Norah Bennett talks about how a news story inspired her debut novel.
One morning in January of 2015, I was following my usual morning routine, preparing to face humanity. I imagine it was somewhere around 5:00 a.m.; I was stumbling over the dog trying to get myself showered and dressed for my day job while guzzling java and praying for the caffeine to hit my blood stream as soon as possible. The television was tuned to the morning news at a ridiculously high volume so that I could hear it over the incessant dog barking and bird squawking that I awake to every single morning.
Now, I am not a morning person. In fact, I am not a person at all before 10:00 a.m. I also stop being a human around 9:00 p.m. My best hours of the day, where I am highly functioning, are between 10:00 – 2:00. Anything before or after is a crap-shoot. But that morning something miraculous happened. For a brief few minutes, the freaking dog stopped barking and the bird stopped screeching and I heard and actually focused on a news story.
The broadcaster told of a man who used a metal detector on a golf-course and found a man’s wedding band with the initials R.I.L.Y. and the word Forever inscribed on the inside of the band. The inscription drove him crazy. He couldn’t figure out the meaning, but he felt that it had some kind of significance. I can’t remember the exact details of the story or whether the original owner of the ring was ever located, but I do recall that somehow the man’s teenage daughter solved the puzzle.
R.I.L.Y. Forever – Remember I Love You Forever.
Now, I wasn’t looking for an idea for a new book and I wasn’t ready to start another project. I’d just finished the first draft of my very first novel, Forget Me Knot, and it was off my desk being read and edited by a friend. I was proud of myself for finishing an entire book, but I was also antsy. I was used to being busy, used to spending my days at work and all of the other waking hours writing. Something about those four letters, followed by that one word, called to me.
As I went through my day, attempting to concentrate on the tasks that were currently paying my bills, R.I.L.Y. Forever kept running amuck in my head, making me appear as a forgetful, incompetent, and completely deaf to all conversations. It was downright annoying and embarrassing. Colleagues looked at me strangely, while others asked me outright what the hell was wrong with me. I couldn’t tell them I was hearing voices and each time I closed my eyes, I saw a silver locket, shaped like a heart. The front was designed as two angel wings folded side by side. The wings separated and opened from the center to reveal the hidden inscription—R.I.L.Y. Forever.
At 3:00 p.m. I gave in and I left work. Ethan and Julia and even little Lilly came to life in my head and demanded my attention. I got in my car and started my hour and a half trek home. But they refused to wait. They demanded I write their story or at least outline it. Again, I gave in. I pulled off the highway and into a McDonald’s in the middle of nowhere. That day, I started a habit that I have yet to break. Why mess with a good thing? I ordered a Diet Coke and a large fries, and found a booth where I sat for the next four hours and outlined R.I.L.Y. Forever. And that ladies and gentlemen is how my debut novel got its plot and its title.
I’m not certain how other writers find the title of their stories or even the ideas for their stories. For this new author, so far, it’s been an interesting journey. Sometimes the title finds me, the characters pop up out of nowhere and write their own story, allowing me little input. Other times, I give birth to the story and labor is long and painful. I must admit I prefer the first method, but in both journeys the ride is filled with suspense and adventure.
I think you should end this with a – I hope that you will enjoy taking each journey with me… or something like that anyways.
Julia stopped walking, thinking, breathing! Her world narrowed to him — his tousled, thick, brown hair, his mesmerizing gray-blue eyes that changed with his every mood, and his long, thick lashes that were the envy of every girl in high school. Julia devoured Ethan with her eyes. She couldn’t help herself. She was starved. He was taller and more built than she recalled, but his handsome face with its square chin, slightly crooked nose from years of playing football, and full, sensuous lips, was the same image that visited her dreams nightly.
Julia knew the instant he became aware of her. He stopped answering Aimee as his gaze shifted and centered on her. His pupils widened and his eyes darkened to a smoky gray. Aimee followed his gaze. Her brows furrowed and she took a step toward Julia. But Ethan grasped her elbow and shook his head.
Julia’s eyes never left Ethan’s tall, muscular frame as he walked toward her. The room and all its inhabitants fell away until there was only him. The soft caress of his eyes touched every inch of her. She studied his face, but his expression was neutral. He stood silently examining her and it was left to Julia to break the silence. The problem was she had no idea what to say. No words were adequate to express how she felt. But as her eyes locked with his, she hoped they voiced what her lips couldn’t. She missed him. Missed him every second, minute, and hour they were apart. When he was hers, he was her best friend, her lover, her confidant. He was her everything. When she lost him, the ground beneath her feet shook so violently, it brought her to her knees and it took years to learn how to stand on her own, without him.
Tears pooled in Julia’s eyes and spilled down her cheeks. She wrapped her arms around herself. Ethan’s assessing gaze tracked her every movement and then his eyes, followed by his mouth, softened.
When Julia Walker unexpectedly runs into Dr. Ethan Sullivan, the man who stole her heart twenty-two years ago and whose heart she shredded in return, their reunion is emotional and explosive.
While sparks fly and their passion reignites, the past rears its ugly head and the lovers soon discover that a foundation built on secrets and lies will always crumble. Can Ethan and Julia overcome their painful past and learn the lessons of honesty, trust, and forgiveness in time to save their love?
Norah Bennett is a contemporary romance writer living deep in the woods on a lake in NW Jersey. She has been married for thirty years to the love of her life. She has two adult children, a Great Dane, a Maltipoo, and a Cockatoo. By day she is a professor and administrator at a university in the Northeast and by night she lets her imagination flow as a romance writer.