Hi, readers! I am beyond pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. Recently, I asked authors to come to the blog with a little background into their characters. Exactly what is it about them that keeps a writer up at night, composing those romance novels we love? I wanted to dig deep into each of these characters. Today is the next post in this series.
So, without further ado, let’s turn the mic over to author Sable Hunter, who has some things to say about her character.
Hi, Sable! Describe one of your main characters and why he or she impacts the story.
Writers are totally at the mercy of inspiration. Without it, there would be no stories, or if there were, they’d be flat and formulistic, cookie-cutter pieces of cardboard, empty of soul and life. My hope is to never be guilty of such a tragedy.
As a writer, I’m prone to flights of fancy. I fantasize. I dream. My greatest joy is taking a single image from a movie or ten words from a song and transforming that small whisper into an eighty-thousand word confession of the soul. Sometimes that whisper of an idea will haunt me, coloring my dreams and fueling my thoughts.
As a chronic insomniac, I have many hours of solitude. The time between dusk and dawn can seem like an eternity. When I’m lucky, I can use that endless night to give birth to a character, a conflict, a climax – a seed, that if I’m lucky, will grow and bloom into a portrait of love.
This is what happened with Lily. The idea of her story glimmered to life on one of my dark nights. I could see her face. I could hear her voice. At the time we were first introduced, in LOVE FOUND A WAY – another of my vision children – I didn’t know much about her. All I did know was that she fascinated me. In the scene where she was introduced, as Glory Bee Hudson’s childhood friend, we find out that Lily is dying.
Okay, maybe I’m more than a little preoccupied with death. Even though I write romance novels, ALL with an HEA (happily-ever-after), I still manage to work in my own phobias and concerns in a somewhat cathartic fashion. I’ve often congratulated myself that I have the privilege of making a living with the same tool that I use to battle my demons. For example, in HEAD OVER SPURS, I addressed the problem that has reoccurred in my life now, an inability to shut my eyes and surrender to sleep.
We learn that Lily is dying, she has a glioblastoma, a malignant brain tumor. She’s already endured treatment and been granted the godly version of three wishes in the form of three remissions. Lily has been told there will be no more.
I complicated the situation by making Lily the owner of Charlotte’s Art Gallery in New Orleans. Charlotte was a beloved character in one of my historical novels and it excited me for her story to continue into the present day. This plot twist presented a wealth of opportunity, for Charlotte was a marvel, a woman ahead of her time, a brave soul who stood up for what was right and risked her life to protect a talented artist, a freed slave, during a time when doing so broke laws and infuriated those who did not believe in the equality of the races. Even though Lily possesses Charlotte’s diary and many of the paintings that made up her original collection, there is so much about her that Lily doesn’t know. To spice things up even further, the gallery is located next to a mysterious shop, owned by a hoodoo practicing descendant of Charlotte’s, by the name of Bliss. As Lily lives and works where Charlotte once lived, she begins to feel a kinship with the long-dead woman, even seeing her ghost at times.
At least Lily thinks she’s seeing Charlotte’s ghost. Flora, Lily’s sister, is convinced Lily is having hallucinations as a result of her brain tumor.
Lily is extremely frustrated because her sister doesn’t believe her.
At the time I created the character of Lily, I had no plans to save her. Hell, it would take a miracle. I can write miracles, but I insist a grain of truth be present to substantiate the surprising occurrence. Yes, I see you out there – those of you who have read HER MAGIC TOUCH, but I will defend that work by saying that I have met a traiteur (Cajun faith healer) and that my Mama and two decades of attending a Southern Baptist church assures me that I have a guardian angel. I’m sure my personal GA is beyond frustrated, but I hope he keeps up the good work.
ANYWAY, Lily’s predicament, who she was and what would happen to her began to gnaw at me. The pivotal scene was born: a woman, about to undergo risky surgery for a brain tumor, is convinced by her family that the man she’s been telling them about, the man she’s in love with, is a mirage. There’s no use waiting for him to come as he promised to be by her bedside, because he isn’t real. He’s just a product of the cancer destroying her brain cells. Wow.
I tried to imagine her heartbreak when he doesn’t show, although she can remember every kiss – every touch – every word of love.
Now, as an author, this was my dilemma. Here, I have this super interesting character that I’ve created with an obvious expiration date.
I didn’t like it, but who could I blame? I did it to myself.
Still, I couldn’t let Lily’s story go.
