Guest Post: Man Oh Man! How Author Marin Thomas Created A Setting For Her Novel

HEApromise 300I was fortunate to read an early copy of The Promise of Forgiveness by Marin Thomas. It’s full of heart, family, and the promise of second chances. It’s her first work of women’s fiction but not her first book. Not by a long shot! Marin has written (sit down now) over 35 romances. When she approached something new, she wanted a special setting. She wanted it to be different from what readers were accustomed to—and different from what her characters expected as well. 

Only an author as skilled as Marin could make a dusty, rough, Oklahoma town full of bristly men a charming place to set a novel! 

Today, Marin shares with us how she created Unforgiven, Oklahoma, as well as advice on writing setting that really hit home for me.

Please welcome Marin to WFW!

Amy xo

the setting in a novel is a place that keeps your characters off-balance

 

A Novel Setting: Turning Reality Into Fiction

 

Guy Town; Austin, Texas

HEApromise 300I love picking a story’s location almost as much as I enjoy fleshing out the characters. More often than not I have to write the entire novel before I get a feel for the setting. With The Promise of Forgiveness the setting fell into place faster than the characters and I believe it’s because the concept for the town of Unforgiven, Oklahoma, had been fermenting in my brain for a long time.

I’ve always been fascinated with U.S. history and I enjoy researching the old west.  My love of history is one reason I jump at the chance to take a ghost tour when I visit new cities or towns.  You never know what nugget of information, name or background of a famous person might inspire an idea for a future story.

In The Promise of Forgiveness the fictitious town of Unforgiven, Oklahoma, came into being in a roundabout way. A few years ago when my husband and I were in Tombstone, Arizona, visiting the famous haunted Bird Cage Saloon, another tourist mentioned that he had taken several ghost tours throughout the state of Texas. He went on to tell us a story about a once famous historical neighborhood in Austin called Guy Town. Weeks later the name Guy Town popped into my head again (when you’re over fifty, things pop in and out of your head at an alarming rate). I Googled Guy Town, 1870-1913, and spent hours reading everything I could find, knowing that one day I’d work Guy Town or the idea of it into one of my stories.

In a nutshell,Guy Town, also known as the First Ward, was a saloon district, comprising eight square blocks in Austin. It was the go-to place for women, whiskey, music and gambling. The boundaries of the neighborhood consisted of Congress Avenue to the east, the Colorado River to the south, Guadalupe Street to the west and 4th Street to the north. Today high-rise office buildings and apartments occupy the area, but its history will never be forgotten.

The saloons in Guy Town were typical of those found in any city of similar size in the West during the mid-to-late 1800’s. The one thing that made Guy Town stand out was that it not only catered to reprobates but also to influential clientele due to The Texas State Capitol located right there in the city. In Guy Town state legislators and other government officials sat side-by-side with common folk drinking, gambling, and dancing with the soiled doves.

For a while Guy Town was just another rowdy red-light district in Texas like Houston’s Hollow, El Paso’s Utah Street, Fort Worth’s Hells Half Acre, Waco’s Two Street, and Frogtown in Dallas, where crime and murders were commonplace. Then between 1884 and 1886 a serial killer, known as the “Servant Girl Annihilator,” terrorized the streets of Austin and Guy Town, supposedly murdering eight victims with an axe. The killer was never found.

On July 15, 2014, the PBS TV show History Detective used historical research and modern techniques like psychological and geographic profiling, to help identify a probable suspect: Nathan Elgin, a 19-year-old African-American cook. Elgin worked near the original crime scenes and had a clubfoot, which was similar to a footprint left by the killer. In February 1886, shortly after the last murder, police shot and killed Elgin when he was caught attempting to assault a girl with a knife. Guy Town was shut down in 1913 after a growing sentiment among religious leaders and women’s groups against prostitution, gambling and alcohol abuse.

There wasn’t a need for a serial killer in my women’s fiction, but the name Guy Town stuck with me.  When I came up with the idea for The Promise of Forgiveness, I knew I wanted to create a place that catered to men and challenged the novel’s theme of forgiveness, so I filled the town with oil roughnecks and ranchers—the kind of men who would have visited Guy Town back in the day. Ruby, the heroine in my book, has a deep mistrust of men, therefore I made sure Unforgiven was a place where women weren’t welcome. Often it is only when people are uncomfortable that they acknowledge the need to change.

Unforgiven is a safe haven for men. A place where roughnecks and cowboys check their morals and values at the door. The men have secrets and regrets. Their lives have been built on mistakes and bad decisions. At home the men answer to their wives or girlfriends but just like in Guy Town, there is no one in Unforgiven to hold them accountable for their actions or words.

