Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Road Less Planned: the Making of a Hero (Fiction by the Seat of your Pants)


I’m a pantser. For non-authors, that means I basically write by the seat of my pants—I just sit down and write. No outline. It’s something like taking a road trip without a plan or a GPS. Just hop in the car and drive.

My latest novel, IN THE ARMS OF A STRANGER is about a CIA paramilitary officer on the run from his agency. How did I come up with this story? To be honest, my hero jumped into my imagination while I was at a rest area along an empty stretch of Interstate 10. People are just people at rest areas. We can imagine their stories as we watch them get out of their cars, tired from a long drive. There are parents with young children, middle-aged children with aging parents, couples, both young and old. Single travelers. Truck drivers. It seemed like a good place to hide. In plain sight.

So I started writing. JP on the freeway. He didn’t yet have a first or last name, but he did have initials. He was driving an older used car. And he had a bullet wound in his side. He pulled out of the rest area, and sped on, knowing his exit was only a short few miles away. That’s when he spotted them. The men chasing him. Three cars back. He pushed the aging car forward, passing a minivan with parents and young children. An eighteen-wheeler blocked the passing lane, but slowly pulled to the right, allowing him to speed by. But now he was on the left of the huge truck and couldn’t see the exit. He cleared the truck in time to see the ramp immediately to his right. Turning the wheel, he sped down the off ramp, and watched his followers continue on, their exit blocked by the truck.

I cut that whole scene from the beginning of the book. Even then, I still had a problem. JP had no last name. JP what? Smith? Jones? Nothing. He had no last name for a few weeks. I never really considered what the JP stood for either. He was just JP. He had short dark hair and dark eyes. He wasn’t too tall or too short or too overbuilt. He wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. He wouldn’t want to. He’s a guy who’s determined to be invisible. But powerful in his abilities. Confident in them. Quiet.

I had no idea why he had a bullet wound. But he was headed somewhere. He knew where he had to go. To the person who could clear his name. That’s all I knew. That and the fact that he was my hero. He wasn’t the villain.

I started writing what he was running toward. A woman. The only woman who could help, but the last one who should. Her name came easily to me. Abby Price. She was a widow living out in the country. She had a quarter horse named Buck and was boarding a bull named Petunia for a neighbor.

Her reason for even talking to JP? He could give her answers. That meant he knew something of value to her. What questions did she have? About her late husband. If he had secrets and JP knew them, then they led the same sort of life. A dangerous one, if the husband is dead and JP is on the run with a bullet in his side. Secrets… CIA. Yes!

But JP still had no last name. I had to run an errand and saw a billboard for an attorney’s office. I don’t remember exactly what the name on that name was, but it started with “black.” Immediately, JP had his last name: Blackmon. Why not Blackhawk or Blackthorn? Neither was right. It wasn’t him. I couldn’t see him being called Blackhawk or Blackthorn (which made me think of the Bourne movies) by his coworkers. I could hear his buddies calling out, “Hey, Blackmon!” He’s one of those average small town guys who joins the Army, goes to war, and is soon moving beyond, to another life that can use his particular skills. Skills that aren’t average, ones that make him powerful. And dangerous.

What does the JP stand for? That came to me at the end.

It should have been easy to finish the seventy-five to eighty thousand words I needed once I found the right path. But I took a right turn when I should have gone left, I skipped a place I should visited. I had to backtrack and make U-turns. Several times.

Until THE END. I made it. Relief! Journey complete!

Have you taken a totally unplanned journey? Just hit the road and let yourself make turns into the unknown? Would you want to?

A dangerous man on the run…

Wounded and accused of treason, CIA operative JP Blackmon is on the run from his own agency and desperate to clear his name. When he finds out his old partner is dead, he’ll do anything to get to the truth…including using his partner’s widow.

Finds a vulnerable woman looking for answers…

Abby Price wanted nothing more than a family and a safe home. But her late husband kept big secrets from her—secrets that got him killed and has government agents watching her every move. And she’s started fearing for her life. The only man who can help her is a mysterious stranger who suddenly appears out of nowhere. But can she trust him?

Together they discover a passion worth dying for.

As danger stalks them at every turn, unexpected passion flares between JP and Abby. But the last thing either wants or needs is more complications. Romance? No. Way. That would involve trust—something neither is willing to do. But in the end, sharing their deadly secrets is their only hope for survival…their only hope to hold onto the love they’ve just begun to share…

“Is JP your real name?”

He smiled, and she realized she hadn’t seen one of his real smiles before. This one lit up his face, made his eyes laugh. There was devilment in the smile. “I don’t know you well enough to tell you that yet.”


The look of him, the timbre of his voice, as if he really would know her well enough to—

Her breath caught. She couldn’t look away. That well?

She wanted to frown, to be outraged. But his eyes… Good heavens, his eyes. Everything about him, from his short dark hair, to his smile, to his broad shoulders, he was all captivating male.

Instead, she laughed. It was a totally unexpected reaction. She’d never reacted to anyone the way she did to JP. If that was his name…

And what came out of her mouth next was a total surprise. “When do you think you will?”

Find the Book At:

About Virginia
An RWA Golden Heart® finalist, Virginia Kelly’s first book was published as To the Limit and finaled in several contests such as the Holt Medallion, The Golden Quill and The Aspen Gold.
Virginia has always loved adventure novels, but romance is at the core of her stories—romance with the adrenalin rush of danger. Against the Wind, a full-length novel, and Dancing in the Dark, the prequel novella to In the Arms of a Stranger, are about dangerous men and the adventurous women willing to take a chance on them.

Traveling is a passion that came early in life. Her first airplane ride was a trip over the Andes Mountains in Peru at the ripe old age of two months. Her travels provide the settings for her novels, whether it’s a fictitious Latin American country based on Peru, the country of her birth, or Florida and the American South where she now lives.

A graduate of the University of Alabama with a master’s degree in Library Science, Virginia is an academic librarian. She tries to include a librarian in all of her books as either the heroine or as a minor character. Having taught high school and college, she has a great appreciation for teachers and often uses that as the profession for her heroines.

Find Virginia Kelly at:
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  1. No Ive never had the chance to just take off with no destination in mind. Ive always wanted to tho! Maybe one day.....
    For anyone who hasn't read this book it is AWESOME!! You wont want to miss it!

  2. Wow, Karen, thank you for the book endorsement! :-) I'm so glad you enjoyed IN THE ARMS.

    Yes, it's fun to take trips like that, or to just veer off course for the heck of it--if you have time.

    Thanks for commenting.

  3. Oh this book sounds like one I would truly enjoy... as for an unexpected journey... nope... I am one that has to plan things out... check my list over and over again... I am not that adventurous.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Colleen. I'm really a list person, too, until I see something tempting I want to try.

  5. I haven't ever taken off on an unexpected journey, but I think it would be fun. This book sounds really intriguing. Thank you for the opportunity to enter to win.

  6. It is fun. I have enjoyed my forays into unplanned adventures. But it's still nice to end the day in with a nice meal and a comfy bed. I'm not into roughing it, just getting off the beaten track.

    Thanks for stopping by.


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