One of the questions authors get all the time is, “How do you get your ideas?” Well, I’m about to tell you a story about exactly that. Now you need to know from the start that this sort of thing doesn’t happen often (though a lot more writers would be thrilled if it did), which is why it’s so special. Sometimes authors angst over what their next book is about, and I’ve done that plenty in my twenty years of writing. But this is the story of a different kind of book, a magic book. Because the idea just came to me—poof!—like magic.
It was 1999, and I had just sold my first book to Avon. My editor wanted me to tell her what my next book was going to be about. I was still giddy from the news that my ONCE A MISTRESS, was going to be published. The notion of writing a new book hadn’t even entered my mind yet. After all, it had taken six years to perfect the first one!
Needless to say, I wasn’t going to get six years to write the second one. In fact, they wanted a proposal pretty darned quick. So one rainy afternoon when my baby was down for a nap, I sat down to tackle an idea that had been tickling my mind. It wasn’t so much an idea as it was an image and a phrase.
The image: a buckboard wagon trundling through the middle of a western town, the sun gleaming off the polished wood of a giant, four-poster bed. And the phrase:
Everyone watched the bed come through town.
That is the first line of my book, DONOVAN’S BED. It’s a Western historical, it’s funny, and on that rainy afternoon, I sat down at my word processor and wrote the entire ten page synopsis for the book before the baby woke up, straight through. The characters seemed to come to life, and I felt as if I’d lived in the town of Burr forever.
You have to understand, that doesn’t happen very often for most writers. When a book comes to you so clearly and practically writes itself, it’s like a gift from the universe. That book ended up being nominated for a RITA, a prestigious award given by Romance Writers of America, and it’s still one of my favorites, fourteen books later.
So what’s it about? DONOVAN’S BED takes place in a small town called Burr in Wyoming Territory. The hero is named Jack Donovan, and he’s new to town. Donovan has a whole pile of money, a secret, and not a lot of social polish. He takes all that money and proceeds to build a ranch outside town. Our heroine is Sarah Calhoun, born and raised in Burr. She’s the newspaper editor—the entire staff, actually—and she’s trying to live down a scandal. These two meet, and sparks fly.
Donovan has this fantasy about marrying a traditional woman who will cook and clean and have his babies. This, in his mind, is not Sarah, who seems to care more about her newspaper than she would ever care for a man. But he’s really attracted to her and tells her so—with the caveat that while he really wants to take her to bed, she’s not the type of girl he would marry. He then proceeds to list all his requirements in a wife—similar to what a man would need in a horse because hey, not much difference, right? Being somewhat out of touch socially, he has no idea he’s just insulted Sarah.
Sarah, on the other hand, suspected all along that Jack Donovan has some kind of secret past. He’s managed to wiggle out of telling her about it up until now, but this latest remark of his has got her temper flaming. So she does what any passionate writer would do—she puts an article in the newspaper about Donovan’s search for a wife and where any interested ladies might find him.
Now at first Donovan is pleased. He figures this is going to make the wife hunting so much easier (I mentioned the lack of social polish, right?). But it’s not long before he’s a hunted man—literally hunted by young ladies and widows and spinsters and even some brothers with shotguns and their sister. But even though he now has a whole bunch of women to choose from, he still can’t forget Sarah.
I’m not going to spoil the rest of it, but there’s a whole lot more going on. There’s the terrible scandal Sarah was involved in years ago, which the town gossips won’t let her forget. There’s the escaped convict and the U.S. Marshal chasing him. There’s Sarah’s drop-dead gorgeous sister Susannah, who arrives at the most inopportune time. And there’s Donovan judging the pie contest at the Founders Day Festival, which gets a little…hot.
DONOVAN’S BED is available this month in digital format from Samhain’s Retro Romance line. And watch for the story of Sarah’s sister, Susannah, and the U.S. Marshal in THE LAWMAN’S SURRENDER, out in April.
For anyone who wants to spend the night in Donovan’s bed, just leave a comment to be put in a drawing for a free copy for one lucky winner!