Posted On October 27, 2017 by Print This Post

When Being a Pantster Isn’t Enough – by Liz Fielding

Happy Friday! Please welcome back author Liz Fielding.

There comes a time in most romance author’s life when she’s asked to collaborate with other authors to create a series.

This can take several different forms. The publisher may provide a “bible” of anything up to a dozen stories set around a business such as a vineyard or restaurant, maybe set in a specific place, or somewhere such as a stately home. All even a combination of all three! The books will each stand alone but, with a well-constructed series, the readers will be invested in the family or place involved. The additional advantage for the author is that the publisher will invest more effort in promoting a miniseries and you have the support and promotion effort of a group of authors.

My first collaboration, the Brides of Bella Lucia, was one of these. Harlequin Mills and Boon editors had created an extended family who ran a small restaurant chain named for the family matriarch who had founded it. Bella Lucia. I was given my hero and heroine, some backstory and a destination.

I enjoyed working with other authors, but on the downside, I found the concept restricting and, as I was writing the last book in the series, I had to spend valuable words winding up the series. It ended up being the longest Harlequin Romance in history!

I declined an invitation to write in the second Bella Lucia series and instead asked my editor if I could collaborate with a couple of authors I knew on an author-led trilogy. She liked the idea and the brainstorming was lively! Secrets We Keep revolved around a moment where three women look back at a point where their life took a wrong turning and, together, make the decision to confront the past and change their lives. Again, though, compromise was part of the deal. I wanted them to be trapped underground by an earthquake, but this produced horrified shudders from one of the group so it was shelved and I used it in another book.

More recently, my lovely editor suggested a four-book collaboration – preferably somewhere exotic and with a royal link – and again, the most fun is the brainstorming with other authors. Who are our characters, how are they connected, what is the crucible that will hold the series together?

Researching locations is so much easier these days. I well remember staggering home from the library with an armful of books on Malta when I was writing Prisoner of the Heart and I’d been there myself three times! Now you can go online for pictures and even find videos on Youtube.

We checked out Mediterranean islands and then created one based very loosely on Ischia. We couldn’t use a real place because it had to be independent, with a royal family; somewhere that didn’t have annoying laws that anyone could look up online. We found our heroines – sisters — and our heroes and then we found the crucible that would bring them to one place and Summer at the Villa Rosa was born – all we had to do was write the books!

The stories were to run consecutively with very little cross-over. I had it easy writing the first book. I searched for stuff as I went along, made up the names of villages and cities, created stuff as I needed it and passed it on to the others. It was all a bit casual. Emails were lost, names were forgotten as everyone else played catch up. We got there, the books are lovely, but I think the word to describe the experience is disorganised!

Mini series are like buses. You don’t take part in one for years and then two come along at the same time and before I could blink I was looking at a new four-hander, this time with two locations, and thinking, there has to be a better way!

Jessica Hart, Sophie Weston and I were familiar with the area where our English village was to be set. Anne McAllister has been to the UK many times and we had no trouble finding a village on which to model Combe St Philip. Thay didn’t stop us having a day out there to refamiliarize ourselves with the ground. 😊 Here are Sophie, Anne and Jessica in front of the church where our royal wedding was going to take place.

The other setting involved a royal family so, once again, we had to create a country. Fortunately, Sophie is much travelled and found us the perfect spot for San Michele, tucked up next to Italy at the top of the Adriatic. Great coastline and there was a mountainous interior for my hero. She also wrote the entire family tree for the royal family going back to the middle ages. Impressive.

While the books progressed in time, in this series, unlike any other I’d worked on, the series involved all four heroines lives crossing each other. They met, had meals together, went to a ball in the royal palace amongst other things. All that required a certain amount of careful choreography.

This is the moment to confess that I’ve always been a pantster. I get an idea, I put my hero and heroine together in a tricky situation and send them flying off into the mist. The editor I’ve been working with for years at Mills and Boon knows this is how I work and, with rare exceptions, she doesn’t ask me for anything as tricky as a plot. The thing is, if I’ve made my characters strong enough, given them great motivation, given them something to fight for, this works. But I have no one to worry about except myself if it all goes to hell in a handcart.

