The inspiration for my hero’s name in COME HELL OR HIGH DESIRE is based on something that knows no gender lines, race, religion, or socio-economic affiliation. That something is a first crush – that sweet brush with love that fills us with yummy feelings and usually leaves us with lasting memories.
I remember mine.
I remember his tanned face, white teeth, sun-kissed brown hair, and soft southern drawl even better than I recall my early childhood home. Maybe it’s because we practically lived outside. When he didn’t have farm chores to complete, we chased fireflies, ran from the June bugs, trapped wolf spiders, ran the maze my father mowed in the vacant lot next door, and caught crawdads in the deep ditches that would sog up with water after a Kansas thunderstorm with other dirt-smudged, happy-go-lucky friends in my neighborhood.
His name was Zack (yes, spelled with a ‘k’). He was my first love. And he was perfect.
We were in the third grade.
I moved away the summer before fourth grade, and before I left, he rode his horse into our tiny, gravel-road town to take me on one last ride. I cried my heart out and swore I’d never forget him.
And I haven’t. However, thirty *cough* something years later, I have no interest in seeing him again because I don’t want to ruin my fantasized version of him. I’m a realist in most areas of my life, but I want to preserve this one idealized memory. Illogical, yes. But sublime, too. Everyone needs a few perfect memories!
From the very first moment ideas began percolating for COME HELL OR HIGH DESIRE, I knew I was going to name my main character Zack. Zack with a “k” because that’s how my first love spelled it.
The Zack in my story doesn’t live on a farm or ride around town on a thoroughbred, but he does live surrounded by nature and his dogs. And he has the same “don’t speak unless you have something to say” personal code that my childhood Zack seemed to have now that I look back on those early years.
Like the heroine in my story, I totally fell for Zack’s quiet confidence, his intense eyes, his smile that makes you feel like you’re the only one in the zip code. My heroine realizes that her Zack doesn’t love easily, but when he commits, it’s all-consuming and a fascinating blend of contradictions. It’s protective and freeing at the same time because when someone loves you for who you are, they hold your left hand while your right hand paints on your blank canvas.
These two Zacks have special meaning for me, and I love them both for what they’ve given me even though I have (had) to let them both go.
First loves are a rite of passage for all of us. A transformational stage that peels away a layer of innocence, but can also supplant a layer of empathy and awareness if we make it though the event without too many scars.
What first love stories can you share? Was yours transformational?