In my 20s, I was dogged by what I now can see was wanderlust. It started with a semester abroad in Cáceres, Spain, and a healthy dose of European travels afterward, but it quickly expanded. After college I returned to Europe a few times and also had my first visits to Mexico, China and Venezuela (Mr. Hunter and I were there just before Chavez came into power!). My wanderlust wasn’t just limited to travel – in that decade, I lived in Michigan, New Hampshire, San Francisco, New York, San Francisco again, Sweden, San Francisco again… you get the picture.
Enter kids. Mr. Hunter and I quickly realized that traveling with kids – one of ours, in particular – wasn’t quite the free-spirited experience as it was when just the two of us went exploring. We didn’t shut down travelling all together, but our priorities changed. Mostly. Sometimes I still get a little bug for a trip to Paris, sometimes just a trip to an isolated mountain cabin with the family.
But for the most part, the travel bug has morphed into a creative spark for my writing. My first books are set in Sweden, a country close to my heart, and my new Harlequin Dare books are set in Australia, where my sister lives with her Aussie husband.
However, lately I’ve detected another trace of wanderlust in my writing – my tendency to fantasize about/glorify the next book I want to write, not to book I’m writing now. This story wanderlust seems to hit me the hardest at the beginning of a new book.
Beginnings are actually the hardest part for me – I struggle to get the characters just right. My contract with Harlequin has built-in support for this problem: I turn in my first three chapters for comment before I actually write the rest of the book. Right now, I’m on that step, writing Chapter #3 of Max and Natasha’s story. It’s coming together, but it’s not quite there yet.
And on days like this, I find myself in story wanderlust fantasy.
Usually I try not to follow it. If I did, I'd leave a trail of unfinished stories in my wake. Instead, I write out a long summary/brainstorm and try to let that idea go until my present story is finished. But. But.
Today, I was feeling especially restless, so I took a few minutes to write what I imagine to be both the blurb and the prologue of a story I’ve tentatively called The Next Best Thing. It’s my current wanderlust story, the project I’ll be working on as soon as my Harlequin chapters are in.
Ready for draft #1? Here it is...
THERE ARE A lot of things people never tell you about living abroad. Like the fact that no matter how much you love the food in your new home country, you’re going to crave some crazy, semi-disgusting tastes after a while, like Ho-Hos and Pizza Hut. Or the fact that a few month into your immersion plan, you might start to hate the new language that’s making you sound like a seven-year-old.
But here’s the worst one: If you have a child overseas, you can’t take her back to your home country without the father’s permission. Even if that father is a cheating asshole.
No one told me that before I moved to abroad. So when things got bad with that cheating asshole, I got desperate. And that’s what started the whole mess that I’m in right now.