At my writing desk with Tony Riches
Thanks so much for having me Tony, it’s great to visit with you! You asked me about what inspired me and how I went about writing my latest book. Kind of an interesting story there. The book is the second in a series that I had never intended to be a series to start with. Trouble was, readers insisted they wanted to know what happened to several of the characters after the first story closed and the main characters got their happy ending. (I write sweet romance and happy endings are a prerequisite.) So, being the sucker that I am, I figured I could do a little epilogue that would make people happy and we could all move on with life
Great idea in my head. I published the epilogue on-line and immediately discovered I had three major problems. (1) Everyone, and I really do mean everyone—as it people coming out of the woodwork to let me know—HATED the character I’d written about. She was ignorant, selfish, irritating and troublemaking. BUT (2) They wanted to know more! Really what they wanted was to see her get her comeuppance, but that’s more, right? HOWEVER (3) sweet romance (see above) requires a happy ending.
Now I had a mess on my hands. I wanted to keep my readers happy, but that meant I had to find a way to take a character they loved to hate and make her a character they loved to love and who deserved a happy ending. And since I don’t write fairy tales (but at this point, sure wished I did) I had to figure out a way to do it in a believable fashion.
Oh, did I mention I write historical romances, set in Regency Era England (early 1800’s), so all of this had to be period appropriate to boot. Just shoot me now (with a period appropriate dueling pistol, please.)
I did have two things working for me at this point though, thankfully. First, I have scores of digitized period references, written in that era, on my hard drive in addition to many thousands of pages of reference material from various articles (all properly cited, mind you) on the same, said hard drive. Somewhere in those bits and bytes there had to be useful information to get me through.
The other asset for this task is a PhD in educational psychology with an emphasis in human growth and development (seriously, it’s on the wall right my desk!) With any luck, that would help me figure out what this troublesome little character needed in order to change, beyond the good swift kick all the readers wanted to give her of course.
Just to make it all more fun, I gave myself a few rules so that I wouldn’t hate the story when it was over. Throughout the whole thing, no one was going to lecture my character about what she needed to do/think/be different and lead to a brilliant ah-ha moment. In fact, there would be no huge (clichéd) ah-ha moments. She’d have little gradual changes, mostly that she didn’t even notice herself at the time. And since none of us is perfect, she couldn’t be either. She’d have to experience the two steps forward, one step back that we all do as we’re muddling through. Finally, she had to keep her core personality, she could not become a completely different/perfect person out of this, she still had to be her.
Definitely made it more fun. (Insert *eyeroll* here) To do all this, I plowed through more references that I really want to mention about: girls’ schools and education, period housework, courtship rules, midwifery and period medical practice, what flowers bloom in that region during what months, and a bit of material, period and modern, on eclampsia during pregnancy and placental abruption.
My brain hurt. A lot.
But out of all of that, Mrs. Drummond’s School for Girls took shape and her students came to life. My troublesome character enrolled and 350 pages later emerged a changed woman. And I emerged a changed writer. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a difficult character the same way again. And my readers have told me neither will they.
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About the Author
Maria Grace has her PhD in Educational Psychology and is a 16 year veteran of the university classroom where she taught courses in human growth and development, learning, test development and counseling. None of which have anything to do with her undergraduate studies in economics / sociology / managerial studies / behavior sciences. She blogs at Random Bits of Fascination (www.RandomBitsofFascination.com), mainly about her fascination with Regency era history and its role in her fiction. Her newest novel, The Trouble to Check Her, was released in March, 2016. Both Science Fiction and Fantasy projects are currently in the works. Her books, fiction and non-fiction, are available at all major online booksellers. You can follow can follow Maria on Twitter @writeMariaGrace and friend her on Facebook.