In case you didn't know, I am sharing the stories and inspiration behind my three self-published novels here on the blog. In the last post, I told you about Two Bullets, book numuro uno in my contemporary action series 'The Barrier Ridge Series". You can find that post here.
If you are already caught up and are looking for what inspired book #3 Battle Wounds, click here.
Now. Let's talk about the second book in the series, Gathering Stones.
In Two Bullets, our main character was Elizabeth Locksley, but as I mentioned last time, each book spotlights on a different main character with everyone else making cameo appearances. Gathering Stones is all about one of Lock's friends named jack Stone. Jack is a Native American who was adopted and raised by a white family in Barrier Ridge and he wants nothing to do with his ancestry. I didn't base him on anyone specifically, he just sort of happened. For his story, we leave Barrier Ridge, Washington and head south to Arizona. The reason for this is simply because I had an image in my head of Jack riding his motorcycle through the desert. It's symbolic of his lone wolf nature and dry sense of humor. (See what I did there? Dry, Desert...) It was all about the aesthetics of the setting. I knew Jack had been adopted and was a full- blooded American Indian, and sending him back home for a not so wonderful reason just seemed to fit with the desolate landscape. (I even wrote a song called 'Drifter' about a lone man riding his motorcycle through the desert, but I honestly can't tell you which came first. I'm pretty sure it was the song though because I've always loved the show Renegade. My song is on iTunes if you're interested.)
Anyway, from there, it was simply figuring out what Jack encountered on his trip. How would he change or how would he grow? I don't plot out my books like many other authors do. I cannot for the life of me outline and then stick to it. So, I just start writing and see what happens. With Gathering Stones, I knew I wanted two things. To dig into Jack's past and find out what makes him so angry and cynical, and to also bring back in a character from Two Bullets named Slade. Slade is a mysterious stranger that shows up right before bad things happen, but no one knows where he comes from or where he goes when he leaves. He's a drifter.
The third thing I eventually decided this book needed was a love interest for Jack. That came in the form of a gypsy-type character named Dusti Hughes. She was inspired by a young woman who came into my work one day back when I worked at a flower shop. She was so beautiful and interesting! She had small dreadlocks tucked up into a slouch beanie and had the prettiest smile with deep dimples. She also was the absolute sweetest person I've ever met! She came into the shop with her sister who had autism, and I remember watching the way she was so patient and attentive. During the rewrites, my character shifted slightly in appearance, but I kept the kind and meek qualities that showed considerable strength. Dusti took on her own personality and appearance over time, but the skeleton is all due to that young woman whom I admire greatly.
There is a character name Frank Golding that I based on a man my dad worked for once when I was kid. Since I don't want to get myself into legal trouble by speaking ill of someone, let's just say that a lot of what happens at Frank's place is true. He may be a deacon of a church, but that doesn't mean he's a good person.
In 2010, me and my family were in Nebraska for the summer. One night in Norfolk, we stopped in at a Walmart and I waited in the car while mom ran in for something. In the parking lot, just a few spaces away, I saw two adults and two kids pull in. There was something about this young brother and sister that just called out to me and I felt like something was wrong. But I didn't do anything about it. For all I know, nothing was wrong, but the the looks of fear and trepidation I saw on those kids as they clung to each other was heart breaking. But I too was young at the time and there wasn't really anything I could do. But I desperately wanted to. As we drove away, I was mentally running back to that parking lot. I stared out the back window for ten minutes feeling guilty, wishing there was something I could do to help those kids-if they were indeed in trouble. When I started working out what would happen to Jack, I pulled from the experience and the emotions it had caused. And I let Jack be the nosy hero that I wasn't. Enter the little girl named Nizhoni that needed rescuing. I regret reworking some of the scenes with her, but the first time around I had a few dynamics that were inaccurate to the location, so it got changed. Initially, Jack found her tied up in a barn, but as I discussed this with my mom, we decided she was too young to survive like that and it was just to brutal for the story. As it is, some readers aren't too pleased with reading about an abused child, but it's my book, so there. :)
I brought in Nizhoni's character for two reasons:
One, I wanted to see how Jack would react to children. I wanted to explore his soft side, if he had one, and what it would take for him to react with gentleness.
Two, I didn't want to have another group of bad guys set up as the villains/antagonists. I also wanted something that didn't involve law enforcement since Jack was out of his jurisdiction and would be unable to make arrests. I needed an illegal issue that could be handled person to person. You will understand when you read the book...
I grew up around Native Americans and also lived near a reservation in Montana for a time. I love the culture and the people. Jack isn't supposed to be the quintessential Indian, and since he hates where he comes from, it made it easier for me. I didn't have to dig in too far to the culture where I might get myself in trouble with misrepresentation. I might get more into culture and things for Jack in the future, but we'll have to see. Gathering Stones is all about the characters. It's about the setting and the beauty and drama and romance. And ultimately, it's about God leading people and giving them choices, not controlling them. At one point Slade tells Jack, "Sometimes stuff happens and there isn't always a reason. Not everything happens for a reason.”
If you're interested in finding out what happens in Arizona with Jack, Slade, Dusti, and Nizhoni, click the link and check out book number two for yourself.
->Gathering Stones <-