Ruby is nothing like the wives and girlfriends who are at home waiting for their roughnecks and cowboys. She is as hard as the gemstone she’s named after. She, too, has secrets and has made her share of mistakes and bad judgment calls. The town is a reflection of Ruby—unforgiving and suspicious.

The best advice I can give about setting in a novel is to create a place that keeps your characters off-balance.  If you give the setting it’s own voice and viewpoint, it can help guide you in creating richer, more meaningful characters.

What’s the most unusual setting you’ve read in a book?

 

Marin Thomas writes Women’s Fiction for Berkley/NAL and western romance for Harlequin books. To date she has contracted over 35 projects for Harlequin. The Promise of Forgiveness (March 2016) is her first work of women’s fiction.

High Res Colored Photoaf9e7b_9bdd7616e076462e9fda0e3400dace17Marin grew up in Janesville, Wisconsin, and attended college at the University of Arizona where she played basketball for the Lady Wildcats and earned a B.A. in Radio-TV. Following graduation she married her college sweetheart in a five-minute ceremony at the historical Little Chapel of the West in Las Vegas, Nevada. Marin and her husband are recent empty nesters and currently live in Houston, Texas, where she spends her free time junk hunting and researching her next ghost tour.

 Buy the book! http://bit.ly/BuyPromise

 Website www.marinthomas.com

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Want to learn more about Guy Town?

http://bob-texashillcountry.blogspot.com/2011/02/few-things-about-old-west-you-may-not.html

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Guest Post: Do Readers Cross The Romance/Women’s Fiction Line? By Laura Drake

Thumbnail CoverWhat do my readers want from me? In today’s publishing climate, we’re often afraid to give something new a try, afraid of losing our readers, our followers, our mojo even. Sometimes our publishers are afraid as well, using the word “brand” to help us shape our new books. Staying within genre makes sense, but it’s not always possible. Especially when we have a story we want to tell that falls outside certain industry parameters. (I have a few floating around myself.)

Today we have with us, Laura Drake, multi-published, award-winning, romance author whose first women’s fiction title is releasing today! She wonders if fans of her romance novels will read her women’s fiction. Will the new readers she acquires with this book pop over and give her romance novels a try? Below, Laura shares with us her excitement and her fears for her new journey. She’s also sharing an short excerpt. 

Please welcome Laura Drake to WFW! And tell us what you think, in the comments.

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Author Claire Dyer On Managing Multiple Points Of View In Your Novel

TPA ebookI’m a one POV writer. At least so far. I love multi-POV novels but it’s not something I’ve tackled in my own book-writing journey. Today, author Claire Dyer shares with us some thoughts on writing a novel with multiple points of view. What are your thoughts? How do you do it? Do you stay far away from it? In the past, I’ve used short stories to experiment with POV and different literary devices and techniques. When I was reading Claire’s post I remembered I’d had a short story published that used two points of view…and I went back and read it. It was published a year before The Glass Wives (May 2013) — and I’ll be honest, it took me about a year and a half to find it a home! (So yes, I’ve always been persistent) 😉 Here’s a link if you want to read Minding Joe

But first — share your many thoughts on managing multiple points of view in the comments. 

And please welcome Claire Dyer to WFW!

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Author Laura McNeill’s 11 Tips For Writing Domestic Suspense

Center of Gravity 2It’s summer and domestic suspense is HOT! What makes me want a guest post about domestic suspense on WFW? Because many of these novels today feature women as their protagonists, and when you read Laura McNeill’s post, you’ll see how the advice transcends any strict genre lines you (we!) may have conjured up in our heads. I mean, who doesn’t want some suspense in any novel? If all the answers are right there, why bother turning the page?  My favorite bit of advice below is #7—Make Things Worse, because that’s the hardest part for me and I know how important it is.  Which piece of writing advice speaks to you? Please tell us in the comments! And most importantly, today is pub day for Laura’s CENTER OF GRAVITY!!! Congratulations, Laura!!

Amy xo

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Author Interview: Advice From New York Times Bestselling Author Patti Callahan Henry: “Understand Why You Are Telling This Story”

Idea of Love_COVER (1)Did you ever come across someone and there are just so many coincidences you can’t help but acknowledge and celebrate them? Not only was I a reader of Patti Callahan Henry’s books, but then I found out we had the same publisher. And the same editor. And that she was born in Philadelphia, like me. So, how could I resist another opportunity to share Patti with all of you, to celebrate her eleventh novel (ELEVENTH NOVEL OMG OMG OMG), THE IDEA OF LOVE. Today, Patti shares her insight and expertise on finding your story and giving it life, and how she approaches novel-writing. I can’t write a book or a story or an essay without understanding WHY it’s a story I don’t want to tell, but need to tell. At some point my characters take over, it’s their story after all, but hearing this from Patti re-emphasizes that women’s fiction (at least the kind I want to write) comes from a well, and it’s our to reach inside and bring out whatever is there.  Please welcome Patti Callahan Henry back to WFW! 

