Thursday, May 01, 2008

Counting Down to Hidden Fire

What I've been reading: Over Hexed by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Without Due Process by J.A. Jance, Animal Magnetism by Maggie Shayne, Paradise by Meljean Brook, Snowfall at Willow Lake by Susan Wiggs

Back from Colorado after a wonderful visit with family and a fantastic mingling with writers, agents, editors, experts. So nice not to feel crazy!

Hidden Fire is only a week away. I'm counting down. Check here and at my website for excerpts, character interviews and behind the scenes fun.

I've posted before about sequels and spinoffs. Hidden Fire is a true sequel to Finding Sarah. How did Randy and Sarah feel about coming back to center stage? I asked them, and here's what they said. What do you think? One lucky commenter to any countdown post will win a download.

When Randy and Sarah Return.

"Come in, Sarah," I say, covering the mouthpiece of the phone with my hand. I motion her to the chairs opposite my desk. "I'll be with you in a jiffy."

She smiles, and I detect a hint of nervousness. She takes a seat in the chair closer to the wall, adjusts the collar of her pale blue blouse, then twists the strap of her shoulder bag.

I cut my call short, hang up and stack the array of papers on my desk into a semblance of order, finding a fresh notepad and pen. "Sorry about that. Can I get you something while we wait for Randy? Coffee? Chamomile tea?"

She shakes her head and does some more strap-twisting. "I'm fine. I hope this won't take too long, though. Jennifer has to leave the shop by four today." She checks her watch.

"Randy should be here soon. He's on duty today, right? I'm sure it's hard for him to get away sometimes."

Sarah lowers her gaze. "Yes." Her voice is barely a whisper, but I hear a touch of resentment. Maybe more than a touch. I jot "Conflict" on my notepad, and underneath I write, "Job issues."

Moments later, Sarah checks her watch again. She frowns. Before the silence becomes uncomfortable, there's a knock on the door, which opens immediately. Randy Detweiler ambles in, all six-feet-six of him. Unlike Sarah, there's nothing hesitant about the way he extends his hand, first to me, then to Sarah. He lowers himself into the empty chair. I take him in, once again glad I didn't go with the stereotype 'drop dead gorgeous' hero. Tall, lanky, with his hawk-beak nose and the scar through his eyebrow, he's comfortable with himself as a man, not as a sex object. All cop, all business.

Sarah's nervousness hasn't abated. She's on the pale side, her freckles standing out across her nose and cheeks. I wonder if it's too soon after the ordeal I put her through to hit her with my new proposal. Too late for that, and she did agree to the meeting, so there's still hope. However, she's leaning back in her chair, away from both me and Randy. This might be a harder sell than I thought.

The initial pleasantries dispensed with, I bend forward, resting my hands on my desk. "No point in beating around the bush," I say. "How do you two feel about a sequel to Finding Sarah?"

"Sounds good to me," Randy says. He glances in Sarah's direction. She avoids his eyes. He shoves a lock of hair away from his face. "She won't be kidnapped in this book, will she? I can understand her reluctance to participate if she's going to have to go through so much trauma again."

It's a book. Only trouble is interesting. I don't voice my thoughts, however. "Of course not. Besides, readers wouldn't tolerate using the same device in two books."

"It's not that." Sarah twists her purse strap some more. I wonder if I noticed the habit in her earlier interviews or if it's something she's picked up from me. "I mean, the first book was a romance, so we've already covered the basics. First meet, first kiss, the sex, that awful black moment and we get together at the end. I thought romance sequels were more like spinoffs, like the way Starting Over is Colleen McDonald's story. Wouldn't another book featuring me and Randy break the rules?"

I try not to grimace. "First of all, they're not rules. Think of it as reader expectation. And I've figured a way around it. That's what I wanted to talk to you about."

"You're not going to give me amnesia or anything, are you?" Sarah asks. "Too cliché, I think."

I chuckle. "No, nothing like that. But what do you think about a little separation?"

"How long?" Randy says immediately. His brown eyes with those enticing hazel flecks narrow.

