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I set out to write a novel about one soul's quest to understand "The Truth About Life After Death" (a TV Guide-sized descript could read: "Girl wrestles with Death--and wins.") I had no idea I was going to write a romance while I was at it, but the Muse knew. Why? The Muse is a matchmaker. She's always busy making connections, whether or not a writer's conscious mind is along for the ride.

My heroine, Parrish, has a friend Jake who appears in several chapters. As the book developed, Jake claimed a stronger role for himself. I didn't plan this. Jake and the Muse were busy working behind the scenes, and Parrish, after a few detours with some questionable other suitors, quietly joined them. By the time I'd worked my way through a dozen revisions of the novel, the Muse had supplied Jake with a childhood history that included an early crush on Parrish, and revealed that he was a farmer and horticulturalist with a love for the Delta land and stars as passionate as hers.

Years back I'd picked up several chick-lit books and read them for fun; the stories failed to leave much of a trace in my conscious mind. But the Muse clearly enjoyed them, and set out to create a stealth romance within the novel, unbeknownst to its author. Parrish's growing awareness of, and fondness for, Jake, takes a classic chick-lit path: the heroine's drawn to a charming fellow who's the worst possible match for her, guaranteed to break her heart, while another man stands quietly by hoping to catch her eye, but too proud to stick around for a woman who can't see who he really is. It was only in the final couple of drafts that I finally realized who Jake was, and was going to be, in Parrish's life. I had a waking vision of this rough-'n-tumble man standing in his family's cotton field, like a camera shot up from his boots to faded jeans, white shirt with sleeves rolled, his easy grin as if to say, "Ah, Kate, good: you get it at last."

From there, I went back for another edit and made further connections, expanded scenes, built tension in the rivalry between Jake and Cam (to the point where Jake came close to throwing Cam into the lake), and added a scene where Jake could introduce Parrish to his life, his family, and his dreams. From there, it's up to them. I imagine they'll have a great life together if, as Jake tells her, "the land may call you back here." I'm betting it will, but what do I know? --I'm just the writer, and who knows, least of all me, what the Muse might be up to next?

Copyright 2011 by Kate Betterton; all rights reserved.
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