A funny thing happened on the way to my next novel.
It took me three years to write my first book. I self-published it before it was ready, and had to spend the next several months playing a game of Learn-As-You-Go as I scrambled to fix all of my mistakes. My second book took a year to write, but I was much more prepared when I self-published that one. My third is now in progress, tentatively heading toward a June release, which means it will only take me about six months to write when all is said and done.
And that’s where the wheels fall off the wagon.
First, I wanted to name my heroine Bobbie. I like that name, and it would have worked very well for the character. However, I work with a woman named Bobbie, and that could become really awkward, really fast when I start writing a sex scene. So I asked Bobbie if she would mind my using her name for this book, as long as I promised that the character was not based on her in any way.
She gave her permission to use her name, but with the stipulation that she wanted the Bobbie in my book to be a villain. Evil. A terrible, horrible, simply awful creature.
Well, crap. Since my first two books contain a beautiful but cruel female antagonist, I really wanted to avoid doing that again. So the idea of “Evil Bobbie” had to be shelved for a while, and I went back to finding just the right name for my heroine.
A few nights later, I had a really vivid dream. I dreamed out the entire plot of a new story that was so realistic, so detailed, that it was like watching a movie. It was the story of a divorcee who has spent the past year living in a sort of a fog, unable to move on from her divorce. Her children go off to spend a month with their father over summer vacation, and she is at a loss about what to do during an entire month by herself. Of course, she has a guy friend. And since this is a romance novel, the guy friend is one hot and sexy studmuffin. Mr. Studmuffin convinces the heroine to make a list of things she’s never done before, and they spend the month working their way through the list as their friendship gradually grows into something more. The big question is whether or not she is ready to let herself take a chance on love, and I think the ending may come as a bit of a surprise.
I woke up and wrote it down. I even found a place for “Evil Bobbie,” although she’s not so much evil as just unpleasant, and her name lost a letter somewhere along the line.
Some of you know that I’ve gone through my own divorce in the past year, so you may be wondering how much of myself I’ve put into this one. Rest assured, the story is a work of fiction. However, in the same way that Her House Divided is a piece of fiction that contains my real car accident and injuries, Love’s Little List is a piece of fiction that contains a few real emotions. Divorce sucks, even an amicable one like mine, and it felt really good to dig down deep and exorcise a few personal demons.
If that makes any sense at all.
I am very proud of Love’s Little List. It turned out to be an 18,000-word mini-novel that may possibly be the most personal thing I’ve ever written, even though it is completely fictional. I feel like I hit just the perfect tone with this one, somewhere in between the usual serious tone of my romance novels and the lighter tone of my blog. It’s not quite a romantic comedy, but it has a lot more humor than I’ve ever put into a novel before. It’s not technically a part of my Beach Haven series, although it is set in the same town and even contains a few minor characters from the series.
I’m nervous about this one, especially since I released it with no fanfare, no publicity. I’m afraid I may have made a huge mistake by publishing it as-is instead of trying to flesh it out into a full-length novel, but time will have to tell if I did the right thing or not. This story basically wrote itself; who am I to tell it to grow to 50,000 words?
And just for the record, if there is a real Mr. Studmuffin out there looking for a middle-aged, overweight, divorced mother of three, would he please step out of the romance novel and give me a call?