I’ve been thinking lately about inspiration. Unlike many authors, I don’t have a million book ideas knocking around in my head at any given moment. I generally have only one. Once I get an idea for a story, I become fully immersed in it until I flesh it out in a book. It’s like my brain can only process so much and stubbornly refuses to allow extra stuff in that will be distracting.
Because of my brain’s stingy supply of new ideas, part of me is afraid I’ll eventually run out of them. As I write and complete each new book, however, that fear gradually diminishes. I have written nine historical western romances containing domestic discipline, a rather specific genre, and yet each book has contained a different premise, plot, and character personalities.
The world is full of inspiration. You just have to pay attention. You have to listen, learn, and feel. I’d like to share my inspiration for each book I’ve written. For some of them, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment or experience that inspired me, but for others, it’s very clear.
The Unbraiding of Anna Brown. My first book. Believe it or not, I started this book in 2011 and didn’t finish it until 2015. I was so thrilled when Blushing Books accepted it for publication, and I was even more thrilled when I learned that — wow! — there are other people who want to read my fantasies. Carter, the hero, is a grieving widower who has withdrawn from the world. Anna, the heroine, is a sweet young woman whose kind heart and quiet presence gradually help him awaken from grief.
My inspiration for this story? The western T.V. show Bonanza. If you’re a fan of the show, you know the big joke. Throughout its air on T.V., the four bachelor ranchers meet scores of women, but the women they meet and fall in love with all die. Ben Cartwright, the patriarch, was actually married three times and all three of his wives died. I was thinking of Ben Cartwright when I wrote Carter Barnes (see the name similarity?).
Growing up, watching the strong, old-fashioned cowboys take charge and do good in the world, did all kinds of happy things to my impressionable young heart, so it makes sense that I would have a “thing” for cowboys. I suppose you could say Bonanza is an inspiration for all my books, in a way, since my books all take place in the old west with rugged, untamed men (yum!).
The Submissive Suffragette. This is a prequel to Anna Brown, even though I wrote it after. While writing Anna’s story, I came to understand the woman Carter was mourning. Carter’s first wife, Nalin, was sharp, feisty, and different from Anna in just about every way. I felt that Nalin and Carter deserved their own story, which led me to write The Submissive Suffragette.
It was fun to write, and I’ll tell you why. While writing Anna and Carter’s story, I fully formed Carter’s character, and I had to stick with it when I wrote the next book. He was who he was! And that was a gruff, stoic, no-nonsense man. Young, demure Anna fell right in line with that. But pairing him with Nalin was a fun challenge. Imagine a progressive, intelligent woman going toe-to-toe with an old-fashioned cowboy for 130 pages, and you have an idea of what goes on in this book.
Missy Meets the Marshal. You’ll notice as you keep reading that a recurring inspiration for my books is other books. This is true for Missy Meets the Marshal, although it might be surprising to discover which book inspired it. Believe it or not, it was inspired by a nonfictional book about how to write westerns, called Write a Western in 30 Days by Nik Morton.
I had grudgingly and unenthusiastically decided I should do some research on the old west, since it was clear by this time that writing westerns was the direction I was going. In this how-to book, I learned that to make a western book feel authentic to the reader, I needed to get more specific and more in tune with the lingo of the old west. For instance, instead of writing that the marshal drew his gun, I could write that the marshal shucked his Smith & Wesson. I learned about some of the gritty details of the wild west, and an action-packed story of villains, bank robbery, and murder formed inside my head. I don’t claim that my books are completely historically accurate (they’re not, as several disgruntled readers have pointed out), but I do try to add as many details as possible to make them believable. Fun fact: Anna and Carter show up in this book, and they are instrumental in helping Missy and Grover find their HEA.
Fetching Charlotte Rose. This book ranked #1 in historical erotica and erotic westerns on Amazon. It also won “Best Sweet Spanking Romance” of 2016. So yes, this book is both erotic and sweet! I can actually pinpoint the exact book that inspired me to write Fetching, and it’s a book by a spanking romance author I’ve never spoken with or had any kind of communication with other than to review a couple of her books. The author is April Hill, and the book that inspired mine is titled Scarlet Fever. In the beginning of this book, the hero (a Canadian Mountie) and heroine (an American journalist) engage in the most hilarious banter. The bratty heroine repeatedly insults the longsuffering hero who has a duty to deport her for not possessing proper papers. She jabs at him for being Canadian, for being a man, for being humorless… all his qualities and personality traits are fair game for this smart-mouthed heroine.
