Today, we welcome Claudia Dain back to the lair. Using her wonderful Courtesan Chronicles as a framework, Claudia will chat with us about writer inspiration and advice. Welcome, Claudia!
So many people want to know where a writer gets her ideas and most writers I know have no idea how to answer that. Ideas just come. They come in a rush; they come in a trickle; they come in the dead of night; they come while stirring the cheese into the macaroni. They just come.
A better question is why tell that story? Why create that character? That’s a question I know how to answer.
As an author contemplating the idea for a new book, there is something that I want to say, some point I want to make in the strongest way I can. What I need is a character that can make that point for me, logically and organically within the framework of the story.
Thus was Sophia, the central character in The Courtesan Chronicles, born. I needed a character who was worldly-wise, who knew everyone worth knowing and knew where all the bodies were buried. A courtesan.
She had to be able to move in the right circles, to be both feared and admired. A courtesan who married an earl.
She had to be free of the rigid social standards of the Regency. She had to be able to think like a British aristocrat yet think beyond their views, their prejudices, their training. She had to be a rebel, but an acceptable rebel. A child of an Iroquois father who spent her first ten years in the forests of America.
Sophia’s backstory is complex, but creating complicated characters is my meat and drink. Her backstory is also shrouded in mystery. Bit by bit, book by book, Sophia is revealed. It’s like working a jigsaw puzzle. Piece by piece, the reader learns more about her. I’m having a lot of fun with that, teasing you with tidbits, luring you deeper into the fascinating woman Sophia is.
You have to be careful when reading about her. Sophia is not going to lay herself out for you to examine. She doesn’t actually lie, but if you have a misconception, she’s not going to jump in and correct it. She has conversations in the books where she allows someone to think the wrong thing. She’ll make a quick quip, a throwaway line, yet it’s a gigantic window into who she really is. You have to put it all together yourself. Discard some things as inaccurate and realize other things, things she’d rather you didn’t know, are true.
I know. It’s not usual romance novel fare since most of the time any secrets about a character or the plot are revealed within the pages of that book, and many times before the halfway mark. I can’t help it. Now that I’ve created her, she can only be who she is. Look at her backstory! Would an Iroquois/courtesan/countess let you dig through her life with a shovel? Of course not. She knows she’s a mystery to you, and she delights in that.
The one thing that is no secret is what she’s telling you about yourself. She was created to do this very thing. I created her to say these words, and she says them often in each and every book.
You have the right to ask for what you want. You have the right to get what you want. You deserve to be loved. You are incredibly valuable; never forget that.
That’s the idea behind The Courtesan Chronicles. That was the idea I had to voice. That is the purpose in each of the books in the series. Too many women, too often, behave as if asking for what you want is a cheat.
If I have to remind him it’s our anniversary then it won’t count when he remembers it.
If I have to tell him I want a gift for my birthday then it doesn’t count when I get it.
If I have to ask him to open the door for me or take out the trash or change the oil in my car then it doesn’t count. He doesn’t love me because he didn’t think of it all by himself.
Huh? When did asking for what you want, and then getting it, become a losing scenario? To take the passive role is to take the victim role. You wait silently, hoping, and you don’t get. Who’s to blame? You or him?
You have the right to ask for what you want. You have the right to get it. You deserve to be loved. ASK to be loved. Demand to be loved, cherished, valued. This is what Sophia does daily, even hourly, and she gets everything she wants, on her own terms. She does it with a smile, and leaves you smiling.
From The Courtesan’s Secret:
“…I should not enjoy causing Lord Dutton any…unpleasantness.”
Sophia’s left eyebrow rose fractionally. “Surely Lord Dutton can tolerate some unpleasantness in his life. He is a man, after all, and men are rather good at tolerating unpleasant things. The same should never be said of women. We may occasionally be required to endure unpleasantness, but we should, at all costs, avoid becoming adept at it”
Louisa could only gape. She had never in her life been exposed to such a philosophy.
As philosophies went, this was by a wide margin the most sensible and appealing one she had ever heard. She planned to adopt it immediately.
Sophia is speaking. Are you listening?
What is the best advice you ever received? Did you follow it?
Claudia's giving a signed copy of The Courtesan's Secret to one commenter today.