you were Somebody. You’d hear stories of someone being discovered in the ‘slush pile’ as they used to call it, but I was never that fortunate.
So, I decided to spend my time writing another book, and another. I had written three or four full-length novels when we had to move across the country, and during that process my paper manuscripts were lost as well as the computer on which they were stored. This was a bit discouraging, to lose everything after all that hard work, and so I gave up on my hope to become a writer—until just last year when it suddenly occurred to me that, since my kids were now married and on their own, there was absolutely no good reason that I couldn’t begin to write again and try to produce a story that someone might like; and happily, publishing your book is much easier nowadays. There are opportunities available everywhere.
I’ve written six books in my series so far, and I hope to write several more as it is the most fun! Well, I amuse myself anyway, and spend much of my time giggling at the antics of my characters. I sincerely hope my readers will thoroughly enjoy their journey through my books. ~
I think the main reason I use a cowboy as the male character in most of my books is because I’ve always loved horses. Let me explain. Horses are a central theme in most of my stories, so I need to choose an individual who’s comfortable working with and around horses for my books. Also, I’ve discovered that most cowboys have a set of morals and values closely aligned with mine (although there are always exceptions, of course) but I choose to believe the majority of them are hard-working, honest, and God-fearing. In addition to these reasons, I was married to a ranch cowboy for 25 years, so I became very familiar with the type of work they do, and I can write about it with complete authenticity, which you do not always find in westerns.
Years ago, I was reading a novel that was set on a cattle ranch. I was roughly halfway through the book and enjoying it immensely, when the writer made a huge mistake, which ultimately ruined the rest of the book for me. She created a scene where the female character was riding a horse out to the pasture where the cows were calving, and she had this girl scoop up the calf (I think she didn’t realize how much they weigh, even the smallest calf can easily weigh fifty lbs.), toss it over the neck of her horse, in front of her western saddle, climb back on the horse and gallop back to the barn, where she’d deposit the calf and race off to get another one.
There are several things wrong with this whole picture. One, you would never swipe a newborn calf from its mother, just willy nilly. The mother is supposed to raise the calf, take care of it and feed it. Two, as I already pointed out, it would take a strong man to get a fifty lb. calf draped over the neck of the horse. Three, even if you did have an extenuating circumstance, say the mother died or something and you really did need to rescue the calf and take it back to the barn, you would never gallop. If you did, the calf would fall off!
Anyway, as I say, it ruined the rest of what had started out to be a pretty nice story. So, one thing I can guarantee to my readers is that you will never find me “writing about something I don’t know.” Now, we writers hear this often from certain people who teach the craft of writing. “Don’t be afraid to write about something you don’t know. That’s what research is for.” Nope, I don’t think so. Not for me anyway, after I experienced such a horrific problem as I did with that author. It did teach me a very valuable lesson though, and that is: You can’t always do enough research to really know the circumstances surrounding a given situation, and what the proper behavior of the characters might be, not to mention the correct lingo they’d use.
So, yeah, my advice to writers would be: It’s probably safer to stick to what you know so that you don’t accidentally annoy your readers.~
Just this morning, it occurred to me that when I’m doing something that doesn’t require my thoughts to be fully engaged, something relatively mindless like cooking bacon, that’s when my brain likes to whir and work out little problems.
Frying bacon takes about twenty minutes (for me cuz I like mine crispy) and all you’re doing is flipping the bacon over and over while watching it sizzle and shrink and change from white to brown. It’s interesting that without conscious thought, my mind will begin solving one little question after another pertaining to the story line of my next book. Kinda cool.
And often, at night, just as I’m dropping off to sleep, my characters will begin talking and coming up with some pretty darn good dialogue. So then I have to decide if I want to get up and write down what they’re chatting about or, try to remember it until morning. Yeah, I almost always get up and write it down. If it’s really monumental, something that I won’t forget by morning, I’ll tell them to shut up so I can go to sleep.