Inspiration: Work, Not Woo-Woo

Those who don’t write seem fascinated by where story ideas come from, as if it’s some vast mystery. A few authors like to reinforce that impression by giving woo-woo explanations: the stories appear to them in dreams, they say, or the characters suddenly slip into their heads and begin to move and speak. Now, I’m not saying these things don’t happen, but there’s usually more logic to the process. Coming up with story ideas on a regular basic is an exercise in practical magic.

This thought occurred to me as I started my current WIP (work in progress). The book is part of new cx27052495collection of contemporary romance novels that I’m calling my Louisiana Knights series. Well, it’s actually a take-off of sorts on several books I wrote between 1996 and 2001 (KANE, LUKE, ROAN, CLAY and WADE, with a novella titled ADAM) that became the Louisiana Gentlemen series. These books were written as a way to explore the male archetype of the Southern Gentlemen—an archetype being a mythic figure with accepted characteristics such as the Cowboy, Pirate King, Knight in Shining Armor, or Regency Gentleman.

I actually came to this idea after hearing the tale of a one-night-stand a young woman from the East Coast had with a man from the South. Much of her disappointment at his swift departure was due to her expectations of him as a gentleman. She’d thought he would be different from other men. Why? How? I understood her feelings, as I was from the South myself; the surprise was her attraction to the archetype. To explore the Southern Gentleman image in romantic fiction became irresistible.

But why revisit the gentleman-hero concept now, nearly two decades later? Simple. The earlier books were USA Today bestsellers, and readers have often asked if I intend to write more in the series. Then I came up with a story idea (more on this later) which made returning to the hero type sound like fun.

However, there was a problem. I’d left the publisher of the original Louisiana Gentlemen books, but they remained under that imprint. A Conflicting Work contract clause prevented me from using major characters or material from them.

Still, the basic idea was public property. All I had to do was give the new series a different title, change the setting and surnames and, as a fillip, create a unique angle on the traditional Southern Gentleman. Easy.

The Louisiana Knights series began to take shape, as one idea piled on top of another. This didn’t happen in a vague, woo-woo manner, but with reason and logic. I brainstormed possible crises for plot points, decided on characters and filled out their charts, and began the first scene.

Of course, halfway through the process, the heroes and heroines of this first book began to walk around in my mind…

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Jennifer

About Jennifer

Jennifer is the NYT and USA Today best-selling author of more than 65 books in 23 languages with some 35 million copies sold worldwide. She is also president of Steel Magnolia Press LLC.

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