Monday, February 16, 2009

Those Pesky Characters by Anna Campbell

Anna Campbell - mediu

A sassy sorcery sort of welcome for Anna Campbell, rising star in the romance novel world. Did you know Ms. Campbell’s latest release, Tempt the Devil, is a 4.5 ~ Romantic Times Top Pick?
Impressive to say the least! However, truth to tell, I’m more impressed with the excerpt scene provided on Anna’s website. The best way I can describe her writing, it is pure portraiture ~ as in an oil painting of words. The setting is brilliantly and powerfully described. More importantly, the hero and heroine come to life as if you’re watching a lush historical film. I also appreciated how the hero’s thoughts and feelings were drawn in subtle and dramatic brush strokes. I felt like l lived inside his skin.
Anna, my apologies for the unpolished phrasing... I’m just plain worn out right now. However, I wanted to let everyone know how much I enjoyed the excerpt for Tempt the Devil. And, yep, I’ll be purchasing a copy.

Those Pesky Characters by Anna Campbell

Hi Title Magic girls! Nice to be back here. Thanks for inviting me to come over and title some magic again!

I want to talk, well, beyotch in fact, about characters.

I’m currently in the throes of getting a story off the ground. I’ve got what I think is a pretty good concept. It’s sexy and gives lots of opportunity for emotion and conflict. You know, the standard Anna Campbell gig of let’s torture our characters till they squeal.

Unfortunately, at the moment, my characters are threatening to torture me which certainly is NOT part of the deal.

I have a very odd process – which I think is true for most writers. I’m very much a pantser but I spend an awful lot of time thinking about my story and my characters before I sit down and put anything on paper. I get a germ of an idea at the back of my brain and it stays there stewing away nicely, occasionally getting some onion or garlic or herbs added to increase the flavor. Often I’ll throw in some extra meat for additional oomph. And when the delicious aromas emanating from the back of my head are driving me absolutely mad, that’s when I’m ready to start the story.

So when I come to write, I know my story, right?


This new book, as yet not officially titled although for reasons not immediately apparent, I’m calling it Archie, is giving me grief. I set out to write a story about a buttoned up bluestocking and a bad boy. I’ve never written a bad boy before. The Earl of Erith was meant to be one but he quickly became far too complex and perceptive to fit that description. Kylemore and Matthew were definitely not bad boys. So I thought a bad boy would be fun to explore.

Except my hero, the Earl of Ashcroft, is turning into another multilayered character who threatens to move completely beyond the bad boy persona. How dare he? My heroine Antonia is much tougher and worldly wise than my original conception too! So of course this changes the dynamics I thought would sustain the story, although so far, they seem to have no trouble developing dynamics of their own.

This weird metamorphosis happens to me every time I write a book so I should be used to it. But somehow it’s always a surprise when characters with their own ideas take over my perfectly workable premises.

Experience tells me I’m better off surrendering to my wild and woolly characters than trying to force them onto the straight and narrow of my original concept. It all ends up being pretty scary – like jumping off a trapeze with no safety net.

Anyway, what I want to know is – am I the only person who has these weird experiences with imaginary people taking the reins in a story? Do you go with the flow or force them back into line? Do you have any household hints on the management of obstreperous characters?

Mew-sings from the Kougar ~
Now, really, the cover art is appealingly handsome, but for the real ‘scorch-me-breathless’ cover art fun check out ~ ~ oh, and meow-delicious, read the excerpt!!!


Avon Books, January 2009

Blurb ~

For Olivia Raines, London's most notorious courtesan, and the infamous Julian Southwood, Earl of Erith falling in love will be the greatest risk of all in this wicked and wild romance from Anna Campbell.

Any man in London would worship her. Yet Olivia is, quite frankly, bored of them all. Despite her many dalliances, she's never felt true passion, never longed for any lover's touch . . . until Julian, London's most notoriously wanton rake, decides to make her his mistress.

From the moment he first sees her, Julian knows he must possess her. And when he discovers her greatest secret, a scandal that could ruin her reputation and end her career, he knows just the way to use this damaging information to his most delightful advantage. He offers Olivia a deal with the devil: he'll keep her secret . . . if she allows him the chance to show her true ecstasy.

But Olivia must be careful, for Julian has a secret of his own: he will not rest until she is completely, shamelessly his.


Savanna Kougar said...

Welcome, Anna Campbell!

Trish Milburn said...

