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DEAR HEART - The Inspiration

Last week, I asked my followers on Facebook and Twitter if there were any topics they wanted me to address on my blog. I received one question: where did I get the inspiration for Dear Heart.

I like to say that the idea materialized as if from the ether that dances around Fate and, on some level, that's true. But like anything else, there's more to that story, and here it is.

I awoke on the morning of my fortieth wedding anniversary marveling at the fact that Arthur and I had been married for four decades and wondering how in the hell we had managed to stay together that long. The idea prodded me as I drank my first cups of coffee and checked my emails and I began to think of all of the ups and downs we had survived and how love had changed for us as we weathered the bad times and the challenges of day-to-day living. I began to speculate about how life would have been if pheromone love had lasted forever, but no matter how I spun it, I couldn't see how romantic love could endure under the daily assault of pressures and problems.

For some reason, I felt compelled to explore that theme and so I took myself off to my laptop where I wrote the first chapter of Dear Heart in less time than it normally takes me to prepare Thanksgiving dinner. At the time I didn't really know who the characters were. All I knew was that I wanted to write a story about a relationship that was based almost exclusively on a physical attraction, I wanted the main characters to be separated for a long period of time, while still in the throes of romantic love, and I wanted them to get back together at the end.

I've already written about how the main characters were developed and how music came to be incorporated into the plot, so I won't rehash that here. But I will say that, while it was not a conscious decision, Bill's character ended up being more than I ever intended him to be. He was created solely to get me from one chapter to the next during those years that Deirdre and Lee are separated. Ultimately, however, Bill became the mechanism which allows the reader to compare and contrast romantic love with the kind of love it turns into over a long period of time.

I should say here that Arthur and I are nothing like Deirdre and Lee. We are more like Deirdre and Bill, and that guided me as I wrote that part of the story. For the characters of Deirdre and Lee, I drew on a relationship I knew about that grew out of an intense physical attraction and developed into a passionate affair. That relationship didn't last, but what I knew about the beginnings of it was enough to form the cornerstone of the relationship between Deirdre and Lee. Everything else between them was purely a figment of my imagination.

The characters of Denise, Frank, John and Lee's daughters were born solely to advance the plot but Jean's character, little more than a walk-on in Dear Heart, took on more weight in the companion book, Sweet Heart, and will give my readers an opportunity to explore another kind of relationship, namely, one based on necessity and convenience rather than on an emotional connection, like that of Deirdre and Bill, or on a physical connection, like that of Deirdre and Lee.

The fascinating thing about all of this is that I didn't think about most of it while I was writing. I just wrote what the spirit moved me to write. I didn't get around to analyzing everything until after the books were written. But when I finally took a good look at them, and saw all that I have just described above, no one could have been more surprised than I. And that told me one thing: that I'm a better writer than I thought I was.

Thanks to Kathleen Janz-Anderson for asking the question!

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