Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Writer's Wednesday: Where do characters come from? plus giveaway

Harlequin American Romance Author Leigh Duncan explains where she discovers her characters.

In Florida, fall is (barely) in the air.  No, we haven’t turned off the air conditioner.  At our house, it runs practically twenty-four/seven  twelve months a year.  But the temperatures outside have dropped into the very pleasant mid-seventies, and the humidity isn’t quite as oppressive as it was in the middle of the summer.  With palm trees and evergreens dominating the landscape, the occasional flame tree provides a burst of bright red against all that green.  Citrus ripens on the neighbor’s orange and grapefruit trees. The fruit promises a taste of sunshine when the temperatures drop lower. 

Which they’ll do for, maybe, a day or two. 

In January or February.   

In the midst of all this fall-ish Florida weather the Chinese Ting that grows outside my office window has produced a bumper crop of berries.  Flocks of robins and butterbutts that have escaped colder, northern temperatures are drawn to the tree.  The birds cover the ground and roost in the wooded lot behind my house.  With all these returning visitors to keep me company, is it any wonder that I’ve been asking, “Where did you come from?”

But I’m focused on heroes and heroines, not birds or bees.  Where do they come from? 

For me, every new book starts with the characters.  And because I write romance, I usually “see” the hero or the heroine first.  I’ll be going about my business—shopping, cleaning, cooking, whatever—and one of them will pop into my head.  Sometimes, they wave and keep on going.  There’s a woman in an orange grove who’s been doing that lately.  So far, she hasn’t pulled up a chair to sit a spell, so I wave simply back and let her go.  When she’s ready to tell her story, she’ll come back...and stay.   

That’s how it was with heroine in Rancher’s Son, my fourth book for Harlequin American Romance.  Social worker Sarah Magarity had visited before.  She had a minor role in The Daddy Catch and Rodeo Daughter.  But, when I sat down to draft the proposal for Rancher’s Son, Sarah practically took up residence in my visitor’s chair.     

Over tea she told me about the cattle drive she’d sent two older foster kids on, and how a certain hunky cowboy had let her down when he abruptly returned the boys to DCF’s custody.  She showed me how passionate she was about improving the foster care system.  Unfortunately, her tendency to go out on a limb for the children in her care had not only broken her heart, but jeopardized her job.  So, she’d sworn to remain aloof, to keep her distance the way her boss insisted.  All her pent-up love went into raising orchids and plumeria instead. 

The more she “talked” the more I thought Sarah deserved her own Happily Ever After.  But to give it to her, I needed a hero.  And I didn’t have one.

I was at a loss until the Christmas Eve a five-year-old orphan landed on DCF’s doorstep with nothing but a birth certificate naming Ty Parker as his father.  Right away, I knew my hero had arrived on the scene.  

Of course, a piece of paper didn’t prove anything in Ty’s book.  Any more than the protests of a self-righteous social worker.  A fourth-generation Florida rancher, this cowboy demanded paternity tests.  And as much as he insisted the child couldn’t be his, on the off-chance he was wrong, Ty refused to let the little boy go into foster care while they waited for the results. 

Taking a young boy on Ty’s cattle drive made perfectly good sense to someone who’d grown up on a ranch.  But not to a city girl like Sarah.  She insisted on accompanying the boy.  To watch out for his safety, and see for herself if Ty Parker was daddy material. 

Clearly, Ty and Sarah both needed each other as much as they needed the little boy who’d been dumped in their laps.  That’s where my job—and a cattle drive through Florida’s version of the Old West—came in.  The result was Rancher’s Son, a book I hope you’ll enjoy when it’s released just in time for Christmas on November 27th.

So, now you know where my stories come from.  But what about yourself?  What prompts you to pick up a book?  Do you read because the plot intrigues you?  Or because the characters do?  Or are you most attracted to the setting? 

At least one inquiring mind wants to know the answer to those questions.  Share your answers in the comments section.  I’ll choose one name at random.  And on its release day, November 27th, I’ll drop a copy of Rancher’s Son in the mail to you. 
You can learn more about Leigh Duncan  and her books on her website


  1. Before blogging, I bought purely based on the Harlequin line's back-cover blurb, enjoying the plots and characters, but not caring about the settings.
    Since blogging, though, I now have a list of what lines/authors I prefer, along with their most recent books. I set the books in my TBR pile and I don't read the blurbs before starting page 1, as I want to be surprised. (Besides, sometimes I read excerpts while blogging, and then I wonder if I've read the whole book before or not!) Since I have read over 250 books per year since 1973, I'd rather just read the books than read ABOUT them!
    As an aside, I have found that sometimes I really really enjoy an author's books, but then a book or two comes along that I don't enjoy so much. What I've learned is to still read that author's books, as sure enough I'll really really enjoy them once again!

