She’s one of the most forceful and unforgettable characters you will ever meet—she’s the main character in my best-selling Tucker series, Tucker. But how did Tucker come into existence, and where did the storyline for Tucker’s Way come from?
A number of years ago I completed an online writing course with Long Ridge Writers Group (now known as Institute For Writers https://www.instituteforwriters.com). My instructor throughout the course was Sylvie Kurtz, herself a well-established and published author. One of my assignments was to create a character that would be so striking that readers would have difficulty forgetting them. So, I described this large, older woman with short-cropped hair, scratched-up eyeglasses, dressed in overalls the cuffs of which did not quite meet the tops of her worn, leather work boots. She had a broad back, thick arms and large, calloused hands.
The problem for me with this character was that I couldn’t quit thinking about her and wondering what kind of life experiences would produce such a person. That turned out to be the seed, or perhaps earworm, that prompted me to delve into Tucker and write her story.
But simply telling a story of why she was the way she was wasn’t enough. There had to be some sort of conflict, which triggered the idea, “What would Tucker do if she met someone who was her polar opposite and was forced to interact with that person?” And so was born the character, Ella McDade.
Ella was easy for me to draw because I had the portrait of Tucker “setting on an easel,” and all I had to do was find the opposite of all of Tucker’s traits. Grasping Tucker’s story in one hand and Ella’s in the other, I felt like I was ready to tell a story. I just needed a setting.
The late 1960’s and early 1970’s and a rural setting were perfect because I was so familiar with both. My fear had been that if I chose something I was unfamiliar with and began doing research on another time and place, that I would become consumed with the research and not return to the surface for a year or more. You could say I chose the late 60’s and 70’s because I was lazy, and perhaps you’d be correct, but I was getting more and more eager to start writing Tucker’s story.
One question I cannot answer is, why did I choose the name Tucker? I simply wanted a name that worked as both as a first name and a last name. The name is sort of an enigma just like Tucker herself.
“Is Tucker a real person?” is one question I’m often asked that makes me very happy because it means that the character I created seems real to people. Everything about her is real in the sense that how she acts, thinks, and feels are examples of things that I have seen and heard, but the truth is, she is completely fictitious.
Most people are not aware that the first version of Tucker’s Way began as a chapter a week on my blog, similar to the old radio serials. I did it as lark and was shocked when people told me how much they loved it and asked me, “What happened next?” THAT was a question I was unprepared for and had to spend time thinking about. The result, though, was “An Unexpected Frost.”
I will relate the story behind the story of that book, but up next will be the story behind the story of Tucker’s daughter, Maisy.