‘Tis a question we authors ask ourselves after the book is completed and we’re trying to remember when it started. When did we get the idea for a character or a part of a plot or a sentence that turned into the
monster novel we created?
As some of you may know, I wrote The Dressmaker’s Secret in November of 2014 for NaNoWriMo. I didn’t decide on writing The Dressmaker’s Secret until a few weeks before NaNo and even then the plot I had in mind was nothing like the plot of The Dressmaker’s Secret now … or the plot of TDS (The Dressmaker’s Secret) in the first draft!
I hadn’t really decided on much, but the basic idea was a little girl wanting to know her father. And getting to know him. It wasn’t about finding him. It wasn’t about proving her legitimacy. It was about her establishing a relationship with him.
I wanted to make a statement that children need their fathers just as much as they need their mothers.
At that point, the book was titled “The Lady of the Vineyard.” The idea was that Alice’s parents had divorced (I know; 1870s, divorce, probably-wouldn’t-have-happened-just-because-they-got-sick-of-each-other, what-was-I-thinking?) when she was a baby. She didn’t remember her father.
The inciting incident was that Alice was kidnapped. Based on this incident(though the villain wasn’t all that bad; Alice became fond of the blundering kidnapper), Alice’s mother decided that London was no place to raise a little girl. She sent her to her father who owned a vineyard in the English countryside somewhere.
There, Alice meets her father for the first time. Wild and crazy, the exact opposite of her calm, controlled, proper-English mother. He is rather shocked to see his ex-wife again and especially shocked that she expects him to take on their daughter. But Alice’s mother insists that Alice must stay at the vineyard, and so he agrees.
He loves Alice but isn’t exactly sure what to do with her. He leaves her much to herself and she’s allowed to explore the vineyard. She meets a poor boy (Kirk, who shows up briefly in TDS and more in Ivy Inquisitive and will be an important plot point in At Her Fingertips) from a nearby village and they become good friends and have a bunch of adventures.
Past this point, it wasn’t really plotted.
I think the idea for the plot of The Lady of the Vineyard (aka The Dressmaker’s Secret) emerged from something a person close to me was (and is) going through. It’s always sad when a baby doesn’t get to have a father in their life and it was really worrying me while I was planning and writing and editing TDS. I think writing The Dressmaker’s Secret helped me work through all that emotion-y stuff. 🙂
That’s what our novels … or at least the best of our novels … are, right? Little bits of us; our fears and joys written down.
God bless you all and have a Merry Christmas week! 🙂
p.s. since I started thinking about “The Lady of the Vineyard” yesterday, it occurred to me that it might be fun to write it (renaming the characters, of course), setting it during the 1930s instead of the 1870s. What do you think?