People often ask where I get my ideas. Frequently they fly at me from left field, many of them arriving while I’m driving. At those times it seems I pray for a red light to write down the idea, and of course, rarely hit one. Panicked I’ll lose the brilliant gem, I end up talking to myself to remember the idea until I can jot down the thoughts ping ponging around my brain.
That’s exactly what happened with my Wishing Texas Series. I was driving home from my office (Starbucks), and I wondered when my son Alex was leaving for east Texas to meet his friends at the lake/ranch. I remember thinking I was glad he still got together with his college buddies. Then I gasped, and actually said out loud, “What if friends from the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M still got together every year at one of their ranches?”
A giddy rush of excitement burst through me as I thought about creating a story for each of these friends.
For me, the ideas start out that simple. That small.
As I nurture and grow the tiny seed idea starting with a character or core group of characters a theme forms in my mind, usually with a basic idea such as forgiveness, starting over, self-discovery, or whatever. But the journey always takes a different path than I plan because whatever’s going on in my life crawls into my stories.
This probably sounds like a “well, duh” moment, but the fact took me by surprise. I knew my world view and experiences would color my stories, but I didn’t expect my books to mirror my life to the degree they have. After all, my characters have their own back-story, their own history, their own baggage. But how much of mine they carry with them shocked me.
Lately my characters have wrestled with finding their purpose in life, and carving out a new path. Cassie, the heroine in To Love A Texas Cowboy, moves from New York to Wishing, Texas to raise her orphaned niece. My next heroine, Grace Henry in To Catch A Texas Cowboy, moves to Wishing to run Cassie’s bed and breakfast when she loses her job and no one will hire her. Both women have to reinvent themselves. Both must decide what to keep of their past and how to move forward.
Now here’s my duh moment. I’m facing the issue myself. The youngest of my three sons goes to college in a year. For twenty-five years my prime identity has revolved around being a mom, and now my life is undergoing a serious shift. I shouldn’t have been surprised the theme crept into my stories, but I was.
Not that I set out to create character back-stories that highlight an issue I’m dealing with, I don’t. I think subconsciously my mind does that. Writers are always told to write what we know. Whether I mean to or not, good or bad, I guess I do write what I know. Or rather what I’m living.