You ever wonder where an idea comes from for a book of fiction? Think about it – every book comes from an author’s imagination. But there is always a genesis. For me, all my stories, whether currently under development or sitting in the “for the future” file patiently waiting for me to get around to them, have a beginning.
A moment of inspiration where an idea hits me from an observation. Somebody says something that gets me thinking. Or, as you will see, my family tells me to write a book.
With my debut novel, Against My Better Judgment, set for release by The Wild Rose Press on September 16th, I’m going to “pull back the curtain” and - through this blog - reveal some behind-the-scenes nuggets on the very long road from inspiration to publication.
Along the way, I will talk about all kinds of fun and interesting stuff (hopefully), including how the story grew and changed, the developmental editing process, challenges during the writing and editing stages, the hunt for a publisher, and some insider information on things to look for when you’re reading the book. 😉
Today, I’m going to let you in on how the heck this story ever came about. For some background, since the fifth grade, I always wanted to be an author. I wrote a thriller in 1994 (initially by longhand on yellow pads with my ankle in a cast) but was told by various pros in the business that "the premise was good and would make for a good movie script."
Translation: My writing sucked.
But I always had in the back of my head that one day I would give it another shot. And so, for twenty years I built a file of ideas for books and characters. It has become a packed drawer full of hanging files with scrawled notes, newspaper and magazine articles, legal cases, and bits of paper with cryptic writing (my handwriting isn’t the best).
In May 2013 I was driving with my wife, Mary, from Chattanooga, Tennessee to Washington, D.C. for our son’s graduation from medical school. It’s about a nine-hour drive with 350-400 miles on Interstate 81 through northeastern Tennessee and Virginia.
I don’t know about you, but driving that many miles on the same dang road gets pretty boring real fast. We started talking about some of the antics and funny stories our daughter Maria’s miniature dachshund, Mauzzy, would get himself and Maria into. The two met at the University of Alabama, where Maria rescued a very ill Mauz from a local shelter and nursed him back to health. As it turned out, Mauzzy is an extremely intelligent and clever little fella who always seemed to be hatching a plan. The more Mary and I talked, the more we laughed. And the more we laughed, the faster the miles rolled past. Thankfully.
At some point, Mary says something like, “You need to write a book about an inquisitive college girl and her mischievous dog.” So, to pass the time, we started throwing ideas around. Just for kicks. Or so I thought.
Since both our children graduated from the University of Alabama, setting the story at ’Bama was a no-brainer. This continued for the rest of the drive, with Mary doing most of the talking, and soon we were checking in at the hotel in Arlington. Again, thankfully.
Since we’re from the Maryland side of D.C., Mary and I went up a few days ahead of the graduation to see friends and family. Maria flew in later in the week and stayed at the same hotel. When she popped over to our room, the conversation invariably went back to this crazy idea of me writing a book.
Now, Maria and Mary are quite energetic and jubilant. And when they get together, things get animated. As they talked, they threw ideas all over the place, their excitement growing with each pitch. I mainly just sat and listened. It was quite entertaining.
Suddenly, Maria starts talking about writing all these ideas up in a thing called Catch Notes. I never heard of Catch, but it was at that moment when I realized they were serious. Within minutes Maria had an account set up in Catch and was showing us how we could collaborate and share ideas and notes. The rest of our stay in D.C. was filled with conversations on plot ideas, Mauzzyisms, and possible characters. And all of it was being captured in Catch Notes.
After driving back home, and as more and more ideas and stories from Mary and Maria filled up our Catch Notes, it dawned on me: I was really going to be writing a book for them. And I was okay with that thought because I was about to retire, so why not? It would keep me out of Mary’s hair. For all I know, with my retirement pending, she was planning ahead and suggested the idea of a book—to keep me out of her hair!
As I mulled over all their notes in Catch, I recognized if this was going to work, I needed to write in a style that was outside my comfort zone. All the ideas I collected were for thrillers and murder mysteries, but I was writing this book for Maria and Mary and their circle of friends. They’re fun-loving with a hint of crazy. It had to be fun and lighthearted, but still have a mystery. And Mauzzy had to be integral in a subtle sort of way. I plunged into the writing process determined to write a story that Mary and Maria would thoroughly enjoy and want to tell their friends about.
After seven years, two restarts, one title change, several major developmental editing rewrites, many submissions and “revise and resubmit” requests, Against My Better Judgment is set for release on September 16th by The Wild Rose Press.
And it all began in a long, boring car ride along I-81 on the way to my son’s graduation. Who would have thought?
Until next time, stay safe and healthy.