Saturday, July 1, 2017

FOR RICHER OR POORER Story Inspiration (Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection, Barbour 2017)

It's release day!

Happy birthday, Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection! :)

In order to bring her starving family to New Jersey, Polish immigrant and housemaid Marcella Lipski must marry wealth…so she dons her employer's discarded ball gowns and goes husband hunting at Newark's tourist spots. There's just one problem. Ella can't speak a speck of English. She considers herself blessed to secure free English lessons from a poor-but-mysterious cart driver—until she loses her heart in the process.

I thought for today's post I would tell you how I come by the ideas for my stories.

They can sneak up on you from anywhere...

News Articles/Segments
Plot Twists On Classics
Personal Anecdotes
Greeting Cards
Overheard Conversations at the Grocery Store
People Watching at the Mall
Perfume Names
Awkward Situations
Family History

Or a combination of many situations, sights and feelings.

The idea for For Richer or Poorer came from the latter. It started as a twist on Cinderella or a rags-to-riches type tale. At this point, I had no idea the Collection would have rags or riches in the name. The Collection was then tentatively called The Gilded Age Brides Collection, but was changed in the process of publication to attract more readers. How fun that the new title matched my story's original inspiration idea!

Inspiration for my heroine, Ella, came from a conversation with the daughter of a Polish immigrant, who came to New Jersey during WWI. The family sent their children to America one by one to spare them the ravages of war in their own country. As the story goes, one daughter came over as a domestic and eventually met her husband, also Polish and working in domestic service. This sister didn't see her other siblings again until she was well up in years, and then was reunited with only one of her sisters.

Four things from that conversation stuck with me. Poland. Domestic service. Sister. New Jersey.

My story, I knew, must be set during the Gilded Age (1870-1900) since that was the Collection theme at the time. I started researching why a young Polish woman might come to America by herself during this period. A brief overview of the changes in Polish rule led me to info on the class systems, where I found out Austrian-Poland had tenant farmers during the Gilded Age--something akin to Southern sharecroppers in America. My grandmother was a sharecropper's daughter. There you go. My heroine is a tenant farmer's daughter.

For Woody's character creation, I had several components I really wanted for him from the start. His inspiration was based loosely on the historical character of George Mueller (1805-1898). You can find biographical works about Mueller free for Amazon Kindle. I knew I wanted Woody to have a Southern gentleman flavor, so I made his father a Southerner who moved north to "spare his family the ravages of war." (See how inspiration sneaks in?) Woody has a brief history as a street-fighter, an idea I nabbed when it popped out of his backstory. Also, in order for Woody and Ella to interact well enough to fall in love in 20K words, I needed him to be a linguist. Ha! So I gave him a couple professor-like qualities to soften his rough past. He loves maps, and drinking tea. Though I had these things established early on, I really fleshed out Woody's character after studying Joanne Bischof's Charlie Lionheart. I noted Joanne's use of quirks, familial influences, driving goals, cherished items/symbols, the character's inner sense of morality, and how everything the character experiences in his past adds flavors to his present/future actions/reactions. That got me digging through Woody's backstory to find out more about him, and I discovered something...Woody has a secret.

I can't tell!!! That would be cheating!

You'll have to read the book to find out. *sly grin*

Choosing the Myers-Briggs personality types that seemed to fit the characters and stories, I filled out a character questionnaire for Woody and Ella, coming up with many things on the spot that were later refined into their final personas during the draft and edits.

All other main components of the story came through extremely quick brainstorming. Due to several factors--chiefly my location and lack of internet access at the time of plotting--I had only one week to plot the story, write the synopsis and first scene, get beta reads, edit, and hit send! (I have awesome beta readers and a mighty big God!)

So there you have it. A bit of trivia on the For Richer or Poorer novella in the Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection. I'm not sure it'll be worth telling your grandkids about, but maybe knowing these little gems will entertain you as you read the story. :)

Grab your copy here:

Comment Fodder:

  • Readers, what is the most recent book you've read with a big plot twist? Did any of these sources of inspiration surprise you? Which ones?
  • Writers, what are your most surprising sources of story inspiration?


  1. So excited for you, Natalie! I am looking forward to reading your story.

  2. Hi, Amber! Seems like it's been quite a journey already, and it's just starting! God is good. Thank you so much for stopping by and for your support over these few years since we met! Wow. Doesn't seem like it's been that long, does it? Haha.

  3. Congratulations, Natalie. For Richer or Poorer sounds like a fun read. Can't wait! :)

  4. Oh, and I should have said that I think it's WAY cool that Marcella goes by ELLA since that's my sweet little angel-doll granddaughter's name. :)


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