Message From The Author
Some books are a pleasure to write, some are a pain, and some are a crazy mix of both. THE WIDOW is a book like that. Writing is became a year-long battle between me, Picassos ghost, and two of the most contrary protagonists I ever had the misfortune to come up witha Russell Crowe-type hero and a neurotic widow. It became my nemesis, my partner, and finally, in the end, my beloved. But it was a long hard road.
Being a sensible woman (or so I thought), I chose Russell Crowe as the blueprint for my hero. He was rough, working class, and absolutely luscious. He was also a far cry from the dangerous elegance of my usual kind of hero. My heroine was over-bred and neurotic, but warmhearted. Hers is a fish-out-water story set against an earthy Tuscany backdrop. I loved how that would contrast her sterile life.
Big mistake. Never think of theme before storymy mama could have told me that.
But hey, I was foolhardy, raring to go. Id written sixty books, there was nothing I couldnt wrestle to the ground.
In THE WIDOW, Charlie Thomas is the former wife of a Picasso-like artist named Aristide Pompasse. Hes dead, shes called back to his villa in Tuscany and the tribe of former mistresses who still reside there, to settle his estate. In the meantime, she has to deal with missing masterpieces, an overbearing mother who never loved her, a stuffy fianci, her own total lack of sexual interest in anything, and the rumors that Pompasse was murdered. And just to complicate things, theres a tabloid reporter masquerading as an insurance consultant moving in on her. Who happens to look like Russell Crowe.
Cool, right? Great setup. Wonderful antagonism between Charlie and Maguire (the Australian tabloid reporter pretending to be a bureaucrat). Sexual tension, mystery, masquerade, interesting supporting characters, McGuffins, setting, quest. So why wasnt the damned book writing itself?
I wrote. I revised. I did 10 new pages, threw out 5. I moved chapters around, created new characters, dumped old characters, started the book at different times, and it still eluded me. I loved Charlie, the supporting characters were entertaining, and whats not to adore in a Russell Crowe look-alike?
I had finally wrung 200 pages out of my poor tortured muse, and everything stalled. I packed up my laptop, kissed my husband and children goodbye, and ran away to a motel to live on McDonalds and Chinese takeout. It had worked before on one memorable occasion I had written 200 pages in five days while stuck in a motel, and I was hoping for that kind of magic again.
Two days I suffered: from heart burn, from writers block, from head-banging frustration. I rewrote the first 200 pages for the forty-fifth time. The page count crept forward at a snails pace, the caffeine was getting to me, I missed my family.
And then, on page 238, it clicked. Maguire strolled up and said, listen, mate, this is who I am and it all fell into place. Page two hundred and thirty freaking eight! I could have killed him.
The book soared. I went home, the characters sparkled, and Picasso stopped trying to take over the book (when I really didnt care about the selfish old man anyway). We had mummified bodies, missing paintings, devious women, hot sex, betrayal, redemption, and a deliciously happy ending. And it had only taken me twelve months to get there.
Im still not sure what evil demon was getting in my way. Whether Picassos ghost was getting pissed about being such a minor character, or if I was an idiot to have chosen a notoriously cantankerous creature like Russell Crowe for hero-fodder. It doesnt really matter.
What matters is I wrestled THE WIDOW to the ground, pinned it, slapped it around, whipped it into shape, and its lively, smart and sexy. And I love it to pieces.
And Im going to think twice about using Russell Crowe again.
Visit Annes website, www.anne-stuart.com, or write to her: PO Box 89, Greensboro, VT 05841
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