Sunday, May 2, 2010

Writerly Stuff: Exploring Other Cultures

One of the perks in writing fiction is being provided with the opportunity to explore other cultures and answer a “what if” question in a way that inspires an interesting or outside the box plot idea.

My March release, STOLEN PROMISE, explores what might happen when two people from completely different cultures coerced into marriage might eventually find enough common ground to fall in love. STOLEN PROMISE features a young Romany (Gypsy) woman who yearns for a better life than the one planned for her, and the heir to a South Carolina plantation who finds himself forced to marry the fiery Jade after he travels to England to learn about this Gypsy heritage.

The question I’m hearing most often is, “What made you decide to write about Gypsies?”

Two of the most oft-repeated tenets about writing good fiction is “write what you know,” and “if the story you’re writing doesn’t interest you, your reader won’t be interested, either.”

I’m not of Romany (Gypsy) blood. The greater proportion of the blood in my veins is Native American (Cherokee), but learning about the struggles of the ancestors indigenous to my own country has left me interested in other cultures and in particular those cultures whose people have experienced persecution or stereotyping.

I’ve always found the idea of Gypsies fascinating. The nomadic lifestyle, the mystery, the colorful clothing and gaily painted wagons shadowed by firelight in an open encampment…how could these images fail to stir the imagination of a romance writer? And the music! The piercing lament of a Gypsy violin and the smells of wood smoke and food cooking over campfires are sensory details that insinuate themselves into any images one might conjure about the Romany life.

I did a significant amount of research to extract the small details that would bring the settings and the characters to life so that the depictions would be grounded in authenticity rather than just another perpetuation of a stereotype. When I lived in California, I encountered a group of Gypsies who were traveling through the area and found them to be charming and clever. The chance meeting made me even more determined to write a novel featuring these people and their culture, but I also wanted to find a twist that would make for an interesting love story.

Many novels arise from a simple question of, “what if?” The idea for STOLEN PROMISE came about when I asked myself the question, “Could a man from 1806 South Carolina fall in love with a woman from a vastly different culture, especially after being forced to marry her?”

The key ingredients needed to make the story work were to toss in a revelation about the man’s heritage that would shatter his own sense of identity, and to create a spark between the two early on in the book that would link them even when circumstances bound them together against their will. Once Jade journeys to South Carolina with Evan, I found it entertaining to explore how she and her sister Liberina would react to life on a plantation. Cultural differences also played into how Evan’s jealous soon-to-be ex-fiancée could make Jade’s life miserable by exploiting Jade’s ignorance of the Southern code of behavior.

I love romances where the hero and heroine are obviously meant to end up together from their first encounter, but the odds against a happy ending for them seem insurmountable. It’s always so satisfying to experience the emotional journey as two lovers work through obstacles and finally achieve their HEA. It was my goal to make STOLEN PROMISE an entertaining read with humor, poignancy, and a completely satisfying ending. I hope you’ll let me know whether or not I’ve succeeded!

To read an excerpt from STOLEN PROMISE, please visit my website!

Lisa Marie

1 comment:

Don said...

Thanks for sharing some of the background for writing your novel. You provide a glimpse into how "real" writers write.

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