    1. Whew! You read over 250 books per year? That's quite an accomplishment, Laney4! You have my utmost respect!

    2. Most of my romances are Harlequins, so they take me about 1-1.5 hours to read (except SuperRomances that are longer). I like reading historicals, but they just eat into my reading time like crazy, so I read them when I've had my weekly fill of the others. (I try to read a book a night, but there are obviously several days when that is not possible.)

  2. I confess..reading 250 books a year is my version of heaven on earth! :) I'd sit and read all day if I could. Heck, I used to write fake "don't make my daughter go outside for recess" notes when I was in grade school so I could stay inside and read!

    My characters come to me a long time before their stories. Where they come from is anyone's guess. I guess I'm like Sybil of multiple personalities...lots of voices talking in my head wanting their story told.

    Your story sounds wonderful. I look forward to losing myself in your cattle drive and love story

    1. It's been too long since I read for the pure pleasure of reading, but you're right--in grade school, I'd check one book out from the library in the morning, read it during the day (tucked inside my history text), return it and get another one for that night. Those were the days!

      Thanks for stopping by today, Cyndi. One day, you'll have to teach me the Texas Two-Step (which, in case you don't know, is the name of Cyndi's first book).

  3. In this case, I'd buy Rancher's Son based on the hunky guy gracing the front cover in the cowboy hat. :) I'd have to say I'm a fan of cowboy centered books.
    I'd say that I'm also very author specific in my book buying. (Leigh is on my auto-buy list)
    I also rely on word of mouth from friends about books that they read and liked, regardless of setting or characters. Of the three mentioned, I will pick up a book if I think it has an interesting plot.
    And I sure wish I could read 250 books a year. I'm lucky if I hit 50. :)

    1. He IS hunky, isn't he, Lara? I've been extremely fortunate with all my covers, but the cover of Rancher's Son is by far my favorite!

  4. A good book cover always attracts me to at least give it some thought. Mostly I read by word of mouth or recommendations by friends. Once I've found an author I like I read everything the author has. I'm a Leigh Duncan fan so I know that I'm going to get a sweet charming story with a solid plot line and 3D characters. Love the cover of Rancher's Son.

  5. Coming from you, Karla, that's high praise indeed! I, too, read a lot based on friends' recommendations.

  6. Ahhh...characters and writers. What an amazing combination. Most of my writing starts with a character. They don't come to while shopping because I'm too busy looking for the blueberry scones! But I do end up with an occasional guy (I always start with the hero) living inside my head. He pokes, he asks questions and I know the story starts when "she" answers him.

    Like Lara, you are on my auto-buy list. One big reason is your complete characters, Leigh. You make them so real I find myself thinking about them long after I've finished the book. The other reason is your well-thought out conflict. Which reflects back to your characters.

    Keep it up! Can't wait till you sit down in the orange grove for that chat.

    1. Marian,

      Such a thrill to learn I'm on anyone's auto-buy list! You're so right about the characters having conversations--it's one key I use to judge when the story is ready to go down on paper.

      Thanks for stopping by today!


  7. I love the characters, trying to figure them out, seeing their moods and expressions. I think the characters drive the story. They must be emotional, either side of the scale.
    As far as picking up a book, I often read sample pages to see if the characters catch my interest. I don't necessarily go off the back blurp unless it really sounds interesting.
    I can't wait for this book to hit the shelves!

    1. Kara,

      Sample pages are a tremendous asset to a reader, aren't they? Quite often, writers will provide excerpts of upcoming books for my romance readers' circle. Those are always a big hit--even better than bookmarks because they give the readers a chance to taste before they buy. (Hmmm, I must still be thinking about Marian's blueberry scones.)
      Look for Rancher's Son on the shelves November 27th!


  8. Kara,

    Congratulations! Your name was selected by the random generator to receive a copy of Rancher's Son. Please contact me at to arrange delivery.

    Happy reading!