It’s July. How did that happen? I’ve been married for 50 years! How did that happen? Grandboy is 11. How did that happen? I’ve got 14 published novels and another two on the way in 2023, plus I’m contracted to write four more books for Tule. Whew–how did that happen? I’ll be 70 in two months, how the hell did that happen?
Can you tell I’m a little overwhelmed with… well, life stuff and work stuff at the moment? I am, yet I go on ahead and do what needs doing because don’t we all? Right now, it’s all about the writing…
People ask me all the time, “How do you do it? How do you write all those stories? Where do you get your ideas?” In an ironic twist, last night as Husband and I were watching episode 703 of Outlander, I turned to him and said, “How does Diana Gabaldon do it? How does she write these amazing stories?”
He graciously replied, “The same way do you do it. One book at a time.”
You know, I wouldn’t dare to compare my storytelling to someone like Gabaldon, but like her, I am a series writer. I didn’t know that about myself when I first starting writing. Not even after writing the four Women of Willow Bay books. It wasn’t until I created River’s Edge that I figured out I don’t want to leave my characters and settings. I’m happy to invent new people to populate my little towns, but I really hate leaving the people and settings I’ve created. So I think the answer to Where do I get my ideas? might be that they’re seeds, sown in the previous books.
Let me try to explain because, man, I’d love to have a really good answer next time someone asks. When I started writing the Four Irish Brothers Winery series for Tule Publishing (See? Never turn an opportunity to promote), I had the four brothers in my head. By the way, I guess I need to preface this with the fact that I have people in my head clamoring to get out all the time. If I can give them a story, I’ll let them out, but otherwise, they have to go to the back of the line. Anyway, those brothers, all four of them were knocking around in there, tripping over each other to have their story told. Conor shouted loudest, so his story came first, although in the birth order, he was third in line.
But as I wrote his story, the seeds of his older brother Sean’s story were scattered—Megan, the mayor, who was thirty-seven and had never been married suddenly began to develop, as did Tierney, a female firefighter on the River’s Edge Fire Department. When we met Conor’s love interest, attorney Samantha Hayes, we also discovered that Sean, who was a high-powered attorney in Chicago, might not be all that thrilled with big-city life. In Sean’s book, Conor and Sam’s wedding happened and when it did, we not only saw Sean and Megan’s happily-ever-after, we also got a hint that Aidan’s glamorous life in LA might not be all that glamorous and that Brendan shared a special friendship with Tierney.
The next series in River’s Edge came from characters in the Flaherty brothers’ books. Those books featured my hometown first responders, The Lange Brothers and through them we met The Weaver Sisters, whose stories are currently being released.
See how that works? As I watch the continuing thread unspool throughout the episodes of Outlander, I realized that is what makes a series happen. That filament that runs through each episode. The continuing story that pulls you in because you want to know what will happen next to the characters even though each episode has a definite beginning, middle, and end.
So, for me, it’s the setting and the characters in the previous story that drives the next one. It’s the little town of River’s Edge; it’s the winery; it’s Mac’s Riverside Diner, the River Walk, and the Ohio River. For readers, it’s a yearning to go back to see what’s up with Mac and Carly, to watch the Flaherty family grow, to find out who else is falling in love, to meet more of the townsfolk, and to feel a part of River’s Edge.
It’s the same for me. Currently, I’m finishing up the first book in a new River’s Edge series featuring a different family—the Walkers of River’s Edge. You’ve met all five of them in previous stories–Eli Walker is Jazz Weaver’s love interest in my latest release, Home to River’s Edge. His brother Jack and his cousins, Cameron, Joey, and Annabelle are all in that story, too. Each one of them gets their own story in this new series, and Jack’s is almost done.
I’m not sure I’ve answered my own question, but maybe it simply is that stories breed more characters and characters breed more stories. May it continue.
Gratitude for this week: Husband and I had a glorious 50th anniversary in the Oregon wine country; Sinclair and Deepak Sawhney made us feel right at home at Roshni Vineyard; we had some fabulous wines, danced in a vineyard, and made some new friends; we got to see the glorious coast of Oregon and the Columbia River Valley and Mt. Hood–new to both of us; travel was pretty easy and we are safe at home again. So many blessings.
Stay well, mes amies, get out in the sunshine that’s lighting up your own back yard. Take care of yourselves, take care of others as best you can, and remember that all will be well.