Here’s a checklist for authors when they’re fleshing out their characters. Every character has wants and desires that echo ours.
Eliana West writes romances in which mistakes are forgiven. Writers can take heed from her own approach as an author for her forthcoming novel, The Way Home, which required her to rework an unsatisfactory first draft to redeem its promise. The result is a novel of which she’s totally delighted, providing a happily ever after for two characters whose heritage is completely different – and yet tangled in America’s history.
What’s the theme behind your story?
The theme for all of the books in my Heart of Colton series is forgiveness. These are stories about forgiveness, redemption, and, of course, love.
What’s the logline?
A letter from the past will change their future.
What were you thinking about or what was happening when the idea occurred to you?
I was talking with my sister about our family history and the story came to me almost fully formed. I also wanted to figure out a way to tell a story about the complex relationships between the descendants of enslaved people and the descendants of those who enslaved them.
How did the original idea change as you went along?
My hero’s backstory changed quite a bit and new characters that evolved as the story went along, secondary characters that really became crucial to the story. Otherwise, the bones of the story have always stayed the same.
How did you conceive of your characters for this story and how did they change?
Taylor Colton is kind of a combination of the Property Brothers and Ben Napier from Hometown on HGTV. For all of his success, he’s pretty insecure. When I had the idea for Taylor, I pictured him as a hero who struggles, not wanting to be the hero at first. For Josephine Martin, I wanted a heroine who worked in tech and a character with a strong will and a big heart. Ada Mae is based on my great aunt, and I drew a lot of inspiration from her personality and life.
Are you pleased with the results, or do you wish you had done anything differently in the story? Why or why not?
The first draft of this story was just terrible and I had a point where I didn’t think I could salvage it. I took my time and did a major rewrite and now I’m so pleased with the result. I’m not sure at this point that I would do anything different.
Who would play your leads in the movie if (when!) you make a deal?
Oh boy, that’s a good question. Maybe Chris Evans for Taylor Colton, and Jaylen Barron for Josephine Martin.
What else do you want readers to know?
What I’d like readers to know is that interracial romance isn’t just for Black readers. Interracial romance is for any reader; diverse romance is just that diverse. If you haven’t read an interracial romance, give one a try.
My books may be a challenging story for some people. I write stories that confront some uncomfortable aspects of race and history. But at the end of the day, these are romances. Love always wins.
Eliana West writes contemporary interracial romance. Her first book, The Way Forward, establishing the Heart of Colton series, was published by Tule Publishing in 2020. When not writing, Eliana can be found exploring the many wineries in Oregon and Washington with her husband, traveling around in Bianca, their vintage Volkswagen Westfalia. She is the founder of Writers for Diversity (https://www.facebook.com/groups/writersfordiversity), a community for writers of all genres writing, creating diverse characters and worlds. Check out www.elianawest.com
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