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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Behind the Book

A question writers are often asked is “Where do the ideas for your books come from?” I always say ideas come from everywhere, but today I’m going to try to be a little more specific and let you in on some of the thought processes that have gone into my own books.
There’s an old adage in romance writing that says if the hero in your romance novel is a fireman, your heroine had better be an arsonist! That speaks to the need for conflict in our stories. Readers want a happy ending, but they want to see the heroine and hero struggle for that happily ever after.
 I decided to take that adage literally when I wrote “Burning Love”. The way I saw it, Riley is a firefighter, and though Iris may not be an arsonist, she’s pretty careless when making dinner. She’s had three cooking fires in her apartment. The last one is so serious that her apartment is ruined and she’s evicted. Furthermore, her landlord bars her from renting in any of the other buildings he owns, and spreads the word among other landlords that she’s a menace. She and her cat Whiskers find themselves out on the street. That’s when she shows up at Riley’s door looking to rent a room in the old house he’s renovating.
 I didn’t want the differences between Riley and Iris to end there. Riley is practical and traditional, while Iris, the daughter of unconventional, nomadic parents, is a dreamer with bohemian tastes. She dreams of traveling to exotic locations and seeing the world; Riley dreams of restoring the old house his great aunt and uncle brought him up in and putting down roots. He wants a home, stability. She wants adventure, excitement. She only needs the room in Riley’s house for six weeks until she takes her new job on a cruise ship in the Caribbean.  Clearly, this couple needs a little help to get to their happily ever after!
Enter Angelica and Hildegard, two angels in Heaven’s Relationship division. They provide comic relief as well as the little extra help that Riley and Iris need in order to realize they belong together. I like to think that somebody out there is looking out for us, especially in matters of the heart. And it was great fun to create two such off the wall characters like the angels, and a world where anything was possible.
Another book where world building came into play was my romantic suspense “Seeing Things”. I wondered what it would be like to be psychic. So my psychic Leah McKenna “sees” the abduction of a small boy. Leah is a reluctant psychic. She doesn’t want to see bad things happening to children. I’m not psychic but I could relate to her. I wouldn’t want to know something bad was going to happen before it happened, or have the ability to “see” something terrible happening to a child, especially if there was nothing I could do to stop it.
I think I’d feel a bit like a freak, an outsider, totally different from everyone else. That’s how Leah feels. She’d been engaged once, but her psychic abilities eventually became too much for her fiancé and he left her. She’s done her best to suppress any visions, and it’s worked for two years. But now the visions are back, stronger than ever.
She goes to the police, to a detective she’d previously worked with, and from her description of the child, he determines that the boy is named Jeremy and he went missing about the same time Leah had her vision. Jeremy’s uncle, David Logan, was looking after him at the time of the kidnapping. David doesn’t believe anything Leah says. If she can describe Jeremy, even down to a small cut on his finger, it must be because she was part of the kidnapping. He decides to stay close to her to see if she will lead him to his nephew.
I think David’s reaction is how most people would feel. Visions and other psychic phenomena are garbage, and he certainly doesn’t want to entrust his nephew’s life to hocus-pocus. It’s not until she tells him something that no one but he knows, something he’s never told anyone, that he’s forced to believe in Leah’s visions.
The really fun part about writing this story, aside from building a growing romance between two people who totally distrust each other at the beginning, was figuring out exactly what Leah can see and what she can’t see. What were her powers? How can she nurture them and make them stronger? Research helped with those questions. I read books about psychics, especially psychics who worked with police on missing person cases. It was fascinating reading. I learned that psychic visions are often metaphors for something else. So when Leah sees repeated visions of snakes, she knows it symbolizes something else. But what? I know I’d be frustrated by a vision that was more of a riddle than a straightforward clue, and so is Leah.
I like to start my stories with “what if” questions (What if a firefighter fell in love with a girl prone to setting fires? What if a reluctant psychic “saw” the kidnapping of a child?). But then I explore the characters’ feelings and motivations (Why is restoring the old house so important to Riley? Why does David feel such guilt about the kidnapping of his nephew?). I want to get under their skin and figure out what makes them tick.  
Next time I’ll be back with a behind the book look at more of my books. You can read excerpts of my books at my website I also have a contest running at my website right now. For more information check out my contest page. Please stop by!
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Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Jana,

I enjoyed hearing the basis for your books. I also LOVE the cover for Burning Love.

Happy valentine's day!


Kara Lynn Russell said...

Fires and snakes! Wow! These both sound like great stories. The research for Seeing Things must have been really interesting.

Maria Zannini said...

You hooked me with the angels. :o)

Jana Richards said...

Hi Maggie,
Isn't the cover for "Burning Love" great? It's the work of Nicola Martinez, who is such a talented artist.

Happy Valentine's Day to you too. Have a great day!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Kara Lynn,
Yes, the research about psychics who work with police was very interesting. Also, learning a bit about the different types of psychic phenomena was fascinating. I used much of it as the basis for my story, but I also used a bit of artistic licence to make my heroine unique.

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment! Have a great day!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Maria,
I love my angels! I call this story a "paranormal light". Though it contains supernatural beings, they're pretty tame. In fact, Angelica would probably rather meet a vampire in a dark alley than to go without a manicure for a week. She's self-absorbed and vain, and Hildegard is a rigid stickler for rules, but underneath it all, they are loyal to each other and to the mortals they protect. They were a delight to write!


Jean P said...

As soon as I read the line about the angels and the provide comic relief, I knew I had to find this book.

skpetal at hotmail dot com

Jana Richards said...

I hope you enjoy it Jean! Thanks.