I had the good fortune to attend Deb Harkness’ book signing last week at my local library. During her Q&A session, someone asked who she pictured as the main characters. She gave a very PR-positive answer that she drew bits and pieces from different people and wouldn’t reveal who they were until such time as one or more of the component people are cast. Her reasoning was that she didn’t want any actor have to face the “but Deb said she envisioned so and so” question.
I get that and I totally respect that. I think Deb is doing the exact right thing. The only thing is, I don’t function that way. As many of you know, I tend to write my characters with a certain actor or actress in mind because it helps me envision the specifics of vocal inflection, facial expression or gestures. These things in turn, help me craft more layered, realistic characters. I can certainly write a character without an actor in mind (I was in book 3 of the Guinevere trilogy before I finally found a Guinevere), but when I do find that right person, there’s a special little extra “click” in my brain. It’s hard to explain.
I know not everyone works this way. And I certainly want my readers to envision the characters however they like. The people I “cast” are just the inspiration; sometimes it’s the way they look or a certain quality to their acting that I’ve seen that helps me unlock or convey a quality of a character. That they helped me in no way means that they are the only person who could ever play the role. But I also don’t think I can be cagey about who inspires the characters. Heck, I have whole Pinterest boards dedicated to my characters, so it’s not something I try to hide.
My point is that I don’t know how well I would write without Pinterest or Pandora for inspiration. On Pinterest I have boards for books I’ve written, am writing and have yet to truly conceive beyond the most basic notion. Some are secret if they would make the topic too obvious, but most are public because I believe we draw inspiration from one another. For example, some of my favorite bits of He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, were inspired by objects or quotes I found on Pinterest. Annabeth’s boyfriend, Victor, came to life thanks to a photo of a model whose identity I still don’t know. I never know where I will find inspiration, and truly look forward to a daily trolling of the boards, just waiting for something to tug at my subconscious and say “Hey, I’m going to be important.”
As I write this, I’m listening to a station I created on Pandora while I was writing He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Because I listen to audio books in the car, I very rarely listen to the radio. That means Pandora is my way of being exposed to new music, whether it’s at home while I’m writing or at work. While I was cleaning out the freezer earlier (I lead such a glamorous life), it served up a song I’ve never heard before that is perfect for the wedding scene
if when HLMHMN gets a sequel (it’s a standalone, but I have ideas for two possible sequels). Then a few minutes later, it handed me “Glitter in the Air” by Pink, which is totally perfect for Annabeth’s POV where the next book would start. Some of my favorite scenes from the first book were inspired by or complemented by music that Pandora gave me.
I really don’t know what I would do without these two resources. Obviously, I have an imagination and I use it, but getting the little nudges from the muse through electronic means is something unique to this period in history and I intend to use them to the fullest. As a reader, I know I love being able to see what an author was imagining/listening to when he or she wrote a book. Even if it doesn’t match what I envisioned, it gives me an insight to the story that I otherwise wouldn’t have. And that’s my goal in being candid about my visual and musical picks with all of you. If I someday am advised to change that, I guess I’ll do what I have to, but until then, you have an all-access pass into my creative brain, which I hope you enjoy and I hope it makes you all the more excited for the day the books are released.
What do you think about authors sharing their inspirations online? Do you want to know who they cast as characters or do you prefer to make your own choices? What about playlists – do you find them interesting or helpful? What else would you like to know about my books? I’m open to any suggestions you have for seeing into my world (although I can’t usually share excerpts).