My Favorite Things

By Robyn Neeley, author of Christmas Dinner and Destination Wedding

Christmas DinnerAs I wrote Christmas Dinner, an author mentor commented that my thirty-year-old heroine probably didn’t have the same nostalgic love for eighties music that someone (ahem) my age would and that I needed to be careful of author bias creeping into my story. I laughed – how could any heroine I write not love Bon Jovi, Poison, the Cover Girls, or Wham as much as I do?

After speaking with some of my friends in their early thirties who had fonder memories of nineties music, I realized the author was right. I needed to be careful that my own likes didn’t creep too much into the heroine in a way that it would conflict with factors such as her age.

I did, however, want to infuse special things in my life into each of my stories beginning with Christmas Dinner. I decided on three favorites that represent my writing journey. They now appear in all of my books: my cats, public transportation, and Nancy Drew. Let me explain.

I always pay tribute to my cats, Sydney and Carly. Sydney, my nine-year-old orange tabby, passed away in 2009 at the veterinarian’s rather suddenly, and I didn’t get to say goodbye. The day after she died, I wrote what is now the prologue to Christmas Dinner as a way to deal with my grief. (Not to worry – Christmas Dinner is a super cute, laugh out loud romance.)

Now, both Sydney and Carly (my gray tabby that I adopted shortly after Sydney passed away) show up in all my books. They might not necessarily be cats. For my June 2014 romance with Crimson, they’re cheerleaders and Sydney’s a bit of a tramp—perfect since I adopted Sydney after she had kittens.

My books have at least one scene involving transportation. Christmas Dinner started on a commuter train to work, where I scratched the first few lines on a notepad. It was such a cool coincidence that three years later, I received the offer from Crimson while riding the train home. My hero and heroine always have a funny scene on a train, plane, car, or bus as my special homage to where I was when I got “the call.”

I always mention Nancy Drew. Growing up, I read these books over and over and over. To honor this time that clearly influenced my love for reading, I always include some sort of line mentioning Nancy or the books. Ned even got a shout out recently because he was my first-ever book boyfriend.

Knowing that I can’t be the only writer that does this, I asked some of my fellow Crimson authors what special things they infuse into their stories. From favorite music to causes important to them, I can see I’m not alone in this meaningful tradition.

“I almost always have a snarky grandma. It’s my Carol Burnett ear-tug to my late granny.” — Holley Trent, author of My Nora, Sold As Is, and A Demon in Waiting

“Animal rights, particularly horse slaughter. It always sneaks in how much I despise it. In my last book, it’s part of the plot.” — D’Ann Lindun, author of Mississippi Blues and The Cowboy’s Baby

“Music — oldies, ’80s pop, country, top 40. My favorite songs find their way into my books.” — Kristina Knight, author of What a Texas Girl Wants, What a Texas Girl Needs, and What a Texas Girl Dreams

“I include a green element. The hero in my first book drove a hybrid; heroine in the second had a garden and recycled; and family in the third shopped at the farmers market and raised chickens. These weren’t big mentions, just background way of life.” — Synithia Williams, author of You Can’t Plan Love, Worth the Wait, and A Heart to Heal

Are you a writer? What are some of your favorite things you like to include in your stories?