Believe it or not, I got the idea to write CODE NAME: WILLOW from the Tom Clancy book EXECUTIVE ORDERS, specifically some of the "at home" scenes with Jack Ryan and his family at the White House. There was mention of a Secret Service agent assigned to one of Jack's children helping the child with homework. That sparked a thought in my mind: what if the agent was young--late twenties, maybe, and the president's fourteen year old daughter was his charge? And ten or fifteen years down the line, they met again, when the president's daughter needed help protecting another child?
From there, the book morphed quite a bit. My critique buddy, Jenn, suggested that the age difference between the characters might be offputting, and also that their friendly, almost father-child relationship in the past would make a romance in the present hard to swallow. Since these were elements that bothered me as well, I went with her suggestion that Maggie, the main character, be older when she meets Jack, and their relationship considerably more contentious.
Since these changes solved some of my problems and dovetailed perfectly with other elements of the story, I took her advice. It was a rough road, writing this book. A lot of research went into it, a lot of hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing as I sorted out the backstory to give more oomph to the present-day story. I also had to write a heroine with a troubled, scandal-prone past that was completely alien to my own very quiet, conservative, scandal-free history (unless you count the time I got in trouble for staying out til two a.m. discussing religion with a platonic male friend--and my sister. Woo, I was a baaaaad girl!)
Anyway, I hope one day you get the chance to read CODE NAME: WILLOW and see if you think I succeeded.
TOMORROW: The genesis of WHAT THE HEART SEES.