Monday, March 17, 2008

Whatever Gets You to 'THE END' :: by Ally Blake

I'm in the process of beginning my next Harlequin Romance and as I sat at the computer wondering what it might be about, I got to thinking, Do I have a process?

This will be my eighteenth novel. Boy oh boy does that feel odd especially since I still feel so new at this. Every book is different. Some are easy, others have made me want to watch lawn bowls on telly rather than sit down at the computer. That said I pretty much always start each book the same way: with a hero name, a heroine name and a working title. So much can spring from those three things. I mean a guy called Phil Smythe will bring on different mental images to a guy called Rocco Santiago. Am I right?

But with FALLING FOR THE REBEL HEIR, my current Harlequinh Romance release, I went about things a little differently.

Firstly my hubby gave me the opening scene. Now this is one for the books, literally ;). I usually don’t let him do anymore than name the pets in my books as his ideas are destructive. Here is a taste of the beginning of the book…

Through a gap in the seemingly never-ending wilderness, Hud was blinded by a pinpoint of light. He held up a hand to shield his eyes and tugged his rucksack through the heavy brush until he found himself face to face with the old pool house.

A half-smile tugged at the corners of his mouth and pressed against the backs of his tired eyes as echoes of more long forgotten recollections tickled at the corner of his mind. Dive bombing. Performing pretty darned legendary back flips off the diving board. Lying on his back in the water for hours simply watching clouds shift past the pitched glass roof, wondering if his mum and dad looked up if they would see the same clouds while trekking some thrilling spot on the other side of the world.

He levered his heavy rucksack to the ground, and left it where it lay. Claudel was fifty metres off the road, behind a ten foot brick wall, and a ten minute walk through a pine forest to the nearby township of Saffron. If anybody was lucky enough to find his shabby old khaki bag they were welcome to the raggedy clothes, and just as threadbare passport within. It wasn’t as though he’d be needing them to head through a different kind of wilderness with his trusty Nikon camera slung over one shoulder and a hunting knife slung over the other with his team of documentary filmmakers at his back any time soon.

He cricked his neck, pressed his hands into the tight small of his back and glanced upwards to find brilliant red bougainvillea creepers seemed to have swallowed half the long building, leaving the hundred odd remaining white-framed glass panels that had survived the tests of time, thick with dust and mould. He could only hazard to guess how foul the inside might be after not having been blessed by a human touch for a good ten years.

‘If memory serves correctly...’ he said out loud, the sound of his voice raspy and deep in his ears after hours of non-use. Then he made his way around the back of the building to find the door was ajar, at an odd angle, askew on rusted hinges, as though it had been yanked open.

Instinct born of years spent stepping unannounced into dark, secret places he stepped quietly - toe to heel - over a small pile of worn broken glass and inside the pool house where his feet came to a giveaway scraping halt of boot soles on tessellated French tile.

The pool house was clean. The mottled green tiles around the margins sparkled and the dozen white marble benches were spotless. Miniature palm trees in plant boxes edging the length of the room were luscious with good health. And the water in the pool shimmered dark and inviting against the black-painted concrete bottom.

A sound broke through Hud’s reverie. A soft ripple as water lapped gently against the edge of the pool. And he was hit with the sense that something was about to break the dark surface. He held his breath, squared his stance, squinted into the shadows and watched in practised silence as...

A mermaid rose from the depths.

From there everything seemed to slow; his breaths, his heartbeat, the dust floating through shards of sunlight, as the nymph waded through the water, away from him, leaving a trail of leisurely wavelets in her wake.

Water streamed over hair the colour of brandy. It ran adoringly over pale, lean, youthful arms. And as she swayed up the steps, water gripped to her willowy form as long as it could before cruel gravity claimed it back to the dark depths.

Hud felt like he ought to avert his gaze. Like he was too old, too cynical, too jaded to be allowed such a vision. But those same qualities only meant that his curiosity far outweighed his humility, and his eyes remained riveted to the back of the exquisite stranger.

And secondly I made myself a collage, sticking random bits of pieces of torn out pictures from magazines that had no meaning at the time but which I hoped might help form some sort of whole. All I knew at that time was that my hero would happen upon my heroine swimming in the pool of the abandoned house he owned. I had no hero name, no heroine name, and no story. Not even a working title, which for me is like stepping into a void with no safety net. Here’s the collage…

And you know what? This was one of the easiest, most pleasurable books I have ever written. Mmmm, you’d think a smarter woman would have picked up on that and tried to replicate the circumstances! Well, it may have taken me another handful of books to give it a go, but at least I got there in the end.

With a fresh new book in the works I spent a glorious day collaging like a pre-schooler, and getting my story idea in place before I figured who might star in the thing.

I have a working title, the heroine all sorted out which are another couple of huge steps for a romance as mine are always heroine based. If only I could find a name for my hero I'd be set!!!

I may just have my process down pat. Seventeen books down and I've only just figured it out. Wish me luck!.

Ally's current release FALLING FOR THE REBEL HEIR is out now in North America and the UK. Hud and Kendall were born out of pictures of gorgeous Marat Safin and delightful Rachel McAdams.

To read more about Hud and Kendall and the swimming pool, check out Ally's website or better yet buy the book!

Ally would love to know, do you have a process that has worked best for you? And it doesn't have to be writing related!


Pat Cochran said...

I'm a reader, not a writer, so I can
only give an opinion from that angle.
I can only say that I very much enjoyed the excerpt provided by Ms.
Blake. I also feel that most writers
must doing things right, because I
rarely find a book that I just have
difficulty reading.

Pat Cochran

Gigi said...

I am a reader and don't have any process for writing.
The only thing I have a process for is doing housework. I have that down to a fine art after all these years.
By the way enjoyed the excerpt. your hubby did a good job with the opening scene.

Ally Blake said...

Hey Pat! So glad you enjoyed the excerpt. I wonder how much of writing stories that others can easily enjoy is process, how much learned and how much pure instinct. I guess the fun is in the not knowing ;).

Gigi, a process is a process, I reckon. And you're so right, once you have one down it makes things so much simpler! Gives us more time for the fun things in life that way, right?

Michelle said...

Hi Ally. I must admit that I subscribe more to the plotting rather than pantsing school. I like to have my opening scene, several key plot points and the ending (which always changes, mind, but it's my security blankky) firmly in my head before I set out on writing the first draft.

Absolutely non-negotiable - must have the right first names for my hero and heroine. All else stalls if I don't.

Have never tried collaging - I kinda figured I'd use it as another time-waster and I fear I probably already have enough of those. But so many authors say how great they find it... and it is a good excuse for indulging in glossy magazines ;-)

Am so looking forward to reading Falling For The Rebel Heir.

Michelle Douglas