Where Do Ideas Come From? by Author Robin Caroll

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I’m often asked how I get ideas for my books. I always want to answer, “Where don’t I get ideas?” 

I get character ideas by people watching. Airports are especially great outlets for this. I watch people. I study them. Yes, even been known to snap a picture of one with my cell phone because of a certain hairstyle, or quirk, or expression. All of this information filters down and finds its way into a character. 

I also get ideas from watching documentaries. For instance, the germ of an idea for my most recent book, Hidden in the Stars, came about because I’d watched a documentary of the successful Russian ballet company. It was in my brain when I flipped channels after it was over and saw the longest news segment of all the Olympic-hype. My mind immediately went to playing the “what if” game... What if I blended ballet and Olympics? What if I made some of the most beautiful ballet costumes integral to solving the crime in the book? And thus, the basic concept for Hidden in the Stars was born.

Ideas are everywhere, you just have to look for them. Now, back to the game. What if a writer was on tight deadline? What if she kept playing on email and the internet instead of making her word count? What if...?

Robin Caroll is the author of 22 published novels. Her books have been named finalists in contests such as the Carol Awards, HOLT Medallion, Daphne du Maurier, RT Reviewer’s Choice Award, Bookseller’s Best and Book of the Year. She gives back to the writing community by serving as conference director for American Christian Fiction Writers.

For more information about Robin Caroll and her books, visit her online home at www.robincaroll.com. She is also active on Facebook and Twitter. 


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Good morning, BB fans! Thanks to everyone who participated in our "puzzling" Friday giveaway! Keep all those facebook and Twitter notifications, coming!

This week's winner is: 

Melanie Backus (
mauback55 at gmail dot com)  - Chapel Springs Revival by Ane Mulligan.
Congratulations! Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book.

Sunday Devotional: The Former Days

 (This post first appeared February 17, 2013.)

“I suppose I shouldn’t look back,” my friend said, reminiscing about skiing with her husband in the early years of her marriage—something that, years later, seems a foolish indulgence. Ministry, family, financial pressures all combine to make her older, her outlook wiser and more realistic ...

Or is it?

I thought about her words for a moment. “Why not? I asked. “Be glad you have those memories to look back on.”

Am I suggesting she waste valuable time mooning over a past that she can’t bring back? Absolutely not. There’s a balance to be struck, after all. “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’” Solomon admonishes in Ecclesiastes. We do ourselves no favors to be so mired in the past we can’t function in the present.

On the other hand, our past and our memories of it are exactly that—ours. They’re part of the fabric of who we are, another element in the tapestry that God promises He will work together for our good.

I wonder if it isn’t time for us to stop feeling guilty about where our pasts have led us.

If it was sin, then call it so—lay it before God and move on. But the blessings we enjoyed? Wouldn’t it be better to do as the recent worship song says, take every blessing He's poured out and offer it in praise?

And not only for past blessings, but present ones.

“When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. Beware that you do not forget the LORD your God....lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up....then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth ...” (Deuteronomy 7:10-14, 17-18)

The last thing any of us wants is to be in a place down the road where we are asking ourselves, Why were the former days better...? I don’t believe in a prosperity gospel or in formulas that guarantee desired outcomes of our Christian life. But could it be that it’s the practice of reveling in God who is blessing us, and not just in the blessings themselves, that keeps us in the place of blessing? Or that God brings us to those places of dryness to make us lift our heads and remember that all blessings are from His hand, whether past or present?

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the LORD.
...Shall we indeed accept good from God,
and shall we not accept adversity?”
In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 1:21, 2:10)

Weekly Drawing ~ Ane Mulligan

Friday, September 19, 2014

It's Fun Friday at The Borrowed Book! This week's prize is available to residents inside the continental US only.

To enter:

Leave the time it took you to complete the puzzles in the comments section as well as your email address for notifying you if you've won. Winners will be drawn from ALL of the times, so the person with the fastest time may not be the actual winner, but by leaving your time, you double your chances.

Want another entry? Tweet your puzzle time and mention The Borrowed Book, get another entry. RETWEET our Tweet, get two entries!

Post your puzzle time on BB's Facebook wall and...you guessed it...get another entry!

Post it on your OWN Facebook wall and you could get as many as FIVE entries.

It's all a way to spread the word about the great giveaways on BB. So c'mon! Help us spread the word, and have a little fun at the same time. Enter all weekend long! Winners will be announced Sunday night at midnight.

This week's puzzle feature is brought to you by Ane Mulligan and her newest release, Chapel Springs Revival.

 Click to Mix and Solve

A Visit with Author Ane Mulligan

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. She's a novelist, a humor columnist, and a multi-published playwright. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, she resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband , their chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. Chapel Springs Revival is her debut novel.  "With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel." You can find Ane at her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

Have you always wanted to be an author? If not, what made you decide to write, and how long have you been at it?

I had no idea I would be a writer. I was five years old when I saw Mary Martin in PETER PAN, and I was struck with a fever from which I never recovered. Stage fever. I submerged myself in drama through high school and college, but, alas, Broadway never found my phone number.

As a kid, I was too ADHD to sit and write, but I loved to tell stories. Back in the stone age of my youth it was called lying. I spent a lot of time in the principal's office, until one day, he listened to me tell one. He recognized the future writer and I was off the hook. Until I grew up and learned to direct my energy, I played out my stories with my dolls, some lasting for weeks.