In the midnight hours, when I rocked on my porch and watched the stars twinkle in the sky, unable to shut my eyes for fear I’d get sucked down into a well of forgetfulness, I dwelt on Lily. I began to see a story, a glimpse at a possibility, a mirage of what if’s.
What if Lily decided she needed to get away, to come to terms with her dwindling days?
What if she escaped to a remote barrier island, haunted by lost love?
What if she met someone? What if she fell in love?
What if she hid her fate from him, because there was no future for her – only the here and now?
Whoa! I would throw up my hands – because I refused to write a book where the main character dies. I hate those books! And I would not contribute to a trope that celebrates a nasty reality – no one gets out of this effing life alive, dammit. When I read, I want to be entertained, not reminded of my mortality – – that’s what keeps me awake nights anyway!
So…Lily languished in my TBW (to be written) notes…until I saw a 60 Minute episode on television that seemed to be the answer to my problem. To my amazement, a miracle was occurring; Duke University was conducting clinical tests to cure people with incurable glioblastomas by injecting their cancers with polio virus. Can you imagine? Well, it’s true. And it’s working in some cases – – and if I had my way, it would work in Lily’s.
Of all my books, this one is a bit unusual because the dominant role is the woman. Usually, I’m more focused on the male character. I’ve used the heroines more as mirrors to reflect the reader, so they can more easily fantasize themselves into the role as the story unfolds. But not this time. Lily is a force to be reckoned with.
Her strength does not discount the hero of the book, however. Blade Jensen is every woman’s dream – a handsome actor who grew up on a ranch in Texas, named Sexiest Man Alive, a man with the ability to love completely and forever. A true hero. He also has his own cross to bear, having lost a child to an obsessed fan. When he learns of Lily’s fate, he is determined to be there for her – no matter what.
Hey, for a romance writer, I’m ambitious. I tackle the meaning of life, the hope of an afterlife – exploring everything from spirits to reincarnations. Most importantly, I work hard to construct stories that will make people believe in the power of love. I want you to know that I stayed up nights – ha! – working this out.
So…there I was with all these pieces, these problems, two strong three-dimensional characters who deserved a lifetime of happiness. Throw in a hint of the supernatural, a mysterious painting that seems to link the past with the present. Pepper the pages with secondary characters and settings plucked straight from unique New Orleans and a romantic remote island – and there you have it. A story I wanted to tell. A story that has stuck with me and hopefully one my readers will enjoy.
So far, so good.
Lily Bastien comes to mysterious St. Phillips Island for a last fling with life. She knows her future is uncertain and love is not in her stars. Here, in a cottage haunted by lost love, she will discover a secret that will rock her world. A ghost from the past is not the only unexpected visitor to her private sanctuary. Imagine her surprise when she finds Sexiest Man Alive, Blade Jensen, naked in her bedroom. They clash, at first, but soon they can’t fight the attraction they feel for one another. Sparks begin to fly and the passion they share changes everything. Lily can only dream of forever, but Blade is determined to make her dreams come true. To protect the man she loves, she tries to hide the painful truth from him. But fate finds a way and Blade and Lily learn that sometimes a love is so great, one lifetime together could never be enough.
And Sable is giving us a peek at her novel!
“You’ll love it here. The island is self-sufficient with its own water and power supply. There’s a natural maritime forest and a long white sandy beach. All in all, St. Philip’s has about 5000 acres, including the marshland and the creeks.”
“Sounds great.” Lily was excited. “Is there a downside?”
“It’s haunted,” the boy said flatly, looking off into the distance.
“Oh, really?” She wanted to ask more questions, but the dock loomed ahead and her eyes widened at the natural beauty. “Oh, wow,” was her awed exclamation as they tied off and began unloading her things from the boat to the bed of the four-wheeler. “This place looks amazing.”
“If you go swimming, stay on the beach side, there’s alligators in the marsh to the north.”
“Thanks for the information and the help.” Lily tipped Seba and he continued on his way. She hadn’t driven a four-wheeler before, but she figured it couldn’t be much different than a golf cart.
The trail from the dock to the house was bordered by mammoth oaks with branches that spread wide, some hanging low enough to the ground to sit on. Spanish moss hung liberally from the trees, giving the whole place an eerie, Southern Gothic feel. As she topped the slight incline, Lily could see a beautiful two-story house nestled among a grove of large magnolias. A wide verandah wrapped around the house, deep enough to provide cool shade in the summer heat. A portion of the porch was screened and Lily hoped a bed awaited her there. Painted white with blue shutters, the house looked like a jewel, nestled on a bed of velvet jade. While the back faced the narrow bay and marshes, the front boasted a fabulous view of the Atlantic Ocean. Once she parked, Lily couldn’t resist running the last few feet of the way, more than excited to see what else the magnificent home had to offer.