Anna! I love your new photo. Is that one you had done during your recent photo shoot?

Cassondra said...

Hi Anna!

Well, you know I go a little crazy when I write, since I've whined to you about it in the past, so I love reading every thing you write about your process, as it sort of validates my own in a way.

My struggles with my characters are more of the "they won't tell me anything" sort. They just clam up, and I have to find the "key" into their heads and hearts. With the first book, the key was meeting a woman who was from the same area as my heroine. I had lunch with her and asked her about certain aspects of life in that area and there was an enormous "click" in my brain and it started to flow. I'd done research of course, but nothing had worked until then. The second "click" came when I was doing a story collage and finally found her picture. When I got stuck I could stare at her image--look right into her blue eyes and somehow I was able to connect when I asked the "why are you doing this" questions. It gave me insight into some events from her past that I didn't even know had occurred.

It's been different with each book. The "keys" are never the same for any two characters, and the search for the keys is maddening.

What a crazy struggle! It aggravates me endlessly. Perhaps if I could stop worrying about it, the whole thing would come about more easily. I would like to have a more consistent process, even if it is a crazy one.

It's wonderful that you "know" already that you just have to let go. I don't suppose it makes it any easier to do, of course, but still, it's nice that you've come to expect it.

Mel Hiers said...

Welcome back Anna!

Goodness no, you're not the only one! I've had to have the "now, whose story are we telling here?" talk with some of my secondary characters. If I promise to give them their own story later, they'll usually fall in line. :-)

I tend to take the opposite tack with my protags, though. I know I'm on the right track when they start talking to me and guiding the story. I'm weird, though. :-)

Anna Sugden said...

I love the new photo too, Anna. Gorgeous - very Hollywood!

And you're preaching (or beyotching) to the choir on this one! Bloody characters. They always want to throw a spanner in the works!

The trick mine throw at me is to reveal some previously unknown fact or idea at around Chapter 9. It's often a fabulous and interesting twist that will make the story so much better.

But, I've already written 9 chapters! Which means having to go back and rework those chapters to make that reveal work! Would it be too much to ask that they reveal this in the earlier stages of the book? *sigh*

Cassondra said...

Anna, I agree with Trish. That's a great photo of you!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Savanna! Thanks so much for inviting me to come back and catch up with all the Title Magic Gals! I always have a great time here. And thank you for that gorgeous introduction! What a lovely way to describe my writing!

Trish, thank you! The photo shoot I was talking about on the Bandits was actually when a local mag did a cover story on me. Oh, dear, did that sound divaish or what? Campbell, own your inner diva!!!

I've needed a new publicity shot for a while. I think I look so tired in the one I've been using - one of those times in my life, it couldn't be helped. Anyway, before Christmas I went to see this brilliant local photographer called Robyn Hills and she took 12 photos and honestly, I could have bought all 12 (I settled for five which you'll get very sick of in the next little while!). They all have this really nice happy vibe that I like.

Gillian Layne said...

Anna, great post. And amazing picture, you movie star, you! ;)

I am letting one story stew just because the characters are evolving, and as they do the hero keeps getting overshadowed by a secondary character that's abruptly larger than life. So now I'm in love with the wrong guy! *g*

Gillian Layne said...

That's that necklace I covet, isn't it? :)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Miss Cassondra, a wonderful response as ever! I love to hear you talk about writing (or anything!) too! You're right that the process is never the same. My problem is I think every time that when I get to the end of the book, I've found out how it's done. Then I start again and realize I know absolutely nothing! How interesting about those 'click' things. I've never actually come up with just ONE thing that clicks for a character but I've had the clicks go off as a series of perceptions that take me deeper and deeper into the character. It's wonderful when that happens, isn't it? Thanks for your always thoughtful comments, my Bandita friend.

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Mel! Thanks for having me back as a guest! I promise not to steal the silver (well, maybe that cute little teaspoon...).

Actually all jokes aside, I'm like you. I know the characters are coming alive to me (and hopefully to a reader) when they start insisting on their own way. What I find frustrating, amusing and surprising is that once that happens, I have absolutely no control over them. If I try and force them back into my format, they go utterly quiet and still on me and NOTHING HAPPENS!

