With a Little Help From My Friends

- by Charlotte Hubbard

Breath Of SpringA funny thing happened on the way to writing this fourth book of my Seasons of the Heart series: we had already titled it BREATH OF SPRING, but in my original proposal, I didn’t have a heroine picked out. My editor mentioned that Annie Mae Knepp would make a wonderful heroine, and her story quickly took shape in my mind. At seventeen, Annie Mae has committed the ultimate “sin” by refusing to go with her father, Hiram Knepp, to the new colony he has started. Hiram got excommunicated from Willow Ridge in the previous book, so now everyone—especially Annie Mae—is looking over her shoulder to see what nastiness he’s going to cook up next.


Annie Mae is especially concerned about who’s caring for her four preschool-age sibs while her father gets his new community up and running, and when she sees a strange young woman chasing after the kids with a paddle, Annie Mae snatches them back to Willow Ridge. Suddenly, she needs a place to live, a job to support them, and she sees a lonely future ahead when no sane man would want to court her, considering the “package” she comes with.


I matched her up with the boy next door, home remodeler Adam Wagler, who’s minding his own business. But that doesn’t make for much drama! And he’s so short, Annie Mae literally looks right over top of him. So while everyone agrees that Adam’s a great guy he’s not shaping up to be hero material—


Until a few writer friends from NINC tossed out ideas that would make Adam more of a rebel, maybe with a secret/tragedy in his past that shaped his life in ways nobody knew about. Five of us who’d gone to a mini-retreat in Chicago were prodding each other, priming each other—and right here I’ll insert a shout-out to Jen Stevenson, Patricia Rosemoor, Karen Tintori-Katz and Kris Smith, who shot me toward a way better book than I’d envisioned when I’d arrived with them at the DeWitt Hotel.


The others began tossing out wild ideas, and suddenly a motorcycle roared into our brainstorming session—and because Adam has already joined the Old Order Amish church, a motor vehicle is strictly forbidden. It’s in the barn, hidden under a blue tarp, and because it’s a vintage Indian Chief, the stakes—and its story value—go way up! Of course Adam rides that cycle to rescue Annie Mae from a dicey situation when her father has her abducted, and of course Adam gets caught by the cops and Bishop Tom Hostetler. But Annie Mae wins a man for whom family is top priority, and who makes her feel worthy of love. Now that’s a hero we can all appreciate!


My point? Sometimes stories really do benefit from outside “expertise” . . . and sometimes we get by best with a little help from our friends!

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