When talking about my writing process to book groups, I often compare writing fiction to writing an article or legal brief. Inhaling information and exhaling a document are common disciplines in my writing.
For The Troubles, the second book in the series, I read several books by Gerry Adams, President of Northern Ireland's Sinn Fein party and the voice of Irish resistance to the United Kingdom's presence in the Irelands. I wanted to get a genuine feel for the psychology and emotion behind individuals who would put life and limb in jeopardy to fight against a world power. I'm not a historian or a scholar, but I wanted to get my facts straight. Most importantly, I wanted my characters to be motivated by very genuine concerns.
After reading Adams' books and Margaret Thatcher's autobiography, I found myself taking long walks and mulling over all that I learned and turning conflicting viewpoints over in my head, seeing which facets would fit into the world I was creating inside my story. I knew the shape of my story, but not all of the details and nuances that make a great tale. The political factors provided the hearts and minds of my characters, the horse disciplines the legs, and the tension between the main characters the arms. Allowing myself time to gestate was critical in allowing my story to fully develop.
I'm in the midst of gestating again. Each of my books features an aspect of equine sports. The first was thoroughbred racing, the second steeplechases. This time, the information I'm inhaling involves therapeutic riding. For the past couple of years, I've been a volunteer at a hippotherapy and adaptive riding stable, Windrush Farm. Seeing how the physical and emotional connections to horses can benefit individuals with a variety of challenges has been deeply rewarding. Both The Charity and The Troubles feature characters with special needs. The Charity introduced readers to a school that catered to them. Bringing the therapeutic riding discipline into light is a logical step.
Exactly how that will happen is my challenge. This week I observed a riding class with individuals who have acquired injuries, meaning folks who lost function due to a traumatic injury or serious illness rather than someone born with a disability. I'm in awe of what sitting astride a horse can do for people. When a wheelchair-bound person can experience independence and mobility, something is going very right. I glimpsed how riders regain esteem. I was dumbfounded as I saw horses intuitively understand their riders communicated differently than a able-bodied rider and adapt to them.
This will be a part of the story that gives my book a particular feel. I'm also continuing to research international money laundering schemes, hierarchical management in organized crime (whah!?), IRA cells in the US, and more.
A good book takes time.
Inhale. Gestate. Exhale.