Character on the Couch: An interview with Anne Renwick’s Lady Olivia

Read the entire interview with steampunk author Cecilia Dominic Here


1) If your character were to go to a psychologist – willingly or unwillingly – what would bring them in? Yes, a court order is a valid answer.

Lady Olivia would certainly go unwillingly. She is trained in espionage and would be wary about revealing any information away that could be used against her. But… she might be persuaded, perhaps, if she were convinced the psychologist could cure her of her phobias (blood, needles and heights).

2) Is the presenting problem one of the main internal or external conflicts in your book? If so, how does it present itself?

Most definitely. Both internal and external. Almost immediately, Olivia’s career aspirations conflict with her desire to both keep her feet on solid ground and avoid all things medical. No sooner has she met the hero, a research physician, then the next scene drops her onto a dirigible. Needles soon follow.

3) It’s always interesting to see how people act when they first enter my office. Do they immediately go for my chair, hesitate before sitting anywhere, flop on the couch, etc.? What would your character do?

You’d best serve tea. If there are cream cakes, Olivia will settle onto the edge of a chair and attempt to engage you in a lot of inane chatter. She’s been raised to act the part of a lady, to win a man to her side. Confronted with a female psychologist, she might struggle with her approach but, ultimately, she’s all for women having equal career opportunities.

4) Does your character talk to the therapist? How open/revealing will your character be? What will he or she say first?

First you’re going to have to share that wonderful recipe for the cream cakes. She’s already contemplating how to improve her steambot’s baking skills. If she’s been forced to visit, you might already know about her phobias. Convincing her to speak about them will be difficult, tied up as they are in her brother’s unfortunate accident. Possibly she will begin by telling you about her sister, Amanda, who is pursuing a medical degree. You’ll hear about what a trial it is to live with a would-be physician who delights in torturing her with such topics. Eventually, you’ll grow impatient and mention blood. Or needles. Then she’s going to sway. You do have smelling salts handy, right?

5) Your character walks into the bar down the street after his/her first therapy session. What does he/she order? What happens next?

Olivia is a lady. She should walk right past. But… there’s a small chance curiosity will get the better of her, and she’ll slide inside. If she can work up the nerve, she’s going to order a man’s drink. “I’ll have what he’s having.” 

6) When you’re building characters, do you have any tricks you use to really get into their psyches, like a character interview or personality system (e.g., Myers-Briggs types)?

I don’t have any exact tricks, though I spend quite a bit of time thinking about and developing backstory. I try to determine what ‘wound’ they carry around with them that will influence their decisions. There are a few questions I try to keep in mind. For example: What do they really want? What do they cling to that keeps them from getting what they want? What will finally make them step outside their comfort zone and reach for it?

About Anne

Though USA TODAY bestselling author Anne Renwick holds a Ph.D. in biology and greatly enjoyed tormenting the overburdened undergraduates who were her students, fiction has always been her first love. Today, she writes steampunk romance, placing a new kind of biotech in the hands of mad scientists, proper young ladies and determined villains.

Anne brings an unusual perspective to steampunk. A number of years spent locked inside the bowels of a biological research facility left her permanently altered. In her steampunk world, the Victorian fascination with all things anatomical led to a number of alarming biotechnological advances. Ones that the enemies of Britain would dearly love to possess.

To chat with Anne, stop by on Facebook or join the Department of Cryptobiology Facebook group. You can also join her newsletter list to have cover reveals, sneak peaks, sales and giveaways delivered straight to your inbox.

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