I'll start with the most recent and go backward:
With most of my historical novels, I haven't had a clue about what the story will be until I learn about the temple and the area. Since I'm very big on the history being an organic part of the story, I need to know about the setting before I can come up with a plot or characters to fit it.
With Tower of Strength, I researched the settlement of Manti and the temple there for several weeks, making notes and marking spots in the text of several publications, but I really had no clear idea for a story.
Then one day as I was blow drying my hair, Tabitha showed up in my head. I heard her say, "It's Tab, not Tabby. I'm not a cat!" I grinned, knowing I'd found my heroine.
From that point, I knew enough about the area that I was sure Temple Hill and some of its history needed to figure prominently in the story. But those events were way before the construction of the temple and therefore several years before Tabitha was born. I knew I'd need a character that was a child during those years. (Which is why Fred is several years her senior.)
Early into the drafting, I uncovered Mantia's story and groaned. GREAT. More research. In an area I knew nothing about. So I hit the Internet and studied up on horses and horse training. Such. A. Pain. (But in the end, totally worth it.)
As I mentioned in a recent Writing Journey post, Spires of Stone is essentially a retelling of Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing. I've always loved that play and wanted to retell the story. The trick for this one wasn't finding the idea, but finding a way to adapt a classic to the 1800s and work in details about the temple in a natural way.
At the Journey's End was a bit like Tower of Strength in that I was several weeks into the research before I had any clue what the story would be. I had lots of cool ideas about what could happen (and things that had happened) on the Honeymoon Trail that led from Arizona to St. George, but I also knew there was no way to tell all of them.
Thanks to all the horror stories I read about one area of the trail, I knew pretty early on that there would be a disaster in that spot. (Something that apparently takes most readers by surprise.)
One thing I did know going in was that Abe would need a strong reason to leave Utah. Plus, he needed someplace else to go that had Mormons. I'd recently read about a lynching that really happened in Salt Lake City around this time. That tragedy provided the perfect impetus Abe needed.
Once I settled on him going to Arizona, his story wasn't the hard one to come up with. It was the heroine's. Fortunately, Maddie showed up on her own a couple of weeks into the research, and I could breathe a sigh of relief. Now I had both sides of the equation and could move forward.
House on the Hill, my very first temple novel, came about after I read my parents' copy of Nolan P. Olsen's Logan Temple: The First 100 Years. I picked it up after getting married in the Logan Temple myself, and after reading the book, I knew immediately that there was a story there I had to tell. But it wasn't until after I read the book again, made a master chronology, and started looking at the events and dates that I figured out a story to go with it. This book went through a lot of drafts and revisions, especially in the early stages. Writing a historical for the first time was pretty terrifying.
I managed to buy a copy of Olsen's book for myself a few years ago. It's out of print again, so I'm glad I snagged it when I had the chance. Sometimes I get e-mails asking where you can find the book. I've seen it for sale at online used bookstores and even Deseret Book's online auction. They're out there, just hard to find.
As I've mentioned before, Abe came about after I read a paper on Native American children who were indentured by Latter-day Saints. It was such an intriguing idea that I knew right away who he was and where he'd come from. He remains a favorite character for a lot of readers.
As some people have guessed, At the Water's Edge was somewhat inspired by my parents' own love story. But only inspired by. The vast majority of the book is pure fiction. Here's where it dovetails with reality:
My dad served a mission in Finland. He returned several years later on graduate research and met my mother at church. (Check, check, and check for Kenneth.)
Mom became the black sheep of her family when she was baptized, and her father threatened to kick her out of the house if she joined the Church. (Check and check for Annela.)
But that's as far as the story mirrors reality. Mom was seventeen when she was baptized, not an adult in her twenties with a messed-up, live-in boyfriend. All the rest of the story is out of my head. One big difference is that both of Mom's parents were against the Church, not just her father.
I made the mistake of telling one of my sisters that our parents inspired the story right as I handed over a few chapters for her to read. She came back with tears in her eyes saying, "Did Grandma really say that?" I had to burst her bubble. Sorry, no. This is FICTION. Annela's mother isn't Grandma (who was very much against Mom's baptism). Grandma never expressed support like Annela's mother does. (It's a novel. Pretend. Made up!)
Lost without You was sparked by a dream. (Wouldn't it have been nice if that dream yielded millions like Stephanie Meyer's dream?! :-D) At the time, I had two children. In the dream, I knew I was going to die soon, and my two regrets were that I couldn't say good-bye to my husband and that I couldn't tell him to find a good mother to raise my children.
Up to that point, I'd been adamantly opposed to him ever remarrying were I to die. But that dream showed me that if another woman were to truly mother and nurture my children as her own, that I would praise and honor her for doing so.
That was the kernel of the idea.
Next week I might go into some other ideas, such as what prompted Band of Sisters, coming out next spring, and my the dust-gathering murder mystery I really should do something with
Today's Tour Stop:
Author Bee's Blog (Therein I discovered what that smell is.)