How I Write

I am often asked how I go about writing my books. The most common three questions are:

  1. How do you come up with your ideas?
  2. How did you get the idea to write about a Victorian undertaker in the first place?
  3. What is your daily writing routine?

I use the same general idea process for each of my LADY OF ASHES books. First, I choose some aspect of undertaking or Victorian life I would like to highlight in the book. For example, in A VIRTUOUS DEATH, I explored the process for making hair jewelry. In THE MOURNING BELLS, I described the funeral train that ran between London and Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.
Next, I examine various timelines to pick out one or two interesting historical events and the people associated with them that might provide an interesting scenario to involve Violet in. Then comes the work of blending a funeral custom with a real historical occurrence! I have several trusted “advisors” that I use to help me think this through.

The idea for a Victorian undertaker came from a writer friend, Mary Oldham, who suggested it to me at a writer conference we attended together. I was in the midst of trying to decide what to do for my 4th novel, which I knew would be about a woman in an unusual profession, and she said to me, “You know what I’d like to read about? A Victorian undertaker. You should write that.”
I was initially taken aback by the suggestion, but on reflection, decided it was really a fascinating concept. And so Violet Harper, the heroine of LADY OF ASHES, was born.

I’m not sure I have a daily writing routine. For many years until her death, I was my mother’s caretaker and fit my writing around her rounds of doctor visits, hospital stays, and errands. Since then, I find that I haven’t been able to settle into any regular daily writing routine. Some days are intense writing days, other days I can barely write two words.

What I can say about my routine is that I completely plot out my books before I ever sit down to write the first chapter. I know that when I have come up with approximately 60 individual scenes that I have enough to write a 90,000-95,000 word novel.

And now I should probably return to work on my current manuscript!

write1

My tiny writing space, affectionately nicknamed “The Writing Hut.”  Yes, that’s an Oxford English Dictionary on the stand behind my chair.  I make every effort not to use words that are too modern for my stories, but sometimes I let one slip by.

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