Sometimes, you can’t fit everything into one book – especially all the backstory of a second chance romance. That’s the reason why I wrote Jess and Simon’s first encounter into a prequel called PERFECTION.
The inspiration for the characters
You can read about the original inspiration for Jessica and Simon in the “making of” Damnation, which you’ll find here. What I wanted to do in this prequel story was to visit the couple in their younger and more innocent days. That’s part of true love, too, no matter what age you are when you fall in love – that youthful innocence, that blind trust in possibility, that utter ignorance of trouble on the horizon. And since there’s no place quite as romantic as a cozy cabin on a snowy winter’s night, I knew from the start this story would be set in the middle of a Montana blizzard. High-altitude Arizona does get its share of cold nights, but not quite this cold! And cold was just what I needed to push these two wary shifters into each other’s arms and heat the story up!
In one sense, Simon and Jessica take their first steps to true independence in this story. They each wander away from the tight-knit communities of their home packs where they always assumed they’d find their destined mates. They each venture into unknown territory by mixing with a shifter of another species for the first time. And they each allow themselves to trust love for the very first time. That’s critical, because they’ll need a strong foundation to overcome all the obstacles fate is planning to throw at them not too far down the line.
The inspiration for the story
Simon and Jessica are a Romeo and Juliet couple – an intercultural couple, really, because wolves and bears hold so many misconceptions about each other despite the fact that their packs live so close to each other. Prejudice and stereotypes can be incredibly powerful forces, though they’re just the first of many obstacles this couple must face. My own experiences (traveling, stepping outside my comfort zone, and seeing my home culture through the eyes of others) informed the passages in which Jessica realizes for the first time that everything she’s heard about bear shifters might not be true, and helped guide that shift from suspicion to open-mindedness. The nice thing about writing shifter romance, though, is that I get to keep the tone light-hearted. So when we read from Simon’s point of view, we get snarky bear observations that the moon is something to quietly worship, not to howl at!
My favorite scene and biggest change
This was one of those stories that wrote itself and didn’t change much from initial concept to final form. I did briefly consider bringing in another bear to cause trouble for Simon and Jess, but then I decided to let them (and the reader) enjoy the one-on-one time that will become so hard for them to find down the line, as it is in Damnation, the story of how they reestablish the deep, timeless trust that has its roots in this story. My favorite scene? That would be a toss-up between their initial exchange (“Stupid bear,” she muttered…) and the love scene, of course!