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Tag Archives: Inspiration

I’ve been writing historical romance for quite some time. You’d think I’d know EVERYTHING by now. But I don’t. I know that shocks you, but it’s true. Like most authors who set books in the past, I have a good grasp of the basics of my era (The Regency, doh) and a decent big picture of the Regency era. That’s never enough, of course.

With every book, I’ve either run across something I didn’t know or hadn’t seen before, or else needed some specific detail not in my research library or collection-O-Links. In Not Wicked Enough, for example, I ended up with a need to know about doorknobs. Really, really specific information. I found it, too, from a kind gentleman who is a member of a Doorknob collectors group. For Indiscreet, I had to go big and wide — Turkey in the Regency era. One of my first posts (possibly NSFW, as the post has naked women paintings) for the Riskies was the result of some of that research.

Sometimes I come across something while I’m doing something else ::cough::procrastinating::cough:: and I end up with a fact that I just have to use. Chimney ornaments and chimney glass in Not Proper Enough.

My current project is no exception. Yesterday I came across an amazing website. Before I send you off there to have a look, here’s how it came about: I was writing The Next Historical (Sinclair Sisters Book 2!) and I needed my heroine to call on my hero’s fancy Mayfair house which in Lord Ruin, I’d said was on Charles Street. So I went to Google maps and entered Charles Street, London England — not specific enough to be useful. I made up a street number (25) and THEN I had good results. I switched to Street View and uh-oh. Those houses were cute and clearly close to period, but they were small. I needed a mansion. For some reason I then searched for something like “historical regency interiors charles street” clicked on images and voila! 137 Charles Street is Dartmouth House and the street view is awesome. It’s also now a hotel/wedding location so there were lots of pictures of the interior, including some historical pictures.

In the middle of that Googling, I ended up at a site that was NOT on point as it turned out. Including the word “Regency” in a google search even with other words to filter out the not-even-close stuff, typically hits Real Estate sites. What I thought was one of those had a very interesting, atmospheric picture of Montague House, which I decided to look at. I like to pretend I can buy an English mansion. The website name was Ideal Homes, so, hey!

Since the picture is copyrighted, and since you should go look, here’s a link to the page I landed on. But come back! There’s more!

Obviously, 1) totally awesome 2) Not about buying or selling Real Estate. Oh, ho ho no!!

But what is this site?

Using a generous selection of old photos, old maps, and historic documents from the rich and unique archive and local history collections of Bexley, Bromley, Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham, and Southwark, Ideal Homes explores the origins and significance of suburbia as revealed through the history of South London. The site is hosted by the University of Greenwich and was funded by the New Opportunities Fund.

I clicked the link A-Z Galleries

Carolyn About Faints: Historic Maps

People, this site is the motherlode for historical researchers. Then I randomly clicked around the South East London boroughs and wow. I am SO grateful to the UK for getting the funding out there to put this kind of resource out there for people. And grateful to the University of Greenwich for doing this. Here’s the about page. While I understand why they’ve called the website Ideal Homes, I’m not sure it was the best choice from a Google-Fu point of view, but I don’t care! I found it! It’s awesome.

Anyway, I wrote my scene, inspired by Dartmouth House (and unable to get Montague House of Blackheath Park out of my head) and when I was all done, I realized my heroine could not go to the hero’s house after all. So yeah. I’ll save most of it for when she DOES have to go.

But it was one of my better writing days.

My hero needs a rather run down estate and I think I’m inspired!

One glance at a book and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for 1,000 years. To read is to voyage through time.

–Carl Sagan

This week, the arts and entertainment world has been buzzing with the accusations that Kaavya Viswanathan plagiarized from Megan McCafferty, Sophie Kinsella, and Meg Cabot in her book How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life.

The passages she allegedly copied are striking in their similarity, which begs the question of what the heck was she thinking? But when the story first came out, before I’d noticed the similarities myself, I was pondering what makes an original story. Is it the plot? Well, sometimes; certainly science fiction and fantasy authors create distinctive plots all the time. In romance, however? No. Our plots can be distilled to this: Female and male meet. There is a conflict to what seems like a perfect relationship. Bad things happen, good things happen, until the conflict is resolved and the female and male can be together.

I even had to admit to borrowing from others’ work, too; not in the open, Viswanathan way, but in inspiration (the picture below is of Calliope, the muse of arts and poetry). For example, in the last edit of A Singular Lady (the version that got it sold to Signet), I added an evil uncle whose cane dropped a piece of wood which my heroine kept in her pocket to remind her of what she had to do to save herself and her family. I thought of that after reading Judith Ivory‘s Starlit Surrender, where the heroine sees a red handkerchief she knows belongs to a woman in the hero’s past (plus Judith Ivory gave a talk on the Writer’s Toolbox and explained the whole concept of objects taking on additional meaning, which is when the epiphany struck). I remember somewhere Eloisa James saying she got inspired in her love scenes by reading Loretta Chase‘s Lord Of Scoundrels, which she keeps within easy reach of her computer when she’s writing.

But what keeps most authors’ work from being labeled plagiarism is VOICE. That intangible thing that keeps us reading the same old story time after time. Voice is the way the author says things, which is why the plagiarism accusation cuts so deep; stealing someone’s VOICE is stealing someone’s way of saying things, not like Jamiroquai borrowing Stevie’ Wonder’s phrasings, or Christian Slater doing a Jack Nicholson impersonation, but stealing someone’s core personality.

