Wrestling An Alligator

Yes, it’s been a while since I blogged, and the fact that it took me six whole months to release Wine Into Water, the next book in the Flynn’s Crossing series, is almost embarrassing.  But you see, I have a great excuse.  I was busy wrestling an alligator.Alligator open mouth cropped 3


What, you say?  You didn’t know there were alligators in Northern California?  And wasn’t that kind of thing, well, dangerous?

Not that kind of alligator, my friends.  It was the kind disguised as a heroine in a romance novel, and the bloodshed hasn’t been pretty.  My alligator is named Marguerite.

In my own defense, let me say that it isn’t like I’ve been wrestling constantly for the past six months.  I re-released the first four books in my series under my own imprint.  There were two excellent conferences that took up a couple of weeks.  I implemented a new audience outreach and marketing plan, did I’m-not-sure-how-many book signings, and wrote a couple of dozen articles along with photographing a few shoots.  And I had six days off to house hunt in our future home of Portland, OR.

But those activities were minor in eating up time when compared to dealing with a character that wouldn’t tell me who she wanted to be.  You think writers have control of their characters?  Pah!  Sometimes they’re more stubborn that four year old kids or one year old puppies and more standoffish than a cat!

Yvonne Kohano, Flynns Crossing series, Wine into WaterFrom the beginning, I thought I knew who Marguerite wanted to be.  Deke, her hero, was very clear, and their conflict was crystal.  Their winery and ranch backstories flowed like, well, wine and water.  But she proved to be problematic.  Can I say this in public?  I didn’t like her.  It took me a long time to figure out why.

As she rolled out in Wine Into Water, Marguerite became this very black-and-white person, high on her opinions, and determined not to listen to any voice of reason.  Deke would negotiate, but not her.  Facts were provided, but did she want to listen to them?  Not her.

In short, Marguerite was the antithesis of me before her big ah-ha moment, and until I understood that part, I didn’t know why I didn’t like her.  In short, I was wrestling an alligator, and it wasn’t going well.  Bloodshed.  Deleted chapters.  Rewritten chapters.  Ripped apart scenes.  A worn out backspace key.  Guts everywhere.Alligator head 2

Don’t get me wrong – I like alligators!  It just took me a while to understand how to wrestle this one effectively, and now she exists peaceably in her story.  Ergo, six months.  But I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer and how my characters develop as a result, so the time is not wasted.

What do you do when a character – or a problem – turns into an alligator?  Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear your advice!