Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Guest: Paula Graves

The Riders welcome Intrigue author Paula Graves to the convertible for a spin today!  Paula will give away a copy of one of her backlist books to one lucky commenter.  Winner will be announce on Thursday!

I'm always constantly amazed at what can spark an idea for a book.  I've had an entire store evolve out of one line from a Richard Marx song, a news article about an Atlantic City bus crash, a scene from a Tom Clancy novel and, most recently, a suggestion from a friend that the Weasley family in the Harry Potter books would be a great inspiration for a series about a large, boisterous, loving family who know how to face danger with courage and skill but can't quite figure out how make a relationship work--until each of them meets the love of their lives.

That's right, folks. I've admitted it aloud.  The Coopers of Chickasaw County, Alabama were inspired by a family of wizards.

Of course, the Coopers aren't wizards.  The family runs a marina and fishing camp on a lake in northeastern Alabama.  Their foe isn't Voldemort; villains in the series include serial killers, South American drug lords and men looking for revenge.  And don't look for dragons, Veelas or the Ministry of Magic, but I can offer you cops, toddlers and a ranch in Wyoming.

The first book of the series, CASE FILE: CANYON CREEK, WYOMING, features the only Cooper sister, Hannah, who is ambushed by a serial killer posing as a cop during her Wyoming vacation.  Since she's the only one of the killer's victims who escaped to tell about it, she's now a person of extreme interest to Wyoming cop Riley Patterson, who's been hunting the killer since the murder of his own wife three years earlier.  But there's a big problem: Hannah can't remember much about the attack.  Now, she and Riley are in a race to figure out just what it is she can't remember before the killer finishes what he started.

Then, in this month's book, CHICKASAW COUNTY CAPTIVE, we meet Sam Cooper, a prosecutor who has just returned to Chickasaw County after in another state for several years.  Someone is targeting Sam, using his daughter Maddy to do it.  After an attempted kidnapping leaves four-year-old daughter Maddy traumatized and her teenaged cousin/babysitter in a coma, Sam knows he needs help protecting his family and finding out who's behind the attack.  But he's not sure Kristen Tandy, a young female police detective with a notoriously tragic past, is the right person for the job.  But his heart has another idea about the whole matter.

If you're a writer, what's the strangest inspiration for a book you've ever had?  And if you're a reader, what ideas do you wish writers would explore--is there a news story that fascinates you that nobody's touching?  A song that sparks your imagination?  Tell us all about it in the comments section.

Read an excerpt of Chickasaw County Captive here!


Jane said...

Hi Paula,
Congrats on the upcoming release. Last night's episode of White Collar dealt with the illegal culling of organs from third world countries and setting up organ donations for those willing to pay. It's a sad subject, but I think it would make for an interesting read.

Paula said...

Hi, Jane. Thanks! You know, that's an interesting topic--I've seen a few other TV dramas deal with that one, including The X-Files and I think it was one of the Law and Orders.

My niche as an Intrigue writer tends to be more domestic than international, so if I were to tackle that subject, I'd have to figure out how to do it in a way that was in keeping with my style of story. It would probably be a peripheral backstory element rather than the main story, since medicine and international intrigue isn't in my bailiwick at the moment.

Good story suggestion for someone, though. I wonder if you'll have any takers here!

Helen Brenna said...

Hi Paula and thanks for riding with us today! Cool covers. It's interesting there are no people on the Canyon Creek cover. Is that common for Intrigues?

As for inspiration, I'm always amazed at how the smallest thing can generate huge backstory. A picture. A trailer for a movie. I read a headline for a newspaper article that inspired an entire book. Gotta love the creative process.

lois greiman said...

Thanks for joining us in the convertible, Paula. And I agree, the strangest, littlest things can spark an idea--the drip of a faucet, a scent. The question most commonly asked of me as a writer is, "Where do you get your ideas," and I always say, "Life."

Playground Monitor said...

Hi Paula, from a fellow Alabamian and HOD member!

The book I wrote last year was inspired by a news story about an online sperm bank. You could do everything online except the actual procedure. It gave "online banking" a whole new twist. My pitch for the book played off banking terminology -- a woman who wants to make a withdrawal and a man who'd rather make a direct deposit.


KylieBrant said...

Welcome Paula! I think the strangest place that sparked an idea was a line from a Heart song, LOL.

Jane, you might be interested to know that Lisa Gardner tackled that very subject over a decade ago when she wrote for then Silhouette Intimate Moments.

Paula said...

Thanks, everyone, for the welcome! I'm very happy to be here.

