Monday, February 16, 2015

Writing From The Inside

Good Morning. I'm almost finished with the final book in my Reluctant Grooms series. WHEN ALL HOPE IS LOST. I've been working steadily on this story since Thanksgiving. In it, I examine Lady Olivia's life and why she does the things she does. It has been an intricate journey filled with twists and turns and and angst and depression, grief, heartache, love, loss, and agonizing pain.

One of my best friends, (a mom at school) whom I speak with nearly every day on the phone, wondered where I'd been. She never calls me because she knows I'm writing, so she waits for me to call her. It was three weeks before I picked up the phone.

"What the hell have you been doing? I thought I had done something to piss you off," she said, when I finally called her last Monday.

"No, I've just been writing." We chatted about the book. She's actually my sounding board for plot twists. When I described certain elements of it to her she thought I was a genius. "Brilliant." is what she said. But then she said, "I saw you in car line yesterday. You look awful. Are you okay?"

For the last five weeks, I have been working 14 hours days at the computer. I have sorely neglected my "real life" because Lady Olivia has pretty much dragged me through the ringer. I've cried during every chapter, sometimes nearly every scene. It wasn't something I planned to do, believe me. Making my readers cry with my words is one thing. Making me sob like a little baby is another.

Lady Olivia has always been in the background of all my stories. As other characters say, "She likes to have her hand in all the pies of the aristocracy." From matchmaking and charity work to Parliament and political intrigue, Lady Olivia is a diverse character.

However, she never had her own Point of View in any of the stories. She was always there, giving advice, and scheming to make everything turn out in her favor, but always through the eyes of another person. Until LADY OLIVIA'S UNDOING.

I set her up in UNDOING to take a fall. I don't know why. I thought it was good reading. In THE SEDUCTION OF MR. SUMMERVILLE, I allow her to fall even further. Yet, once I finished that book, I realized I hadn't done enough. She needed to hit rock bottom.

It hasn't been easy, let me tell you. I cried nearly every day. I've had more than a few sleepless nights pondering over chapters. I suppose I can honestly say I am "suffering" for my art. And here's the kicker. Just as I was almost finished, on the last chapter I might add, I came down with a nasty sinus infection and bronchitis. I tried to write through it, but I had to take a few days off. Lying in bed forced me to examine what I had written and why.

You see, Olivia and I are almost the same age. (I'll be 53, she just turned 56.) She's led a charmed life. So did I for a very long time. And then mine fell apart. I lost everything, (IRA's, my savings, my home, my job, my fiance) all within a couple of months. I hit rock bottom and had to climb out of the mess circumstances had thrown me into. I don't know why, but I wanted Olivia to go through exactly the same thing. I'm thinking that I had never dealt with the nightmare that was my life back then and this was my own personal catharsis.

It wasn't easy putting myself through the emotional roller coaster again. But I dug in and remembered how I felt during that time -- angry, unbelieving, sad, depressed, gob-smacked, furious it had happened, wondering when it would end, how I would ever get out of it.

As a writer, we have to dig deep into our own emotional highs and lows so our characters will be able to SHOW that to our readers. As writers we need to get it from the INSIDE. Granted, it takes courage to be able to look at our past selves and examine where we were, how we felt, and then go through it all over again. And I can tell you, that's why I got sick. Within those six months when I lost my "life" I was also really sick (the beginning of my current health situation I deal with now). Hence, my illness for the last week. History is repeating itself.

Truthfully though, I think this is the best book I've ever written. WHEN ALL HOPE IS LOST is the perfect title (thank you Jane Austen) because Olivia has nothing. She's hit bottom and at the end of chapter ten she has lost EVERYTHING, much the same way I did. What else is the poor woman to do? I make her suffer endlessly, because I did. It took me a long time to get from that point in my life to where I am today.

However, in the book, Olivia has a champion -- ME-- who makes it all better by the end of the book. Why? Because I'm a sucker for a happily ever after. I can't tell you what happens, but let's just say she gets what she needs. As have I.

Tell me -- How far do you go for your characters? Do you "suffer" for your art? Do you write from the inside?

Anne Gallagher (c) 2015


Author R. Mac Wheeler said...

Killroy here. Hope you and the monster child are doing wonderfully!!

Anne Gallagher said...

Yes, very well indeed. It's nice to finally see your face.

Liza said...

Oh, wow! Wow, wow, wow. When do I get to read it???? I will say, I have always thought of Lady O. as an old matronly thing. It's a little humbling to realize she's my age. Hope you are feeling better physically, and the writing of this is a cleansing catharsis.

Anne Gallagher said...

Liza -- I should have it finished tomorrow. You can read it while you're still snowed in. I've seen the weather up there. I think it will be May before it all melts.

dolorah said...

I hope you get to feeling better. You are certainly suffering for your craft, perhaps needlessly. It is never easy to face our past, and relive devastating circumstances. I am glad you have this writing for catharsis. There are worse destructive ways of achieving the same goal.

And you'll have a brilliant book for all that suffering. A HEA moment for yourself as well as your character. I hope anyways.

Congrats on getting through it all. Be well Anne.

DL Hammons said...

Going to that dark place for our characters is never easy...and often requires numerous attempts. Not something I look forward to doing.

But the results...and your book...will be so much better for it. :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Donna -- Thank you. I hope the book turns out half as good as I want it to be. Who knew that one of the worst times in my life would come in handy one day? It's so good to see you. I hope you and The Bug are well.

Don -- It's funny, I didn't really know I was revisiting the past until I thought about it. It just all came pouring out. Like word vomit I guess. I'm glad you're back in the blogosphere. I missed seeing you.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! I think this is an excellent theme. Sometimes, when you lose everything, it is great for growth and you appreciate what you have more whenever you get what you need.

Anne Gallagher said...

Yes, I absolutely agree and couldn't have said it better. Thanks for stopping by.

Sarah Ahiers said...

In the past i always rolled my eyes when people told me that they wrote something that made them cry. I just wasn't that kind of writer.
But then, in november, i finished my WIP and dammned if there wasn't a scene that i teared up at while i was writing.
So, i totally get it

Anne Gallagher said...

Sarah -- I write romance, and always read romance, and my criteria as a reader was always -- if the book made me cry it was a great book. So now, that's my criteria as I write. If it makes me cry then it's a good book. Well, by my standards anyway.

But then I cry at Hallmark commercials so what do I know.