"Not long," I reply. "Six weeks. I thought you might like some Violent Crimes Task Force training. But it means you'll have to go to San Francisco."

Sarah chews her lip and twirls a strand of her hair. She's let it grow out some. It seems brighter, more chestnut. Business must be picking up for her boutique. After a moment, she says, "That's a distinct possibility."

Randy doesn't look as positive. "Six weeks. All in San Francisco?"

"Afraid so," I say. "But think of the reunion scene. Could be intense. I thought we'd open the book with it."

He nods, obviously suppressing a smile. "I could deal with that." His cell rings, and he gives me an apologetic glance before he checks the display. "Sorry, I'll have to take this call. It's my chief."

"Not a problem," I say. "I think we've covered the important points. I'll be in touch when it's time for our next interview."

"It's a plan." He lifts the phone to his ear. "Detweiler." He exits, still talking on the phone, every inch the cop.

Sarah's lips compress to a thin line.

This could be perfect.

Sarah doesn't get up. "This might be a bad idea," she says. "Did you see what just happened?"

"What do you mean?"

"He's in the middle of a meeting. He gets a call and disappears. It's like I'm not even in the room. Not like we might have dinner plans. Not like I'm taking off from my job, too. And I can guarantee that when we see each other again, he won't mention the call. If I ask, he'll say it was nothing.

"Maybe I can fix that," I say.

Her eyes light up, glistening their stone-blue color, the color that Randy found so compelling when he met her. "You can?" She sits up straighter, her hands free of the purse strap at last. "But nothing obvious, right? He'd know if he's being manipulated."

"Don't worry about a thing. Of course, because your relationship was established in the previous book, there will be more emphasis on the mystery this time."

"That would be great. I've always thought that I could be helpful, if only Randy would see me as a partner. Not a cop, but an equal. He still has that white knight thing you gave him in Finding Sarah."

I jot more notes. "Point taken. But you have to agree that your character has to develop slowly. It's commercial fiction. I'm going to have to throw stuff at the two of you." Little does she know what.

"Can I take care of myself? Not get stuck somewhere waiting for Randy to come to the rescue?"

"No trouble at all, but I can't make you a kick-ass heroine right off the bat. Readers won't buy it."

"I have no desire to be kick-ass. I'm no wimp, but I'm happy being Sarah, boutique owner."

"You proved that before. You know my style. Things start out with seemingly solvable situations, but they keep escalating. And since it's categorized as a romance, you know you'll both be alive and together at the end." I wink. "But I have a few surprises for Randy."

We exchange conspiratorial smiles. Sarah rises. "Thanks, Terry. I'll look forward to the first draft."

I don't tell her Hidden Fire is already written.


Minime said...

I'm loving this story already.

ddurance said...

Counting the days with you, Terry!


Joe Prentis said...


It is always good to 'work' with characters who are real people. There are too many books with cardboard characters, but if a story is to be worth reading, it must have characters who come aive in the minds of the reader. Sometimes my characters become too demanding and the only way you can have any peace is to let them have their way again. Sometimes it doesn't do any good to let them know who is boss. You can only pamper them.

Joe Prentis at

Katie Reus said...

Great interview Terry! I've never seen this done before by anyone but you, but I like the idea of interviewing your characters :)

Terry Odell said...

Minime, ddurance, Katie -- thanks.

Joe: I know what you mean. At the writer's conference I recently attended, 'it's all about the characters' came up frequently. In one session, the presenter gave one example of a book where "you could have dropped a piano on any one of the characters and it wouldn't have made a difference to the book" but he said that was an aberrant fluke, and the book was a best-seller anyway. But my characters live in my head and definitely lead the way. That's why there's "Hidden Fire" to begin with -- I needed to play with the characters some more. And I have several 'shorts' that aren't really stories, just potential scenes and chapters, because they didn't want to go away.

Sarai said...

Sounds so good!

char10 said...

loved it. that was great idea to interview your characters.

Anita Birt said...

A stylish interview. Well done. I'd love to have a series but my characters won't move out of the book. Congratulations on having such thoughtful characters. Makes me wonder who is doing what to whom.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks, Anita -
My characters insist on hanging around.