Write Motivation with Desiree Holt

Colorado struck Gold this past weekend with its 33rd annual writer’s conference, and yours truly enjoyed every minute of it. There were so many great people and events that I’m going to share the experience over a couple of posts with you.


Desiree Holt at RMFW's Colorado Gold Conference

Desiree talks about building stories around character at CO Gold.

USA Today called Desiree the “Nora Roberts of erotic romance writing.”  Since her first book was published in 2006, she has produced an incredible 197 books . . . and counting!  Desiree is a graduate of the University of Michigan (go blue!) and even has the U of M fight song as her ring tone.  How do I know this?  I had the happy honor of giving this great woman a ride from the airport to the convention hotel.  We spent about an hour or so together, and I have to say, it was one of the best hours I’ve had in a good while.

We met as she stepped out of the tram area and instantly clicked.  This tiny woman of indeterminate years and a dash of style was so warm we hugged immediately.  Soon after, we were snug in the car and she was telling me about life in Texas and her plans to move closer to family somewhere in Florida.  I was taken aback, as it seems like we’ve lived in the same states, just at different times. Heck, Desiree could be one of my sisters.

The biggest impact upon meeting her is that Desiree has a seemingly boundless energy. She is excited about life, about writing, and about what’s next on the agenda. Those of us lucky enough to attend her workshop on building characters got a sampling of how she brainstorms while we built a character together.

“Quick, someone,” said Desiree, “give me a gender.”  Someone shouted out “female.”  Female it was. “Now, ask yourself some questions about your character.  Things you’d ask a friend about someone you don’t know.  What food does she like to eat?”

And we were off.  Soon, a young woman (in her early forties) is opening the door to a total (and totally hot) stranger, who is dripping from the rain he just ran through, and asking for help with his flat tire, because his cell phone can’t get reception in this less populated part of town.  The sparks fly as the artist-welder takes him in, only to have him inadvertently insult her.

I’m sure, right now, there are thirty or forty new stories being written with these characters leading the plot along.

Meeting Desiree Holt

Meeting the warm and wonderful Desiree Holt.

Something else Desiree shared was her love of meeting strangers.  Imagine that–an extroverted writer.  Good for her!  She has her smart phone with her constantly and will ask total strangers if she can take their picture and ask them a few questions.  She gives them her business card and the two are off and running.

Case in point was a nice-looking waiter who Desiree chatted up with family looking on.  At one point Desiree’s daughter apparently said to the waiter, “Don’t worry, she’s harmless.  My mom’s a writer.”  The answers flowed and soon the young man became a football player for Desiree’s series, Game On.  I have a copy of the first book there called Forward Pass. One word–Hot. Okay, one more–Blush!  Wow. I’m only on chapter four and this book has me thinking thoughts I long believed went dormant.

Yet having sports figures as main characters should be a natural for Desiree.  She was the first woman sports reporter for her university’s, Michigan Daily newspaper.  Between that and working for a while as a stringer for four or five publications, Desiree picked up the habit of writing fast and furious.  She said she currently works on at least three projects at a time.  That way, when she’s stuck on one, she can move to another and the words keep flowing.

Great advice from a successful writer.

And my favorite Desiree line?  This obviously middle-aged (okay my daughter would say “senior”) was at a book signing and a reader walked up to say something like, “You haven’t done all the exploits you’ve written about, have you?”  Desiree smiled and said, “Of course I have, but you see dear, I’m only twenty-seven years old.” They both laughed and Desiree earned another fan.

Wishing you a happy, stranger-filled week.

Minor Character–Milo Grinnel

Today I saw another blog post on character development.  There are whole books on how to make realistic characters out of thin air.  As authors we spend hours, days, even months on building character histories, physical descriptions, motivations, and value systems, just to make the people jump from the page and seem more “real.”

But, sometimes, a little gem of a character pops onto the page, fully formed and becomes someone fun to write about and play with.  This is how I feel about several of my “minor” characters.  Take, for example, Milo Grinnel.

Milo came about because I needed a second reason for Daisy to go to her writing group leader’s home in Faith on the Rocks.  If you haven’t read Faith, this is a little bit of a spoiler alert, but doesn’t mess up any major plot lines.

Daisy thinks she’s going to Sandra’s to be asked to leave the writing group.  There’s plenty of reason for her to buy into that thought, and she comes with trepidation.  When she arrives, however, there’s another surprise for her–a date!  And, because I have a silly sense of humor, I wanted this date to be completely inappropriate.

That’s when Milo popped into my head.  I can see him so clearly that sometimes I think I’ve seen an actor who reminds me of him.  Here’s what I said in the book:

“A man as tall as Phillip (an ex-football player), but a quarter of his weight stepped forward.  He was about my age with grey hair receding past his ears and a smile no horse would own.  Teeth splayed themselves in all directions, the only commonality between the chompers being their exceeding length and yellowness.”

Now, I’m not quite sure exactly how Milo came about beyond that he was a delightfully fun solution to my problem of a reason for Daisy to go to Sandra’s.  But here’s a little more about Milo.

I had Milo new from Texas because I wanted him to have the politeness yet assertion of that area of the country.  I lived in Dallas for a while, and Milo was someone who would have fit right in there.  I made him an accountant because I like accountants, and the stereotypical occupation clashes with Daisy’s growing life as an amateur sleuth.

Milo’s teeth came from me.  I had horrid teeth while growing up and throughout my young adulthood (who knew that giving up soda pop would help so much?).   I had no idea how bad my situation was until I became the first in my family to experience braces. I also had a daughter with large, protruding teeth.  To this day, I love a huge smile–on other people.

Then the devil in me took over.  Of course Milo’s nickname would be “Grins.”  What else could it be? I recall spending some time trying to figure out a name where I could play off Milo’s smile. Milo Fang?  Milo Chompers? Milo Grinninbearit? Hmm. Grins. Grinninbearit. Grinnel. Easy enough to create a nickname from that last one.

And of course, Milo would be unaware of the reason people called him that, other than the shortened last name.

And Milo’s skinniness?  Can you remember Barney Fife from The Andy Griffith Show? I’ve watched some of those reruns on Netflix this summer. I’ve also met a few skinny guys in my life, and suffered the nickname Scrawny-Brawny in high school. Skinny’s not so bad.

I love Milo.  Wouldn’t want him for a boyfriend, mind you.  But he’s wonderful, with a lovely sense of irony about him.  A lot of his personality emerged unbidden in writing the chapter that he plays a significant role in.  The clues he drops about the real killer really endeared him to me more–some of which were truly unexpected until I was jotting things down in the text.  Plus, I giggled right through every passage with Milo in it.

I hope I can bring Milo back into another Daisy Arthur story sometime.  Am grinning thinking of this already.

What minor characters light up your life or writing?  I hope you have a playful week with them.