There’s an old saying about fiction writing: “It’s easy to write a book. Just sit down and open a vein.”
The advice is meant to be humorous and taken figuratively, but authors sometimes consider a literal interpretation. Unlike like Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Hunter S. Thompson, Virginia Woolf, and David Foster Wallace, most of us are not mentally disturbed…usually. However, writing can drive the sanest author over the edge on occasion.
The writing challenges that contribute to temporary insanity are legion and take a variety of forms. Like our stories, “issues” may be plot- or character-driven. No story comes without at least one. Some stories bring along so much baggage, we consider murdering all the characters in one blaze of glory and penning “the end”…at the midpoint.
Here are the challenges the five authors who contributed to the new boxed set A Kiss to Remember faced during our journeys to the happy ending.
Tracy Garrett: Her SanctuaryBeautiful Maggie Flanaghan’s heart is broken when her father dies suddenly and the westward-bound wagon train moves on without her, leaving her stranded in River’s Bend. But Reverend Kristoph Oltmann discovers the tender beginnings of love as he comforts Maggie, only to find she harbors a secret that could make their relationship impossible.
Tracy: I seem to have a recurring theme in my writing—my heroes prefer to remain the tall, handsome, silent type. Hero Kristoph Oltmann was introduced by my characters as a German immigrant, speaking with an accent. That was in Wanted: The Sheriff, an earlier story in the River’s Bend series. Since he was maintaining radio silence for the most part when I started Her Sanctuary, I had to trick him into talking. When I finally succeeded, I discovered he was born in the good old U.S. of A. Not a trace of an accent — unless you counted the bit of a Missouri twang he’d picked up since moving to River’s Bend. That made for some interesting edits. Someday I want to write a book where the hero talks more than the heroine!
Cheryl Pierson: Gabriel’s LawBrandon Gabriel is hired by the citizens of Spring Branch to hunt down the notorious Clayton Gang, never suspecting a double-cross. When Allison Taylor rides into town for supplies, she doesn’t expect to be sickened by the sight of a man being beaten to death by a mob—a man she recognizes from her past. Spring Branch’s upstanding citizens gather round to see a murder, but everything changes with the click of a gun — and Gabriel’s Law.
Cheryl: My biggest challenge in this story was to not let them fall madly in love with each other too soon. They’d known one another before in the orphanage where they lived as kids. So once they meet again under the circumstances in the book — the old feelings are still there. How was I going to stop them from acting on those feelings right away? Especially since Allison has saved Brandon from certain death? Well, now you have the beginnings of the story. I hope you’ll get the boxed set and enjoy the rest of this tale and all the others that are included!
Tanya Hanson: Outlaw HeartMaking a new start has never been harder! Bronx Sanderson is determined to leave his old outlaw ways behind and become a decent man. Lila Brewster is certain her destiny lies in keeping her late husband’s dream alive: a mission house for the down-and-out of Leadville, Colorado. But dreams change when love flares between an angel and a man with an Outlaw Heart.
Tanya: I had two main challenges, one so severe I told my editor I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish. We had to rescue my husband’s mother from an elder-abuse situation that all but sucked the breath out of me. Praise God she’s settled and safe and I met the deadline. On a Friday. My computer crashed on Sunday!
Kathleen Rice Adams: The Dumont WayThe Civil War burned Texas...and fanned the flames of love. The Dumont Way, a trio of romances about a powerful ranching dynasty, includes the never-before-published novella The Trouble with Honey: A marshal’s widow can escape a Union Army manhunt only with the help of an outlaw condemned to hang.
Kathleen: You know a story is going to be difficult when the villain is the only character who behaves. Both the hero and the heroine in The Trouble with Honey had their own agendas from the get-go — and, of course, neither of their agendas coincided with mine. I was forever yanking one or the other back onto the path I had forged for them. They finally agreed to work together, but only if I’d change the story. So, I threw away what I’d written and started over — three times. In the future, I plan to begin each story with a cast meeting during which I’ll make clear that rebelling will get the offender(s) shot and hanged.
Livia J. Washburn: Yesterday’s FlameWhen smoke jumper Annabel Lowell’s duties propel her from San Francisco in 2000 back to 1906, she faces one of the worst earthquakes in history. But she also finds the passion of a lifetime in fellow fireman Cole Brady. Now she must choose between a future of certain danger and a present of certain love — no matter how short-lived it may be. “A timeless and haunting tale of love.” ~The Literary Times
Livia: Since Yesterday’s Flame is a time-travel story, the biggest challenge was fitting together everything in the past and present so the plot worked out and made sense. Time travel paradoxes can be very tricky!
So, there you have it — five reasons not to take up writing unless you enjoy self-flagellation. Creating fiction can convince the most stalwart soul the cliché “artists must suffer for their craft” is high sarcasm. People often use sarcasm to cover actions and emotions they’d rather not confront. All five of us who contributed to A Kiss to Remember had no choice but to face our demons head-on. Thankfully, the demons suffered defeat…this time.
Overcoming obstacles is the soul of a good romance, isn’t it? What kind of obstacles do you enjoy watching heroes and heroines overcome on their way to a happily-ever-after ending? Tell us in the comments! I’ll draw one commenter’s name from the trusty ol’ Stetson and send that person an e-copy of A Kiss to Remember.
A Texan to the bone, Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperadoes. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen’s stories, even the good guys wear black hats.
Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the 2015 Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.
Visit her hideout on the web at KathleenRiceAdams.com.