I write historical romance and Regencies have long been one of my favorite genres. Over the years, I’ve sat through several presentations at in-person conventions, learning different perspectives from some of my favorite authors. Here are a few I recently came across from Julia Quinn, the author of the Bridgerton series. She made them during a panel discussion in 2016.
Plot or characters, which comes first? For Julia it’s a character, usually taken from one of her previous books, although she admitted she once got a plot idea from a song. “It can go either way.”
She went on to say that when you create a set of characters, you’re taking a risk. You might have a character who makes bad decisions for good reasons. Or you have a character who is young in the first book, but will eventually have her own. An example is Hyacinth in It’s in His Kiss. “I had to ‘grow her up’ in my head. It was annoying. I had to make her sympathetic. I made her Mrs. Danbury’s friend.”
When concentrating on a character, you still have to make them fit in the world you’ve created. This requires research. Sometimes you have to stop and research how certain problems might have been solved in the time period you are writing in, but often you learn as you go. Accuracy is important, she said, and that includes names. Characters should have names in use in their time.
Which of her characters do readers seem to identify with? “Penelope Bridgerton. Most readers see themselves in her.”
What stalls her when she’s writing? Transitions. She overcomes the problem by going on to the next scene and working out the transitions later. “Writing is my job. I have to go on.”
These comments were made during a panel discussion about historical characters at the RT Booklovers Convention in Las Vegas. Other panelists included Tessa Dare and Eloisa James who also had interesting insights into character development and writing process. Alas, I haven’t space. Maybe next time.