Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Donna Alward: Small Bits of Inspiration

Where does my inspiration come from? I get asked that question quite often, and sometimes the answer is simple and broad. The story came to me because… But more often, inspiration comes in little bits and pieces. I might have a general idea for the heroine but be stumped on the hero. I might have an idea for a story and my editor might tell me half my idea doesn’t work and I have to go back to the drawing board again. Or the brainstorming group.

For an upcoming story, my editor thought I’d picked the wrong hero for the heroine. So I took part of another idea and borrowed it for a different hero. The problem? That hero is the brother of another character and so I ended up having to make adjustments to the first books in the series to keep continuity intact. Still, once I revisited the story, everything seemed to fit so much better.

In Somebody Like You, which is out next month, the heroine once dumped a milkshake over a boy’s head. That actually happened in my high school (I won’t mention names). It was one of those gestures that raised eyebrows and got talked about, and so the town of Darling hasn’t forgotten that Laurel got pretty ticked at Aiden one day when they were seventeen, dumped a vanilla milkshake over his head, and they haven’t spoken since. For me, the best research technique is simply life.
In Someone To Love, the heroine, Willow, is big on meditation and yoga. It helped her rebuild her life. I’ve done yoga in the past, but to really do it justice in this book, I signed up for a series at my local studio. And I’ve stayed there, because it has helped me SO much with my stress level and putting my life in perspective. 

Sometimes bits of dialogue, articles of clothing can be inspired by something small. For example, in Someone To Love, Willow wears a pretty top on her first real date with Ethan. That top is modeled after one my daughter wore on her first date – very pretty and with butterflies on it; a bit whimsical and something that would suit Willow perfectly.

The little things, the small details, are often what makes a book really come alive. I like to think of those small details as being particularly a part of me, and the world I inhabit, and the people I love. And I like to think that my readers get to know more about me and who I am by living through my characters.

Here’s a small snippet from SOMEBODY LIKE YOU, when cop Aiden Gallagher responds to Laurel Stone’s call about a break in at her garden center:

“Something like this happens everywhere, Laurel. What, you didn’t think crime happened in Darling?”

Well, no. Or at least, not until today. The fact that she’d already come to this disappointing conclusion, and then he’d repeated it, just made her angrier.

Coming home was supposed to be peaceful. Happy. The town was small, friendly, neighborly. Even after years away, many of her customers remembered her from her school years and recalled stories from those days. Darling even had a special “Kissing Bridge” in the park. There were several stories around how the bridge got the name, so no one really knew for sure. But the stone bridge and the quaint little legend to go with it brought tourists to the area and made Darling’s claim to fame a very romantic one. In a nutshell, those who stood on the bridge and sealed their love with a kiss would be together forever.

She should know all about it. Her picture—and Aiden’s—hung in the town offices to advertise the attraction. Just because they’d only been five years old at the time didn’t make it less of an embarrassment.

“I’m not naïve,” she replied sharply. “Is there anything else you need or can I get back to cleaning up?”

“Can you think of anyone who might want to give you trouble? Someone with a grudge or axe to grind?”

Other than you? she thought darkly. This was the first time they’d actually spoken since she’d poured vanilla milkshake over his head in the school cafeteria in their senior year. “No,” she replied. “I can’t imagine who’d want to do this.”

“I don’t suppose you have any video cameras installed.”

She shook her head, feeling inept and slightly stupid. Maybe she was a little naïve after all. She hadn’t lived in Darling since she was nineteen—nine  years. Things had changed in her absence. New people, new businesses.

“I’ll have another look around. It looks like a case of vandalism more than anything. Probably some teenagers thinking it’s funny, or after the cash for booze or pot, and smashed some stuff for show.” His gaze touched hers. “Kids can be really dumb at that age.”

Her cheeks heated. He hadn’t had to say the actual words for her to catch his meaning. “You never know. They might have been dared to do it. Or some sort of stupid bet.”

He held her gaze a few seconds longer, and she could tell by the look in his eyes that he acknowledged the hit. He’d kissed her because of one of those bets . . . more than kissed her. They’d been parking in his car and he’d rounded second base and had been headed for third. And then she’d found out about the wager and lost her cool. Publicly. With the milkshake.

The only thing she regretted was saying yes to going on that drive in the first place.
“So you still haven’t forgiven me for that.”

Laurel lifted her chin. “To my recollection, you haven’t asked for forgiveness.”

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1 comment:

Kandy Shepherd said...

Fabulous cover, Donna, and the story looks wonderful! So interesting to read some of your inspiration behind the new book.