Inspiration: Secondary Characters, Muppets, and My Husband

People often ask me where I find the inspiration for my stories. It doesn’t take much to spark a story idea in my brain. Most of the time, it’ll be a quote, or a scene from a movie/show. But there are those strange instances where it’s inspired by the secondary characters from a prior book. This is the case for A Holiday Love Affair.

When I started writing A Lockdown Love Affair, I had zero intention of writing a second book. In fact, I had hoped there wouldn’t be any pesky secondary characters to annoy me in Ben and Penelope’s book. But I was wrong. So wrong. As I wrote Lockdown, it became abundantly clear Evan and Lucy would gravitate toward each other if I put them in the same room together. Which is how they ended up getting their own book.

Ben Statler and Evan Waldorf are best friends and business partners. They’re also distinct opposites. Where Ben is dark and brooding, Evan is pure sunshine and positivity. At first, Evan’s presence was merely as fodder to elevate Ben’s irritation with the state of their business affairs during the pandemic lockdown. But as the story progressed, Evan took on a life of his own.

Lucy Mackewitz and Penelope Weiss are besties by accident. Literally. Lucy was the nurse on duty when Penelope’s grandparents admitted to the hospital after a car accident. Their bond formed quickly. Lucy’s presence in Penelope’s book solidified her support network in the city during the chaos and uncertainty of lockdown.

But Lucy and Evan don’t actually meet until Ben and Penelope’s wedding six months later. This is where their romance begins.

What inspired their story? The characters begged me to write it, but more than that, I liked the idea of Evan being the ray of sunshine and Lucy being the perpetual grump. Who said the grump always has to be the hero? Heroines can be just as miserable.

Before I started writing Holiday, I imagined Evan as a Steve Rogers kind of guy. I often post my daily word count on social media as I write the first draft and add a gif of the actor I cast as the hero to the post. For this book, it was Chris Evans. Yes, even Evan’s name is an homage to the actor. I even wrote a log splitting scene. But that’s where the similarities ended.

The more I wrote, the more Evan’s mannerisms mirrored my husband’s. Of all the characters I’ve ever written, Evan is the only one I’ve ever modeled after my husband. They’re both effervescent rays of positivity and charm while simultaneously being classic button pushing antagonists.

While Ben and Penelope’s book takes place in Brooklyn, most of Evan and Lucy’s story takes place in upstate Indiana. I seized the opportunity to use some of my personal adventures with my husband as inspiration for their journey. It was also fun to write Lucy’s POV in the book because she’s a city girl, born and raised. Country life gives her quite a culture shock, and Evan takes full advantage of it. But I won’t give you any spoilers if you haven’t read the book. *wink*

If you recognize the names Statler and Waldorf, you get bonus points. I was stuck, unable to figure out surnames for these two men when an image of the comedy muppet duo popped into my mind. That’s exactly how I imagine Ben and Evan banter back and forth.

Waldorf and Statler

I would say the resemblance is uncanny, if they were thirty years older. In my head, Evan Waldorf is Chris Evans and Ben Statler is Adam Driver. Now that’s in your head too. Another terrifying glimpse into the muddled mind of a romance author.

My creative process is anything but typical, but it works for me. I hope this brief peek into the inspiration for A Holiday Love Affair makes you smile. Most of the time, I have no idea where the next story will come from. It could come from a random tweet or a video posted to Facebook. But most of the time it’s born from the nagging secondary characters demanding I give them their moment in the spotlight. C’est la vie.

Oh, and a side note, if you enjoyed Ben and Evan, then you won’t want to miss Confessions of a Gamer Girl coming in June. The heroine, Maggie, works for Ben and Evan at Solus Inc. And the events take place before Ben and Evan meet their matches.

Authors: Where do you find inspiration for your stories?

Readers: Do you like getting a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the creation of the stories you enjoy?

Which book should I tell you about next? Or should I have an interview with the main character? Tell me in the comments.

Until next week!

All my love,

Kirsten S. Blacketer

Why Contemporary Romance?

