I’m often asked where I get my story ideas and was recently asked if I got them from watching soap operas—which drew immediate laughter from me, because frankly (aside from the fact that I write westerns), I couldn’t watch a soap to save my life. Nothing against those who enjoy them, I simply don’t possess enough patience to enjoy a never-ending story. I need closure. In fact, I’m rather obsessed with the guarantee I’ll get closure even with my own stories and tend to write my last chapter early on…often times long before I finish the first chapter. I actually wrote the last chapter first for THE GUNSLINGER’S UNTAMED BRIDE. I knew the story would take place in a logging camp, and though I knew next to nothing about the characters as individuals, I knew exactly how their story would end in reference to the setting.
For me, setting tends to dictate my stories. I always start with a location first. BRIDE OF SHADOW CANYON was my first completed manuscript, a story that I built around a journey. My mind already envisioned all the locations I wanted to share with readers, I just had to come up with reasons to get my characters there and incorporate them into the scenes. So, as one might guess, most my stories start with me staring at maps, deciding where I want to go, where I want to take my readers, and how I can work a love story into the trip. I still have the maps for BRIDE and MUSTANG WILD, pinpointing each leg of their journey, as well as collages I made with a clockwise placement of snippets showing the changing landscapes as their story progressed.
I’m currently at work on a new series, but for months after finishing my last WILD book a new storyline refused to surface in my mind. I bought a ton of reference books on characters, pioneers, orphan train children, school teachers, doctors, miners, hoping to plant a seed and characters would take root and blossom into a story. I should have known better—it took stumbling across a book of Civil War maps to make the first strike in fertile ground. While pouring over the maps and reading about cartographers, I unearthed the era of the first book…whoever my heroes were, they were going to emerge into the chaos of Post Civil War. The maps reminded me that location was key in growing my books (It had been a while since starting a new series, I had forgotten!), and since I already had a vague notion that I wanted to explore Montana I found the textbook used to teach Montana history at the UC, dove into all the social and political turmoil happening in my chosen era, of which there was an abundance, and BAM! My heroes started taking shape and talking to me 😀
My heroes are always the first to stomp an impression into my mind, their temperaments defining the type of heroine they’ll require to get them under control 😉 Once I have a course set and a solid hero, everything else tends to spiral from there and fall into place. The first hero to arrive ended up being the hero of the second book for this series. I’m working on four books at present—they always come in a lot, and I tend to fall for the whole cast, and there’s always that secondary character that tries to steal the spotlight, ensuring he’ll get his own book. The loudest in this bunch has become my favorite, though he doesn’t get his own story until book three. He’s the rowdiest and most rotten, so of course his name is Gabriel. Here’s a little snippet from book two, the first time he wrangled me into his head, ensuring he’d get his own story. He’s tormenting Lake, the hero in book two, which is one of his favorite pastimes:
Gabriel Quaid crouched beside the entwined couple sleeping soundly beneath the low shelter. He hated to wake them, and wished to hell he had one of them picture cameras. He’d sell his right boot for a still frame of Lake holding the fair-haired woman, wrapped in each others arms, her pretty pink lips pressed against his neck, Lake’s fingers tangled in her hair. Hell, he’d ride barefoot and bare-assed to possess such torment. Laughter escaped his throat at the mere thought.
Eyes dark as demon coal sprang open, Lake pinning him without moving another muscle. Quaid grinned so wide it hurt.
“Easy, pardner,” he whispered. “I wouldn’t make any sudden moves if I were you. Then again, if I’s holding that bit of softness, I’d be doing my damnedest to slide my hands across those smooth curves and warm valleys while I had the chance.”
Lake stiffened, the slight move stirring Miss Fairchild. She shifted against him, her sleepy moan sounding like a contented purr. Watching sweat bead on Lake’s brow was the most fun Quaid had had since the brawl back at Fort Smith. In the five years he’d ridden with Lake, the stiff-necked half-breed didn’t cotton to white women, not one bit. The unfamiliar trace of fear etched across his friend’s expression told him this little woman had put a chink in that particular prejudice.
“Perty, ain’t she?” he taunted, his voice no more than a low rumble.
*Sigh* I do love the bad boys. I think mostly because they require the strongest breed of feisty heroines, and Quaid’s Lady Love is about as headstrong as they come.
Sadly, my new crop of westerns is still a ways off from being harvested and packaged up for the masses—but after an unintended detour from writing over the past year I’m downright giddy to be back in the fields!