Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Impossible Dream? And doing it twice?

Last Thursday, I was standing on a cliff top, watching a perfect rainbow that began in England and ended in Wales. I didn't make a wish. That was done in May, when I sent off a new manuscript to Dorchester Publishing. My entry for American Title V. On Friday, the names went up on the Romantic Times’ blog. I'm a finalist. For the second time. It seems even more unbelievable this time than it was last time. To do it once was amazing. To do it twice...

Regulars on Title Magic already know a little about the book. Never Coming Home is a romantic thriller, much darker than anything I've ever written before, straying into Lisa Gardner and Jilliane Hoffman territory. I had a lot of fun, and a few tears, while I was writing it, and a couple of nights when I was definitely tempted to sleep with the light on.

The book is set in London and Florence, two of my favourite cities. Research involved long discussions with friends over the practicalities of murdering someone in broad daylight in St James's Park, and exactly what would be the best place from which to drop a body onto the main rail line between London and Swansea. After all that talk I knew, more or less, the locations I wanted to use -- I sorted out exactly where on a damp morning in May, the day following the Romantic Novelists’ Association summer party. And got a few strange looks, prowling around derelict buildings.

The Italian scenes are warmer and lighter. Mostly. Sadly I had to rely on notes, memory, guidebooks and the Internet for research on those, but there's nothing like imagining a walk at dusk across the Ponte Vecchio to get a girl in the mood for ... Well, I'll leave that bit to your imagination.

I have a horrible habit of beginning books with an older woman who isn’t the heroine and getting into trouble for doing it. I almost did it again in Never Coming Home, but caught myself just in time and put Kaz right up front, in the prologue, when a quiet evening turns into the most traumatic moment of her life. Even so, my hero, Devlin, meets her mother, Suzanne, before he meets her. He also learns a lot about Kaz, by seeing her home, inside and out, before she makes her entrance. I enjoyed the gradual unpeeling, through his eyes, before Kaz walks in to find Mr Sex-on-Legs standing on her hearthrug.

I did have a reason for Kaz’s mother appearing first. Suzanne's lifestyle choice, in the past, have had a lot of bearing on shaping her daughter's character. Suzanne was a wild child/hippy of the 60s and 70s. I had in mind all those impossibly beautiful and bohemian actresses and models who were the glamorous girlfriends and sometimes wives to rock stars and musicians in those decades. They had songs written about them, they had careers, they had their pictures in the papers in a more innocent era. They grabbed experience with both hands.
In Suzanne's case, the man in her life was a famous painter, and although she was Olivier’s muse for over 15 years, they never married. Kaz, my heroine, is now carrying the baggage of illegitimacy and a rootless, nomadic childhood as the overlooked daughter of a charismatic, charming, but self obsessed man. It's given her a longing for stability and order that sends her into the arms of the first man who proposes to her, another feckless charmer in the same mould as her father. When the book opens, after the tragic death of her young daughter in a car accident, Kaz is divorced and alone. She isn’t looking for romance, but maybe she could shed her inhibitions for some memorable, no-strings sex?

When I think of Kaz, I have a very clear picture of her in my mind. She has long black hair, a tumble of gypsy curls, and vivid dark eyes, and there is a sense of brilliant, barely suppressed energy about her. And she has a trowel in her hand. Probably ready to dig out Devlin's heart, if he double-crosses her. It's a pity I didn't think of that one in time to include it in the book. Kaz is an award-winning garden designer, and you don't want to mess with her, because she has plenty of places she can bury the bodies.

But of course Devlin does mess with her, and it gets them both in no end of trouble, in bed and out.

I had so much fun creating my hero Devlin. I wanted a man with a past so murky that no one would ever know all the details. There are some things even he isn't sure about. His career chose him -- his words -- when he was too young and stupid to know any better. Once he was trained, by a secret government agency that didn't even have a name, he stayed because he was good at what he did. All that is behind him now. He’s “retired”, with a whole new life.

Physically, Devlin -- no first name, no Mr -- is a bit of a departure for me because he‘s a blond. I don't normally do blond heroes. I’m strictly a TDH girl. Devlin started out somewhere between Daniel Craig and Steve McQueen, though now he doesn't look like either of them. He's trying to forget his shady past, but something inside him seems to be shifting uncomfortably. And it's irritating the hell out of him.

When Kaz comes on the scene, everything gets a whole lot worse. She seems to be able to push all the wrong buttons in his psyche. He's horribly afraid she’s tapping into something that shouldn't exist -- his better nature. His mouth is promising her help, before his brain gets in gear to stop it. And she is hot. She's hired him, so she's a client. He can't end up in her bed. Oh yeah?

All this gave me a recipe for one very edgy hero. And this before a bit of Devlin's past comes unburied. Unwittingly, Kaz is the key that makes this happen. And then the blood begins to flow, and all Devlin’s old skills are needed to keep them both alive.

So that’s a taster. You’ll find out more when extracts from Never Coming Home are revealed on the RT website and printed in Romantic Times, as voting begins on ATV. And of course, if you want to keep reading the extracts, then you’ll have to keep voting to keep me in the contest.

It is all entirely down to you.


Lexie O'Neill said...

Congratulations again!! Best of luck--in the contest, and in the pursuit of publishing! You must have a special touch to final

Savanna Kougar said...

Evonne, I adore that teaser at the end!
Keep voting, if you want to find out more.
I have to vote for you just because your heroine is named Kaz, and as I think I said before my heroine in Risk-Fierce Ravishing Pilot is Kazmaryk, Kaz for short. Although, our heroines are very different. Still the Kaz's of the worlds, must stick together.
You would not believe how many times I've seen KAZ on license plates when I'm just driving around getting stuff done. So maybe it's a good omen for both of us.
Fantastic premise, and I luv the sound of this story.
I am so excited for you, Evonne. This may be more fun for me on the sidelines.

Mel Hiers said...

Evonne, I am positively entranced! I am a sucker for a hero with a murky past. Congratulations on making it again! You better believe we'll be cheering for you!

Evonne Wareham said...

Thanks ladies. I know I am up against stiff competition, just like last time. I hope it will be every bit as exciting.

My Kaz is short for Katerina, not quite as exotic as Kazmaryk. And of course, Devlin's name isn't really Devlin.

Savanna Kougar said...

Evonne, with that murky past how can his real name be Devlin...insert mystery music here..
Well, Katerina is good for here on dear Earth.
My Kazmaryk's home world is somewhat similar to Earth, but with some major differences in culture, and she is a new breed on the planet, a space pilot.

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Evonne, this sounds fascinating. I really want to read it now! I'm looking forward to reading your entries in the AT contest.

Mai Christy Thao said...

Wow, Evonne. That was definitely a teaser! Wonderful summary of your book. I'm soooo hooked! Alright girl, you have to win ATV -- or at the very least, get an offer for Coming Home so I can read it!

I love your post. I had an image of you guys plotting a murder scene, and then being asked by someone, and you're like, "Oh, it's for a book." That was great!