Behind the scenes of Fire Maidens: Portugal

Why Portugal? And why send my dragons all the way to the remote island of Madeira? Read on to discover the story behind the scenes of Fire Maidens: Portugal!

The story

I had a lot of fun getting Marco and Laura, the hero and heroine of this story together. Fire Maidens: Portugal has elements of an “opposites attract” or “enemies to lovers” story, so Marco and Laura don’t exactly have an auspicious start. Poor Marco has been so burned by love in the past that he’s wary of all women – and he’s especially snippy to Laura because of the way she makes his heart thump. Laura is on the run and equally reluctant to trust, let alone admit to herself how much she’d attracted to the jaded warrior who rescues her when she needs it most. But bit by bit, the two grow closer, and therein lies the fun.

The storyline of Fire Maidens: Portugal grew out of that premise gradually, so it’s hard for me to pinpoint where the inspiration came from. But it’s hard not to create a sexy, suspenseful story once you steer a couple of compelling characters to a beautiful location like Lisbon and put your imagination to work! Every hilly vista seems to audition as the setting for a stolen kiss, and every winding alley begged me to write a chase scene. And that’s not even counting Madeira, an island of raw natural beauty that inspired a countless more details and events.

So in a way, the inspiration for this story arose from those two elements: a trying-hard-to-resist-each-other couple and a backdrop that almost tells a story in itself!

The characters

Marco da Silva, the dragon hero of this story, is a character who developed over time. He’s a significant presence in Book 3, Fire Maidens: Rome, where it’s perfectly clear he’s been burned by love in the past. Why? Well, if you’ve read Fire Maidens: Portugal, you already know. If you haven’t – let’s just say he’s been burned by love in the past. (Read the book to find out the details!) As you can probably tell, I can’t resist a hero who’s been wounded in some way. What’s really special is watching Marco - scars, flaws, and all - grow and overcome the self-imposed barriers holding him back from embracing life.

Laura, on the other hand, never had a problem embracing life. But shifter life is another matter, and that’s where the “opposites” part comes out. Laura and Marco need each other – desperately, It’s just that they don’t realize that at first!

So, who exactly is Laura, and what inspired this spunky heroine? Like many of my best characters, Laura is a mixture of people, real and imagined. As a kid, I was friends with a girl in my neighborhood whose parents, like mine, were immigrants to the US. Her family was Portuguese, and though I didn’t know a lot about Portugal at the time, I knew there was something special about that friendly, tight-knit family from down the block. Her dad was my middle school soccer coach, in fact! So I took parts of what I recalled about her lovely family (sadly, we’ve lost touch) and combined them with other Portuguese-Americans I know (like the bike-riding part) to create a rich personal history for the spunky heroine I imagined.

Fun fact: like Marco, I didn’t know “bicycling advocate” was a job until I met a woman while I was on vacation in the mountains (no bikes - just hiking!). We got to talking, and she mentioned that her husband was a bicycling advocate. Who knew? Well, now I do, and I loved making Laura a crusader for safer streets – just like any Fire Maiden worth her salt!

On Location in Portugal

Portugal is one of the few locations of this series that I hadn’t visited until recently. I’ve been to Paris, Rome, London several times each over the past thirty years. But Portugal was new to me, and when I went to Lisbon, I immediately fell in love. It’s a great cross between the best aspects of Europe (the history, the food, the rich culture) and the scenery of San Francisco, thanks to the vintage trolleys, hills, and a Golden-Gate-like bridge. My favorite neighborhood was the Alfama (the oldest part of town) and it didn’t take long to pick out my favorite house. Yes, there really is a gorgeous, modern, white house high on the hill near the castle, just like Marco’s! (Here’s my facebook post with a peek.)

As for Madeira - well, I went there about a year before writing this book with my family, a trip intended purely as a back-to-nature hiking experience. I really didn’t intend to set part of the story there. But after a week on that stunning island, I knew I’d have to send some dragons swooping over those misty mountains! That’s the great thing about fiction - whatever your imagination serves up, you can do!

If you’re curious to see more on these locations, watch this on location video to see the real-life places that inspired scenes in this book. You can see many of these locations for yourself on the Pinterest board I made for this book.

My favorite scene

I have several favorite scenes. One is in Lisbon, when Laura goes to the Mercado to meet Tito, ends up hiding in the gallery level, and finally escaping on the back of Marco’s motorcycle. All those little details in the old town alleys in that scene are things I observed in my (much slower-paced) walks through the Alfama - right down to the old gent selling homemade liqueur outside his house!

I also love the “history lesson” in the mating bite scene. I couldn’t resist working that in since I’ve always been fascinated by the Age of Exploration. (Imagine living in an era when the limits of the known world were rewritten every few years. We think times are changing quickly now!) So, it was a lot of fun to work that into a steamy scene with Marco “exploring” in a totally different way!

But my top favorite scene, if I had to name one, is Marco and Laura’s marathon overnight flight from Lisbon to Madeira on their own wings. The physical journey parallels the emotional one as they slowly make their way over treacherous waters until the island slowly rises out of the horizon in the distance. In the course of that journey, Laura and Marco gradually discover trust and respect for each another. That, in turn, establishes a foundation for love that’s destined to last.

Biggest change from early drafts to final edition

The biggest change from planning stage to final story was the fact that I wasn’t sure if “Portugal” would be Book 3 or 4 in the series! I started writing Fire Maidens: Rome as Book 3 but stalled out at one point. (At the time, I thought it was the story, but it was me - I was pretty burned out on writing at the time. But I have my mojo back now!) I found myself more excited to write Portugal, so I put “Rome” aside and started writing “Portugal.”

Eventually, I decided to stick with “Rome” as Book 3, but I had already written Sergio in to this book as Marco’s friend (at least, up at about the point when they first arrive on Madeira). So I had to introduce Finn and rewrite some scenes in this story. Now, I’m glad I stuck with the original book order (with Rome as Book 3 and Portugal as Book 4) because I really like the progression of the series as it is now - and I can’t wait to extend that to Finn’s love story - Fire Maidens: Ireland! How about you?