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Behind the Scenes

From This Moment On

When I first conceived the idea for the Merry Widows series, it was only meant to be a trilogy. I never intended to write a book for Penelope, mostly because I didn’t like her all that much, and though I’m sure I could have fleshed her out into a more sympathetic character, I was simply not interested in doing so. Wilhelmina was a different story, however. I liked her a lot. And so, apparently, did readers, as she generated a boatload of mail. But she was the oldest of the widows, a sort of mentor to the younger women. I never imagined I could get away with a woman in her 40s as a heroine.

Then the idea for this anthology was born.

It happened on a bus between Chicago and Detroit. I was on a bus tour sponsored by Levy Entertainment, a distributor of books for K-Mart, Target, WalMart, grocery stores, etc. Mary Balogh and Jacquie D’Alessandro were also on the bus, and we sat together and chatted for hours between stops. At one point, on the long drive to Detroit, we talked about the idea of doing an anthology together. Mary mentioned that she had always had an idea for an anthology in which all the authors wrote the same plot. Deliberately. She was convinced that the individual imagination, voice, style, personality, and outlook on life of each author would guarantee a quite unique story no matter how similar the basic plot was to someone else’s. She wanted to test that theory by having four authors write a story with the same plot premise.

Jacquie and I loved the idea, and the three of us began to brainstorm ideas (with the help of author Susan Andersen who was seated nearby, and who was determined the anthology should be tagged as “Susan Andersen Presents”). We came up with the simple concept of a story in which a man and woman who know each other but haven’t seen each other in ten years are both stranded for one night at the same inn. We needed a fourth author, and we immediately shot off an email to Stephanie Laurens, who gave us a thumbs up. We kept the experiment pure by not discussing our stories with one another, or even with our editor. None of us knew how the others would approach the story. We did not read each other’s novellas until they had been edited and were ready for publication. I think we all agreed that we had proved Mary’s theory: none of the stories were alike.

Anyway, back to Wilhelmina. When the chance to do the anthology came along, I thought it might be a good medium in which to tell Wilhelmina’s story. I figured I could get away with an older heroine more easily in a novella than in a full-lenth novel. One element of the shared premise for this project was that it had to take place within 24 hours (hence the anthology title) which meant the story had to be very tightly focused. My two protagonists had significant history together, and all of that needed to come out in the narrative. So I decided to make the story basically one long conversation in which their past is hashed and rehashed and brought full circle into the present. I hope readers will enjoy it!

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