The staircase leading up to the porch was wide and she was surprised to find the door and ceiling painted a light, smoky blue with large mirrors flanking either side of the entrance. There was even a bottle tree in the front yard, each limb decorated with a cobalt blue or sea green glass bottle. Remembering what Seba had told her, she shivered at what she’d discovered. “Oh, someone is superstitious as heck around here.”
Taking the key from her pocket, she let herself in and set out to explore the interior of the beautiful home before unloading her supplies. The layout and décor were straight out of Costal Living and the kitchen was a cook’s dream, with white cabinets, hardwood floors, and stainless-steel appliances. There were three bedrooms and three baths, one of the bedrooms was an impressive master with an en suite bath boasting a huge marble shower and all the amenities one would expect in a luxurious spa. As she continued to explore, Lily located the bedroom she wanted to use. At first, she thought it was just a sunroom, but after she entered, she saw it opened to the screened porch she’d seen from outside, featuring a breathtaking view and a magical canopy bed wrapped in filmy swaths of sheer material. The closest bath was a couple doors away, but Lily didn’t mind; a few extra steps wouldn’t matter to her.
Making herself at home, she unpacked her clothing, then adjourned to the kitchen. As soon as the groceries were put away, Lily prepared a quick salad for supper, choosing to eat on the verandah. Through the trees, she could see the waves pounding the white sand. Unable to resist, she placed her empty plate on a small wrought iron table and went for a stroll on the beach. The sun was just beginning to sink into the ocean, painting the sky with a blaze of red and orange.
With a contented sigh, she held her hands above her head, relishing the feel of the wind in her hair. She felt as if she could capture the breeze in the fingertips, claim glimpses of the faraway places the zephyr had traveled, places she’d never see.
Wanting the full experience, Lily removed her shoes and waded in the surf. Yet try as she might, she found it difficult to rid her mind of problems. She didn’t have to wonder where the future would take her; she knew. The doctor had been straightforward, telling Lily how it would end for her. The deterioration, the loss of faculties, and finally a coma. This revelation was nothing new. She’d lived with the knowledge of the unwelcome invader in her body for most of her life.
Oh, she’d long since gone through the seven stages of grief. Lily had lived far longer than most with a glioblastoma, she’d even gone through remission a couple of times. There would be no third time, however. No charm. Her Wish Book would never come true. She was nearing the end of a hard-fought battle.
What really angered Lily was that she didn’t look sick, she didn’t feel sick. To look at her, one wouldn’t think she had so little time left on this earth. Yet, she had a ticking time bomb in her head.
But she wasn’t planning to go peacefully into that good night. No, she wanted to fight this whole ugly thing tooth and nail.
She just didn’t know how…
What she needed was a distraction, a sexy distraction.
Her mind went to the handsome hunk she’d seen at the gas station. He’d said he was someone famous and Lily couldn’t argue; she didn’t keep up with such things. Yet even if he weren’t, she understood that women like her didn’t attract men who looked like him. Oh, she wasn’t ugly, she just wasn’t anything special.
No, she took that back.
She was special in her own way and if things were different, she’d have plenty to offer the right guy. Their encounter wasn’t a total loss, she could use her memory of him the next time she played with her toys.
After she’d strolled on the beach for a half hour, Lily turned around and began to make her way back to the house. The rhythm of the waves and the beauty of her surroundings went a long way to giving her a sense of peace. Hopefully, she’d be able to sleep.
As Lily prepared for bed, she wondered what the next day held in store. Before lying down, she cracked a window open. Sure enough, she could hear the ocean. With a contented sigh, she crawled beneath the covers and pulled them up under her chin.
Sleep wasn’t long in coming.
Lily sprung straight up in the bed. She froze, scared to breathe. Was someone in the house with her? Did she have an intruder? After hearing more muffled noises, she grabbed her phone, only to find there was no cell service. Dammit! She hadn’t noticed where the landlines were. Rising, she glanced around. What she needed was a weapon. By the light of the moon, she could see the two-foot statue of the sandpiper sitting on the bedside table. Very carefully, Lily picked up the piece, weighing it her hands. Yes, she could wield it like a baseball bat, if the need arose.
