Friday, February 09, 2007

Thursday Talk-time with Liz Fielding

This month sees the relaunch of what amounts to the line that began it all. Harlequin Romance has reinvented herself like all forward thinking heroines and is now bigger, brighter, shiner, prettier, more contemporary and selling like hotcakes across the globe!

In celebration we have asked one of her brightest stars to tell us about the minisieres that helped merged two great characters: Silhouette Romance and Harlequin Romance. Take it away Liz Fielding!

"Writing a Miniseries"

Readers often seem to be under the impression that the book I’m writing now will be on the shelves in a week or two. Just how long it takes from start to publication became obvious to me when I dug out my file I opened when I was commissioned to write THE VALENTINE BRIDE, the final book in the BRIDES OF BELLA LUCIA series.

It all began in the spring of 2005 with a phone call from Senior Editor, Kim Young, asking me if I’d be prepared to be part of a continuity series which was to include Harlequin Romance and Silhouette Romance authors; part of the bonding of the two lines at the launch of “Romance”. She explained the basic premise, which sounded interesting, told me who had already signed up and – because I was thrilled to be included in such an important project, and okay, I can’t resist a challenge – I said, count me in.

Then the “stuff” started to pour into my inbox. First came the basic outlines to each book. Very sketchy, leaving a lot of room for each author to develop something that would be entirely her own – the published books are a testament to that. After that came a spread sheet – yards long and requiring considerable dexterity with sticky tape – laying out the timeline. Then the basic cast of characters and how they were related, or linked together. Oh, and their ages, height, body type and colouring! Clearly, when setting up a series like this, it was important that the characters were easily definable, individual. Left to our own devices we could so easily have all come up with tall, dark and blue-eyed heroes and petit, green-eyed, blonde heroines!

Okay, I got lucky. Max, my hero, was dark, around six feet, in his late thirties and, uh, had blue eyes. (Lucky me!) He was also a workaholic without a personal life. Louise, was blonde, tall, elegant, a darling of the gossip mags and, despite being in her early thirties, a bit of a Daddy’s girl. She was also a hot-shot PR consultant. Actually, I have to confess that my first reaction to their back story was that Max needed to get himself a Blackberry, and that Louise needed to grow up and get over it. Okay, finding out you’re adopted that late had to be shock, but honestly...

No. It’s like this.

My characters come from some place inside me where their stories gather depth, resonance, until they demand to be written. It sometimes takes years, but in that time I’ve got to know all their heartaches and pain. I know them. Having a couple of total strangers dumped in my lap left me struggling for motivation.

It took me a long time to write this book, because I had to get to know what was driving them. I had to dig beneath that basic premise of the continuity bible to find the heart of two people who, on the surface, seemed to have everything. I needed to understand why Max would put the restaurant ahead of everything, everyone, to the point of sabotaging his personal happiness. Learn to respect Louise for what she’d achieved entirely on her own – once Max had thrown her out of the family business. Only then could I write them a story that gave them the chance of a new beginning.

And of course tie up all manner of loose ends. Write the big meeting between Louise and her birth mother. Reconcile her with the family who’d raised her. Settle the long running family feud between Robert and John Valentine. No wonder it came in at over 60,000 words!

The very best part of writing a mini series is, of course, that you get to hang out with other authors. This was my first “continuity” and writing with seven other authors – some of whom I’d met – some I’d never even heard of, was huge fun. From the beginning we bounced ideas of each other, talked through scenes – especially the Christmas party where nearly all of the characters were in the same place at the same time.

Louise’s bad-girl Christmas outfit was born out of an hilarious exchange with Linda Goodnight who wrote Married Under the Mistletoe – Daniel and Stephanie’s story. And that outfit led to a career move for Ally Blake’s heroine in Wanted: Outback Wife -- the story of Louise’s half sister, Jodie and Heath. Ally and I then worked closely together as we exchanged scenes where characters crossed over, ensuring that we had each other characters “voices” just right.

