Feature Article: The Seeds of HOME GROWN
Best Book(s) I’ve Read This Month
Finally... HOME AT LAST...
You know how I’ve been talking about my third book HURRY HOME (scheduled for publication in September, 2005—oops, make that now August, 2005 as of last week’s communique) for, oh, the last year or so? Well, titles come and go, and this one done went. In a change of heart, my publisher decided HOME AT LAST was a better selection.
Congratulations to Cheri O. of Elsmere, KY, winner of the August contest! There’s still time to sign up for the SEPTEMBER contest if you haven’t already. Visit my web site’s contest page for details on back-to-back contests that started in August.
CREATING A NOVEL: The Seeds of HOME GROWN
Author Note: This month’s feature article continues the series on Creating a Novel that was launched last May with A NOVEL IDEA. (Archived articles can be accessed from the News page of my web site.) That article spoke in generalities, but now that I’m actually in the process of creating a new novel, tentatively titled (by me, so you just know it will change!) HOME GROWN let’s talk in specifics about how one of those general ideas has made the leap to become a full-fledged book...
During the Romantic Writers’ of America Conference in July, I met with my editor. She asked what was up for UNTITLED... the fourth book I have under contract with NAL. There had been some talk about moving me into Women’s Fiction (relationship books that can include, but don’t necessarily have to have, a romance). I’d eventually like to try that, but now, my editor tells me, is not the time.
So I tossed out some ideas, including one for a fourth contemporary romance in the Cordelia, Missouri series. (SING ME HOME is out now; FOLLOW ME HOME will be out in two months; HOME AT LAST is scheduled for August, 2005). This fourth book, like the first three, would blend elements of women’s fiction and contemporary romance and again feature an O’Malley woman...
Patsy Lee O’Malley to be exact: The quiet widow with the noisy brood. The woman once married to the oldest sibling of the O’Malley family. The member of the family who tends to get lost amid her three more colorful sisters-in-law and their wonderful, but overbearing, mother.
And who is Patsy Lee’s white knight in shining armor? Or maybe I should say “her knight in snowy-white trousers?” Zeke Townley! Those of you who have read SING ME HOME will remember Zeke: bass guitarist for the Van Castle country rock band, and Jon Van Castle’s best friend. He’s laid-back, intelligent, laconic, cynical, witty, imperturbable, and never without a sharp crease in those trousers. I’ve adored him since I created him—and I just knew he’d be back some day.
Well, my editor got all excited about this particular idea, which in turn got me all revved up and we had a reasoned, thoughtful discussion something along the lines of...
“Patsy Lee and Zeke are mature—not twenty-somethings,” we dithered, abandoning our half-eaten meals and leaning across the table toward each other. My editor didn’t notice her blouse taking a dip into her soup bowl.
(I have absolutely nothing against twenty-somethings, mind you, but there’s something really cool about writing characters that have more life experience.)
“And Patsy Lee...” My editor spoke in that intense way that editors have while her blouse continued to soak up today’s Bean and Bacon. “Could provide something different: she’s almost the antithesis of today’s heroine.”
(Today’s heroine is usually kick-ass.)
“Oh yes!” I enthused, waving my fork, and losing my grip. It flew off to stick in the wall. “While Patsy Lee will prove to be no pushover, she’s reserved, shy, and—omigod—older! She’s not a size eight. She’s never graduated from college. She’s not following a stellar career path. She lives in a tumbledown farmhouse where she raises her children.... and... and, I know! Chickens.”
“She raises chickens?” My editor threw back her head and laughed. Soup dripped down her front. “Won’t Zeke just love that?!”
It’s in this precise, scientific, and controlled analysis that new books are born. By the end of that meal (my editor dried off, and the waiter brought me a spoon to replace my fork—and took away my knife), Patsy Lee’s story was a GO...
Since that conversation with my editor, the ideas for Patsy Lee, Zeke, and their story have mushroomed. I’ve scribbled pages and pages in legal pads and spiral notebooks, as well as typing some 15 pages or so of meandering musings on a computer screen. Before I can put either character into plot situations, I need to know each of them very, very well... or else how could I know what they will do when Patsy Lee breaks her ankle and suddenly Zeke needs to care for her, her children... and the chickens.
Character Development Part I: The Voices in my Head
BEST BOOK(s) I’VE READ THIS PAST MONTH:
Lately I’ve been wandering off my usual diet of women’s fiction and romance, sprinkled with a few best sellers or critical successes to... well, to nothing that has a common theme, I guess, except that, old or new, they’re good books...
TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY, by John LeCarre. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that this is the first book I’ve read by LeCarre. I started with an earlier work and will move on to a more recent novel at a later date. As most of you probably already know, he’s a wonderfully subtle, thoughtful-reader’s author.
FALLEN ANGELS, by Walter Dean Myers. Told from a young Viet Nam soldier’s first person perspective, this novel captures the alternately horrific, stupefying, terrifying, and (occasionally) humorous aspects of war. I discovered this novel on the reading list of my son’s (high school) freshman English class. Harsh, but profoundly moving and thought-provoking.
Fiction for and about women rediscovering themselves