Why writing a trilogy is like remodeling a house. . . .
We’re welcoming my friend (and author extraordinaire!) Blythe Gifford today. The occasion is the launch of her new trilogy. RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, a November release from the Harlequin Historical line, is the first of three about the Brunson Clan, a family of Reivers on the Scottish Borders during the early Tudor era.
Through some strange combination of karma, fate, and insanity, I found myself in the midst of a major (and I mean MAJOR) remodeling project at the same time I was writing a trilogy. I was a novice at both and, worse, I was writing the books on deadlines tighter than any I had ever attempted.
All three of us – the house, my books, and moi – lived to tell the tale. I learned a few things in the process that apply both to remodeling and to writing.
First, you have to have a vision.
For my condominium, I had very clear concept and the designer I worked with was grateful. Though there are dozens of decisions to be made, most of the time, I could give thumbs up or down right away to a faucet or drawer pull.
In a similar way, I knew the overall arc of the trilogy and of each character, so as I groped my way (see below), I knew yay or nay that I was on the right path. That was a good thing, since my deadlines did not have room for dead ends.
Second, you can’t figure out everything in advance.
I’m a recovering pantser, so I’m accustomed to starting a book on faith that the details will work themselves out. But a trilogy? What if I got to the end and needed to rewrite book one?
At the same time, I thought a remodeling project could be planned, budgeted, and scheduled and then left to run on its own. (I can hear you laugh, all you who have been through it.)
The answer, of course, is “no” on both counts. You can’t plan everything and if you did, you would miss the serendipity that makes it special. Some of my favorite details of the house evolved as we went along, and even the final details of the myth surrounding my family didn’t reveal themselves until I was on revisions for book three.
Third, listen to your team.
I was so lucky on both counts. I love my editor and I was fortunate to bring a fabulous designer and contractor on board for the remodeling project. Still, sometimes, I tried to resist the best advice. When I turned in the draft of RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, my editor asked for a major shift in emphasis. While I tried to listen, my muse just threw a tantrum and refused to play at first. Similarly, when my designer suggested we bring the doors up to ceiling height, I said no, thinking it was a needless extravagance.
You know what happened, of course. Once I tackled the revisions, they made the story infinitely stronger. I finally succumbed to the floor to ceiling doors, and they lift my spirits every time I open them.
Finally, some small stuff is worth sweating.
I spent more time than I want to tell you figuring out the garbage/recycling container space in the kitchen. It was worth it. I had lived too long with a sack of newspapers in the middle of the floor and if I didn’t plan now, I’d be tripping over them again. Instead, I gaze at a clean, functional space. (See picture!)
Similarly, I spent hours with maps and calendars to be sure my characters moved in historically accurate time and space. These details are ones that bring the story alive for me and, I hope, ring true for the reader.
So have you ever done a remodeling project? Any words of wisdom? Or if you are contemplating your first, share your vision. One lucky reader who comments on today’s blog will be randomly selected to win a signed copy of RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR.
Once part of a powerful border clan, John has not set sight on the Brunson stone tower in years. With failure never an option, he must persuade his family to honour the King’s call for peace.
To succeed, John knows winning over the daughter of an allied family, Cate Gilnock, holds the key. But this intriguing beauty is beyond the powers of flattery and seduction. Instead, the painful vulnerability hidden behind her spirited eyes calls out to John as he is inexorably drawn back into the warrior Brunson clan…
CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, January 2013, will tell the story of John’s sister, Bessie Brunson and finally, Black Rob Brunson, oldest son and leader of the family, meets his match in TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, March 2013.
Blythe Gifford has been known for medieval romances featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. Now, she’s launching a trilogy set on the turbulent Scottish Borders of the early Tudor era, starting with RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, November 2012, Harlequin Historical. CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD will follow in January 2013, and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL in March 2013. The Chicago Tribune has called her work “the perfect balance between history and romance.” Visit her at www.blythegifford.com, www.facebook.com/BlytheGifford, or on Twitter @BlytheGifford.