I’ve been told that, for all my failings at plot and correct titles, I’ve got a good, distinct voice. I value those compliments; plot and title stuff can be corrected, achieving a distinct voice is a lot harder to do. My favorite authors possess their own, distinct voices–authors like Loretta Chase, Eloisa James, Anne Stuart, Mary Balogh, Julie Anne Long, Judith Ivory, Julia Ross, and I could go on and on (and that’s just in romance!).

So–when you read, do you read for plot or for voice? Do you savor the author’s voice? Which authors have the most distinctive voices?

Thanks for being vocal,


Inspiration comes from so many places.

Mother’s Day is tomorrow, and as usual, what I want for Mother’s Day can be summed up in one word:

Now, I know I can be a bit…obsessed about getting more sleep. I never get enough, and I always want more. But there’s more to it than that: I’ve found that I am able to work things out while I sleep, which means that when I am stuck in terms of writing, I take a bath and then a nap, and usually the answer comes to me while I am unconscious.

My friend described the brain process like a funnel–you’ve got all this stuff jammed up in the top part, then something shakes loose, and it comes pouring down. Being asleep lets stuff shake loose. So you’ve actually assembled the elements before you go to sleep, it’s just that it shakes loose while your mind is free to wander.

I’m working on the second book for my Loveswept releases, which means I am finding myself with the urge to nap–for work purposes, of course!–quite often. Just this morning I had some plot epiphanies, which were pretty cool, and this weekend my Mother’s Day gift will be writing time, so I’ll get a chance to implement them in the book.

When does your best creative time occur? How do you shake things loose?

PS: I’ll be relaunching my website next week, with a cool new design! Woot!

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Uh-oh! I almost did what Janet did last week–completely forget what day it is. Somehow it seemed like a Monday….

I don’t watch a whole lot of TV. I have shows I get obsessed with and MUST watch (like my late, lamented Deadwood, Mad Men–which won’t be back until March 2012, and Vampire Diaries, though I’ve only seen one episode so far of the new season), but don’t spend a whole lot of time on it. Last week I heard some good things about the new Zooey Deshcanel show New Girl and decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did, because it is hilarious!

The premise is this girl (Jess), who is very quirky and dorky, has a messy break-up with her boyfriend and ends up living with 3 guys as roomates. I tried to imagine how this would work in the Regency. I suppose it could be a girl who has 3 older brothers, all of them over-protective of her as she stumbles her way through the Season looking for the perfect match. I could imagine all sorts of awkward, funny situations our heroine and her well-meaning but exasperating brothers could get into as she sorts through suitors looking for the perfect hero!

What shows inspire you??? What other strange places do you look for inspiration?

So it’s been a busy couple of weeks here, so please forgive the short post today! I got back from the Vampire Diaries convention in Atlanta (see me at the masquerade ball here! And you can read about my adventures there on my new Heroes & Heartbreakers post), barely recovered from that craziness, finished one book and dove into another. (Also, FYI, Girl in the Beaded Mask is now available at eharlequin and Amazon!)

Since I got back from Atlanta and dove back into writing work, I’ve been thinking a lot about inspiration. I know I’ve blogged about it here before, but this seems to be the number one question I get when people first find out I’m a writer–“Where do you get your ideas?” I always mutter something like “Well, er, everywhere, I guess,” but it’s the truth. I find ideas for settings and plots in historical non-fiction, movies, songs, paintings. I can find character inspiration in the same places, and also just from watching and listening to people. I love people-watching.

And I was very inspired indeed by the Vampire Diaries convention. I always like to come up with hero and heroine models when I start a new WIP, just to get their image in my mind and figure out what sort of people they are. Contrary to what some of my friends think, my heroes are not always Ian Somerhalder, or as my brother calls him “your vampire boyfriend.” (For my just-finished book it was Henry Cavill from The Tudors; for the just-started book it’s Daniel Gillies from Vampire Diaries–I’m not even faithful within one show, sadly). I admit though, often the hero in my mind does look an awful lot like Ian Somerhalder, and I think this weekend just added fuel to that inspiration. (And if you really want to be inspired, check him out in an HBO show from a few years ago, Tell Me You Love Me…)

But this does bring up a dilemma in my mind. I’m a huge fan of the “brainy, bookish heroine gets hottie hero everyone wants” storyline–it may be my favorite romantic plot. But how does said brainy heroine even manage to talk to said hottie hero without collapsing into giggles? (I confess, I had my photo taken with Ian S. at the convention, and almost fainted when he just put his arm around my waist and smiled at me. What would I have done if I was a Regency deb at Almacks and had to waltz with him?? Yum, Ian Somerhalder in Regency garb…). How does said hero walk down the street without being mobbed all the time? The hero and heroine would have to hide out just to get two words together, let alone the chance to make out. It’s all something I never really considered while writing a hero before.

So, now it’s your turn. Where do you get inspiration? Who would make you faint if you met them in real life? (Megan and Clive Owen? Carolyn and Alexander Skarsgard? Diane and Gerard Butler?). What have you been watching/reading lately?

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