Behind the scenes: Damnation

How on earth did a bear/wolf shifter romance entitled Damnation come to be? Find out here!

The characters

If you’ve been reading my books for a while, you’ve probably noticed that I love writing about brothers. I only have one myself, but I just love the dynamics of large families with lots of boys - especially how the energy and rambunctiousness evolves as the boys become men. So along came Simon and Soren Voss, the bear shifter heroes of this series.

As bears, they’re quiet and introverted guys who speak more with words than deeds. Simon is the slightly more outgoing, easygoing one, although circumstances have all but erased that aspect of his character at the time Damnation takes place. And that’s something I enjoy, too – challenging a hero to grow up, step up, and become the man he needs to be. It’s a rough process and hard on the soul, but Simon comes out of it a better person, and his relationship with Jessica is much more solid than it would have been if they’d had an easy road to their happily ever after. Don’t you agree?

Jessica Macks came to me easily, because I love capable women who don’t give up when they’re faced with serious setbacks in life. The older generation of my family is full of them. Like many of those real-life role models, Jessica grew up in a tight-knit little community but is eventually pushed out into the big, bad outside world when she’s forced to do what she must just to get by. I love her self-discipline, her can-do/must-do attitude, and her ability to put others ahead of herself. Like so many women, she sacrifices her own dreams to do what’s best for others, but (happy sigh) in the end, she gets a double reward – her wins her true love and the chance to run her own café! That’s another thing about the women I consider heroines – they’re capable of standing on their own two feet, even after they’re happily mated after. In many ways, the end of this story is really just the beginning for Jess, who knows she has a lot of work ahead of her. The challenges don’t really end, and in a way, she doesn’t want them to. The nice thing is being able to tackle them with peace in her soul and the support of a good man.

Simon and Jessica are the hero and heroine of this book, but there’s quite a supporting cast you’ll get to see a lot more of in the next books in this series. A central one is the saloon itself, because it’s so full of character and possibility. Fans of my Twin Moon Ranch series will recognize Tina Hawthorne of Desert Heart, her brother Ty of Desert Moon, and of course Kyle Williams, the hunky cop shifter from Desert Fate. I just love weaving their stories together, because that’s just like real life. Our lives overlap and influence each other’s in ways we don’t even appreciate sometimes.

The story

I wanted to write the redemption story of a hero haunted by an intense feeling of failure, but that’s a tricky thing, because an alpha hero is supposed to win his battles, right? It took a while, but eventually, I figured it out. Simon never really had a fair chance to confront his enemies and protect his loved ones, though he certainly gets that chance by the end of Damnation. And when the chance comes, it’s all or nothing – his chance to win peace for his soul and to win over the woman he always loved, or die trying.

I needed a truly despicable villain to fuel the external conflict in this story. Sadly, it was all too easy to find an “inspiration” in history and in today’s news. The world is all too full of people like Victor Whyte who imagine that one group of people are superior to another based on a twisted definition of purity. Sadder still, there are plenty of disenchanted followers just waiting for a cause to make their own. Luckily, real life has its heroes who stand up for justice and do the right thing, too.

As for the setting, well, I put myself through college working a number of different jobs, including several waitressing stints. So I can relate to Jessica’s weary feet or elation at counting tips at the end of a long shift! I’m not much of a cook, but I do make some mean muffins – and whole wheat chocolate-raspberry muffins are some of my favorites! (I’ll be sharing a recipe soon, so stay tuned!) A cousin of mine is actually a big fan of smoked ribs and microbreweries, so those were fun to work into the story, too!

My favorite scene

My favorite scene is the one in which Simon and Soren find themselves flabbergasted by the changes Jessica and Janna bring to the saloon – like “diamondback burgers” and “mesa burgers!” I had a really fun time thinking up the theme burgers, special offers, and decorative touches a couple of creative women could bring to a male-dominated establishment that badly needs some pepping up. I picture the two big, burly bear brothers standing back as a tornado of activity sweeps before their eyes. Ha!

What about you? What’s your favorite scene?

Biggest change in the story from original concept to final draft

Originally, my mind was so engrossed in the world of wolf shifters that I envisioned Simon and Soren as wolves. At the same time, I was thinking about what bear series I might be able to write when I found the time. Then I had a eureka moment and realized I could put my ideas together for an even better story – wolves and bears, working together despite their differences to make a new life. I’m so glad I did, because I love the dynamics between the bear brothers, the wolf sisters, and of course the powerful wolves of Twin Moon pack. I think that angle makes the series even richer than it would otherwise have been.

So there you have it – the story of how Damnation was born – the story of a man and a woman trying to find personal happiness against a backdrop of an even greater challenge posed by forces outside their control. Jessica and Simon find their happiness in this story, but the overarching story of the Blue Moon Saloon has just begun! You’ll see a lot more of these two in the next books in the series, Temptation and Redemption.

You can read about how the Blue Moon Saloon series as a whole developed HERE.