Squawk Radio

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

EMMA HOLLY ASKS: HERE DO THOSE IDEAS COME FROM?

I’m using this blog to out myself, which may not be what Connie expected when she invited me, but I’m sure she’ll survive, so here it is:

I love fairies.

Not *those* kind of fairies--though obviously I’m fond of them--I love the kind with wings. The Tinkerbell kind. The kind only little kids are supposed to believe in. And why do I believe? Because I want to. I want to believe the universe is a friendly, infinitely interesting place, full of helpful beings who are happy to do us human favors when we ask . . . as long as we get out of the way and let them.

Yes, I know this sounds eccentric, but over the years my belief in fairies--and beings like them--has led to some wonderful results.

Not only do fairies call elevators for me when I ask, not only do they retrieve missing keys, I believe they help me write.

Once when an interviewer asked me the question most authors have plenty of chances to get tired of--i.e., “Where do you get your ideas?”--I finally opened my mouth and admitted it. “I get them from the story fairies.”

The interviewer laughed.

Now, before I go on, perhaps I should explain my understanding of what fairies are. Fairies can be mischievous, but they never play mean tricks, only kind ones that are intended to make us laugh. Fairies are a branch of the angel kingdom who are a bit closer to us in vibration than the big fellas (and LOTS of people believe in them). They watch over plants and animals--including our pets. They love to play, they’re much more powerful than their size might indicate, and have silly senses of humor. (My theory is that fairies were behind the invention of knock-knock jokes and puns.) Among the many ways they entertain themselves is by telling stories, which makes them ideal friends and companions for authors. Fairies are not afraid of sad stories, either. They’re hooked up to heaven, and they know that everyone, ultimately, has a happy ending.

So here’s how the fairies helped me with BEYOND INNOCENCE, the first of the two Victorian romances that are being reprinted in BEYOND DESIRE.

I was reading another author’s novel and enjoying it very much except for one thing. There was a fairy in the novel (the *other* kind of fairy) and he was a big, bad villain. Now, there is nothing wrong with making a fairy a villain--gay people come in different flavors just like the rest of us--but it seemed to me I’d read a lot of these fairy villains lately, and if they weren’t villains, they were tragic and sad.

“This is not a trend I can go along with,” I thought, at which point the story fairies began whispering in my ear.

“So what are you going to do about it?” they teased.

“Well, I’d write a story where the fairy was a good person. Oh, he’d have strengths and weaknesses, but I’d let the strengths win out so he could have a happy ending--and his own romance!”

At the time, the scenario the fairies’ challenge inspired seemed theoretical, just a game between me and me until I was “ready” to write a big book, but not long after that--days, as I recall--my brand-new agent asked if I had any ideas for a sexy historical romance. She’d been sending a contemporary erotic romance of mine (PERSONAL ASSETS, for those who are curious) all over New York and no one was biting. Back then, everyone wanted historicals, with which I had no experience. Rather than risk seeming like an author my agent would never be able to sell, I told my doubts to shut up and sort of lied through my teeth. “Sure,” I said. “I have a vague idea for a historical I could work on.”

Thus was born Freddie Burbrooke, younger brother to Edward, and would-be husband to Florence Fairleigh. I wrote Freddie even though I’d never written a historical before. I wrote him though I’d never written a book with more plot than sex before. I wrote him not knowing whether I could sell to an American publisher. Most of all, I wrote him as a leap of faith, and he ended up being one of my favorite characters: funny, loving, lost like most of us are about some things, but in the end as brave as any of us could wish to be. He was my first experience in making an editor cry--which, believe me, is a pleasure! He was the inspiration for what I believe is the best opening line I’ve ever written. Oh, Edward and Florence both overcome important obstacles before they get their happily ever after, but--to my mind--Freddie is the true hero of BEYOND INNOCENCE. Freddie is its heart.

Since then, many stories have come to me in equally magical ways, as the fairies or their counterparts directed a seed of an idea my way. Many times their little hands have tugged me out of plot corners I feared I’d be mired in for good. There were times when I’d be crying in despair over some imagined lack of talent (as more writers do than you might think) and they’d remind me to laugh at myself, or goose a friend to call me out of the blue to go for ice cream, or maybe just toss a book my way that they knew would be the best distraction I could have.

Sometimes the fairies make me giggle over a particularly good way to torment my characters. When they do, I never feel guilty about my amusement. Like the fairies, I know their suffering is temporary. No matter how deep a pit the people I invent dig for themselves, I can get them out. I know their happy ending is guaranteed.

So ask a fairy for a favor today. Have them speed up the elevator or save you a parking spot. They’ll have fun seeing just how well they can delight you, and all you have to do is say thanks!

Emma Holly
Connie Brockway, 10:49 PM
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