Friday, November 14

Jan Scarbrough on Finding Characters

Do you put people you know into your books?

How many times have I been asked that? The ladies in accounting once asked my husband (then my boy friend) if he was the inspiration for all of my love scenes. He blushed and ducked quickly out of the cubicle.

Robert McKee (author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting) talks about this very thing in his presentation at the Chicago RWA convention in 1999. I recently listened again to the tape.

Writers watch people, he said. They gather material through observation, assembling characters from the bits and pieces of people around them. Sort of like Dr. Frankenstein creating his monster.

More importantly, writers find characters in themselves. The only person you can truly know is yourself. We understand other people the more we know ourselves, because we’re all fundamentally human. McKee points out that if we are thinking it, feeling it, others are experiencing it too. Self-knowledge is the key to all great writing.

Okay, I’ll buy all that. I don’t have one person in mind when I create a character, and I admit to putting a little bit of myself into each one of my characters. McKee says we have to love our characters just as we must love writing simply because we love doing it.

All profound stuff, but I want to fess up.

I put horses in my books every chance I get.

Over the years, I’ve owned three horses. The first one was a five-gaited pony named Mr. Too Little. My daughter showed him at local shows as a “pleasure pony.” In my Bluegrass Reunion series novel Kentucky Groom, Carrie Mercer owns a Saddlebred pony for her daughter Jesse. His name? Dr. Doolittle.

In my newest novel in the Bluegrass Reunion series Kentucky Blue Bloods, I come right out and name a “teaser” stallion Mr. Too Little.

Kentucky Flame is set on an American Saddlebred horse farm called Royalty Farm. In the opening scene, Royalty’s Dreamer, Dreamcatcher, and Royal Tiara are the names of horses saved from a tragic barn fire. The name of my second horse was Royal Tierra. Get the connection?

Starhart’s Heritage was my last horse. “Harry” was a retired show horse, and I bought him when his owner went to college. In my romance Betting on Love, Sarah Colby rides a horse “named ‘Kentucky Heritage’ but called ‘Harry’ for short. He was a bay gelding with a placid disposition and an eager way of going.”

So, no, I don’t put people I know into books. Scraps and images of people, maybe, but not real individuals. I’m more likely to include one of my horses into a book. That’s more fun anyway.

Kentucky Blue Bloods
book eight of the Bluegrass Reunion series 

No one crosses Parker Stuart, caretaker to his family’s thoroughbred racing empire. Parker retaliates against anyone who dares slight him or his blue-blooded British family, especially Regina Ward and her poker-playing father. The previous spring, Reggie had had the nerve to walk out on him after a torrid, three-week affair. Now, when Parker arrives in Kentucky to collect his family’s winnings, he’s determined to settle the score with the lovely Ms. Ward.

Regina Ward doesn’t consider herself a damsel in distress. After all, this is America, and she’s accustomed to depending upon herself. However, when her father loses four of the yearlings from their central Kentucky horse farm in a poker game, Reggie knows it’s up to her to save what’s left of her family’s homestead and her proud Kentucky heritage. Can she do it when Parker Stuart, the most arrogant and infuriating Brit she’s ever met, shows up in the Bluegrass?

Release date: November 5, 2014
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Contemporary
ISBN: 978-1-60735-833-6
Retail Price: $3.99

Official publisher link:


Author Info:

Jan Scarbrough is the author of the popular Bluegrass Reunion series, writing heartwarming contemporary romances about family and second chances, and if the plot allows—horses. Living in the horse country of Kentucky makes it easy for Jan to add small town, Southern charm to her books, and the excitement of a horse race or a competitive horse show. A member of Novelist, Inc., Jan has published with Kensington, Five Star, ImaJinn Books, Resplendence Publishing and Turquoise Morning Press.

Follow me on Twitter @romancerider


  1. Glad to see you here, Jan. It's been a long time since Precious Gems days, hasn't it? I'm glad we're still writing our way through.

  2. Yes, miss the Precious Gems days ;) I'm glad we're still writing, also.

  3. Fun blog, Jan. I wish you success with this new book in your series!

  4. Hi, Jan! We're so glad to have you here at WordWranglers today! I don't put people into my books...but sometimes bits and pieces of conversations (I'm an eavesdropper, totally admit!) make their way in. Sometimes the stuff you hear in real life is better than anything you can make up, lol!

  5. I confess to using personality traits of people I know in my books--not the people themselves, but some quirky thing about folks in my life. Mostly, they don't recognize themselves, so I guess it's okay. Love your horses!!! I used to have Tennessee Walkers. Fun!! So glad you stopped by Word Wranglers today!

  6. Thanks for having me on your blog today! It was fun remembering my horses, but I must admit I'm glad I don't have all that responsibility now. Cats and dogs are enough drain on my pocketbook!