This is guest author week. I recently had a novella published as part of an anthology from Dingbat Publishing called Nine Ladies Dancing 2018. I’ve been reading some of the nine stories in the collection. Some were previously released as single titles, and others were written especially for this anthology. Next week I’ll share a bit about my regency romance called Love’s Refrain, but for now I decided to ask three of the other contributors to share their “story behind the story.”
The first book I read was The Respectable Charades. This was one of the newest stories in the collection, so there’s no individual cover for it. Here’s the blurb: No one could have predicted the chain of events triggered by Jenny’s discovery of her fiance’s body in his library… least of all her chance to find true love.
Doesn’t that sound fascinating? I asked Sherry how this story came about, and her response was equally intriguing. Apparently, one of her characters wrote a letter that “appeared” in her mind! Here’s her description:
Most of us love getting mail, whether they come by the postal service, your phone or computer/laptop/notepad.
But some of us ~ like authors ~ receive a letter that pops into their mind and then they have to work out the puzzle of who sent this letter and why they ‘sent’ it to you.
This is what happened to me when I was asked to write The Respectable Charades for this year’s Nine Ladies Dancing anthology. And believe me, it was a puzzle with a punch.
… And this is only the first paragraph of that letter….
My dearest Jenny, my best friend, by the time you get this I will have hurt you beyond forgiveness, but, I beg you to understand when I tell you there is no other way.
Who is Jenny, who wrote this letter, and what have they done that is so terrible?
Next, the author has to work out where the rightful place in the story for this letter. Would it come at the opening of the story, or perhaps, the middle? And if it came at the end, what happened before then? Who else was involved, and what else was in that letter?
Next, I asked Ruth J. Hartman to tell me how she came up with her story, The Matchmakers. Here’s the blurb: Jessie Selkirk has a mission — to take care of every stray cat she finds. But when Baldwin Rutledge steps into her barn looking for a cat, she develops a whole new interest.
This novella was previously released as a single title in 2014, and I reviewed it last July. But even though all Ruth’s stories include at least one cat, this one features a woman who cares for over fifty of them! I had to find out what inspired that type of heroine, and here’s Ruth’s answer:
I’ve always loved cats. I can’t remember not having them around. My mom grew up with them on their farm, so from the time I was born they were always there. Nearly every picture of me as a kid shows me holding a cat or two. Like I didn’t know how to function without one.
I still don’t.
When my husband and I got married, one of the first things we did after moving into our apartment was get a cat. Ever since then, we’ve had anywhere from one to three in our home. Thank goodness my husband likes them. And isn’t allergic. Can you imagine?
Several years ago, we had a run of evil people dumping unwanted house cats and feral ones beside our shed where we live out in the country. At one point, there were at least a dozen cats hanging around our property. Yes, of course, I fed them. Every day. Rain, shine, snow. I trudged out to the shed where my husband had cut a hole in the wall for them to get inside and refilled the food and water dishes.Only three of the cats were friendly enough to let me get close.
Those three eventually came inside to live with us. The others? Aside from feeding them, we live-trapped as many as we could and took them to the veterinarian to be spayed or neutered. Though I’d wished I could have brought them all inside with me, it wouldn’t have worked for most of them. But knowing that at least there would be fewer homeless kittens in the world gave me a little bit of peace.
All my books have at least one cat in them. Some have lots. The Matchmakers is one of those. Though we’re all familiar with modern day animal rescues and shelters, I’d wondered what would happen if someone took on the responsibility of caring for homeless pets during the Regency Era.
Enter Jessie Selkirk.
She’s big hearted, generous and just wants every single cat in the universe to find a good home. Others make fun of her, to the point of not wanting to associate with her, but she never lets that interfere with her mission.
Baldwin Rutledge has never been especially fond of felines, but when his aunt asks him to find a companion for hers, he ends up in Jessie’s barn to choose one.
While matchmakers are usually human, in this story, the cats play a huge role.
Who’s to say cats can’t be matchmakers?
Finally, I asked Kay Springsteen to share the story behind her book, Teach Me Under the Mistletoe. Here’s the blurb for it: What’s a girl to do when she’s never been kissed, and the worldly man she wants regards her as a child?
