Behind the scenes of Fire Maidens: London

Did you ever wonder where did the idea for this fun, action-packed lion shifter story came from? Read on to learn the interesting story behind Fire Maidens: London!

The characters

Sometimes, when I write a book, the characters are fully formed in my head - their personalities, backstories, and goals. Other times, I only have a rough idea and end up discovering more about them as the action unfolds. Fire Maidens: London was actually a mixture of both. I thought I knew Liam and Gemma perfectly, but ended up being surprised by what they revealed to me as I wrote. That’s right - sometimes, characters seem to write themselves onto a page, and that was the case here.

Take Liam, for example. The hero of Fire Maidens: London already featured in Book 1, Fire Maidens: Paris, where it was impossible to miss his light-hearted, fun-loving personality. But the more I delved into this book, the more secrets Liam revealed. So much that he might be one of the most complex heroes I’ve ever written. There’s so much to love about Liam, and so much to sympathize with in his backstory. Still, he manages all that with humor and grace. How exactly I came up with each successive twist in his story, I’m not sure. But the more I wrote, the richer his backstory became, and the more lovable this hero was.

A similar thing happened with Gemma. I thought I knew who she was when I started writing, but more and more unexpected details came out in the course of writing the story, and she ended up as a much stronger, sassier heroine than I expected. Which is great! I love how Gemma manages to be outspoken without being rude, and assertive without being bossy. Electra and the other Guardians might not agree, but I hope you do! Another thing I love about Gemma is that despite her commitment to social causes, but she doesn’t push her convictions on others. Exactly how that developed is a mystery to me, though. All I can say is that Gemma wrote herself, like Liam did! She’s not like anyone I know, met, or read about. Go figure!

Probably the funnest characters to come up with were all the different shifters on London’s Council of Guardians - those blustery Welsh dragons, sensitive Scottish unicorns, and slightly awkward Irish deer. I’ve worked with people from many different parts of the United Kingdom, and it was loads of fun to give each country a signature shifter species. Poor Liam and Gemma didn’t have a lot of fun around the Guardians, but I laughed myself silly in several places, and I hope you did too!

Finally, there’s Gareth, the stiff, dry-humored butler. He’s one of those characters that the story needs in order to expose backstory and to push other characters to their moments of truth. But Gareth went above and beyond that, almost stealing the show at times - as he did in the “making the bedroom cozy scene” with all his dry comments. He’s the perfect foil for Liam in so many ways - age, beliefs, background… At times, Gareth is so demanding, he nearly reverses the boss-servant relationship, and that’s a lot of fun. But he’s incredibly loyal, and in the end, both he and Liam are better as a result of their influence on each other.

On Location in London / Developing the story

I’ve been to London many times and had a rough idea of how Book 2 in this Billionaires & Bodyguards series would go before I started writing. But I was amazed at how many details popped out at me when I traveled to London with this specific lion/dragon story in mind. As Liam laments, there really is an overload of lions in London. They’re everywhere: along the embankment, around Trafalgar square, in front of Buckingham Palace… Every time I saw another lion statue or carving, another element of the story fell into place. Slowly, that element combined with all the real-life traditions one sees in London, like the changing of the guard. And bit by bit, a rich, complex shifter world developed in my mind.

That weekend trip to London also inspired several other aspects of the story. For example, as I was scouting Hyde Park for possible lion hangouts, I noticed dozens of people carrying signs, heading to a rally - the very “Say No to Racism” rally mentioned in this book! That didn’t just inspire a side event in the story - it actually became the basis for Gemma’s character! That’s one reason I revisit all the cities I write about - details like those can inspire entire sections of a story and bring the action to life.

Notting Hill was another fun area to explore. There, I came across a map shop that became the inspiration for Gemma’s place of work. Similarly, I was trying to shortcut from the viewpoint on Primrose Hill (which didn’t end up featuring prominently in this book) to the Underground when I happened to come across a peaceful canal lined with the houseboats (known as “narrowboats” in London). And just like that, another fun detail of this story was born!

Liam’s Richmond connection came about in a similar way. I’d thought about visiting Kew Gardens just for a break from the city, never imagining it would connect to this story. But as I read about that area, I decided to visit Richmond, too. There, I walked along the Thames to the very neighborhood that inspired the lion shifter estate where Liam grew up. In a roundabout way, that led to extending the action of this story all the way to that gorgeous castle in Wales. This how that happened: as I walked around Richmond that blustery day, I imagined what Liam and Gemma would be thinking. Where could they go to be safe from the scheming Guardians? At first, Richmond seemed far enough away from the city, but then, it became clear that more extreme measures were called for. So I sent Liam and Gemma much further away than originally intended! The great thing about fiction is that you don’t have to settle for bland locations, so I went with the castle in Wales. That in turn got me to thinking about Liam’s parents and complicated lion/dragon dynamics.

So, whew! I got a lot more than I bargained for in that single trip to London! In the end, all those details, real and imagined, made this story richer than it would otherwise have been.

Note: Watch this on location video to see the real-life places that inspired scenes in this book!

My favorite scene

As usual, I have lots of favorite scenes. I love all the scenes in which Gemma gets to know Liam, and how she humors his talk of lion shifters, thinking the poor guy is suffering from PTSD. I love the interactions between Liam and his aunt Lucinda, and especially with long-suffering Gareth, who slowly becomes something of a father figure to Liam (not that either of them would admit as much). But perhaps my favorite scene of all is Gemma facing the Guardians of London in that final confrontation.

How about you? What was your favorite scene?

Biggest change from early drafts to final edition

As mentioned, I had a basic idea of what the story would be, but that fruitful trip to London ended up adding details and depth I had never expected. However, the single biggest change in this story was what kind of shifter Liam would be. He started out as a dragon shifter in the first draft of Book 1 of this series, when he was just a back up character to Tristan in Fire Maidens: Paris. But I loved the idea of a lion shifter, so I went back and forth on that several times. Finally, I compromised and decided to make him half lion, half dragon. That meant I had to figure out his parents’ story, which ended up adding a further dimension to his character. Ultimately, all that resulted in a much more complex and compelling story. It never ceases to amaze me how things change sometimes!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the scene into the “making of” this fun story! Sergio’s story is next, and I think you’ll find Fire Maidens: Rome to be just as exciting, romantic, and refreshingly unpredictable as Fire Maidens: London. Happy reading!