The most extreme case of this for me was when I wrote Matthew from Untouched. My original concept of him was of a cranky ultra alpha. And honestly, given what he'd been through, who could blame him? Sort of caged lion with a thorn in his paw. What I got was this absolute darling and nothing I did would change him into an arrogant, overbearing type. Eventually I let him have his way - I got too sick of staring at a blank page. Since then, I've learnt once they tell me what they're going to be like, I have to listen.

Oh, dear, this is starting to sound a bit odd, isn't it? All these voices in my head! ;-) Clearly, Mel, you're not the only weird one, LOL!

Caren Crane said...

Anna, my characters are all VERY poorly behaved. Like you, I let my story ideas stew for a good while before writing a story. Once I'm in it, though, the characters pretty much give me "the hand" and do whatever they like. It's beyond annoying! But hey, you're other books have been fabulous, so there's no reason to believe this one won't be as well. Let them play!

Anna Campbell said...

Anna, clearly it IS too much to ask them to tell you this stuff upfront. ;-) Bloody characters as you so succinctly say! Actually sometimes that stuff is like magic - I'm learning a very healthy respect for my subconscious through all this. Sometimes something completely out of the blue will pop up and you'll wonder, "What the h*ll is that about?" But it's one of those things your characters insist you put in. And then it ends up being important. A minor example of this but it's the one that springs to mind is Olivia's yen to travel in Tempt the Devil. Yeah, yeah, I thought, she's just making conversation. But in fact, it's such an important key to her character and something that draws her and Erith together as the story continues.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Anna, sounds like your characters know just what to do - better trust them!

I always do an extensive outline of my book before I start, because I feel more comfortable with some structure. But it's a huge laugh for me to re-read the outline once I finish the book, and see how different it is from the original concept.

That craziness usually carries forward into the next book. I had things all worked - even started outlining it - when one of the characters from the current book muscled her way to the front and screamed, PICK ME! She made quite a fuss, so I don't think I have much choice.

Whatever your process is, Anna, it works! Tempt The Devil is awesome.

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Anna, meant to say thank you for saying you like the new photo.

Hey, and Cassondra too! Thank you! So glad you guys like them. You know what it's like when you're trying to choose photos of yourself!

Gillian, do you think maybe your 'wrong' guy is your 'right' guy? Maybe he's meant to be your hero! Actually I made the stewing process sound like it's a waste of time which is far from the case. It's just that often I can't access the soup until I start eating it, if you know what I mean. Oh, dear, this metaphor is losing its flavor! ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Gillian, that is INDEED said necklace! ;-)

Hey, Caren, my Bandita friend! Lovely to see you here! Hey, another victim of character torture. Perhaps we should set up a support group. And thanks so much for saying such nice things about my books!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Vanessa! I know I've said it to you before but I'm dying for your debut to hit the stands. MASTERING THE MARQUESS sounds great!

Hey, and thank you for saying such lovely things about Tempt. I'm delighted you like it!

Actually something I've learned through talking to lots of writers is we all have our slightly mad processes. I know a few other people who do the detailed outline and then just head off on their own paths ;-) I tried outlining once and it really didn't work for me - I'd already told myself the story so I was bored with the actual writing. And believe me, so would a reader have been!

Christie Kelley said...

Hi Anna! I have to say, I love your new photo. It's lovely.

Characters...don't get me started. I think you're right to let them go where they think they have to. My next hero (after I finished this deadline book) is also a bad boy who has been a secondary character in all three of the other books. And I just know he is going to give me such a hard time when I go to write his story.

Good luck with the story. I know it will be great!

jo robertson said...

Great post, Anna. And I think your struggles are similar to most writers. In fact, I think one of the most common mistakes we pantsers made is to begin the writing before the essential questions are answerrf. Writing it down seems to lock it in and once on the written page, a scene is difficult to purge.

My goal is to do some serious scaffolding with this new concept I'm pushing around in my mind. Of course, even with that direction, likely the characters will take off in a direction not intended by their creator.

Honestly, sometimes I think I'm just a conduit!

jo robertson said...

BTW, that's a gawgeous pix of you! Oooh la, la!

Anna Campbell said...

Thanks, Christie. I'm still at that honeymoon stage - you know, the possibilities are endless! Actually I admire how you can write a series. I think trying to keep characters consistent across a number of books is such a great skill! Hey, and cool you like the new photo. Thank you!

Hey, Jo, thanks for saying you like the photo too! Actually I think conduit is exactly it. That's how I feel when things are working. I'm just writing down what's actually happening in another dimension. I'm actually not joking about how little control I have over where these characters go and what they do. And the scary thing is usually they know BEST!

