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Behind the Book: The Writing of The Last Enemy

Interviewing myself about The Last Enemy

 

marquee for Last Enemy

Today I’m bringing back another of my Behind the Book interviews, this time for the first book in my Lonesome Lawmen series: The Last Enemy

I interviewed myself way back in the last century, but it provides (I hope) some real insight into what went on behind the bright lights. 🙂

Me: Pauline, it’s finally time to talk about your award-winning novel, The Last Enemy, the beginning of your Lonesome Lawmen series. This is a special book for you in a lot of ways, isn’t it?

Myself. Yes, it is. Like The Spy Who Kissed Me, it was a book I had to write, but unlike Spy, it was a very different process in the writing.

Me: How so?

Myself: Well, for one thing, it was darker in tone right from the beginning than either Spy or Do Wah Diddy Die. And it started with this tiny seed of an idea and grew into something that still surprises me. Talk about the weird ways of the subconscious!

Me: Oh, do tell us about the seed, please!

Myself: (laughs) Well, you know I like talking about my books, so here goes. I’d just ventured out into the internet after attending my first contest. It was much wilder, woollier and hard to figure out back then, but what quickly struck me was how intimate it also was. I joined the Writer’s Board at GEnie, where a lot of authors got their internet feet wet and quickly made a lot of friends there and just thought it was very interesting. I’d also just seen The Fugitive and became fascinated by the idea of writing a book about my own Deputy US Marshal.

I did some research and realized that the Internet might add a confusing twist to a US Marshal hunting a missing witness…

Me: Which it did. <g>

Myself: Oh yeah. Poor Matt. I’d also been “inducted” into the world of romance writers and found them gutsy, bright and underestimated. Being the kind of person I am, I thought what fun it would be to pit a romance writer against a US Marshal.

Me: You had way too much fun with that.

Myself: I know. It was a hoot taking all the misconceptions about romance writers and using them against my poor hero.

Me: So where did the totally creepy, ex-spy Spook, come from?

Myself: (shudder) My family would like to know the answer to that, too. <g> Like the story, he grew out of the events I set in motion. I liked the idea of the hero finding himself attracted, totally against his will, of course–

Me: Of course. <g>

Myself: —to a woman he believes is already dead. I found I couldn’t sustain it for long, just because my guy was so darn smart, but that meant I needed a killer with a twist, someone who could, at least for a short time, muddy the crime scene.

Me: You muddied it all right! That was one creepy crime scene! So how did you get the idea for Spook and Dani to know each other online?

Myself: It was one of those flashes of inspiration when I was looking for a way to up the stakes and make it all more personal. By bringing my villain in closer to Dani, it upped the stakes for both of them—and provided a nice twist. I particularly liked the way Dani’s strength–her ability to reach out and connect with people—became a weakness when Spook got factored into the story. It also changed the ending from the traditional, taking it in a new direction.

Me: Yeah… straight up! What made you decide to give Dani a fear of heights?

Myself: I’m a bit afraid of heights myself and one night I had this very vivid dream about a wacko forcing my dream character to face her fears out on this ledge. When I originally started the story, it was set in New Orleans, but I needed a place with a FreeNet (at the time) to make the story work.

Me: And Denver had one?

Myself: And Lots of “up” for Dani to be afraid of. Of course, by the time I finished rewriting the book, technology had changed so much, she didn’t need access to a free net to do what I needed her to do. I had this whole, hilarious scene with Dani in a library that I deleted. And another where she dressed like a man.

Me: Maybe you should post some of those deleted scenes? <g>

Myself: (laughs) Might be fun, but, well, unlike the movies, deleted scenes are…deleted. <g>

Me: True. So tell us about Denver’s “up.” You had some real serendipity there, didn’t you?

