While I know that all fiction we write is in some way about ourselves and that all of the characters are, in some way us, my characters have always felt autonomous and separate from me. They do what they want, often against my better judgment, but always to the betterment of the story. No doubt a psychologist would have a field day over me and my characters having a little chat. And while I know an author’s place is to write the story, but stay completely out of it, inserting myself into my own fiction, putting actual KDG encounters with characters into a tale, is a very intriguing idea. And rules are meant to be broken, after all.
It was PNR novelist, J. R. Ward, who first intrigued me with the idea of interacting with my characters. Back when I was binge-reading her Black Dagger Brotherhood novels, I read a compendium she published that was entirely interviews, interactions and encounters with her vampires. I found myself wanting to tag along, wanting to sit in the lounge drinking wine and chatting with these guys. That made me realize how much I wanted to do the same with my own characters. I’d done a few character interviews for blog tours and guest posts, but that wasn’t the same thing. That was far less personal. If my characters were going to expose themselves in my novels and do scary, heroic, sometimes horrible things, it felt like I should get to know them a little better and give them a say in events affecting them.
I inadvertently began the Medusa Consortium stories, and my journey as a “scribe,” with an M/M novella called Landscapes, which was not only my first M/M story, but my first attempt at writing vampires. When I finished it, I found I wasn’t ready to say good-bye to Alonso Darlington and the gang. And apparently they weren’t ready to say good-bye to me either… for very different reasons. On my blog, I’m presently re-running An Unexpected Encounter with Alonso Darlington, a three part account of what happened when Alonso invited me to his lair in the remote fells of the English Lake District.
As it became clear Alonso and Reese’s novella was only a small part of Medusa/Magda Gardener’s saga, I found myself drawn more and more into relationship with the characters, and the role of the scribe was born. Well, maybe reborn is a better word. The scribe observes and documents events from the inside out at the invitation of an insider. In my case, I was recruited by Magda herself. As the Medusa Consortium stories evolved, so did the sense of observing and recording events as they happened, rather than creating them myself. In the first novel of the series, In The Flesh, Susan Innes is a Scribe with a capital S. Not only does she write the tale, but her magic is to write fiction into reality. And the tale she writes into existence is a twisted one.
From that point on, visits from my main characters outside of the story weren’t all that uncommon, and I suddenly understood why Ward enjoyed those out of novel experiences so much. Lucky for me, imaginary friends are not frowned upon if you’re a novelist. I find the characters do have a lot to say to me, and quite often it’s not what I expected to hear. Most of my encounters with them have ended up on my blog. While I may not be able to rewrite reality like Susan can, I do feel sometimes that I’ve been recruited into Magda’s Consortium of misfits specifically to tell their individual stories. It’s a bit like being called upon to chronicle the lives and times of the Avengers. J
Still, I couldn’t keep from wondering what would happen if I broke the big taboo and actually did write myself, as myself, into one of my stories. I experimented with the idea in my M/M novella, Toys for Boys. While I’m still only the teller of the tale, I take an active role in the story. It was great fun to blur still further those lines between character and writer and to play with the idea that the scribe really might affect reality by writing it. Certainly I’ve discovered that the interaction with characters, which isn’t included in the story, truly does shape what I set down for the reader. It’s a side to writing I would have never expected back in the early days. But I’ve come to believe that those encounters beyond the story give what I share with my readers much more dimension. Besides, my characters are very likely to tell me off in person if I don’t get it right.
Here’s a little excerpt from Toys For Boys
Toys For Boys Blurb
Alpha nerd Will Charles teams up with Caridoc ‘Doc’ Jones in a coast to coast walk across England reviewing outdoor gift suggestions for the Christmas edition of Toys for Boys—an online magazine dedicated to the latest gadgets to tickle a man’s fancy. Will is recording their adventures with the latest smart phone technology. Doc is reviewing the latest outdoor gear. The two quickly discover the great outdoors provides even better toys for boys, toys best shared al fresco, toys that, in spite of Will’s great camera work, will never be reviewed in Toys for Boys.
Note: Toys for Boys has been previously published as part of the Brit Boys: With Toys boxed set.
Boys with Toys Excerpt
“I really am sorry, lads,” the proprietress at the Keld Lodge said, “but I’ve only a tiny single room available which, due to health and safety, I can’t rent as a double.”
“God, I really don’t want to spend another night in that leaky tent,” the dark-haired bloke was barely understandable between chattering teeth. “There must be something else close by.”
“Not within easy walking distance,” the proprietress said. “I can let you put up the tent around the back,” she offered.
“You can even use the showers and the drying room for your wet gear. Of course stay inside by the fire as long as you like.”
The weather had been abysmal when I arrived the night before on a short writing and walking retreat. It was worse today, so I’d spent my time ensconced in the pub’s restaurant at a table by the window looking out onto the misty Yorkshire Dales. It was mid afternoon when the two drenched, bedraggled lads slogged through the door, bringing with them a gust of icy, wet wind. I had just come to the bar to order a pot of tea and, as I stood quietly in the queue behind them, I noticed the blond casting worried glances at his shivering companion.
“Walking the Coast to Coast?” I asked.
“We are,” the dark-haired bloke replied. “Though I’m pretty sure we swam most of it today.”
“You taking the high level route through the mining ruins tomorrow?” I asked.
They both nodded. “Supposed to be sunny,” the blond replied. “Three days of bad weather and last night the tent sprung a leak. We were hoping for a hot meal and a real bed tonight.”
“I’m truly sorry, lads,” the proprietress said. “I wish I could help.”
I’m not sure what inspired me to make the offer, perhaps memories of the times I’d walked cold and wet, but more than likely it was simply because I’m a hopeless romantic and I recognised that the two men were more than just mates out for an adventure.
“Look, why don’t you take my room for the night? I’m on my own and I have a nice double until the end of the week. I can take the single, and then we can switch back tomorrow. Wouldn’t that work?” I asked the proprietress.
“I don’t see why not,” came the reply. “I’ll sort it with housekeeping, and you can work out the details among yourselves.”
“It has a bath and lots of hot water,” I said, recalling what a pleasure an actual bathtub was after a long, cold walk.
“Oh God, you’re a saint,” the dark-haired one said, offering me a blinding smile between chattering teeth.
Still thanking me profusely, they introduced themselves as Will Charles—the dark-haired lad with the bluest eyes I’d ever seen, and Doc Jones—the blond with a lovely Welsh lilt in his rich, baritone voice. They helped me switch my meagre belongings to the smaller room. Then I returned to my table and my tea. I couldn’t help wondering what their story was and just what they might get up to in that deep tub and on that nice bouncy bed. Quite the coincidence that I was here because I had agreed to write a novella for an erotic romance anthology and. With the deadline bearing down on me, I was still drawing a blank, but with Doc and Will’s arrival, I suddenly felt inspired.