Hot Guys, Music, and TV- A Romance Writer’s Guide to Getting Inspired
The last several weeks I have been working tirelessly on fleshing out my modern Gothic story The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall. It’s nearly done and I thought I’d take the time to celebrate and post about what fired up my writing engines. The first thing I did was set the pen and paper aside and unplugged the laptop and…turned on the TV. Yes. Believe it or not, that’s what I did and it had some amazing results. Keeping reading to find out why!
Here’s the blurb for the book:
Bastian Carlisle, the Earl of Weymouth, doesn’t believe in ghosts. Even though his ancestral home, Stormclyffe Hall had been abandoned for the last sixty years, he decides to restore it to its former glory. His plans for renovations are disrupted when a bookish American woman shows up on his doorstep hoping to pry into his family’s tragic history.
Jane Seyton, an American graduate student, is convinced there’s more to the tragedy of Stormclyffe Hall than history tells. Drawn by the need to uncover the mystery buried in the castle’s stones, she comes face to face with the reality that the castle is haunted. Despite a chilling encounter with a woman clad in white, and blue lights that seem to follow her through darkened halls, she is determined to discover the truth, even if it means putting up with the arrogant, yet sexy, Bastian.
As Jane and Bastian are forced to deal with the dark reality of the castle and the timeless, tragic love of Bastian’s ancestors, they find something they weren’t looking for, a passion that ignites their hearts as nothing else could. But an evil supernatural force is determined to keep them apart, forever.
Will they discover that their love and trust in one another is the weapon they need to confront the shadows of Stormclyffe? Or are they doomed to repeat the past?
When it came time to actually get inspired to fleshing out the atmosphere and the gothic feel of the castle and how it would be for the characters to interact there, I started pulling out books on English country homes. There were some fantastic pictures that really helped me visualize the opulence of the bedrooms and the desolation of a lonely castle on a Cliffside. Sometimes a writer's bestfriend is research. If you're coming up dry on descriptions or having trouble visulizing a scene, start off with some good books. Go to Amazon or your favorite bookstore in person or online and just start searching. You would be surprised at the gold mine of pictures available, especially if you're writing historical books or books set in a particular place.
My search for inspiration didn’t stop there. I wanted to find the perfect hero to visualize in the perfect atmosphere to capture the English playboy Bastian, a man in his late twenties who has had much tragedy and mystery surrounding his past. It would take a special actor to capture this essence and I found him! Four days ago I watched the first episode of the new TV series The White Queen on Starz based on Phillipa Gregory’s novel. Max Irons stole my attention completely. (for those of you who don’t know him, he’s the son of Jeremy Irons)
He was Bastian, albeit in a medieval era. I immediately started googling all things Max Irons, getting pictures, watching the other movies he has been in (which I had seen before now, but was happily re-watching). When I came across the short video below which was prepared during a Vanity Fair photo shoot I was shell-shocked. Max Irons is strolling around Althorp, one of the very mansions I used as inspiration for parts of the interior of Stormclyffe Hall and he has a brooding and almost haunted expression in some of the video that was completely reminiscent of my own tortured hero. In the video Max searches through the house for something, but never finds it and all the while he’s surrounded by a beautiful and elegant house. It was the perfect video. Whenever I need inspiration for Bastian, the video is in my YouTube list.
Want to see what video I’m talking about? Check it out below:
And lastly, as an author, sometimes music can be your biggest asset. Prepare a playlist for a scene, or perhaps a playlist for a the hero or the heroine or perhaps a list with songs that remind you of their relationship. It's amazing what you can find out there to get yourself inspired. I turn often to groups like Nox Arcana for my scary suspenseful or haunting music and to Audiomachine and Two Steps From Hell for my epic scores that get me thinking about picture parts of my plots.
Here’s an excerpt from The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall (please pardon any grammatical errors as this has not yet passed through edits):
As she trailed behind Bastian, she was torn between admiring his tight butt molded in charcoal slacks and the beautiful interior of the castle. He hadn’t prepared her for the library though. Nothing could have.
None of the photographs of the Hall had ever revealed the library’s appearance. She had assumed it was because it was like any other library in any other castle or manor house. How wrong she was.
The library was awash with bold reds and a range of pale yellows to deep golds. Wall panels were decorated with art that looked so familiar.
“Is this what I think it is?” She pointed to one of the panels which was a red painted background with a Chinese scene in yellow.
His lips twitched. “If you’re thinking of William Alexander’s book Views of China, then you are correct. Richard apparently enjoyed the text immensely and had an artist replicate many of the etchings.”
Jane smiled. “I can see why. The culture and the life…can you imagine what it must have been like for Alexander?” She knew that William Alexander had been an English watercolorist who had visited China and made drawings of the scenery and life in China. His Views of China was a highly valued work and much admired. Even the Brighton Pavilion Palace boasted similar scenes inspired by William Alexander’s book.
