Today I am interviewing Janet Franks Little who is the author of the upcoming novel, THE WEIGHT OF LOVE, an adult romantic comedy. You refer to this book as explicit romance. What does that mean to you?
Explicit romance means that there are some scenes of explicit sex but the novel has a strong plot. Some books of erotica rely on sex scenes instead of story.
How do you name your characters? Do you just pick a name out of a hat or do you choose a name you like? Do you research the name so it is historically fitting? Do you check Baby Name books and choose by the meaning? Do you make your names up so they stand out?
When I started researching for my first book, someone recommended using less than common names for characters considering how very many possibilities there were. In The Weight of Love, the two main characters are what I would have named a daughter if I had had one and the name my best friend wanted to give her son but her husband didn’t like it.
In both my first and second books, the characters’ names contributed to part of the story. Cort Hardison’s name allowed me to call his fitness centers, Hardcort Fitness. Cortland was a good substitute for Coroton which he was almost named because it was his mother’s maiden name. Brianne Inez Gordon had a monogram she hated as an overweight child. Beauregard Joseph Charvet was called Bojo because his father was already called Beau. Grace Georgette Black was called Gigi as a child and the endowment her unknown wealthy father made to the university was the G.G. Educational Fund.
At times, the name was deliberate to create an interesting subplot in the story. Other times, it was a happy accident. For most secondary characters, the name comes off the top of my head or I end up checking online for girls or boys names. I don’t really care what their meaning is. I just want a name that seems right for the character that I picture in my head.
I also keep a list of every name I’ve used in a book, no matter how minor the character. I made that decision because there are so many names out there, I don’t want to repeat them. I found that I used the name Sara in the first book and again in the second. So I changed the name to Serena in the second book, and it was a better fit.
Some writers may not put much significance in the naming of the protagonists and antagonists in their book, but I do. They are your children. They will live into eternity by their moniker. Make it one you like whether the character does or not.
Sage advice. Are you that precise with the settings of your books? How do you choose a setting? Do you choose something familiar and easy? Do you base your settings on real places? Do you research specific places or make them up? Do you research to make your settings plausible?
My first two books are set in southeast Florida where I have resided for almost twenty-five years. I am planning to make my third book take place in Ohio where I lived before we moved to Florida. It certainly is easier to make your settings be familiar and real. When my characters have traveled to locales that I vaguely remember or have never been to, I do research, consult with people who are familiar with the place or go myself.
In my second book, Grace works at Florida Atlantic University. My son graduated from there but I had never been on campus. So I printed up a map and drove around. I have an acquaintance whose husband retired from FAU so I called him and picked his brain. I’ve never been to a country dance club but I watched several videos on YouTube that were filmed at one and watched Urban Cowboy again. Although I had been to the Keys many times, I had never been to Little Palm Island. I researched it online and talked with my sister who had been there once for dinner.
I heard one author at a writer’s conference say that he felt it was very important for his settings to be accurate. He would make sure if his character was driving on a one way street that the car was headed in the right direction. I am not that precise. Settings change over time. Buildings are remodeled or torn down. Streets go from two lanes to four or may be shut off and made into a pedestrian mall. As far as I’m concerned for a fictional story where the setting is not crucial to the plot, it need only be as accurate as my memory or research can make it.
How do you title your book? Do you go for shock value? Memorability? Do you research possible titles on Amazon or other bookstores to see the competition before you choose? Do you title your book first or write under a working title and change it later?
I never start with a title. I pray I will have one by the time the book is finished. I am calling my second book, Talk to Me, but that may change by the time it’s finished. I like catchy titles, like Sophie Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? or E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, or I Still Miss My Man But My Aim is Getting Better by Sarah Shankman. These books I will never forget that I read because of the titles, even if I don’t remember the whole story.
I do Google the title to see what else is out there with it. My tentative second book title has been used for a movie, a song and an autobiography. Do I want it to become the fourth Talk to Me? I guess it is a working title for now. Any time a writer can decide on a good title, whether it’s the first or the last thing written, use it.
I agree. Titles play an important part in the life of a book. Last question: How do you ward off writer’s block? Do you read more? Take long walks? Play exciting music in the background?
Writer’s block. So far I’ve experienced housecleaning block, bill paying block, time to go to bed block, need to get supper ready block and all kinds of other blocks because all I really wanted to do is write. I now set a schedule to complete my other required tasks before I allow myself to sit and write. At least once in each book, Chapter 17 in The Weight of Love and now on Chapter 35 in the second book, I have suffered from transition block. I want to write but I’m not sure how to move the plot from where it is to where it needs to go.
I will re-read what I’ve written even if it means going back to Page 1. I will compose scenes and dialogue while driving. I will walk the dogs or engage in another mindless activity by myself and try to work out the plot knot.
A friend of mine lived in a condo development with a famous mystery writer from south Florida. She said they were sitting by the pool one day when the author jumped to her feet and announced, “I know how he has to die!” She picked up her things and disappeared. No one called the cops because they knew she had just solved her writer’s block.
The second worst dilemma to writer’s block is being blocked from writing. You have a great scene in your head but are unable to get to paper or PC. One fellow author suggested always having pen and paper nearby, even beside your bed. I find repeating and reliving it over and over in my head works for me. Sometimes I even edit it this way.
I attended a writer’s conference where one of the sessions was about the discipline of writing. The handout in my folder suggested organizing your thoughts, completing goals within a deadline, crossing the goals off a to-do list, rewarding yourself when you meet a goal, and having a support group.
For me, my writers’ critique group is the best way to get a fresh perspective. No matter how helpful or outlandish the suggestions are, they have provided the jump start I needed to get past the block.
Thank you for such an informative and thought-provoking interview. I wish you all the best with your upcoming novel, THE WEIGHT OF LOVE. Great title by the way.
You can reach Janet Franks Little at her website.
She is also on Facebook.