I was having a bad case of writers’ block during one of early attempts at writing my second novel when I decided I needed a break. I was particularly having a hard time thinking of where my character was going to spend their fictional vacation at: the made up Valley City Lake or some other unknown destination. The one thing I knew was that I wanted it based on a historically significant site in the Rio Grande Valley but my mind was coming up blank.
While doing research on the early history of the RGV I found something that piqued my interest. According to Rod Graham in History: Rio Grande Valley: RGV: Spotlight, “In the 1960’s the Valley saw the introduction of maquiladoras, a manufacturing operation in a free trade zone (FTZ), where factories import material and equipment on a duty-free and tariff-free basis for assembly, processing, or manufacturing and then export” those materials to other parts of the world. Graham pointed out that this became attractive to US companies because of the cheap labor and access to raw materials. This had me thinking about my character’s origins. Since the city of McAllen is on the border with its counterpart Reynosa, I wanted to center my new novel on part of my fictional city of Valley City that is on the border. I also wanted my main character to be a factory worker going back and forth everyday working at one of these maquiladoras.
Doing so provides an interesting insight into the culture of workers that live on the border and travel between countries for work and a better life. Because my novel will primarily be a romance novel, I wanted the my main character to be involved with someone from the local government or city council in a same sex relationship. I got this idea from reading an article about President Biden’s White House Social Secretary, Carlos Elizondo who is a valley native. According to the Equality Forum in LGBTQ History Month: Carlos Elizondo, “Elizondo was born in Harlingen, Texas and graduated in 1985 from Pontifical College, a private Roman Catholic college in Ohio. In 2020, he was the first LGBTQ person appointed to President Biden’s staff”. Since my fictional city of Valley City is supposed to encompass the whole of the RGV, it made sense that a large bureaucratic city administration would exist. It is from this that I have decided my main character’s love interest to be inside the local political machine of Valley City. I think the mixture of political intrigue and hidden relationships will boost my novel’s romance angel even further.
I have realized that sometimes the strangest places I am able to find inspiration and the paths it takes me are often to ones I had not considered before. Given that I know little about the local political structure here in the valley, I will need to do some research. The thought of diving deep into research about my home is something I am excited about and can’t wait to get to. I like to think of writing novels as living and breathing organism that I create and mold as my ideas change. Next time you are thinking about where to draw inspiration from, don’t be afraid to look into your past, sometimes ideas in the dark are the best ones to bring to the light.
Forum, Equality. “LGBTQ History Month: Carlos Elizondo.” QnotesCarolinas.com, 27 Oct. 2021, https://qnotescarolinas.com/lgbtq-history-month-carlos-elizondo/.
Graham, Rod. “History: Rio Grande Valley: RGV: Spotlight.” RGV, June 2014, https://rgvaff.com/series_history.html.