Where do story ideas come from? My first book, The Bootlegger’s Legacy, story idea was to have a couple of “normal” guys try to make a drug deal to help them with their financial problems. It was going to be about how they managed to screw everything up—since they were not criminals, just people with money problems looking for an out. As much as anything, I think at the beginning I saw the book as a comedy with some stupid crooks making all kinds of lethal mistakes. This idea came from my own experience in Oklahoma City in the 1980s.
This was a difficult time for most people in Oklahoma with a sudden and dramatic collapse of the oil industry. This was especially true for small business owners. Of course, with the local economy in the toilet, business was bad for most everyone. But there was an ugly ripple effect related to banks. All of the local banks were heavily involved in the oil industry, and when that industry tumbled, it brought down banks. The bank failures led to small business loans being called by the FDIC. Even a healthy business usually cannot pay-off a loan immediately that was not expected to be due. And, of course, there was no way to get another bank loan because the whole banking industry was on the ropes.
One such business was owned by a friend of mine and he sought my advice. As you may or may not know my background is financial—CPA and financial consultant. I helped him analyze his situation and basically told him there was no hope. Not what he wanted to hear. He had to come up with a boat load of cash or he faced bankruptcy. This actually is the first part of The Bootlegger’s Legacy story.
I did not know it at the time, but heard later, that he and another fellow developed a scheme to make a drug deal with some people from Mexico to solve their money woes. Fortunately, for my friend, his plans fell through. He never executed his absurd idea—where more than likely he would have been killed. He brought a partner into his business who had some cash and they were able to refinance the debt with an out-of-state bank. As the economy recovered his business grew and thrived.
So the actual story I based my idea on was basically boring. Nothing much happened and with a little luck the business owner survived. He never had a wild, dangerous adventure in Mexico, never got shot, never did much of anything except refinance his debt. Not exactly a book anyone would read.
But from that kernel of an idea came an adventure involving a bootlegger, a vast hidden fortune, a gorgeous mistress, divorce, romance, new life paths, family mysteries solved, great wealth and new loves.
Why did the story change? Because the actual story was not very interesting; the original idea was okay but the real story was just plain boring. So, I did what writers do; I made up a bunch of stuff. Hopefully fun, interesting, exciting stuff—a story you would want to read. Much of the story I made up as I wrote. Obviously this is not the best way to write, but it seems to work for me. I just get started and it seems to take on its own life, going from one thing to the next based on what seems right in the world I have created.
The Bootlegger’s Legacy became an entirely different story than what I thought at the beginning. In retrospect that was very good.
My next book, Dog Gone Lies, was a direct result of The Bootlegger’s Legacy. There was a small part in that book for a local sheriff who helped the TBL guys while they were in Las Cruces, New Mexico; Sheriff Ray Pacheco. I liked this character a lot and decided I wanted to know more about him—so I wrote a book where he was the main character. In a way TBL and the Pacheco & Chino books are a result of a bad idea a friend had on how to solve his financial problems that he never really attempted. Ideas for books come from all sorts of things– even out of thin air or some past experience.
The third Pacheco & Chino book, Four Corners War, will be available for pre-order July 1st. This story also was due to one of my own experiences. While not a true story by any means, many of the events in FCW did actually happen; but none of the murders. Maybe that is what novels are—real life stories exaggerated and contorted to make them more interesting to read. After all; it is fiction.