Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Where Did You Get an Idea Like That? by Alison Henderson

Like most fiction writers, I get my ideas from a variety of sources: interesting people I’ve known, a fascinating bit of research, an unforgettable setting, or even a dream. The characters and plot for my first book, Harvest of Dreams, were born of a combination of these factors. The story is set in the small northwest Missouri river town of Weston just after the end of the Civil War and features a pregnant young widow and a security agent for the Overland Stage Company.

I grew up in Kansas City, just south of the real town of Weston, and my lifelong love of history made this setting a natural fit for me.  Weston is a charming town with antebellum buildings still dotting the landscape, so I was able to soak up inspiration walking the streets my characters walked, past the houses they might have lived in.  Local farmers still grow tobacco as they have since 1840 and operate apple orchards, like my heroine, Lisa McAllister.

I based the character of Lisa on a woman with whom I once worked.  She was young, barely twenty-one, full of hope, and in love.  While she was in the hospital after the birth of her first child, her husband came to visit and announced he was leaving her for another woman.  I can’t imagine a more devastating blow, but she picked herself up, dusted herself off, and forged ahead.  We lost touch, but I always wanted to write a happy ending for her.  I altered the circumstances of the heroine of my book but pursued the theme of a young mother who, after suffering a series of losses, is determined to focus all her energies on creating a safe and stable life for her child.

The hero of Harvest of Dreams was more a creature of my imagination.  The book is a Western historical, so I was looking for a cowboy.  My visual image of Jared Tanner was based on Robert Urich’s character in the TV mini-series Lonesome Dove, but his personality is pure fantasy.  One of the things I love most about writing romance is that I can make the men do and say anything I want.  (What woman wouldn’t love that?)  Jared is strong and a protector by nature, but he’s also extremely patient.  I never realized how strong that trait was until several readers pointed it out.   Even my (straight) male hairdresser commented on it.  I guess we writers reveal more of ourselves in our work than we think.

Here’s a blurb about the story:

Alone on her farm in the middle of a blizzard, young widow Lisa McAllister labors to give birth to her first child.  Help arrives in the strong hands of a stranger wearing a six-gun.  Lisa has no reason to trust this man who makes a living by violence, even if he is on the right side of the law.  Men and their guns have already claimed the lives of her father, brother, and husband, and she’s determined to protect her son at any cost. 

Jared Tanner, a security agent for the stagecoach, has been on his own since he was twelve.  Against his better judgment, his feelings of protectiveness toward Lisa and her baby turn to something deeper, and he is tempted by the possibility of a family of his own. Can their tender new love survive when an act of ultimate violence threatens to tear them apart?

Do you see the seeds of stories all around you? What are your favorite sources of inspiration?

I’m offering a print copy of Harvest of Dreams to one lucky commenter, so if you’re interested, please leave your email address in your comment.

Alison Henderson


Margo Hoornstra said...


Your story about the inspiration for your story is as beautiful, I'm sure, as the one you wrote. Great post.

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks, Margo. Characters can come from anywhere, but sometimes the ones from real life are the most special.

Jannine Gallant said...

Wow, I really hope that young woman got the HEA you dreamed up for her (or one like it.) Great story of inspiration, Alison, though now I'd like to kick her rat of a husband where it would hurt the most!

Alison Henderson said...

I was so tempted, too. It's a good thing he never showed his face in the office again or it would have been a pile-on.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I loved this story when I read it and, yes, was struck by the man's patience and the depth of his love.

What happened to your friend happened to my daughter. On the day Amy went on maternity leave, she came home to an empty house. I'll never forget how incoherant she was when she called me. I took emergency leave from work and drove 12 hours to get to her, just wishing and hoping my brainless SIL would show his face. LOL Oh, yes, I had murder in mind. Believe me. My son, a college student on winter break, drove the long trip to be with her when her due date came near. He'd dislocated his knee at a karate tournament and was on crutches, but was setermined his sister wouldn't be alone. I hope your friend had family to support her.

Colleen Connally said...


What a great post. I was touched by both your story and Vonnie's. I can't imagine being left alone at that point in your life. I hope both women found their happy ever after.

Alison Henderson said...

Vonnie, how horrible for your daughter! That kind of behavior is almost inconceivable. I don't know what happened to my friend, but I hope your daughter has found happiness.