Tawny Weber said...

Oooooh yeah!! I hear you on those characters taking over, Anna. I'm much more of a plotter, but it never works easily for me. I can outline, I can focus on charater sketches to learn what makes my people tick. I can mull, obsess, babble to my CP until she's got her hands over her ears.

But I never get them. Not until I've written, and rewritten, the partial a few times. The first time is for me - how I *think* the characters are. Then its rewritten because that never works, then its rewritten again because the hero or heroine starts to take over *g* After a half dozen rewrites -they've made themselves clear and I can finally move on to write the rest of the story.

But like real people, they seem impossible to know the first time we meet *g*

btw, TTD is one of my favorite books I've read this year! Fab wonderfully deep characters. I loved it.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Don'tcha hate it when the kids won't do what you tell 'em to?

I'm a pantser too, and tend to start out strong with a good idea of where I'm headed but a vague idea on how to get there. So if the characters want to speak up and hand me a much clearer road map, I'm all in favor of it. It's only a draft, after all. I'm probably going to write the story at least 3 more times before the characters and I are all happy with it. Sometimes you just have to trust your subconscious.

Unless you're writing a murder mystery and your chosen killer didn't do it and sets out to clear his name without telling you. Then you've got a problem.


Anonymous said...

Yeah. Don'tcha hate it when the kids won't do what you tell 'em to?

I'm a pantser too, and tend to start out strong with a good idea of where I'm headed but a vague idea on how to get there. So if the characters want to speak up and hand me a much clearer road map, I'm all in favor of it. It's only a draft, after all. I'm probably going to write the story at least 3 more times before the characters and I are all happy with it. Sometimes you just have to trust your subconscious.

Unless you're writing a murder mystery and your chosen killer didn't do it and sets out to clear his name without telling you. Then you've got a problem.


Anonymous said...

Oops, posted twice. Just ignore one.


Anna Campbell said...

Tawny, thank you so much! I'm so happy you love TTD!

Actually I think you've really nailed it there. It IS like getting to know real people. And of course, you only do that over a lot of time and with a lot of communication, i.e. writing a book about them! In a lot of ways, I don't know my people until I get to the first draft - then I know what their issues are but I still need those in-depth edits to realy come to grips with what makes them tick. Oh, well, if this were easy, everybody would be doing it! ;-)

Anna Campbell said...

Pat, I think that's actually one of the reasons I write romance and not crime ;-) I'm hopeless at the sort of planning ahead that you have to do if you're going to write a good mystery. My stories are very much based in the characters so if they take off on their own, it's not going to destroy a carefully constructed series of clues and a pre-arranged ending where the baddie is revealed and pays the price of his misdeeds.

The subconscious is an astonishing beast, isn't it? ;-)

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Anna -

Love the new pic, BTW.

Must say I identify with your struggle with characters 100%. I never really know my story until I have a few chapters under my belt so I know how my characters are reacting. They often are different than I envision, but they usually are far more interesting than my original concept - so I let them tell me their secrets rather than the other way around.

Nancy said...

Hi, Anna--

Add me to the chorus of loving the new picture. It's great.

My characters always do things I don't want. I try to trust these impulses of theirs, hoping my subconscious knows what it's doing. But they usually end up somewhat different than I envision when I write "Chapter 1" on a blank page. Sometimes they're radically different!

I've revising a medieval that turns out of have patches of serious darkness. Which is fine, except I'd envisioned it as a light, flirty book. *sigh* I think that may've been my subconscious telling me that while I enjoy reading light and flirty, I don't sustain creating it for 400 pages. So it's now a serious book.

Occasionally, a supporting character starts to take over, at which point I cut him or her altogether with promises of a starring role later. Then, of course, I need a new best friend for the hero or heroine.

Very vexing.

However, I have great faith in your ability to make this guy act like the bad boy you want. If that's what you truly want. You're just so good at tormenting your characters--which I mean in the nicest possible way. :-)

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, Donna, you're right about the evolved characters being more interesting than the ones I originally envision. I think I'm just a bit cranky because I had my heart set on a bad boy and I can already tell there's a lot more going on with Ashcroft than that. Sigh. Perhaps one day my subconscious will turn a good boy bad and I'll get my chance! Thanks for saying you like the new photo!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Nancy, another Bandita! Lovely to see you here. Interesting what you say about the light flirty book coming out darker than you expected - and that being necessary. As it turned out, Matthew was just right for that story. There was so much darkness around him in that story, it would have been unbearable if he'd been anything other than the knight in shining armor he emerged as. The subconscious really does know stuff!

