At least part of the story was easy–when I proposed the series, I knew that the three books would cover a complete “big picture” arc. In the first book, Jen would begin to toy with the idea of mortuary-as-ministry, in the second book she would be going to mortuary school, and in the third book she would actually be running the funeral home. So I knew Jen would be dealing with the pressures of family, work, and school in the second book. (Funny–I was dealing with the same things as I wrote it!)
One morning I was watching Alias (for about the fiftieth time) on the treadmill and it was the season where Sydney discovers that she has a half-sister: ping! The idea rang my bell. I had already written McLane into the story, but the plot thread took on a much bigger dimension when I added that biological relationship. Far deeper areas of conflict, far deeper bond between them.
And when I was thinking, “Why is McLane running away from home?” I hit upon the issue that divides her and her father. (Don’t’ want to say too much because it’s presented as a surprise in the book.)
I was dealing with some things in my life that fell naturally into Jen’s story. This is not one of my “high concept” books (though the funeral home setting is a bit “out there”), but it’s a character story about how these people deal with LIFE as it comes at them full-force.
Finally, last year I was at Glen Eyrie last year and was talking to Megan DiMaria, and she told me about a unique ministry associated with the photography studio where she works. And that true story provided exactly what I needed at the end of the book.
Tomorrow: the research
P.S. If this is Friday, I’m flying out tonight for Richmond, VA, where I’ll be speaking at the First Baptist Church tomorrow. Looking forward to meeting lots of friends!