When I began writing Stepping Up To Love, I quickly learned that I needed to give up control of my hero and heroine. They had their own stories to tell, and I was “just the writer.” Since then, I’ve realized that giving up control to my characters has had a ripple effect on my personality. I’ve become more open to the perspectives of others, including strangers, and those wise people have shown me much more enjoyable ways of dealing with life’s little surprises. Here are some of the serendipitous and delightful things that happened on a trip to Ireland last week when I wasn’t in charge:
After three days of unexpected sunshine, our day on the Dingle Peninsula was overcast. Normally, this would be cause for a good sulk. My fellow traveler Martha commented, “This lighting is a photographer’s dream.” How right she was. Dingle Bay was the soft green of a watercolor painting, with swipes of aqua just away from each cliff and white froth swirling around the rocks. In every village, the bright-colored houses glowed with an intensity that might have washed out in full sun. And every fascinating Irish face smiled with wide-eyed charm instead of squinting or hiding behind sunglasses. Thank you, fellow traveler, for turning my sulk into a smashing day.
I enjoy Irish music in the local pubs, and I pride myself on picking up the words quickly so I can sing along. My streak came to an end when the quiet, yet-unheard member of the band took the lead with a brand new song. He began by making eye contact with the women at the closest tables and imploring, “Help me out with this.” As the band played the opening bars, he threw his hands over his head and clapped an insistent beat, while one foot stomped the rhythm and jiggled the squeezebox strapped around his hips. Within ten seconds, every female in the pub clapped and shouted, and the hormone level in the room shot up. Far from caring if I knew the words or could remember the chorus, I gave it up for the devilishly handsome fellow and his song, convinced I’d just met the hero for a new romantic suspense adventure.
On our last day of the trip, wanting nothing more than a quiet meal and too tired to find a restaurant in town, Martha and I opened the door to the pub in our hotel at precisely the start of dinner service… only to find it stuffed full of locals shouting and cheering at the big-screen TV. Instead of closing the door and hatching a Plan B, I spotted a tiny table in the corner and asked the waitress if we could get a meal. She grabbed two menus, showed us to the tiny round table with two tiny stools, and explained that all the excitement was over a rugby match. Ireland led France by two points with ten minutes of play remaining. Our delicious sea bass with vege, potato, and salad was outstanding, second only to the thrill of shouting along with the pub crowd as Ireland held on for victory.
I am a much happier person since I’ve stopped thinking I know best. I’m convinced it’s the result of embracing the truth that writers have always known: that our characters know their stories better than we do, and if we partner with them instead of trying to manage the whole show, the stories work out the way they’re supposed to. life is more fun.
Stepping Up To Love
When her boss Joel Cushman catches her using the spa shower at The Manse, junior accountant and graduating college senior Manda Doughty comes clean about the alcoholic drinking that has led her into a disastrous relationship with a predatory professor. Joel, who is also a trustee of the college, is faced with more problems than a beautiful, naked woman in his shower. While he’d rather make love all night with funny, brainy Manda, Joel knows his desire for her has no future if Manda cannot stay sober, grow up, and face her problems. While Manda immerses herself in AA, Joel uncovers harassment and embezzlement that threaten the existence of the college his ancestors founded. Can he fix the problems at the college without exposing Manda to public humiliation? Can Manda clean up her mess and trust the love she feels for Joel? The odds may not be in their favor, but miracles happen for those who are willing to change their lives and open their hearts.
Finally warm, and thoroughly clean, shampooed, conditioned, citrus-scented, and far less achy than she’d been, Manda turned off the water and drew back the linen curtain dividing the shower stall from the dressing area, and screamed. Standing at the glass door was the big boss. Remy’s boss. Her boss’s boss. She wasn’t sure, but Joel Cushman was probably everybody’s boss.
“Geez, Joel, I thought you were a pervert!” she yelled at him. I can’t believe I just called Mr. Cushman “Joel.” I am in so much trouble here.
“Manda? What—?” His voice cracked like an adolescent.
Manda stifled a laugh. His eyes were drinking in her body as though he couldn’t believe what she’d been hiding under her baggy clothes. Drink your fill now, Joel, because I am off men for life.
“I thought you were a criminal. What are you doing in the spa shower at seven fifteen in the morning? And stop batting that curtain around.”
