HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope you all have a wonderful 2017, full of laughter and happiness and lots of lovely reading! I am still in the holiday mood so I thought I'd kick off 2017 with a little bit of whimsy and share with you a few secrets about how I begin a new story.
Just before Christmas I finished writing my last Sarah Mallory novel, so I have had the festive break to mull over ideas for a brand new historical romance. I really love this part of the process, when I have the writer's equivalent of a blank canvas, just waiting to be filled with daydreams and ideas. This is the point where I indulge in a little armchair research, looking through magazines, books and images to decide on how my hero and heroine will look, where they will live and what they will do, etc. Nothing is set in stone at this point, even the characters' names could change, but I thought you might enjoy coming on this little journey with me….
First of all there are the characters. I have a gentleman whose nickname is Russ. I decided he should be a Corinthian – a fashionable Regency sportsman. Russ is also a dangerous rake. He is rich, possibly titled, and is more used to fighting off women than chasing them. I imagine him looking a bit like Rufus Sewell,…..
My heroine for this story is a young widow, Molly. She has had a tough time (but I am not going into that now, it would spoil the story) so she appears quite serious, although there is a spirited lady hidden beneath her sober appearance. There is a hint of this in the fact that she cannot quite control her unruly dark curls. So perhaps a mix of these two ladies.....
Then there is setting. Is it going to be an adventure story, set on a rugged coast,
perhaps a Gothic mystery with an old ruined castle….
No. this story is set in a village or small town, where one of the large local properties has just changed hands, and the new owner has brought a large party there for the hunting season. So - I need to choose a house – something Palladian like Stourhead, perhaps,
My mind is tending towards something like this, Beningbrough, possibly because I think the story is going to be set in the north of England and this lovely property would suit very well.
And if we are in the north, then perhaps it will be winter, and my characters will have to travel through the snow…..
Or if it is summer, perhaps my characters might have reason to visit the ice house. In one of my books (Winter Inheritance) a villain shuts the heroine in an icehouse in an attempt to kill her, so I won’t be using that scenario, but I might have Molly and Russ meeting up there, and there is a lovely example at Stourhead.
Or, perhaps a trip to Harrogate, to take the waters (they would visit the Sulphur Well, which until 1842 was covered by this temple, which now sits over the Tewit Well)
and they might stay at the Queens Head, the fashionable coaching inn (which is still there, although it has had a change of name).
So you see what fun I can have without ever leaving my chair? Of course there is a lot of research to be done when I get down to planning the story in more detail, but for now I can let my imagination wander as I decide on the people, places and scenes that I want to fit into this book.
At present, I have only written an opening scene, when Molly is dreaming. She is a child again, hiding in a tree from her brother (who will never find her, because he does not believe girls can climb trees). Now, some time ago I visited Ashbrittle, in Somerset and saw this beautiful ancient yew tree. It would make the perfect hiding place for Molly, so that is my inspiration for the first scene.
Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory
While you are waiting for the next Sarah Mallory novel, perhaps you might like to try The Wayward Miss Wyckenham. First published by Robert Hale as the Belles Dames Club, this is a sparkling Georgian romance, sure to cheer up a long winter evening!