Jude Deveraux is the author of more than forty New York Times bestsellers, including Moonlight in the Morning, The Scent of Jasmine, Scarlet Nights, Days of Gold, Lavender Morning, Return to Summerhouse, and Secrets. To date, there are more than sixty million copies of her books in print worldwide.
So we are extremely lucky that she was able to stop in at XOXO After Dark to tell us about her struggles of dealing with characters who can’t be controlled…
Sweetbriar was the second book I wrote. It wasn’t the second one published, but that’s a different story.
When I wrote my first book, I was teaching school and I had lots of home duties so I had to write in fifteen minute segments. I’d think up scenes, then write them just as they came to me.
But after the magical letter came from a publishing house asking if they could please publish my book, I quit my job and devoted myself to the pleasure of writing. I assumed I’d continue to control my characters.
Ha ha. What a thought. From the first, the people in Sweetbriar took on a life of their own. One character who nearly took over the whole novel was Phetna. My plan had been to bring in someone who could help Linnet and Miranda escape and get back to Sweetbriar. When Phetna showed up with her burned face, I was shocked. I hadn’t planned that. She was so worried about what would happen if she returned to the town she loved. When she popped around the corner and Doll saw her and ignored her damaged face, I started crying. I loved the man for that!
And Cord was a complete surprise. He wasn’t in the plan at all. At first I disliked him so much that I wanted to take him out. But he redeemed himself. And that was my first experience of having people I thought were purely bad show that that wasn’t how they saw themselves, and that secrets could hurt for a long time.
What I remember the most is when the townspeople held Linnet and Devon up to a shotgun wedding. My plan was for a happy time full of love and laughter. But when Devon complained and Linnet said, “Shoot him,” I was shocked. I was so new at writing that I just stared at the paper. Now what do I do? Do I throw that out and try it again? Do I force this woman who only exists in my mind to do what she’s supposed to?
I let Linnet have her way. But then, by that time in the book I felt that she deserved to get some of her own back.
Since Sweetbriar I’ve learned that characters have their own minds and I usually let them do what they want. Well, not all the time. There was the heroine who when the office Lothario leaned over her desk, she stapled his hand to it. No! No! She was to staple his tie to the desk. I had to correct that one.
In the many years since I wrote Sweetbriar, I haven’t changed much. I still let my characters do what they want — within reason — and I still often cry when I’m writing. But since Sweetbriar was the beginning, I’ve always had a soft spot for the book. I hope my characters come alive for you as much as they did for me.