During the day, Isabel Cooper maintains her guise as a mild-mannered project manager in legal publishing. In her spare time, she enjoys video games, ballroom dancing, various geeky hobbies, and figuring out what wine goes best with leftover egg rolls. Cooper lives with two thriving houseplants in Boston, Massachusetts.
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Pantser or plotter? As in so many aspects of my life, somewhere in between.
Most of the time, I start with a decent and vague idea of the plot: the “in a world where blah blah blah, he’s a cyborg, she’s a ninja, they fight crime” summary. From there…it depends on my commuting schedule and whether I have any really boring yet mandatory-personal-attendance type meetings. (I usually don’t these days: the current day job is nice like that.)
Usually I’ll take a few such opportunities to really write a chapter-by chapter story arc. If I’m writing to deadline and I don’t do a lot of commuting that month, I may hit the first few chapters before I know, for example, how the novel’s going to end and what exactly is going to happen in the middle: that’s what happened with Legend of the Highland Dragon. Generally, though, I’ll have a basic plot outline by the time I’m done with the third chapter.
Often, I’ll also go in with a scene or two which I want to write, or a couple of good lines that I want to find an opportunity to work in later. With No Proper Lady, I really wanted to do a makeover/training montage; with Night of the Highland Dragon, I wanted a bunch of scenes in which the hero and heroine each tried to conceal the occult weirdness from the other, and also one where the heroine surprises the hero by kicking nine kinds of ass. While I don’t break the plot to fit those scenes in, I do try and bend it around them, and write a story such that I can include those.
Usually by the middle, I’ll need to re-outline: a previous chapter will be longer than I thought and I’ll need to balance the pacing, or I’ll have already covered a particular scene, or I’ll realize that I should actually address the thing so-and-so brought up in Chapter 11, and I haven’t actually plotted out any way to do that yet. Therefore, more commute/meeting/Laundromat notes. (I used to use a glitter pen for these; alas, I haven’t been able to find those lately.)
I’ll keep looking at the outline for reference, or when I need to know what comes next. As I get toward the end, though, the story generally develops its own momentum: often I don’t consult my notes at all during the last five or six chapters. Sometimes, later, I’ll go back to see if I left any plot holes, but once I hit the homestretch, I generally can shoot from the hip, to completely mix my metaphors.
“They say,” said the girl, “that people disappear up there. And I heard that the lady doesna’ ever grow any older.”“The lady?” William asked.“Lady MacAlasdair. She lives in the castle, and she’s been there years, but she stays young and beautiful forever.”In the Scottish Highlands, legend is as powerful as the sword—and nowhere is that more true than in the remote village of Loch Aranoch. Its mysterious ruler, Judith MacAlasdair, is fiercely protective of her land—and her secrets. If anyone were to find out what she really was, she and her entire clan would be hunted down as monsters.William Arundell is on the trail of a killer. Special agent for an arcane branch of the English government, his latest assignment has led him to a remote Highland castle and the undeniably magnetic lady who rules there. Yet as lies begin to unravel and a dark threat gathers, William finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the mystery of the Highlands…and the woman he can neither trust nor deny.He prays she isn’t the murderer; he never dreamed she was a dragon.
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