This seems to be the most common question authors get. Where do you come up with your ideas? What makes you want to write about a certain character or setting?
My answer is usually always the same -- I have no idea. I spend a lot of time walking around with my head in the clouds, thinking about new characters or fun places to set a story. Some are great ideas, others are just that--ideas that don't fully develop into a strong plot. I have a notebook full of things that come to me while I'm trying to sleep, or in the shower, or riding in the car. Watching movies is a big one too. I'll often watch a movie, and it will spark inspiration for me to write something about a character similar to the one I just watched on screen.
Sometimes though, it's more personal.
For THE MAN I WANT TO BE, it was very personal.
It's not a secret how close I was to my grandmother. I dedicated that book to her and I spend a lot of time honoring her memory in the funny grandma characters I write. She was a special lady and I miss her dearly.
When I was coming up with the plot for TMIWTB, I knew it needed some sort of suspense aspect (since it's a romantic suspense novel, after all), but it was taking place at a destination wedding. I didn't want a drug dealer coming in and ruining the perfect day for my characters (much like the what happened in ON HER SIX and IN WALKED TROUBLE), so I tried to tame it down a bit.
But for the life of me, I couldn't think of a good plot that would be fun, suspenseful, and believable for a destination wedding.
Around the time I starting plotting this book out, we had moved my grandmother into assisted living as it was getting too dangerous for her to live on her own. It killed us. We hated the idea of shoving her into a place with people she didn't know, into a room that wasn't her house, with a roommate who yelled at her all day long. But most importantly, we hated the fact that we couldn't watch over her ourselves as much as we wanted to. Everyone in my family works strenuous 9-5 jobs (even me. This author thing is a side gig) so we weren't able to be home to take care of her day in and day out. So we had to do what we could to keep her safe.
One day, during a routine trip to the doctors office, my grandmother's wedding ring (the ring she wore for 50 years that originally belonged to HER mother) went "missing." No one at the assisted living facility could locate it. She apparently had it on that morning, got on the transportation bus they use to take folks to the docs, and she wasn't wearing it when she came back to the facility. . .
The ring was never found.
It happened more than 2 years ago, and my heart STILL hurts to think about.
So what does any self-respecting author do when faced with an emotional crisis?
We write about it.
My grandmother's missing ring was the inspiration for the main suspense plot in THE MAN I WANT TO BE. I needed to use it, to CONTROL the situation, and imagine a different outcome. In this novel, Kenna McCord's late mother's ring goes missing at the wedding, she thinks someone stole it, so she and the hero, Bryan Tyke, go on an investigation to find it.
Although we never found my grandmother's ring, I made for damn sure that Kenna got her mother's ring back. (Sorry to ruin the ending for you, readers. But all of my characters always get their happy ending!) It was the one thing I could control. I HAD to make sure Kenna didn't have that hole in her heart that I still have today. She deserved to have that piece of her mother with her always.
And every night I go to sleep, thinking and dreaming about my next big story, I imagine my grandmother haunting the ever-loving hell out of whoever had the audacity to steal her ring. It gives me a tiny bit of solace. And I might even smile about it from time to time.
THE MAN I WANT TO BE is book #3 in the Under Covers series. Although it is in the same world with the same characters as books #1 and #2, it can be read as a standalone.