Even though my journey as a published author seems like it began with historical romance, it really didn’t. Around the same time I wrote An Irresistible Shadow, I wrote two other stories, both contemporary romance. They weren’t as complex as my medieval romance, and both had elements of romantic suspense. Yes, both were also published at the beginning of my career.

My first publication was a short story called “What The Darkness Proposes.” If this title looks familiar, it’s because I published it here on my website a week before I posted this. I originally wrote it for a short story competition hosted by Romantic Shorts, and it won second place. Unfortunately, Romantic Shorts will be closing their doors. So, I made a new home here on my website for the short stories they published.

Around the same time, I submitted a romantic suspense novelette to another small press. Full Throttle: Blood, Sweat, and Gears. It was very much inspired by Tara Janzen’s Crazy series featuring fast cars and a smoking hot hero. I absolutely loved writing it. But this story has also been taken down from the publisher and the rights returned. I am considering the idea of revising it as a fun treat for my subscribers.

I’ve learned a lot since these first publications. My writing has improved. My tastes have also become more specific. But the best lesson I learned was to follow my heart and write the stories I want to read. I’ll chase down whatever idea strikes me and pen a delightful romance with its inspiration.

But after six years of writing historical romance, why did I suddenly dive back into contemporary?

Well, as much as I love historical romance, there are limitations when I write it. Specifically the firm constraints of the time period which could be etiquette, technology, or other details that may inhibit the creative process. This isn’t a bad thing, but it can be exhausting trying to be true to the time period.

In Spring of 2020, I was enjoying my time living in Italy…when Covid struck. I had plans. To travel. To grasp every possible opportunity living in Europe had to offer. And then we got locked down. HARD. I mean, I didn’t leave our one-acre property for three months. My husband did all the shopping when he went to work. We weren’t allowed to go anywhere, and all of our plans were canceled, including my trip to visit Samantha Holt in England! I was enraged. Furious. Disappointed. Crushed. I had nowhere to vent my frustrations.

Only, I did. I poured my heart and soul into A Lockdown Love Affair that spring. Then it sparked an idea for A Holiday Love Affair and Mistletoe and Mistakes. All three books are interconnected and the characters were born from an idea sparked during my time in lockdown.

I set a writing schedule and stuck to it. By January of 2021, I decided to challenge myself and focus on writing a book every two months while publishing one every quarter. I met this goal with ease, even in the midst of an intercontinental move.

I pulled ideas for stories I had set aside years ago and focused on writing them. Confessions of a Fangirl had been an idea for a screenplay, but I morphed it into a romantic comedy that sparked two more books. Thus, the Her Confessions Series was born. The best part of that is these books interconnect with the universe I created for my Sunshine Meets Grump Series (A Lockdown Love Affair, A Holiday Love Affair, and Mistletoe and Mistakes.)

All of my contemporary romances so far weave together in the same universe. That’s the only tidbit I’m going to tell you because I don’t want to spoil the Easter eggs I’ve placed in the books. But even my 1985 time travel romance, When I Found You, spawned its own series of five books, and there are characters within those stories who tie into my contemporary universe. I love when a plan comes together, especially when I didn’t really plan it at all! My subconscious is a terrifying place sometimes.

Honestly, why do I like writing contemporary romance? Because I’m a contemporary woman. For me, it’s the easiest era in which to write. It feels natural because I’m living it on a daily basis. I can tie in modern technology and conventions while putting my own fun spin on it with pop culture.

It also brings a much-needed reprieve from writing a bygone era. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing historical romance, but it can be overwhelming at times. I love the freedom that contemporary romance gives me to explore topics and plots I couldn’t utilize in a historical romance.

Fortunately, I read a lot of both genres, so I’m able to bounce back and forth with ease. There are just some days when you’re in a very specific mood. I like to be flexible with my reading, but even more so with my writing.

I’ll keep going as I have been, writing both steamy historical and contemporary romance. But at least now you know the reason why I’m all over the place. Thanks for tagging along for the ride!

Are you camp Contemporary or camp Historical? Tell me in the comments.

Always,

Kirsten S. Blacketer