A soft look filled Bastian’s eyes as he considered her words. “I would give so much to see through the eyes of the dead, to see what they have seen, to experience times I cannot fathom.” He looked away then, his eyes roving the two story high shelves of the library, but Jane couldn’t tear her gaze from him.
How many women had fallen under his spell? A man haunted by his family’s past, a dedicated scholar and as brooding and captivating as Lord Byron. If she let her thoughts run away with her, she knew that Bastian would distract her from her thesis. She had to stay focused.
They started moving again and Jane tilted her head back to better admire the lotus flower shaped chandeliers. Intricate paintings decorated each of the petals on every chandelier. In the middle of the wall to the right, a vast fireplace rose up with columns on either side adorned with twining serpents. Unable to resist the urge, she rushed over and touched the pale Swedish green marble that formed the snake. The serpent’s features were sculpted so precisely that she half-expected it to come to life and bite her.
A massive mirror hung above the fireplace and it reflected the windows on the opposite side of the library. A lush landscaped garden seemed to stretch for miles beyond the fireplace. The deceptive placing of the mirror created an enchanting illusion that one could walk through the mirror into an alternate world. Above the mirror a marble dragon perched atop the mirror’s gilt edged frame. Its wings were spread wide, jaws gaping open as it silently roared.
Jane gasped. A sudden flash of something wild and fearful ripped through her before it was gone.
“Jane?” Bastian placed a hand on her shoulder, but then almost immediately he removed it and stepped back from her. “Are you well? You gave a little start just now.”
She hastily nodded. “Yes, I’m fine. It’s just…that dragon. It’s so…” How could she describe having such a visceral reaction to a stone creature?
“Fierce. The beast is fierce.” Bastian tilted his head up to stare at it and crossed his arms over his chest, scowling back at the dragon.
Jane realized then she was still touching the serpent’s head and she pulled her hand away.
“Fierce indeed. I didn’t expect such decorations in a library.”
Bastian chuckled. “It was modeled after the Music room in the Pavilion in Brighton.”
Ahh, I had guessed right then.
“Only my ancestor, Richard, believed something more…medieval would suite Stormclyffe. He modified the dragon’s designs to this above, as opposed to the more complacent looking counterparts in Brighton who merely were decorations to hold the curtains in place.”
The eyes of the dragon seemed to watch her as she shifted from one foot to the other. It’s long, angular snout looked ready to spew fire and puff smoke from its nostrils. The way it hunched over the mirror gave her the distinct impression it wasn’t merely guarding the library, but rather hunting the library’s inhabitants. It was an unsettling thought.
“You don’t like it?” The earl teased her.
Jane nibbled her lip thoughtfully. “It’s not that I don’t like it. I just feel like it’s watching me.”
At her reply, Bastian grinned. “Don’t tell me you are afraid? Isn’t your thesis connected to mysteries and hauntings? That’s what your letters stated. I didn’t think you would be so foolish as to pick a topic that would frighten you.”
Before she even had time to react, she’d socked him in the shoulder again. She’d punched an earl. This was a bad habit she was forming.
He merely caught her by the shoulders, stilling her when she would have retreated from him. Their faces were so close that she could see endless books reflected in his eyes. He moved one hand up to cup her chin and tilted her head back.
“Perhaps,” he murmured huskily. “You should have directed your thesis to something less threatening.”
Brimming with anger, she bit back a viper-like retort and smiled sweetly. “Such as?”
The wicked glint in his eyes warned her he was going to say something infuriating.
“Why not write about the effects of wildflowers in various English counties? Surely that would inspire no fears?”
“Wildflowers?” She knocked his hand away from her chin and turned her back on him. It seemed he enjoyed provoking her. She didn’t have much of a natural temper, but what little was there, he found and prodded repeatedly until she broke and snapped at him.
“Oh come now, Jane,” he said her name so softly, almost a croon, the way a man would to soften his lover’s injured pride. That only made her more upset. The man was a nuisance. Couldn’t he just leave her to the books and get on with his day? Instead he insisted dragging her around the castle and teasing her.
She didn’t reply. Not yet. When he came up behind her and gently turned her body back to face his with a hand guiding her shoulder, she finally had to meet his eyes.
“What’s the matter?” he asked.
“What’s the matter? I could ask you the same question. You’re teasing me and yet you—” She didn’t dare finish. It felt like he was flirting with her, but maybe she was wrong. The last thing she wanted him to think was that she viewed herself worthy of his flirtations or that she wanted them. It would only complicate things. While she didn’t mind complications, as she’d insisted to him earlier, that had been under the pretense of being allowed to stay and conduct her research. She hadn’t actually thought she’d start to succumb to his charms. It was a good thing he had the ability to infuriate her as well. That made him far less attractive.
“Can you please just take me to the records?”
“Of course.” His tone was more reserved again. The wall that had started to crumble between them was solid again. “This way.”
What inspires you to write? Answer below and leave your email for a chance to win a free copy of my paranormal novella Blood Moon on the Rise and a sneak peek at the first chapter of my upcoming Regency romance novel Wicked Designs.