BOOK INSPIRATION FOR BETH’S STORY: A RUNAWAY BRIDE
Why I Write About" “Impossible Love”
One summer, Virginia—my wife—and I travelled to Sedona, Arizona, for vacation. We decided to get there from Irvine, California, where we live, by way of Phoenix. I didn’t look carefully at the map and didn’t realize, until it was too late to turn back, that I had taken the “scenic” route from Phoenix to Sedona, by way of what was apparently the old highway, instead of by way of the Interstate.
This was fortuitous. The old highway goes through Oak Creek Canyon, which has to be one of the most picturesque drives in all of Arizona, despite the road construction over much of the route. It was a good thing that we had reservations at a hotel in Sedona and weren’t in a hurry.
I’ve always liked “Runaway Bride” stories. It’s a genre unto itself. As my wife and I meandered down the winding, narrow canyon drive, I began to imagine a runaway bride, who was lost and running out of gas in one of the many rustic campsites along Oak Creek.
In this genre—actually a sub-genre within romantic fiction—brides run away for all sorts of reasons. I imagined that the bride in my story was running away from an arranged marriage. I pictured her in a car she had stolen from the gentleman whom she was being forced by her family to marry. She was coming from Texas and going west to California. I saw her ending up in a campsite of a man who was coming from California and going east to Texas.
I imagined the two characters of my tale to be from very different social classes: She was from extreme wealth—the “one percent” class—and he from a modest, working class background. She was very young and had never worked a day in her life. He had to work to help his single mom ever since he was a kid, and had just been discharged from the Army in Korea. I like stores about characters from very different backgrounds, who have to get over the prejudices that come from their distinct upbringings.
As I drove through the canyon, I imagined that the runaway bride hated the outdoors—and wild river valleys like this—and had never spent the night away from home in anyplace except in the luxurious suite of a hotel that catered to the super-rich. On the other hand, he had liked camping, even before he joined the Army and spent years sleeping in a tent or in the open under the stars. So it came as a shock for the runaway bride to be stuck in Oak Creek Canyon and have to sleep in an Army tent—unless she wanted to turn around and go back to marry the rich old guy she was betrothed to.
I began to see my characters as very different in their personalities. She was flighty and barely an adult, had never wanted for anything and had been treated like a baby all her life. She was her “daddy’s little girl,” even though she was a young adult. Whereas he was a “hardened veteran,” who had been in battle and had led men in battle. Anything he had, he had struggled for. He had lost his father early in life, and his mother never had the time nor money to baby him.
I imagined her only for the short stuck in Oak Creek Canyon with this man she looked down on as being uncouth, lower-class, uneducated and with little future except as a working man, trying to make ends meet. She was only staying around until she could figure out a way to continue on to California. He was fascinated by this strange creature, who had fallen into his campsite out of a world he could not even imagine.
I like stories of impossible love. The story I was imagining as my wife and I drove toward Sedona was a tale that involved such an impossible situation. Her wealthy father and family were searching for her and when they found her, they would force her to come back home and would force her into the church to marry the older man her father had chosen for her—an equally wealthy member of the upper-upper class. But the young man in my tale was on his way home from the war, with PTSD and a paltry few thousand dollars of discharge pay. How could the young woman and he ever fall in love, marry, and live happily-ever-after? Impossible! … How they overcame this impossibility would be my story.
I don’t like love-at-first-sight stories. They don’t seem real. I think that people have to slowly fall in love, despite their differences and in spite of all sorts of seemingly impossible obstacles. I had to find a way to have this runaway bride become stranded temporarily in the man’s campsite, and at the same time be properly chaperoned, so that they didn’t start sleeping with each other before they fell in love and got married.
Suppose in the neighboring campsite there was a retired and very wise minister and wife who could help the two impossible lovers find a way to fall in love—gradually, without planning to do so. So that’s what I did: In my imagination, I invented an elderly retired pastor and wife, who could counsel and advise the runaway bride and the returning veteran … and help them see that they were actually made for each other—while chaperoning them.
Oak Creek Canyon is a favorite destination for backpackers and hikers. There are hundreds of trails and side-canyons. The fishing is great. The trees—deciduous and pine—provide cool shade for people taking long walks. So I decided I would send my two characters on long walks and hikes, as way to get to know each other. All sorts of things can happen along the trail. In my younger days, I went for many a hike and camped out in all sorts of places. I imagined my characters in these places, slowly overcoming their differences and the obstacles to their falling in love.
I had fun writing this Runaway Bride tale. I laughed all the way through it. And so now you know the Inspiration for Beth’s Story.