Dolly Parton has a superb voice, clear as well water and bright as sunshine. She is also a phenomenal guitarist. When I was little I remember watching her on television with Porter Wagner, he in his sparkling suit and she in her bouffant wig. She is the perfect Gibson Girl, but it’s her music which endures, and for me, one song has special meaning.

Her song “Jolene” was the inspiration I used to write “Vengeance is Mine,” published in the anthology Beauty Has Her Way edited by Jennifer Brozek.

I wanted a villain who could meet Magra Snowberry on equal terms. I wanted to show in an understated but emotionally powerful way how much Magra loved Marwood and to what lengths she would go to keep him safe. I not only wanted to show her supernatural power, but her raw emotional power and why it was the stronger of the two. The problem was how to do it?

I remember sitting across the coffee table with writer Melissa Lenhardt. We were talking about this song and how I wanted to use it as an inspirational device. I bounced some ideas off her, which is what a good writing buddy is always for. But I didn’t want to use the name Jolene since it was already so iconic, I told her.

“Why not call her Carlene?” Melissa asked.

And thus Carlene Stride nee Minker was born: Magra’s arch nemesis.

I was pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction this story got from readers. Many of them have told me it’s their favorite Haxan story by far and I think I can see why. I am rarely surprised by a story I write. I always feel I am in control. In this story Magra definitely surprised me. She revealed layers I didn’t know were there. I think Magra came into her own in this story in a very big way. Haxan is about many things. I reject all simplistic definitions that try to pigeonhole Haxan. On the other hand, Magra, and what she stands for, is prominent.

Magra, not Marwood, is the foundation of the series. I found that out when I wrote “Vengeance is Mine”.

I still get emotional when I hear this song because of the close creative ties it has to “Vengeance is Mine” so that’s I wanted to share it with you today. I hope you like both the music and the story. 🙂

6 Replies to “Jolene”

  1. DUDE! I love that song. Now I want to read that story. *adds to Kindle queue*

    I definitely understand where you’re coming from about music inspiring you. i can’t tell you how many story ideas and plots are the results of music I’ve listened to.

    That’s why I’m always amused when people don’t understand why I listen to music while I write. They think it’s distracting when in fact it’s inspiration.

  2. What a terriffic muse you have here for your anti-heroine. So glad it stimulated a fuller development of Magra’s character! I find myself humming tunes I did not even know I ever knew, much less remembered, while writing my posts lately. Guess I must be in good company, judging by this post. Thanks!

  3. Love this post. Dolly is amazing, just captures all the facets of life in that flouncy, bouncy little package of dynamite, doesn’t she?

    No doubt this character was fun to write! 🙂

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