In my book, down-to-earth, practical Max fetches haughty, well-educated Charlotte Rose from the station, and immediately there are fireworks. Thinly veiled insults fly from the travel-weary lady, and events during the buggy ride from the station to town include Charlotte tossing away an apple given to her by Max, reporting that she’s had lemons that were sweeter. It’s so, so fun writing bratty heroines and the moments that lead to their comeuppances!
His Little Red Lily. This book dabbles with mild age play. The young heroine is in need of a father figure, and the older, more-experience Jesse fits that role. Charlotte and Max make a significant appearance in this book. Writing Fetching Charlotte Rose and becoming acquainted with its setting and its characters inspired me to write Lily. Other than that, I honestly can’t say where I got my idea for this book. Lily longs to be an entertainer and to sing and dance in Jesse’s saloon. I can’t relate with this at all, as I would rather get indigestion than get up on stage and perform. Still, Lily’s longing for a protective man who will see to her safety isn’t a fantasy unfamiliar to me, so the story flowed naturally.
Claimed by the Mountain Man. Trapper Jack meets Naughty Nettie. I’ve actually already written a post on my inspiration for this book! If interested, you can read about it here. In a nutshell, my inspiration came from a Dolly Parton song. Yes, you heard that right. Country western songs have been pretty helpful to me in writing westerns, actually. Many other country songs have led to writing scenes in my other books. I can give specifics if asked, but this post would be a lot longer if I tried to list them all.
Corralling Callie. By this point in my western book-writing endeavor, I had written men with the following occupations: rancher, marshal, blacksmith, saloon owner, and trapper. I thought to myself, what other jobs did men have back then? I researched and found out that one of the most dangerous, lucrative careers a man could have in the old west was as a stagecoach driver. I knew I had found my next hero: Jude Johnson. Tough as nails, he has a job to do, and it’s to transport travelers west in one piece — surviving treacherous trails, bad weather, and bandits.
So what happens when a focused man gets a passenger like Callie, a misbehaving orphan with very little understanding of safety and proper behavior? Well, let’s just say there’s some spanking involved. I really fell in love with these two characters, so much so that I was inspired to write a follow-up story with them called Christmas with Callie, which can be found in this anthology.
Emma’s Surrender. I try to pay attention to trends in what people are reading and writing, and one trend I noticed and experienced myself in my own taste was dark romances. All the heroes I had written up to this point were what I would call morally upright. But I got to thinking, what if my hero was a villain? What if he was so evil that he actually murdered the heroine’s father? My mind went down a dark path (fun!). This book took on more D/s themes in addition to DD. It was my first time writing anal punishment, first time writing capture, and first time writing 100 percent from the heroine’s perspective. Before, my books contained chapters from the hero’s point of view, but I intentionally didn’t allow the reader to get inside Nathan’s head in this book. I wanted them to experience all the fear and doubt that Emma felt, without understanding the hero’s motivations until she did.
The plot of this story is based very loosely on real-life historical events. I lived for about six years in a small town in Montana, and in that time I learned some of the history there. During the Civil War, though Montana had no official affiliations, sympathizers of the Union stole gold to support their cause and painted pictures of the victims as evil Confederates, even though most of those people had come upon that gold legally. The sheriff in Virginia City was eventually hung as a result of a series of events that happened around this time. Using these fascinating historical truths, I wrote a strange, but not altogether unlikely, tale where the people who are supposedly good in this book are actually not good at all.
Handling Susannah. This is my latest release. I plan to write a lot more about my inspiration for it in a separate blog post but, as a preview, I will say I was hugely inspired by one of my author friends, Susannah Shannon—so much so that I gave the heroine her name! This friend of mine has been instrumental in brainstorming sessions. She can come up with hilarious, delightful ideas for stories and plot twists at the drop of a hat, and that was the case with this book. Every western romance writer needs to write a story with the mail-order bride trope, right? It’s practically mandatory. Discussions with Susannah led to shaking up this trope and writing a story about a mail-order groom. And boy was this fun to write!
Thanks for reading about my inspiration! If you’re an author, I’d love to hear what inspires you. Are there similarities, or is your process totally different from mine? Do you have any advice for finding inspiration? Are there events in your life that have led to an influx or drought of ideas? Please share!
If you’re a reader, what kinds of themes do you like to read in your romance books? What would you like to read next? Please share your thoughts, as I’m always looking for new ideas and willing to try new things!