Unlike the other better-mannered Wenches, I blundered in without introducing myself. As Loretta Chase I’ve been writing in the Regency era for, um, some time now. My semi-official blog day is Saturday.
Currently I’m working on the fourth book of my Carsington brothers series. The third, Lord Perfect, came out in March. This month, Berkley reissued Captives of the Night, part of an earlier series.
Enough about the books. Let’s talk about writing, which is easy when it isn’t fiendishly hard and is infinitely preferable to most other occupations except reading other writers’ books, absorbing the magic of the refuge in Maine, and some other things, including…oh, be still my heart…looking at maps.
As my husband will attest, while he is filling the gas tank or going into a sporting equipment shop or doing some other manly thing, I, waiting in the car, will take out one of his maps–of anywhere–and read it. I love maps, especially old ones, but new ones will do in a pinch. My husband will also attest that I am one of the world’s worst navigators, but that’s a story for another time.
Maps help me create a structure or a reasonable facsimile thereof. As other Wenches have demonstrated, we all have our methods or something we laughingly call a method. I usually start with an extremely vague idea about the hero or heroine–imagine a small, distant figure in a fog–and an equally dim notion of what his or her counterpart needs to be. Once in a great while, a powerful, vivid image and understanding of hero or heroine leaps to the front of my imagination, and from that point, everything else falls quickly into place. But that almost never happens.
What usually happens is distant figures in the fog. Either way, though, what I must have, before I can truly make a story come to life, is a place.
So it starts like this: “I think I’ll set a story in…hmmm…Egypt.”
Then the adventure begins. The trips to the libraries and their secret places in the basement where there are books no one reads anymore. No one except me. I read the early 1800s volumes of the Philosophical Magazine the way normal people read People. But the basements also hold crumbly travel books, with their detailed descriptions and illustrations of places…and maps. All in all, I must have ended up with about 50 maps for Mr. Impossible (note author’s unsubtle plug of book), from various time periods, because one never finds in one book or map all the information one needs.
It could be argued that I don’t really need all that information. Only about 1/100th of it ends up in the book. But I need it for me, because I need to be there in order to write about it. Once I’m there, the hero and heroine can be there. And once they’re there, they can interact with their environment, which gives them things to do (i.e., plot). In the case of Mr. I, interactions with the environment mainly involved trying not to get killed by it. And what they do and how they do it tells them–and us–who they are (i.e., character development).
But mainly I do it because it’s fun.