While 95% of the world thinks romance books are brain candy, I do have to admit there is some research that goes into them.
Aside from the historical research—which, believe me, I actually do—there is another side to research. And I’m not talking about research methods for the sensual scenes!
At least once a week I’ll get an e-mail asking where a specific storyline/plot idea came from. So in as few words as possible, I’m going to divulge my secrets, and give away my “research” on some of the most common ones:
- Horribly decorated drawing room—actually the original idea of mismatched furniture came from my maternal grandmother’s decorating scheme. However, when I walked into my own living room, I realized my decorating palate wasn’t much better. At the time I wrote that book in my living room I had: avocado green walls (the inside of the avocado, not the peel); a yellowish-gold cough—the style of this couch is like the one from the coffee shop on “Friends”; a blue rocking chair; a white glider with matching ottoman; hardwood floors; and a red, green, tan, and gold stripped couch. We were styling!
- The horse eating the bucket of prunes—This actually came from a joke I heard from a guy I was dating in high school. I can’t remember exactly how it goes (nor do I wish to contact him to ask). It was a take off the old: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.” Well, in this version it was like, “You can lead a horse to prune juice, but you can’t make him drink it. Nor would you want him to.” Or something like that. Anyway, the mental image it gave me is stuck in my head for life.
- Chess—I had a content editor who highlighted the chess scene in Her Sudden Groom and wrote in the comments: “Are you sure this all checks out?” In case you’re curious, yes, it does. When my husband and I first married we had no money. And I mean none. We were the epitome of poor. So at night, for entertainment we’d play Scrabble. For about fifteen months straight, we played Scrabble every single night. The problem was it wasn’t fun anymore. We could both get scores in the 300s and we’d lock the board up too much from defensive playing that finishing the game seemed like a chore. So one day I found a chess set and splurged! Then for about a year, we played chess every night. So needless to say, I’m not a master, but I’m not bad, either.
- Waffle Law—Yes, there really was a law involving the sale of waffles. In fact, all the details Benjamin/Gateway told Madison is pretty everything there is to know. During the middle ages waffle vendors would stand outside of public places on holidays trying to sell their waffles. The problem was, there were so many waffle vendors vying for the business, it would lead to chaos. Not only was it loud and noisy, but it was actually leading to violence and lawlessness because vendors would openly accuse other vendors of stealing their customers—then they’d fight. It was a nasty mess, so a law was put in place that said how far apart the vendors had to stand. I came up with the idea to incorporate waffles into the story while I was making them one morning. It was just to my good fortune that when I was researching to make sure they were even in existence back then that I stumbled upon a law involving them. I think that worked quite well into the story!
- Love musket—This is the most common question/comment I get. I’ve shied away from answering it before because I don’t want to disappoint anyone, but here’s the story: I wanted Madison to say an off-the-wall term. Something bizarre and humorous. So, I shamelessly went to wikipedia and started scanning the endless list of slang terms for male genitalia. Halfway down the list, my husband walks through the door. “What are you doing?”
I snapped the lid down on my laptop. “Nothing.”
“It’s not nothing. What are you doing?”
I sighed. “Looking up a slang term for a man’s penis.”
“I believe you heard me correctly.”
He shook his head. “No, I’m not sure I did. I could have sworn you just said you were looking up a slang term for a man’s privates, but I know that cannot be correct.”
I nod. “You heard right.” With a sigh, I open my laptop and show him the thousands and thousands of naughty terms on the screen.
“And why are you looking at this?”
“Because I need to think of something funny for Madison to say.”
“And it needs to be a slang term for…for…” He waved his hand in the air.
“Yup,” I said as proudly as I could.
“I don’t even pretend to know your mind.” Then he sank down beside me and started reading through the list.
For the next fifteen minutes, we read the list and casually threw out terms we thought might work.
“No, that’s common.”
“No, that’s too dirty.”
“Absolutely not! What if someone I know reads this.”
“Uh, then if you’re concerned about that, then you shouldn’t be writing this scene anyway.”
I waved him off and kept reading—losing IQ points at a rapid rate as I scanned the columns. Finally I sighed. “I’m just going to use wedding tackle.”
“No, no, keep looking. You’ll find something better.”
“No, I don’t think so. Half of these words are far too vulgar, and the ones that aren’t are terms that I’m sure weren’t around back then.” Then, as I went to click the X and close the page, I saw it: Love Musket. “Perfect!”
And there you have it. It wasn’t any great invention on my part, I just happened to see the word right before I closed the page and cleared my browsing history. It was the workings of fate, I tell you!
That’s all for now. I’m not sure what I’ll disclose next….maybe the March of the Penguins story…we’ll see. Have a great afternoon.