People often want to know where writers get their ideas, and in interviews authors reveal how they people-watch or listen in on conversations and then what if- questions start bubbling in their brains. For me, it often starts with a single scene I imagine clearly. Out of the blue really.
The image of a lady in an evening dress reaching for a golden lighter on the mantelpiece overhearing a marriage proposal that leads to murder was the opening scene for my 1920’s mystery A Proposal to Die For, starting off my cozy mystery career. Or take the image of a gigantic butterfly released from its glass container, descending on the hand of a spectator who then immediately gasps and dies, which became the opener of my Victorian mystery, The Butterfly Conspiracy, and my first foray into hardcover.
And then one day I imagined the scene of a bonbon maker busy in her little shop when the door opens and a snow-drizzled girl steps in to ask her to make chocolates which will help her widowed father fall in love with her school teacher. Immediately enthusiastic about this heartwarming and emotional scene, I sat down to write it, and although I’m usually an early bird writer, I clearly remember some final touches to this story were put way after midnight. I clicked with Emma and Casey, the shop and all the chocolate – after all, I’ve been eating it all my life!
As I’m a huge fan of small family-owned businesses, I saw a bigger concept of ‘smalltown shopkeepers falling in love when they least expect it’, where I could also write about some of my other favorite things to buy: books and home decoration. The Little Shops on Heart Street series was born.
I added a seasonal twist, setting each book at the series at a holiday (Christmas, Valentine, the Fourth of July) because I really love holiday traditions and wanted to add fun new twists to them (if you haven’t heard of snow dogs, you really should read A Family by Christmas). With every element added to the whole, I became more attached to the series. Seeing the festive cover for the very first time was a wonderful emotional moment: Grant, Emma and Casey brought to life beyond my words, in a single striking image. All those steps led to the big moment of publication, a day full of celebrations and chocolatey treats (did I mention I discovered 70% dark chocolate with salted caramel?) and when I look back, I can hardly believe it all started so small, with that one-scene-idea. But for me that works best.
Oh, and by the way, the idea for this guest post came to me while brushing my teeth. So if you need an idea right now, for a presentation at work, a birthday party or your novel, maybe do some mundane chore, with repetitive movements to empty your head – folding laundry also works! – and who knows, your brain might just offer you something fun to run with.
About the book:
When a little girl asks bonbon maker Emma Miller to create chocolates for her that will make her widowed father fall in love, Emma can’t say no: herself raised in foster care, she understands the value of family like no other. But promising to help Casey with this special request brings Grant Galloway into Emma’s life, a dashing pilot who touches her heart with his fun ideas for things to do together, taking her away from the shop for a change. But Grant is on course to leave Wood Creek after the holidays, and Emma is determined to stay and make roots in her new hometown. Or can the Christmas season change their best-laid plans?
A FAMILY BY CHRISTMAS is out now from Entangled Bliss! It’s book 1 in the brand-new Little Shops on Heart Street series about smalltown shopkeepers finding love when they least expect it. Book 2, A VALENTINE PROPOSAL, features bookshop employee Cleo entering a daring wager with her new boss (releasing in January 2020).