I couldn’t do that with this series.

There was going to be a ball. All but one of the characters was going to be there. Big things were going happen around it. We had to know what everyone was doing, where they were, what they were saying.

Fortunately, Jessica is a plotter. She produced not just a detailed outline for her story but a timeline for her hero and heroine from birth, with all their important life events and the entire period of her book as if it was the most normal thing in the world. In just days.

When the rest of us had managed to close our mouths, we all grabbed the template and attempted to follow her fine example. It’s not complicated and it does several jobs. It forces you to think about your hero and heroine’s backstories – not wait, as I usually do, for my hero to reveal his pain to me somewhere around chapter eight. I was also able to figure out where everyone would be at vital points in my own book – where my own characters would be. That suggested ideas for scenes. I even found my hero’s backstory (we’d already thrashed out my heroine’s problems in the brainstorming session). And, with a timeline, I was able to write an outline for an editor I never worked with before. Why on earth hadn’t I done this before!

At this point, there were still things missing and, as the story was written, details changed – even the names of some characters changed because that’s how it is. However, forced to confront the where, the why, the how, to think about how my story would connect with the others, where scenes would overlap, at what point things would break down, my story had a structure.

The books – despite a series of accidents – are, I’m thrilled to say, now ready to be launched on the reading public and, while I’m not totally converting from being a punster to a plotter but the timeline is now part of my writing life. I’m a little in love with it and in case I’m the only writer in the world that doesn’t already know about this, I’m sharing it with you.

 

 

MONTH/YEAR ALICE (ALLY) (27)

 

5’6, long mid brown hair with fair streaks. Slender – she’s in the media and has to look good. Hazel eyes.

FREDRIK JENSSON (32)

 

The steeliness of Daniel Craig – cool grey eyes, fairish hair. The physical look of Tom Hiddleston. About 6’.

18th century Fredrik’s ancestor, a dispossessed Danish mercenary fighting for San Michele, saves the life of SM Prince. Is given permanent home there and title of Count. Marries minor aristocrat and the family has served in the military with close ties to the royal family ever after.
January 1984 Born in San Michele, son of Count Otto Jensson and Claudia.

Younger brother, Dominic and younger sister Suzanna.

February 1990 Born in village to slightly older parents. A doted on only child.
1995 (11) Father dies in climbing accident and Fredrik inherits title.
1998 (3) Joins nursery class at village school. Meets Hope. Mother remarries. Aged 14, Fredrik solo climbs highest peak in San Michele. (The two incidents are not unrelated).
2005 (15) In rebellious phase, creeps out at night to go to Club in Aylesborough, is hassled by nasty Nigel who takes the chance to grope her in dark car park at Three Bells where she’s waiting for a lift. Rescued by Hope and Flora who form a bond over humiliation of Nigel. Ally pulls her sock up and buckles down to work.

 

“Nice trousers, Nigel…”

(21) Fredrik takes his degree and follows his father and all his ancestors in joining San Michele army.

 

His mother has two more children with new husband. Katerina and Alessandro.

 

Estranged from his family he has become a driven personality.

2008 (18) University, plans on a media career – television news correspondent. Something serious. Sees herself as the next Christianne Annapour. (24) Fredrik is heroically wounded on a UN peace-keeping mission in Mali. Climbing career brought to abrupt halt. Given security role within royal family.
2011 Goes to London but can’t get a job with any of the major news outlets. Drifts through boring menial jobs in publishing.
2013 There’s an incident with a celebrity who, in gratitude, introduces her to the editor of Celebrity. It’s not Newsnight, but it’s a lot better than she’s been doing. Her proud parents bore the pants off neighbours talking about all the people she meets… Some disastrous romantic attachment that Ends Badly.
Etc Etc Etc

 

***

The Bridesmaid’s Royal Bodyguard (Royal Wedding Invitations Book 3)

After being sacked from her job on the gossip magazine Celebrity, Ally Parker is forced to return home to Combe St. Philip with her tail between her legs. She is given a fresh start when her childhood friend, Hope, asks her to work PR for Hope’s marriage to Prince Jonas of San Michele.

