Inspiration at the Drive-In: The Genesis of Coming Attractions

Thanks to everyone for your prayers and good wishes concerning my nephew. He came through surgery just fine -- it went faster than they expected -- and is in recovery at Riley's Children's Hospital in Indianapolis.

            When I tell people about my new novel, Coming Attractions, one of the first things they ask is how I came up with the idea of a romantic comedy about a drive-in movie theater.

            The answer is not how, but where: At the drive-in, of course.

            Just as I came up with Storm Chaser by looking to the skies, I came up with Coming Attractions by looking to the screen – the silver screen. But this book isn’t really new: I came up with the concept several years ago, when I started taking my kids to the Auburn-Garrett drive-in. Sadly, that’s the only one left anywhere near my home, although when I was a kid the Hi-Vue was closer.

There was another near the limits of a reasonable drive from my home, but toward the end it started showing X-rated flicks, back at a time when you couldn’t get them at the video store … back before the internet made that all passé.

            At the time (this would be over three decades ago) the Hi-Vue is where you would go for family friendly fare: Their screen faced the highway, so they couldn’t show R rated stuff. The Auburn-Garrett sometimes showed racier movies, but the Hi-Vue was closer and I was a kid, so you can guess where I ended up.

            But by the time I had kids of my own, the Auburn-Garrett was the only game around. I was a single father, the drive-in was cheap, and we all loved movies, so I introduced my girls to one of my best childhood memories.

If you wanted a good spot, you got there early. (The good spot is in the middle, near the restrooms.) So I pulled out a notebook. While we waited for the sun to set, my daughters and I brainstormed the idea for a new novel – an idea that was as close as the big screen before us.

Of course, the story isn’t really about a drive-in, any more than a story is about a tornado, or an airplane, or a war. Stories are about people. Over time Charis and Jillian, with the help of a laptop, notebook, and various reference books we bought along, helped invent the characters, the plot, and … well, the atmosphere kind of took care of itself.

Next: the plot. Meanwhile, don’t forget to drop in on Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest, read the first chapter of Coming Attractions, and hopefully vote for me at:


  1. Good about your nephew, Mark.

    I've never been to a drivethrough, actually. And these days it seems there are less and less of them. It's one of those things that seems to be fading into the mists of time.

    1. There's been a slight increase in their numbers in recent years, but not nearly enough to make up for how many were lost. In the end, it'll be another of those things you'll see on those "remember these?" e-mail forwards.