For me, story telling is all about characters. They are the real driving force behind everything and the reason why I write. It’s all about them: what they feel, what they go through. The story is just a channel for them to accomplish their emotional journey.
Honestly, if I could have continued my studies and had gone to university, I think I would have become a shrink. And I think I would have been good at it — or maybe I’d have become a mad scientist and tried to rule the world.
I’m an observer. I’ve been one ever since I was a kid. I’m the kind of person who enjoys being on the outside, looking in. It may sound silly, but it works for me, and you would be amazed the amount of stuff I’ve learned about people and how to interact with others that way. But, most of all, I like to understand what makes people tick — and writing is the perfect outlet for that. (Picture me, saying in an evil voice, ‘Create characters, throw hell at them, and watch them squirm’.)
I always start creating a story with the characters in mind. For the Neve & Egan cases, it all started with one thought: I want a sassy, kick-ass female character. Then I thought: but I want her to have a friend to help her out. And then I thought: but they’re not going to end up together, this is not Santa Barbara. Then they became PIs, and the story happened in London, and one of them is blind. I threw in a handsome DS just for kicks, and the mafia is involved. Suddenly there was this weird guy behind the scene who’s pulling the strings… But, at the heart of it, it was, and will always be, the story of an emotional journey. It’s about getting my character from emotional point A to emotional point B.
In book#1 Neve is a simple student, locked in her dream-world, with a self-imposed non-interaction policy. By the end of the book she’s opening her PI agency, and taking matters in her own hand, with a will do to stuff that matters. And Egan undergoes pretty much the same journey in his own way. He starts off a loner, who’s spent his entire life pushing people away, for the wrong reasons. Against all odds, he ends the book with a friend — a real friend who’s just risked her life to save him — whom he can’t seem to push away as easily as he does everyone else.
I started off book#2 in much the same way I did the first one — with characters and an emotional journey ahead of them. I thought of where they were and where I wanted them to be by the end of the story. Then I found things to throw in their path, and indicators to help them know where to turn, and more things to throw in their path, and, slowly, I built a story around their journey.
I know some people have a completely different approach to storytelling. Some people start by saying, ‘Hey, I want to see a big bad-ass car-chase, and then some guy gets his head chopped off … and wouldn’t it look cool if we could have a huge space-ship that crashes in the Eiffel Tower?’ I’m not saying they’re wrong. I’m not saying my way is better than someone else’s. I believe there are as many paths as there are people walking. What works for me, may not work for you. But, sometimes people ask me how I invent my stories, and this is it. No matter your approach, you should always keep in mind what’s important to you. For me, it will always be the characters.
You and I have very much the same approach to writing. I use my plots to push my characters from “emotional point A to emotional point B” as you put it. My characters are always the most important part of my stories to me, and they are the reason I write. That may be what I love so much about your books; they’re about people first, and events second. I also highly commend your decision not to hook Egan and Neve up; I’m not big on romance plots, and that would have destroyed them for me. I was very relieved when you threw in handsome DS Stenson for Alexa, because it made it clear that she and Ashford were, and would remain, just friends.