I guess it’s about time to use the random number generator again. I’m picking another book for a behind-the-scenes look at what went in to making the story what it is. Today’s random pick is Let it Snow, a contemporary romance novel set in southern Colorado.
Number 1: The character of Rick Dennehy came to me in a flash one day while riding through the Colorado mountains with my parents. I wasn’t thinking about books or writing at the time, so when we rounded a curve in the road and I “saw” a man standing there in my imagination, I knew I had to do something with him. I knew immediately that he owned some guest cabins that were tucked away in the trees. I also knew that he had suffered a great loss, but I didn’t know what that loss was for a while. It took longer to find Marti and understand her story, but once I found her, the story was ready to write.
Number 2: As soon as I found Marti’s character, I knew she had a teenage son who had some attitude problems. I didn’t know what was driving Cameron’s attitude until I was about 300 pages into the first draft of the story. I was closing in on the end of the book, but still had no idea how to resolve the issues between Cameron and his mom, so in desperation, I decided to write a scene from his point-of-view, just to see if he’d open up to me if I was in his head. He did, and gave me several big surprises in the process, which gave me some important story threads to lay down during rewrites.
Number 3: During the revision process of the book with my editor, I realized that I had a very different view of life than she did. She wanted me to make Marti’s dad less “awful,” but in my mind, he was already almost too nice to be believable. It was the first time I completely understood that every author comes to the page with a unique perspective, and that I had to be true to my view of life or my books would have little meaning for me. Writing has always been about much more than entertaining for me, although I do hope to do that, too. But there were some painful times in my life when books were the only thing I could count on, and I’m always aware that other people may be experiencing the same thing. I try always to be aware of that as I’m writing.
Number 4: I love cabins! I had a great time setting the book in Rick’s cabins outside Gunnison, Colorado, because staying in a cabin is one of my favorite things to do. My love of cabins is one of the things my son-in-law loves to tease me about, in fact. Although I don’t show the cabins in detail in the book, I have a clear visual of them in my head. I based them on some cabins my family stayed in during vacation in Colorado one year. When I think of my ideal writer’s retreat, it would be in a cabin in the mountains. A cabin with running water, shower and flush toilet would be preferable, but those amenities are not an absolute must for a brief stay. If I were going to stay longer than a couple of days, I’d probably need them all. I think the only other book I’ve set around cabins is Mr. Congeniality, and now I’m wondering why more of my books don’t have cabins in them.
Number 5: I enjoy writing books about families and their interesting dynamics. Both Marti’s family and Rick’s were fascinating to me. I went into the book with no preconceived notions about any of the characters (except Cameron, who I knew was troubled) so getting to know the cast of secondary characters was a great adventure for me. I’m a firm believer that nobody is born to be a secondary character in someone’s else’s life (there’s a Stephen King quote to that effect somewhere), so finding out what motivates the secondary characters is as important as finding out what motivates the main characters in a story. However misguided, I believe that most people are acting based on what they believe are pure motives, even the bad guys. I think that understanding that makes for some interesting, multi-layered characters.
And there you have it: a trip down memory lane for me, and five things you may not have known about Let it Snow before today.