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Guest blogger: Susanne Bellamy

21 April 2019

Burning questions

I love talking with readers. They question, challenge, and make me think deeply about everything from my writing process to research. From ‘where do you get your ideas/inspiration’ to ‘how do you make your characters so real’. I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a few of the more frequently asked in this post. (*If you’d like to know something not addressed here, ask me in a comment!)

Q: I always like to know the inspiration for the story. (I’m always curious as to why that story spoke to the author)

Turn Left for Home (Home to Lark Creek, book 3) released on 31 March. Anna Wilkins, a reclusive artist seen briefly in preceding books, is one of those ‘still waters run deep’ characters. I guess this is my driving motivation. I need to discover why people behave the way they do.

When Anna is caught up in the capture of a young thief on the neighbouring property, I discovered she was an Auslan interpreter. I had no inkling of this when I was thinking about the story, but I suspect watching interpreters signing beside the Queensland Premier at press conferences during the floods and cyclones had worked its way into my subconscious.

And then I learned she’d been a victim of a violent home intrusion.

That came directly out of my past. Even if (as in our case) you don’t come home and confront intruders, don’t endure violence at their hands (this happened to an older couple of friends), knowing someone has been in your home is hugely unsettling. That invasion of your sanctuary, your safe place, can be chilling. How much worse is it then, when it happens again?

Q: Are you a plotter or pantser? I think being a pantser would give you a lot more freedom, but be a LOT more scarier?

I’m an organic writer (pantser) for the most part, but I know where I’m going and have sometimes written the final scene long before I reach that point. I have a broad brushstroke idea of the shape of each story when I start. Mostly I write with a linear approach, starting at the beginning and working methodically through a story.

In my suspense stories, I don’t want to know who the villain is until the big reveal, although in High Stakes (set in Nepal), a very nasty villain is known right from the opening page, while another baddie is unknown for most of the story. I love not knowing as much as readers!

Q: What is your biggest (writing) driver?

I write because I can’t imagine not writing.

I write because I love exploring characters’ lives and motivations, and giving them a happy-ever-after (except for the villains! They have to get what’s coming to them.)

I write because I love to live many lives.

And I write because—who hasn’t longed for a reset button on their own life? In fiction, I can give characters that chance. Second-chance stories are among my favourite romance tropes, which I’ve explored in Second Chance Love, Winds of Change, and Wild About Harry (still my favourite hero!).

Q: How do you research for your novels? And how do you make your characters so real?

Every novel requires a degree of research, even if it’s just the types of birds in a particular area. Dr Google is often my first port of call.

Some research is serious—such as how miners contracted black-lung disease (Wild About Harry) or the legal requirements for setting up a cooperative (Starting Over).

And some is light-hearted. The Emerald Lei (first published as Winning the Heiress’ Heart) gave me the opportunity to research Hawaii in 1960. There was so much to learn: pineapple varieties and growing conditions, when condoms were first used, fashions in women’s swimsuits and men’s tuxedoes. The only problem is, I can lose myself in research because it’s fascinating chasing down details. Sprinkled through a story, they add depth and realism.

As for making characters so real—Eva’s childhood story of bombs falling on London in WW2 came from my mother’s experience. People never see their lives as different or extraordinary, but it’s the little details, the family stories, the anecdotes, that make characters flesh-and-blood people you’d like to befriend. Just like real people, characters have to have a past with people and events that shape them, sometimes hurt them.

Q: I’m curious about characters. Do you start with a certain type, then let them react, or do they just develop almost independently of you?

I love this question! No matter what I think, certain characters just take over. One of my strongest heroines is Lizzy in Heartbreak Homestead. A minor character in book 1 of Hearts of the Outback, she bumped every other character whose story I had planned to tell and marched onto centre stage demanding I write her story.

Characters become real as I write them and Lizzy fascinated me; why was she such a dominating, and occasionally less than nice, character? What had happened in her childhood? She was in my head, my dreams … in the shower! She wouldn’t be quiet until I’d written her story. (*Yes, writers talk to imaginary people all the time!)

Occasionally it’s as simple as me ‘seeing’ the meeting between the protagonists. This happened in both The Cattleman’s Promise and my newest release, Turn Left for Home. I accept each character as they present themselves, and then dig for the truth, for what has shaped them. What are their attitudes, values, hopes and dreams, what emotional wounds have they suffered?

Q: Where is your ‘writing place’? In a quiet corner? At the desk? Under the tree in the back yard? At a table in the local cafe? Do you need quiet to write?

My favourite spot to write is my mother’s recliner. I flick up the footrest, settle the laptop, and off I go. I need quiet and no distractions beyond wind in the trees outside my window. I’d love to be the quirky writer downing pots of tea in my local café, but I’d rather people watch when I’m out. I call that research!

Turn Left for Home is available on Amazon.

Born and raised in Toowoomba, Susanne is an Australian author of contemporary and rural romances set in Australia and exotic locations. She adores travel with her husband, both at home and overseas. Her heroes have to be pretty special to live up to her real life hero. He saved her life, then married her. A hybrid author, she is published with Harlequin Mira/Escape. A popular guest speaker, she presented the keynote address at the Steele Rudd Pilgrimage, was a guest speaker for the Dynamic Life Speakers Series for U3A, and has been invited to speak in libraries, book clubs, and to community groups.

Follow Susanne on Bookbub.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 April 2019 11:42 am

    Wonderful post. I love learning more about an authors writing process. Every author has something new and different to add.

    • 22 April 2019 8:46 am

      Thanks, Veronica. There were many interesting questions asked by readers, and limited space in which to answer them. Btw, I love your profile pic!

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