Myself: Massive understatement! My husband had a business trip to Denver, so I asked him to check out the area, scope out the Federal building (which got him in a spot of trouble with some real US Marshals <g<) and he was most thorough about it. Being a National Park addict, he made his way to Rocky Mountain National Park and brought me back info on Long’s Peak—the only “teener” (Peak 13,000 ft above sea level) that you can actually hike up. It was perfect for my (and Spook’s twisted) purposes.

Me: You actually hiked part way up…

Myself: Yeah, it about killed me—coming from sea level like we did, but it was fun. Even without making it, I had such great resources, I felt like I knew every inch of that hike. Someday I’d like to finish my hike—but only after acclimating myself to the altitude!

Me: There’s another reason why this book is dear to your heart, isn’t there?

Myself: Yes, it was the first step into finding some emotional resonance in my writing. Prior to this book, I’d been too busy being funny for angst and was not that comfortable with it, but all of my main characters had things they were dealing with. This gave me a chance to try out my emotional “muscle” and find my own heart (and learn to trust it!) and the hearts of my characters. It was an important step in my maturation as a writer, I think.

Me: You sometimes talk about writing in layers. Can you explain that a bit?

Myself: While I’m a lousy painter on canvas, I do think of a book in those terms. I start out with broad strokes. What is the story about? Who inhabits this story? Then, as I move in closer, I focus on one character, or possibly two at a time, building and developing them, adding characters as needed, but leaving them as shadows to be filled in later. Then when I know the structure is right and the pieces are in place, I go back and focus on the smaller characters, working to paint them in, too. Only when I’ve focused on every character do I consider the story “finished.” (To the point I can do it alone at that time. I also go back when I have enough distance and find all sorts of new insights.)

Me: You tried to sell this story to traditional publishers, didn’t you?

Myself: I got a lot of requests for it, but I had two things going against me in the mid-90’s when I started marketing it. The first was the market. It was going through a shrinking period. Fewer books were being published and fewer books by new authors were being picked up, especially books that straddled genres like my book did.

Me: And the second?

Myself: I submitted it too soon. I need to let it “cure” for a bit and look at it again. This was only my third book, my second I’d ever finished. I did get some valuable feedback from my rejections, though some, I think, were off the mark.

Me: Such as?

Myself: The editors that said humor wasn’t appropriate in a suspense novel. This not only went against everything I felt but against my experience with women. We always use humor to deal with our hardest trials. It is how we cope. This book was my tribute to those gutsy, funny women. And they told me that no one would buy a romance author heroine.

Me: Well, despite the naysayers, it is a book that has done well. It is the first ebook to win a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award and has received some other honors, hasn’t it? And it was your first book to be published in hardcover?

Myself: That’s right. And the reader feedback on it has been great and the sales, in ebook and hard cover…not enough to give up my day job, but satisfying.

Me: The Five Star cover is a mini-story in and of itself, isn’t it?

Myself: Yes, the picture of the mountains (on the cover of the Five Star edition) was taken by my husband on that survey trip and is the actual Long’s Peak. He also took the picture of the woman in the cameo—who happens to be my lovely sister-in-law, Ana. 🙂 (When I am reunited with my writing files, I’ll post a picture.)

Me: One last question: when you were writing it, did you know it would turn into a three book series?

Myself: I didn’t. In fact, I went back and added a mention of Jake to the book after I’d finished it when I started writing Byte Me. In the original, Matt only had the one brother, Luke, but when I finished it, I hadn’t used all my research or my interest in the US Marshals—who I think are very cool.

Me: I share your admiration. <g> So, are you done with the US Marshals?

Myself: Uh, no. <g>

Me: I’d like to thank myself for this interview, but it seems kind of silly, so I’ll just add that next time we’ll be discussing the story behind the story of Byte Me, the second book in the Lonesome Lawmen series.

cover art

This book has had a lot of covers, but the story inside has stayed the same. 🙂 If you haven’t read it, I hope you’ll check it out. And if you have, I’d love to hear what you thought.

Perilously yours,

Pauline

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