Writing a book is a fascinating process, a great deal of it unconscious. During the act of creation, you’re thinking about the story, planning how you’re going to do it, making notes, maybe using index cards for the various scenes. In my case, since I wrote an historical fiction novel, I needed to do lots of research into the 16th century: I loved the process. The Internet wasn’t the effective tool it is today and I used libraries for most of my research.
When I needed to describe a 16th century ship or the variety of clothing worn then, I headed for the children’s section of bookstores or libraries. Picture books were just the thing. I had to know how my heroine was going to accomplish her daring feat, how she would look, and how her family home might look. The various Time-Life historical series were also a great help; they always had lots of graphics. I’ve always been a history buff and had attended many a Renaissance Faire where I’d seen Queen Elizabeth and Sir Francis Drake in action, not to mention all the hired characters and faire-goers in costume.
It doesn’t take long before the story and its characters take control. You’re living with them in your head, so no wonder. Many authors verify that oddity. Behind-the-scenes, your subconscious and your own past mingle together in the ethers, at least that’s how I explain it. I did a lot of creating while I was swimming in a pool. Water was the best element to get my “flow” going, especially since I was devising a sea adventure.
I finished the book, after five years of creating, letting it lie dormant and then recreating. During one of my last readings/proofing of the book, I began to realize why many of my feelings had come forward, unconsciously, in the book. I had given my heroine a kindly, generous father and three brothers who spoiled her. She needed one brother’s help to fulfill her dream adventure of sailing with Francis Drake on one of his early voyages to the Caribbean.
My stepfather, the US Army officer who raised me, was a very thrifty taskmaster. He saved his charm for others, his strong sense of discipline for the family. How clever and comforting for me to create an imaginary father I would have completely enjoyed! What fun to be the heroine who succeeds in her adventure! Plus, interestingly enough, actual history made it easy to manipulate and blend real facts with my imagination.
Being an Army brat has fed my sense of adventure but I can’t compare my exploits to Melaynie, my heroine. I’ve crossed the Atlantic Ocean three times and the Mediterranean twice, which probably made it easier for me to relate to an ocean voyage. Melaynie has many of my traits—how could she not! Her feminist ideas were mostly mine, but I wasn’t consciously creating them. All these factors snuck up on me! Or did they?