posted on August 7, 2017 by Denise Hunter

Sweetbriar Cottage: The Story Behind the Story

Sweetbriar Cottage was initially conceived during a workshop at a writer’s conference. Over the next few days the ideas just kept flowing. The characters arrived on the scene fully fleshed, scene ideas poured out, and dialogue came as fast as I could jot it down. This is my 30th book and, I assure you, that is not normally the case for me!

But by the time I was heading home from the conference I was starting to waffle about writing this story. I realized it would have to be a stand-alone novel. With the exception of one book, I had only written series for my current publisher, and I doubted they wanted to change that anytime soon.

Also, part of me was nervous about this particular story. I worried I wouldn’t be able to quite pull it off the way I saw it in my head. The plot centered around a couple who finds out their divorced was never finalized. They end up stranded during a snowstorm, fighting for their very survival.  Josephine had a pretty dark past and, though I already loved her and felt compassion for her, I worried about making her likeable for readers. Self-doubt crept in (boy, did it), and I shoved the story on the back burner without telling a soul.

Months passed, and my publisher asked me for a four-book proposal. I was expecting this and had three stories already in mind for a series; I only needed one more. It occurred to me that I could water down my stand-alone idea and pitch it as the first story of the series. After all, I already had thirteen single-spaced pages of notes! The story I proposed to them was basically the couples’ back story. Their meeting at her barbershop, their courtship, and (ta-da!) their happily ever after. No divorce. No darkness. No reconciliation. All the hard parts were gone now. Clever me.

Fast forward a couple months. I was eagerly waiting to hear from my editor how the publishing team felt about my series proposal. I was especially anxious because I needed to start the first novel very soon in order to meet my deadline. And then I got the email I’d been waiting for. They loved the series idea. But . . .

“Could you possibly write a stand-alone book before you start the series?”

I was shocked. They had their reasons—good ones—but inside I was panicking. Every story I had in my arsenal was already in my proposal. And since stories typically “brew” inside my head for months before I ever start writing . . . what on earth was I going to write? I needed an idea and quick!

I’m sorry to say it took two full days of panic to even remember my initial idea for Sweetbriar Cottage. And once I did, I knew it was the book I was supposed to write. It seemed Someone wanted me to write this story the way it had been given to me. It seemed Someone had vetoed my idea of watering it down. And Someone had told my publisher I needed to write something else.

I immediately scheduled a call with my publisher. My throat tightened with tears as I explained all that had happened “behind the scenes”. It was obvious that this story already had me by the heart, and I hadn’t even written a word of it. They agreed I needed to write it as a stand-alone.

I’d like to say the fear disappeared after I started the story. But to tell the truth, every day I sat down to write this book was an act of faith. And yet each time I placed my fingers on the keyboard, the words seemed to pour straight from my heart in a way they never had before.

I hope I did the story justice. I hope Josephine and Noah become as real to the reader as they are to me. I hope their struggles and pain change hearts in some little way as they did mine. I’m so grateful I got the chance to tell the story, just as it was meant to be told. And I’m grateful for all the readers that choose to come along on the journey with me.


Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter is the internationally published bestselling author of more than 25 books, including "The Convenient Groom" and "A December Bride" which have been made into Hallmark movies. She has appeared on the The 700 club and won awards such as The Holt Medallion Award, The Reader's Choice Award, The Foreword Book of the Year Award, and is a RITA finalist. Denise writes heartwarming, small-town love stories. Her readers enjoy the experience of falling in love vicariously through her characters and can expect a happily-ever-after sigh as they close the pages of her books. In 1996, inspired by the death of her grandfather, Denise began her first book, writing while her children napped. Two years later it was published, and she's been writing ever since. Her husband says he inspires all her romantic stories, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too! When Denise isn't orchestrating love lives on the written page, she enjoys traveling with her family, drinking coffee, and playing drums. Denise makes her home in Indiana where she and her husband are raising three boys. You can learn more about Denise by visiting her FaceBook page

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