This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
To celebrate the publication day of My Husband Next Door by Catherine Alliott, Catherine has written a guest post for you lovely lot telling us about her inspiration for the subject of this book and how the characters came to life. And if that wasn't exciting enough - can you tell we're massive Catherine Alliott fans – her publishers, Penguin, are also giving away five copies of My Husband Next Door to five lucky Novelicious readers (UK only) – please leave a comment below. Over to Catherine…
When I'm asked where the inspiration for a book comes from, the truth is, I don't know! I don't go out looking for a story, and I don't make any sort of concrete plans: I have no detailed notes, no skeleton, no synopsis of each chapter, no family trees. It just sort of arrives, which sounds terribly fortuitous, like a cheque landing on the doormat, but it's much vaguer than that; like little torn bits of the cheque arriving, which have to be stuck together. I'm tempted to call it osmosis.
The characters creep up on me first – or more particularly the heroine, since I write in the first person – who is sometimes spookily and unnervingly like me. Not entirely of course because that would be embarrassing, she needs a few standards, but certain traits of her character are definitely recognisasble. And I can't help it if my heroines age with me, can I? I can't be the only one with the crows feet and the alarming brown spots on the backs of my hands and the tendency to crisis manage and the buckets of indecision. So there we have it: first up, a chaotic and vascilating heroine – mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend – someone who tries to be all things to all people and fails miserably, but who, if you look closely, still has that j-u-s-t discernable – I wouldn't say streak, waterline perhaps – of steel, crying out to be utilised.
Which is where the plot comes in. Just as in life, in fiction the unexpected is always lurking unpleasantly around the corner, ready to burst in and chop us off at the ankles: ready to demand we show what we're made of – remember that waterline? In Ella's case it's a rather nasty secret in her past: one she thought she'd moved on from and covered her tracks about. Everyone's unexpected is different. But then there's the current and more familiar: a broken marriage, a brace of moody teenagers, some challenging elderly parents, a persistent and very attractive lover – OK, I agree, the last is not familiar at all and is one of the perks of being a writer. But the rest are the stuff of life. Oh, and did I mention that for financial reasons, the estranged husband is living in a barn in the back garden? Wait: it's all coming back to me. I WAS handed this little nugget, at a drinks party, when chatting to a friend who's sister is in a similar predicament. Her ex-husband (unemployed and no stranger to the whisky bottle) currently resides in a caravan beside the vegetable patch, where he drives her up the pole. I couldn't quite cope with the caravan – also, my fictitious husband is a painter and needs space and light – so I upgraded him to a barn. A granary to be more precise. But the point is I WAS given the idea, at a party. So it is important to have a proper life and get out and talk to people. To have time between books to think, and socialise, and recharge the batteries, and not just write constantly, or spend all day at a screen promoting your books as my publishers would – anyway. Where was I.
Oh yes, heroine first, then a kernel of a plot idea – hopefully handed on a plate with smoked salmon nibbles at a party – and then obviously…the love interest. One particularly friend always jokingly asks if I mold my romantic heroes on him, to which I reply – "Yes, Julian." He beams. Puffs out his chest. Almost, sort of believes it as he struts away, delighted. The truth is men like that do appear in my books and are quite easy and fun to do. The other sort, the sort you'd fall in love with, are more difficult. But I do so love trying. And that's the delicious thing about writing – you invent the ideal man. It's a wonder more girls don't do it actually, it's so much more satisfying than the real thing, and it whiles away eons of time when one really should be watering the plants on the terrace, or sorting through the sock basket, or spraying cheap perfume on the boots in the boot room so that the puppy doesn't chew them again. (The only thing that works, incidentally, is Chanel No 5 and I simply can't bring myself to do that.)So I'm not sure you're any the wiser. This is the one that always comes up and has me furrowing my brow and scrabbling around in the back of what passes for my mind as I look blank, and a bit wild about the eyes, and stutter….um…..I don't really know.
Check out Novel Kicks tomorrow for more Catherine Alliot content.
Here's a clip of Catherine talking about her life and writing!