I hope you’re doing well, feeling well, happy and busy, and that things are happening in your life as you wish!!!
I’ve been working really hard on a new book, a historical novel this time. They are a HUGE amount of work, first gathering the research before I start, so the setting and the times and events are accurate, and to establish the history right from the beginning. Then writing the fictional story set in those times, and weaving the history into it, always the right amount of both. And then after that, more detailed historical research to fill in any holes. And after that, many re-writes. I do at least 3 re-writes on every book, at different stages of the book, sometimes more. It all happens in about a span of two years, or a little more, until the book is ready to be printed and is complete. I don’t like having a span of two years between books, so I am always working on several at once, in different stages. And sometimes the ‘stages’ are quite spread out, so I have time to write another book in first draft between those stages. The system seems to work and is a major juggling act, and it allows me to publish as many books as I do.
The historical novels are a lot more work than the others, getting the history and the mood and feeling of the times right. It’s like travelling back in time, whenever I do it, and I need to isolate myself even more for the historical novels, so I’m not distracted by modern times. I have a researcher who helps me gather the information, and then I decide how much of it to use, and what events work best with the story. Writing a historical novel teaches me a lot of new things, just as reading it will do for the reader—-learning about events and people at another time in history. And I often use real people, and songs and books and movies as well as events, to give substance to the time I’ve set it in. I don’t go tooooo far back in history (like Greek or Roman times) or too many centuries back, because then the times are too foreign to us now, and are harder to relate to. A century or two are about as far back as I ever go, or at a time when the challenges in human relations are very similar to what we’re living now.
Someone commenting on my Instagram said that they really miss the characters when the book ends. So do I. The characters become so real to me, I work so carefully to build them and make them come to life, that I fall in love with them too (or hate them!!! for the mean ones). And I feel lost for a few days or a week after I finish, as though all my friends have moved away, and I can’t be part of their lives anymore. I’m always happy to find them again when I come back to the book for another re-write. And once the book is absolutely finished, re-written many times, and ready for the book to be printed—-after that, I never read them again.
Writing a book is like having a lot of imaginary friends. By the end of the first chapter I love them and they are real to me. And by the end of the book, I know them really well and what they would or wouldn’t do. Sometimes they have a mind of their own!!!! And they refuse to do what I want them to!!! But eventually, I get a good grip on it, whether a historical or a contemporary book. It’s an incredible joy when it goes well, and I feel so lucky to have a job I love. And thank you for reading them, after all of that hard work!!! You make it all worthwhile for me. The nights are long and the days are hard, and the elation and sense of accomplishment when you finish a book is tremendous!!!
I can’t write to you today, without at least mentioning the tragic accident which took the life of Famous Basketball Star Kobe Bryant and his young daughter Gianna, along with another family, and several other people, including children. I ache at knowing Kobe’s widow’s grief to have lost a husband AND a child, and the other family members of the other people and families on board. No loss is easy, and some are unbearably hard. The whole world has grieved these tragic deaths, and the loss of a great athlete and hero, husband, and father. Even in Europe, people have grieved for him, and the others lost. My heart goes out to all the survivors who lost loved ones.
I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful, safe week. I hope we’re all grateful for our many blessings, however small they are, I hope that we’re treasuring our loved ones, and grateful for every minute we have with them. My children and I have been deeply saddened by Kobe’s death, and all the others with him.
I hope that life touches you gently this week, and that it’s a week of many blessings for you.