When Count Fredrik Jensson, head of security for the royal family, arrives to check out the village, he makes it clear that her past employment makes her unfit for the role. The fact that there’s a sizzle between them from the moment they meet only makes everything worse.

Forced together on a trip to San Michele for the official announcement of the wedding, Fredrik and Ally find themselves stranded overnight in his mountain retreat. Their sizzle flares into an inferno. However, their night of passion sours when he sees her with her ex-boss. Believing that Ally is about to buy back her job with wedding secrets, Fredrik turns back to ice. What will it take to see the person she truly is and a thaw to set in?

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Bio: I met my husband when we were working in Zambia and were both members of the Lusaka Theatre Club. He was playing John de Stogumber in St Joan, and I was the pageboy to the Earl of Warwick. He swore it was the purple tights that got him. I wish I had a photograph. Sadly none exist.

We travelled a lot in Africa and the Middle East then we had babies and settled down back home, first in Wales and now in Wiltshire – photographs in my gallery.

I started writing when the children were small and my first romance, An Image of You, was set in Kenya, in a place where we’d spent many happy weekends on safari. It was plucked from the slush pile because the feisty heroine made my editor laugh. Emotion touched with humour has been the hallmark of my work ever since.

We now live in Wiltshire, within the magic circle of Glastonbury, Stonehenge, Avebury and the ancient hot springs at the heart of the city of Bath.

Connect with Liz::  Website   Facebook   Twitter

 

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Discussion

8 Responses to “When Being a Pantster Isn’t Enough – by Liz Fielding”

  1. As a big fan of all four writers, I can’t wait to start reading this quartet, Liz. Fascinating to hear how it all came about, and I hope it’s the first of many!

    Posted by Helena Fairfax | October 27, 2017, 8:15 am
  2. Thanks for sharing this, Liz. I vary between being a pantser and a plotter. But I find that for the most part, I’m a plodder!

    Posted by Ken Isaacson | October 27, 2017, 1:01 pm
  3. Thanks, Liz, I enjoyed this post very much. I’ve only done one collaboration — on a Xmas anthology, and, as you say, there’s a bit of compromise involved, particularly because we were all pantsers. But it was a very interesting process and a nice challenge as well.

    I grinned when I saw your comment on the earthquake story — I LOVED that book and think your handling of that idea was a tour de force! It;s one of my keepers.

    I’m also currently reading my way though your latest series, and enjoying it very much. I’m up to the last one — Anne McAllisters. I think all four of you have done a wonderful job.

    Posted by Anne Gracie | October 31, 2017, 6:00 pm
  4. Thanks so much, Anne. I loved writing the earthquake book, espescially as it gave a difficult secondary character her own story.

    The compromises on a collaboration are worth it for the fun of working with other authors. So glad you’re enjoying the series.

    Posted by Liz | November 2, 2017, 12:26 am
  5. TUESDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2012
    Famous Pantser Quote

    “I’ve decided that flying into the mist is just too much hard work and I need to plot like a grown up.”

    Liz Fielding
    RITA winner! Author of over 50 books

    Posted by Vince | November 3, 2017, 10:41 am
  6. Hi Liz:

    Did you really pantser “The Last Woman He’d Ever Date”?

    That book is so rich and complicated I wrote a review of it that included “13 Rules for How to Review A Liz Fielding Romance.”

    http://vmres.blogspot.com/2012/04/last-woman-hed-ever-date-first-twenty.html

    Among many other fascinating features, that book was a perfectly plotted 1812 Regency Romance set in Contemporary times! All the cherished Regency elements are there! I know, I began with Jane Austen and read Regencies for years. Regencies can be like Kabuki to dedicated fans.

    Here was my review headline:

    Stop What You’re Doing!
    Get this book as soon as you can!
    It’s too much fun to put off!

    Now if this be pantsering, so be it. I feel like Prescient Lincoln when he was told General Grant was drinking too much. Lincoln replied: “Find out what he drinks and send him a case.”

    Pantser or plot but keep on keeping on!

    Vince

    Posted by Vince | November 3, 2017, 11:20 am

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