It wasn’t that I wanted to abandon Ben Reese, but that Breeding Ground, the first Jo Grant mystery, got into my blood years ago when I spent time in Lexington, Kentucky researching the Ben Reese book, Watches Of The Night.
I’d ridden horses for years, and I loved the land around Lexington, and the glimpses I was given of life in Woodford County when I stayed in beautiful farmhouse B&Bs, and grilled the owners (who ended-up friends) about the farms, and culture, and interesting characters in Kentucky’s Thoroughbred industry.
I suddenly saw a series of novels set in a whole community of horse people – grooms to aristocratic horse breeders – in which the complexities of everyday families get complicated by the added pressures of working in a family business – three, in Breeding Ground, in 1962: a hands-on broodmare farm, an equine pharmaceutical business, and a horse van manufacturer.
Breeding Ground’s a back-burner book for me that’s simmered in my brain for years, partly because of the horses, but more because I grew-up in a small family business. My father was an orphan, raised in an orphanage, who (because a teacher helped him get a college scholarship in 1929) was able to become a chemist, who then dreamed for years about inventing a product and starting his own business – and did, with my mom when I was four.
It’s been a pivotal part of my life, and I wanted to explore the conflicts that come when whatever-family–members-are-in-charge have to choose between what they think is good for the business (all the employees and customers included) and their children’s (or siblings’) feelings. With eighty per cent of American business still family owned, I thought it was time I talked about it.
And caregivers who’ve reached their emotional limits, I wanted to work with that. And the complications of WWII, in wounds that carried-over even into the sixties (from our OSS vets, in this book, who worked with the French Resistance). I’m very close to the vet Ben Reese is based on, and I still had more to explore.
Breeding Ground means a lot to me – Jo Grant, the architect who’d cared for her mother through brain cancer; the families torn by business differences; the horses Jo says, “…run our lives, and get planned and pampered and brutalized by us too, for the best and the strangest and the worst of reasons.”
I also had surgery for pancreatic cancer (then did chemo and radiation) while I was working on Breeding Ground, so the process was not as linear as usual. But some of what I’ve learned through that is buried in the bones of the book, and I hope it helps someone else. I know it helped me to write it.
But can I give advice about writing a new series that applies to someone else? Probably not. We write the books we’re given. Or at least I do. http://www.sallywright.net/