Where do your ideas comes from?
The short answer is, anything can spark an idea. A conversation, a word, even a person I see on the street. It's weird, but I'm used to it. I think I speak for most writers when I say our brains are always working, which isn't necessarily a good thing. Like when you spouse is discussing something of vital importance, to him at least, and your mind drifts off to some issue one of your current imaginary friends is trying to resolve. And the sad thing is, after over forty years of marriage, he knows when I do it, so I can't even pretend I have a clue when he says something like "Is that okay with you?"
Our brains are always plotting, writing, rewriting, asking the big what-ifs, having conversations with our characters, it's how we roll. Anything can start that zoning out process. For instance, we were having coffee on the sun porch last week, and he started down his list of things I needed to be aware of as I prepped for a trip to Pensacola with my daughter and granddaughter. Somewhere between checking the gauges and drive safely, my current heroine decided she needed a word with me about the story line. I knew she wasn't happy about it but hadn't figured out what I needed to do, so we had a mental discussion about it. Well, sort of. If you can call a one-sided conversation with yourself a discussion. Anyway, it ended when he tossed a pen at me and said, "Are you listening to me?" Busted.
Sometimes ideas will literally come to me in a dream. I had a dream about this woman from an affluent family in New York who traveled to Texas in 1880 and bought a general store. When I work up, I had an image of her in my head and all these what-if's suddenly started popping up. I had to get up and write them down before I could go back to sleep.
How long does it take to write a book?
Depends on the book. A certain amount of research goes into any book, but the genre and story itself will determine exactly how much. How detailed do I need certain facts to be. Is there a historical event or person tied to the story? All those facts and more determine how much is needed. That's the first step. Generally speaking, I can write the story in about ten months. After that, it goes to beta readers and my critique partner, and I go back over it myself. Then, the dreaded re-writes and edits start. What do I need to change? Are all the different plot lines tied up? Are all the questions answered? Is there a happily ever after?
When I'm satisfied with the story, it goes to an editor who looks for different things, grammar, punctuation (I'm awful with comma's), and other things. When all that's done, it goes to the formatter. Once it's formatted, it has to be read again to ensure nothing was messed up in the process. Then, it's ready for publishing. I get a proof copy to read first - again - to make sure everything printed right. Once I'm happy with all that, it is ready to publish.
That doesn't include time spent coming up with a title, a book cover, the back cover blurb, and all that. When all said a done, a year is gone before the book hits the market.
How do you come up with character names?
Sometimes, the name comes to me first, then I write the story. Other times, its reversed. I have a story idea but only male/female for the characters. I literally leave it as male/female until the name comes to me. And the name must fit the character. That's a hard concept to explain but it is vitally important in the process. I have even experimented with names. For instance, Max Logan, the hero in Chasing Hope didn't get his name until like Chapter Five. And he was called Seth, Chance and something else before he became Max. The named had to fit him. Find and replace is great tool!
Every writer has their own process but one thing we all share is a brain that never stops asking what-if? Those two words are the lifeblood of any story. It's what drives us to the next page. What if this happened instead of that? What if he said this instead of that? What if? What if, until you reach Then End.
I love what I do and I will continue to do it until the words stop coming.