Behind the scenes: Lure of the Dragon

How exactly does a woman on the run from one dragon fall in love with another? Find out all about the making of Lure of the Dragon here!

The characters

A few years ago, I met a woman at a picnic who worked as a private chef - a job I had no idea existed until then. It was such an interesting, off-beat job, I knew it was perfect for the heroine of this story - and not just because she has to draw the attention of the evil Damien Morgan, the villain of this story. Being a chef also comes in handy as a means for Tessa to win the hearts of the shifters of Koa Point, who generally steer clear of humans. Tessa’s personality was clear to me right from the start - a fiery, stands-on-her-own-feet heroine - but I couldn’t decide on her outer appearance until a member of my amazing “plot wizards” group posted a picture of a redhead. And, boom - there was Tessa, coming through loud and clear in her green eyes.

Like all the men of Koa Point, Kai has a tragic past - and in his case, he has every reason to avoid falling in love with a human. But Kai inherited his human mother’s optimistic outlook, which means he’s not as dark or brooding as his older cousin, Silas. He’s a little more headstrong, too, especially when dragon instincts takes over and drive him to extremes - like the unquenchable thirst for his mate. I love the simmering undercurrent of raw power he balances with kindness and the drive to do the right thing. As an author, I look for ways to make powerful heroes vulnerable, which is how I decided on Kai’s backstory. He’s an orphan who was old enough to remember his parents but young enough to feel the terrible loss. He’s determined never to fall for a human so that he will never suffer the same fate his parents did. Of course, destiny has other ideas, tempting him with Tessa…

It seemed to me dragon shifters would choose to live on high, rocky points, so I had a lot of fun designing Kai’s modern, glass-front, designer house with amazing views over the Pailolo channel to the neighboring islands of Molokai and Lanai. I made him a helicopter pilot as a fond nod to TC of the Magnum, PI series, and also because I figured if anyone knew about flying, it would be a dragon shifter! (By the way, I always chuckle at Kai’s reference to his shifter buddies: “Try getting a bear or a tiger in a helicopter. The big boys get all white-knuckled.”) And of course, he loves speed, so he usually chooses the Ferrari when he goes for a drive.

The story

Characters are one thing; creating a believable and engaging plot are another. Bit by bit, I fitted together random ideas together like puzzle pieces until I had a fun, fast-paced storyline with a looming villain and ever-rising stakes. For example, Kai’s first dragon fight serves to heighten the sense of impending danger of the story, and his injuries bring him and Tessa closer together. Meanwhile, Tessa’s green eyes made me decide to pair her with an emerald, the Lifestone - an heirloom the women of her family passed down through generations. Tessa has no idea it’s a powerful Spirit Stone, and she has no idea about what’s hidden in her genes (no spoilers here - you’ll have to read the book!). Let’s just say there’s a reason for the temper tantrums she threw as a child, the fact that she doesn’t burn easily, and the fact that she loves grilling over an open flame - little hints that I had a lot of fun planting throughout the story. The Lifestone, meanwhile, gives Morgan all the more reason to come after Tessa - and gives Kai all the more reason to protect the woman he loves.

I wanted to move the action around some of my favorite locations in that part of Hawaii, which is why Tessa traveled to Lanai and later crash-landed with Kai on Molokini. The latter is my way of fulfilling a secret wish to step foot on Molokini’s forbidden shores. I have snorkeled there but not actually explored the island, much less waged a dragon battle there! That’s the great thing about being an author - you get to experience all kinds of forbidden delights in your mind and share them with your readers!

The idea of a fire maiden arose when my mind was wandering, looking for an explanation as to why an evil dragon would be so determined to claim Tessa. I love the idea of having that special quality you’re not even aware of that makes you important and cherished by others. In a way, it’s a reflection of the truth: everybody has a hidden something that makes them unique and lovable in their own special way. Plus, wouldn’t it just be the coolest thing to find out you’re a fire maiden?

Another unique new addition to my shifter world is the concept of a dangerous mating brand. I love how shifters seal their eternal bond with a mating bite, but I wanted to go one step further and make dragons totally unique. And since dragons breathe fire, that’s part of the mating ritual, too: a puff of fire breathed in at the time of the mating bite. Which also made a handy plot tool since there’s a risk involved and therefore a factor that initially has Kai hesitating to give in to his attraction for Tessa. Lucky for him, the resistance doesn’t last long!

There are a few things that couldn’t fit neatly into the flow of the story, so I ended up writing two BONUS SCENES I share with newsletter subscribers for FREE, so make sure you’re subscribed and check your inbox! One of those scenes is the mating bite, and another is the dragon honeymoon Kai and Tessa go on once the main action of the story winds down. Don’t miss them!

My favorite scene

My favorite scene in this story is the opening, in which a spooked Tessa arrives at Koa Point estate. I just love the swirling tension and uncertainty in that scene, and the way it introduces readers to the Aloha Shifters world. Easygoing wolf shifter Boone cracks the jokes; Cruz, the high-strung tiger, paces in the shadows; Hunter, the sweet hulk of a bear, watches everything with keen eyes; and Silas, Kai’s broody dragon cousin, keeps an eye on the big picture and reminds the others what’s at stake. I also love the way that Tessa stands up to the pressure and immediately starts establishing herself as their equal.

Biggest change from early drafts to final edition

The biggest change from original concept to final story was the location of Damien Morgan’s lair - er, mansion. Originally, I was going to base him in a turreted penthouse apartment of the Beresford, one of New York City’s priciest and architecturally dramatic buildings. That idea came from a visit to New York when I was waiting for some friends on a beautiful fall day. I looked up and there was this amazing building that would be perfect for a dragon billionaire. However, I decided on a gorgeous mansion on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix instead. One reason was to give a dragon more space to fly; another was to build a link to the wolves of Twin Moon Ranch through Ella (who - shhh! will eventually get a story of her own). I didn’t entirely scrap the idea of the New York penthouse, though – I’m saving it for a future story, so keep your eyes peeled!

Cross-links with Twin Moon Ranch

As mentioned above, this book has a clear link to my Twin Moon Ranch series through two characters. Boone Hawthorne is a cousin to the Hawthorne clan of Twin Moon Ranch, and Ella, a wily desert fox, works for the powerful wolf pack, keeping an eye on the dragon shifter they’re none to pleased to have prowling around their part of the world. I’ve hiked Camelback and Squaw Peak many times and always done a bit of fantasizing about living in one of the amazing houses perched on their slopes. (For the record, I also fantasize about a new law that would ban any development on those peaks because it’s hard to see such beautiful pockets of nature marred.)

So there you have it – the story behind the story of Lure of the Dragon. Kai and Tessa’s story is just the beginning of a multibook series that will all interconnect. If you’re thinking that Drax, the powerful dragon who looms in the background of this story has more trouble in store for our friends, you’re right. Laid-back Boone, the wolf shifter, is about to stumble across the greatest beach find of his life, too, so make sure you check out Lure of the Wolf to see what happens next!

To learn about the inspiration for the entire series, check out my post on the Inspiration for the Aloha Shifters series, in which I explain how the series developed from a rough idea to actual stories over the course of many months.