Anyway, moving away from Muffin’s Guilt and back to Emily’s Innocence - a big thank you to everyone who’s mailed so far with the answer to the question. It took a while to get my author copies, but when I did I got quite a few so I’m going to pick out ten names to send books to. If you are leaving an answer on the website, perhaps you could also leave your postal address too, to save time if yours is one of the names picked out (If you’ve already left your answer without an address don’t worry!)
It might seem a bit odd that I’m blogging about the background to this book when the plot and the characters came from an outline rather than from my own head. However, although the process of writing a book for a continuity series is very different from writing one in the ordinary run of things, it requires a HUGE amount of creative thinking to bring the characters to life and make them move naturally along the path carved out for them. I’ve said elsewhere that it feels like writing backwards. Usually I start with characters and flesh them out enough so that they themselves dictate the course of the action through their responses and choices, however, in a continuity you already know (broadly) what’s going to happen. You just have to make it work, and this means doing an awful lot of reading between the lines and thinking in the bath.
This was the first time I’ve ever created a fictional kingdom in one of my books, and it was huge fun. The only information I was given about Santosa was that it was ‘a small island principality off the coast of Brazil’, so the rest was up to me. A lovely couple of hours of cyber-tourism led me to the island of Fernando de Noronha and this became the inspiration for Santosa.
The view from exclusive Santosan restaurant,
The Purple Parrot...
...And the scene upon which Luis looks down
And the beach where Luciana's birthday party was held, with 'Rico's monument'...
I’ve blogged before (over at Nalini Singh’s blog *shameless namedrop*) about the way fairy tales have a habit of working their way into my books, and the story that echoed through this one was Red Riding Hood. It appeared from nowhere on the first page of the prologue, then dissolved into thin air again, only to resurface as the sexual tension mounted. I was a bit surprised by this, as it’s not a story in which I’d ever identified any strong romantic elements (unlike Beauty and the Beast, or Cinderella – both of which have influenced previous books) but I when I came to think about it, it was the darker aspects – fears of being powerless, preyed upon, devoured – which were relevant here. I had an image in my head while I was writing – a very precisely remembered illustration from a fairy tale book I had as a child, of endless tall black trees and a slender figure in a billowing scarlet cloak running through them (I wish I could find it now), and this totally informed the build up to the love scene between Luis and Emily. I love it when that kind of random-thought thing happens and guides the writing.
The other thing that forms the backdrop of a book is the music I listen to while I'm writing. Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson (pinched from daughter #2's itunes account) was Emily's theme song, while the mighty King's of Leon's Use Somebody was Luis's. Other songs on the playlist included All Saints Pure Shores (for its beachy Santosan vibe) Tiny Dancer (for obvious reasons) and a couple of songs by a band called Dexter Freebish Kate Hardy drew my attention to a couple of years ago now. And assorted other odd things that must have made sense at the time, at a particular stage of the book but haven't been given much of an ipod airing since (Stronger anyone? Didn't think so... It's a strange business, writing.)
I think the only other thing to say about writing this book was how fab it was to be working alongside other authors - both from a fangirl point of view, but also because of the support we gave each other. I was in regular, hand-holding contact with Kate Hewitt and Carole Mortimer and Sharon Kendrick and it really did make the whole thing seem like quite an adventure. The best bit of which is now, when I get to actually read the books I got such tantalising glimpses into back then! (Am currently LOVING Sharon's book, Kat's Pride. Kat is a fantastic heroine. And as for Carlos... *fans self* Off to read more...)
Keep those competition answers coming and I'll pick out names at the weekend!