top of page

INTERVIEW: Syrie James is a Plotter

Updated: Jan 30

Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview with Christina Boyd for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

I first met author Syrie James at the Jane Austen Society of North America 2010 Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Portland, Oregon when I asked her to sign The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen. Ever since, I've read most everything she publishes. I met her again in Huntington Beach, California for the 2017 AGM. I was invited to dinner with her and some of her theatre friends, our blogger friends, as well as her beloved, late husband, Bill. My favorite Syrie James memory is walking along the beach promenade with her—she was dressed in a Regency day dress, parasol and dark sunglasses.

Christina: I'm pretty sure I know this answer but... Who is your favorite author?

Syrie: Jane Austen.

Two white women walking along the beach. One wearinf a dark tshirt and jeans and the other wearing a white and black bonnet, a black short jacket over a pale blue gown, with a white lace parasol. Both wearing dark sunglasses.
Author and playwright Syrie James and blogger Claudine of Just Jane 1812 walking along Huntington Beach

Christina: Pantser or plotter or hybrid?

Syrie: I’m definitely a plotter. I dream up character charts for the main characters, until I know them and their backstory inside and out. I create the story beats using the Save The Cat structure as my guide and write up a detailed outline from beginning to end. Only then do I start writing the novel. The outline just serves as a guideline though. I’m open to any new ideas that present themselves along the way that will improve the story—and they always do!

Christina: As a plotter then, what comes first in your writing process: plot or characters?

Syrie: I usually begin with the character. When writing about a real-life historical person (as in The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, and Jane Austen’s First Love), I intensely researched Jane Austen’s and Charlotte Brontë’s lives and read everything they’d ever written, including their personal correspondence, until I felt I knew them well enough to write from their point of view.

Christina Boyd meeting Syrie James at the 2010 Portland Oregon Jane Austen Society of North America Annual General Meeting

For my romantic suspense novel Dracula My Love, Bram Stoker may have invented the modern concept of the vampire, but I wanted my Dracula to be the most charismatic and brilliant man in the world. I had such fun bringing him and Mina Harker to life in a passionate love affair! I also began with the characters for my Victorian historical romance trilogy (book 1: Runaway Heiress): three strong, college-educated, American heiresses whose mother sends them to England against their will to marry a man with a title.

But! Once in a while, I do start with plot! My novel Nocturne began with a concept: a young woman is rescued from death in the snowy Colorado mountains and obliged to wait out a blizzard in the company of a mysterious man—and as they fall deeply in love, she discovers he’s hiding a dark, terrifying secret!

Christina: Wow! I loved, loved, loved Nocturne. I still think it would make a great film, and I am still waiting for its sequel.

With a backlist like yours, I must ask: What is your best advice for new writers?

Syrie: Read, read, read, all the best books in the genre in which you are writing. Take writing workshops, classes, and attend writing conferences. You’ll learn so much and make friends who will help you on the journey. Have your work read by savvy “beta readers” who will be honest with you. Be open to criticism. Be prepared to rewrite and rewrite. No one is born knowing how to write a brilliant novel. It’s a learning process. Embrace the three Ps: patience, persistence, and perseverance. Never give up!

Christina: If you could go back and advise 21-year-old Syrie, what would you say?

Syrie: Life is full of incredible joys but also great sorrows and hardships. Embrace the joy! Make time for yourself. Know that things don’t always go as you plan, but that’s alright. The past is past. The future is yet to be written. Follow your dreams wherever they lead you. Believe in yourself. Hold your head high. Take one step at a time. If you can dream it, you can do it! Oh, and invest in Amazon in 1997, the minute it goes public!

Christina: Thank you, Syrie, for taking time and sharing your experience and wisdom. If only we had invested in Amazon back then.


Syrie: pronounced like the App, but spelled better. Syrie James is the author of thirteen critically acclaimed novels of historical fiction, romance, and young adult fiction that have been international, USA Today, and Amazon bestsellers. Her books are published in more than twenty languages, been named Library Journal Editor’s Picks of the Year, and won numerous awards including the Audiobook Audie, Barnes and Noble’s Romantic Read of the Week, and Best Novel of the Year by Suspense Magazine and Romance Reviews. A WGA member, Syrie has sold many scripts to film and television and adapted bestselling books to screen, including Danielle Steele’s Once in a Lifetime. Syrie’s work as a playwright has been produced from California to Montreal and off-Broadway in New York City. A member of the Historical Novel Society and the Jane Austen Society of North America, Syrie has addressed dozens of organizations, universities, and literary conferences and performed on stage numerous times as Jane Austen. A research and story structure maven, Syrie is committed to taking her characters on challenging journeys of growth and discovery. Syrie lives in Los Angeles, where she is currently writing her next book.

You can connect with Syrie via her Website, Blog, Newsletter, Facebook, Author page on Facebook, and Twitter.


bottom of page