The Development of Welcome to Keystone
I first began writing the Welcome to Keystone series in the summer of 2000 due to the fact that I had not succeeded in getting a summer job, and I was really bored. The idea for the series developed around the Lawrence family who were the stars of a short story that I had written for my eighth-grade language arts class. The short story involved a science fiction plot that would never occur in the present version of Keystone, and it was too short to provide any real character development to anyone except Kaitlin who was the star of the story. However, certain aspects of the Lawrence family such as the strong relationship between Kaitlin and Keri Ann, Johnny’s silly behavior, and Kaitlin’s quiet and shy disposition were developed here. Due to the fact that I liked this family and wished to develop them more, I decided to begin writing a book series based on them and their adventures.
Obviously, more characters were needed than just the Lawrence family themselves, so the second step in beginning the series was to develop these other characters. I began this task by giving each Lawrence child either a best friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, or both. The first characters in this group included Edward O’Brian, Nina Black, Aubrey Hendersen, Max Juniper, Delia Drake, Natasha Ingoria, Suzanne Darski, Sally Marrone, Caroline Sherbert, and Cassie Lee Hart. Eventually, the majority of these characters were given parents and siblings, which led to the development of the O’Brian, Hendersen, Drake, Ingoria, Darski, Marrone, Sherbert, and Hart families. Other characters such as Johnny’s friends, Buzz Sharlin and Maddy Yardley, were added as I began writing A New Year, A New Beginning.
After the Lawrence family and their friends had been developed, I decided to add a second main family to the series who would be the plot driver in the first book and many books to come. This family was of course the Riches family. Originally, the only two characters that I planned to have in this family were Sapphire and Cahuenga Riches who would serve as enemies to Keri Ann and Caterina. However, as I began writing A New Year, A New Beginning, their parents as well as Sapphire’s son, Gerard, were added to the family. Like the Lawrence family, the Riches family was also in need of friends, so Cahuenga’s four friends, Zoe Skyler, Bridget Hadly, Cerissa Canon, and Tamara Pardinsky, were created. Eventually, these four girls were given families of their own, some of which mixed with the families of the Lawrence family’s friends thereby resulting in the Sharlin/Hadly family and the Skyler/Juniper family.
While writing the first book, other characters such as Connie Hillard and Flora Brown were added in. Originally, these characters were only meant to be minor characters, but they too developed into more significant characters with their own families and storylines.
After I had developed a preliminary list of characters, the town of Keystone itself had to be created. The original Lawrence family short story was set in a coastal town, so I decided to stick with that dynamic and thereby created Citrus Lake. For the street names and housing development names, I decided to use names that my siblings and I developed in a game that we used to play. In this game, we would place toy people in cabinets and closets around the house and roll my brother’s toy bus around the house in order to pick them up and take them to school. Each room in the house was given a street name, and water sources like bathtubs were considered lakes and bays. The layout and street names of the Sunny Brook development where the Lawrence family resides were taken directly from the layout of the downstairs of the house I grew up in and the names we used for each room. Likewise, the layout and street names of the Water Brook development were taken from the layout of the upstairs of my house as well as the names used for the rooms there. When I began writing, I placed Water Brook in the mountains because we used to consider the upstairs the mountains when we played the bus game. The other developments such as BirdHouses and Flower Estates were later developed based on themes that came to mind. Finally, I developed a list of restaurants, businesses, and schools, and placed them in different parts of the town.
Roughly, this is how Welcome to Keystone was born. Over time, more characters and features were added to the town as needed, but for the most part, the series has continued to be based primarily on the original framework laid out here.