In my previous post I shared the inspiration behind my new Mustang Wild series. Today I’m going a level deeper and delving into what motivated the debut story in the series, “Cowboys Don’t Cry” (in the Cowboy Up anthology). But first, I just have to post this picture of my wascally little feller Mo. Just because he’s the cutest thing ever.
Okay, now that you’ve met Mo, on with the story of the story. I knew I wanted to write about the American West, with the wild mustangs as a backdrop. And I had this yearning to make these stories feel real, because the mustangs and their plight are real. While they are and will be romantic stories, I didn’t want them sugar-coated and I didn’t want larger-than-life characters with perfect hair and perfect lives running around. Because not much in real life is perfect, and life isn’t fair. I wanted these stories to be emotionally centered.
I knew I wanted the series set around a community where we could get to know the people and follow them from book to book. My heroine for “Cowboys Don’t Cry” came easily to me. She lives in ranching country, but I didn’t want her to be a typical rancher. So I made her a bit of a new ager. Kind of a hippie more into growing organic herbs and vegetables, and hand spinning yarn from alpacas she raised herself than breeding stinky old cows. And I knew my hero was a man running from something–not something like the law. More like something inside himself. But for a long time I didn’t know what.
In fact, I was well over a third of the way through the book when I found my inspiration in a post on Facebook. It was a link to an opinion piece. I’m not going to say what, because it would be a huge spoiler for the book. But let’s just say it was controversial. It took my breath away a little bit. It scared the crap out of me, and that’s why I knew I had to use it.
Still I resisted. This is not something often done in romantic fiction. Would the readers hate it? Would they feel betrayed? Would they scream and throw the book against the wall before they’d even finished the story?
I was so worried that I talked to a couple of writing friends…who of course advised me not to do it. Which was just another reason I had to. I’ve broken some rules before. I don’t like predictable fiction, so I strive to be different. To be real.
I was once told I could never, ever write a romance novel where the hero and heroine were already married at the beginning of the book. So I did. And I sold it to Harlequin, the romanciest of the romance publishers and it received 4.5 stars and a “Top Pick” designation from RT Book Reviews magazine. That book was called Keeping Caroline, by the way, and it’s still my personal favorite.
Then there was the time I was told that I could never, ever kill off the hero in a romance novel. So I did. And that book was published by Berkley and went on to be a Romance Writers of America Rita award finalist. It was a novella called “Angel and the Hellraiser” in the Demons’ Delight anthology.
So yeah, I did this thing in “Cowboys Don’t Cry” that scared me. I think you’ll recognize it when you read it. I hope you’ll like it. And please don’t throw your e-reader at the wall. Those things break.