Behind the scenes: Lure of the Fox

Originally, I intended to write 5 books in the Aloha Shifters: Jewels of the Heart series. But so many readers wanted to hear Ella’s story, I just had to fit it in. And a good thing, too, because I needed just the right hero to discover and wield the Keystone, making sure the shifters of Koa Point complete the full collection of Spirit Stones. So how exactly did the story and characters of Lure of the Fox come about? Read on to find out!

The characters

Ella has been referred to over the past few stories in the series, so she’s slowly developed in the background of the books. (Kitt, by the way, is a kind of fox, so I liked that name!) She’s a desert fox shifter who was orphaned at a young age and came to Maui to live in a foster home with Hunter and Kai, so their ties go way back. They enlisted in the army and served for years together. You’ll also remember that in Book 1 of the series (Lure of the Dragon), Ella helped Tessa escape the evil dragon, Damien Morgan, although she didn’t appear “on camera” herself. So I figured it was high time for you to meet her in person! Clearly, a woman who is part of a Special Forces unit has to be super tough, but it wasn’t until I saw this article about a female army veteran now working for a wildlife protection organization that I had Ella’s appearance down.

Of course, looks are just one thing. Personality is another. Ella’s tomboy side is definitely an exaggerated version of me - minus the tattoos! Happily, I did not have her difficult childhood - I was lucky enough to have a stable and loving family all the way through. (Apparently, there is another Anna Lowe who has written about her rough childhood, but that’s not me!) And while Ella is a unique personality, I figured every reader could identify with her journey of finding her true self after years of being pigeonholed into a certain role.

Jake has never been mentioned until this book, but he’s the ultimate book boyfriend as far as I’m concerned. I love a hero who is tough on the outside with some issues on the inside - a guy who needs the right woman to come along and help him chase the last few demons out of his mind. He’s all heart, too, though a little like Ella, he keeps that side of his soul carefully hidden away.

What was also fun about this duo - apart from letting them both discover new sides of themselves (Ella getting in touch with her feminine side, and Jake letting himself fall in love) - was reversing the usual scenario of a shifter male meeting a human female. That made the stakes that much higher with the possibility of Jake not surviving the mating bite. If you’ve read my Twin Moon series, you’ll know that I also did that in Desert Heart, in which pro ball player Rick Rivera comes home for one more shot at his childhood love without realizing her shifter secret. Desert Heart is one of my most heart-wrenching - and rewarding - stories, so if you didn’t read it, you might want to check it out.

The story

For a while now, I’ve wanted to write a “marriage of convenience” story, and that was a great way to bring reluctant Ella and cool Jake together in spite of all their reasons for staying apart. I was also fascinated by the idea of a liger (lion-tiger mix) so that’s how Gideon Goode fit in. The rest pretty much grew from there, including the side stories that show how the other couples of Koa Point are doing - like Silas and Cassandra’s next step in life, and Boone and Nina in that “any day now” mode of expecting their twins. So in some ways, the plot sprung up around the ongoing threads of all those story lines. That’s what makes a long series so rich and enjoyable, I think - you get to witness a whole new community grow and prosper over time.

The details of the puzzle box and opal grew out of lengthy conversations with my amazing “plot wizards” group - a hardcore group of readers I turn to when I’m stuck or need fresh ideas. Basically, I wanted to write a book 6 to be able to wrap up the series with Ella’s story, but I wasn’t sure how to tie in a sixth Spirit Stone. It was this amazing group that threw out the idea of a puzzle box. I think that was originally suggested as a means of containing the original five stones in one place but it developed into a cool place to hide the whole new sixth stone, the Keystone. The idea of making the Keystone a multicolored opal also came from that group. Cool, huh? I’ve always been jealous of the way scriptwriters for big TV and movie productions are able to develop their ideas with a large group of creative minds, but really, I have the luxury of calling together my own group of keen minds whenever I’m in need. So here’s another BIG THANKS to my amazing plot wizards!

This is a good place to express my thanks to my awesome beta reader (and fellow writer), Colleen. She’s been my advisor on all things military and the one who assured me that women in Special Forces aren’t fiction. Just check out this article to read about those real-life heroines for yourself. Thanks, Colleen!

My favorite scene

I have lots, but my two favorite scenes in Lure of the Fox are…

(1) The shopping scene with Lily, which was a hoot to imagine and write. Sort of like Pretty Woman but without a tomboy digging in her heels the whole time! (My mom loves shopping, and I hate it, so it was easy to write both parts - enthusiastic Lily and glum Ella).

(2) My other favorite is the steamy love scene with the ice cube. I wanted something to make that scene unique without doing something outrageous (like a book I once read that had the couple having sex while doing head stands - not!). Having the champagne bucket full of ice there made a light bulb go off over my head. I love the contrast of hot (as in, Jake) and cold in that scene. Don’t you?

Biggest change from early drafts to final edition

The plot in this book didn’t change much from start to finish, but I did do a fairly significant rewrite at the last minute to amp up the suspense and tension early in the book. So I added a scene with Jake jogging along the road and nearly getting run down by a car. That helped make the danger more palpable from an earlier point in the story and fit in perfectly with the call he gets from Hoover afterward.

Cross-links with Twin Moon Ranch

This story (and especially the bonus epilogue) nicely ties the Aloha Shifters series back in with my Twin Moon Ranch series. The ties have been there all along, with Tessa of Book 1 starting her journey in Arizona with Ella’s help. In that book, Boone mentioned that the wolves of Twin Moon Ranch are cousins of his and that he helped Ella get her job on that ranch. So Lure of the Fox circles back there by focusing on Ella and her desert roots. Of course, Jake is the perfect partner for her in that he, too, loves the open space of the American West. (Me, too!)