Mariah Stewart, whose latest book is Hometown Girl, the fourth in her popular Chesapeake Bay series, is my very special guest today.
For Brooke Madison Bowers, her life has always been practically perfect and things have come easily to her. Growing up in the little town of St. Dennis, Maryland, she was not only the pretty and popular high school prom queen and local pageant star. She also enjoyed a loving relationship with her parents and married the man of her dreams.
Sadly, the princess was not destined to live happily ever after with her prince. After her husband was killed while serving in Iraq, she returned home to St. Dennis seeking, comfort and solace in the familiarity of her family’s farm. Resilient and determined, Brooke sets out to build a new life for herself by opening her own cupcake bakery. Despite being devastated by her husband’s death, she opens her heart to the possibility of new love.
In contrast to Brooke’s, Jesse Enright’s life has been marked by challenges. A fourth-generation attorney, he has been plagued by the specter of his irresponsible father. He has taken over his family’s law practice in St. Dennis, and is eager to settle down and get married.
Jesse’s carefully structured plans are demolished when he finds himself caught between his strong feelings for Brooke and her resolve to make her own way alone, despite her feelings for Jesse. After suffering a tragic loss, is it possible to fall in love again and reconstruct one’s shattered dreams?
Finding Trula Comfort
One of the questions that writers are most frequently asked is, where do your stories come from? The answer, of course, is from everywhere: think of all the little piece that make up a good story as snow flakes falling from the sky. When they finally hit the ground, they all blend into each other. That’s sort of how it goes when a story starts to build in my head . . . there’s a little piece of this and a little piece of that. But the most important pieces to me are, of course, the characters.
Now, here’s a little secret that I don’t share with everyone: almost every time, the characters come into the story fully formed, and more or less announce themselves. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they come with names and quirks and they simply are who they are and somehow, miraculously, they fit into the story. So I don’t usually have a problem naming my characters, because most of the time, they are who they are and the names are just there. In case you’re thinking this is peculiar to me, I should tell you that I know several other authors who say it works this way for them, too.
And no, I’m not telling you who they are.
But over the course of thirty published books, three novellas, and three short stories, there hasn’t been one story where one character hasn’t just walked onto the page – unplanned and unexpected and unaccounted for – and started talking. Almost every time, though, they walk in with a name.
The one time when a surprise character showed up without a name happened was when I was writing Mercy Street. All of a sudden, a woman in her seventies appeared and started bossing around my main character, Robert Magellan. She was a grandmotherly type, but I knew she wasn’t Robert’s grandmother. I wasn’t really sure who she was, or how she fit into the story, but she made herself important to him so I just went along with her. Page after page, scene after scene . . .but I still didn’t know what her name was, even as I learned more and more about her. She was feisty, more than a little bossy, opinionated, but deeply loved Robert and his cousin, Father Kevin Burch. I discovered that she ran Robert’s house and was an excellent cook, and that she collected coffee mugs with snarky sayings on them. But I still didn’t know her name. I actually went so far as to consult a baby book looking for a good name for her, but absolutely nothing fit. I was writing scenes where I’d type in “XXXX” where her name should have been because I didn’t know what it was!
Then one day, I received an email from a reader who so kindly wrote to tell me how much she’d enjoyed reading my books. The woman’s name was Trula Comfort.
It was a little like being struck by lightening.
I oh-so-clearly heard my character snort derisively: “Yes, that would be me. Took you long enough to figure it out. Dummy.”
I immediately wrote back and asked if I could please borrow her name for the book, and Trula graciously agreed. Trula Comfort became a character in all three of the Mercy Street Foundation books, and because of her childhood friendship with Grace Sinclair of the Chesapeake Diaries, has managed to walk her way into that series as well. In my new book, Hometown Girl, Trula shows up at a wedding that takes place in her friend Grace’s family’s inn, and plays unofficial paparazzi. As always, she adds just a little spice and a smile to every scene she’s in.
I just never know where she’ll show up next.
Mariah Stewart is the bestselling author of thirty novels, three novellas, and three short stories. She is a RITA finalist in romantic suspense and the recipient of the Award of Excellence for contemporary romance, a RIO Award for excellence in women’s fiction, and a Reviewers Choice Award from Romantic Times Magazine. A three-time winner of the Golden Leaf Award presented by the New Jersey Romance Writers, Stewart was recently awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award which placed her in their Hall of Fame with former recipients Nora Roberts and Mary Jo Putney.
A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, Mariah is a member of Novelists, Inc,; Thriller Writers International; Sisters in Crime; PASIC; the Romance Writers of America; the New Jersey Romance Writers; the Valley Forge Romance Writers; and the Washington Romance Writers.
Mariah lives with her husband, two daughters, and two golden retrievers amidst the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania. She savors country life and tends her gardens. She considers herself one lucky lady to have landed the best job in the world. She gets paid for making up stories at home in sweats and flip flops. She asked, “Could life be sweeter?”
Enter to Win a Copy of Hometown Girl
Author Mariah Stewart has graciously provided one copy of Hometown Girl to be awarded to one lucky Colloquium reader!