This book has had two previous incarnations, one in 2013 and another in 2015. I’m hoping to finish reading it before December 31 so I can include it in my Goodreads Challenge of 50 books read for 2018.
Here’s what Kay had to say:
When I began to write Teach Me Under theMistletoe, I know only that I wanted a hero who was NOT nobility or royalty. While there is nothing wrong with such heroes, I was looking for something different, someone perhaps a bit more relatable to the common person– after all, there are far more of us in the world who came from and live in common families. But I also needed to find a balance between decorum and awkwardness, that “it” that would rest at the heart of the original story. I am a huge fan of Downton Abbey, and I wanted the feel of Tom Branson and Lady Sybil’s story (without the tragedy).
Enter one of my favorite pastimes. Movies. I am a movie buff, from the classic black and whites to newer and flashier movies, I love to watch Hollywood’s best. As luck would have it, while I was trying to come up with a premise for Teach Me, I happened upon the 1950s Lerner and Lowe musical My Fair Lady, in which Professor Henry Higgins attempts to turn the lowly born Eliza Doolittle into a proper lady of society. That thought stuck with me, and I actually considered a reversal of that premise in which my character Miss Kitty Tyndall would be called upon to turn a servant into someone well accepted by the ton.
But that still didn’t feel like what I wanted to write for this book.
As my good fortune would have it, not long after this thought began percolating in my brain, I happened to watch another movie, one with Gerard Butler and Katherine Heigl, called The Ugly Truth, in which sexy but somewhat rough and misogynistic TV talk show host Mike (Gerard Butler) tries to turn uptight producer Abby (Katherine Heigl) into someone most men would find attractive (particularly her neighbor). Now, with this movie being set in modern America, it might seem odd that I would relate it to my planned Regency romance. But that’s how my mind works.
I began to think of a female character who wanted to capture the attention of a particular man of nobility, feeling she could marry him and be happy for the rest of her life. But how to attract him? Nothing she has done thus far has made him notice her. But her parents are hosting a Christmas event, and perhaps she will catch this prospective suitor beneath the mistletoe and charm him with a kiss. If only she knew how to kiss the way a man liked to be kissed.
I thought of how Tom Branson was originally the chauffeur in Downton Abbey. My mind went to chauffeur, transportation, carriage, stable, horse. So… enter the horse trainer (and with Scottish Gerard Butler as my inspiration, of course I made the groom Hugh Scottish), who fell prey to Kitty’s request (for pay) to teach her how to kiss. And thus was born the story of a young woman from a noble family and her “teacher,” a horse trainer on her father’s estate.
These three stories, as well as six others, can be purchased on Amazon. But don’t delay! The anthology will only be available until Valentine’s Day 2019. Get it now for only 99 cents!
Just added it to my well-padded tablet, Patty! So many ways to be inspired, it never ceases to amaze me when something pops into your head, and it will find its own place in a story!
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Thanks, Tonette! I’m sure you’ll find some enjoyable reading!
Kay, I’m not familiar with most of the characters you cited, but — like you — I LOVE movies (especially oldies). And, I really like the way you look at a film you enjoyed and wrestle with a way to work it forward with one or more significant twists.
Ruth, you are a special angel to take care of those feral cats… even to the trouble and expense of having them “fixed”. There should be a special reward in Heaven for people who walk all those extra miles for animals that have been abandoned or neglected.
Sherry, like you, I often “receive” significant pieces of a story through my dream life… though I don’t recall that I’ve ever gotten a cryptic letter such as you did. Hooray for you to remember that message and then to take it forward for use in your story!
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Isn’t it fascinating how stories come to us in different ways?
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Thank you Patty, and I enjoyed discovering how Kay and Ruth developed their stories too.
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It’s my pleasure! I’m so glad you shared your story.
I love reading the origins of stories. I have the anthology on my iPad, just haven’t gotten to the stories mentioned here. I guess I’d better get cracking. They sounds so interesting. Happy Holidays to everyone.
It’s a lovely collection, Diane. Thanks so much for getting it and leaving your review!
The stories that are different are the ones that stick with us. Thank you, ladies, for gifting us with yours. Yeah, Patricia, that includes you.
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Thank you for your vision and hard work!
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All these stories sound delightful. I look forward to reading each of them. How interesting to hear the stories behind them.