I hosted several guest posts last week, but didn’t write one myself.  By request, I will share what inspired me to write this book, and a bit about the process.

For a handful of years I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in fiction.  Bodice-rippers, the guilty pleasure of many women, had started giving way to books about how romantic abusive relationships are.  Of course abuse isn’t romantic, but the abusers were being idealized as if it’s something to be desired.  Then I started looking back at other books I used to read, and started to feel sick.  Those books were no better.  The Bow Street Runners were nothing but thugs packaged as nice guys who any woman would be lucky to have, and the women were said to be strong, but in reality, needed to be saved by the men.  Even the erotic Sleeping Beauty trilogy by Anne Rice, held up as an example of erotica done right, is startlingly scary.  Rape abounds.  The 15-year-old Beauty is awaked not by a kiss, but by a grown man plunging into her.  Ms. Rice, you write splendid vampire tales, but what on earth is erotic about Beauty discovering, in the third book, that a woman had been genitally mutilated, and cunnilingus to give that abused woman an orgasm is all but the crowning glory of these books?  I’m not sure it that is worse, or Ana being so warped by Christian that she declares their unborn daughter must like sex already since the baby moved during her parents’ round of intercourse.

I decided to see how easy it was to find a different sort of book, the sort where any abuse is seen as bad, women have goals beyond marrying or slacking off on their way to becoming arm candy, and where any female leads have any meaningful growth and strength that didn’t revolve around how to land a man.  I found a handful of books about business women who were shown to be annoying while a man doing the same actions would have been considered persuasive.  All right, so add to that list women who aren’t shown as being bitchy for being strong.  Yeah.  Suddenly the list shrink.  Most Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb books were out of the running too.  I love her books, but they do tend to center around getting men.  I can’t think of a single one where that wasn’t a goal.  Under J.D. Robb, she exclusively writes romance.  I found just a few other authors who wrote the sort of books I desired, and noticed a trend.  The characters tended to be older than me by at least a handful of years, if not a decade or more.  Now there’s nothing wrong with middle-aged women.  Rene Russo was pretty hot in The Thomas Crown Affair, and that scene on the stairs still stands out to me as one of the hottest moments in cinema.

But what could I find featuring younger characters?  What is there for the young or new adult crowd?  What has any supernatural ele–  Forget about the supernatural.  We need some young or new adults books at all where landing a man isn’t a big goal, or even a goal at all.  Where is the Disney Mulan where the gentle flower lets her fiesty, brave side out and saves her world, or at least her country, without focusing on scoring a date?

Well, we often hear that if you can’t find what you want to read, either write it yourself, or shut up about it.  Since I don’t shut up (look at how much I’ve written to this point), I decided to write.  First I had three characters in Tristan’s family.  Only he, Emma, and Sunil existed, and he and Emma were twins.  Emma and Sunil were married.  There’s such a lack of interracial marriages in books where it’s not the source of conflict!  But this didn’t work when it came to the point of the recon mission.  So I added in Gabrielle, and realized that felt too much like pairing couples and could be taken as a love triangle between Gabby, Tristan, and Juliette.  Eventually I settle on a family of seven with two women and five men.  Emma and Sunil are still married, but beyond that, they are a mix of sexualities, relationship preferences, religions, you name it.  They also don’t all fall all over themselves thinking the new girl is the greatest thing to walk the world.

Diversity among my main good-guy cast was important.  Equally important was to show the big bads, Nathaniel and Daniel, as guys who would appear to the world as good buys while being irredeemable evil cretins behind closed doors.  Too often those on the outside think that abuse can’t be so bad, or that it’s made up.  Who wants to think the fun, charismatic, popular guys would really be jerks?

Also of importance was what readers would want.  In addition to asking my own friends, I made the trek to some bookstores, including Powell’s, and interviewed completely random people.  What are they tired of seeing in books?  What do they wish they saw more of?  What do they like about the current crop of books?  No more Twilight, no more abuse being good, but please more fairies and Anne Rice-type books on vampires!  The reviews of current big-selling books were largely disheartening…so bad that people were reading less.  The actual interviews were a bit more in depth than just these questions.  Readers really will open up if you’re interested in what they have to say.

Armed with interview info and some nifty note cards intended to be used for a story board that ended up never being used, I started to type.  My first chapter was so horrid I cringe.  Tristan, Emma, and Sunil alone didn’t work.  Scrap it.  A certain love scene?  That ventured too close to bodice ripper.  Out with it.  Ah, a character here with these characteristics will work swell!  Oh crud, here’s a battle scene and I have no idea how to write those.  Cue a bunch of research on battle-writing methods.

The first draft came together fairly quickly and stood at 81,000 words.  Cue the beginning of dozens of rounds of editing and finding beta readers to further develop Juliette’s character arc, make Tristan perfect for his imperfections, and make Nathaniel someone any reader would despite with every fiber of their being.  At times, the story seemed to be more Tristan’s than Juliette’s.  I needed to swing it the other way.

At no time did I forget the initial inspiration, for a book where a woman escapes abuse and is a strong woman, but without being a romance.  After 16 months of writing more than full-time working hours, on top of my regular schedule, Sacred Blood has come to completion.

Up next: Editing on Sacred Honor, the second book in the Sacred trilogy, and then Sacred Heart.  That’s right, I have written the first drafts for those.  Well, here’s to another year of editing until another release, while continuing to develop Juliette as a strong, independent person, and to show the next stage of her life!