“Author Spotlight” Welcomes Nancy Boyarsky!

August 24, 2017


Nancy Boyarsky

Nancy Boyarsky(1) has a new book! When Nancy last visited she told us about her inspiration for  The Swap

Today, with the recent publication of her latest book, The Bequest, Nancy is answering the question, Where do you get your characters? I think it’s a great question, because it’s so interesting to me how people, places, plots–all that “stuff” gets into our heads and then comes out in a book!

So Here’s Nancy…

This is a question that (oddly, at least to me) doesn’t come up during Q&A at book store events. People want to know about my work habits. Do I set aside a certain time to write each day? A word quota? Do I write my first draft long hand? How long does it take me to write a book?

Basically, the answer these questions is the same. It depends. The amount of time I spend writing, the number of pages I turn out in a day, the length of time it takes for me to write a book. All depend on how excited I am (on a given day, week, or month) about the book I’m writing. Is it going well? Or am I struggling to figure out what happens next or what the dialogue should reveal? The more I have to struggle, the less time I tend to spend writing, and the slower it goes.

To me, a much more interesting subject is the origin of fictional characters and how an author manages to breathe life into them. How does she determine a character’s appearance, behavior, personality, and moral code? Where do these traits come from? Are they based on real people? Or are they pulled out of the air?

In my books, characters come into being in a variety of ways. In my first draft, they’re basically templates of who they become in later drafts. (I usually go through at least four drafts, maybe five, before I consider the book finished.) In The Swap, Nicole Graves, the heroine, didn’t have much personality when she first appeared on the page. Her husband Brad didn’t either, but I did make him a somewhat disagreeable, inattentive husband because my plot set-up required it.

As I went into the second draft, I began to develop my characters in more detail. For their appearance, I used the looks of actors in specific films or TV shows. For example, I thought Nicole might resemble the character Annie Walker in the “Covert Affairs” TV series. I also decided Nicole should be perky, brave, and ready to take on just about anything while still having vulnerabilities. She’s also a bit of a romantic. In The Bequest, my mental picture for Josh was the actor James Norton (Sidney Chambers on “Grantchester”). I dropped Josh into the story at a point that made him seem a bit suspicious at first. Then, bit by bit, I revealed him as a genuinely nice guy who wants to protect Nicole from the dangerous situations she tends to walk into.

One of the characters I most enjoyed creating was the woman who becomes Nicole’s advisor and confidant in The Swap. (I’m not giving her name because that would be a spoiler). She was tricky to invent because she is not who she says she is. She is making up a fake identity as she goes along, playing a role and lying about everything. Behind all that deception, she’s not a bad person but someone who feels trapped, frightened, and angry.

As for the names of my characters, I look around my office to spot a last name that sounds right to me. It could be part of a street address on an envelope, the last or first name of the author of a book on my shelf. Then I make up a first name that goes with it. The book I’m writing now, (#3 in the Nicole Graves mystery series, as yet untitled) is about a campus rape case that becomes a murder. One of the characters is a star athlete. I made up a name, then had to change it because it already belonged to a well-known athlete. I made up another name, it happened again. Finally, I looked in a nineteenth century novel and found a fairly unusual last name that passed the test.

As I go through my four or five drafts, the characters evolve, add personality traits, quirks, dislikes, virtues and vices. This part is the most fun—filling out these characters and sending them into action that, hopefully, will keep the reader turning pages until the end.

The Bequest


Here are some links where you can find The Bequest:

Itunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-bequest/id1205606019?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nancy-Boyarsky/e/B0027MGPDK/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/nancy%20boyarsky/_/N-8q8
Indiebound: http://www.indiebound.org/search/book?searchfor=Boyarsky%2C+Nancy
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/search?Query=Nancy%20Boyarsky&ac=1&acp=nancy%20boyarsky&ac.author=Nancy%20Boyarsky




I haven’t read The Bequest yet, but it’s on my Kindle waiting for that perfect time to curl up with a good book…

(1) Nancy Boyarsky was born in Oakland, California. After graduating from U.C. Berkeley, her first job was as an assistant editor in a tiny, long-gone publishing company in San Francisco. She has worked as a writer and editor all of her life.

She is married to former Los Angeles Times City Editor Bill Boyarsky and lives in Los Angeles. She still devotes herself to writing, editing, and reading and has added painting to her list of hobbies. She loves the theater, films and travel, especially to the UK.



9 Responses to ““Author Spotlight” Welcomes Nancy Boyarsky!”

  1. mmgornell said

    Thanks for stopping by, Maggie, with well wishes for Nancy! Much appreciated.

  2. maggie8king said

    Great post, Nancy. It’s a treat to meet a “new” author. Best wishes.

  3. mmgornell said

    As you know, Bonnie, so exciting (and daunting too) to have a new book out. Thank you for stopping by with kind words for Nancy.

  4. bkschroeder said

    Congratulations on your new book, Nancy. I enjoyed your post a lot–glad to know I’m not the only one who struggles to bring life into my characters. The latest ones are still in that “vague” stage, but your post was a great reminder that eventually they’ll become more real.

  5. mmgornell said

    Thanks so much, Frank, Evelyn, Jackie, and Patricia for taking the time to leave a comment! Nancy and I sure appreciate your kind words. It really makes a difference to know friends and fellow writers stop by–makes it all worth the effort of blogging/posting. Especially right after you’ve just released a new book!

    All the best, Nancy!

  6. Frank Jones said

    Well written discussion of the methods she uses to create and develop characters .Some good practical applications here. Thank you.

  7. What a great blog post, Nancy. I really enjoyed reading it, almost as much as I enjoyed reading, The Bequest. It’s a wonderful book, I highly recommend it.

  8. Jackie said

    How fun! I sometimes go back to my grade school for last names. Thank you for sharing your method.

  9. Congratulations on the publication of your new book, Nancy!

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