in focus: creating romance

For author Jamie Beck, it all started with some tunes.

“A lot of times there’s a song I like, and I think, ‘This could be an interesting story,’” she says.

Beck was listening to the song Broken by Lifehouse, when she imagined Levi, the Southern stud with Prince Charming dimples who has a stone cold exterior after a life of hard knocks. He’s one of Beck’s main characters in her romantic novel, In the Cards.

All the ladies love Levi’s dimples, especially Lindsey, a young privileged woman with a pretty face and a hefty trust fund. She is 17 when she first meets Levi, a bartender at the time, while vacationing with her family at a Florida resort. Her encounter with the hunky bartender with the Georgia twang is brief, but embarrassing for Lindsey. The memory of Levi, the man who intentionally humiliated her, follows her back to home to Connecticut.

Nine years later, after sudden debacles disrupt both their lives, Levi and Lindsey meet again, this time on the beaches of Malibu.

Will the clouds from Levi and Lindsey’s first stormy meeting clear out when the two reunite in sunny California?

Beck, a Mt. Lebanon native who now lives in Connecticut, always wanted to be a writer. When she was younger, she used to imagine herself writing for soap operas or writing screenplays for romantic movies like When Harry Met Sally.

After working as an attorney for 10 years, Beck decided to give writing a go. Since then, she’s published In the Cards and Worth the Wait, which was released March 17, and is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

The characters in her novels serve as catalyst for the plotlines. “I develop the characters first, then I develop the story,” Beck says.

Creating her characters is an intimate process, kind of like fishing for answers on a first date. Beck makes a list of 50 questions for her main characters. Some of the questions are simple, like, “What’s the character’s favorite color?” Other questions require more complex answers, such as, “What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to the character?”

“I ask them weird crazy questions so then when I’m thinking about [the characters], I know them just as well as I’d know a real person,” Beck says.

When an idea strikes her, she gets cozy in her living room. She likes to listen to The Coffee House music channel on Sirius Satellite Radio, with her feet propped up on an ottoman. She works like that, mapping out the love lives of her characters, until her kids come home from middle school at 2 p.m.

“I love a story where you have someone who’s always been in love with someone else and then they’re finally seen in a different light,” Beck says. “I’ll be happy if each book is better than the last in terms of craft.”