Helen, it's not that common for an Intrigue cover to have no people on it. It happens now and then, but the vast majority of covers feature the hero (and sometimes even the heroine). I'm not sure why my editor went with the scenic cover instead of the hero or hero/heroine cover. She was very excited about it, however, so I guess they know what they're doing. :)

Lois, Kylie and Marilyn, I suppose a lot of people get the germ of an idea about stories just by looking around them, even people who don't write. But for writers, that germ of an idea takes root and grows. Heh--maybe we're just fertile soil.

Marilyn, you're going to have to tell us more about this sperm bank book you wrote. Could go so many different ways--you could play it for humor or play it for suspense--or even work it into family saga, I guess. I'm dying to know what you did with it.

Kathleen Eagle said...

Welcome, Paula! I love both of your covers. The ranch is a no-brainer for me. The background for the Chickasaw Cty cover is wonderful--dare I say Intriguing?--and the stong man protecting adorable little girl is heart-melting.

So one of my best inspirations was a news feature on TV about a man who was discovered living in a hole in the ground in a downtown Mpls park. He'd been there for 3 years. Lakota, Vietnam vet--hero material in my book, but both my agent and my husband groaned. "Kathy, the guy lives in a hole in the ground. He's pathetic!" No, no, no. He's the Beast. Now where's his Beauty?

Christie Ridgway said...

Hi, Paula! Thanks for joining us today. Oh, yes, that cover with the man & child really gets to me.

I use a lot about my home state of California to inspire me. There's so many different kinds of locations. I often pick one and then do research to learn its history which often suggests a present-day story. (My books are more relationship driven than plot-driven, however.)

Which makes me wonder, do you live in Wyoming? Did you have to do a lot of "place" research for your series?

Marilyn: I love your online sperm bank story!

Virginia said...

Hi Paula, I love your books and congrats on your new release! Also love the covers of your books. I love anything with a western setting! Also love books set in Kentucky and I love to switch around a lot! Keep up the good work and bring on those books!

Paula said...

Kathleen, thanks for the welcome! I love the cover of Chickasaw County Captive--that cobwebby attic, so creepy and mysterious! Too bad that doesn't actually appear in the book anywhere. I wish I'd thought of it. (Actually, come to think of it, there is an attic that come into play in my August '10 Intrigue. I can't remember if I came up with that idea before or after I saw my February cover).

Also, I am on your side--the vet in the hole is absolutely hero material. You just have to have the right backstory.

Thanks, Christie, I'm happy to be here. And to answer your question, no, I'm not from Wyoming. I had to do a lot of reading, a lot of Googling, and I also found an online friend from the general area who answered a lot of my questions. The rest of the books in the series will take place, at least partially, in and around my home state of Alabama.

Hi, Virginia! I hope you won't hold it against the rest of the books in the series for not being set in the west, although my August book is sort of an "on the run" book for the first half, with my hero and heroine traveling east from San Diego through the southwest to get back to the hero's home stomping grounds.

susan said...

Great news on your books I sure hope to stay up on these. I know I will like them as they are my style. susan L.

Debra Dixon said...

Paula-- Welcome! I've been buried by work of late and am so happy I made time to come over to the blog before dark today!

I love the idea of the Weasley's inspiring you. I love them.

Like all writers the ideas strike at the most bizarre times. I remember wondering how to begin a novel and somehow the idea of encoding a classic joke opening into the book came to me.

So...a nun walks into a bar. HOT AS SIN from Loveswept.

Probably no one but me ever got the joke but that bit morphed and developed as all ideas do.

Anonymous said...

a great posting...would love to read this fabulous book...thanks for the opportunity


Paula said...

Thank you, Susan! I think you've commented on my blog before, so just try to remember to check there now and then--I try to keep everyone posted about what I'm working on and when you can find them on the shelves.

Thanks for the welcome, Deb! I have been a big fan of yours since I attended a session you gave on GMC right about the time the book came out. I've spent the last five minutes trying to put into words on this comment just how much that presentation and your book changed my approach to storytelling. I knew I wanted to write, and I knew I was a pretty talented technician as far as having a good grasp of the language and putting sentences together. But your book gave me a much-needed lesson on the interrelation of character and conflict that I believe enabled me to finally write the kind of book that would sell.

In fact, I referenced your work, once directly and once obliquely, in the last two posts I posted on my own blog for a Wednesday Writers Workshop (, for anyone who's interested). So thank you so much, Deb, for GMC. It really changed the trajectory of my career.

KarenK, I hope you get a chance to read the book--if you do, I'd love to hear what you think of it.

Karyn Gerrard AKA~Drew said...

Sounds wonderful, your book! And I too, love the cover!
As a writer, I wanted to try and craft a story out of the U2 song, 'Hold me, Thrill me, Kiss me, Kill me' haven't got around to it yet!
All kinds of possibilities!

