We get our inspiration from all kinds of places but, more than anywhere else, we get it from ourselves and from our reactions to current events or books we love—even books we don’t love. Much of the time, we’re writing a book we wish we could read and can’t find anywhere except in our imaginations. We have each other to bounce ideas off of so those reactions and ideas don’t die in the instant they arrive, crushed under the steamrollers of our inner critics; we can work out the flaws and plot holes between us.
Writing One Real Thing came from a number of places. One was that we wanted to write a contemporary story, which we really enjoyed doing. We didn’t want to get caught in one style, though, so we thought we’d look to a very different setting that we both love—New York City this time, instead of the world of small-time sprint car racing. Men with private school and Ivy League backgrounds instead of trailer parks and the family farm. No chance of getting pigeonholed with that kind of leap.
When we went looking for what we wanted out of that story, we realized that we didn’t want an established couple but we did want characters with history. We envisioned a convoluted history that could bring two men who had gone their own ways over many years back to either side of a locked door, one with no intention of opening it and the other with no intention of leaving. And we knew that door would be the smallest of the obstacles keeping them from each other. That wasn’t the beginning or the end—often times we have an idea for an opening scene or a finale and we work from there. This, we knew, was the middle.
Starting from a single scene, regardless of where it falls in the story, is often like leaping into a detective novel. We walk around and look at the evidence, we draw conclusions, we create a story for how things got to where they are in that scene based on what we find. It’s one of our favorite parts of the writing process, expanding on that initial bit of inspiration. It’s amazing how much can come from digging deep into one frozen moment in time.
The other inspiration we had for One Real Thing was wanting to do something different from everything else we’d done before, from everything else we were seeing on our bookshelves. We wanted to tell the story of a power dynamic—dominance and submission, control and obedience—that’s often formalized in a particular subculture and structured with negotiations and even contracts. It also often comes packaged with practices such as bondage and other kinks or fetishes. While those are things we’ve written about (gleefully), that wasn’t what we wanted here.
We were inspired to take that one dynamic—one person giving the orders, one person obeying—and make it into something not only romantic and organic but vital to who both partners are. We wanted to make it a nameless, wordless, and absolutely necessary part of the relationship from the first interactions of the characters. Both of us loved the idea that a relationship could unfold that way and lead both characters to a place of happiness once they were able to yield to their need for each other.
Not all our inspirations go so well, of course. Some of them are a bit like badly made paper planes. Something—the paper or the pattern—isn’t right, or they aren’t right together, and the whole thing crashes. Those end up in the bin. The ones that fly, though, are worth the time taken to test and develop. Fortunately for us, our inspirations for One Real Thing meshed seamlessly and developed into a novel of which we’re very proud.
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