Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places

“If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ~Toni Morrison

I wasn’t aware of the quote above when I first started writing fiction again, but the sentiment of Toni Morrison’s eloquent quote is what prompted me to write about complicated, emotional, funny, and sexy everyday women. At the time I was reading lots of chick lit, a genre I still love. However, I had a few pet peeves with the genre.


Cleveland, Ohio Skyline.

Nearly all the heroines worked in publishing, fashion, or some other glamorous industry. They often wore designer labels that most average women couldn’t afford. Nearly all the stories were set in New York, London, or L.A.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the publishing industry, or designer labels. And New York City is one of my favorite places in the world. But I wanted to read stories about everyday women who had exciting, interesting jobs that weren’t necessarily glamorous. Women who appreciated designer labels, but had to bargain shop to wear them. Women who lived in the Midwest or the Southeast. Women whose experiences were relatable to the average woman.

So that’s what I write.

The heroine of my upcoming debut novel, Making the First Move, is Melanie Gordon—a corporate recruiter. She loves fashion as much as the next woman, but finds hers on the racks at TJ Maxx or on e-Bay. She loves shoes, but is sensible enough not to blow an entire mortgage payment on a single pair.

I write fiction that celebrates everyday, amazing women—like the ones I know and love. Most of my stories are also love letters to my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio that are as passionate and complex as the relationships between my characters. Thankfully, there seems to be a move toward fiction that takes place in the Midwest, and real and fictionalized cities all over the country. I’m excited that Making the First Move is part of that movement.

The Inspiration for Making the First Move

There is no shortage of interesting ideas, people, or concepts to write about. Even within established tropes like friends-to-lovers, enemies-to-lovers, or mistaken identity there are so many possible variations that make each story unique.

The seed for my upcoming novel, Making the First Move, was sown when a friend mentioned that a mutual friend was finally settling down. In that moment my often wicked inner voice noted that in this particular case she was settling down quite literally. (Seriously, the guy was a jerk.) From that point the idea “settling down” as a double entendre stuck with me. Two questions kept spinning in my head:

  • Does a person have to settle down (or settle for less) in order to enter into a marriage or a long-term, committed relationship?
  • Are we really settling for less, or do we have unrealistic expectations to begin with?

Often it’s both, and that was the story I wanted to tell. Making the First Move follows my heroine, Melanie Gordon, as she struggles with these questions and discovers the role that her own faults and unrealistic expectations have played in her life and relationships.

After the death of her father, and an ugly, painful breakup, Melanie became a career-focused corporate climber. Her job is to find candidates who fit very specific job qualifications. She’s taken the same approach with her love life, and is resolved not to give her heart to anyone who doesn’t check off all the neat little boxes on her list. When sexy, mysterious philanthropist Raine Mason breaks down those barriers she’s almost ready to fall for him, until she learns the secrets of his past. Melanie must decide whether she can adjust her expectations and overcome his past so that they can have a future together.

As a reader, is there a particular story you’d like to read, but haven’t discovered yet? As a writer, have you ever written a story to fill that need?

Photo of the Cleveland skyline at night courtesy of pianowow. Some rights reserved.


Finding Inspiration in Unexpected Places — 18 Comments

  1. Reese –

    SO love the everyday heroine. I wanted to write books where not every hero was a cop or a Seal or a firefighter (not that there’s anything wrong with those!). In my first series, I have a mechanic (classic car fanatic), an attorney, a chief deputy (okay, there’s your cop!) and a builder for my heroes. The heroines all own their own businesses – sex therapist, lingerie store owner, cafe owner and interior designer.

    Long live the everyday contemporary romance!

  2. I never buy anything full price. I also look for stories set in towns that are not the flashy ones.

    That quote got me writing a book based on the life of my pediatrician, a Austrian Jewish refugee in the US during WWII. Sometimes you just have to write a happy ending when life doesn’t provide it.

    Writing historical romance has made me pick up contemporary more and more as my reading escape! And I love more realistic ones.

    • Thanks for your comment, Julie! I know what you mean, it hurts my feelings to pay full price. I approach bargain shopping with the same strategy and wiliness that hunters use in the wild. LOL. It’s like a sport to me. I love your comment here: “Sometimes you just have to write a happy ending when life doesn’t provide it.” What a beautiful thought!

  3. I love a book filled with characters I can relate to. It’s so easy to slip into the pages like a pair of sheets and nestle down for a good read. I love your inspiration!

    • I absolutely love that quote. I know that writers have to be aware of the realities of the marketplace, but it is so important to write a story and characters you really love.

  4. I love the glamorous romances as much as the next girl. But the ones that feature someone who could have been me earlier in life? Those are the ones that I hug to my chest, that make me smile the biggest, because they are so relatable. I will never be able to afford $1000 shoes. (Unless I win the lottery.) And I’m okay with that. It sure is fun though, to root for a heroine that could be me or someone I know!

    • I agree Stephanie. It’s fun to live in the fantasy sometimes, but I feel more invested in characters. My favorite literary characters are women who were ordinary by society’s standards, but whose personalities and determination made them extraordinary.

  5. Love this post! As much as I love stories with women who seem to have it all (materially), it’s nice to have relatable characters. And so funny where inspiration can strike. For me, yesterday it was a Dunkin Donuts parking lot and then a bag of chips.

    • Thanks Phoebe. I loved your tweet yesterday about getting inspiration from a biker polishing his ride in a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot. I wish I could remember which author it was I heard years ago saying that she found inspiration everywhere. She gave lots of examples of seeing people and overhearing conversations. That really opened my eyes to the inspiration for plots and characters we encounter in our daily lives.

  6. I’m with you on the everyday heroines. It’s much easier to get lost in a story if the characters behave like real people. To me, it’s more fun and interesting to read or write a book that has a strong point of view and something substantial to say, and that’s only possible if the characters are realistic. Looking forward to reading your book — it sounds great!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Rebecca! That’s what I loved about your book, Fault Lines. It involved two very real characters dealing with very real issues.

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