TESS IN BOOTS
by Courtney Rice Gager
Tess Dougherty plans every aspect of her life right down to the last detail. But she doesn’t plan on running her boyfriend off by bringing up the topic of marriage before he’s ready. And she doesn’t plan to lose her job on the day she’s set to receive a huge promotion. So when her perfect world unravels, Tess makes a new plan: disappear.
Tess packs her bags and leaves her city apartment for a remote vineyard in North Carolina. At first, she’s put off by the slow pace of small-town life in the South. She’s especially irritated by Thatcher, the vineyard’s smart-mouth, dimple-faced farmhand. But she soon begins to appreciate the area’s charm, and Thatcher’s charm, too. She even swaps her trademark heels for a pair of cowboy boots. As Tess spends more time getting to know Thatcher, she finds herself loosening her grip on her old life little by little. Unfortunately, things on the vineyard aren’t as simple as they seem. There’s a secret here, and when the truth comes to light, Tess is forced to reconsider every plan she’s ever made.
I heard the sound of tires on the wet road, and looked up in time to see another truck slowing down to avoid crashing into the cow. The truck pulled around the cow and stopped alongside where I stood on the side of the road. The driver rolled the window down, and when I saw his face, I wanted to cry.
It was not my day.
“You all right?”
I crossed my arms. “I’m fine!”
“Guess your GPS didn’t tell you to go around the cow, did it, Heels?”
I turned away from him and pulled my phone out of my pocket.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“I’m calling for roadside assistance.”
“Good luck. Cell phones don’t work on this stretch of road.”
I turned around and glared at him. “What?”
“I said cell phones don’t work on this stretch of road.”
“I heard you. That’s insane.”
“Go ahead and try. Maybe you have some fancy magical cell phone.”
I rolled my eyes and turned away again, attempting to place a call. He was right. Nothing.
“Get in the truck, Heels.”
I didn’t budge.
“Come on, now. Get in.”
I turned around to see him hop out of the truck, walk around to the passenger side, and open the door.
There was no way I was getting in his truck.
“You gonna make me stay out in the rain all night?” he asked.
I put my hands on my hips.
“You know,” he said, “it ain’t right for a cow to stand in the road like that. You ever heard of Mad Cow Disease?”
I looked at the cow, then back at Thatcher, then back at the cow. Was he kidding? I couldn’t tell. What choice did I have anyway? I was soaking wet, freezing, and miles from the vineyard.
I balled my hands into fists and took several strides toward the truck. “Fine. But I’m only coming with you because you look like an idiot standing out here in the pouring rain.” I got in the truck, and he shut the door behind me.
“Well, so do you, Heels.”
~Buy TESS IN BOOTS:
Fact or Fiction: How Much Real Life Makes it Into a Book?
Thanks for having me over for a guest post, Mary! Today, as I celebrate the release of my new book, Tess in Boots, I want to tell you about my brother. (Bear with me, I promise it's relevant.)
I am convinced I have the best big brother in the world. He's ten years older than me, which makes for a different dynamic than you'll find in most families. But we are each other's only siblings, and despite our age gap, we have always been very close. I attribute this to the effort he put into our relationship growing up. When we were both living at home, he would make up countless elaborate games for us to play together. He left for college when I was only nine, but he wrote me letters and mailed them to me regularly. At one point, he gave me his Mustang GT. Yeah, you read that right. He gave me his car. With no strings attached. I showed my gratitude by promptly totaling it in a fender bender. (Note: Mustangs don't fare so well in fender benders with large trucks.) He didn't even flinch. "I'm just glad you're okay," he said.
These are just a few examples of why he's the greatest brother ever. I tell you this because when those close to me heard that the main character in my new book has a twin brother, they reacted with a chorus of, "How sweet! You wrote a book about your brother!" (I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.)
Hold the phones, I thought. My main character's brother, Jake, is nothing like my brother. Jake is lackadaisical and impulsive. My brother has his life broken down into a series of five-year plans so detailed they'd make your head spin. If anything I'm the Jake in our family. I mean, I love my brother - he's the absolute best. But I didn't write him into my book.
This isn't the first time people have assumed my fictional work is based on real life. In fact, it happens quite often. I can't speak for all writers, but my stories are pretty much just that: stories. Ever since I was a child, I've loved making up stories. I suppose many kids grow out of that phase, but I never did.
Of course, it's virtually impossible for me not to incorporate at least some of my own experiences and memories into a fictional story. For me, these real-life inspirations don't manifest themselves in the form of carbon-copy characters, but rather items or anecdotes peppered into the story. For instance, I never got to see my wedding cake because it melted in the hot sun before we arrived at our reception. So I wrote my (un-melted) wedding cake into a scene of Tess in Boots, and now the cake lives on, in a way. It really was beautiful. Or so I hear. Another real-life anecdote in the book occurs when my main character, Tess, comes dangerously close to slamming into a cow while driving on a country road. In the right area, cows stand in the middle of the road a lot more frequently than you'd think!
So there we have it, a sneak peek at some of the real-life inspirations behind Tess in Boots. The book is out now, and if you give it a try, I hope you'll enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Courtney Rice Gager graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in communication and a minor in creative writing. Courtney is also the author of The Buggy List. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and daughter.
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