I began writing short stories in 1982. A few years later I started working on a novel just to see if I could do it. It took six months but I did finish it. However, it was pretty bad so I dumped it in a drawer and started on another one. This book took a year and it wasn’t much better than the first one.
The two novels had characters with no depth of personality and the storyline was flat. I decided I needed to create a character with attitude and one whose life was at risk. Combine this new character with a historical figure, I thought, and then add a little action and drama to give the story some flavor and I might have a readable story.
I have always been fascinated with Hannibal Barca and his famous journey over the Alps with his elephants so I decided to do a little research to see what made Hannibal tick.
I began working on Hannibal’s Elephant Girl in 1989 with Liada, a girl of twelve, as the main character. As the story progressed I found Liada needed a pal, a sidekick, so I brought in Tin Tin Ban Sunia, a slave girl of eleven.
I’m always surprised when a character seems to stand up and demand more page time. I usually let them run, like a child turned loose in a new playground, just to see what they get into. If they turn out to have a flat personality or they do silly stunts, I hit the delete key. On the other hand, if they have something original to say or they display courage in the face of adversity without regard for their own safety, then I give them a little more rein. All my stories are character-driven so it’s fun for me to watch a particular character try to take control of the story.
Tin Tin Ban Sunia did indeed take over and made the story her own. She wasn’t even in the original outline, but by the end of the book it was as much about her as it was about Liada and Hannibal.
In late 1998 the first draft of the book was completed. I spent another two years editing and revising until finally, after eleven years, I decided the novel was finished. A month later I started on Cian.
Cian’s story was much easier to write. It was finished in less than eight months and then the other novels quickly followed until now I have nine novels in publication and another four in various stages of being written.
Writing is a solitary profession but it is immensely fulfilling to see a character, an imaginary person to be sure, but a person nonetheless, come to life and do all the things the writer has always wanted to do.