How Real Life Experiences Inspire My Novels

posted in: The Craft of Writing | 0

In today’s blog post, I am stepping out of my comfort zone to share something deeply personal. As someone who values privacy in a world that demands transparency into our personal lives, I typically reserve sharing my life experiences for a close circle of friends and family, and even then, discussing certain topics is a challenge for me.

However, I’ve come to realize that writing compelling romance – the kind that tugs at your heartstrings – necessitates a certain level of personal exposure from the author. This exploration of vulnerability has become an integral part of my journey as a romance writer.

There’s a well-loved nugget of wisdom often tossed around in writers’ circles like a hot potato. It goes something like this: “There’s a part of me in every story I write.” Sounds corny, doesn’t it? And as obvious as a neon sign in a dark alley. Because, let’s face it, who else would be sneaking into my stories if not me? But there’s an undeniable truth embedded within it, especially when I reflect upon my own writing process. Each character I create, regardless of their gender or age, carries a fragment of my personality within their fictional existence. They are, in essence, extensions of myself, mirroring different aspects of my identity and experiences.

Consider, if you will, the cowboy’s I conjure up from the ether onto my pages. Despite the glaring fact that I’m not a dude, these fellas are, surprise surprise, marinated in the rich sauce of my personality, thoughts, reactions, and motivations.

Talk about identity crisis, right? My sincerest condolences, gentlemen.

Maybe it’s a throwback to my pigtails-and-scuffed-knees days. As a sprout, I was more about mud pies and fort-building with the boys, rather than tea parties and dollhouses with the girls. A certified tomboy, I was all in for dirt under my nails and hay in my hair.

My fictitious menfolk do a bang-up job of shining a light on those childhood escapades, refracting my dusty, muddy memories into their own storytelling. It’s a two-for-one deal; you get their tale, served with a side of my authentic tomboy charm. How’s that for a reader-character bonding session?

The characters I create are not just figments of my imagination, but reflections of my trek through life’s various stages. For instance, Louisa, the protagonist of my novel Breaking the Cowboy, is a distilled representation of my younger self. Louisa’s experiences, her outlook on life, her struggles and triumphs, echo my own experiences as a woman in her twenties. Of course, her character is a modified version of myself, toned down and adapted to fit the narrative.

Would I ever indulge in the art of using sarcasm as a force field to keep others, and let’s be real, cowboys, at a comfortable arm’s length?


Right…That’s as familiar to me as a well-worn pair of snarky socks, so yes, the sarcasm is all me.

Through characters like Louisa, I am able to explore and express different aspects of my identity, and in the process, I create characters that are multi-dimensional and relatable. This deeply personal approach to character creation gives my writing with authenticity and emotional depth, allowing me to connect with my readers on a more intimate level.

And what about all those crushed dreams and romantic shipwrecks littering the pages of my novels? Are those born from my own sob stories?

Oh, absolutely. My tear ducts can vouch for that.

And though I won’t dive too deep into those real-life breakups, I will say that the closing scene of The Cowboy’s Goodnight Kiss was more authentic than anything I’ve ever writing into a story which is why I had to write McCrea and Eleanor’s happy-ever-after in The Heartbreak Cowboy.

Heartbreak is a universal human experience, a raw and powerful emotion that can shake us to our core. For romance writers, it can also serve as a profound source of inspiration and a catalyst for authentic storytelling. Real-life heartbreak and breakups, filled with the depths of despair, the ascension of healing, and the spectrum of emotions in between, can profoundly influence a writer’s narratives. I can’t tell you how many times I broke down and cried while writing McCrea and Eleanor’s story. But that novel served a cathartic purpose. It felt as though I was emptying my heart onto the pages, translating my deepest emotions into words and actions for my characters, who are, in many ways, extensions of my own self.

