So you want to write a book. What should you write about? How do you find an idea?
I've published two books, appeared in one anthology, have a western romance coming out later this year and have two more finished novels and a novella to sell. Where did the ideas come from?
You've been told, "Write what you know," but what if you don't know anything? You're not an expert on anything and you don't know anyone who is. You just want to write a good, entertaining story.
Ignore this advice. Being smart is not about what you know; it is how fast you can find out. Research is half the fun of writing fiction. My new book, Maddie's Choice, due in October, is about modern day cattle rustling in the Midwest, Angus bulls, motorcycle gangs, methamphetamine dealers and PTSD--all of which I knew almost nothing. Once i had the idea I had to research everything and met a lot of interesting people in the process. It is part of writing. I discovered people love to answer questions. So where did the idea for this book originate?
I live in a tourist town in Arkansas, and one weekend members of a large motorcycle gang known as Hell's Angels came to town to celebrate an event. Yeah, the gang Marlon Brando made a movie about. This group is from California and the East coast. There is another gang, called the Bandidos, out of Texas who consider this their private territory, and they arrived to throw the others out. A knife fight ensued. Paramedics were called, along with police and the FBI, who happened to be in town, because the meth trade in this country is controlled by motorcycle gangs and the Feds had been watching them. I didn't know anything about drug trafficking, biker gangs, and the FBI, but I knew a story idea when I heard it.
About that time the newspapers were reporting several cases of cattle rustling at the small ranches in the area. That's when the "what if" question that is the start of every novel, hit me. What if there's a drug dealing motorcycle gang in the area--let's call them The Red Hand--and they're about to get a big delivery from Mexico? To keep the local police too busy to notice they start rustling cattle from these small ranches who can't afford the loss. The book could end with a big gun battle.
So far, so good, but this is a romance. Besides a small cattle ranch right outside Peachville, Arkansas, I need a man and a woman, who must live together on the ranch, in unlikely circumstances, who can't stand each other but have to get along.
Okay. Let's suppose the woman, Maddie a romance novelist with a thriving career, from New York who's never been near a cow, has writer's block and desperately needs a change of scene.
The guy will be moody, and rough-edged. He's Gideon, the ranch boss--big, handsome and hostile to women, especially New York Bimbos. He clearly needs the love of a good woman but he's afraid to get near because he's suffering from PTSD, a result of ten years in combat in Special Forces. Oh yeah, he's guardian of two orphaned nephews yearning for the love of their uncle. Throw in an Angus bull addicted to chocolate, a barn cat named Deuteronomy, and we're on our way.
I had a lot of fun and pulled out all the stops writing this book. I added some evil dirty guys, some eccentric small town residents, a lot of romantic dialogue, passionate sex, and some really good fights between Maddie and Gideon before they finally get together. The final kicker: Twenty thousand dollars worth of Angus cattle were rustled in Southern Missouri last week.
Maddie's Choice, to be published by Coffeetown Press this fall thanks to my agent Jeanie Loiacono.