Like most authors, I’m often asked how I come up with characters and/or plots for my books. Depending on the book, my answer will vary. In only two of my books have the storylines been taken from situations and people in my personal life (Awakening, my debut novel, and Meet Me Under the Mistletoe). In most cases, my characters are derived from my imagination. I guarantee you, by the time their story is written, they are real and reside in my heart. My goal and purpose as an author is to bring those characters “alive” in the minds of readers, as well.
First and foremost, without fail, I always pray for the Lord’s guidance and inspiration when I sit down at the computer to write. I can thankfully and truthfully say that I’ve never suffered from that horrible affliction known as (gasp!) Writer’s Block. I also know that life’s experiences, both good and bad, have made me the writer I am today. I raised my family first, and I firmly believe the Lord honored that dedication to my husband and children early on by blessing my efforts in this season of my life (when my kids are older and more autonomous).
In my Lewis Legacy Series, each new novel (currently numbering five books plus the prequel, Prelude) builds upon the books before it and yet most can stand on their own quite well. The more characters you add and the deeper you get into a series, however, it becomes more of a challenge to preserve the charm of an ongoing series and draw new readers into a situation with preexisting characters and new ones added into the mix (and children!).
Catching Serenity, a standalone novel, is simply the product of my imagination and my love of small towns near the ocean. My upcoming standalone novel, Heart’s Design, was one of my first attempts at writing a full-length Christian romance. Originally titled Oxford Hills (for the real-life region in western Maine of the setting), I had clipped an article from the Philadelphia newspaper about the Oxford Hills and what struck me was this: for a region its size, Oxford Hills has the largest concentration of natural minerals and gemstones of any place in the world. My heroine, Caroline Prescott, is a jewelry designer (from a wealthy Boston family and expected to join the family law firm) and my hero? Seth Barnes is a mineralogist who loves the Lord, drives a truck with a license plate that reads “I Dig Rocks,” and has an axe to grind with a particular lawyer…from Boston. Throw in a B&B, some homespun charm, fun and quirky characters, and you’ve got yourself a novel!
My Starlight Christmas Series is purely from my imagination. More small-town charm and the Christmas holiday season go hand-in-hand in my opinion, and thus fictional Starlight, Iowa was birthed. However, the series began when I wanted to write a story about a handsome firefighter hero in his late twenties who’d never kissed a woman. I’ll let you read the intro to that book to find out how that story personally resonated with me. Echoes of Edinburgh stems from my trip to Scotland when I was a college student, and when my publisher put out a call for books with foreign settings, I jumped at the opportunity!
For my latest novel, Love So Amazing, which released last week, the “germ” of the idea came when I attended the American Christian Fiction Writers conference in Indianapolis in September 2010. My roommates and I were staying at the Hilton, a few blocks from the Hyatt Regency, the location of the conference. Both the Hyatt and the Hilton are mentioned in the book. However, it was the experience of taking a pedicab ride from the Hyatt back to the Hilton after the banquet (heels, evening gown, late at night) that planted the seed in my mind of writing a hero who owned and operated a pedicab business. I’d never seen that in a Christian romance!
“In Galatians 5:13, it says, ‘For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.’ I guess that’s what I’d like most to tell you all tonight. You can win the ballgame, you can score the prettiest girl in school, you can pump yourself up with awards and compliments telling you how great you are, you can drink or smoke something that you think will make you feel good.
“I’ve been there, and I’ll admit that for a while, it felt good to stand on the mountaintop. But that high only lasts a short time. I can stand here and tell you how it’s a mistake, I can try to beat it into your heads that it’s not the way to find success or happiness or love. But will you listen? No, you’re going to live your own lives and make your own mistakes.
“If nothing else, please remember this: God’s love is amazing. That word is bandied about so much these days to the point where it’s been cheapened. A friend once told me that the word she heard the most on one of those sleazy reality TV shows was that very word—amazing. For the most part, it was used to describe the physical beauty of a woman. I’m sure you know the show I’m talking about here. A handsome young guy meets a parade of beautiful women, one woman more gorgeous than the next. They gallivant around on a beautiful island, in a gorgeous mansion by the ocean, and the alcohol flows freely. The guy sleeps with most of the women and then makes the choice for his so-called ‘perfect’ mate.
“I’m here to tell you it doesn’t work that way in the real world. That life is a fantasy, and nothing more than a lie. Sure, you can do those things, but in the end, you’ll feel empty inside if you don’t trust the Lord to guide you. No one else—not your parents, not your pastor, with all due respect to my best friend over here”—he winked and nodded at Chase—“your girlfriend, or anyone else, is going to love you more than God does. But God’s given these people to you as a gift. Treasure them not for what they can give you, but what you can give to them. It’s my prayer for each one of you”—Sawyer paused to make eye contact with some of the kids—“that you’ll see how amazing God really is by allowing Him to work in your life.”
Love So Amazing is only 99 cents on Amazon Kindle as the low introductory price, but three commenters will also be chosen at random to receive a complimentary digital copy of Love So Amazing (Amazon gift). To be eligible, please leave a comment telling us your definition of love so amazing and/or perhaps how the Lord has worked in your life. If you’ve read the book, please feel free to chime in! We’d love to hear your comments!