I-Team Reading Challenge — Hard Evidence chat

    So how many of you have made it through Hard Evidence either for the first or second time?

    Before we go on, just let me warn you that there are spoilers here. Reader beware!

    This was my second attempt to write romantic suspense. The story grew out of a cover story that I wrote about the hideous, dark topic of sex trafficking and sex slavery. It was a really distressing article to write. But what stood out for me when I worked on it was that the men and women who worked to combat this crime sometimes have to pose as the monsters they’re trying to bring down. I knew it was dangerous work. But what concerned me most was the damage it would do to a human being’s soul.

    And with that realization, Julian Darcangelo came into my mind. Like Nicholas Kenleigh from Ride the Fire, he stepped into my imagination more or less fully developed. I knew who he was, what he’d been through, how it affected him. Just like Nicholas, the dark emotion underpinning his story felt like very rich emotional material for me.

    I’m not sure why I find inspiration in my characters’ misery, but there you have it. When I do workshops, I always tell people that I know I have my characters down when I understand their pain.

    Thinking in retrospect, some of Julian’s über-alpha personality might be a result of my reaction to readers’ and reviewers’ responses to Reece. “A politician hero? You’re kidding! How stupid!” Never having read romantic suspense before I wrote Extreme Exposure, that novel was probably my most pure, un-influenced notion of what I thought romantic suspense was. But mostly it was just Julian being Julian.

    He had to be beyond tough to endure the life he’d lived and to have succeeded at his career. But he was also very emotionally wounded, and we had a discussion not too long ago about where that led him — to a scene that one reader-reviewer on Amazon called rape. I thought some of you made some really amazing comments — things I hadn’t considered or put into words quite that way. (Have I told you lately that I love you?)

    While reactions to Tessa were mixed, most readers went into heat over Julian. So what was it? His swagger? The five rounds to the vest? The sucky-swirly thing? The reaction took me by surprise. I just wrote what was in my head, and then I got e-mails full of drool. (Not that it bothered me, mind you. I just check e-mail with a sponge nowadays...)

    Scenes I loved writing... Anything having to do with Julian’s background. The scene in the stairwell where he kisses Tessa for real. When he arrests her. The shooting range when she freaks out and he carries her to the break room. (“Coke or Pepsi?” he asks. “Okay,” she says.) The sex scenes. Tessa’s scenes with her mother.

    Speaking of which... I was working on the reunion scene between Tessa and her mother in a coffee shop. Tessa wakes up, sees her mom and... I started bawling. In a coffee house! I made a couple trips to the bathroom to staunch my tears and yell at myself in the mirror. But then I realized it was hopeless. I’m not sure why that scene affected me like that, but the idea of these two women, both of them strong in their own way, both victims of an unspeakable crime and other violence finally connecting...

    So what were your favorite scenes and quotes? For those of you who are on your 5th time through the story, are there aspects of the story that strike you differently as you re-read it? And for you members of Team Julian, what is it that you love so much about him?

    And what specifically does the sucky-swirly thing entail, Ronlyn? You said you asked Julian. Let’s hear what he said. Or maybe I can get him in here to tell us himself. And, yes, this is something you’ll want to try at home.

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