For me, creating a big cast of characters is the best part of writing a series. In stand-alone novels, readers—and authors—have to say goodbye to the so-called secondary characters (although we’re often so fond of them). When we write series, it’s whole different ballgame. These best friends or siblings or classmates who show up in one book often get stories of their own. My favorite “secondary-to-main-characters” are women friends, who are as essential to most women as chocolate and shoes.
In my upcoming release, A Family for Jason, Ruby Driscoll agrees to come back to Bluestone River for the first time in twenty years, because her best friend Emma O’Connell needs her. Emma, a young widow, is nearly disabled from an old injury and now is having corrective back surgery. Ruby and Emma have seen each other often over the years, but not in Bluestone River, because Ruby has vowed to never to step foot in that town again. But Emma needs her now, so she can’t say no.
Emma is ready for Ruby—in more ways than one. Here they are when Ruby first arrives:
Ruby took a couple of steps to stand behind Emma and fluff up the deep brown hair framing her face. “I love your short cut. And your hair is so shiny, like it always was. All you have to do run your fingers through it and you’re done.” She smiled at Emma in the mirror. “But you could shave half of your head and you’d still be beautiful.”
Emma responded with an “oh, please,” groan.
“Playing around with your hair brings back lots of memories. Remember how we used to put it all in giant rollers in useless attempts to make it curly?” Ruby laughed. “Now you’re lucky it’s straight as a stick and nice and thick.”
Emma responded with a quick nod. “Not having my hair hanging down my back took some getting used to, but don’t become too attached to this pixie look.” She stood and gripped her walker. “As soon as I’m mobile and active like I used to be, I’m growing it back.”
Ruby drew her head back at the rise in Em’s voice as she spoke each word. “Yes ma’am. You can do as you please.”
“I didn’t mean to sound harsh.” Emma let out a soft chuckle. “My mind wasn’t really on my hair. I was recalling Neal demanding to know why I insisted we finish this room right away. And why in such a pale sage green? I told him it was the color of your bedroom growing up, and you’d chosen it yourself. It was like I knew one day you’d be back.” She paused. “Maybe even for good.”
Ruby’s throat closed. She’d committed to staying for only as long as Emma needed her. But long-term? Ruby couldn’t conjure up any circumstance that would keep her in Bluestone River.
Well, maybe Ruby feels that way now, but hey, this is romance! As close as Ruby and Emma are, there are a couple of topics the two usually avoid. But Emma is recovering now and doesn’t mince words:
Emma rested her head back on the couch cushion. She pulled a tube of lotion out of her pocket and squeezed some into her palms and began massaging it into her hands and arms. “Rubes, I love you, but you have no idea how much I envy you sometimes.”
Ruby saw the ploy. She knew Emma well enough to be certain a heart-to-heart was coming and wasn’t going to be about the smell of the hand cream. Resigning herself to listening, she sank into the chair cushions across from Emma.
A little envy was a part of their friendship. Not good, not bad. But not something they could deny, either. It was no secret she’d long envied Emma’s freedom to do exactly as she pleased without the need to glance at the price tag. Emma had never had to work and was free to use her money to support all kinds of projects.
Emma smoothed the lotion over each finger. “Just once in my life, Rubes, I’d like to have a man look at me the way Mike looks at you.”
Boom. The reality of Emma’s words was a blow to the center of her heart. The teenage Emma and Neal were no Ruby and Mike. It would be silly to argue otherwise.
A trip I took to a town with a covered bridge gave birth to Bluestone River, and I’d wanted to tell Mike and Ruby’s story for a long time. But Emma quickly turned into one of those irresistible characters who took me by surprise. When Parker Davis comes to town, the two were very clear about wanting their story told. They didn’t need to twist my arm. I always knew Emma was no secondary anything!
An author of both fiction and nonfiction books, Virginia McCullough, writes about characters who could be our neighbors and friends struggling with everyday life issues. She’s been more or less living in her fictional town of Bluestone River, Illinois, a town that has seen better days, but could be making a comeback! Book 1 of the Back to Bluestone River series, A FAMILY FOR JASON, is due for an August release. Book 2 will follow in December.
Born and raised in Chicago, Virginia has moved around a lot—mostly because she likes the idea of being vagabond. She now lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she enjoys hanging out with other romance writers and talking shop. Her other award-winning romance and women’s fiction titles include THE JACKS OF HER HEART, AMBER LIGHT, and GRETA’S GRACE. All Virginia’s books offer hope, healing, and plenty of second chances.