Thanks for hosting me today.
The title of this post is taken from a song title, which is also the title of a mini-series I really enjoyed about two musicians during WWII.
Shadowboxing, the first book in my WWII Echoes Rising series, sticks in my mind as one of my earliest stories in which I disagreed with a character as to which way a particular scene should go. As I write a new story or series, I often get to know the characters as the story progresses. While I make notes of their descriptions and backgrounds before I start writing, their personalities are not always how I imagined them to be. Although I have a bullet pointed storyline in place, I’m also aware of the need for it to be flexible.
I started work on Shadowboxing over ten years ago, and it soon morphed from one book into a three book series, and the characters began to ‘do their own thing’. I got to a certain crucial part of the storyline and decided one of the character’s next course of action needed to be such and such. Said character wasn’t having a bar of it. I argued and said oh yes he was. Short story is that Shadowboxing came to a grinding halt and no writing was done until I changed my mind grudgingly and wrote the scene the way he wanted it. In hindsight it worked much better the way it was finally written, and meshed much better with his character—not just who he was then, but who he has become over the course of the next two books.
It’s the last time I’ve ever argued with a character. Now I just go with the flow. I’ve had characters not only change short scenes which impact the rest of the story, but totally detour the plot along the way. The Echoes Rising series is particularly bad for this kind of thing. At first Kristopher was the culprit, then Michel joined in during Winter Duet—book 2. I’m currently writing Comes a Horseman—book 3—and Matt not only derailed the plot but introduced a character who isn’t in the outline, and is now playing a crucial part in the rest of the story. Still, it’s better than the 10K detour that took place in Winter Duet. Or perhaps it’s just not quite as obvious as that was.
I get strange looks and comments from non-writers when I mention this kind of stuff, but I’ve talked to a lot of writers who have characters who don’t behave as well. I’m not sure whether it’s reassuring or not to know I’m not alone in this.
Taking a step back, I think it’s because as I write, the characters become very real. I’ve found when a scene is flowing really well, it feels more as though I’m taking dictation. I have a habit of speaking aloud what I’m typing as I write, and often when this kind of inspiration hits, I have to speed up my typing to keep up. Perhaps it’s a part of my subconscious exerting its creativity? I kind of like the idea of the characters misbehaving. Or as they put it, they “Ain’t Misbehavin’”.
Apart from a good plot, it is the characters who suck me into a book when I read. One of my favourite things about writing is getting to know the characters who take life through my stories. Occasionally I fool myself into thinking I know them well, and then something will happen in the story that throws me. It’s usually something that makes for a better story too.
About the Book
Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.
For the team sent by the Allies—led by Captain Bryant, Sergeant Lowe, and Dr. Zhou—a simple mission escalates into a deadly game against the Gestapo, with Dr. Lehrer as the ultimate prize. But in enemy territory, surviving and completing their mission will test their strengths and loyalties and prove more complex than they ever imagined.
Buy Link: DSP Publications
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m just not used to all this exercise.” Kristopher smiled sheepishly. “I’ve spent the last few years sitting behind a desk. I’ll be all right in a moment once I’ve caught my breath.” He rubbed absently at his left shoulder, not quite hiding the sharp intake of breath, and bit his upper lip. “The ground is harder than it looks.”
“Do you want me to look at that shoulder for you?”
Kristopher shook his head.
Once they found somewhere safe to hide for what was left of the night, Michel would insist on examining it. He and Kristopher needed to get out of the park as quickly as possible before the Gestapo arrived. The Michaelskirche was probably the wisest choice for shelter under the circumstances. Hopefully the two Allied soldiers had already reached Matt, and the mission could proceed even though the plans their superiors were expecting were now carried in the mind of a man who could reproduce them.
If not…. Michel mentally shook his head, his mind working through possible options. Apart from Father Johannes, Elise and Clara were his only contacts in Berlin.
“If you change your mind, let me know.” Michel wasn’t going to push the issue just yet, but he kept an eye on Kristopher all the same. They began walking briskly, each with one hand resting on a hidden firearm that hopefully wouldn’t be needed. It was after curfew, and anyone caught breaking it would be automatically arrested.
It was only a few moments later that Kristopher began to slow his pace. Something was definitely wrong. His hand dropped to his side; he seemed to be favoring his shoulder.
“I haven’t changed my mind. We need to get out of the park.” Kristopher was certainly stubborn. He winced again, his steps becoming more deliberate.
“Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I’m. Fine.” Kristopher’s answer was through gritted teeth. Michel placed a gentle hand on his arm, making him stop under a nearby light. Kristopher let out a small moan of pain and swayed. Michel hooked his arms around Kristopher’s waist, pulling him close. Resting his head on Michel’s shoulder, Kristopher leaned in, allowing himself to be held.
“I’ve got you,” Michel whispered soothingly. Kristopher’s breathing was ragged, his face covered in beads of perspiration. Now that his attention wasn’t totally focused on putting one foot in front of the other, it was more difficult to hide whatever was wrong.
His eyes glazed over; he was fighting to stay conscious.
Jerking free from Michel’s embrace, Kristopher reached inside his shirt, his hand brushing gingerly against his shoulder. He bit down on his lip but didn’t manage to hide a murmur of pain. A frown creased his forehead when he removed his hand and held it up to the light, staring at it. “Michel,” he said slowly, “is that blood?”
About the Author
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.
Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.