Author's Notes Soul Deep
Every once in a while, an author writes a story only to have that story hijacked by a secondary character. That's what happened when I wrote Skin Deep. The story was about wounded Marine Nate West and former convict Megan Hunter, but Nate's father, Jack, took up more than his share of space on the page. I knew before I'd finished the novella that he would have to get his own story.
Enter Janet Killeen. The FBI agent charged with protection Laura Nilsson in Striking Distance, Janet met Jack during one brief encounter up at Jack's Cimarron Ranch, and the sparks flew. I knew I had Jack's future heroine. The fact that Janet was badly wounded in that story only made things better in terms of storytelling.
Sauce for the goose, as they say.
Writing the story presented an interesting challenge. Jack is 63, not the young 30-something of most romantic suspense heroes, and Janet is 45 and had a disability. But love doesn't know boundaries, so I set out to make their love story real.
I'm sure some would have considered it crazy to write about an older couple at a time when Young Adult and New Adult are such strong sub-genres, but I can't be the only person over 40 who gets tired of reading about people in their 20s and 30s all the time. Life and love and sexual desire don't end at 39.
Besides, older men can be downright sexy.
Experience is extremely sexy. Self-confidence is sexy. Understanding and wisdom are sexy. And these are all qualities Jack West, once an Army Ranger, has in spades—together with the rock-hard abs, the masterful horse-riding skills, and more than his share of guts.
Writing Jack's character has always been pure joy. He's got a foul mouth and a very strong personality and more than a little wit. He definitely kept me entertained.
I also loved catching up on things at the Cimarron Ranch—Baby Doe, Buckwheat, Chinook, and the other horses; the herd of black Angus; the land itself. I wish I lived at the Cimarron! (And I wish I could experience Jack's cooking.)
While I enjoyed Janet's strengths as a woman in federal law enforcement, I found it harder to write her personal story because of the ways it felt similar to my own. Janet had lost the ability to walk without a cane and had other serious pelvic issues that might or might not impact her sexuality, while I had lost my breasts and hair to breast cancer, something that absolutely impacts a woman's sense of self and sexuality.
With the story hitting too close to home, I sank into a deep depression about two-thirds of the way through. After weeks of writing quickly and confidently, I spent most of a month fighting to get words on the page between bouts of tears. In the end, Janet overcame her problems with Jack's loving help, and I finished the story with the support of my son Benjamin, my sister, and my close friends.
Soul Deep turned out exactly the way I had hoped it would, and reader response has been gratifying. So many readers said they enjoyed reading about an older couple, with one reviewer referring to Jack as a GILF. That's "Grandpa I'd Love to Fuck." The response has emboldened me to breathe life into other older characters somewhere in the future.
One thing to note for future reference: I introduce the town of Scarlett Springs in this story. Watch for it in my new contemporary series coming soon!
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