When my heart is breaking, please don't play me an upbeat tune. I want Hank Williams. No one can make me feel like they understand my pain like him. Before I started writing DEAR HANK WILLIAMS, I knew my main character, Tate, would experience some heartbreak, but I didn't know what exactly. That's kind of how writing in the early stages of a story goes for me. While driving down I-20, heading toward my grandfather's home, I only knew this--Tate's mother was going to be a Goree Girl (a singing group made up of women prisoners) and that she would live in a house across from a cemetery.
On that road trip I listened to songs from the Louisiana Hayride. The music stirred with my thoughts about what could possibly happen to Tate P. Ellerbee. Somehow I thought the Louisiana Hayride might play a part. When Williams' Lovesick Blues came on, an idea for my story was starting to form. Tate was going to choose Hank Williams for her pen-pal. The letters would unfold her story.
What I didn't realize then, but learned later, through research, was that Hank Williams became famous during his time in Louisiana. Paralleling Tate's story with Williams' climb to national recognition, gave me a timeframe for my book. Not to mention, that his songs fit with Tate's own life soundtrack. At one point she writes in a letter to him, "I guess that's how we're different. I can't sing because my heart is breaking and you sing because yours is."