JL Crosswhite

Did you know that books can be a long time in the making? My latest book was in my head at least ten years. It wasn’t that I was writing the book for that length of time, but I had different seeds in my idea folder, and I had to wait until I had the right story and characters for them to come to germination.

One thing I have in common with other authors I know is that we all have idea files. We will all probably have more ideas than we have time to execute. And these ideas are in different stages of development. So not every idea (in fact most of them) are not enough to sustain a whole story.

My latest release, Beneath a Star-Lit Sky, has several seeds of story ideas that I incorporated.

The biggest one was the setting. The setting plays a big role in this book and in the whole Holcomb Spring Small Town Romantic Suspense series. When I was wrapping up the Hometown Heroes series and looking toward the In the Shadow series (my previous series), I was planning several years out with my writing. I like my series to be linked together, and that means I want to know what’s coming down the road so I can leave those fun little Easter eggs for my readers!

I knew I wanted to write in a small town where the characters could come and go in the various stories and be open ended. I’d had that idea for about six years. But I also wanted to set it in a place that I could actually visit so I could share those location photos and videos.

The problem is, there aren’t a lot of small towns—or places to put fictional ones—in Southern California. I love the mountains and have spent a lot of time up there. So then I thought, what if the old gold mining town of Belleville had stayed a town and become a bit of a resort town? With that idea, I was off creating the town of Holcomb Springs and having the folks from my previous series going up into the mountains and introducing characters you begin to meet in the new series.

The next seed was my characters. Every book I write, I try to stretch myself a bit and try something a bit out of my comfort zone. For this book, I wanted a slow-burn romance that wouldn’t resolve until the final book (shh! Don’t tell!). I’ve had the idea for a female sheriff and male pastor for some time (another ten-year idea!), but I didn’t have the right story for them, until now.

The final seed was the plot itself. I remember talking with my dad on the phone (at least eight years ago!) while I was on a long and boring drive about all the ways things could go wrong in the wilderness. Somehow we got talking about the Sidney Poitier movie from the late 80s called Shoot to Kill. Tom Beringer and Kirstie Alley were in it too. Kirstie Alley plays a wilderness guide who unknowingly has a bad guy in her group, and Sidney Poitier plays a city cop on this guy’s trail.

So when I started thinking about Beneath a Star-Lit Sky, all of these seeds of ideas came together in various forms to create this story. So next time you read a book, consider that the ideas might have been germinating with the author for a very long time!