Catherine Gayle, Author of “Merely a Miss”

Who is your most unusual/likeable character?

If I’m being completely honest, I have a tendency to write unlikeable characters, and I then have to work very hard to bring out their likeability. The one everyone always wants to talk to me about—whether in a good way or in a bad way—is Quin from Twice a Rake. He’s the rake in the title who wasn’t satisfied with just being a regular rake, but needed to up the stakes. Readers either love him or hate him…there is no in between.

How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?

I am very much a plotter. Before I start writing, I take my initial story idea and work to determine who the characters are who would do such a thing. I spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks building and getting to know my characters before I ever work on the plot. Then I make out scene cards for what I expect to happen, determine the order, and start writing. I always have scenes that need to be added or subtracted from my initial planning stage, as the characters and story change a bit as I write, but I generally know at least the major scenes fairly well in advance.

How do you develop and differentiate your characters?

Before I do anything, I just let some basic ideas start to form in my head of how I think the characters will be. Then I start with a date of birth, and I crack open my copy of Suzanne White’s The New Astrology. From that, I find a few positive and negative character traits that fit both the character’s western astrological sign and their Chinese sign. From that point, I am really starting to understand the characters, and I fill in a character chart for each main player. This typically takes up anywhere from 3-7 pages, with every detail about their back story I need to know. After I’ve got all of that, I’m ready to figure out their Goal, Motivation, and Conflict (see the book by Deb Dixon if you aren’t familiar with it—it’s the best investment for any fiction writer, in my opinion.)

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I grew up in a far less than perfect environment, surrounded by people who often had more flaws than positives. That’s what I know very well, and I find I’m always creating characters who would have fit well within that environment. That said, I’ve always been looking for my own happily ever after, so I think that’s why I write romance—the characters always get one, even if they start off in the same circumstances I did, or worse.

What’s your writing schedule like?

Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day? Other than a few months out of the year where it seems like everything comes falling apart, I tend to write every day. I’m a full-time writer, but I absolutely can’t make myself write in the mornings. Because of that, I get up in the morning and work on marketing, record-keeping, editing, and other non-creative things that need to be done. Then, usually around lunchtime, I’m ready to settle into my writing. On an average day, I’m happy with about 2,000 words. When I’m struggling, I’m thrilled with 500 words. There have been days where I’ve rattled off 12,000 words and only stopped because I needed sleep. It really just varies.

What are you working on right now?

I’m finishing up the writing on Pariah, which is the second book in my Old Maids’ Club trilogy (Wallflower is the first). While I’m working on that, I’m also doing some planning and prep-work for a new series, and sorting out my plot for the third Old Maids’ Club book.

Does writing come easy for you?

Some days, absolutely. Other days, it is like pulling teeth. I find the humorous parts of writing to be fairly easy, and usually the very emotional scenes are my bread and butter. Heavy action scenes make me want to throw my computer out the window in frustration. Lately, I’ve struggled with writing emotional scenes, which does not make me a happy camper.

How many stories do you currently have swirling around in your head?

Hmmm…well, I’ve got the two remaining books in my Old Maids’ Club series. I’m debating some possibilities for expanding my Lord Rotheby’s Influence series (potentially up to five more stories). I’ve debated an off-shoot series for the Old Maids’ Club, which would be four more stories. And I’ve got the new trilogy I’m in planning and preparation for now. So all told, that’s about fourteen stories? I should be done writing all of them by around 2020 or so. LOL.

Where do you get the names for your characters?

Since my books are all set in historical locales, I tend to scour census materials and the like. I keep a running file where I put name possibilities in, and then I name my characters as I’m getting to know them. Some get a name and it never changes. Others go through five to ten names before something sticks.

Do you keep a pen and notepad on your bedside table?

Absolutely, and I’ve got a computer in the bedroom too, in case whatever I need to write down is more than something I’d like to just write on a notepad. It is not uncommon for me to wake up at 3 am with something, and spend an hour or two getting it out of my system before going back to bed.

What writer influenced you the most?

Just one? I couldn’t possibly pick only one. Dr. Seuss made reading fun. William Faulkner made me fall in love with words and the rhythm of a beautifully crafted sentence. Shakespeare taught me about rising and falling action. Louisa May Alcott taught me a love of family dynamics. Jane Austen nourished my love of a sly wit. Julie Garwood hooked me into my chosen genre, and Nora Roberts kept me there. Julia Quinn taught me that sometimes, simply making someone laugh is more than enough. Mary Balogh made me want to delve deeper into emotion. So…there. How about which nine writers influenced me the most?

Where can people learn more about your books?

From my author page at Second Wind Publishing: Catherine Gayle.