In a Twitter exchange earlier this week, my author friend Jane Cable commented on the importance of writer friends, saying: “They don’t think you’re odd to have voices in your head.”
Although Jane and I were chatting about finding writing inspiration (which usually for me comes at random and whilst doing something else), her comment made me think about those “voices” and what they mean in my writing life.
Even when I’m writing one book, characters from others are in my head and I often ‘live’ with those characters for months or years before starting to tell their stories.
In that way, fictional characters become good friends and it’s always slightly traumatic when I finish a book and have to say goodbye to people I’ve lived with in my head for so long.
Places and setting
The voices in my head also help me build a fictional setting by making me think about the kinds of places a particular character would live, work and even go on holiday.
For me, settings are characters in their own right and by the time I complete the last edits on a story, it’s hard for me to think about characters without the setting of which they’re part.
In The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls, for example, the fictional Malone Street and Quinn’s Bakery are as real to me as places in my own small town and I can picture my characters living their lives there and, although I brought them into being, happily going on new adventures without me after the story I told ends.
Trusting my instincts
Not exclusive to my fiction-writing, the voices in my head are also a helpful guide to decision-making in many aspects of life.
There are times when if I’d only listened to those voices, I’d have avoided mistakes and heartache whilst on other occasions they steered me towards experiences that have enriched my life.
And as I currently write a book that is way out of my comfort zone and is stretching me as a writer in a myriad of new directions, I keep coming back to that inner voice as both inspiration and touchstone.
When the voices are hard to hear
In the past months, there has been a lot of “noise” for all of us—a constant onslaught of bad news and worry both personal and on the national and global scales. As such, I’ve struggled to hear those voices and the world of my imagination has been further away than usual.
While Tech Guy “bellows” on daily conference calls from his makeshift home office, English Rose has online school, and Covid-19 news and social media notifications are too present, it’s been a challenge for me to centre myself in a quiet space to listen to not only my characters but my instincts too.
Yet, when I’m able to take that quiet, introspective time, usually when walking Floppy Ears, I come back to my real life—and fiction—with more focus and renewed energy and creativity.
The friends I’ve made in my writing life are indeed the only ones who can truly understand why I have “voices in my head” (at least without insisting upon immediate medical intervention) and during this time of isolation their emails and social media chats have been even more valuable than usual.
And since one of those friends inspired this blog post, find out more about Jane’s books (and her July release, Endless Skies, a modern day romance with a historical, Second World War twist), by visiting her website here.
If you’d like to give Jane’s writing a try, Endless Skies is currently available for Amazon pre-order at the special price of only 0.99 cents/0.99 pence. Get Endless Skies via a universal buy link here.
It’s so very kind of you to mention me, Jen. There is a fabulous cameraderie around authors, I think because we experience these same things. And there is no better feeling that when your characters are writing their own lines in your head.
You’re welcome, Jane. I’m so grateful for that writerly ‘camaraderie’ of which you’re an important part. And yes, that feeling when your characters are talking to you is the best!
Jen – I love this blog. First, let me say, I feel as though I could walk into Quinn’s bakery right now and know the folks visiting and smell and taste the goodies. The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls is a lovely story. I hear you on shutting down. And also about the character’s you live with for years. I was recently thinking about a WWII story I wrote years ago, and decided I should go back and look at it – it also has a bit of a modern twist, as it has the current day ghost of the women whose story is being told. So when you mentioned your friend’s book of a modern day twist on WWII, I immediately hopped on the computer and ordered it. So thanks, Jen. And Jane, I look forward to seeing your book pop up on my Kindle in July. And I look forward to your next book, Jen. Stay safe – both of you.
Thank you, Deslora. I appreciate your kind words about ‘The Wishing Tree in Irish Falls’ and am so glad you enjoyed my book. The sequel, ‘A Wish in Irish Falls’ will be out in September and I’m working on final edits now.
Your WWII story sounds most interesting and the ‘ghost’ element has links with Jane’s writing. I’m happy I was able to introduce you to a new-to-you author and hope you enjoy ‘Endless Skies.’ I’m a huge fan of Jane’s writing and appreciate you supporting her with a pre-order. As an author yourself, you understand how important those pre-orders are.
As we continue to navigate this uncertain time, stay safe too. Many thanks again.
Thank you, Deslora, in particular for ordering Endless Skies. It seems we both love mixing WW2 with some ghostliness. Both my books with my current publisher are contemporary romances but the look back at WW2 certainly has a spooky element!
Well, I’m with Deslora – I would love to go into the wonderful bakery in Irish Falls. Creating places that are so realistic that the town becomes a character in the story is a hallmark of your writing. It was the same with Firefly Lake. A lot of people must be turning to fiction for solace and escape in these troubled times.
And as a fellow writer, I understand how close you become to your characters and how well you come to know them and care about them. It is a real wrench to say goodbye when the story ends.
I too am looking forward to Jane’s new book. I love her writing and her ability to create atmosphere.
Thank you for saying such kind and lovely things about the world of my books, Susanna. I’m so glad you feel that Irish Falls and Firefly Lake are ‘real’ enough to visit.
I also appreciate that you can relate to the ‘wrench’ of leaving characters behind.
As you know, I’m a fan of Jane’s writing too, especially her complex and relatable characters.