The platform: This is book 5 in my Harmony Valley series, which is set in a small town in the northeastern corner of Sonoma County. Harmony Valley is in trouble, because a decade ago the mill exploded and jobs burnt up with it. Everyone who wasn't retired, moved to where the jobs were. Schools? Closed. Stores? Mostly closed. Houses? Mostly abandoned. You've driven by towns like
So what does that leave a writer to work with? Set in their ways old people. As a writer of lighthearted romance and romantic comedy...Well, let's just say it's heaven for me as I bring a younger generation back to town.
The characters: Because I'm writing a series, I try to connect characters and storylines to previous books. Kathy first made an appearance in Summer Kisses (book 2), by dropping her son off with her brother, but without any explanation (at least in the first draft). In my mind, Kathy was a young, single mother (got pregnant in college) and was just tired. Any writer for the Heartwarming line knows that isn't going to cut it for a sub-character. I needed Kathy to disappear, but I didn't want her to die. So the poor girl went to rehab. At the time, I thought it was a perfect solution.
In the previous book, my hero Gage was a veterinarian who was really good at settling down mares about to foal. The idea of horse whisperers had begun to intrigue me and since Gage was now a permanent resident in Harmony Valley, I thought - hey, why not bring in a horse whisperer to help Gage. I know someone who I think has horse whispering skills. Easy peasy, right? Um, wrong. My hero, Dylan had no real backstory. So I watched a heartwarming documentary on one of the most famous horsewhisperers, Buck Brannaman. This guy had come from a dark place and has become a true hero of a man. I fell in love!
The Premise: But then it came down to creating conflict and opportunities for character growth.
The Humor: Yes, don't despair! There's humor here. There's a lot of fun to be had making the hero and heroine "straight men" for larger than life supporting cast members. In a Harmony Valley story, that means my set-in-their-ways retired folk. For this story, I also threw in some horses with personality and the young boys of the hero and heroine. And lucky for me, from page one Kathy had a sense of humor about herself and life. Here's the book's opening:
When Kathy Harris was a teenager, she’d dreamed of being a fashion designer, a professional basketball player and an airline pilot—anything to get out of her small hometown.
So much for dreams.
She shoveled another pile of manure into the wheelbarrow.
But I don't use humor like a stand-up comedienne. I use it as I do in life. To deal with uncomfortable situations. To help myself get over past hurts and mistakes. To be able to laugh at myself and grow as a person. We all come from a place with dark corners. That doesn't mean our life is dark and gloomy. And neither is the journey Kathy and Dylan take in Time for Love.
Melinda Curtis is an award-winning, USA Today bestseller. Her latest Heartwarming release is Time For Love. She dares you to read it and call it an "issue book", even though the back cover begins with the line "As a kid from a shattered family".