Thanks for saying you like the new photo. Whoooooo, I'm so glad it's had such a nice welcome!

Savanna Kougar said...

Hi Anna, and everyone, it feels so good not to be alone, or feel too crazy. My characters behave the same way. I'll be writing along 'channeling' my characters and they'll just throw a big monkey wrench into the works -- but it turns out to be absolutely crucial to their relationship like 'Olivia's yen to travel' in your TEMPT THE DEVIL, Anna.
I started writing a prequel romantic scene for one of my novels with the thought presenting it for Valentine's day. I thought it was their 'first kiss' scene. No, my heroine and hero fooled me into writing their first meeting, instead. Their pubbed story begins ten years later.
I suppose they just want more of their story
Anna, I just love having you here.

Margie Lawson said...

Anna --

Your photo is generating as many visceral responses as your writing. ;-))

Dynamite photo! Dynamite books!

I haven't read TEMPT THE DEVIL yet. I'm using it as a reward for completing everything on my WINNER List this week.

Regarding mind-of-their-own characters, they do know more than our conscious minds know. They have access to our subconscious and all we've assimilated at that deep level. Trusting your characters, is trusting yourself. ;)

It was so fun to see you in Melbourne. I'll be at RWA National, hope you're going to National too!

Anna Campbell said...

Savanna, up until about ten or so years ago, I didn't know many writers. I was too scaredy cat to join Romance Writers of Australia so I was very much Robinson Crusoe. What an amazing experience it was to suddenly be in a room full of people who all thought like me. Or at least in the same general weird direction! Thanks so much for inviting me to come back. I'm really enjoying the discussion on how ornery those pesky characters can be!

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Margie, lovely to see you! Didn't we have fun in Melbourne last year? It was such a delight to meet you. I'm actually off there the day after tomorrow for the inaugural Australian Romance Readers Convention which sounds like it will be huge fun. They're giving Tempt the Devil an official launch which I'm looking forward to!

I'm definitely going to be at National. We'll have to see if we can sort out getting together over a drink. Although it's always so crazy, isn't it?

As my characters discover - trust is SCARY!!! ;-)

Joan said...

Hiya Anna!

Sorry to be running late...lunch date don't you know :-)

Savanna I agree wholeheartedly with your description of the richness and portrayl of Anna's characters. You do literally feel as if you are inside their existence. You feel every twist, every angst, every hidden hope, every secret dream.

My favorite so far is Eirth and no, not just because he is the latest. That was a man with a wounded heart who needed healing as much if not more than Olivia.

As to characters taking the reins, my hero from THE PATRICIAN'S FORTUNE did that from his first appearance in THE PATRICIAN'S DESIRE. Damon Primax grabbed those reins and........

Um, never mind :-)

BTW, great blog ya'll

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, JT, I didn't know you loved Erith so much! Hey, how cool is that? Pretty darn cool is the answer! And what a lovely description of my writing. Honestly, I'm just going to glow after today's blog! Mwah, my Bandita friend!

I can see you know exactly what I mean about characters taking control.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Anna,

Lovely to see you on Title Magic. As you know, I adore your cover. But I also liked the other cover style--the one you gave the link to.

I understand what you mean about your writinig process and the characters changing and taking over. I work in EXACTLY the same way!

I love the way your characters are so complex. You are a master at layering your characters. I understood and sympathised with Kylemore completely, despite his actions. He was such a believable and memorable character.

Your new book sounds interesting. Have fun wrestling with your new people.

Savanna Kougar said...

This is synchronicity at it's best, I swear. I just ordered TEMPT THE DEVIL & THE MAGIC KNOT & my own WHEN A GOOD ANGEL FALLS at Amazon, then saw Helen's comment.

Magic is in the air...

Lexie O'Neill said...

Wow, did I miss it! And why did I not post yesterday? Because I actually got a little bit of writing done (caught up on grading for an hour or two).
I love talking/blogging about characters. Why do my characters change? Because I start off with weak women who want to be rescued and then I have to go back and make them stronger. Maybe that's because where romances started when I began reading?
And they grow!
Thanks so much for guesting with us!