Writers often fall in love with their secondary characters and want to give them their own stories. That’s how book series get started, and that’s what happened to me when I wrote Carrie’s best friend, Julie Miles, in Once More From the Top.
Julie is everything I’ve always wanted to be—sexy, gorgeous, skinny, funny, and beloved in the small town of Willow Bay. Well, so maybe I am kinda funny and I know I am beloved among my friends and family, and okay, I sometimes have a sexy day or two, but Julie gets to say all the snarky stuff I often think, but wouldn’t dream of saying aloud. She is an entertaining character! She stayed in my mind long after I’d written the last chapter of Carrie and Liam’s book.
Unfortunately, Julie was very happily married to Charlie, a successful and handsome heart surgeon. Her marriage is something that Carrie envies as Once More From the Top opens, and something that Julie is extraordinarily proud of. She loves her life in Willow Bay and adores Charlie—she already has her happily-ever-after. How was I going to write her story unless I did it all in the distant past?
There was only one answer—kill off Charlie. So I did, but writing Julie as a grief-stricken and depressed widow was harder than I imagined it would be. Charlie’s death had to change her personality—how could it not? They’d been married for over thirty years and she was devoted to him. And how are a dead hero and a tragic heroine the basis for a great romance novel? Then one night it occurred to me that Julie needed a good shake up in order to get on with her life. Enter handsome, sexy, sweet, and younger man Will Brody, who helps her adjust to her new single life.
Conflict then became the issue. What would Will and Julie’s conflict be? What was her dark moment? Where could the story go if she’s moving on with this delicious younger man? Hmmm… Maybe Will is going to have to compete with Julie’s memories of her life with Charlie? Or what happens if she discovers that her perfect husband and her perfect life weren’t really all that perfect? Ah! Now there’s some real conflict!
And so Julie’s story came to life with the death of her husband… and the discovery that often life isn’t always what you believe it to be. Is there a moral there somewhere? Maybe. But mostly it became an opportunity to create a story for one of my favorite secondary character. Check out Julie’s story in Sex and the Widow Miles and get back to me on whether or not you think killing off a perfectly innocent character is a good way to create a new story line.