Gayle Roper is the award winning author of more than forty books. She has been a Christy finalist three times and won the prestigious Romance Writers of America's RITA Award, the Holt Medallion (three times), the Reviewers Choice Award, the Award of Excellence and the Golden Quill. In addition, Romantic Times Book Report gave Gayle the Lifetime Achievement Award.
But even with all those accolades, she is so approachable and humble. I have been blessed to have sat in on her workshops several times and had her critique my writing at least twice. Each time she patiently and graciously shared her insights on how to be a better writer.
I recently interviewed Gayle and asked her about how she develops her characters, what she's been doing and her plans for the future. Here are her answers:
1. You've written general fiction, suspense, romance and non-fiction. Which is your favorite genre to write?
I like romantic suspense best. A dash of mystery, a dash of romance—that’s my cup of tea both for writing and for reading.
2. I love your Seaside series because your characters are so real. How do you write such believable characters? Are any of them based on real people?
Super news that you like my people! Music to a writer’s ears. I don’t base my characters on anyone I know. I do select people I know for their physical characteristics. It’s how I keep straight what color hair and eyes, etc, I’ve given them. But as far as a character being patterned on a real person, not at all.
I do select personalities for my characters using the ancient sanguine, choleric, melancholy, phlegmatic pattern. I make certain that my romantic leads have conflicting personalities (opposites attract and all that). I might select a sanguine-choleric heroine (people person, fun lover with leadership tendencies) and a melancholy-choleric hero (interior, thoughtful, private with I’m-in-charge tendencies). Automatic conflict.
If I give a person a quirk, it’s not for its own sake. The quirk must work its way into the plot in some meaningful way. For example Abby in Summer Shadows quotes women who in their time period did things women didn’t do. These historical women are relevant because Abby is trying to do things she’s never done, and they give her courage.
3. Your Bible study, Riding the Waves, focused on being content in all circumstances and has been such a help to me. Do you have plans to write another study?
I don’t know. I’m a relatively recent widow, and I’ve been writing some short things about what it’s like to be in this new place. I just don’t know what will happen with these pieces yet. There may be another nonfiction book as I learn to be content in my new and unwanted role—if there’s anyone interested in publishing it.
4. I'm so sorry you lost the love of your life, Chuck Roper. I had the privilege to meet him at a writers' conference. He was such a sweet man. It must be so hard to go through losing your husband - I can't imagine. You're in my prayers.
I was so happy to hear that you just recently had the opportunity to go to France. Can you tell me a little about what you did there?
I had a wonderful time this summer teaching in France at an English Camp for missionary kids and the kids of ex-pats. These kids live in cultures where English is not the primary language. English camp is a fun way to require they speak only English for two weeks and to teach them about American culture and writing. I taught creative writing each morning to three classes of kids from 8 to 16 years of age. Another teacher handled grammar and vocabulary, and a third taught American history. Add games, crafts and good old camp life, and the kids swallowed the lessons quite nicely. And those kids were absolutely the greatest!
5. I loved Shadows in the Sand. As I said earlier, your characters are so real. Do you have plans to write another in this series?
I would love to publish another book set in my fictional Jersey shore town of Seaside. I am working on one as well as writing a couple of novellas set there. In fact I just returned last evening from a research trip to the real town of Ocean City , NJ, my unofficial model for Seaside. I was looking for a place on the island I could put a college. Since there isn’t any real institution of higher learning there, I have to find a place where it could reasonably fit. I was also looking over the amusement parks on the boardwalk for part of one of the stories. Sunshine, temps in the 80s and a wonderful ocean breeze. Ah, the vicissitudes of research.
Research is one of the many blessings of being a writer! Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions today. I am so looking forward to your next book. I'll be looking for it!