Moving slowly, she tiptoed from the sunroom. Noises were still emanating from deeper in the house. After turning a corner, Lily could see that there was a light on in the master suite. There was an intruder in the house! She assumed there was plenty in the home to steal, everything from artwork to electronics. Dang it; she just hated a thief.
Rounding a corner, Lily almost dropped her makeshift club. Her eyes bugged wide and her jaw dropped. Standing in front of the open French doors was a naked man. His back was to her, but she could see wide-wide shoulders, a wedge-shaped torso, and wait…she recognized that curly hair. “You?” she growled her under her breath. Taking the few last steps, Lily used the bill of the bird to poke in his ribs, doing her best to ignore his delectable ass. “Put your hands up. You’re trespassing, cowboy.”
The man did as she asked, but in the next second, he stepped smoothly back, took the weapon from her with one hand and scooped her up with the other, tossing Lily gently to the mattress. After taking a good look at the pretty brunette sprawled on his bed, he grinned. “Well, if it isn’t Miss Pink Panties. This is my lucky day!”
Fighting to catch her breath, she huffed, “When did you see my panties?”
“When you kicked the football to that kid. For my benefit, right?” Blade tried to keep his focus, tried to ignore the way she chewed on her lower lip as she processed the most recent development, tried to ignore the two mounds of sweet tits quivering beneath the thinnest of sleep shirts, and two sweet thighs open just enough…but it was impossible. A fog of arousal enveloped his brain.
It had been way too long since he’d gotten laid.
Lily rolled off the bed on the far side. “No! There’s that monstrous size ego again! For your information, I would never do such a thing for your benefit! What are you doing in my house? And why are you grinning at me?” She pulled on the hem of her too short sleep shirt. Noticing the phone on the bedside table, she made a grab for it. “You need to leave! I’m calling 9-1-1!” As she pressed the numbers, she glanced at him; it was hard not to notice that his front was even nicer than his back. Washboard abs, full pecs, and…God, the man was hung!
“Good, tell them I have a sexy stalker.” Blade was enjoying their banter. Usually by this time, most women would be plastered all over him, not standing up to him like a spitting kitten.
“I’m not a stalker, I was here first!” she yelled, unable to ignore that he’d called her sexy.
“I figured you for an overzealous fan when you ran up to me in the parking lot.”
Lily tossed a pillow at him. “I was returning your phone, you big…dickhead. Hold that pillow over yourself.”
Cowboy snorted, catching the pillow, and holding it waist high. He was still trying to ignore her jiggling breasts. “Nice of you to notice. Why are you frowning?”
“There’s no dang dial tone,” she muttered, throwing down the cordless phone. “Don’t come any closer!” Lily held up her hand when she noticed the big man moving nearer.
“Settle down, kitten. I’m reaching for my jeans.”
He turned his back on Lily to slip on his pants and she hid her eyes, peeking through her fingers. “Look, whoever you are, if you’ll leave quietly, I won’t press charges for breaking and entering.”
“I didn’t have to break in.” He reached in his pocket and pulled out a fob to dangle in front of her, wincing as his cock chafed inside the denim of his jeans. He should’ve brought underwear. “I have a key.”
“Well, so do I!” She pointed toward the sunroom. “In my purse, in my room. I am a guest! Bliss Renaud is my friend. She invited me to stay here.”
“So, you’re not the caretaker? I was about to ask you to sign a non-disclosure agreement.” He paused to think. “Perhaps I should get you to sign one anyway. I don’t want anyone to know I’m here.”
“So, don’t be here! Leave! Who invited you anyway?” Lily was trying not to notice his abs…or the happy trail of fur leading from his abdomen all the way to what she’d had her eyes glued on earlier. The man was a sheer wonderland of tactile, erotic delights.
“My agent arranged this whole thing. The owner used to be my stunt double, I’m not going anywhere,” Cowboy said slowly, as if speaking to someone with a learning disability. “Look, if I give you an autographed picture, would you settle down?”
Lily stomped from his room, taking her crane with her. “For the last time, I don’t know who you are! Why would I want an autographed picture?”
Cowboy followed her. “Don’t give me that, everybody knows who I am. Women throw themselves at me all the time.”
“Yea, I’m sure the bodies just pile up around you.” Lily stopped and faced him with one hand on her hip, looking him up and down. “You could be a vacuum cleaner salesman for all I know.”