In 1996, I began writing plays for my church. My first one was published through LifeWay and the editor took everything I sent after that. It wasn't until I had left a job and was looking for something to do and Hubs said, "Why don't you write a book?"

And with those words, the idea was born for my first ever novel. Yvonne Anderson was one of the first people who critiqued my work. As a playwright, I knew dialogue. But that was all I knew. POV? Never heard the term. Omniscient? That's what God was. Show don't tell? How do I tell a story without telling? Yikes! But Y stuck with me, along with some other crit partners.

How sweet of you to say that, Ane! Really, though, we learned from each other along the way. What do you love about being a writer, and what do you like the least?

It's not that I dislike it, but creating the first draft is the hardest for me. I love the editing process, and my favorite part of all is the building of characters. I love to brainstorm and to dig deep into their psyches to discover their fears and secrets.

How do you get your best ideas?

From life. My debut book, Chapel Springs Revival, came from a conversation I overheard at church. Well, she was sitting right behind me. I couldn't avoid hearing. The young woman said, "I just learned that God has a perfect mate picked out for me, so I'm going to divorce John* and go find him."

In the sequel Chapel Springs Survival, I used something out of our son's life. There are stories everywhere, if you just look.

Writing is a sedentary occupation. What do you do for exercise?

I have a walking route I like. It starts at the coffee pot, goes through the refrigerator and past the chocolate cupboard before ending up at my writing chair. 

Umm... that doesn't count, dear.

What do you mean? Well, okay. I go to the gym three times a week with a good friend who feeds me story fodder.

Do you have any pets? Do you own them, or they you?

Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows all about our English mastiffs. When our old dog died, I didn't want another one. I wanted some time to travel, but Hubs and Son couldn't stand it. Within two months, we drove to Alabama and picked out Shadrach.

Christmas 2012, Hubs and Son decided we needed another one to keep Shadrach company. I said absolutely not. Absolutely Not's name is Oliver Twist.

Shad is eight years old and a respectable 220 pounds. Ollie will be bigger. At 18 months, he's already taller than Shadrach, and the vet thinks he should come in about 235 when he's full grown.

Mastiffs are like two-year-olds. They definitely own us.

A 200-pound two-year-old? Now there's a horror story waiting to be written.

Thanks, Ane, for stopping by and making us laugh. (You're so good at that!)

Readers, don't forget to come by tomorrow, when you can enter to win a free copy of Ane's debut novel, Chapel Springs Revival!

What's the Deal with Backstory? by Author Ane Mulligan

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Contrary to popular belief, backstory is a good thing. Now, before y'all call for a lynching party, let me tell you what it' good for and what it's not good for. After all, backstory helps you, the author know your character. What makes her tick? What formed her worldview? Why does he dislike women who have a good business head? 

Let's get the "not" out of the way first. The reader does not need to know the backstory of your characters to understand the plot—at least not in the beginning. A bit of mystery about the character is a good thing. It draws the reader onward to find out why this otherwise nice guy is so antagonistic to the heroine.

I always tell new writers to think of it this way. You're attending a party, and you host introduces you to a new neighbor. You start off the conversation by telling her your life history, and the new neighbor will be in jeopardy of whiplash, looking for the host to rescue her. 

Readers who are bombarded with backstory in the first few chapters of a novel with either ski over it or close the book for good. Either way, your time has been wasted by putting it in.

Now, let's look at what backstory is good for and how to discover it. First, I conduct a character interview (CI). Think of that as a journalist interviewing a subject for an article. In my CI, I dig and prod for the character's secrets and for his or her fears. What happened in their childhood that had a major effect of them?

After I've completed the CI, I write a stream of consciousness (SOC) backstory. This is where I go back two or more generations. People are the product of their ancestors' worldview. For example, let's say your great grandparents lived through the Great Depression. They probably could get more for a quarter than anyone you know. They taught your grandparents, who taught your parents. But did your parents continue that trait or did they, because of their more affluent status, break away from it?

It's within the SOC backstory where I discover so much about my character. Besides their worldview, I learn the lie they believe about themselves, and that lie will color their motivation, and that motivation will drive their plotline. 

In my debut novel, Chapel Springs Revival, my secondary lead, Patsy, comes from a loving home. Her mother is a well-known artist and her father a country doctor. She grew up without them around a lot. One might think her lie is that she's unloved, but that wasn't it. Patsy believes she's helpless – powerless to fix things. In her own life, she falls victim to it by ignoring problems. If she doesn't acknowledge it, it doesn't exist. 

Your characters will either fall victim to their lie or they will try to prove it wrong. Remember, the key is: Lie drives motivation drives plotline.

Much of what I learn never makes it into the manuscript, but if makes the characters come alive. They're three-dimensional and when they are real to you, the author, they become real to the reader. 

One of my beta readers said after reading Chapel Springs Revival, "I love the people. I want to find out more about their lives."

And that's the goal for backstory. 

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, Ane has worn many different ones: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, multi-published playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction (try saying that three times fast). She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two very large dogs. Her debut book, Chapel Springs Revival released Sept 8th.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Good morning, BB fans! Thanks to everyone who participated in our "puzzling" Friday giveaway! Keep all those facebook and Twitter notifications, coming!

This week's winner is: 

Patricia T (
patucker54 at aol dot com)  - Crooked Lines by Holly Michael.
Congratulations! Thank you all so much for stopping by The Borrowed Book.