Friday, May 27, 2011

What the Hell is "That Falconer Woman"?

So a number of people have asked me about the novel I'm working on, and I thought I'd plop together a blog post explaining a bit about what it is and how it's progressing. It actually began last year on November 1, when I got a wild red hair up my ass and decided to participate in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, the goal of which is to write a 50,000 word novel in exactly thirty days. Now, I've never been able to tell a story in less than about 75k, so I knew that whatever I created during NaNoWriMo would only be the beginnings of whatever story I decided to tell.

I did it, though -- I wrote 55,000 words in 30 days. Some days I wrote a lot, some days I wrote a little, and a couple of days I said the hell with it and wrote nothing at all, but come midnight on November 30, my tally was past the requisite 50k. You don't win anything other than bragging rights and the knowledge that you sat your ass in a chair long enough to write fifty thousand words, which is more than a lot of prospective authors write in a lifetime. And that's what I needed, was the Ass In Chair time.

The story itself began -- and I did whip up an outline the last week of October, which is within the rules -- as a Regency-era romance, but quickly evolved into a murder mystery as soon as a dead footman turned up in the garden. I couldn't help it, he was just THERE, with his head bashed in, and someone had to take the blame for it, despite the fact that lust and romance were going on at the same time.

Character names have changed a few times, but during NaNo what I worked on was this:

Cordelia Falconer is a widow returning to England after a fifteen-year-absence for her younger sister Ophelia's wedding. Ophelia is to marry Henry Brompton, the only son of a landholding family. Henry's mother is less than thrilled about the match, especially since Ophelia's family has a bad reputation - Cordelia left England under scandalous circumstances, and her brothers are known gamblers and rakes. Invited to a house party to announce Henry and Ophelia's engagement, Cordelia finds herself drawn to the mysterious Rhys Aubrey, who reveals little about himself beyond his desire for Cordelia.

During the engagement ball, a footman is found murdered - and scandal threatens to erupt when Henry learns that Ophelia was the last one to see the dead man alive. Cordelia and her teenage daughter, Lydia, are certain Ophelia couldn't have committed the crime, but Ophelia refuses to tell anyone what she may have seen. Cordelia and Aubrey work together to solve the mystery, hoping to exonerate Ophelia before the magistrate can arrest her for murder and ruin them all.

So, that's the gist of it, and the first draft is what I completed in November. What I'm currently working on is fleshing out details, making supporting characters have more depth (and eliminating a completely unnecessary parental figure), doing research on the Regency era, and so forth. Oh, and Cordie and Rhys Aubrey are gettin' busy in the billiard room. And a stable at an inn. And perhaps the conservatory, if all goes well.

Other characters of importance include Cordie and Ophelia's brothers, Tybalt and Mercutio (their father was a devotee of the Bard), Brompton's cousin Captain Thomas Heyward, Reverend Augustus Littleberry - who had hoped to marry Cordelia long before she ran off with that footman fifteen years ago, cadaverous magistrate Providence Adkyns, and the perfectly awful Mrs. Brompton.

When I write a character, I have to have an idea in my head of what the person looks like - even if it's just a general sort of appearance. I've got a file of images of what I imagine each of these individuals looks like, and it helps me give them thoughts and ideas and words and personalities of their own. For example, Cordelia has always looked like Kate Winslet, from the moment I first stuffed her into stays and a Spencer jacket. Rhys Aubrey looks like Rufus Sewell, with his high cheekbones, brilliant eyes and a Yorkshire accent.

I imagine Henry Brompton and Thomas Heyward as Henry Cavill and Tom Hardy (odd coincidence about the names here, but that's the way it turned out). Ophelia looks like Romola Garai, and Lydia like a redheaded Haylee Steinfeld.

Tybalt and Mercutio are especially easy -- the delicious Damian Lewis and his doppelganger Stephen Campbell Moore, without a doubt. Round that out with Ray McKinnon as Providence Adkyns, Helen Mirren as Mrs. Brompton, and Philip Seymour Hoffman as Rev. Littleberry, and it's a collection of characters to be reckoned with indeed.

So, what's the current status of That Falconer Woman? Well, I'm on round two, as I mentioned, and it's progressing nicely. After letting it sit and percolate for a few months, I've done some significant revisions, and I'm hoping to have it finished by the end of summer. That way, I'll be ready to start shopping it around to agents and publishers in the fall.

Besides, I've got to get my schedule cleared before NaNo 2011 begins!


  1. I cannot even FATHOM writing 50k in one month's time! I am presently five years into a series [on a journey into the afterlife] and have only JUST conquered 50,000+ words... in the 1st book OF FIVE!!!! Eeeesh.

    I'm afraid it's just part of my personal process to be pain-stak-ing-ly SLOW. Guess that is why I've always related to Red Smith's quote -- "Writing is easy. Just sit down at a typewriter and open up a vein." Indeed!!

    The Falconer Woman sounds thrilling. Your love of Jane Austen is tastefully evident. Shakespeare as well! By the way -- I heard of an unfinished Jane Austen novel going up for auction soon [in London]!!

    I wonder if you'll act as my Sensei in the overwhelming world of publishing... you know, in -- oh, about three decades when I actually finish the novel!! Deadlines and I -- we've never been cozy. :)

    Who knows though... maybe a 'wild red hair' will light a wild red fire under my ass to help pick up the pace!

    Happy bleeding [I mean, writing].
    Em Graves

  2. You should totally join me for NaNo 2011! It's a lot of fun, and having other writers as friends on there helps as a form of support. If you decide to do it, I'm registered on there as PattiTheWicked.

    And yeah, 50k in a month is HARD. There's no way I could maintain that pace all year long, unless I had a fleet of personal assistants, a cook and a maid to do all my other day to day stuff. But just knowing that you CAN do it is worth a lot - plus, as I said, it gave me a significant chunk of workable manuscript to finish!