Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wild Card Weekend - A Passion for Puzzles

Modern Heat author Heidi Rice talks about her not-so-secret passion for jigsaw puzzles and (by way of a fiendishly clever analogy) how that fuels her passion for writing romance.

I have a secret passion, which I’m going to confess to here, even though it makes me seem every so slightly sad… I’m a jigsaw puzzle junkie.

There, I’ve said it, and I’ve probably lost a few cool points in the process — especially if you knew some of the puzzles I’ve got hooked into doing by my Mum. Yup, she’s a fellow addict. In fact I blame her for my affliction as I believe it may be hereditary — all three of my sisters being afflicted with the same puzzle-junkie gene. Anyway, my mum plays a lot of golf, and she buys most of the puzzles — get the picture? Pretty damn scary, eh? Have you any idea how boring a puzzle of St Andrews golf course can be to look at for several hours at a time?

But you see I can’t stop myself. It’s a compulsion. I see all those squiggly shaped pieces lying before me and I just have to fit them together or die trying. And there’s a very specific process to be followed to do it.

First I’ll judge the colour and texture of each section of puzzle. Next I’ll group all the relevant pieces (of which there has to be at least a thousand – anything less is for wimps, folks). Then I’ll put together the easy bits (any part of the picture with writing on or people is usually a good place to start). My mum meanwhile  does all the edge bits (we do make a pretty good team actually, despite her golf issues). And then, as things start to hot up, there’s the long hours staring at individual sections, visualising in my mind what each missing piece would look like and then piddling about endlessly sticking the wrong bit in the wrong hole till you finally get one of the little buggers to fit. Of course there are some highs if you manage to pop a piece into place at a glance that your mum and/or your sisters have been agonizing over for hours. (NB I never puzzle alone, because that would make me a dotty old dear). And to finish off there’s always that huge expanse of sky (puzzle makers always stick it in there, because they’re sadists) which all looks exactly the same and drives you totally nuts.

Have I bored you into a coma yet? Excellent! So now that I’ve got you begging for mercy, I’m finally going to get to the point of this blog post. And what is the point?

Well, I have this fab analogy about how the desire to complete a puzzle is the same desire I have when I build a story. First I have to create my characters, then work out their conflict and their backstory – which is like that initial sorting exercise - and then when I start writing it all out it’s a matter of slotting everything into place. Figuring out where each emotional development, each turning point, each character revelation, each line of dialogue goes in your story. And not giving up when you get the wrong piece in the wrong hole and have to start over… Because often the wrong piece can look really right for a while and it’s not until you look at the big picture and realize it doesn’t quite fit that you know you have to delete it.. Or sling it back in the box!

Of course, if you don’t quite buy that fiendishly clever analogy, then this is really just a blog post about Heidi’s sad obsession with sticking little bits of squiggly shaped cardboard together! But hey, I tried to make it relevant, so I should get marks for that at least.

Here's a great video I found on YouTube which only feeds my addiction... BTW haven't attempted this puzzle yet, but would do if I could listen to Elvis all day while doing it:

So do any of you guys have obsessive hobbies that you want to share? I’ve outed myself, now you can too.

Heidi is currently piecing together her tenth book for Modern Heat... Which will actually be a Riva! As will her ninth book, Cupcakes and Killer Heels, which is due out in the UK in May. Til then, you can enjoy her Christmas story Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger in the UK, the last of her Modern Heats! And her Florentine reunion romance Unfinished Business with the Duke, in the States which is out as a Presents Extra. Come chat about jigsaws or writing, or anything that tickles your fancy really, on her blog, her Facebook page or thru her website.



  1. Hi Heidi - have you seen that ancient Laurel& Hardy film where somebody is doing a jigsaw on their wedding morning & gradually everyone from the milkman to the chauffeur is roped in to help? Compulsion is the word.
    Beekeeping is my guilty time-suck. In theory you only do it in summer, and have the rest of the year free. In practice it's like Christmas dinner - you're either planning beforehand, or cleaning up afterwards!

  2. Wow Christina, you're a brave woman, don't bees sting? Very impressive. And I bet the delicious honey is worth the danger.

    Have never seen that Laurel and Hardy film, but I love their films so will have to search it out, it sounds right up my street!

  3. Gosh what a great analogy Heidi. Plotting a book is *so* much like a jigsaw. And I don't think loving jigsaws is sad at all. I'm a great believer in keeping the mind active. I, personally, love doing sudoko. Caroline xx

  4. I adore jigsaws. Unfortunately with the cats, we keep losing pieces...
    I did the M&B puzzle a few years ago, it was tremndous fun.
    There is something about a good jigsaw puzzle particularly when you are plotting.

    Bee keeping is great fun as well so I must be a really hopeless case...

  5. Cheers Caroline, have to admit I tried Sudoku exactly once it nearly drove me insane... Mental maths is not my strong point.

    And Michelle, have enjoyed your lovely honey, so have to say I'm really glad you're as hopeless a case as I am.

  6. You know, Heidi - this is getting a little scary - confessing our secret addictions - first needlework - now jigsaws - you don't think we were separated at birth do you. But I love jigsaws too. Luckily so does my MIL so that gets me brownie points and something we can do together when she visists.

    It is so like writing a book, you're right. Pieces that look so right but don't quite fit here - but will be perfect there. The sections that are so easy to complete - and others that take forever. The real advantage that puzzles have over the books is that no matter what anyone else thinks there is only *one* way to complete the whole thing and make itm look right - so you never get ban editor (or anyone else) telling you that a few 'tweaks' here or there will make it better.

    I love the honey that comes from Michelle's bees but I could never spend the time needed to get it produced. Suduko isn't for me - but I'm addicted to Codewords and - do cats count as a hobby?

  7. Ha Kate, this is getting a little spooky... Thanks for your thoughts, so good to know I'm not alone with my puzzle obsession.

    Hve to admit I'm not a big cat person! But that's probably just because I'm far too lazy to do pets in general - and son number two is allergic to them.

    Heidi x