Before I tell you about One Perfect Love, the sequel to One Small Victory I want to backtrack and let you know how that first story came to be. People often ask us writers if we have a favorite book and a favorite character, and that is always a hard question to answer. But I will say that One Small Victory is a special story, and the central character, Jenny, is as real, and dear, to me as my best friend.
When I started to write One Perfect Love, Jenny came back to me as if she had never left when I typed The End to One Small Victory. So let me tell you how this all started.
One day while reading the newspaper I happened across a small, four-inch item about a woman who infiltrated a drug ring and helped bring down a major supplier in a small town in Michigan. She was a single mother with several children, had no background in law enforcement, and had just lost her oldest son in a car accident. The news story didn’t give many details about the woman or how she managed to get on the drug task force. It only said that she did so at great personal risk.
I started thinking about the kind of courage it takes to bully one’s way onto a task force, then actually go out and meet with drug dealers and earn their trust. Not much about parenting can prepare someone for that. Then there was the fact that she did all that while enduring the most significant loss a woman can experience. Pretty ballsy, I thought, and I just knew I had to write about this incredible woman. Without the slightest hesitation, she jumped out of that little news item as a full-blown character with the name, Jenny.
That was at a time when I was in contact with Nick Krantz, nephew of Judith Krantz, who was in charge of Drama Development at Paradigm Entertainment in California. I had an “open door” with them based on a screenplay I had submitted sometime earlier. They weren’t able to develop that script, but were open to me pitching other ideas. So right away I called Nick and told him about this wonderful woman. He told me to send story beats and they’d take a look, so I did.
It took a few days to get the material written and sent to him, but he called right after he received it all to say he loved the story, and they were interested in proceeding. He asked if I had the rights to the story. I laughed. “I’m just a poor writer in Texas,” I told him. “Surely Paradigm can acquire the rights.”
“Oh, sure,” he said. “I’ll get the lawyers right on it.”
When I didn’t hear from Nick for a few weeks, I called, and he said he’d forgotten to talk to the lawyers. (I could almost see the head-slap.) He apologized profusely and said he’d take care of it right after we hung up. Later, he called back to relay the unfortunate news that another company had optioned that woman’s story.
Well, crap. So much for being rich and famous.
Even so, I couldn’t give up the idea of writing about this woman. She had taken over my mind and my heart. A writer friend suggested that I write a fictionalized version of the story, reminding me that many plots start with a real event or a real person.
Duh! Of course.
So, I moved the setting to a small town in Texas, changed all of the family details – as well as the details about the drug ring – and started writing the book.
That was over twenty years ago, and sometimes I can’t believe it took so long to get the book finished and sold. It came out initially in hardback from Five Star Cengage/Gale, and I later released the e-book and paperback versions.
Before I could even start writing the book, I had to do a tremendous amount of research about the various levels of law enforcement personnel involved in a drug task force in a rural setting, and that took about six months. I was lucky that my son could introduce me to a small-town police chief who was able to help me with the details of how that all works, as well as how they would include a civilian in the process.
Once the research was completed and I thought I might actually be able to write the story, life threw me a curve. Funny how that often happens. We moved to Omaha, Nebraska for my husband’s job, and I had the opportunity to study to be a Hospital Chaplain. During my four years of Clinical Pastoral Education, I learned more about the grieving process than in my previous research that involved just reading about it. Becoming a chaplain had not actually been on my career path, but it was something I could do to earn a regular salary and receive benefits after my husband was laid off from that job that had moved us from Texas.
While I was working at the hospital, I had less time to write, but I soon discovered that my surprise career was opening a whole new window to the story. When I did find an hour or two to pull up the manuscript, I was able to really explore Jenny’s grief, as well as the grief of the rest of the family, and I realized that it is a major element of the story. It drives many of the actions and emotions of the family members, as well as, Steve, the detective who is Jenny’s “control.” His wife died a few years before the story opens, and the pain of that loss is still strong at times.
When Jenny and Steve work together, there is an attraction that gets stronger and stronger as the story progresses, and thy both feel the electricity that sparks between them. However, they can’t act on that attraction for many reasons. There are professional boundaries that Steve cannot step over when it comes to working with a confidential informant. Then there is the issue of all that emotional turbulence they are both experiencing.
Now we jump ahead a few more years, but only two in the lives of Jenny and Steve, and they are ready for romance. Will it work this time?
Read One Perfect Love and find out.