Hey, Everyone! I'm happy to have Melissa Belle visiting here today! She's here to tell us how she came up with her storyline. Plus, she's giving away an e-copy of her book, Austen's Independence Day! Details for the giveaway are at the bottom of the page!
Jane Austen Comes to Texas?
Since I published Austen’s Independence Day, readers have been asking me, “however did you come up with the story of Jane Austen’s ghost living in Texas?”
The truth, as often happens with authors, is that it also surprised me—the story was born out of a combination of coincidence, boredom, and a “what if.” My husband and I had just moved to a small town in the middle of Hill Country, Texas, and we didn’t know anyone yet. It was the middle of summer, and to say it was hot was an understatement. Looking for something to do indoors in the evenings, I returned to my favorite pastime—reading Jane Austen. I reread all her novels and after each one, I would go to the little town library and look for a movie version of the book. I found a surprisingly wide selection of Austen DVD options at the library, and I proceeded to watch all of them. Jane Austen was my companion that summer, as she has been through other transitional times in my life—I even got my husband hooked on her!
Meanwhile, I had been working on a half-finished manuscript of a romance novel based in Texas. And I started thinking, if I could find a way to bring Jane Austen to Texas (through her books and movies), then what if somebody else could too? The idea of the ghost of Jane Austen inhabiting the local saloon came to mind, and I began to work on filling in that part of the story in combination with the bits and pieces I already had of my current manuscript.
And the fictional town of Austen, Texas, named after my favorite romance author, was born: a place where a statue of Jane Austen sits atop the courthouse, presiding over the town, and a British flag hangs from the local library along with a giant poster of the Pride and Prejudice original mini-series. The town’s romantic motto, “Find Your Mr. Darcy” has been around since its founding in the 1800s, and the local bar, the Cowherd Saloon & Chapel, offers Jane Austen specialty drinks and holds Regency-themed weddings year round.
A childhood friends-to-lovers storyline has always been my favorite kind of romance to read and write, and this novel’s main characters, Macey and Morgan, fit that description perfectly. The idea of Macey’s family owning the local bar filled out naturally, with her siblings coming into my head more and more as I wrote. The backstory between her and Morgan was something I really wanted to tell in detail, not just leave it up to the reader to wonder about. Having a journal turned out to be a fun way to do that, and when Macey first read a portion of her childhood diary aloud to Morgan, I liked the way it worked so I made that a bigger part of the storyline.