This week, I'm stepping away from Conversations with Characters to explain why Joey's such an important character to me. When I decided to write the Woods Lake series, I decided that a couple of friends who are no longer with me deserved the happily ever after (HEA) that they didn't get in life.
I based my character Joey on a friend from college. Joe and I met when I was 19 and he was 23 and we had a few Criminal Justice, Government, and History courses together. He dreamed of law school and Judge Advocate General's Corps. He was already in the military when I met him. He was in the reserves and went full-time military as soon as he finished college.
We kept in touch throughout his deployments and saw each other whenever he was home on leave. The summer before I graduated from college, Joe deployed and he didn't make it home. Joe is the reason I don't read military theme stories. I never thought I'd have a soldier character and Joey will likely be my only soldier character, ever. To this day, the core group of us who knew him and loved him, remember him through his favorite taco order, his amazing coffee that cured hangovers, and his delicious cinnamon apple pancakes. We also remember drunk soldier karaoke the night we threw his first welcome home party where he did his very best Madonna imitation and sang "Like a Virgin" because I dared him to. We also remember the night he decided he could jump off a roof into a pool, but misjudged and ended up breaking his arm.
I have hidden great Joe memories in all of the Woods Lake books like a treasure hunt for friends to find. The trip to the taco stand in It's Always Been You is one of my favorite memories with Joe. He ordered his standard six taco order and ordered my favorite tacos for me and we caught up on life before he left town. Gabby's ice cream trip and day at the arcade that we first see in You Mean Something is a favorite memory with Joe and his youngest sister.
For those who are wondering why I changed his name from Joe to Joey, that's the very best memory of all. I'm the only person who ever called him Joey or at least the only person he responded to when called Joey.
As for Ally, she's fictional. Joey did leave a girl standing at the airport wishing he didn't have to go. It took her six years after he died to realize that he was right, she deserved better than she had accepted in the past, and once she realized that, she found her happily ever after.
You can read all of Joey and Ally's story in I Never Stopped Loving You, which is available for pre-order now and will be released on January 15, 2021. I'll be sharing more of the hidden memories in later blogs and in my Facebook author group, Jabbering with JLynn