Behind the scenes: Rebel Bear

Bear shifter meets bride on the run - in Waikiki! Did you wonder how I got the inspiration for Book 2 of my new PEARLS OF DESIRE series? Well, read on for all the inside info on this exciting new release.

Note: you can also read my post on Behind the Scenes of the Pearls of Desire series for more background on the inspiration for the series as a whole.

The characters

If you read Book 1, Rebel Dragon, you’ve already met Tim, the middle of the three Hoving brothers. I’ve been itching to write his story from the start, so it was great to be able to sit down and write it. To me, each shifter species should reflect their animal sides. That’s why you’ll find most of my bear shifters to be meticulous, forward-planning types. That’s fitting for an animal that has to prepare for months-long hibernation, don’t you think? While Tim fits that mold, he’s definitely among the most outgoing of my bear shifters, and he’s just as willing to sacrifice everything for his destined mate. But poor Tim - Hailey is so suspicious of shifters, he’s got a heck of a challenge to win her trust! Luckily, he does, so they can live happily ever after in the end.

I surprised myself by picking Hailey Crewe as the heroine of this movie, because I’ve never really been all that fascinated by the modeling world. But Hailey is just perfect for this story as a young woman struggling to break free of her overbearing mother/manager. (Does she remind you of any famous women in the entertainment industry? I can think of a few!) She’s honest and genuine, and she yearns to do what she loves instead of the job she fell in to by chance. In that way, she’s a lot like Tim. At heart, Hailey is a genuine, small-town girl doing her best to stay true to herself in a world where it’s hard to know who to trust.

I purposely made Hailey an uncomplicated, non-diva type. She’s not picky, she loves to pitch in, and she doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty to get a job done. You can see a little of her wild side, too, in the things she yearns to do - surfing, horseback riding, and so on. (I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those are things the real-life Anna Lowe yearns for when I feel the need for a little freedom in my life!)

Hailey is also a perfect fit for this book because of the little things, like her love of brewing coffee. After all, Tim’s house is a former coffee processing shed, and it’s surrounded by overgrown coffee groves. Similarly, her knack for house design makes her the perfect partner for Tim in a business sense, too. You only get a tiny hint of that in this book, but I picture the two of them growing the contracting business into a wildly successful venture someday. Just you wait!

Hailey is a successful supermodel, yet she’s easy to relate to because of her willingness to see the best in people. Her trust gets her in trouble, but she grows a lot over the course of the story and learns when to stand firm and say enough is enough. That’s what makes Hailey a great heroine, I think - her personal journey throughout this story. Not only does she find the man of her dreams in an unfamiliar new place, she also sheds her old self, establishes her independence, and finds her freedom - all while staying true to her principles. An example of that is the way she is willing to help Jonathan in the shifter fight that takes place near the end of the book in spite of the way he treated her all along. I’m not sure I would have been that gracious in that situation myself. What about you?

The story

I’ve never written a “runaway bride” story before, and I wanted to try giving it a fresh new twist. Originally, I had a much more complicated reason for the bride being on the run (see “biggest changes,” below) but that eventually evolved to a story of a woman who so desperately wanted to see the best in a man that she let herself get fooled. Hailey’s Montana roots were inspired by places I visited during a summer trip I took with my kids (no shifter sightings for us, but we did have a great time exploring the many different sides of Montana).

Smarmy Jonathan, meanwhile, is loosely based on my (not too positive) impression of several rich, overly slick sons of prominent businessmen we often see in the news - guys who are born with it all and think they are entitled to it all. Give me a man born in modest circumstances who works hard for a modest living any day! Still, I was gracious enough to give Jonathan one slightly redeeming moment in the final shifter battle when he actually thinks of someone other than himself long enough to tell Hailey to run instead of helping him. Too little, too late to actually like him, but heck. I tried!

The tricky part of this story was finding a way to fit in the shifter angle with the oil tycoon. I played around with the idea of making Jonathan an evil shifter, but then I decided he was enough of a jerk already. Don’t you agree? That meant bringing in Lamar as the ruthless shifter enemy, and that worked well in terms of building the suspense.

I love setting scenes in my favorite Maui locations, and in this story, I finally had the chance to bring the characters to the summit of Haleakala. A popular Maui excursion is to watch the sunrise from there, and maybe someday I’ll write that into a scene. But for now, I wanted to turn that around and bring Tim and Hailey 10,000 feet above sea level for an incredible sunset, a tasty picnic, and a memorable, starry night.

My favorite scene

Oh, man. This one again! I always have a hard time choosing. I love the tension in the opening scenes when Hailey realizes the wedding is not Isabelle’s, and I love the banter between her and Tim when she’s hiding out in the dressing room in the mall. But I also love the tranquility of the scenes at Pu’u Pu’eo when Tim and Hailey grow closer while fixing up the neglected house. (By now, I’m sure you can tell I have a thing for renovating run-down houses that have a lot of character - even if they come with cobwebs!)

I love the scene on top of Haleakala, too. Reading it, I can feel the bite of chilly night air, and I still sigh thinking of the grandeur of that view. Of course, the view is not the only thing Hailey and Tim enjoy up there, but that’s another story!

Real-life inspiration

Well, I’ve never been a bride on the run, but I’ve been to many of the locations and experienced some of the events mentioned in this story. From sunset (and sunrise) on Haleakala to bustling Waikiki and a sunset poke bowl dinner on Windward Maui, I’ve mined my memories for fun ways to fill this story with authentic details. Another example is the references to the moons of Jupiter Hailey makes. That is based on an amazing experience I had at our local observatory. My kids and I spent a memorable evening there, first listening to an informative talk and then getting to look through a telescope at the moons of Jupiter, which were all lined up. Once the moons were pointed out to us, we could see them with the naked eye, too. It was such a lovely, special evening that I was inspired to bring the experience into a book, even in a brief way.

Biggest change from early drafts to final edition

As I mentioned above, one of the biggest changes was to the circumstances that led to Hailey being a runaway bride. I originally had a much more complicated set up in which she was actually contracted to get married by a certain point in her career for publicity reasons, but then she rebelled. However, that was kind of a stretch, even for my active imagination. Oh, and Tim was going to be a bodyguard hired by the evil groom (a shifter) to protect his reluctant bride from all the enemies the groom had acquired in his shady mafia-style deals. But whoa, that was way too complicated! So I thought it through and eventually came up with the surprise wedding you read about in the finished story. That ramps up the tension right from the start and is much more effective than what I had in mind to begin with. Most of my stories work this way, moving from a rough initial idea to a smoother, more refined version over time.

Cross-links with other series

Fans of my Jewels of the Heart series will notice many cross-links with Lure of the Dragon, even though every book can be read as a standalone. If you haven’t read Lure of the Dragon and the other books of Jewels of the Heart, put them at the top of your reading list, because they will help you appreciate the nuances that are a lot of fun to spot in the background.

Most prominent here, of course, are Hunter and Dawn of Lure of the Bear, in part because they are bear shifters, like Tim. And of course Keiki gets a cameo! Keiki was initially introduced in Lure of the Bear, so if you haven’t read it, you might want to look it up. Keiki went on to steal scenes throughout the rest of the Jewels series and remains a fan favorite. There’s nothing cuter than big, tough shifter men cuddling a tiny kitten, don’t you think?