“Are you serious?” he said, staring at her as if she’d grown two heads. “Where do you live, under a rock?”
“Are you a singer? A football player? A serial killer?” she said, then backtracked. “Oh, don’t be a serial killer, forget I said that.”
God, she was cute. “I’m an actor. I played Jake Dominic in the Draco series.”
“Sorry, I don’t own a television.”
When he saw the blank expression on her face, he began to believe she didn’t know who he was…or she deserved an Oscar for her performance. “Who doesn’t own a television?” He stalked through the house, flipping on lights. “I came here for some privacy and a long overdue rest. I don’t intend to share my space with a desperate fan.”
Lily was fast losing her patience. “For the last time, I’m not a fan! I don’t know you and I don’t want to know you. And for your information, I’m not desperate!” She followed him through the house, ending up in the kitchen. “If I were desperate, you’d be the last man on earth I’d want, you’re too full of yourself!”
He opened the refrigerator and pulled out a bottled water. “There’s plenty of resorts up and down the Carolina coast. You can find somewhere else to stay.”
“Why don’t you? If you’re a famous actor like you say you are, you’ll be welcome anywhere.” She leaned on the counter, hiding most of her body from his eyes, suddenly conscious of her state of undress.
Cowboy chugged the water, walked to the bar, and took a satchel from a chair. Slamming it on top of the counter, he took something out and pitched it on the granite surface in front of her.
Lily didn’t have to look too closely. His handsome face covered the front of the magazine. “Blade Jensen, Sexiest Man Alive,” she mumbled. “Seems like I might’ve heard that name before.” Lily exhaled a long breath, tired of their argument. “Fine.” She threw up her hands. “You’re famous. I’ll go pack and you can take me back to the island. I’ll find someplace else to stay. My life’s too short to spend time arguing with you and I’ll sign whatever document you want me to, although I certainly won’t be doing any bragging about our time together.” With that dry observation, she gathered up the sand piper and headed back to her bedroom.
Blade watched her go, entranced as much by the length of her long, shapely legs as he was by the fact that she didn’t know who he was – and didn’t seem to care. Her long dark hair hung down to a delectable ass and if she swayed a certain way, he could see a little sliver of black satin peeping out from beneath the T-shirt she wore. “Hey, what’s your name, kitten?”
Lily stopped, but she didn’t turn around. She was tired and frustrated. Finding a place to stay at this time of night was going to be a pain. Maybe she’d just sleep in her rental car. “Lily Bastien from New Orleans.”
“All right, Lily Bastien from New Orleans, why don’t we just make the best of a bad situation…for now?” He took a few steps toward her.
Slowly turning to face him, she hated that he made her heart skip a beat. She wasn’t afraid of him, not really. Where Blade Jensen was concerned, she was more afraid of herself. “What do you mean?”
The big man shrugged and his muscles rippled. “Stay the night. Leaving at this hour could be dangerous.”
Lily felt her nipples bead; she couldn’t remember ever reacting this way to a man before. His fame was not a factor, she was just drawn to him. “I don’t know, staying might be even more dangerous.”
“A little danger makes everything more exciting.” Giving her a wicked grin, Blade saluted her with the bottle. “Besides, I don’t have a boat. Looks like we’re marooned. Together.”
“Great.” With a huff, Lily started for her room. “You just make sure you stay on your side of the house.”
Blade chuckled. “In case you get any ideas, kitten, my bedroom door will be locked.”
She never looked back, the only reaction his announcement got from her was a hand in the air with a raised middle finger.
Blade’s chuckle rose into a full laugh. The first good one he’d had in years. This woman wasn’t impressed with his fame. She had no idea how attractive that made her to him. Couple her spunky attitude with her drop-dead gorgeous body and his heart was stuttering in his chest.
Well, he guessed he wasn’t dead inside after all.
Universal Amazon link: https://bookgoodies.com/a/B074L4YG4F
Nice! I love the tension between them! ♥♥♥
How exciting to learn about your sexy, contemporary western romance, Sable! I know I can’t wait to read it!
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of Lily’s Mirage!
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.to/2wVn9N
Thanks again, Sable, for giving us a peek into the world of your character. Awesome!
Readers, stay tuned for our next special feature on this topic when author Lynn Stevens visits us on October 11th! Yay!
We’ll definitely have other posts before then, though.
Have a great weekend, everyone!