Monday, August 10, 2009

August Author Post: Behind the Scenes of Bachelor Dad On Her Doorstep

Please welcome Michelle Douglas!

The initial spark for a story can come from anywhere – from daydreams (from night-time dreams too, for that matter), a news story, overheard snatches of conversation, a picture, a song. The inspiration for Bachelor Dad On Her Doorstep came from a setting: the Australian Blue Mountains where I spent a week on a writers’ retreat.

Actually now I think about it, it wasn’t really inspiration – I didn’t have a sudden vision or a revelation that brought the book to life for me, and the story certainly didn’t arrive fully formed. It’s just... I enjoyed my week in the mountains so much that I was determined to set my next book there. It’s hard to map the genesis of a book, but I’ll try and give you some idea of the process involved for this particular story.

Would you like the true version or the pretty one?

Hmm... I was afraid you’d say that. Well, for what it’s worth, the as true as I can make it version of how I came to write this book...

Bachelor Dad On Her Doorstep is a coming-home story because the town where I stayed – Katoomba – reminded me of the town where I grew up. Now, sure, this area is a tourist hotspot, but there’s not an overabundance of jobs. From what I could see there were a lot of disaffected youth in the town. This impression led to... What if I was one of these disaffected youth? What would I do? What if I left then returned years later, what would I see? Ooh, minor light bulb moment – What if I made my heroine a former disaffected youth of the area?

I stayed in Katoomba but my favourite place in the mountains is Leura – seriously cute, plus it has one of my all-time favourite bookshops. So I based my fictitious town of Clara Falls on Leura (hey, I wanted to write about the gorgeous town rather than the gritty one). And as it’s a coming-home story, the reason I gave for my heroine coming home is to run her mother’s (wait for it...) bookshop. (Yes I know this is not a huge leap, but remember... you’re getting the real story, not the pretty one).

Okay, that’s the heroine taken care of. Now for the hero. Well if this is a coming-home story he has to be someone from her past. I love characters who have a history. So, I set about giving them plenty of history. Yep, oodles of history – angsty, heartbreaky history. Hmm, this is a romance too though, don’t forget to give them points of connection. Umm... (brain ticking over and over). I know! There are lots of gorgeous art galleries in these mountains, probably as a result of all those gorgeous views. So I made my heroine and hero, each in their own way, artists.
Suddenly my story had the exact flavour I wanted for it – scenes came rushing into my head, brain synapses fired and I knew I was ready to write. I know I’ve made the process sound more ordered and organic than it really was (not to mention speedy); and honesty impels me to add that it wasn’t always an easy book to write. But I love my characters and this book will always remind me of the magical week I spent in the mountains.


‘This place was never the same after you left.’

Mrs Lavender's voice hauled Jaz back. She gave a short laugh. 'I can believe that.'
Those dark eyes, shrewd with age, surveyed her closely. 'You did the right thing, you know. Leaving.'

No, she hadn't. What she'd done had led directly to her mother's death. She'd left and she'd sworn to never come back. It had broken her mother's heart. She'd hold herself responsible for that till the day she died. And she'd hold Connor responsible too. If he'd believed in Jaz, like he'd always sworn he would, Jaz would never have had to leave.

She would never have had to stay away.

Stop it!

She shook herself. She hadn't returned to Clara Falls for vengeance. Do unto others…that had been Frieda's creed. She would do Frieda Harper proud. She'd save the bookshop, then she'd sell it to someone other than Gordon Sears, then she'd leave, and this time she would never come back.

'You always were a good girl, Jaz. And smart.'

It hadn't been smart to believe Connor's promises.

She shook off the thought and pulled her mind back, to find Mrs Lavender smiling at her broadly. 'How long are you staying?'

'Twelve months.' She'd had to give herself a time limit—it was the only thing that would keep her sane. She figured it'd take a full twelve months to see the bookshop safe again.

'Well, I think it's time you took yourself off and got to work, dear.' Mrs Lavender pointed across the road. 'I think you'll find there's a lot to do.'

Jaz followed the direction of Mrs Lavender's hand, and that was when she saw and understood the reason behind the tradesman's van parked out the front of the bookshop. The muscles in her shoulders, her back, her stomach, all tightened. The minor repairs on the building were supposed to have been finished last week. The receptionist for the building firm Richard had hired had promised faithfully.

A pulse pounded behind her eyes. 'Frieda's Fiction Fair'—the sign on the bookshop's awning—was being replaced. With…

'Jaz's Joint'!

She shot to her feet. Her lip curled. Her nose curled. Inside her boots, even her toes curled. She'd requested that the sign be freshened up. Not… Not… She fought the instinct to bolt across the road and topple the sign-writer and his ladder to the ground.

'I'll be seeing you then, shall I, Jazmin?'

With an effort, she unclenched her teeth. 'Absolutely, Mrs Lavender.'

She forced herself to take three deep breaths, and only then did she step off the kerb of the island. She would sort this out like the adult she was, not the teenager she had been.

She made her way across the road and tried not to notice how firm her offending tradesman's butt looked in form-fitting jeans or how the power of those long, long legs were barely disguised by soft worn denim. In fact, in some places the denim was so worn…

The teenager she'd once been wouldn't have noticed. That girl had only had eyes for Connor. But the woman she was now…

Stop ogling!

She stopped by the ladder and glanced up. Then took an involuntary step backwards at the sudden clench of familiarity. The sign-writer's blond-tipped hair…

It fell in the exact same waves as—

Her heart lodged in her throat, leaving an abyss in her chest. Get a grip. Don't lose it now. The familiarity had to be a trick of the light.

Ha! More like a trick of the mind. Planted there by memories she'd done her best to bury.

She swallowed and her heart settled—sort of—in her chest again. 'Excuse me,' she managed to force out of an uncooperative throat, 'but I'd like to know who gave you the authority to change that sign.'

The sign-writer stilled, laid his brush down on the top of the ladder and wiped his hands across that denim-encased butt with agonising slowness. Jaz couldn't help wondering how it would feel to follow that action with her own hands. Gooseflesh broke out on her arms.

Slowly, oh-so-slowly, the sign-writer turned around…and Jaz froze.

'Hello, Jaz.'

The familiarity, the sudden sense of rightness at seeing him here like this, reached right inside her chest to twist her heart until she couldn't breathe.


He took one step down the ladder. 'You're looking…well.'

He didn't smile. His gaze travelled over her face, down the long line of her body and back again and, although half of his face was in shadow, she could see that she left him unmoved.

Connor Reed!

She sucked in a breath, took another involuntary step back. It took every ounce of strength she could marshal to not turn around and run.

Do something. Say something, she ordered.

Her heart pounded in her throat. Sharp breaths stung her lungs. Connor Reed. She'd known they'd run into each other eventually, but not here. Not at the bookshop.
Not on her first day.

Stop staring. Don't you dare run!

'I…um…' She had to clear her throat. She didn't run. 'I'd appreciate it if you'd stop working on that.' She pointed to the sign and, by some freak or miracle or because some deity was smiling down on her, her hand didn't shake. It gave her the confidence to lift her chin and throw her shoulders back again.

He glanced at the sign, then back at her, a frown in his eyes. 'You don't like it?'

'I loathe it. But I'd prefer not to discuss it on the street.'

Oh, dear Lord. She had to set some ground rules. Fast. Ground rule number one was that Connor Reed stay as far away from her as humanly possible.

Ground rule number two—don't look him directly in the eye.

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