As I write, I try to inhabit the world of my book and its cast. Early in the process, I go through a stack of magazines and pull out pictures of people who have a certain look or quality that embodies the major characters.

One of my great passions is musical theatre. (I most often write in my living room, under a blanket designed with the Playbill covers of my 16 favorite shows.) Once I have a sense of the emotional arc of a novel, I create a playlist to chart that journey. While the lyrics of the songs influence my choices to some degree, it’s more about the feelings I have while listening and how those mirror the experiences of the main character.

With Dell’s story, I got stuck about two-thirds of the way through writing the first draft. On a long car ride, I listened to the playlist I had created for her, and the ups and downs of the emotions it stirred up inside me offered the clarity I needed, making it obvious what I should do to fix the narrative.

Any other inspiration I find is specific to each book. For Dell, I thought often about Charlie and his camera. When I saw something I thought Charlie would want to capture, I took a picture. In some cases, I even set out with the intention of recreating some of the photographs he takes in the novel.


Character images

Dell
Charlie
Shannon
Laine
Sylvia
Neil
Bean
Marni

Playlist

Photographs

My daughter, Ellie, had fun being the model.