The arsonist I’d created began to merge with the characters I’d created in A Band of Roses. With Princess Talty, my indomitable veteran of “otherworld” adventures, and the rest of her spirited royal clan still fresh in my mind, I couldn’t help wondering how the gallant descendants of High King Brian Boru would deal with the political tangle the Corrib Gas Field had become.
My husband and I had already planned to visit Ireland in the summer of 2005. We decided to visit the Mayo bogs. As we weren’t brave enough to drive on the opposite side of the road back then, we hired a driver and headed north.
We passed through some exquisitely scenic country, the Atlantic Ocean to our left, the Nephin Mountains to our right. I didn’t realize we’d reached the bogs until the driver pointed them out. They might have been rolling meadows, but the blankets of green weren’t grass. They were scraw, the layer of tough fibrous sod that covered the peat, or turf, as it’s called in Ireland. Masses of white bog cotton and yellow buttercups painted the scraw. Cows and sheep roamed everywhere. Rows of shrubbery divided the bumpy land into square patches. New homes and crumbling old cottages dotted the landscape.
On we went until we saw a sign for the Corrib Gas Terminal. Down the road, men in hard hats were hard at work behind a chain link fence, large sections of blue pipe awaited installation, and protestors sat in parked cars. They had set out hand-painted signs that said things like, “We are Irish citizens, not Shell subjects.”
The next morning, we learned that Royal Dutch Shell had sought and obtained a court order for the arrest of five Mayo men who refused the company access to their land. The men spent ninety-four days in prison.
As I worked on Fiery Roses, a story filled with fictitious villains and heroes, I followed the Irish news online, waiting for some resolution to the increasing hostility in the Rossport area. I finished writing the book a year ago, after spending more than three years tidying up all the imaginary plot twists with the help of make-believe characters. Sadly, the real situation in north Mayo remains unresolved.
Born and educated in Boston, Massachusetts, Pat grew up in a family full of music and myths that have found their way into her stories. She is a member of The New Hampshire Writers’ Project, Seacoast Writers’ Association, Romance Writers of America, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A frequent visitor to Ireland, she lives in New Hampshire, where she is currently working on her next novel
by Amber Leigh Williams
You know that scene in Becoming Jane in which Anne Hathaway stops everyone in the middle of a conversation to jot down a snippet of cynical dialogue? Austen fans remember it as a particularly snooty line of Lady Catherine de Bourg’s in Pride and Prejudice. Every author who watched this movie laughed and said, “I’ve so done that!”
It doesn’t matter where I am: eavesdropping in line at the post office, listening to the couple behind me while shelving books at my day job, catching up with family, getting the local dirt at the beauty shop…. Dialogue comes so easily to me because down here in the South, people like to talk about anything and everything—and oh so colorfully! It’s like a smorgasbord of dialogue possibilities! When writing my first western romance BLACKEST HEART, I referred to the more folksy snippets I’d filed away for such an occasion. For example, my father was raised in the country and he has so many wonderful rural southern sayings. While talking about my dance-happy grandparents, he said, “Those two have got more moves than a can of worms.” I got such a kick out of the phrase, when the heroine from BLACKEST HEART was sitting in a honky-tonk, I pasted it in to describe a young two-steppin’ couple. My grandmother has a funny habit of saying “Shut up!” in place of “No way!” And heavy on the “u.” It gets a laugh every time, especially this Christmas while inspecting her first digital camera. My uncle said, “And you can download the pictures directly into your digital photo frame.” She laughed and said, “Yeah right.” “No, no. I’m serious.” Her jaw drop and she blurted, “ShUt up!” We’re still laughing over it. And, yep, I can’t wait to find the perfect place to use it in my next WIP!
I loved writing BLACKEST HEART and its two sequels, BLUEST HEART (January 6), and BET IT ON MY HEART (Spring 2010) because the dialogue was so natural. The banter between the brothers, Keefe and Casey, sounded much like my brothers-in-law. By the time I took this device further in my paranormal series, it sounded downright authentic even though the scenery had flip-flopped to a more urban environment.
There’s tons of advice on writing dialogue out there. But the best way to make it sound authentic is to listen to the people around you. If you’re writing western, tune into John Wayne. If you’re writing urban, watch the Encourage crew from Queens. My personal favorite? British. This is exactly what my James Bond DVD collection is for. Dialogue doesn’t have to be a tricky thing. For me, it’s my favorite part of character development!
Amber Leigh Williams is a multi-published romance author, a member of Romance Writers of America, PRO Liaison and former Secretary of her local RWA chapter, and monthly contributor to Romance Writers United’s “Write Right” newsletter. Her western romance, BLACKEST HEART, is the 2009 1st Place More Than Magic Novella and her historical romance FOREVER AMORE is a top-rated LASR “Best Book.” She lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband and three labs. Visit her on the web at www.amberleighwilliams.com. She loves hearing from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org!