All the best for your release!

Laney4 said...

Hello, Paula! It's great to see you here (too)!
My first thought was that I enjoy stories with "older" Heroes/heroines. Most stories are written with H/h who are in their twenties or early thirties at the very oldest. I'd like to see more stories involving widows/widowers, messy divorces, etc.
My girlfriend (80) only reads romances with kids involved. (My friend is still a Girl Guide leader!) Luckily, there are enough of those stories out there to keep her reading continually.
Have a great day!

Paula said...

Thanks, Karyn. I can see why that U2 song title would be inspiring, although the ideas (hold, thrill, kiss, kill) are so disparate it would be hard to fit them all into one subgenre, wouldn't it? Hmm.

Hi, Laney! I know what you mean about older heroines. Intrigue Author B.J. Daniels has done a great romance with an older heroine, although I don't think she made a big deal about the age. Most of my heroines are in their late twenties/early thirties, I must admit, but I do have a story coming up that I think will lend itself to a somewhat older heroine, since the hero is over forty and has a college-age daughter.

Playground Monitor said...

My sperm bank story is a home and hearth type book. The heroine is a widow who has decided she wants to have a baby and the hero is her late husband's best friend and business partner. He made a promise to his dying friend that he'd watch out for the wife, and when he learns she's going to use a sperm bank he kinda flips. "How do you know the guy's not a serial killer or a bank robber?" And in a moment of madness, he offers to be the donor.

I love Deb's nun book. After I attended her GMC workshop where she used that book for reference, I hunted down a copy.


Debra Dixon said...

Paula-- How very lovely! I'm having "a day" and it's just awfully darned nice to be reminded why I like this business.

Marilyn-- (g) I see some folks appreciate a good classic.

Paula said...

Marilyn, that sounds great. Have you pitched it anywhere?

You're welcome, Deb. I'm pretty sure there are hundreds, even thousands of writers who would tell you the same story if they had the chance.

Playground Monitor said...

Actually I pitched it to Susan Litman last year and she requested the full. She also rejected it but gave me good feedback. Just yesterday I printed it so I can begin revising with hopes of pitching again in Nashville this summer.

Paula said...

Yeah, Susan rejected me a time or two, also. ;) But it sounds like you have a plan. Best of luck on the revision and pitching it again in Nashville this summer.

MarthaE said...

Both of the books featured sound very good! I am a reader. I do have a recurring plot thought but I'm not sure I want to share it!! It does have to do with a regular family and a wooded home! I also occasionally think of legal plots... probably because I am a lawyer but civil litigation not criminal.

Best wishes on your new release!

Paula said...

Thanks, Martha!

The heroine of my September book is a lawyer, on the civil side, although she also does pro bono work for battered women through a women's shelter.

If you get a chance to read my books, I'd love to hear your thoughts about the stories.

Laurie said...

I have to say that the organ transplant/selling immediately reminded me of Robin Cook's book COMA which I read ages ago.
I like Intrigues with an amnesiac/injured and an unwilling or unconventional protector. Linda Howard's White Lies. I like the rescue scenarios too. Car breakdowns, lost, escape from bad guys. I love the ones where you're not sure who is a "good" vs "bad". Karen Robard's Walking After Midnight.
I also liked Ann Voss Peterson's series with the heroine's dad as a serial killer running around the city of Madison and the University of Wisconsin campus.

The next door neighbor as a hitman or serial killer (like Ted Bundy) or mercenary or rescuer.

Corruption in the police department like Patrick Gallager's Widow.

Paula said...

Laurie, you wrote: "I like Intrigues with an amnesiac/injured and an unwilling or unconventional protector."

This describes my Sept. 08 Intrigue, Cowboy Alibi, to a T. I'm not sure how easy it is to still get your hands on a copy this far from its original sell date, but it's about a woman who can't remember who she is who's tracked down by a man who thinks he knows exactly who she is--the woman who killed his brother. But when someone tries to kill them both, the woman with no memory and the man with no illusions are forced to go on the run to find the truth.

If you can get your hands on a copy, I'd love to hear what you think about it.

LindaC said...

Hello, Paula!
I've loved reading your Forbidden series, Cowboy Alibi and am looking forward to this new one! Already have the first one on the TBR shelf. I write, too, and was inspired one morning after a trip to the grocery store, where I saw a cute guy with six gallons of milk in his cart. The hero of my story was the director of a school for boys. The heroine was the older sister of one of the residents of the school.


LindaC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paula said...

Thanks, Linda! And your inspiration made me chuckle--a cute guy with six gallons of milk in his cart? I think I might have had to ask him right there in the grocery store what he was buying all that milk for. Well, except that I'd be way too shy to do it.