One delightful late-spring morning nearly three years ago I was tapping away on my laptop when quite abruptly my life as a writer changed dramatically.
Pray, allow me to explain.
At that time I was writing the second book in my Rogues of the Sea trilogy, Captured by a Rogue Lord. It is the story of Alex Savege, an earl who moonlights as a pirate, and Serena Carlyle, the spirited lady who unmasks him. The sun upon my deck where I had ensconced myself to write was warm, the woods behind my house alive with chattering birds (I imagined them gulls, naturally), and a fresh breeze twined about it all, fluttering the pages of my Falconer’s Dictionary of the Marine, the 1815 edition, my constant companion when I write a seafaring hero’s book. At that moment I was completely happy, thoroughly satisfied — dare I say transcendently content? I hadn’t a care in the world except, of course, the all-consuming need to entangle my reluctant hero and determined heroine in a romance that would prove earth shattering for all involved.
Oh, how the transcendently contented fall! Oh, how innocence is irreparably shattered!
Little did I know that in that moment while I imagined myself thoroughly satisfied I was actually supremely naïve. Insanely naïve, really. You see, I hadn’t any idea that “all involved” included considerably more people than one roguish hero and one clever heroine. In that moment, dear readers, I learned that one book begets more. And more. And more.
How? Well, as Alex and Serena’s story unfolded, other characters in the book spoke to me. And they spoke to me with such insistent certainty that I could not ignore them.
The first to do so was Alex’s lieutenant aboard ship, Jin Seton. The moment I put him on the page — rather, the moment he put himself on the page — I knew I must write his story. Mind you, at that point, the first scene in Captured by a Rogue Lord, I’d barely even begun that story. But Jin spoke to me so clearly and with such assured confidence, I knew I couldn’t deny him. So I made him promises, then I told myself firmly to put those plans for the future aside and return to Alex and Serena, with whom I was, after all, having a ball.
But within pages I was confronted with my naïvité once more; Jin’s heroine appeared! Serena had a missing sister, Viola, that had been kidnapped by smugglers years earlier and never seen again. Who better to seek out and find such a woman than Jin, a sublimely sexy reformed pirate with contacts all over the world?
But I had a trilogy to complete, and Jin and Viola’s story wasn’t in the program for that! I had designed my Rogues of the Sea trilogy around a loose premise: a lord on the peripheries of polite society is secretly the powerful patron of a vast empire dedicated to justice throughout the British colonial world. The first book, Swept Away by a Kiss, hints at this patron. The second book, Captured by a Rogue Lord, briefly introduces this mysterious patron, and the third book, In the Arms of a Marquess, finally gives him his story. That was the plan for Rogues of the Sea, and I was happily sticking to it.
Fortunately Jin didn’t mind. A man with a dark, complicated past, he knew how to bide his time, and while he wanted his own story he wasn’t at all certain about this heroine business that I insisted must go along with it. A loner he is, indeed. In any case, I clearly didn’t need to hurry for his sake. Jin’s book would come in the fullness of time.
(I love that term, the fullness of time. It has such a sense of epic grandeur about it, which as a writer of romantic adventure stories I appreciate. But I digress…)
And so, thus relieved of my momentary panic — and newly settled into what I believed was a more mature understanding of how books could come into being — I again began typing away at the ebony keys of my MacBook, writing chapter after chapter of Alex and Serena’s story, drawing them through the laughter and passion of their journey toward love.
Then Alex’s sister, Kitty, spoke to me.
See me now, lovely readers, as I shake my head in fond memory of the naïvité I once enjoyed! Hear me breathe a heavy sigh for innocence lost and… and…
A scandal in Kitty’s past had set her brother, Alex, on his life of piracy. So when Kitty told me she thought it would be nice to finally have her own Happily Ever After, I couldn’t deny her either. I still had a book and a half of my Rogues of the Sea trilogy to write, it’s true. But slowly and tantalizingly another plan was forming. A plan for a whole new series.
Immediately I knew this series would be different from my trilogy. It would be about a band of close friends dedicated to a specific cause, each with his or her unique need for joining the club, and each with his or her own pressing reason — when the time came — to quit that intimate cohort. In short, where Rogues of the Sea was born in my imagination with a hero, the Falcon Club began with a fellowship.
As you might expect, this sort of series requires a very different kind of planning and executing.
First: the characters. I already knew the leads of two of the books: Kitty, and Jin and Viola (In The Arms Of A Marquess}. And as I finished the Rogues of the Sea books, other minor characters also came to me requesting their own stories. The cast of the new series was emerging!
Second: the Club. They would be agents of the crown. Not spies, instead, bounty hunters of a sort, the good kind that save those who need to be saved, but secretly, discreetly. And I knew with absolute certainty that this club was about to disband.
Third: the stories. Jin’s story had already presented itself to me quite clearly. Kitty’s came close on its heels. Heartbroken and ruined as a girl, Lady Kitty Savege grew a cool veneer of sophisticated hauteur to ward against the censure of society. Who better to break that shell than a delectably barbaric Scot?
I have an abiding fondness for heroes with secret identities, not to mention heroines torn apart by loving the wrong men — rather, the men they believe are wrong for them, despite what their hearts insist. And that is how Lord Leam Blackwood became the Falcon Club’s first agent to quit. In When a Scot Loves a Lady, Leam is all set to discard the roguish disguise that allows him to do the Club’s work, and retreat to life in distant Scotland. Then he encounters Kitty and discovers a fiery passion simmering beneath her cool façade… and all his plans for peaceful rustication are shot to bits.
Fourth: the series. Finally, “paradise gained”! As soon as I started writing When a Scot Loves a Lady the rest of the series rapidly took shape in my imagination. Despite the challenge of putting everybody where I needed them, when I needed them according to a chronology I’d developed for my first series, and the intricacies of interwoven relationships, writing the Falcon Club books has been sheer joy.
Why? The love stories!
Every story I have ever written was first born in my imagination with a single hero and his heroine. The Falcon Club series began with a band of friends, but each book in the series has grown from a pair of lovers. The love story between one man and one woman is the soul and heart of romance to me. Adventure, intrigue, humor, action and whatever else comes along is simply the bed onto which I lay my lovers.
My Falcon Club series has all the action and adventure that I adore writing. (I can’t seem to get enough of ships and swords and horses and all those deliciously masculine pursuits!) And my Falcon Club books include a “series arc”, a thread that runs through all the books and ties them together, and a question that won’t be answered until the last book. But each book I write — no matter what series it’s in — is above all the story of one perfect romance, one unquenchable thirst, one powerful bond of desire and devotion between a man and a woman who were made entirely and uniquely for each other.
So if I’ve learned anything writing two romance series, it is that true love always — indeed, inevitably — makes more love. Isn’t that wonderful?