Welcome to KatTales' inaugural Prime Writing instalment. In one of those twists you couldn't script if you tried, the debut post for Prime Writing is for a book about... a debutante!
What happens when the book you start out to write isn't the book that keeps prodding you in the middle of the night, whispering "Write me! Write me!"? KatTales welcomes Elyse Mady to tell us all about how this exact situation turned into her debut novel, The Debutante's Dilemma.
To celebrate, Elyse has kindly offered to give away a free eBook. Leave a comment with this post before noon PDT on November 4, 2010, and I'll randomly draw from the commenters and announce the winner on November 5, 2010. One entry per person, please. The winner will need to provide primewriting at katrinaarcher dot com with their e-mail address so Elyse can deliver their prize.
An enthusiastic and voracious reader of everything from 18th century novels to misplaced cereal boxes, Elyse Mady has worked as a freelance magazine writer for the past several years, specializing, in all things, in sewing and embroidery.
Her first work of fiction, The Debutante’s Dilemma, will be published by Carina Press November 8, 2010. She is also working on a number of contemporary romance manuscripts as well as a full length historical novel set in the 1780s.
With her excellent writerly imagination, she one day dreams of topping the NY Times Bestseller’s List and reclaiming her pre-kid body without the bother of either sit-ups or the denunciation of ice-cream.
I’d like to start out by saying that I had no intentions of writing, let alone publishing The Debutante’s Dilemma.
Except, of course, that I ultimately did write it. And then sold it to Carina Press, thereby marking my debut into the world of fiction. All factors that makes Kat’s request to write a blog posting about the book and what went into its conception something of a challenge. However, since sending off a big old page of nothing doesn’t sound all that enticing and public humiliation is an excellent motivator for productivity, I’m going to give it a stab.
The Debutante’s Dilemma tells the story of Miss Cecilia Hastings, a diamond of the first water on the cusp of receiving offers of marriage from two of the most eligible bachelors in England. But Cecelia doesn’t want to settle for a chilly, proper marriage, she wants love and passion with any man she ultimately marries. So she issues a challenge to her suitors: a kiss, so that she may choose between them.
Jeremy and Richard have been friends since childhood, and compatriots on the battlefields of Spain, but falling for the same woman has set them at odds, and risks destroying their friendship forever. But a surprising invitation to a late-night garden tryst soon sets them on a course that neither of them could have anticipated. And these gentlemen quickly discover that love can take many forms…
Now, I’m going to admit that I’m very catholic in my reading tastes: fiction, non-fiction, romance, classics, pretty much printed material in all forms. But when I read romances, although I dabble in paranormal and suspense and Presents type stories, most of my keepers tend to be contemporary or Regency. Yet when I embarked upon a career as a writer, I gravitated instinctively towards writing contemporary romances. I’d sent off a 70,000 word contemporary to Carina in December of 2009 and was gearing up to write my next book (a contemporary) in the interim.
It honestly never occurred to me to give my stories in a historical setting, despite the fact that I’m an ardent reader of 18th and 19th century fiction and history alike. I’m a little slow, I suppose, but if I were to articulate my reluctance then, it would be the question of how can you take a genre as venerable, as well-established, as Regency romance, whose parametres are so clearly delineated and make it your own? Jane and Georgette pretty much laid down the law, and all an author who follows in their footsteps can do is tweak it, right?
Hah! So much for that line of reasoning. Because I’m pretty sure Dilemma takes the elements of a Trad Regency: the virtuous heroine; the wealthy, titled peer, the attraction, the adherence to duty and society and family, and turns them at least 180-degrees! And it all started one night, as I was just on the edge of falling asleep, and the opening line of an entirely different story than the one I was planning to write popped into my head.
“Miss Cecilia Hastings was the luckiest girl who had ever lived to draw breath.”
And there she was, my next heroine. Graceful. Elegant. The epitome of tonnish charm. A lovely young lady with a very serious dilemma: should she settle for a marriage based on mere liking or should she dare to seek out the passion she craves, even if it threatens to derail her placid and well-ordered life?
A snarky, supercilious voice informed me of what everyone in London was saying about Miss Hastings and I found myself sitting up in bed, scrawling it into a notebook as fast as I could get it down. The men who loved her. Jeremy, Earl of Henley fun-loving, quick to anger, quicker to forgive. Richard, Duke of Wexford, introspective, clever and fiercely loyal. Two men in this story, committed friends, admitted rivals. Good, honourable, wealthy men who would make reaching her decision that much harder. And then my husband rolled over and asked me to turn off the light, and didn’t I realize he had to get up the next morning for work? So I shut off the lamp, but I couldn’t shut off my imagination, images and flashes of conversation flooding my mind and I knew, career plan or no, I was writing my first Regency.
I think that that is the lesson to take away from my experiences. Not the bit about annoying your significant other with unwieldy writing habits. You can ignore that bit. The bit about embracing spontaneous ideas fully. Writing is a creative process – you can plot and chart and plan but ultimately the process of imagination is an alchemical one. You need to foster your imagination and give yourself opportunities to hear yourself think, and let your thoughts wander free-form without imposing expectations or limits on your musings. There’ll always be time enough to prune and edit and shape – but trusting and embracing the unchecked flow is an important part of my writing process.
Freeform thinking is an integral part of the writing process for me. It’s how I work through many of the plot points and character issues I need to address in my manuscripts, by tucking the idea away in my unconscious until I can find time to simply ponder. It recharges me and helps foster a genuine sense of excitement about writing when an ‘a-ha!’ moment bursts upon me – that perfect turn of phrase, that cutting retort, a description or word choice that just hums. And those moments are the moments I try and hold on to as a writer, because, and let’s be honest here, writing can be a lonely, self-doubting, editorial quagmire far more often than it’s a sunny-field-of-daisies-and-fluffy-bunnies experience!
I’m thrilled with the how Dilemma ultimately turned out – who knew that sarcasm would be a genuinely beneficial authorial trait – and my steel-trap of a brain, famed for its ability to retain totally useless historical and grammatical information, a genuine asset? Embracing that radical creative moment showed me strengths as a writer I didn’t know I had and helped me create a story whose ending surprised even me. Hoorah for imagination!
Elyse Mady blogs at www.elysemady.wordpress.com about writing, research and romance novels, both historical and contemporary. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Facebook for updates and upcoming titles.