I started setting books in my fictional town of Larch Valley a while ago – in fact, it was the first book I did with my current editor after my first editor at Harlequin got promoted. I wrote the end of it with a cast on my arm, a glass of wine at my elbow and a husband gone to Hawaii in the middle of a brutally cold January. The book was called The Rancher’s Runaway Princess.
Despite the adjustments that happened during the writing of that book, I went on to write a duet set there – One Dance With the Cowboy and Her Lone Cowboy. I loved bringing back characters from the first book and introducing a few new ones. One character I loved writing – even though his role was small – was Clay Gregory. Even with his walk-on role he was a big ol’ sexy cowboy and I knew I wanted to write his story.
But I couldn’t find him the right heroine. I had a few proposals but none of them really flew. I wrote three more books for the Romance line before I finally figured it out. The woman he was supposed to be with was Megan Briggs – his best friend’s little sister.
It was fantastic going back to Larch Valley. Each time I do, past characters show up and a few new ones get introduced. Megan had been mentioned in One Dance With The Cowboy but never on screen; now she’s front and centre after disappearing for cancer treatment. I wrote the opening of this book something like four times (which is not unusual, this happens in nearly every book until I hit upon the right time and place to really start it). In the end, what worked was Meg trying desperately to get her life back to normal. She’s shoveling you know what. And in struts Clay with his boots and heavy jacket and all around sexiness.
It was both difficult and easy to write Meg’s character. Easy because as a cancer survivor, there’s automatically some internal conflict and a lot of emotion built in. Difficult because I feel a great responsibility for getting it RIGHT – all the hopes and dreams and worries and fears that Meg still has.
It really came down to one particular scene for me. One that I thought my editor might read and that she might tell me was too risky. But she never breathed a word about taking it out, and I was thrilled. I cried buckets writing it!
Romantic Times gave it four stars, but what I really liked was the quote that went with it: Great characters bring life to this beautifully written story that explores trust, friendship and hope.
Trust, friendship, and hope. Yes, that just about nails it.
I’m giving a copy away today to one commenter! And please – don’t forget to do your self exam or get a mammogram if you’re over 40. 🙂