Every author is asked enumerable times where they get their ideas for their stories. My entire writing career began with a dream. Not the dream of becoming a writer. I didn’t seriously consider doing that until sometime after I began my first novel. No, it was a dream that started me writing, a dream so vivid and compelling that I dragged out a portable typewriter (pre-computer days) and began to type.
That first book, a time travel when no one was buying them, has sat in a box on a shelf for over twenty years. An editor told me the story was too unusual to sell as a first book and suggested I write a simple romance, get it published, and after a few more books I might be able to sell the complex stories I love most. So I wrote about a woman who faked her own murder to escape an abusive marriage. She joined a wagon train for Oregon and hired a guide to pose as her brother. Naturally she and the guide fell in love. That book became a Golden Heart Finalist and was published by Kensington Books as Tender Touch.
My most successful paperback, Forever Mine, came from a visit to an Oregon lighthouse and saw a bridal photo of a keeper and his wife who were married there. Neither looked happy, but she appeared absolutely forlorn. I thought about what that area of the country would have been like in the waning days of the nineteenth century, what a chore it would have been simply to get to the lighthouse from the nearest town, nine miles away, when there were no roads. And Forever Mine was born. You can find it through September on sale for .99 at Amazon and other eBook sellers.
Taming Jenna is another story. My critique group and I were having lunch after a meeting and I said to one of the members I knew had a quirky sense of humor, to give me an idea for a new story. Without hesitation, she said, “Write about a woman who has to find a man and the only way she can identify him is by a scar on his bottom.” The result? —a lady Pinkerton who finds herself at odds with a bounty hunter after she pulls a gun on him and makes him drop his drawers. That was a fun story to write.
Ideas for novels come from many sources and what they are doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the writer is inspired by an idea that carries her through to the end of the tale and creates a vivid, compelling read. I like to believe this is what I’ve done in my books.
To Have and To Hold was the idea of my editor at Kensington. He wanted a story about a widow, perhaps with a couple of kids, and a drifter. I got to choose the characters. For my heroine I wanted a strong woman, feisty, and unique. Tempest Whitney suited the bill. She has her own colorful language and she takes no guff from anyone. Instead of a drifter, I created Buck Maddux, every woman's dream, who was just released from prison after doing two years for being involved in the robbery Tempest's husband actually committed. Buck simply happened by and found the wounded thief dying. Unable to just ride on and leave the man, Buck stayed and in the process promised to check on the man's wife and children for him. After prison, he kept that promise. Tempest didn't exactly welcome him.
Buck had twin half brothers, Cade and Whip Kincade. For my next book, I decided to write Whip's story, which ended up titled The Scent of Roses. But who was Whip Kincade, truly? I had to find out. I found him in a small town on the Utah-Arizona border running a saloon and a mine with a partner. The two also owned and shared the biggest house in town, haunted Rose House. Unfortunately, Whip and his partner, Josiah, have a fight in front of numerous witnesses. That night Whip finds Josiah dead, murdered. The next thing he knows, he's accused of the deed.To avoid arrest while he hunts down the real killer, he hides in secret passageways in the old house--passageways with peepholes that let him spy on Rosalyn Delaney who arrives a day later claiming to be Josiah's widow. Trouble is, Josiah already had a widow who takes an instant dislike to Rosalyn. Whip decides on the spot that the newcomer looks guilty as hell. The Scent of Roses is definitely a romance but also a bit of a mystery.
One of these days I must write Cade Kincade's story. Hm, who is he and where will I find him? How about some suggestions. Anyone have an idea?
Where do you authors get your book beginnings? Ever flounder for a new storyline? I'd love to hear your experiences.