Dragon, demons, and destined mates… read all about the making of Fire Maidens: Switzerland (Billionaires & Bodyguards, Book 9) here. You’ll learn about the characters, inspiration for the story, the real-life settings featured in the story, and much more!
The hero and heroine of this book have been waiting to tell their stories for quite some time. Claudia, the Fire Maiden of Switzerland, was first mentioned in Fire Maidens: Ireland (Book 5) as the latest in the only unbroken family line of Fire Maidens in Europe. Even then, she was described as fiercely independent and carefully neutral (fitting for the Swiss, I figured). Over time, the details of her character developed in my mind. She’s an outdoorsy, active young woman: a rock climber, mountaineer, runner, and ecologist. So it only makes sense that she can’t stand having bodyguards follow her every move - the perfect setup to bring in her destined mate, Heath!
Heath was first mentioned in Fire Maidens: Venice (Book 7) and played a prominent role in Book 8, Greece. He was very much inspired by an article in an outdoors magazine I read a long time ago, interviewing the (adult) children of famous mountaineers on what it was like growing up with parents in a high-risk profession. Sadly, one of them was the son of a female mountaineer who died when he was seven. That really struck a chord with me. What would it be like growing up knowing your mother was considered a legend by others but “just” mom to you? And a sorely missed mom, too, no doubt creating a lot of emotional turmoil in a young child.
Later, in researching the French Foreign Legion for this series, I watched an interview with a Canadian soldier. All his life, he’d dreamed of following family tradition and joining the military. But alcohol issues and a DUI charge made him ineligible for the Canadian Armed Forces. That left the French Foreign Legion, where he was able to follow his goal, albeit along a different path than he’d orignally imagined.
So, the stories of those two men were so memorable (and gut-wrenching) that I ended up combining them in Heath - with a bear shifter twist, of course! Meanwhile, his womanizing father was inspired by yet another real-life person - a friend of mine, who has a wonderful mom but a lousy father he distances himself from - along with all the half-siblings he discovered he has.
All in all, that makes for quite a complex character you can easily sympathize with - especially when he’s a man like Heath, determined to rise above the challenges in his life.
The characters’ back stories drove the bodyguard aspect of the plot, which worked well to keep the tension between them high and that “forbidden” element in the story. The rest of the plot arose naturally from events in the earlier books in the series. Everything needing to be tied up in this, the grand finale. And it really is grand, I think, especially the way everyone unites to overcome a ruthless foe and start a bright new chapter in the history of Europe’s Fire Maidens. (No spoilers here - you’ll have to read the book to discover how!)
I like to bring local details into my books, and in the case of Switzerland, I immediately thought of the Tschägättä (pronounced Cha-ga-ta) - a tradition going back to pagan times when locals would dress up in frightening costumes to chase away evil spirits, typically early in the new year. It’s a tradition that’s continued across the Alps in varying forms, with Tschägättä being unique to Lötschental (a real valley not far from the Aletsch Glacier in Valais). This was a feature that ultimately shaped the story of this book more than I initally imagined it would (see below: “Biggest change from early drafts to final edition”). If you’re interested, you can watch footage of the real event here
On Location in Switzerland
I live on the edge of the Alps near Switzerland, so I’ve been there many times, hiking in the mountains and visiting cities like Zurich. I made a special trip to Zurich as research for this story, and that turned up details like the Tudor house Claudia’s parents live in, the Dolder Grand Hotel where the Guardians meet, and the idea of a boat chase across the lake. I visited in summertime, so I was able to rent a boat to explore the lake. I’m not sure I would try it in winter - but that’s exactly the kind of crazy stunt Claudia would pull!
One of the most striking locations in Switzerland that inspired this story is the Aletsch Glacier. My family spent two summer vacations hiking in that area and I just couldn’t get over the grandeur of it all. In fact, while I was hiking, I was dictating notes about dragons swooping over that river of ice! I also used that trip to scope out lots of cozy little chalets where a couple of lovers could hide away from the world in for a while!
My favorite scene
As usual, I have several - notably, where Claudia wakes up in the chalet to a sensual dream that turns out not to be a dream at all! But my top favorite is the scene where Heath meets a wise old man in the Annapurna pub who helps him look upon the past in a different light. I cried when I wrote the scene and I get teary every time I re-read it.
What about you? What was your favorite scene?
Biggest change from early drafts to final edition
Originally, I plot I had envisioned was centered around “normal” assassination attempts on Claudia’s life (the ones that turned into red herrings in the final version, like close calls with motorcycles, etc.), all orchestrated by Jacqueline. But the more I thought of the Tschägätta (the pagan tradition of dressing up as monsters and making a racket to drive spirits away), the more demons/spirits came to play a role in this book. That, in turn, spawned the character of Ghiselle and a whole different kind of foe that our hero and heroine must face. Ultimately, that made for a fresh, unique angle to this story that a lot of readers find memorable. I hope you enjoyed that aspect of the story too!
Cross-links with other series
Several other Fire Maidens books reference my Aloha Shifters series, but Fire Maidens: Switzerland has the most direct link. That’s because Heath is a half-brother to Connor, Tim, and Chase Hoving of Koakea Plantation on Maui (see Aloha Shifters: Pearls of Desire). There’s a bittersweet undertone to Heath’s references to the Hovings - young men who’ve made something of themselves, and brothers who have each other, while Heath grew up troubled and alone.
At the time Heath meets Claudia, he had only met those brothers once - a situation remedied in “A Midsummer Flight,” the sweet, sentimental bonus scene to Fire Maidens: Switzerland. Make sure you get a copy - it’s free to newsletter subscribers, along with dozens of other bonus scenes and other free gifts.
So, that’s the story behind Fire Maidens: Switzerland. I hope you enjoyed these insights as well as the book. Thanks for following the Fire Maidens journey and stay tuned for an exciting new series coming soon!