When you begin working on a book, what do you do first? Research? Brainstorm? Plot?
The couple comes first. The hero and heroine’s romantic, emotional, and sensual dynamic are the heartbeat of every story, and they’re the reason for everything else in the book. All else follows.
Usually one comes to me before the other, but pretty quickly the other follows. For instance, for Captured by a Rogue Lord, whose hero is a Robin Hood-like pirate, I was writing the first chapter when his first lieutenant, Jin Seton, started speaking. After about two lines of Jin’s speech I knew that Jin had to have his own story. It was that clear, that quickly. And Jin told me that his heroine had to be Viola. I know it sounds kind of crazy, but that’s really how it happens most of the time! Jin and Viola’s love story became How To Be a Proper Lady.
On other occasions, the couples come to me at the same moment, as when I was planning my ghost Regency Captive Bride (which itself was a wonderfully mystical experience that happened in Wales), or with Eleanor and Taliesin in I Loved a Rogue, when I knew the moment I wrote the prologue to the first book in that series everything about their love story from the first glance onward.
The Duke offers a great example of my usual process: Amarantha said she wanted Gabriel as her hero. First I researched tons about Scotland and the Royal Navy and Jamaica and all sorts of other things (like whisky distilleries!). Then I started writing, I researched more, brainstormed with trusted friends, and finally finished a draft and shared it with friends who are romance lovers and scholars for feedback. After that I did some rewriting and editing, and–voila!–the novel was ready to publish.