Allie Spencer discusses where she draws the inspiration for her characters from.
I have a friend who has asked me on a number of occasions whether or not I draw my characters from real life. I don’t – and I have told her so quite a few times now – but she still asks. To begin with I thought that she was worried I might scribble down salient facts about her life, give her a not-so-subtle change of name and put her in a book; now, however, as the questioning continues, I’m starting to think she’s worried I might not.
But I won’t. You see, for me, that’s not where my characters come from. I did once try to model a character in a book (I’m not telling you which one!) from someone I knew in real life – and it was a massive fail. For one, I was worried the person might realise who they were and sue me (they weren’t a very nice character – that narrows it down) but my main concern was that when I was writing this ‘person’, the character kept wanting to do and say things that their real-life persona would never do and, by trying to rein them in, my story began to suffer. In the end I junked the real-life person and created a much more interesting character entirely out of my imagination. The book is definitely the better for it.
That’s the thing about characters, they will keep on doing things you haven’t planned in the synopsis – and then they have the cheek to expect you to alter the plot for them! I love these moments. I realised half-way through writing Tug of Love that Hez had had an affair with the heroine’s ex (only Hez didn’t know Lucy had heard them) and the resulting secret almost blows apart their entire relationship; that Lisa in Summer Nights had been secretly in love with Toby, her boss; and, excitingly, that a character in my current WIP spends some of his time as a sort of casual spy, getting information from a network of international business contacts. I didn’t consciously make any of this up – it just popped into my head and I thought ‘oh, of course’.
And it’s happened again in Save the Date! Just as Ailsa, my heroine, is signing in at the reception desk of the posh hotel where the book is set, she hears the tip-tap of a little dog’s claws on the marble floor behind her – and in walks Arthur. I hadn’t planned a dog, in fact nothing could have been further from my mind; but he wanted to be there and as far as I’m concerned he’s now the star of the show. Thank you Arthur, I owe you one.
Family weddings can be hell. …and, marooned in Italy for her cousin’s nuptials, Ailsa can be forgiven for thinking that this one is worse than most. With the bride and groom at loggerheads and the guests in uproar, it is a million miles away from the rest and relaxation she’d been hoping for. And then suddenly, in the middle of the mayhem, she comes face-to-face with Nick, the man she walked out on just a few months earlier. How can Ailsa help get the wedding back on track when she and Nick can’t stop arguing? But if they do, she might remember why she fell in love with him in the first place – and then there really would be trouble.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Allie Spencer gained a BA in English Literature and an MA in Medieval Studies, then qualified as a barrister, practising in family and matrimonial law.