Manda tried desperately to grab of the linen shower curtain, flapping this way and that in the current created by the open door. “Do you mind?” she scolded him.
Giving up on the curtain, she crossed her arms and turned her back on him. He probably likes that view, too. “Could you hand me a towel, please, or get out of here?” Why am I yelling at the boss? Seriously dumb, Manda.
He was silent now, which was worse. What is he doing, standing there, looking at me? Panic overtook anger, and she turned back to look at him.
He had dropped the admiring once-over, and she saw he was taking a second look at her purpling bruises. Silently, he handed her a towel from the top of the stack and looked her in the eye.
Manda wondered if he could read the shame and fear clouding her vision.
Joel cleared his throat and ordered, “In my office. Five minutes. Dressed.”
Buy Stepping Up To Love on: Amazon
Bio: Katie O’Boyle is the pen name for the author of the Lakeside Porches romance novels published by Soul Mate Publishing, Inc. Born in the upstate-New York village known as the Birthplace of Women’s Rights, Katie values strong, talented, courageous heroines, and she passionately loves the Finger Lakes in every season.
Some years ago, Katie was a stellar student and closet substance abuser at a picture-perfect small college. She credits loving friends, 12-step spirituality, and plenty of hard work for her transformation into her grown-up self: tech-savvy college professor and passionate author of warm-hearted romance.
Katie is currently hard at work on book three of the Lakeside Porches romance books (Finding the Way Back To Love). Book two Coming Home To Love will be released in the summer of 2014. Book one Stepping Up To Love was released in August 2013. Katie cherishes the lakeside porch as a place for intimate sharing, laughter, inspiration and, of course, lunch with friends.
You can find Katie at:
A Giveaway! Katie is giving away one PDF copy of Stepping Up To Love to one commenter at random. Don’t miss out on the first Lakeside Porches romance and learn why Joel and Manda think Ireland is the perfect destination for a honeymoon.
7 thoughts on “Embracing the Writer’s Truth – Guest Post by Katie O’Boyle, Author of Stepping Up To Love”
As an author myself, I couldn’t agree more. Do you have kids? I find it’s a very similar experience forcing yourself to stop trying to control their lives once they reach a certain age. For instance, when my 18-year-old daughter Leia wanted to marry her boyfriend who was going into the Army, I opposed it, until I realized that she had to take charge of her own life as an adult, so I reluctantly gave my permission. Now Jim is a welcome addition to our family and Leia is ecstatically happy. In the same way and at about the same time, once I realized I had to surrender control of my characters and let them follow their own desires and their own hearts, I think my fiction took on a more realistic flavor. It probably has something to do with the subconscious mind. At any rate, once I ceded control over her, my main character Suzanne Anderson took on a life of her own and found sexual fulfillment in multiple ingenious and imaginative ways in the MY MOM IS A SEX ADDICT series of books. And guess what? I co-authored that series with my daughter Leia Lyle Casey! Go figure!
I still struggle to give up control to my characters, and I definitely agree that they tell the story better than I ever could. My husband finds this funny as I’m the most go with the flow person he’s ever met. I’m learning but I have to relearn with every book:D. Was it hard to write a character with a substance abuse problem or was it cathartic, given your own past?
It can be so cool to let my characters embody me and speak thru my hands. I love when the words flow from my finger tips. I hope you are feeling better, Babette!
I loved this whole article. I think one of the recons or me was that my dad came from Dingle. i used to go back every year as a kid for holidays. Let me know if you go back to Ireland I’ll get you some farm stays.I so agree about letting your characters have their own rein. I don’t know the name of a character recently. I said well tell me. She did as if I was dumb. Love your excerpt.
Katie, great thumbnail sketches of Ireland. They made me homesick for it, and I’m not even FROM there!!! So glad to see the talented author of Stepping Up to Love getting ready to release her next book–can’t wait…Roz
I loved your blurb and what a great cover. Congrats! I know I’d enjoy this because I worked at a private college for seven years. And I so agree about the characters taking over! That’s why I’m a pantster. It would never work for me to try and plot/outline a book. Those characters have minds of their own.
I enjoyed your post, Katie. Some real wisdom there. Sounds like your trip to Ireland was wonderful. I’m hoping to visit this fall.