Today on #IrishWritersWed I have bestselling author of 22 novels (and still counting!!), Susanne O’ Leary join me with a post entitled The Elusive Muse ~ The Confessions of a Pantser
As readers we often wonder where writers get their inspiration from for their novels. Here Susanne gives us an insight into her methods and introduces us to the notion of a ‘Pantser’!!!
I do hope you enjoy 🙂
The Elusive Muse ~ The Confessions of a Pantser
by Susanne O’ Leary
I’m often asked where I get all the ideas for my stories.
Writers are either ‘plotters’ or ‘pantsers.’ Plotters draw up an outline before they start work on the actual story, pantsers make up things as they go along (i.e. driving by the seat of their pants.)
To quote E.L Doctorow’s definition of a pantser: ‘Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’
Well, that would be me. I’m a true pantser and I sometimes feel as if I’m driving along a dark road, only seeing a few yards ahead.
But, of course, the story has to start somewhere, with someone doing something…
Usually, I get the idea for a new story in what I call ‘the what-if’ moment.
Like the idea I got when I was on a skiing holiday in the Alps, sharing a chalet with a group of friends. One morning, I looked at the people around the breakfast table and thought; what would happen if we got snowed in? If we had no electricity, water, food, television, mobile phones or Internet? If Mrs X couldn’t wash her hair, as she did every day and Mr X lost contact with his office in London? What if we ran out of wine or couldn’t even get outside? Who would take charge? Who would crack first? Who would eat whom? It would have been interesting to watch the glitzy façades begin to crack and the real personas reveal themselves.
The possibilities were endless and my imagination was hopping with plots, characters and relationships.
To my disappointment, the chalet never got snowed in but I had enough material to make it happen fictionally.
That became Fresh Powder, one of my most popular novels to date.
Another time I was on a driving holiday through France with my husband during the hottest summer for a hundred years. We were on the motorway and I was the navigator (this was before GPS had been invented). Needless to say, I’m not good with maps. Hot and tired, we were looking forward to the hotel—a country house in a leafy garden with a pool. Oh, to sink into that cool water, we said, followed by a nice dinner on the terrace.
But… You guessed it, we got lost and took the wrong exit, which resulted in a doubling back and driving on for hours. The usual scenario with a few cross words followed and, as we stopped at a petrol station and my husband refuelled the car, I went into the café to have a soothing cup of coffee while I waited for the steam to stop blowing out of his ears.
As I sat there, I wondered what I would do if he suddenly, in a fit of pique, took off without me. The idea for Finding Margo was born.
But there’s a twist. In the novel, it is Margo who walks out on her husband on the motorway in the middle of France. In her case, the feminine inability to read maps sends her life in a new direction. She doesn’t need a map to find where she is going…
My subsequent novels have all been sparked off by such what-if moments. What if a woman inherits an old wreck on the west coast of Ireland?
That became Hot Property.
What if a young woman house-sits a luxury villa in St Tropez and finds a whole wardrobe packed with designer clothes her size?
That was the idea that became Borrowed Dreams.
Every one of my novels has been sparked off by such moments and many of them resulted in a whole series.
For me, this way to start is like a shot from a starter pistol which gives you great momentum for that first chapter that can be such a struggle. After that, I might get stuck along the way, take the wrong turn down a narrow lane or sometimes end up at a dead end. Then I have to reverse, restart the engine and get back on track. This method might be full of potholes and pitfalls. But it makes writing each book a true adventure.
Suzanne’s latest novel The Blue Stocking is now available and here are the details:
Don’t judge a book by its cover—or a woman by her appearance.
What you see is not always what you get.
Audrey Killian loves her job running the local newspaper in a small Tipperary town. But when a fire destroys the office, her peaceful life is torn apart. Her boss, sexy London publisher Christopher Montgomery, arrives in town with plans to close the paper down, making her an offer she can’t refuse. Audrey is suddenly faced with difficult choices.
Should she grab the juicy carrot that dangles before her, or stay and get her peaceful life back?
Whatever she chooses will change her life forever.
Purchase Link ~ The Blue Stocking
‘I was born in Sweden, but because of a chance meeting many years ago with an Irishman who had an international career, I have lived all over the world, and finally landed in County Tipperary, Ireland in 2002. I started my writing career by writing non-fiction and wrote two books about health and fitness (I am a trained fitness teacher). While writing these books, I discovered how much I loved the actual writing process. My then editor gave me the idea to write a fun novel based on my experiences as a diplomat’s wife. This became my debut novel, ‘Diplomatic Incidents’ (now also an e-book with the title Duty Free’), published in 2001. I wrote three further novels, ‘European Affairs’ (now as an e-book with the title ‘Villa Caramel’), ‘Fresh Powder’ (2006) and ‘Finding Margo’ (2007). The latter two were published by New Island Books in Dublin.
In 2010, when the publishing industry started to decline, I broke away from both publisher and agent and e-published my back list, along with two novels that were with my agent for submission. Since then I have written and e-published several further novels and, as a result, now have fifteen books out there in the e-book market worldwide. I write mainly in the women’s fiction genre, some chick-lit, some contemporary romance, with two historical novels and three detective stories thrown into the mix.
For more information:
Website ~ http://www.susanne-oleary.co.uk/
Twitter ~ @susl
Thanks for superb interview with Susanne, Mairead. I love her work and have followed her career as she is such an inspiration to me. Good luck with the new book Susanne, I’m sure it will be another best seller! X
Adrienne. You are most welcome and thank YOU for such wonderful words. xx
Thank you so much, Adrienne!
I love this post! It’s always so interesting to me to learn about authors’ inspirations for books. I haven’t read any of Susanne’s books, but I’m adding them to my list to read. They all sound great!
Thank you so much Kristin. So glad you enjoyed. Xx