It wasn’t all plain sailing. No matter how carefully I had things covered, the unforeseen happened. I had Louise talking up the arrangements for the upcoming royal wedding in Meridia (The Rebel Prince, Raye Morgan); I’d checked with Raye that she hadn’t written the wedding in her book so I thought I was safe, only to have the series editor inform me that the royal couple had appeared, already married, at that Christmas party (Crazy About the Boss, Teresa Southwick) so it was back to the drawing board with that scene!

Writing is normally a solitary business, but The Valentine Bride taught me a lot about working with other authors. First that it requires real enthusiasm for the project from everyone concerned. Patience, too; we were all at a different place in this series, had other projects claiming our time. Understanding that we all approach what we do differently, have individual voices, different styles. That listening is as important as talking and that we can all learn from each other.

Being a part of The Brides of Bella Lucia was a real joy and I’m delighted to thank Ally Blake, Linda Goodnight, Barbara McMahon, Raye Morgan, Teresa Southwick, Patricia Thayer and Rebecca Winters for their co-operation and friendship.

THE VALENTINE BRIDE is published in the UK on 2 February, in the US on 14 February and in Australasia in mid-March. It also received a 4.5 star rating from Romantic Times!!!

For more about the Brides of Bella Lucia series, check out their website!

And for more about Liz's books, check out her website.


  1. Wow Liz! It was really interesting reading about how you guys worked out the series after reading all the books. I love continuity series' and even more when the characters jump from book to book. I read yours in December and was looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time coz I really didn't want the series to end!

  2. I'm the opposite Jopee!! I'm down to the last two now and I'm itching to see how it all ends. A lot of that has to do with my heroine and Liz's being half sisters and I can't see how Louise's story in particular turns out.

    Happy ending? I hope so ;).


  3. Whew! Finally got here. The comments box didn't want to play!

    Jopee, I so understand where you're coming from. I just read the latest Stephanie Plum and so did not want that to end!

    Ally, I can't wait to hear your reaction to what I did with Cal and Patsy!

  4. Thanks for sharing, Liz - very relevant for me, especially as I'm working on a continuity at the moment. (Well, I will be in about 6 weeks' time, but I have two deadlines first. Even so, I'm still thinking about my characters.) It's very unlike my normal method of working - quite a steep learning curve. But interesting...

  5. Hi Liz

    I'm so glad that Max has finally got his freedom to be out and about in the world of bookshops - maybe now he won't come and pester us on our blogs so much. Though the Grooms Contest still has a couple of days to run so anythig could happen!

    I have The Valentine Bride on my TBR and would SO love to read it right now - but I'm keeping it as a special treat to reward myself when I've judged my RITA entry books - and . . Oh dear, there's also the problem of a Spaniard and a deadline . ..



  6. This really interesting. I've been reading the Bella Lucia books like crazy just so I could get around to reading 'The Valentine Bride.'

    I had no idea there was such a rich exchange between authors on continuities, although it explains why it all flowed so well. It seemed effortless when reading, although I'm sure it was anything but in the exectution.

  7. I LOVED Max and Louise's story, Liz. And now I need to go back and read all the stories that led up to it! More books for the TBR pile.

    I remember having a brainstorming session with Barbara Delinsky, Bobby Hutchinson and Bethany Campbell very like the one you talked about when we did a "weddding" of interconnected novellas once. It was great fun.

    I also remember having characters dumped on me once who were a complete mystery -- and like you, I thought, get a Blackberry (or the equivalent at that time). In fact he did something better -- he dropped out of Harvard Business School and became a woodworker. THEN I could work with him! Aren't characters amazing? They do have minds of their own.

    I'll miss Max dropping in on the blogs. Theo has popped up again. I don't think he wants the Grooms' Contest to end!

  8. I loved Theo's blog, Anne and can't wait to get stuck into his book. I have Rita books to finish first. Max seems to be busy elsewhere at the moment, but I'll round him up when it comes to making the draw for "his" prize.

    And playing "what ifs" with other authors is just the best fun. I did it recently with Barbara Hannay and Jackie Braun on a trilogy that will be out later in the year and it is so stimulating!

  9. Wow, Liz!

    What an incredible process! What a challenge and how fun! Thanks for sharing with us.

    Can't wait to read them!

    Marian S