I’ve recently been chatting to my fellow authors about research. What kind of research do they do? Do they research characters? Or build their characters from their own experience?
My old writing partner and very gifted author, JM Stewart, shared this poignant, heartfelt, and touching account of how she created her heroine in her latest book – Risking it All
The heroine of my latest release, Risking It All, and I have a lot in common. I originally began writing Kyle and Ceci’s story over ten years ago. In fact, the story was originally published in shorter form by a small press, under the title Staking His Claim. When I first started writing Cecelia’s story, I didn’t intend for her to get quiet so much of me. But, over the years and the many revisions this book has gone through, I started to realize that she and I were quiet a lot alike. She suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. And so do I. I suffer from PTSD from some ugly things that happened to me as a child.
Ten years ago, back when Risking It All was a work-in-progress I called Crossing the Line, something in my life had triggered my PTSD. For six years, I became lost in my disorder. I call it flashback hell, because that’s what it was for me. Life became about trying to make it day to day. Sometimes hour to hour. For me, everything was a trigger. Something as simple as something my husband said to me when we were arguing could send me off to another time and place, and I’d find myself reacting. Took me a while to learn when I’d hit a trigger. There for a while, I was on three medications and seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist just to make it through the day.
Which is funny. Because growing up, and even long after I’d moved away from that place, I just thought that stuff was normal. I wouldn’t have told you my life was any different from anyone else’s. Which, on doing some research for another book coming up in March (Someone to Rely On will be releasing from Crimson Romance somewhere around March 2015), I learned is actually the norm for abused children.
And those are the small details I tried to include in Ceci’s story when I did the revisions for the book. So, a lot of what you’ll read in Ceci’s story comes from personal experience rather than research. Ceci’s nightmares, for example, are based on my own experiences with the same. Mine aren’t as realistic as hers. That little bit comes from what little research I actually did on her story.
Another place where Ceci gets bits and pieces from me are her flashbacks. For those scenes, I tried to put into words what it’s like for me when I experience one. Flashbacks aren’t always visceral. It’s not always like going back and reliving a certain time or place. Sometimes it’s a remembered emotion or sensation. And those are the things I tried to put onto the page for her.
For example, in the book, Ceci is going through her grandmother’s belongings when she comes across a necklace. There’s something familiar about the necklace that reminds her of her nightmares, something haunting about it she can’t put her finger on.
Ceci also feels a longing for the past she can’t remember. It pulls at her. So when she has her nightmares, she wakes with a sadness, a grief, she can’t explain. She only knows she feels as if she misses the people in her dreams. Or, in the beginning, when she comes to Kyle needing something as simple as not being alone for the night. To sleep in his bed while he’s at work. Sometimes, for me, it’s as simple as having something of my husband’s close, something with his smell on it. Which is the way it works for Ceci as well in that particular scene.
Her loss of memory is also mine. I have very little memory of the first 7-10 years of my life. I did recover a few memories, as does Ceci in the end, and recovering them happened a lot the way I described it for Ceci.
I don’t know about you, but when I read a book now, I find myself wondering where the line is/was for the author. How much was research and how much of themselves did the author put into their book? What about you? Do you like knowing how much of the author went into a book?
Buy link (the page contains all the links to all major retail sites): Penguin
She’s everything he wants…
For years, Kyle Morgan has hidden his true feelings from the gorgeous girl next door that he grew up loving and protecting. But when she shows up at his apartment in the middle of the night, desperately needing comfort and support, his iron will begins to waver…
…and the only thing he can’t bear to lose.
Kyle was always the big brother Cecelia Anton never had, but suddenly her goofy best friend has become a sexy man she can’t keep her thoughts—or hands—off of. As their deep connection melts into uncontrollable desire, Ceci is willing to put it all on the line for a shot at true love. Only Kyle is keeping a terrible secret about Ceci’s past that could destroy not only their lifelong friendship but their happily-ever-after…
“You want the truth? You really want to know how I feel about you, what you do to me?” His frustrated tone mocked her as his hands slid down her back. He cupped her bottom and tugged hard, grinding his hips against hers. The hard length of his arousal pressed into her belly, showing her exactly how she affected him.
A soft gasp escaped her as her intentions blew up in her face. Every inch of her trembled as a lethal dose of intense, undeniable desire snaked through her, coiling low in her belly.
“I don’t know how to be any more honest than this.” He dipped his head and brushed his lips over hers, whispering against her mouth. “You drive me crazy. Every time you look at me, touch me. Do you have any idea how hard it was to lie in bed with you Friday night? To hold you so close I felt your heartbeat but not be able to touch you like this?”
His hot mouth skimmed across her jawline, and he nipped at her earlobe. “I almost lost my mind tonight, seeing you dance, watching you watch me. You look at me like that, too, you know. Like you want me, and it makes me crazy. Then you had the nerve to wrap your arms around me. I appreciated it when you told me we’d always be friends. I was afraid I’d really screwed this up. But your breasts against my back and your hot breath on my neck are equal parts bliss and torment.”
JM Strewart is the author of passionate, heartfelt contemporary romance. She’s a wife, a mother, a spiritualist, and lover of puppies, and happily addicted to coffee and chocolate. She lives in the rainy Pacific Northwest with her husband, two sons, and two very spoiled dogs. She’s a hopeless romantic who believes everybody should have their happily-ever-after and has been devouring romance novels for as long as she can remember. Writing them has become her obsession.
You can find out more about JM or her books here: Website /Blog /Twitter /Facebook
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I’m currently working on Fire Storm, Book 2 in the Gathering Storm Series