Friday, April 29, 2016

What the heck do headlights, trains, and little girls have to do with romance? by Mackenzie Crowne

One of the most commonly asked questions a writer receives is, Where do you get the ideas for your stories? The quick answer is, Everywhere. That’s because life provides the seed for every story, whether it be a song lyric that hits your ears at just the right time, a news headline, a funny comment overheard…

Photo © Adobe Stock 
Or something as simple as an elderly man holding a small valise and a bouquet of flowers as he waits for a train.

Last summer, I had the opportunity to attend the RWA convention in Manhattan. With thousands of romance authors roaming the city, I found myself grinning as I imagined how many romance seeds were planted that weekend. I did a little HEA farming myself, in Penn Station, no less. As I stood waiting for my train, my gaze was drawn to an elderly man waiting several feet away.

I smiled at the colorful flowers clutched in his thin hand and couldn’t help wondering, where are you going? Who are the flowers for? He looked adorable and quite dapper in his button down suit, complete with bow tie, a fedora tugged low on his brow. Of course, he must be meeting a woman. Who was she? And would she be charmed by his interest, or would she break his heart?

I write romance, and my characters are typically in their early thirties, so of course, my mind quickly slipped a young heroine into the picture. She’d sit next to the old man on the train and…

The possibilities are endless.

On the road to the compound
For me, at least, those seeds normally sprout sideways, never taking me where I first thought they would. Like the idea that came from the flash of headlights, believe it or not. My husband and I have a getaway cabin on the side of Mt. Graham east of Tucson. We call it our compound...long story. We were headed to the property late one night. It’s pretty rough terrain, with lots of sharp dips and steep climbs on the dirt road leading in. With no moon to guide us that night, the sky was pitch black. As we topped a rise, far off in the distance on another peak, a bright beam of light suddenly appeared, shooting straight into the sky.

Now, I live in Phoenix, and many here in the southwest would have immediately thought ALIENS! Because, you know. It’s the desert. That’s where the aliens always hang out. Seriously. Roswell isn’t far away. Anyway, I didn’t go the alien route. For whatever reason, I imagined the beam more like the light shining through a door that had suddenly been opened. A portal of sorts. One that could transport someone from one spot to another, anywhere in the world, and maybe, any time in the world. Oh, the possibilities...

You’re probably thinking, ah, Mac found the seed for a sci-fi time-travel romance set in the mountains of southern Arizona, but you’d be wrong. In the end, that seed bloomed into a contemporary fantasy romance set in Ireland. Yeah, I know. The odd path the story took threw me a little too, but that flash of headlights was the birth of my first published book.

Just over a year ago, a pair of twin girls I saw one day while shopping became the seed for what eventually morphed into Players, my sports romance series. Don’t ask me how I went from those cute little girls to an MMA champion finding his HEA with country music’s “It Girl” in book #3 in the series, To Win Her Heart. Even I can’t explain how my imagination works, but these days, I’m not fazed in the least when the seeds grow sideways. Instead, I embrace the possibilities and remember…they’re endless.


In order to protect her, they’ll both have to let their guards down…

Country music’s It Girl Jessi Tucker is fed up with her family’s stifling security measures. The threat of a dangerous stalker has gotten the men in her life—including her football star cousin, Tuck Tucker—monitoring her every move. To get the freedom she yearns for, Jessi hatches a plan to recruit Max Grayson, Tuck’s sexy brawler best friend, to play the role of her new boyfriend. But if her scheme works, will she be forced to hide her true romantic feelings for the sake of her independence? Or will she finally steal the heart of her dream man?...
Max has been pining for Jessi for years and would do anything to protect her, but a professional cage fighter with too many skeletons in his closet has no business being with one of America’s sweethearts. Yet while Max does his best to keep Jessi at arm’s length, the Tucker family persuades him to accept her offer.
Max believes he can keep Jessi safe from danger, but can he shelter her from his own dark secrets, the media’s unforgiving spotlight—and a mutual desire that’s harder to resist each day…
Players Series titles available in all formats at Kensington Publishing

Mackenzie Crowne writes contemporary romance with a side of sass. 
Her friends call her Mac. She hopes you will too. 
Visit her website at mackenziecrowne.com, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter twitter.com/MacCrowne.

14 comments:

Diane Burton said...

Love how your mind works. What fun seeing how you went from a quick scene to a published book. Your mentioning the old man holding flowers made me remember a fun writing assignment at my RWA chapter meeting. The scenario given was: a man is running toward you at a train station. That assignment morphed into One Red Shoe. A lot changed between the writing assignment and the finished book. Probably the only book that I know exactly how it started.

RE Mullins said...

So true. Anything can trigger the little idea germs that pop into your head.

Jannine Gallant said...

Love your story triggers. Once when my dog came running up in the woods carrying a stick, I thought, "What if it was a human bone?" That one went into a story. Ironically, she did run up with a bone a few years later. A deer leg! Freaked me out!

andreadowning.com said...

It's nice, Mac, that you know where your stories come from--I'm still wondering about a couple of mine. I dread to think it's old age and I've just forgotten! Good luck with the book.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Funny you should mention RWA in NYC where we finally got a chance to meet. The opening scene in my current WIP takes place at an RWA convention in San Antonio where my hero is attending the Texas Cattlemen Association's conference. Poor guy is clueless to what the magic initials RWA mean...Regional Women Accountants, perhaps? Oh, the things that happen in the crowded elevators. I always enjoy your posts!!!

Mackenzie Crowne said...

LOL Andrea. I wonder about a couple of mine too. I think those sneaky gray hairs that have shown up lately suck memory capability from the brain.

Mackenzie Crowne said...

Yep, but the twists and turns are what make the journey fun, Diane. ;-)

Mackenzie Crowne said...

Exactly, RE. Imagination is a wondrous thing. And OMG Jannine, I would have freaked, too.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Ah the stories we can tell. It was fun learning the insight into some of yours. Love the Players idea. Best of luck with that future!

Mackenzie Crowne said...

I love it, V. LOL I think the elevators at RWA were inspiration closets. I just typed the end on my latest and it includes an elevator scene in the Time's Square Marriott. :-) Muahaha

Alison Henderson said...

My imagination works much the same way. Those seeds definitely grow sideways! You gotta love it. LOL

Rolynn Anderson said...

Right on, Mac. Me, too, me, too. I always thought it was some malfunctioning synapse or a dopey dopamine issue. But I guess a lot of us have the 'thing'...and it's nice to know there are others goof-balling with the 'thing.' As I've often said, it's the surprises and the curve balls that make writing exciting...and keep me in the game.

Alicia Dean said...

I enjoyed hearing about how your stories have developed. Yes, I'm the same way. It is funny how our minds work, isn't it? I don't believe anyone else thinks like writers do.

Leah St. James said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one whose mind shoots off into "odd" directions, Mac! Loved your examples, especially the elderly man waiting for the train at Penn Station.