Folks always ask me what inspired the idea for the hood ornament reference in The Sweetheart of Prosper County. Well, on the first Thursday of every month, my son and I check out Hot Rod Night at our local Whataburger parking lot. Really. It’s a blast. Milk shakes and muscle cars, two of my favorite things. Although I’m a fan of Carroll Shelby’s pony cars and any 1960’s/1970’s ride with a Hemi, I’m always intrigued by the hood ornaments on classic cars.
Technically, hood ornaments are symbols, cast in bronze and finished off with a slick polishing of chrome. They represent the car manufacturer’s ideal of what that vehicle is all about, like the leaping jaguar on a Jaguar or the rocket on an old Oldsmobile. In Texas, ranchers have been known to stylize their trucks with longhorn cattle horns mounted on the hood. My favorite hood ornament is the flying winged goddess found on some 1940’s model Cadillacs. It’s a beauty. I am drawn to the wide-open freedom and power that that hood ornament represents—flying face first, chest strong into the wind.
In the opening parade scene of Sweetheart, Austin inventories each girl riding proudly on the hood of a car as an iconic representation of her sponsoring organization. I didn’t plan on Austin seeing those girls as hood ornaments; it came organically in the moment of the writing. But it was perfect and fitting since Austin’s journey is all about her defining who she is as a young woman, being her own icon.
I love the evolution of the hot rods at the Whataburger to the detail of a hood ornament to the sweethearts on parade to Austin’s coming of age. For me, life experience is the mother of inspiration.
The Sweetheart of Prosper County is now available at your local book store, or online: