I Hear Voices and Other Such Confessions by a Romance Author
“Psst. You. The one with the chocolate-fingerprinted keyboard. Will you give me a scene already? I’m dying here.”
“Kill me off? You think you can kill ME? We’ll just see about that.”
I am Jeannie Ruesch, and I admit the above sentences are actual thoughts that have run through my head… not, I am compelled to point out, when I’m sitting at my computer praying for my characters to show their faces. No, that would be normal.
I’m talking about completely inopportune moments, such as standing in line at the grocery store, toddler strapped into the seat, checkout person waiting impatiently for my money. THAT is often when my characters decide to confess their deepest thoughts and finally admit to that motivation that stemmed from something that happened when they were three. Three? Are you serious? I have to stop what I’m doing and write out their back-story from the time they were practically born?
Ludicrous, right? I can jot it down when I get to the car or even when I get home. However, my characters are quirky that way. If I don’t give them their due time when they want it, tantrums will ensue or worse, silence.
Characters, at least the ones rattling around in my head, are fragile things. If I had to label them like schoolchildren, mine would be the ones in the back of the classroom. The rebels. They tend to do what they want when they want, and if they aren’t happy with my rules and dictates, more than one has upped a finger at me.
About now you are thinking (go on, admit it) I need a good shrink more than anything else. You may be right, for here is my ultimate confession – I choose to talk and think about my characters like they are people. In order for me to write about and understand them, they have to be.
I was thirteen years old when I read my first romance novel. I couldn’t tell you what the title was, who wrote it or really even much of the plot. What I do remember is that I identified with the teenage heroine struggling to find the courage to talk to the boy she liked. Boy, did I get her. At the time, like every other girl in the school, I had a huge crush on the most popular boy. His name was Tommy. (Hmm, now that I think about this, I wonder if it’s coincidence that the villain in my upcoming novel is named Thomas…) And just like the girl in the book, I did some humiliating things to try and get his attention.
While I failed miserably, the book’s plucky heroine got a better ending. I’ve never forgotten her. As a reader, I identify with characters because of their quirks, because they are real, because they make me feel like I could actually know them. So as a writer, I knew I had to relate to my characters the same way. I had to give them voices. I had to let them become friends, so I could understand better who they are. And yes, I talk about them as if they are sitting in my living room, eating my popcorn and watching American Idol.
Because, really. They are.
SOMETHING ABOUT HER, available April 10, 2009, from The Wild Rose Press
~ “…a rich, well-presented story.”~RT Book Reviews
~ “A wonderful debut!” ~NYTimes bestselling author Gaelen Foley
He is the one man she knows she shouldn’t trust. She is the one woman he knows he can’t have…and the only one he wants.
Read chapter one at www.jeannieruesch.com
Cathy, thank you. It is a wonderful compliment indeed!
The best compliment I can give an author is that I didn’t want the story to end. Enjoyed the excerpt for Something About Her, happy release month.
Renee! I actually think the voices are a perfect excuse to explain to my husband why I can’t seem to recall what he said ten minutes ago. LOL It works!
Hi Lynn, I just got notification of your comment, so please forgive my tardy response! I have found myself in many a place NOT doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and instead daydreaming about characters or setting or story.
I don’t remember the quote that I read (might have been from Stephen King’s book, not sure) who said that a wife never interrupted her husband when he sat staring out a window. She knew he was working. I love that!
And thank you! I hope you enjoy the book when it comes out — chapter one is available to read on my website, so you can get a sneak peak if you like. 🙂
Jeannie! OMG! I am cracking up! This has SO happened to me. My hubby wants to know why I’m always so distracted. I mean, I forget the things he tells me soon after (no, it’s not my age–okay, maybe a little of it is :), but most of the time I am living in la-la land characters and plots running through my head.
Thanks for a great post!
Hi Peggy — Thank you so much for commenting!
I absolutely agree with you. *Characters* are what matter to me. I love a good plot, I love a fast pace, but if I LOVE a character, I’ll read through just about anything because I care enough.
