October 5th, 2012

Hm ... Doctor Who

Inspiration at the Drive-In: The Genesis of "Coming Attractions"

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and good wishes concerning my nephew. He came through surgery just fine -- it went faster than they expected -- and is in recovery at Riley's Children's Hospital in Indianapolis.

            When I tell people about my new novel, Coming Attractions, one of the first things they ask is how I came up with the idea of a romantic comedy about a drive-in movie theater.

            The answer is not how, but where: At the drive-in, of course.

            Just as I came up with Storm Chaser by looking to the skies, I came up with Coming Attractions by looking to the screen – the silver screen. But this book isn’t really new: I came up with the concept several years ago, when I started taking my kids to the Auburn-Garrett drive-in. Sadly, that’s the only one left anywhere near my home, although when I was a kid the Hi-Vue was closer.

There was another near the limits of a reasonable drive from my home, but toward the end it started showing X-rated flicks, back at a time when you couldn’t get them at the video store … back before the internet made that all passé.

            At the time (this would be over three decades ago) the Hi-Vue is where you would go for family friendly fare: Their screen faced the highway, so they couldn’t show R rated stuff. The Auburn-Garrett sometimes showed racier movies, but the Hi-Vue was closer and I was a kid, so you can guess where I ended up.

            But by the time I had kids of my own, the Auburn-Garrett was the only game around. I was a single father, the drive-in was cheap, and we all loved movies, so I introduced my girls to one of my best childhood memories.

If you wanted a good spot, you got there early. (The good spot is in the middle, near the restrooms.) So I pulled out a notebook. While we waited for the sun to set, my daughters and I brainstormed the idea for a new novel – an idea that was as close as the big screen before us.

Of course, the story isn’t really about a drive-in, any more than a story is about a tornado, or an airplane, or a war. Stories are about people. Over time Charis and Jillian, with the help of a laptop, notebook, and various reference books we bought along, helped invent the characters, the plot, and … well, the atmosphere kind of took care of itself.

Next: the plot. Meanwhile, don’t forget to drop in on Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest, read the first chapter of Coming Attractions, and hopefully vote for me at: