A friend of mine has been nagging me to look at different options, different ways of seeing things. Okay, she's also nagging me to give up on the LGBT and write "proper" books but I won't hold that against her. She's a poet and academic, and I can understand why the books I write don't appeal. However, she gives fantastic criticism, especially on style, and she has hugely inspirational and dynamic ideas. I therefore thought Why not give something new a try?
I thought it might be interesting to someone if I document at this stage what my grand plans are and how I'm setting out to achieve them. I'll check in now and again to let you know how this monster is progressing.
The result of my musings, calculations and plans, is a hefty piece of work with a working title of Haunted Hotel. No, there is no way that will be the actual name of the series.
On face value, I guess it could be called paranormal, but the paranormal aspects are far from the focus. Each book is, effectively, a standalone romance, with each book highlighting a different pairing.
The idea was to look on the project as a whole rather than book by book with a basic infrastructure on which each novel could be hung. I looked on it something like this. (I got the photo from here)
The overall premise (which is by no means complete) is that all the stories take place in the same hotel, staffed by the same staff. The hotel is owned by the mysterious "Owner" and each book will begin and end with a letter from him (or her). The Owner has his own story going on in the background.
Each book introduces a new guest to the hotel, all of whom are broken in one way or another as a direct result of a failed relationship, and each has shut down completely on love.
During the course of the book the guest will meet and fall for someone who might be a waiter, a member of staff, another guest or, as in the first book, a masseuse. Through the course of the book the guest discovers their new love interest is, in fact, a ghost who died as a direct result of love (or lack of it) in a way that is somehow connected with the guest's own story
Example: In book 1, the guest is someone who was supposed to have been employed as a handyman at the hotel. Before he is able to take up his post a disastrous breakup resulted in a suicide attempt and the closure of his business. The situation has left the guest in poor physical state and he is introduced to the hotel masseuse, a massive ex soldier who lost his leg serving. What the guest doesn't know is that the war he was serving in was WWI. He died trying and failing to save the man he was love with; a love that had to be hidden from the rest of the world as it was illegal.
The soldier is very angry with the guest for trying to throw away his life when he'd died trying to save himself and his love. It takes some time for them to come together.
The thing that eventually brings the two of them together is part of the "tree" that is the overarching story. A former guest of the hotel, who is convinced his lover died there seven years before, has become obsessed with trying to prove it. In book one he tries to convince the guest to snoop for him and when the guest refuses he sabotages his work, which accidentally results in a fire. As the books progress the antagonist becomes more and more desperate and more overtly sinister, his machinations slipping from obnoxious to downright dangerous. He is not, however an irredeemable villain and he retains his humanity even when he's threatening others.
The antagonist, as it turns out has a story of his own, intricately linked with the Owner himself.
The stories for each book do not come pantsing in either and no plot bunnies are involved. There will be eight books in all, each themed after a colour of the spectrum. The first, of course, is red. There will be hints of this in the background. For example the flowers each guest sees as they approach the hotel for the first time will be whatever colour their book is themed, also their rooms will be decorated in that colour.
I have then looked at the magical and cultural correspondences associated with the colour. Red, for example is passion, blood, anger, war, conflict, health, independence, fire, motivation, danger etc.
I then took a tarot from a pack that has special significance for me (not quite the regular kind) and added the meaning into the mix. This one, The Watchtower of the North breaks down to - things that have been ignored for too long, rest and recharge, invoke your dark side, surrender and release, midnight, the dark night of the soul.
The number of the book is also given significance, but that is whole other complication I'm not getting into right now.
As you can see, the plot just leaped out, and I'm hoping the same will apply to the rest of the books in the series, as well as the overarching storylines.
I am approaching the whole thing as almost an academic project with folders full of photographs and diagrams of the inside and outside of the hotel, the staff (photographs and sketches of uniforms and appearance with lists of characteristics and personality), each individual room etc.
Each book has a flow chart and spreadsheet for all the correspondences with a breakdown of its own story and how it fits into the main storyline, which also has its own flowchart.
I've had great fun so far, especially as I'm involving my family. Writing has been a solitary endeavor until now, but this time the whole family is involved. We've plotted out a hotel we happened to be staying in, poured over photographs online to decorate rooms and populate the hotel staff etc and brainstormed all sorts of things.
For example, the antagonist becomes increasingly unstable and extreme in his attempts to persuade the guest to snoop for information on his lover's murder, which he is convinced is being covered up - to the point he has spent time in and out of mental institutions because he is unable to remember anything about his lover or what happened, and can't prove the man ever existed in the first place. We came up with this list of what he gets up to in each book.
- Blackmail - getting hold of naked photos online
- Revealing location - A rock star, falsely accused of sexual abuse, is hiding out and really doesn't want the press to know where he is
- Revealing a secret - telling the world he's gay when he's in a position where that would be disastrous. In this book the guest is the son of an eminent psychiatrist who is attempting to prove conversion therapy is safe and effective. His experiments on his son almost destroyed him. His ghost is a boy who actually died through ECT in the sixties.
- Billionaire investor was homeless at 16 and witnessed a murder he never reported to the police.
- Intimidation - leaving things in the room when the guest is out.
- Threatening family.
We discussed in detail, examining floor maps of the hotel, exactly how he gets in, and have worked out, although it might not actually be explained in the books, how he uses his computer skills to hack the hotel computer, discover details about the guests and dig into their backgrounds.
So far I have quite thick folders with all the information, photographs, sketches etc in and I've only just scratched the surface. It's a very exciting new way to work, which I hope will pay dividends at the end. It's going to take a while though, especially as I don't want to start writing the first book until it's all completely mapped out.
Watch this space.