I have been asked from time-to-time where I get ideas for stories. I wish I could say that I get one spark of inspiration and poof! A plot and characters are in my head. For me, stories evolve from a whiff of an idea and grow over time as I start imagining the characters: who are these people, where do they live, what are their challenges, what are their dreams? My characters seem to take over and dictate the story, and I end with a tale I didn’t plan.
While writing my first book, Degrees of Love, I was already thinking about Ten Thousand I Love Yous. In Degrees, my protagonist struggles with an unhappy marriage that leads her to having an affair, something she thought she would never do. Writing fight scenes and emotional truths about the Sinclair marriage left me drained at times. To lighten things up, I started playing around with the idea of writing a Romantic Comedy about a woman in her late thirties starting over after a divorce. I wanted her to have been a teenage mother and for her and her daughter to look like sisters. She’d move to a big city and pretend to be in her twenties. There’d be hilarious moments with my heroine trying to fit in with a younger crowd and mistaken identities between her and her daughter.
I sketched out a few scenes and started plotting the storyline when a couple of things happened. First the television show Younger, based on the book by Pamela Redmond Satran and produced by none other than Darren Star, aired on TV Land. I thought, “Hey, that’s my plot. Darn, someone else beat me to it!” The other gamechanger was that I really started thinking about what it would be like to be a teenage mother and marrying your high school sweetheart.
I remembered growing up in a small farm community, many classmates and extended family married straight out of high school and started having children right away. In some areas, this would be considered unusual, but where I grew up, there was nothing shocking about it. Not all pairings ended well, but most couples I know have had successful lives and strong marriages. Marrying young doesn’t have to be a recipe for disaster. It can create deep-rooted bonds.
I also considered my own marriage. My husband and I were college sweethearts and married the day before we graduated college; not as young Jay and Kimberly in Ten Thousand I Love Yous, but young by today’s standards. No one can make us angrier or hurt us more than each other. This is true partly because we know each other so well and partly because we love each other so deeply.
Percolating along with these musings was a desire to continue exploring themes of love and following one’s own path to happiness. But whereas Degrees follows the journey of a women seeking happiness in an unhappy marriage, I thought it would be interesting to explore how a woman in a presumably fulfilling marriage gets back to happy after being blindsided with a divorce and what would prompt a good man to leave abruptly.
Out of all these jumbled musings, Jay and Kim emerged, urging me to pen their truths. Ten Thousand I Love Yous is the result. Not the women-done-wrong Romantic Comedy I originally envisioned, but still laced with humor and a love story, nonetheless.
This post originally appeared on the Women Writers, Women’s Books website. http://booksbywomen.org/