So, where exactly does the idea of a shifter series set in Hawaii come from? And what about those jewels? Read on for a behind the scenes look at ALOHA SHIFTERS!
You can date a person by the television shows they grew up with, I think. For me, that means back in the day when you parked yourself in front of the TV at a certain time every week because the show was airing then and only then (no video recorders, no Youtube, no DVDs with entire seasons of your favorite shows - remember those days?). One of my favorite programs was Magnum, PI, in part because every member of the family found something to enjoy about it. We loved the palm trees, the beaches, the red Ferrari, and the scenes of TC’s helicopter sweeping over turquoise stretches of the Pacific. We loved the action and the comic moments, and we loved Tom Selleck’s winks at the fourth wall (a theater term for looking straight at the audience). We loved Higgins, Zeus and Apollo, and the mystery around Robin Masters, the owner of the estate. Who wouldn’t want to dwell in that world for a little while? A world where danger and excitement rule but, whew! - things always work out for a happy end. (Okay, there are a few Magnum episodes that end on more somber notes, but on the whole, they end with an upbeat tone.)
Fast-forward many years, and you’ll find Anna the writer (versus Anna the wistful teen). When I first started publishing fiction, I unconsciously kept genres neatly divided. On one hand, I wrote dark & dangerous paranormal romances, and on the other, I wrote exotic & exciting romances in tropical settings. Over time, however, my mind started blending the two, begging me to bring the thrilling shifter world into a whole new setting. That’s the great thing about fiction - there are no limits to where your imagination takes you.
So gradually, a new series was born. But Magnum, PI is only one of many flavors that my imagination combined like so many spices in a unique recipe. Having spent time on each of the major Hawaiian islands, I had a host of personalities, locations, and experiences to pepper into the mix, and the shifter world I’d started creating with my Twin Moon and Blue Moon Saloon series played a major role in shaping this new series as well.
Originally, I was tempted to write an all-dragon series, but I love wolves and bears, too, and the rogue in me wanted to try something totally different - say, a tiger shifter. And since I couldn’t decide, I kept them all! And let me tell you, mixing shifter species is extra fun because you can play off the quirks and differences of each shifter type. Cruz, the tiger, is always prowling around the shadows, even when he’s in human form. Hunter, a bear shifter, loves honey and sleeping in late. Boone, the wolf shifter, is a carefree, easygoing guy, while the two dragon cousins are pretty intense. And honestly, I fell in love with each and every one of them. They’re tough alpha types, and though they hide their scars well, these Special Forces vets all have sensitive - even fragile - souls which makes them even easier to fall for. They’re a band of brothers who are doing their best to transition back to civilian life.
You can read about each character and story in the “behind the scenes” posts for each individual book. For now, I’ll just say they came easily because they all play off one another like so many siblings in a big family. I had so much fun matching each shifter hero with a certain type of home and vehicle that matches his personality. Can you guess which shifter lives in high outcrop in a modernistic home with huge picture windows? How about which one prefers the modest bungalow set right at the high tide line? Can you guess who drives the Ferrari, the Harley, and the beat-up Jeep? (See - I told you it was fun!)
The heroines, meanwhile, come from all walks from life, and while several are humans who are suddenly exposed to the dangers and secrets of the shifter world, others are… well, I don’t want to give anything away, so let’s just say they have mixed blood. While each heroine has her flaws, fears, and weaknesses, each is a tough, resilient woman ready to fight for survival - and for true love.
The jewels from the subtitle of this series (Aloha Shifters: Jewels of the Heart) were actually a late addition to the series made in the last steps of the outline stage. The dragon-treasure connection made my mind leap over to the idea of a long-lost horde of connected “Spirit Stones,” each with its own powers. That brings a slight fantasy element to the series and allows the human heroines to stand up to supernatural shifters in their ultimate hour of need. I also love the Spirit Stones angle because they add so many facets (pun intended) to the series - there’s the aspect of a priceless jewel, the sheer allure of a beautiful, shiny gem, and the temptation for evil forces to swoop down and steal the Spirit Stones away. So right away you get a clash of motives and values to enrich and sustain a multibook series.
The hardest part was figuring out where each of the Spirit Stones has been lurking and what powers each contains. I was originally thinking of a link with “Shifters in Vegas” series in which a bear shifter related to Tanner Lloyd (of Gambling on Her Bear) is tasked with safely delivering a precious emerald but getting ambushed along the way and…and…um… Well, it got way too complicated, so I never quite worked out what the “and” and “how” might be. Instead, I came up with the jewels having the power to call to each other and thus linking the action of each story. To me, that’s the most satisfying kind of series - one in which each book is a true standalone with its own happy end, while still conveying the sense of a wider world and ongoing story arc. That’s a reflection of the real world, too. We each live in our own homes and experience our own stories, but our families and communities make us part of a greater story at the same time.
Biggest change from early concept to eventual outline
Originally, I was going to carry the Hawaiian theme through to each of the five main heroes by giving each a Hawaiian name. However, I ended up giving all but Kai non-Hawaiian names, in part because they didn’t seem to match (and differentiate) as well as Boone, Hunter, Cruz, and Silas do (think Kai/Kaeo/Aku/Kekoa… - the original Hawaiian names!). Boone to me says western/frontier, a nod to his roots in Twin Moon Ranch country in the desert southwest (he’s a cousin of the wolves of that series). Hunter is a good, solid name for a bear (and evocative of the name Tanner, the bear shifter from Gambling on Her Bear in my Shifters in Vegas series). Cruz gives a hint of the exotic - heck, he’s a tiger, right? And the name Silas matches that character’s slightly old-fashioned manners and quirks. He’s the last in a long line of dragons, by the way, and carries the burden of a heavy expectations. I can’t wait to bring you his story in Book 5, Love of the Dragon,. But first things first! It all starts with Kai in Lure of the Dragon, Book 1.
Cross-links with other series
I couldn’t resist linking this new series with my other series - and really, isn’t real life like that, too? Think seven degrees of separation and all that. The most direct link comes through Boone Hawthorne, the star of Book 2, Lure of the Wolf. He’s a cousin of the wolves of Twin Moon Ranch - a very easy-going cousin who’s probably closest to Cody Hawthorne of Desert Blood in terms of his sunny, outgoing personality. The action of Book 1, Lure of the Dragon, starts in Phoenix, Arizona, and a key side character in that book is Ella, a desert fox who works for the wolves of Twin Moon Ranch. Stay tuned for Ella’s story later on!
This whole process, by the way, took months to develop. It took eight months to go from the original, rough idea to get to the point where I felt ready to sit down and plot a single story. But those months were priceless in terms of creating an appealing world with realistic conflicts that truly draw you in. Well, I think so, at least. I hope you agree!
That’s it for now - the making of the Aloha Shifter series! You can read about the making of each book in more detail in their own individual posts which will go live as the books do. Enjoy!