October 6, 2011

From an Idea to a Story ~ Lilly Gayle

Did you ever wonder where authors get their ideas? Even before I started writing with the goal of publication, I pondered the various influences that must have come into play when the author was crafting his or her story.

With my own writing, it’s never just one event or historical incident that triggers an idea. It’s several.

When my grandmother died in 2004, one of the things I inherited was an old steamer trunk. Inside were quilts, blankets, and two books. One was an original copy of Miss Nell’s Everyday Cookbook, published in 1892. The other was a reprint of an 1894 Montgomery Ward catalogue. The cookbook inspired a western romance. The Montgomery Ward catalogue inspired an American historical.

Mr. Ward started his business in Chicago Illinois. His first catalog, published in August 1872, consisted of a single sheet of dry goods with instructions on how to order. By 1883, the catalogue had grown to 240 pages with 10,000 items. The 1887 catalogue was 540 pages.

Mr. Ward’s concept of selling products through the mail was innovative and creative. For years, he had no competition--until Richard Warren Sears introduced his catalogue in 1896. That inspired me to create a fictional catalogue business to compete with Montgomery Ward before Sears came on the scene.

After watching Gangs of New York, I chose 1888 New York as the year and location of my story and decided my hero needed to be an Irish immigrant. That meant my heroine would be the rich store owner. It also meant I had some research to do.

I started by typing New York+1888 in the Google search bar and hit pay dirt. In March of that year, New York was paralyzed by one of the worst blizzards in American history.

Before the storm, the weather was mild and unseasonably warm. By midafternoon Sunday, the day before the storm, it started raining. The temperatures dropped rapidly and the rain turned to snow. Shortly before midnight on March 12, 1888, the snow started coming down hard and piling up fast. The storm lasted until the afternoon of the 14th and is still considered one of the worst recorded blizzards in US history. Snowfalls reached 40-50 inches, and the storm packed sustained winds over 45 miles per hour. In some place, snowdrifts reached fifty feet.

The storm, referred to as the Great White Hurricane, paralyzed the http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Coast_of_the_United_States East Coast from the Chesapeake Bay to Maine. People were stranded for days. Horses froze in the streets. And people came together as a matter of survival.

The storm would play an interval part of my story. But I still didn’t have an opening. Then one afternoon as I was flipping through that Montgomery Ward catalogue, I thought of something my grandfather used to say about tobacco farming.

“It takes a strong back and a weak mind.”

I was never sure if he meant those who worked for him had weak minds or if he included himself in that statement. But his words stuck in my head and eventually became the opening line in my American Historical romance, Wholesale Husband.

“What I need, Mr. Tate, is a man with a strong
back and a weak mind,” Clarissa said as the hansom
cab lurched forward.

Blurb for Wholesale Husband:

She needs his name. He needs her money. But can a rich New York socialite and a poor Irish immigrant find true love in the gilded age?

Betrayed by her fiancĂ© and heart sick over her father’s death, Clarissa Burdick is further devastated when she learns she can’t inherit her father’s company—the company she loves—until she’s twenty-five or married. And Clarissa is neither. So she sets out to find a husband strong enough to protect her from her uncle’s thugs, too uneducated to run the company himself, and poor enough to marry a woman in name only. But Irish immigrant Devin Flannery is smarter than he seems and more educated than Clarissa expects. Her Wholesale Husband soon proves a greater risk to her heart than her company.


Lilly Gayle writes paranormal and historical romance because love is an adventure no matter the century.

You can find her at http://lillygayle.com, http:/facebook.com/lillygayle, http://facebook.com/lillygaylebooks, and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/lillygromwriter


Sarah Grimm said...


So happy to have you visiting with me today. Wholesale Husband sounds like a fantastic read! Wishing you many, many sales! (I know I'm one of them)

Susan Macatee said...

Ccongrats on your new release, Lilly! This story sounds wonderful and I've already purchased a copy and look forward to reading it.

The story of the New York blizzard was featured in an episode on 'The History Channel'. I love when real events can be merged with fiction! I also love stories featuring Irish immigrants, since my maternal grandmother was Irish.

This book sounds like a winner! Best of luck with it!!

Katherine said...


I love your first line.

I found the information you included about the New York blizzard fascinating. I've lived in upstate NY my entire life and I had never heard about it before your post.

Wholesale Husband is on my TBR list. I can't wait to read it.

Lynne Marshall said...

I'm late! I only just this hour got on the social media side of my computer, so excuse my tardiness.

This is a fascinating blog, and I love your premise. Loved the Gangs of NY, too. I think I'll be buying this one on my next book run!

Best wishes for a successful book release.

Anonymous said...

"Wholesome Husband" sounded so much like my kind of book, that I just had to get it!(Love my Kindle!) Very much enjoyed the background information you shared about how you researched for this book and really liked those old photos.
Lovly cover!!

Lilly Gayle said...

Thanks for having me Sarah. Sorry I'm late checking in. I worked LATE today and just now got home!

Susan, thanks for ordering WH. I hope you like it.

Katherine, I had as much fun reading about that blizzard as I did writing the book. Senator Conklin walked home from his downtown office during the height of the blizzard, caught pneumonia, and died about 10 days later.

Thanks Lynne. Leonardo DeCaprio and Daniel Day Lewis were excellent in Gangs of NY.

Thanks Mimi. Hope you like WH as much as I liked Together Again!

rbooth43 said...

I have read WHOLESALE HUSBAND and the storyline, characters and suspense was amazing! Very well written, Lilly! Your books are awesome, and you are my favorite author!

Lilly Gayle said...

Thanks Becky. Your praise means so much!

Calisa Rhose said...

I love the first line Lilly. It not only opens for a wonderful scene, but commemorates your grandfather. Lovely.

Lilly Gayle said...

Thanks Calisa. My grandfather was a cantankerous, that's for sure. He let my cousins and me work on the farm during the summer, priming tobacco, topping tobacco, hoeing tobacco, handing the tobacco to the tier or loading it onto the slats that went into the bulk barn. It was hard work. He paid us, but instead of praising us, he'd say, "Babies! Can't do nothin'." It became a running joke within the family.