Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Best Laid Plans



Judith Arnold


          I’m working on a new series of romance novels. I’ve got two books written so far. When book three is finished, I’ll publish all three at one time. My plan is to launch the series in October. But you know how it is: the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
          I am neither a mice nor a man. However, my plans for book three did go awry—and hooray for that!
          The series is called “The Magic Jukebox.” The premise: in the fictional town of Brogan’s Point, on Massachusetts’s North Shore, there’s a pub called the Faulk Street Tavern. Inside this pub is an antique jukebox. No one knows how it got there. No one knows how, or why, it works. Because it’s antique, it plays only songs that were released on vinyl, years ago—and no one is sure what songs it contains or how to select them. All people know is that if you slide a quarter into the coin slot, three songs will play. The tavern’s owner unlocks the coin box every now and then, collects the quarters, and donates them to charity. But she can’t open the machine to change the records.
The magic of the jukebox is that every now and then, it will play a song that strikes two
tavern patrons in a particular way, making them reconsider who they are and where they’re going—and causing them to fall in love.
          Each book in the series has its own hero and heroine, but Brogan’s Point is a small town, and characters from one book wander in and out of other books in the series. Among the continuing characters are Augusta “Gus” Naukonen, the tavern’s middle-aged, widowed owner, and her boyfriend, Ed Nolan, a widowed police detective on the Brogan’s Point police force.
          The first book of the series is based on the David Bowie song “Changes,” and in it I mention in passing that Ed Nolan is estranged from his daughter Maeve, who was traumatized as a teenager when her mother died and has lived in California for years, maintaining very little contact with her father. I sensed, as soon as I wrote those few sentences about Maeve, that she would return to Brogan’s Point to star as the heroine of the third book in the series. One brief allusion to her, and I’d fallen in love with her myself. I couldn’t wait to write a novel in which she reconciles with her father and finds the man of her dreams.
In the meantime, I wrote the second book in the series, based on the Cyndi Lauper song “True Colors.” In that book, the heroine, Emma, comes to Brogan’s Point to share a house with her college roommate and best friend, Monica, a Brogan’s Point native who has returned to town after college to work in her family’s business. Monica is the prototypical best friend, there for Emma to confide in and cry with, there to refill Emma’s wine glass, there to celebrate Emma’s happily-ever-after ending with the novel’s hero.
As soon as I finished True Colors, I began flexing my imagination in preparation for writing Maeve’s story. The only problem was, Monica was demanding a love story of her own.
          But that wasn’t the plan. The plan was: Book Three—Maeve’s story. I hadn’t yet decided on the Magic Jukebox song that would transform Maeve’s life: Supertramp’s “Take the Long Way Home,” maybe, or the Beatles’ “Long and Winding Road.” I played both songs repeatedly, trying to force my muse to focus on Maeve’s romance.
          My muse would have none of it. She wanted me to write Monica’s story. Not only that, but she wanted Monica—an organized, obedient, well-bred girl who, in returning to her home town and taking her place in the family business, does exactly what is expected of her—to be bewitched when the magic jukebox spews out the Troggs’ loud, guitar-banging hit, “Wild Thing.”
          Not the plan. Absolutely not the plan.
          But absolutely the right thing to do. Readers will get to know Monica a bit in True Colors, and—I hope!—they’ll like her enough to want to read her story and find out how this well-behaved young woman goes wild. Maeve will simply have to wait until I’m ready to write book four.
          So no, my plans didn’t exactly go awry. They changed. For the better, I think. Like Monica, my muse has gone a little wild—and I’m not foolish enough to fight her.

Watch for the Magic Jukebox romances, which will be released in digital format this fall—if all goes according to plan! In the meantime, the original Daddy School trilogy is now available as audiobooks. Please visit Judith’s web site and her book store page for information about her currently available books.You can also sign up for her newsletter there.

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