“Tell me what you don’t see.” It’s almost as good as, “What if…”
For a writer, these magical phrases launch adventures. They begin the journey of one idea giving life to another, linking the pictures in my mind with the words on the page. Granted, it’s also the start of a lot of hard work, involving too many cups of coffee and a fair amount of banging my head on the keyboard while I cry, “What happens next?”
One afternoon, what happened next was the timely arrival of the fire-brigade. I was in the throes of discovering, “What happens next?” when outside, the gazebo caught fire! I had taken Henry, the cat, for a stroll around the garden to get the creative juices flowing when I stumbled upon the landlords trying to extinguish the smoldering fire while coughing from the thick black smoke. The chimney had gotten too hot as a result of the garden rubbish that was being burnt in the fireplace. When the fire-brigade arrived, the excitement ended quickly. With the fire snuffed out, the gazebo looked as though it had a bad case of the flu and had sneezed violently.
The good thing about being a writer is that every sight, sound, smell and emotion is grist for the mill. The fire was labeled and stored away for future use.
My book, Harcourt’s Mountain, started with a “What if?” and then moved onto, “What happens next?”
I live in South Africa and have never visited British Columbia, so this faraway place filled my imagination. Harcourt’s Mountain flowed well because I plotted the novel in advance.
I can’t do that for my current work-in-progress, “The Device Hunter.” The characters won’t let me. This inability to plot has never occurred before, but the characters in my next novel are fiercely independent. They’ve taken control of the story, and I find myself wrestled to the ground, clutching my notebook to my chest and moaning, “Yes, but what happens next?”
As a first time novelist, I’m learning to navigate the pitfalls of marketing Harcourt’s Mountain while writing The Device Hunter. Discipline helps although it battles daily with procrastination. There’s a children’s story in there somewhere. Meanwhile, “What happens next?” is the question continually on my mind.
Thank you, Annette, for having me on your blog. It’s been great!
More about Elaine:
Elaine was born in Zambia, grew up in Zimbabwe and currently lives in South Africa. Books have filled her life from the very beginning. She trained as a designer, worked in that industry for years, even running her own company for a while. A long stint in advertising followed. In the last few years, she’s been toiling away in the TV industry, winning an odd international award. But that wasn’t enough. She wanted to “tell stories”. She is passionate about it. She feels most alive when she’s writing, and delights in letting her imagination run riot. In November 2011, she finally took the plunge and decided to “wrestle the Rottweiler” and started putting all those stories on paper.
Spring, 1867 – The western frontier of British Columbia hardly seems a likely place for romance. Filthy, terrified and confused, Hope Booker is waiting to be sold off the ‘bride’ ship. Luke Harcourt happens upon the sale. It’s not love at first sight, but he feels compelled to save her from a life of slavery and prostitution. To allay her fears of being raped, Luke promises never to touch her. Although he is a man of his word, this is a pledge he finds almost impossible to keep.
Battling their growing attraction to each other, they learn to live together in the forests of the wild and unexplored mountains. They face white water, Indians, wolves, and dangerous men. No longer able to deny their feelings, their ‘happy-ever-after’ is shattered when a corrupt land baron forces Luke’s hand. Enraged at the man’s actions, Luke rides into town—and disappears.
Alone and pregnant, Hope faces the prospect of the worst winter in ten years. The trauma of fighting off a hungry grizzly brings on labor, but the baby is stuck. Luke meanwhile wakes up on a ship bound for South America, captained by a revengeful sadist who plans to murder him. Will Luke survive and make it back to Hope in time?
Where to find Harcourt’s Mountain