TART NOTES: Award winning author Charlotte Hughes began her writing career publishing newspaper and magazine articles before becoming a New York Times best selling author. Charlott makes her home in Beaufort, S. C. Best known for her FULL series with Janet Evanovich, she has written over 40 books, ranging for the 3 mysteries she wrote for Avon to Mira’s HOT SHOT. Her newest release, NUTCASE centers on Atlanta psychologist Kate Holly and the humorous antics of her friends, family and patients. In the process she learns that the life of a psychologist is enough to drive anyone nuts
How to Stay Passionate About Your Writing
by Charlotte Hughes
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t felt passionate about anything since Jiffy peanut butter came out with a low-fat brand.
Seriously, though, we have to hold tight to the passion that led us to write in the first place. Nobody has ever succeeded in anything they didn’t feel passionate about. Famous actors, athletes, and visionaries like Bill Gates, and, yes, published authors would never have found the motivation to work tirelessly at what they do unless they first felt the desire in their hearts.
I felt great passion when I set out to write my first book or I would never have found the courage to try. I would never have gone back to school, read dozens of how-to-write books, joined writers’ organizations and critique groups had I not believed. Nor would I have written long into the night while my family slept had I not cared so passionately about the characters in my head.
But how does an author with a slew of published books to her credit keep that passion alive? It is too easy to become jaded in this industry. The enthusiasm and zeal we once felt is often clouded with deadlines, contracts, advance money, reviews, print-runs, sales figures, editors coming and going, and the list goes on and on. How do we keep that fire burning inside when the business of writing becomes so businesslike?
For me, it all comes down to my characters, people who inhabit my head, who have with a story to tell and who don’t particularly care about the state of the publishing industry. By the time they show up in my life, they are about to, or already have, been faced with life-altering challenges. A husband and wife separate, a child is missing, someone is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit or they’re in mortal danger. It’s my job to listen and record, and before long, they become living, breathing human beings with hopes and dreams and disappointments. They become so real to me that by the time I finished my story, I grieve their departure.
When I coauthored the FULL HOUSE series with Janet Evanovich, I lived with the major characters through six books and more than three years. Day after day, they were with me, as close as my fingertips on the keyboard. Sometimes they made me howl with laughter, other times they’d get themselves into a fix, and I had no idea how to get them out of it. When they were sad I was sad with them. Finishing the last book of that series left me drained and a little bereft. As I cleared my desk, I let go of them and the town in which they lived, and now, several years later, I like to think they all lived happily ever after.
Co-authoring the FULL HOUSE series prepared me to write one of my own, and it wasn’t long before new characters appeared; ready to share their lives with me.
Thus was born my CRAZY series, a story about female psychologist Kate Holly and her crazy family, friends, and patients. I had to smile. I knew Kate and I were going to have a good time getting to know each other. There was one problem. All Kate wanted was a normal life. But normal is boring, and I wanted to stir things up. So in the first book of the series, WHAT LOOKS LIKE CRAZY, (Mar. 2008), I put Kate on the tenth floor of her office building with a wanna-be jumper.
In order to fall in love with your characters you have to know them inside-out. You have to know their history and what motivates them. You have to challenge them. When Kate’s story begins, she has been separated almost six months from her firefighter husband Jay Rush, the love of her life, because she constantly fears losing him to what she calls the Fire Gods. Kate has good reason to be afraid. Her father, also a firefighter, died in the line of duty when she was ten years old. It would have been easy to blame Jay for not changing careers, but how do you convince a man to walk away from a job when he genuinely cares about serving and protecting? A man who is deeply committed to saving lives?
How could I not find delight in the other characters that play important roles in Kate’s life? A kooky mother and aunt, twin sisters who still dress alike despite being in their mid-fifties, who run a junk business and are known as the Junk Sisters? How could I not adore Kate’s best friend and receptionist, Mona, a rich young widow who is determined to catapult Kate to fame so she can have her own TV show like Dr. Phil? And how about Kate’s old flame, psychiatrist Thad Glazer who wants her back in his life, his hot tub, and his bed? The two share patients and consult with each other. The only problem, Thad won’t help Kate out of a jam unless she describes the panties she’s wearing.
And then there is Kate’s zany patients. The only problem, one of them might just be trying to kill her!
The second book of the series, NUTCASE, arriving in bookstores Feb. 24th, stole my heart as well. Although the books stand alone, the characters are ongoing and just as wacky, and there is always a good mystery and the chance that Kate might not make it out alive.
Again, passion comes from the heart, and there is little logic involved. It doesn’t care if you make the lists. But if you’re passionate about your characters it will show in your work. Readers will become just as passionate as you are about the people in your stories, and when they do they’ll be in line for your next book and the one after that. How can you not succeed?