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Karen Ranney | The Magic of Writing


When I told my mother I was going to write books when I grew up, I didn’t think of sitting at a desk. I never once thought of holding a pen, using a computer, agonizing over plots, and wondering about characters.

Hey, I was to be excused. I was five years old at the time.

All I knew was that I was going to create books. I often carried around a book like a prop -- I was particularly fond of Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk because it was blue and dusty and heavy.

How I was going to produce these books was a mystery. I just knew I was. I was so certain of it that I often sat on the front steps with my book on my lap, announcing to anyone who walked by that I was going to be a writer. Until, of course, my mother would find me, scoop me up and say: "Karen, what am I going to do with you?" She sent me off to more productive pursuits like sand painting or dolls.

Today, I write books, but the how of it still escapes me. Writing seems to be a cross between perseverance and magic. Sometimes, I feel like a lion tamer with a whip, forcing those snarling words into place. Sometimes, I stare at the screen, helpless and more than a little wistful.

One of my finished manuscripts rarely resembles the original plot because so many more layers, characters, and issues have been added over time. The manuscript takes on a life of its own. However it happens, it feels like magic, and being part of the process is sometimes fun, sometimes terrifying.

Let me tell you about the process involved in A Highland Duchess.

A Highland Duchess is the second in the Tulloch Sgàthán (Gaelic for mirror) trilogy. The story of the mirror begins with Sold to a Laird and will end with the last book, A Borrowed Scot in March, 2011. Each book can stand alone, but what links them is the story of the mirror and how it passes from woman to woman. A Highland Duchess is the story of a widowed duchess who didn’t want a thing to do with men, marriage, or love. Unfortunately, Fate intervened and she fell in love. However, she was then forced to marry a total stranger.

When I first envisioned Emma, I didn't realize how battered she'd been by what had happened to her over the course of the previous five years. But I soon learned that she was a survivor, someone who wanted to be anyone but the Duchess of Herridge. Emma, for some, might be a heroine without a backbone, and that might be an easy conclusion to reach when viewing her from a 21st century perspective. However, a woman, even a duchess, wasn’t accorded many rights in the 19th century. A man had total control over a woman's fortune. A husband could force his wife to do anything he wanted and could spend her inheritance on anything, even a mistress. He could divorce her easily for adultery, but the process was considerably more difficult for a wife to do the same thing.

Emma had spent the entirety of her mourning period desperately trying not to capture anyone's attention. She wanted to be ignored by society, since they'd spent the last five years speculating about her, her husband, and the horrendous entertainments held at the palatial Chavensworth.

The first book, Sold to a Laird, showed one side of the estate. Emma's experience was totally different. She hated everything about Chavensworth, and when she had to go there to fetch the Tulloch mirror, it was one of the hardest acts she'd ever had to perform.

After Emma is forced to marry, she discovers that not only is her husband a drunkard and verbally abusive, but he's cousin to Ian McNair, the man she loves. Frankly, she wonders if things can get any worse. Unfortunately, for her, they do. However, Emma does develop a sense of rage over how she’s been treated. She acquires the strength to fight back, just when she needs it most.

Emma began as an idea, but as the book developed, she felt more like a real person, a woman of courage and determination, with a heart ready for love.

That, to me, is the magic of writing.




11 comments posted.

Re: Karen Ranney | The Magic of Writing

Obviously,your writing was a little magic with some complexity thrown in. You had your story line in your head, yet you had to research History to make it accurate and believable. In school I was encouraged to write. My Mother discouraged me. I wish my heart had been as strong as yours was. It was always my first love. I can see the passion in your words.
(Peggy Roberson 6:50am August 10, 2010)

I couldn't write to save my life. I admire those who can & do.
(Mary Preston 7:48am August 10, 2010)

I love the way you develope your characters and can't wait to read Emma's story. We all have challenges we must face in life and each of us face them from different perspectives. I admire how you bring that aspect of all of our lives to your characters.
(Jeanne Miro 9:26am August 10, 2010)

I am so glad that you and other authors think this way since we wouldn't have anything to read if you didn't.
(Diane Sadler 10:20am August 10, 2010)

I used to imagine that I had married a real, honest to God, cowboy and had moved out West where I sat outside under the huge blue sky and wrote all day - then I remembered I couldn't write - no matter how much I wanted to be able to!
(Kelli Jo Calvert 4:28pm August 10, 2010)

My mother used to tell me that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing well...the first time!! Obviously, she knew it would be extremely difficult for creative people like you to produce quality 'reads' for the rest of us. thank you for making the effort.
(Susan Driskill 4:32pm August 10, 2010)

I am amazed at how creative people like you are! I enjoy your books keep them coming
(Vickie Hightower 9:05pm August 10, 2010)

I sm always amazed by the different plots that romance authors come up with. My hat's off to all of you!
(Gladys Paradowski 9:15pm August 10, 2010)

Persevering,you knew all along about the need and desire to write. The craft only works when you immerse yourself in it. Not so much magic, but sometimes the words seem to fly from your fingers and write themselves and evolve.
(Alyson Widen 9:22pm August 10, 2010)

I love talking to authors about their different ways of writing, and talking with them. I love to read but can't write to see my life!
dancealert at aol dot com
(Brenda Rupp 10:37pm August 10, 2010)

I love hearing the different processes
and paths authors use to get their
books on paper (or computer). The
number that decided to be authors
when they were just children is
fascinating. I enjoy your books and
would hate to think I would have
missed those stories if you had failed
to follow your dream. Heres hoping
those characters and stories continue
to develop for you.
(Patricia Barraclough 10:44am August 12, 2010)

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