Don’t you just love rogue secondary characters? Recently, I blogged at the Romance Junkies about one such character who threw the sync of my entire paranormal series into disarray and now is getting his own book.
The one time I thought I had secondary characters under control—while writing my first western romance, the first novella in my Wayback, TX trilogy BLACKEST HEART—my critique partner practically begged me to write at least one of the heroine’s brothers’ stories. Yeah, okay. The whole Wayback venture had been somewhat of a writing experiment. Not only had I never written a western, I’d never packed a full-blown romance into a 30K novella. Stepping out of my comfort zone paid off big time. The story was contracted by my publisher, placed 1st in the 2009 More Than Magic Contest’s Novella category, and is the subject of most of my fan mail. And it was fun, the whole experience. I decided my CP was right and a short jaunt back to Wayback was in order.
In BLACKEST HEART, we explore not only actress Stella Ridge’s Texas roots and the town of Wayback but the rodeo circuit as well. My one and only time at the rodeo didn’t reel me into western romance. In fact, it wasn’t until I read Nora Roberts’ Lawless and Wendi Darlin’s Cowboy Games and Hired Hands that I fell in love with the genre and all its possibilities. Not only are the heroes of my Wayback trilogy ranch cowboys, they are rodeo cowboys as well. I went into the research open-minded, wanting to explore different aspects of the competition. The hero of BLACKEST HEART, silent cowboy Judd Black, therefore became a bull rider. In his preliminary scene, readers experience what it’s like to spend eight seconds on the bucking back of Jack the Ripper. I loved getting into the mindset of the cowboy, watching videos of bull riders, gauging both the physical and mental approach to the sport.
My CP dropped heavy hints that she wanted to see Stella’s “good boy” brother Casey find love. Probably because I dropped not-so-subtle hints in BLACKEST HEART that he has a thing for the “bad girl” of Wayback, Josie Brusky. With Casey, I had set him up as a calf-roper in the first story and explored that further through research in the second, BLUEST HEART. In the first draft of the manuscript, however, my CP caught my misinterpretation of calf-roping. In the rodeo scenes, Casey throws a perfect lasso over the calf’s head in record time and the crowd goes wild. That was it. The rodeo newbie that I was left out the part where the calf-roper is supposed to jump off his horse and tie the legs of the calf.
Something else that BLUEST HEART taught me was writing the so-called “bad” character. She came into BLACKEST HEART with a reputation. Confronting that in the second story was a daunting process. None of my previous heroes or heroines came into their stories with bad reps. Josie is known throughout Wayback as the daughter of the town bigot and the local harlot. Every straight cowboy of age from Wayback to nearby Moss Creek is said to have knocked boots on Josie’s bed. The contrasts between Josie and Casey, however, seemed to fall to the wayside within the first draft. They automatically clicked. Much of it had to do with their backstory. They fell in love as teenagers before Josie escaped to Austin to pursue an ill-fated music career. Since her return, Casey’s patience is wearing thin waiting for her to realize he’s still in love with her and wants her for all the right reasons, unconditionally. I didn’t expect the character of Josie to turn out sympathetic, but first readers of the final draft connected with her on a level I never expected and even went out and bought BLACKEST HEART to go with it!
When my western editor contracted BLUEST HEART, the oldest Ridge brother, Keefe, really started to nettle my muse. With the final story in the Ridge family saga, I was going from bad girl to bad boy. Keefe is the playboy. The rake. The all-around wild one of Wayback. While Josie’s like tendencies were a struggle to morph into the role of heroine, Keefe turned out to be just plain fun—probably because I threw the bad boy a curveball in the form of Stella’s Yankee talent agent, Calli Morlani. Experiencing the down and dirty western town through the eyes of this city slicker was one of the most entertaining moves of my career. And Keefe the bronc-busting cowpoke allowed me to explore the sexy cowboy hero from a fresh angle one more rip-roarin’ time, rounding out my Wayback journey in an exciting way!
BLACKEST HEART is available now in ebook and in the paperback anthology THE WAY BACK HOME
BLUEST HEART launches January 6th and Keefe’s story, BET IT ON MY HEART, will follow shortly after in the Spring. All January long I’m celebrating western romance at my blog, The Cozy Page, with the Cowboy Lovin’ event. Join western romance authors Alison Kent, Beth Williamson, Wendi Darlin and many more for cowboy excerpts, eye candy, round robins and tons of free goodies up for grabs! Warm up the winter nights, kick up your boots, and join the party!
Many thanks to J.K. for letting me ramble here at Living With Immortals!
Amber Leigh Williams