Sunday, 13 November 2011

The missing muse

Some great news to start the week:  I’ve been nominated for a Series Career Achievement Award by the Romantic Times. The RT Career Achievement Awards honour authors for their entire body of work throughout their career rather than for a specific book.  Nominees are selected by RT’s staff of over 50 reviewers representing the readers’ voice in the women’s fiction industry, so it’s a great honour and obviously I am thrilled.

There is something a little ironic about it, too, as I have been struggling to get going on my next book and as always when I hit a block, I immediately decide my career is over/I’m never going to be able to write again/will have to sell the house etc., etc. (Overreact?  Moi??)

It’s all very frustrating as I was all fired up go when I realised that my muse had gone AWOL.  I called for her, but she wouldn’t come, no matter what blandishments I offered. 

At first I wasn’t too worried.  I made excuses for her. She’d had a lot of deadlines, she deserved a bit of a break.  My nose (still looking fairly gruesome but much better) had made it hard for her to concentrate, poor thing.  Then I started to get cross.  I was sitting here, ready to work, and the least she could do was show up and do her bit.

But no. 

A gin and a bath: what more could a muse want?
One of the sessions in my writing course is about dealing with block, and I was even reduced to getting out my notes.  I tried writing through it, and didn’t get anywhere.  I tried drawing up a character cluster and identifying goals and motivations. I tried writing a description of the heroine from the hero’s POV, one of Michelle Douglas’s suggestions (at that point my muse did, in fact, poke her head in the cat flap, as it were, but ran away when I attempted to coax her inside.  Should have ignored her, I suppose).  I tried gin, I tried a bath.


Exasperated, I dragged a key member of my plotting team off for a walk.  George was the problem.  I didn’t have a sense of him at all.  By the end of the walk, we’d established that both George and Frith were problems, and neither of them were characters anyone would care about. 

And then, just when I’d given up on her and was cooking for friends arriving that evening, who should turn up but my muse, without a word of apology for her lateness, but bearing an idea that would turn everything around.  Now I know why George is the way he is, and why he is heroic in spite of appearing, on the face of it, a failure. 

Then we had a discussion over dinner about hen parties and various associated activities, and I learnt about the Mr & Mrs questionnaire.  This may be old news to you, but I had never heard of it before.  Apparently, you ring up the groom and ask him various questions to see how well he knows his bride to be, and then you compare his answers with hers, presumably over a bottle of wine.  So you can ask him whether he knows what her favourite sandwich filling is, or what their favourite book is etc.  I’ve now got a great idea for a scene, and all at once the characters and the plot are coming to life. 


Now all I have to do is start writing.   (Muse?  Muse?  Where are you going?  Come back!)

While she’s being skittish, I’ll start by drawing up the questionnaire Frith and George discuss in the book.  So far I’ve got:

What’s his/her favourite sandwich filling?
What is his/her pet hate?
What does s/he do when s/he is nervous?
What is his/her worst habit?
What’s the name of his/her first pet?
What would his/her dream holiday be?

Any other ideas very welcome!


  1. Hi, Jessica. Great post. Congratulations!
    You might consider his/her how they met, what they said, what they were wearing, favorite hobby. I'm always blown away at how much detail my husband actually remembers! And how some doesn't coincide with mine! Lol

  2. I hadn't heard of the Mr & Mrs questionnaire either but I love the concept.

    My suggestions:
    What was he/she wearing when you met?
    What would he/she grab in a fire?

    I hope your muse behaves herself!

  3. Welcome back to the muse! They are such flighty creatures, taking off without a word and not even calling home.

    And for an idea, an old actress trick - start with the feet. What are their favourite shoes.

  4. This is brilliant - I love all these suggestions ... and what's more, so does my muse, who is peering over my shoulder even now, going 'Aha ...!' Thank you all!

  5. Hi Jessica,

    All good suggestions above!
    Congratulations on the RT Career Achievement Award nomination!

    All the best!

  6. Thank goodness your Muse is being more co-operative! I have just finished reading The Secret Princess and Ordinary Girl in a Tiara and loved them both, so am looking forward to reading more. Congratulations on the RT Achievement Award nomination. Good luck. :o)