Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wild Card Weekend: How does a writer find inspiration?

Harlequin Historical author, Louise M. Gouge, talks about what inspires her…

I’m so pleased and grateful to be back as a guest blogger on The Pink Heart Society. As a writer, I always have lots to say about the craft, and today I thought readers would like to know where I find the inspiration for my stories and characters. It’s a questions I’m often asked at book signings.

Let me begin by telling you that these days I write historical fiction, but my first two books were contemporary. In fact, my entire writing career began the day in 1984 when I gazed out of my bedroom window and saw a man and adolescent boy tossing a football in a field beyond my home. How did that simple scene turn into two novels?

It began with an assumption: A father and son were enjoying some time together. How nice. Every father needs to spend time with his children.

Then came the questions. Is that really the boy’s father? Let’s say yes. But what if the boy doesn’t know the man is his father? What if this boy’s dream has come true and his favorite NFL quarterback is in the area and just happens to drop by the diner where the boy’s single mother works? And who is this mother? Every question (and more) was eventually answered in Once There Was a Way Back Home (Crossway Books 1994) and its sequel, The Homecoming (Crossway Books 1998).

Another one of my inspirations came from reading the classic novel Moby Dick. In 1995, I returned to grad school to broaden my worldview so my novels would have more depth. Taking a class in the works of Herman Melville, I found in his greatest novel a short reference to Captain Ahab’s “young girl-wife.” As a romance writer, I knew a love story when I saw one, and the result was my master’s thesis, Ahab’s Bride. (Yes, I know about Ahab’s Wife, but when I was writing my novel, I hadn’t yet heard of it.)

Inspiration can come from anyplace and at any time. I’m a college professor, and sometimes my students will do or say something that sparks my imagination. An unexpected act of kindness by a “big man on campus” toward a girl in a wheelchair. The class clown making some witty observation about the day’s assignment. The light that brightens a student’s eyes when she connects with the subject matter. All of these can be incorporated in my stories to add depth and realism to my characters.

And of course, discovering a tidbit of history I hadn’t known before can make an entire series of books. I have lived in Florida for thirty-one years, and yet for twenty-five of those years, it never sunk in that this state was once a British colony. Florida? Spanish colony, right? Yes, for most of two hundred years. But during one of those many European wars of past centuries, Spain had to hand over this colony to England in 1763. Out went the hapless Spanish settlers, many of whom had been born here. In came the eager English AND a bunch of Americans from the northern colonies. Many settled in the capital, St. Augustine, and others established plantations, where they grew oranges, lemons, rice, indigo, and many other products. Then, when the thirteen colonists rebelled against England, many loyalists had to flee their homes and come to Florida, which had no wish to separate from the mother country. Of course, all this conflict makes a wonderful setting for a romance novel. In my case, it’s been the inspiration for a series of three books.

The first book, Love Thine Enemy (July 2009), takes place on one of those indigo plantations along the St. Johns River, and the hero and heroine are on different sides of the Revolution. Then, in one of those fun fiction happenings, a secondary character from that story asked for his own book, so along comes The Captain’s Lady. Again, the hero and heroine are on different sides in the conflict. For variety, this story takes place in London. What fun to imagine the drawing rooms and manor houses of England!

For the third book, At the Captain’s Command, I wanted to do something different, so I began to ask myself more questions. What if my hero and heroine are on the same side? Furthermore, what if they are both in favor of England winning the war? What conflict could I create? Easy. She’s an American Loyalist of no particular social status who has vowed never to marry a seafaring man. He is an English naval captain, the son of an influential earl who would forbid his son’s marriage to a “common American.” Conflict enough? I think so.

Most authors I know have an instinct for a good story. We find ideas anyplace, any time, in people we see, in places we visit, even in our dreams. We examine conflicts, the essence of any good story. We ask questions. And often come up with some crazy, wonderful answers as we try to entertain our readers. When we succeed, it can be the most gratifying experience any artist can experience.

Louise M. Gouge’s latest release is At the Captain’s Command. Find out more about her books at http://blog.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading about how Louise finds inspiration for her stories and characters. Louise is a new author to me, so I am planning on checking her books out.