I wrote another second chance novel as part of my Crossfire Canyon series, this time as a holiday romance. A Cold Montana Christmas was also a story that had been brewing in my brain for a long time. The story offers a second chance at love for two erstwhile lovers. An ex-Marine grappling with PTSD, strives to save his son’s summer home and their vast family ranch from falling into the wrong hands, his estranged wife. I thought, “How cool would it be to write those still husband and wife love dynamics?” And it was!

Transcribing my emotions enabled me to steer my characters, mirrors of my own experiences, towards resolution and second chances. This extraordinary yet taxing process of leading these facets of myself towards healing provided an unforgettable, deeply therapeutic release.

There is power in authentic emotion.

When a romance writer experiences heartbreak, they gain personal insight into a world of emotions that can sometimes be challenging to convey authentically without first-hand experience. The despair, the longing, the anger, the acceptance—each stage of the grieving process following a breakup adds another layer of emotional depth to the writer’s toolbox.

I am compelled to write second chance romances. For me, there is something profoundly moving about the relationship between two people going full circle: the exhilarating rush of falling head over heels, the solemn promise of commitment, the shattering pain of heartbreak, and the long, winding road to recovery. This process, in all its bitter-sweet complexity, holds a special place in my heart because I’ve experienced it.

Falling in love is a whirlwind of emotions, a beautiful chaos that leaves you breathless and euphoric. It’s a time of dizzying highs where the world seems brighter, and every moment is saturated with an intoxicating sweetness. It’s a stage of discovery, of learning the contours of another’s soul and surrendering your own in return.

Commitment follows suit, adding depth to the bond forged in the fires of passion. It’s the quiet promise of togetherness, the silent vow to weather life’s storms hand in hand. It’s a sacred pact, an acknowledgment of the shared journey that lies ahead.

But then comes the heartbreak, an inevitable shadow that casts a long, chilling pallor over the love once shared. It is a time of devastation, of shattered dreams and broken promises. It’s a stage of loss, of anguished goodbyes and tear-streaked faces. It’s an integral part of the journey, as painful as it is.

Falling for someone is a transformative experience that leaves us in a state of beautiful disarray, wherein even the breaking feels like a moment we wish to linger. We find ourselves willingly navigating through the scattered pieces, cherishing the vulnerability and intensity that accompanies such profound affection. This is the captivating paradox of love – even in its most shattering moments, we yearn for the sensation to last.

Finally, the healing process ensues. It’s a period of looking back, of picking up the pieces of your fractured heart and learning to piece them together again. It’s a time for resolution, for understanding, for forgiveness. It’s about allowing the wounds to heal, to close and form scars that tell a story.

And then, in an extraordinary twist of fate, you find love again. In second chance romances, it’s with the one who shattered you. It’s proof to the boundless capacity of the human heart to forgive, to heal, and to love again. This cycle, with all its joys and sorrows, its trials and triumphs, is an experience I can’t get enough of.

These emotions can be channeled into characters, making them more relatable and their experiences more believable. Readers connect with characters who experience genuine human emotions, and what can be more human than heartbreak?

This powerful narrative arc serves as a backbone, providing structure and depth to this trope.

A character recovering from a breakup might discover previously unknown inner strength, develop new perspectives, or transform their life in unexpected ways. This journey of healing can be as captivating as the romantic plot itself, providing readers with hope and a sense of catharsis.

Experiencing a breakup can also give writers a deeper understanding of relationship dynamics. They can explore what went wrong, analyze miscommunications or unmet expectations, and delve into the complexities of their failed relationship. This introspection can lead to a more nuanced portrayal of relationships in their stories, moving beyond cliches and idealized romance to depict the beautiful, messy reality of love.

Ironically, the end of a relationship often leads to new beginnings. This theme of hope—of life moving forward, of finding love again—is a cornerstone of the romance genre. Writers who have experienced this firsthand bring a unique authenticity to their stories. They can write about the fear and excitement of starting anew, the tentative steps towards a new relationship, and the joy of discovering love again, all with a genuineness that resonates with readers.

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