I was flipping through a few romance novels the other day, scanning random pages in a hunt for something to read, when a passage caught my eye. It was a scrap of dialogue, followed by “said her spunky, gorgeous African-American best friend.””

Urgh. I slid the book back onto the shelf and moved on. It seems like every romance novel heroine has a “spunky, gorgeous African-American best friend,” or some other feisty, tell-it-like-it-is character who backs up the heroine.

In fact, it often seems as though the “best friend” character has more of a personality than the heroine. It’s the spunky sidekick who boots the heroine in the butt and gets her moving. It’s the feisty best friend that speaks her mind and starts all the trouble.

So maybe the book should be about the best friend.

That’s where Charlie came from. When I started my second contemporary Western, I had another character in mind–but Charlie popped up to help her pack her suitcase and was so much more interesting that I left my original heroine in New Jersey and sent Charlie to Wyoming instead.