I’m always impressed by authors who can create entire worlds out of their imaginations and bring them to vivid life. As a reader, I believe in the the worlds created by Tolkien, Burroughs, Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling and so many others. In more recent years, I’ve grown intimately acquainted with the future imagined by Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb, and in the psychic-populated planets envisioned by Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle. I love escaping into those fantastical worlds for hours of pleasure and adventure.
My own books have been more grounded in the present and in recognizable settings, usually in the South, where I’ve grown up and feel so comfortable, and often in my home state of Arkansas. As much as I love reading about those other worlds, my interest lies more in characters. I wouldn’t enjoy reading those otherworldly books if the authors weren’t equally as skilled at creating believable, fascinating characters for me to bond with and cheer for. My own writing focus tends to skew toward large, intricately interconnected families. Perhaps because I come from big families with complicated connections, myself. My parents were married fifty-four years before my mom’s passing five years ago, I had three younger brothers, my grandfather lived with us for a while before his death — which meant 7 people in a three bedroom, 1 bathroom house. I have too many cousins on both sides to count, some of them “double first cousins,” and my always-growing extended family includes stepchildren, adopted children, children-of-the-heart — in other words, the typical Southern American background with many, many real life stories to tell. I don’t base my characters on real life people or situations, though I’m sure I’ve been influenced by things I’ve seen, heard and read, but I’ve come to know most of my characters almost as well as people in my real life. I enjoy writing connected books including previous heroes and heroines because I like exploring what might have happened to them after the earlier books ended. For my Walker/D’Alessandro families (introduced in the Family Found series I started in the early ’90s and whom I will revisit in 2013), I have notebooks of family trees, character descriptions, progressive ages in each book, offspring names (yes, I’m now matching off the second generation, some of whom have started the 3rd generation). I’ve engaged cheerfully in SORA (soap opera rapid aging), but I’ve tried very hard to stay consistent with making everyone age at the same rate, which can be a challenge at times!
Still, on occasion I have created settings for my books — small towns, usually, which are always fun. The occasional private island (RAFE’S ISLAND and THE BORROWED RING come instantly to mind). For my next three Harlequin Special Edition books to be published next year (the first two featuring heroes from the Family Found series), I’ve created a resort set on Lake Livingston in Texas. The lake is real — the resort created wholly in my mind.
The scribbled sketch here is my conceptual map (obviously not to scale!) of the Bell Resort and Marina owned by the Bell family who will play such a big part of the next three books. As you can see, I’m not much of an artist — nor a cartographer. It’s not a real place and I’ve never stayed in such a resort — and yet, if you were to drop me at the gate of Bell Resort brought to reality, I could find my way around every inch. I picture it in my head as clearly as if I could step out my back door into the campgrounds. Once I’d crudely sketched it out, I’ve rarely had to refer to my map, because I know the place so well, just as I know the family who owns it. I’m sure those other authors are as intimately acquainted with their worlds, and that they enjoy spending time there as much as I’ve loved the hours I’ve spent at Bell Resort — without ever leaving the recliner where I do most of my writing.
I hope you’ll visit the Bell Resort and Marina with me next year and that you’ll enjoy meeting the family who lives there and falls in love there — with a few adventures along the way. THE RIGHT TWIN will be available in March, followed by THE TEXAN’S SURPRISE BABY in May (the third book not yet titled or scheduled as I’m just starting to write it).
In the meantime, click the Books tab above for links to my titles available now for Kindle, Nook and other ereaders. And if you haven’t yet read WAKE ME, my paranormal suspense book available for Kindle and the free Kindle reader app, now’s a great time to get it for only $3.99! With fall rapidly approaching, this is a story guaranteed to get you in the mood for Halloween.
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