It starts with Questions: The Thorne at My Side

The Thorne at My Side will be my fourth self-published romance novel. Here For It was my first stab at writing and the story was driven by the characters. Upstate Expectations was definitely all about the characters. Don’t Call It Puppy Love started with a plot idea when I got to know Angie a little bit more during Upstate.

This book started with a line of questioning that turned my mind into a story telling engine.

What if I there was a modern version of You’ve Got Mail where they texted anonymously instead,
And it was a matchmaking service,
And it matched up a two people with opposing goals,
And it was set in Washington DC?

These ideas bounced around in my head for a few weeks while I watched You’ve Got Mail and The American President on repeat. I started to think about who these characters would be. And I asked more questions.

  • What type of guy would sign up for an anonymous, no picture, match making service?
  • Why would he be interested in this?
  • Why would a woman?
  • What is she looking for specifically?

And then the characters started to form in my mind. A career path driven woman who is working to make her own name in politics. A man who thinks he knows what he wants until he realizes he wants the opposite.

And let’s give them opposing goals!

Obviously this is a romance novel so they’re both going to be out-of-this-world attractive. And I’ll write in a bunch of chemistry so when tensions are high they look to each other for release.

I already knew that Maggie Collins worked in DC/politics so naturally this became her story. In Upstate Expectations we learn a little bit about Maggie and her dating habits but we don’t actually get to meet her. In The Thorne at My Side we get a quick trip back to Lakeville so we get to check in on Liz and Kyle and the whole Collins Family.

Yes, Katherine is overdoing it for Liz and Kyle’s NYE wedding (which we get to sneak peak at the end of Don’t Call It Puppy Love).

Then I read some essays on the message You’ve Got Mail sent about technology’s impact on people and immediately thought… AI. From there things fell into place.

Maggie would be focused on producing good work for her boss while the fact that she’s 36 and isn’t in a serious relationship grates on her nerves. Her plan was to be married by 35 so this is a significant set back. She’d have a natural aversion to AI writing tools because of her job as a speech writer and will do everything she can to prove she’s better than a machine.

Her main goal for a husband will be his ability to hold his own in public situations but also his willingness to put her career first. She has aspirations to run for office. She’ll need a man who can be at her side.

Enter: Austin Thorne

(Do you get the title now? The Thorne at My Side? Because they’re adversaries but end up together so it’s a play on the common phrase.)

Austin is 34 and has been working for his father since he graduated. His father is the second Thorne to run Thorne Media Corp which is a news and media company with a heavy focus on gossip. (Devotees will remember Nora’s gossip magazine issue that Maggie helped to sort out in Upstate Expectations, TMC was behind it.) Austin’s father challenges him to create a new product that will produce serious revenue so he gets to work on AI Media (AIM for short, another nod to You’ve Got Mail). This app delivers custom news stories to you based on your browsing history.

He’s also been in a series of relationships because of who he is. Girls are interested in the access, exposure, and bank account that comes with the last name Thorne, but he doesn’t spend much effort letting them get to know the real him. He realizes he wants more, a true partner, so he signs up for SMS Connect.

Oh, I forgot to mention SMS Connect is the name of the text based match making service.

When they meet it’s hate-at-first-sight, especially on Maggie’s part. They’re pitted against each other at work but then, surprise surprise, they’re chatting with each other as TalkShopGirl and DCFox.

These were the building blocks I used to craft the story. At each stage of editing there were tweaks and I challenged myself to push the story a little bit further. But it all started with a question.

What if?


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