Behind the scenes: Desert Roots

Desert Roots, Twin Moon Book 6, was originally envisioned as Book 4 back when I intended to follow the four Hawthorne siblings one after another. But Kyle’s and Axel’s stories (Desert Fate and Desert Rose) developed along the way, which left poor Carly waiting for her chance. Well, I doubt she minded since she truly believed she didn’t want a mate - at least, until Luke came along.

The characters

Carly makes several early appearances in the series (most notably in Desert Heart, where she and her sister Tina have a heart-to-heart sister talk, and Desert Yule, in which you see how complicated Carly’s character is as well as observe the strength of her relationship with her father, the overbearing pack patriarch). I almost had her work a stint at the Blue Moon Saloon, too, until I decided not to overcomplicate things!

But where exactly did her personality come from? Her character was fixed in my mind ever since I watched a real-life documentary about a daredevil base jumper with a fascinating story (it’s called “20 seconds of Joy” and you can find it on YouTube). What really struck a chord about that young woman’s story was how much her life was shaped by two accidents – the accident that left one of her parents seriously injured when she was a child and her own skydiving accident that finally helped her see risk-taking through a new perspective. That fascinating real-life story combined with many elements from my imagination to create Carly’s character.

Similarly, Luke’s character - the rough, tough, tattoed biker - came to me years before I actually buckled down and wrote Desert Roots. Another author suggested a series of interlinked bad boy/alpha hero stories and although I didn’t write one at the time, it spurred the idea of Luke. Of course, Luke is a bad boy with a twist since he’s trying hard to reform. In that way, he’s Carly’s opposite: she doesn’t want to give up her wild ways, while Luke is desperate to become a better man. They’re a perfect match because they understand each other while having different goals. Lucky for Carly, Luke helps her learn what’s really important in life.

The story

I had the idea of a former enemy coming to Twin Moon Ranch way back when I was writing Desert Fate, in which we learn that Kyle, the cop shifter with a rough past, was turned into a shapeshifter by injuries sustained in a biker brawl involving a rogue wolf. The trick was finding a way for Luke to redeem himself and go from enemy to ally, and I eventually decided on the Luke-working-his-butt-off-to-prove-himself idea. Every good story is about making life as difficult as possible for your hero, so of course, Carly is on the ranch at the same time, tempting and tantalizing him.

As the title suggests, Desert Roots is also the story about Carly’s return to her roots on Twin Moon Ranch. As the only Hawthorne sibling not to grow up on the ranch, Carly feels at home yet not at home there, and she’s always felt that she missed out. So this book takes place where their two journeys intersect - the journey in search of a true home. To keep things interesting, I needed a good villain, too, and instead of choosing between two possibilities (a rogue wolf like Steen or a man from a good family gone wrong like Craig), I decided to go with both so Carly has to face her foe while Luke faces his. Together, that made for a pretty exciting showdown at the climax of the story, don’t you think?

My favorite scene

It’s always hard to narrow down a single favorite scene, so I’ll name two. First, I really like the stuck-in-the-collapsing-aqueduct scene in which Luke saves little Tana. This lets us see Luke’s softer side in the sweet way he interacts with Tana. It also renews Luke’s resolve to reform himself at a point when he’s just about ready to give up. Ultimately, it helps him slowly win the trust of the Twin Moon wolves. I also love Carly’s moment of “weakness” when she sees how close Luke came to dying. It’s a pivotal point in the story that’s thrilling and touching at the same time.

Second, I really love the final scene in which Carly is dangling over a cliff when Luke is barely able to hold on to her with one hand and clutch a root with the other. It’s a Perils of Pauline type scene we can all picture well, from the wind whistling under Carly’s feet to the slow scrape as the root starts to give. At the same time, it’s a scene of enlightenment in which Carly realizes what’s most important in life while she faces not only her death, but Luke’s. That is also Luke’s ultimate hero moment. Not only does he refuse to release Carly’s hand, he even begins to calculate how to save her through his own sacrifice. Happily, it doesn’t come to that, and the ensuing scene when Carly’s family arrives is an emotionally powerful one that leads to a much-deserved happily-ever-after for both Carly and Luke. Whew! Many readers report that this is the most on-the-edge-of-your-seat scene in the book. Do you agree?

Biggest change from early drafts to final edition

The characters didn’t change much form original concept to final book but the plot sure did! As I said, the villain took some time to pin down, as did the circumstances that brought Luke to Twin Moon. One I had those points established, the last major scene change was where Carly takes the kids to feed the horses and then rock climbs. In the final version, Carly ascends to the top of the cliff and the chapter ends with her there alone. But originally, I had her whip around in surprise to find Luke there. The idea was for them to get talking and eventually get intimate - only to be interrupted by the kids calling from below. That would have been a great scene except I couldn’t think of a plausible way for Luke to have gone from his work site to the top of a cliff! In the end, I reluctantly cut that idea.

Desert Roots is Book 6 in th Twin Moon series. Book 7 is Desert Destiny, starring Roy, the lone wolf shifter often referenced in the series. The most elusive of the Twin Moon wolves is back, and he’s on a mission!