Friday, April 06, 2012

A Date With Kate - Taking your characters shopping!

If you’ve been following my own personal blog, you’ll have seen that the past three months have been absolute chaos and upheaval in  my home. We’ve been having major renovations and improvements on the house  and as a result it has all been crazy for  quite a while.

There was the extension that was built on to the back of the house  - the ‘garden room’  the architect called it. And then knocking the kitchen and the (tiny)  utility  through into one big dining kitchen. And knocking through another wall to join that to the garden room . . . That was before they started on the bathroom!   We’ve had days without electricity, days without water, days without heating.  I’m sick and tired on microwaved meals. But it was when there was no bath, no shower, no toilet upstairs – and a plumber putting a new boiler in the downstairs loo – that we ran away and stayed away for a week of peace.

But now it’s all done –thank heaven! The new units are all in, the shower is installed where the big old airing cupboard used to be,  the flooring is down . . . there’s a lot of painting to do but that’s much more relaxing than all the noise and dirt and confusion.  And now we have time and space in which to do a bit of furniture shopping.

Chairs –   obviously we needed somewhere to sit. But the plan is that the Babe Magnet and I will each choose our perfect ‘relaxing chair’  for this garden room –  the one we can curl up in and read to our hearts’ content. And   that of course means we need a bookshelf – or two.  And a couple of tables, one for mugs of coffee – or maybe a glass of wine – and a lamp or two.  It’s a while since I went out looking at what furniture was on off, and  actually looked, with a view to buying.

But here’s one of those special , funny – or just plain weird moments – comes I when a writer goes shopping. One of those times when I feel almost as if I have a split personality, or there is more than one person in my head. Well, the truth is that there is really – when I was wandering round all those furniture shops, I was looking for the seating, tables etc that I wanted- but I was also doing a survey to see what else was on offer – and thinking about the sort of thing my characters might buy. The way they might furnish their rooms.

 Would my hero want the big Chesterfield  settee -  or would he go for something much more modern, with chrome and black leather? Would he want a dark wood table  or perhaps one with a smoked glass top? As someone who is always being reminded of the ‘dining table scene’ in  Desert Affair, my mind was already wandering on to the potential for certain scenes in which any of these pieces of furniture could be used!

And my heroine – what about that cosy, squishy, big armchair? Or the vivid turquoise velvet covered chaise longue?  Again, my thoughts were on the way that the furnishings  in her  home would reveal her personality – and I was looking at them  from the point  of view of her hero, seeing them through his eyes.  What if Mr  black leather and chrome was seeing Miss squishy orange armchair’s room for the very first time?

It was a great reminder – and  a refresher of my ideas – of the way that the smallest details can help build up a character and show them  through the parts of their lives that they might take for granted. What if that black leather settee had been chosen but an interior designer when really my alpha hero would prefer . .  What would he prefer? I was so busy looking and thinking for the fictional people in my head  that I almost forgot to look for myself.  And when I did find one thing I wanted that started off a whole new set of ideas and possible story lines in my thoughts.

The Babe Magnet and I ended up at an antiques  market as well and there we found a small table, just right for one corner – and so unusual. It have the normal wooden frame but set into that , under glass, was an elaborate Victorian embroidery, with a dragon and a unicorn against a multi-coloured background. I don’t write fantasy – or historical novels but the thought of all the possibilities for plots that  could spring from that particular piece of furniture, small as it was, were soon tumbling through my head.

As we drove home I couldn’t help reflecting that people are always asking ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ The honest answer is that there are ideas everywhere, if only you look for them. Keep your mind open, let your imagination wander, And the  smallest of things can spark off an idea for a new story in your head.  Take your characters with you the next time you go shopping – for anything – and see what they would buy!

Have you been inspired by something recently – what was the most unusual or unexpected  trigger  that sparked off your creative ability and set your imagination flowing? I’d love to know.

Kate’s latest novel The Devil and Miss Jones is out already  in Mills & Boon Modern Romance and will be released in Harlequin Presents Extra this week. You can find out all her latest news on her Web site or her blog.


  1. Hi Kate,
    You must be thrilled to be at the shopping stage after the renovations. Shopping for characters is such a terrific idea. I do it rarely but admit to having a ball in Sydney one day window shopping for 'mistress' shoes for one of my heroines! I've never gone furniture shopping for my characters and must give it a try.
    Trying to think of the must unusual inspiration I've had. Maybe it was when a story title popped into my head out of the blue. It's happened twice and each time I had to write the book to find out what the story was. 'The Liakos Legacy' to find out what the legacy was, and 'The Unwanted Wife' to find out why she was unwanted and what she did about it. In both cases the titles changed with publication but they were what inspired me to write the stories. Odd, eh?

  2. I'm so glad you're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after those renovations. It must have been difficult for your cats too.