by Pam Hillman
Each story idea starts with one tiny little puzzle piece. Just one.
A word, a photo of days gone by, a scent, a location, an event. Before my Natchez Trace Novel series became the full-fledged series that it is now, it was just a single thought to write about an indentured servant, which became the premise for the first book in the series, The Promise of Breeze Hill.
One idea. One Nugget. What might that be? It might be a character who can’t walk away, but then later doesn’t want to walk away, which, ironically, seems to fit all my heroic heroes. (Hmm, am I sensing a theme?) And, since I like to put a bit of a twist on my stories, I wanted the hero to be the one who was the indentured servant.
And to make matters worse, I indentured the poor guy to the heroine, but something in his past makes this a really bad thing. I just kept tightening the ropes on him. I also wanted my indentured servant to be an alpha male, with a take-charge attitude. More thinking outside the box turned Connor into a man who has already served a forced seven year indenture, but willingly indentures himself to pay for his four younger brothers' passage from Ireland.
What would make Connor so adverse to be under the thumb of a woman...something more than just be an alpha male in a time period when women had little say in how things were run? What baggage and problems can I throw at Isabella Bartholomew? And what power (big grin) can I give her? What can push them apart, but draw them together? On and on and on, the pieces just keep falling in to place.
Knowing that was not much more than picking out all the edge pieces to a jigsaw puzzle and putting the "frame" together. I mean, it's pretty easy to find the edges, but a lot harder to drill down and match up all the interior pieces. AND... here's the thing... we don't have a picture to go by. We're working blind, piece by piece.
But us authors are brave and determined if nothing else. And sometimes we carve a few pieces and make them fit. Ahem.
I built Quinn and Kiera's story the same way I built Connor and Isabella's, one piece at a time. I have a hero who, while he loves his brothers, (thinks he) wants to shuck his responsibilities and strike out on his own; a heroine who's doing everything in her power to keep her sisters together. One piece leads to another, and, well... their lives change.
Do you enjoy puzzles? Try this one on for size. :)
The groundwork for Caleb O'Shea, the hero in The Crossing at Cypress Creek (Spring/Summer 2019) was laid in the first two books, but it was almost as vague as the gray backgrounds in the puzzles above. Caleb the black sheep prodigal of the family. All I really knew was that he had to show up in Natchez and he had to be really tough. I knew nothing about Alanah Adams (I didn't even know her name) until I turned in book #2 and turned my attention to book #3. But I love Alanah.
And the women they are bound to protect with their lives: Isabella, Kiera, and Alanah? Each had to fit the heroes and they do. I'm not sure if they chose each other or if I did all that matchmaking by myself. I'm just glad all three couples ended up perfectly matched!
Readers, what catches your attention in a story first? Also, do you enjoy jigsaw puzzles? Where do you start with those? Do you pick out all the border pieces, or start with a focal point, like bright colors or a red barn or fall trees?