Author's Notes about Seduction Game
I started writing this story in January of 2014, a year filled with tragedies for my family. On January 11, Rachel Bavaro Patarino, my former mother-in-law, died following a car accident. Her tragic death derailed writing for much of the rest of the month, as we all came to terms with our grief.
Then, on February 10, I left for two months in Europe to celebrate my 50th birthday, and life seemed to be looking up. I did book signings in Paris and Madrid and spent time with family and friends in Paris and Denmark, lighting candles for Rachel in the cathedrals I visited and planning to get back to Holly's story in April when I returned home.
But life had something else in store.
On April 21, I was diagnosed with stage 1C breast cancer after a routine mammogram. Soon after that, doctors found a parathyroid adenoma, a benign kind of tumor. I endured three surgeries, twelve weeks of chemotherapy, and twenty-five sessions of daily radiation to beat the disease. Needless to say, Holly's story was placed on hold. I forgot the plot. I forgot what I'd written. My life was reduced to bone pain, nausea, and blood tests, my emotions devastated by the loss of my breasts and by the uncertainty that cancer brings. Zoned out on narcotic painkillers, medical marijuana, and anti-nausea drugs, I felt certain I would never be able to write again.
In January 2015, I had my first post-chemo oncology check-up. I arrived with the latest data on survival rates, none of which specifically fit my situation, which falls in between the cracks of a straight stage 1 diagnosis and stage 2. Did I have a 10 percent chance of recurrence over five years or an eight percent chance of recurrence over 10 years? That's what I desperately wanted to know, though why it mattered so much, I can't say. Hadn't I already learned that we control nothing and that anything can happen at any time?
My medical oncologist, a wonderful man named Dr. Hyde, who appreciates literature and somehow "gets" me when other doctors do not, had only this to say: "Stop reading about recurrence rates and start writing again."
Something about his words set me free. It was as if something inside me shifted. After a year of absolute hell, cancer became a part of my past, not my present.
I went home, opened the manuscript file again, and reread what I'd written almost a year before. They say serious illness changes a person, and it must be true because I couldn't identify with the words on the page. It was as if the story had been written by a stranger.
So, I started from the beginning, rewriting the story. To my surprise, the words poured out. I've never experienced anything like it. Not only could I write, but I was enjoying every minute of it. I finished the book in three months and three weeks—a speed record for me. Whether the story had been gestating in my subconscious that entire time or whether I simply had a rush of creative energy after feeling so terrible and suffering so much pain for so long, I can't say. Regardless, I had a wonderful time writing the story from beginning to end.
My agent read it and loved it. My editor read it and sent it straight to production with no revisions, affirming for me that I'd done something special with Holly and Nick's story. And all of a sudden, I was back in the author game again. It felt wonderful to be talking about publication dates, promotion, and book covers instead of white blood cell counts, pain levels, and CA 27-29 (tumor factor) test results.
Plus, I had hair again.
The Seduction Game was a joy to write, and I hope you'll have fun reading it. Holly has always been a bright spot in the I-Team series. No matter how dire the circumstances, she has a quirky sense of humor and a way of viewing the world that makes her special. Kat James (Naked Edge) thinks of Holly as someone who lives on the lighter side of life. In The Seduction Game, readers will get to see why Holly is the way she is. I don't want to post spoilers, so suffice it to say that those of you who suspected there is hidden depth in Holly's personality are right. By the time I had finished writing her story, she had become my favorite I-Team heroine.
I knew long ago how I wanted this story to start. Who else besides Holly would wake up in bed next to a dead millionaire? The idea made me laugh out loud, though I suppose it isn't truly funny. But with Holly, pretty much everything is funny.
Enter Nick Andris, a CIA paramilitary operator who was recruited out of Delta Force for his language and combat skills. Assigned to keep Holly under surveillance after she begins dating a wealthy Ukrainian art dealer (the soon-to-be-dead millionaire), Nick finds himself forced to rely on a completely different set of skills—seduction, kissing, sex.
Of course, sex is Holly's métier, so you can imagine how this turns out.
The Seduction Game is much lighter than Striking Distance. After the heavy content of Striking Distance and The Year from Hell, I guess I needed to write something lighter. But that doesn't mean it's not serious or that there are no deeper emotional themes to the story. By the end of the manuscript, I was reaching for the tissues, and I bet you will be, too.
I dedicated The Seduction Game to Rachel, my former mother-in-law. That might explain the strong presence of Nick's mother, Mama Andris, at the end of the story. Perhaps Rachel, who has often been on my mind, made her way into my imagination. (She would love that.)
Like Holly, I went shopping for my bridal gown with my then-future mother-in-law with mixed results. It wasn't an easy experience for either me or for Rachel. Yet, my friendship with Rachel grew stronger through the years, surviving and thriving despite the fact that I divorced her son. Rachel was a first-generation American born to Italian parents, while Mama Andris is an immigrant to the US from the Republic of Georgia. The two women have more than a few things in common—strong opinions, devotion to their faith, and a love of family.
For research, I ended up speaking with two experts-one an expert on encryption/decryption and forensic computer work and the other a former CIA officer. I was astonished to learn that the CIA makes use of social media—especially Facebook and Twitter. No, I didn't make that up. Those strange, meaningless tweets you see once in a while? They might not be so meaningless after all.
The Seduction Game is my 11th I-Team story and seventh full-length I-Team novel. It seems incredible to think that we are just days away from the 10th anniversary of the series. These books have taken my writing in directions I hadn't imagined back when I was penning only historicals.
The Seduction Game is my way of showing the world that I'm back. And although I have no idea what lies ahead of me—none of us do—it's my goal to live my life to the fullest and to keep writing stories for you to read. Enjoy!
July 25, 2015
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