Amy xo

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Guest Post: Author Eleni Gage’s Four Fabulous Tips For Writing About Someone You Know—And Surviving!

91L0NFaeALLYou’ve read the title of this guest post and I feel the universal cringe! If one of your fictional characters is inspired by someone in your real life, either a lot or a little, you’re bound to wonder WHAT WILL THEY THINK? Or even better (worse?) WILL THEY RECOGNIZE THEMSELVES. I don’t base characters on real people, but I do cherry pick bit of people I know, and people I see out in the wild and give those characteristics to the folks in my books. I want them to be real, right? 

Today, Eleni Gage joins us again to share her own experience. Brave woman, I say. Brave woman.

Brave woman with a gorgeous book cover, that is! 

Please welcome Eleni Gage to WFW, and share your thoughts in the comments!

Amy xo

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How to Write When You Don’t Have Time (or have had too much egg nog—or Hanukkah gelt)

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? It’s cold, wet, gets dark at 4:30, and most of us have no time or energy to write.

Let me explain. We’re entranced during this season. I don’t even celebrate Christmas, and Hanukkah/Chanukah/Hanukah is technically classified as a festival, and while important, it does not, in any way, have the heft of, let’s say, Passover or Yom Kippur, yet it gets all the good press. I digress. There are lights, food, and happy faces. People want to chat. They want to know your plans, about your kids, about your life (which has given way to those Xmas letters). What’s not to feel good about? Don’t forget Christmas decorations. Because lights. Need I say more?

What’s not to feel good about is falling behind on a deadline or a work-in-progress. It’s not bad to take a break. At one point while writing The Glass Wives (which seems like a lifetime ago) I stopped for six months for some life-tending. But if you don’t want to take a break, but feel like it’s time to spend your time on other things, remember that you can’t really write without living your life.

So go live it!

When people would ask me if the characters in The Glass Wives were based on real people, I answered honestly. Yes and no. Did I know people exactly like the characters? No. But were they snippets or truth stirred with pure imagination? Yes. But one of my favorite stories to tell is how one day I was waiting for my daughter to come out of junior high (she’s a college sophomore now) and I saw another pick-up lane mom get out of her car. She was dressed just the way I’d imagined my character, Laney, to dress. So I watched her. I watched the way she walked in her books and the way her coat swayed. I watched her push her long curly hair off her shoulders then scoop it back again. And, creepy as it may sound, every time I wrote about Laney I thought of this woman, this scene. But at that moment, I wasn’t writing a thing. Nor did I take a note, or record a voice memo. I simply had the experience and used it later.

You know, in my writing.

Nowadays I’m working part-time at a friend’s restaurant. Every day I talk to a hundred people if not more. Most are friendly, some are not. A few are rude. Some are in clothes that tell me what their jobs are, like a policeman or road worker (it’s the fluorescent vest that gives it away). Some are in clothes that tell me nothing except that the person cares about style, or doesn’t. I also know that I don’t know much about any of them but that it doesn’t matter because I write fiction. And when it’s time for me to write about something icky — I’ll likely remember the guy who handed me his credit card after holding it in his mouth.

When I want to write about confusion I’ll write about people who don’t leave a tip (I don’t waitress, but please, if someone is cooking your food, delivering it to you, and cleaning it up, leave a dollar on the table).

When I want to write about entitlement I’ll likely try to channel the woman who is never satisfied, never has enough crackers, or pickles, or mustard, and always wants something free to make up for it.

Maybe if I want a little angst, I’ll write about the bathroom lock that gets stuck every time I’m in there.

Perhaps one of my characters will wear a lovely hat with a purple flower, like a woman I met yesterday. Or maybe I’ll describe the reaction to someone having matzah ball soup for the first time. Or kreplach.

So, in the season of parties and shopping and family gatherings lies your opportunity to gather up all of the goodness and save it for a time when you do have time to write. When you have a character who requires a joyous demeanor, or an overstuffed belly, or even a Grinchy mood. Or a fancy hat. Or food on his face.

The best part is, no one knows what you’re doing. And you won’t be writing about these people, just your experience of them.

Don’t forget about the feeling you get when you wait in line for an hour, or get caught in a two-for-one sweater frenzy. Don’t forget the excitement of seeing someone you haven’t seen all year—or maybe that’s worry.

Whoever you see and whatever you do, if you need to, just pack away the pen and the smart phone and enjoy the season. Take it all in, but don’t take notes.  It will all be there when you need it, ready to be retrieved, and when your belly is filled with food, your calendar is filled with plans, your closets are filled with hidden gifts—hopefully your head will be filling with ideas!