Beth Wiseman knows a thing or three about crafting a sweet, small town inspirational romance. The author's dozen plus novels are full of beautiful love stories and touching characters. Today she shares her process for the planning, plotting and pruning of her latest novel, The House that Love Built.
I love a good romance, but I also need a few twists and turns along the way. I realized a long time ago that my reading and writing preferences include more than just the standard ‘boy meets girl’ plot. When you pick up a romance novel, you know there is going to be a happily-ever-after ending for the couple, but it’s what happens throughout the story that keeps us turning the pages.
I rely heavily on my secondary characters to propel the story, those unexpected guests who drift onto the pages from a place in my brain that doesn’t consciously recognize them until they demand a part in the book. Sometimes they wake me up in my sleep or cause me to pull off the road while driving so I can document what they’re telling me. They are the cave dwellers in my mind who will cause trouble for my couple, or possibly be the ones to save the day in the end. But they always have their own goals, and they are as necessary as my hero and heroine. For the story to work, those folks must be as three-dimensional as the main players.
It’s easy to tell by the cover that The House that Love Built is a romance novel. But then I threw in an eccentric uncle, the town’s teenage troublemaker, an elderly couple finding a second chance at love, and a finicky cat. Then, of course … there is a mysterious house rumored to have a secret room, and possibly a hidden treasure.
Living in a small Texas town sparks all kinds of inspiration for me, whether it’s restoration of a century-old mansion, cow-tipping, coyote hunts, farming, and of course … gossip. I have a sign hanging in my kitchen that reads There ain’t much to do in a small town, but what you hear sure makes up for it.
The locale for The House that Love Built is Smithville, Texas. Smithville is a quaint town where the movie Hope Floats was filmed, along with Tree of Life, and several others. Their claim to fame — aside from being a popular movie site — would have to be the 1,300-pound gingerbread man they baked in order to win the Guinness World Record in 2008. Smithville is chockfull of history, and while the home in my story isn’t modeled after a real house, it was derived from multiple sources. In my mind, I imagined the house a certain way based on old homes I’ve been in. But one of my favorite houses actually has a rotating bookshelf that opens into a secret room in the basement. Thus … the idea for my secret room.
As a reader, I love when a story opens up and reveals the unexpected. And it’s doubly thrilling when that happens as a writer, when the characters take control and move the book in a direction I never saw coming.
Yep. We know the boy and girl will get together in the end, but getting there defines whether or not the ride is worth it, and … how many characters will we love at the end … or love to hate?
- Beth Wiseman