WIP ME INSPIRED
Elizabeth Ellen Carter
First of all thank you to J’aimee for the invitation to talk about my work in progress.
One of the things I’ve learned since starting to write is that characters often take on a life of their own, quite independent of anything that you, as the other might have mapped out for them.
So it was for me when I started writing Regency and French Revolution themed novel Moonstone Obsession. My hero and heroine were pretty well fleshed out and they stayed with the script, but it was the supporting cast who ended up with a life of their own.
And one in particular– Lady Abigail Houghall. In Moonstone Obsession, she was one of the chief antagonists. At the risk of giving away spoilers, her drive and ambition not only put the relationship between the hero and heroine at risk, but also precipitated actions which threatened their lives.
In short, she was not a nice person at all:
Abigail deftly batted her fan to stir a small breeze in the still night.
“Does your sweet miss know about this? She doesn’t seem the type to lift her skirts without a promise.”
James’ expression hardened.
“Whereas your legs have opened more times than Parliament—and to as many men.”
The sound of the slap may have been heard many feet away.
James rubbed his cheek. The heat of the blow lingered.
“Is that the best of your argument, Abigail?” he muttered.
“We have an arrangement, James, and I’m not going to allow you to back out of it now,” she hissed angrily
— Moonstone Obsession
And yet, there is a transformation which begins towards the end of the Moonstone Obsession which offers just a hint of something more than lust and avarice motivating this character:
“It could never be,” James shook his head, “and you know it too, especially from the first night I met Selina.”
“I think I did know even then. I hated her on sight, you know.”
James nodded. He had known, right from the start.
“But now I don’t hate her at all. I haven’t the energy. I hope she will love you in the way you deserve to be loved and in a way that I simply don’t know how.
“Perhaps you’ll both give everyone hope that marriage is still an honourable institution,” she conceded with an attenuated degree of flippancy that made James consider her words were less cynical than they sounded.
My wonderful husband who is also my proofreader and my crit partner set me a challenge after finishing this novel – turn Abigail into Flashman.
For those who aren’t aware of the lives and loves of Harry Flashman, he is a literary anti-hero based on a character from the popular Victorian novel Tom Brown’s School Days by Thomas Hughes.
From the classic upper crust school bully (perfectly parodied in the Ripping Yarn’s episode Tomkinson’s School days), Flashman’s post school adventures were told in a series of novels published from 1969 by George McDonald Fraser in which this unlikely hero ends up saving the day despite his actions, rather than because of them.
It was an intriguing challenge. I had grown a soft spot for Lady Abigail. I wanted her to have a romance of her own that would end in a happily ever after but I didn’t want her to lose the edge which made her such a memorable character in Moonstone Obsession.
Unlike the heroine of Moonstone Obsession, the sweet but stubborn Selina, Abigail has many more character flaws – specifically her short temper, underhandedness and her single-minded determination to get her own way, no matter the cost.
As the reader will see at the end of Moonstone Obsession, the cost is substantial – a threat of treason hangs over her head.
Losing James to another woman was a crushing blow, how does that disappointment change a person? What kind of self-reflection might Abigail go through? What happens when she meets a man who truly accepts her for who she is, flaws and all? Better still, he sees beyond the brittle facade and loves her anyway?
What would happen if she reinvented herself as a spy?
Those are the themes I’ve been exploring in Moonstone Conspiracy, the sequel to Moonstone Obsession. The fun part about this process is rounding Abigail’s character and giving her an equally complex hero to match. Daniel Ridgeway is an honourable man but he is impulsive and driven – even recklessly so. He also thinks he’s in love with his best friend’s wife.
The good news is Abigail is up to the challenge. As she and Daniel undertake a life-risking mission in the heart of French Revolutionary Paris, we see the strength of Abigail’s character come to the fore.
Unlike Flashman, Abigail is a hero in her own right.
— Excerpt Moonstone Conspiracy WIP —
“I’m glad you remembered our appointment.”
Abigail recognised the droll voice and so did not even bother opening her eyes.
“It’s not yet midnight,” she replied and felt the couch shift as Daniel’s weight settled down into it.
“In our business, we take opportunities whenever they occur.”
Abigail opened her eyes and opened her fan to hide a yawn. He did not look fatigued. If one was to assign his expression right now, she would have described him as being studiously nonchalant.
“And what business are we in, Mr Ridgeway?”
“A very dangerous one.”
“I don’t recall signing up for a dangerous business,” she retorted, keeping her voice low to prevent anyone overhearing. “If my experience of your business over the past two years is any guide, stultifying boredom would be a better description.
“You can tell Aunt Druscilla that my obligation to her is complete. I’m going abroad at the end of this season.”
A slow feline grin spread across his face.
“Are you now?”
Fatigue fled and Abigail straightened in her seat, ready to rise to the challenge.
“Are you going to stop me?”
“I don’t particularly care what you do after this season,” he told her. “If you can’t give me what I want by the end of June, then you’re not half the woman Blakeney thinks you are.”