With The Wolves of St. Peter’s well into final edits, our thoughts are turning to our next novel. We have been living with our characters and story for so long it is hard to leave them and plunge back into the unknown.
But as intimidating as it is, at least we know we have successfully accomplished this before. Ideas for books don’t come to us fully formed. They grow. For instance, our first book, The Sidewalk Artist, originated with Gina. She had the idea of writing a travel story in the form of postcards home a la Griffin and Sabine. She’d already had a main character named Tulia and, as she described to Janice in their little ad hoc writing group, envisioned a holiday love affair but one that would end in an unconventional way. Although Janice thought the initial attempts hewed a little too close to Bridget Jones’ Diary, she liked the idea. It wasn’t long before the decision was made to write it together.
Somehow – neither of us can remember how – we decided Tulia would meet a sidewalk artist in Paris. We didn’t even know his name, but when he started drawing those famous cherubs, we knew it could only be Raphael! But if he was Raphael, Tulia had to learn about the Renaissance artist of the same name.
Tulia was soon to learn that just about everything known about the Renaissance painter is myth and rumour – the most famous myth of all being the identity of his “true love.” Our obsession with Raphael became Tulia’s as she set out to find the “real” Raphael and his story. We decided to send Tulia and the sidewalk artist to the places the Renaissance artist lived and worked. Rome and Florence were obvious, but Janice – wanting to also write about Venice - was convinced they would go there too. This little detour didn’t just steer the story in an unexpectedly angelic direction, it also made it clear the characters were becoming real and acting of their own accord. They had meant to go to Venice all along and were merely waiting for us to catch up with them and find out why.
At the end of The Sidewalk Artist, Tulia uncovers the surprising truth of Raphael and his true love. We’re convinced she has it right – it honestly wasn’t our idea.
With every story, we’ve written we’ve made the same discovery: Bring the characters to life and they will set the novel’s course. It just takes a little faith and courage to put those first lines down on paper.