I hope you’ll all join with me in welcoming Lisa Hendrix, author of the Immortal Brothershood series. I first met Lisa on Facebook. We chatted about book covers and very kewl music videos, and so I put her on my “to read” list. I am so glad we met! What an awesome book. If you love romance with a historical twist, if you love the doomed, tortured shapeshifters, and if you love a heroine who can take both of those and tie their hero’s into knots, then this is the series for you.
So without further ado, (hanging head in shame for stealing her guest’s thunder) I introduce Lisa Hendrix and The Immortal Brotherhood!
I was going to write about brainstorming/where we author-types get our ideas, but Teresa beat me to it. Bad hostess. Bad. No cookie. 😉
So…hmm. ‘Scuse me while I //ahem// brainstorm a moment.
Ah. I know. I can talk about the other place some of us get ideas. The Idea Store. You know, the one where you go in, browse the section on— What’s that? You don’t know the place? Well, it’s on the corner of Third and— Huh? What do you mean you don’t believe me. I am highly offended. Taking umbrage, even [Aside: Doesn’t taking umbrage sound like something you do at the cloak rack in dark restaurant? “I got confused and took his umbrage instead of my own.”] I’ll have you know, I’ve spent good coin at the Idea Store and…
Still not fooling you, eh.
Okay, I admit it. There is no idea store. But that is an answer I’ve used when a particular annoying sort of “wanna-be-but-doesn’t-want-to-be-bothered-with-the-work” writer starts pestering me. You know, the one who has “this great idea” and wants you to write it so s/he can collect half the royalties.
Usually, I kindly redirect them. If I’m slightly grumpy, I tell them to sit down and write it all out in detail and then we’ll talk—knowing, of course, that they never will, because it they wanted to write it they wouldn’t be soliciting strangers to do it for them.
If I’m utterly out of patience, however, I’ve been known to say something like, “No, I’m sorry. I have an exclusive subscription with the Idea Store, and I’m not allowed to accept ideas from anywhere else.” Then I step back and wait for the wheels to start turning. You can see them: “Idea Store? Maybe I can just sell the idea to them and they’ll find someone who wants to write about Great Aunt Ethel’s encounter with the ghost of Charles Dickens’ secretary and I’ll still make a million dollars.” Then reality hits. “Oh.” And then I’m like, “Excuse me, I have to go pick up my dog at the groomer,” and I’m out of there. (A secret: I don’t have a dog.)
But that’s only when I’m utterly out of patience. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Getting a little more serious, most of my ideas get worked out in exactly the sort of brainstorming Teresa was talking about. You have a kernel of something—a news clipping, a song title that you think could be turned into a good story, a specter of a scene stuck to the inside of your skull like the scum in an old coffee cup—and you start trying to turn it into something bigger and more useful.
But that’s still begging the question, because what people really want to know when they ask where you get your ideas, is: where does that first kernel come from?
The answer: Anywhere. Everywhere. People who don’t write, especially those who don’t write fiction, think there’s something magic about the idea gathering process. Nope. In reality, they have the ideas, too. They just don’t recognize them as such. They hear that same song title, and may even imagine two lovers dancing to the music. But then they drop it, a passing thought lost forever.
A writer’s mind, however, grabs onto those dancing lovers and twiddles with them. How did they end up dancing? Did she ask him or did he ask her? Who are they? Rewind tape. Ah, I see: she’s older and a bit plain, and she’s surprised that such a young, hunky fox would even talk to her, much less dance with her. How did he learn to dance so well, anyway? Something fishy about that, for sure. And why is that other man watching them so intently. Is he her husband? Her ex? A government agent who thinks she’s about to be assassinated by the dancing hunk? What happens next? And then? And then? A writer scribbles it on paper or mumbles it into a digital voice recorder or texts themselves with the thought, and then keeps churning it over.
Literally, we can’t leave the kernel alone, sometimes playing the idea out in our heads over and over until it has to come out on paper. (I’ve asked other writers about this and found almost unanimous recognition of the problem/gift.) Undoubtedly, if a shrink ever got hold of us not knowing we were writers, we’d be labelled obsessive. A note in our files would say “Subject suffers from uncontrolled fantasy life, hears voices, and imagines she’s going to make a living from them.”
The idea for The Immortal Brotherhood series landed in my mind as a dream. Now, I’ve long been one to lay in bed half-awake, thinking things through, but this was a case of waking up from a sound sleep with a crystal clear image in my head: a huge, blond man in formal evening wear. I knew only two things about him: he was a bear during daylight hours. And he was a thousand years old. (Those of you who’ve read IMMORTAL WARRIOR will recognize Brand, except for the clothing.) Naturally, my brain couldn’t turn loose of something that juicy, so over the next days and weeks, my imagination ran with questions: How had he gotten turned into a bear? (cursed by a witch) Why was he immortal? (same, part of the curse, so the torture would go on and on) Was he alone? (No. He had this raven on his shoulder, who had once been his best friend) Were there others besides those two?
The answer to that last was a resounding YES, and thus the brotherhood was born. Then I had to work out who all these guys were (Vikings), how many there were (nine—a number significant to the Norse gods), and what animals they were (ever try coming up with nine animals that Vikings would have known about in 850 AD that are sexy enough to be romance heroes? I mean, really, a were-boar? Eew.) I had to figure out who’d cursed them and why, and how the curse would play out, and something to make each story different, and an over-arching story that would carry through all nine books, and…
Somewhere in the middle of this, I realized that to get to the guy in evening clothes, the full story would have to cover the thousand-plus years he’d been under the curse. That the other men’s stories would each play out in a different century. That the captain of the crew (my dream guy) would be the last of the warriors to break the curse, and that his friend would stick with him the whole time, even if they never saw each other in human form all those thousands years.
Well, thank goodness for critique partners, the internet, a husband who’s willing to listen to me ramble through scenes aloud even when he has no clue what I’m talking about and who’s also pretty good at asking the kind of question that makes me come up with answers.
And that’s why we (mostly) don’t end up in front of that shrink, because we take that obsessive and uncontrolled fantasy life to a critique partner and talk about it and realizes there’s a whole story, not in the hero and villain, but in the hero’s horndog sidekick and the woman who sets out to seduce him.
Just like Teresa said. (Good hostess. You can have your cookie now.)
Every time I hear this song now, I think Of Lisa’s books ~ Teresa, who is happily eating her cookie now!
Lisa Hendrix is the author of IMMORTAL WARRIOR and the upcoming IMMORTAL OUTLAW (June ’09, Available for Preorder at Amazon and other online sellers), the wife of a patient man, the mother of two impatient children, and a long-time patron of the Idea Store. You can find out more about were-bears, were-ravens, were-eagles, and the other beasts of the Immortal Brotherhood at her website, where her January Jumpstart contest is also live right now.