There is something so uniquely special to me about coming to the end of a book, not wanting it to over…and the days that follow when those characters stay with me. Not like I don’t have enough voices in my head already, but still… there’s always room for one more. 🙂
I’m not a writter, but i love when you can read a book and the characters
jumps out at you.and you can’t wait to turn the page to see what’s
going to take place next.wonderful interview
Kathy! They aren’t real? (just kidding)
You are right — I think anyone who gets slapped with the label of “artist” gets a lot of leeway in the “crazy” department. Thank heaven for that. LOL
I believe I have missed my fair share of turn-offs from the freeway because I was so caught up in character speak that I went on auto-pilot. Goodness, it’s so good to know I’m not alone in being crazy. LOL
Very cute post. My character start sharing dialogue when I’m driving. I have a long commute, and sometimes I get so involved in what they’re saying I miss turns and forget how I got from point A to point B. I realize people who suffer from schizophrenia believe the voices they hear are real and we in all actuality don’t, but it does make me wonder what minuscule thing is off kilter in the brain, that keeps them from being writers or vice versa.
Hi Emma — Seriously! JUST like that. Who knew characters could be so sensitive? LOL
Very entertaining post Jeannie! I hate it when my characters stop talking to me. It’s almost like being back in high school and being ignored by your friend just because you forgot to return their phone call the night before!
@Sarah — Are you kidding? My hubby is WAITING for the day he can have enough lawn to buy that ride-on lawn mower and just mow the lawn all week. LOL
By the way, a secret I’ve found works — encourage him to think that. It makes him support every single time you sit down to write! LOL
My hubby thinks the same thing. I thinks he’s already figuring out how many cows to buy! I laughed my booty off when he expressed his excitement over my future career and thus his retirement to a writer friend of mine….
I almost peed my pants at his expression when she told him he’d most likely be more of a patron of the arts!!!
Hi Sarah — You’re welcome for the laughs! It’s so true…if I had this confession with any of my friends, they would look at me as if I were…okay, well, Jeannie. I think they’re used to my quirky ways by now. And I love knowing that the band of merry writers around the web gets me.
My husband is just hoping it’s the start of a beautiful career — HIS career as a house husband. That’s what he says whenever I say bizarre things, like my characters are talking, or I just haven’t figured out who the best person to kill this guy is.
And Cindy….got the waterproof writing notepads and pens yet?
Elizabeth, the silence is the worst! I can handle my characters when they are throwing tantrums. LOL
And I’ll buy one if Cindy creates the waterproof notepad! LOL
Jeannie, your post made me laugh! I wish I could get my grumpy hubby to read it and see I’m not as crazy as he thinks! LOL Great thoughts on a subject very close to a lot of writers’ hearts. I guess the writing world is the one place where it’s ok to hear voices!!!
Cindy, you may be on to something! You could stand to make millions selling writers waterproof writing implements. lol
Thanks for the laughs, Ladies! With three toddlers, I need all t he humor I can get!
Jeannie, oh yes, the silence is killer, isn’t it? It’s bad enough when you finish a book and the characters fade into the background, but when they suddenly fall silent because we didn’t pay attention to what they wanted… they leave an empty place.
Cindy, yes, LOL… we need waterproof notepads! Good lines are fragile things, like dreams. They evaporate if we don’t capture them to paper quickly.
Shrink?!! *No! I’m perfectly fine – as long as I can write* LOL
Hi Cindy! LOL at being in the shower. I wonder if anyone has perfected a shampoo pen yet? Something we could write on the walls with?
However, I think if I told my hubby my characters were taking showers with me, he might get upset. And he puts up with a lot. LOL
Oh Jeannie, I think we can all relate. LOL! The worst is when you’re in the shower without a thing to write-on. So you try to remember that perfect line that came like a flash afterwards.
HI Jeannie – great hook to get me to your blog – I love the question. I too have heard voices-since I’ve been five, in fact, that entertained me every night when I was scared of the dark and through school when I was bored to unconsciousness. And even now, sitting in an integrity seminar, instead of listening empathetically to people’s problems, I’m listening to them for dialogue to use. What a great problem to have! PS I love the look and sound of your book – I’ll check it out when it gets here in April – Lynn Romaine, Long Run Home, due out 9/18/09 TWRP