When I wrote Hiding Mona Lisa, I mean for it to be a one off novel. I had an idea to write about the evacuation of The Louvre with an art thief as the main character. Alain Darnay was supposed to be dashing,mysterious, a little arrogant, and have a lot of unanswered questions about his past, while hiding behind the respectable position he held at the world’s most prestigious art museum. It was all those questions that I couldn’t get away from either. I never meant to write a second or third book, but there it was…more questions. Where was Fritz? What happened to Alain and Everley? Who was the beautiful woman in the photograph?
As I began writing Finding Fritz Gerhard, I realized that Alain had to change. He had to become a different person, with not just a past but a painful past, for the story to work the way I envisioned it. The character presented in Hiding Mona Lisa was likable, but maybe not lovable and I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to him than first meets the eye. I have admitted in the past to having people walking around in my head. Alain did, and spoke loud enough that his story got through. He also had to learn to open up and share a little of that past and admit that there were people he cared for. In Finding Fritz I think that comes through. But at the end, even with the revelation of who the surprise narrator is, the story didn’t end.
Enter Rescuing Rembrandt. Alain has evolved, but he still is who he is. He is still a (reformed) art thief, he still has secrets, he still has bad habits he needs to work on. But suddenly there is a beautiful woman he has fallen in love with, in spite of how he still feels about the woman in the photograph. (Avoiding spoilers here!) The war is over but there are still Nazis. (Sorry, I’m like Mel Brooks, I can’t seem to avoid putting them in every book.) But what happens is that he changes from likable to lovable…and hopefully unforgettable.
I think that letting a character tell the author what to write is one of the most interesting aspects of being a writer. Listening to that character isn’t always easy, especially of you’ve always been the sort of writer who plots out the whole novel chapter by chapter.. I’ve learned to do it over the years and I don’t plan my novels in too much detail. I just write and see what happens. Whenever I have a temporary block, I go for a run or sleep on it. Almost always I come back with a chapter written, or wake up knowing where the book is going.
Fate? Divine intervention? Insanity? Who knows. It works for me.
Rescuing Rembrandt is nearly ready for publication, but you can find the first two books in The Louvre Trilogy , Hiding Mona Lisa and Finding Fritz Gerhard at http://www.booksbylynnmurphy.com.