Behind the scenes: Desert Heart
I’ve been working on Desert Heart for a long time because so many intriguing elements were percolating in my mind. Find out where they came from and how they all came together here!
Tina’s been waiting for her story for a long, long time (just like she’s been waiting for her true love). She’s been in the background of all the Twin Moon stories from the very start. Good Old Tina, the reliable and diplomatic sister who serves her pack and smooths out her brother Ty’s rougher edges. She’s the one who believes in the underdog (remember Kyle? Tina was the one who convinced the pack to accept him in the first place), receives visitors with grace (remember her lunch with Stef in Desert Fate?), and who is always overlooked. Well, she’s overlooked no more!
THE INSPIRATION FOR THE CHARACTERS
Like a lot of women, Tina puts the common good ahead of her own wants and needs. I’m so glad she finally gets her shot at love in Desert Heart! So who was the inspiration for Tina? The dozens of women I know who throw everything they have into community service projects. The ones who volunteer quietly while some male head-honcho type gets all the credit. The ones who never say no to helping others and who quietly keep everything ticking along. I bet you know the type. In fact, you might be one yourself!
Rick Rivera – swoon, swoon! I wanted a modest athlete-cowboy type who never let success go to his head, and bit by bit, Rick came striding out of my imagination like a cowboy out of the desert. Blurry at first, then more and more clear. For example, what kind of pro athlete could plausibly come from a remote Arizona ranch? Why, a star batter who started with a lonely batting cage on the ranch! Rick is the perfect match for Tina because he’s strong without being overbearing (like most of the men in her life). A sentimental family man, but by no means a pushover. I love his warm relationship with his father, who is the polar opposite of Tina’s difficult dad. I love that he’s never given up on Tina even after years of being pushed away, and that he’s willing to bide his time to win her over for good.
I also figured it was high time to bring a hero of a different ethnicity into the Twin Moon series, and thus Rick Rivera was born. Rick’s pro ball career-ending injury was (sadly) “inspired” (I don’t know a better word for a life-changing event) by a local newspaper report in which a coach was struck by a stray ball and subsequently suffered severe vision loss. That real-life accident made me research baseball and learn how prevalent head injuries in the sport are. But fate works in strange ways, in real life and in fiction. (Real life might not always deliver a happy end, but I make damn sure I do in all my stories.) In Rick’s case, the accident brought him back to Arizona and back to the love of his life.
THE INSPIRATION FOR THE STORY
A major theme in all the Twin Moon books is fated-yet-forbidden mates, and this story is no different in that sense. I think everyone can relate to the tension between duty and desire, because both are such motivating forces. And when they clash, well - story sparks ensue!
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m an environmentalist at heart, so the theme of a greedy rancher pillaging the earth for quick gains was another natural fit. The natural beauty of our planet is under pressure from so many forces, and Arizona especially so: the need to manage water resources, the temptation to rape the earth for quick economic gain from mining and other destructive practices. All of these are real issues, not only in today’s West, but around the world.
The demon came from comments on reader polls I posted. I asked fans to throw out ideas on new villains and along came several mentions of hellhound – a threat great enough to scare even the tough wolves of Twin Moon Ranch. The hellhound also provided the perfect means to call back an ally of the pack – and (hint! hint!) you haven’t seen the last of the last-minute hero who saves the day at the end of Desert Heart! Not by a long shot!
In fact, the next books in the series will continue to draw together many story lines: the steady growth of power at Twin Moon ranch; the establishment of alliances with other shifter species and neighboring ranches; the ever-present threat of danger in the dark & dangerous world of the wolves of Twin Moon ranch. I won’t give too much away now, but believe me, there’s a lot more to come!
MY FAVORITE SCENE
I have lots of favorite scenes - as usual! I love the tension and uncertainty in Tina’s first meeting with Rick at the very beginning of the story, especially since Rick was the last person she expected to see as manager of Seymour Ranch. I also love the scene where they kiss in the parking lot then go to the cafe with the fish for a touch of humor. I cry over the scenes when it seems all is lost (as a lot of fans tell me they do, too), and rejoice at the happy end. That last part, of course, goes without saying!
THE BIGGEST CHANGE FROM FIRST DRAFT TO LAST
Originally I had Dale Gordon and his two sons present on Seymour Ranch as Rick’s nemesis, but decided to keep it just to Dale so as not to confuse an already busy cast of characters. I was really, really tempted to bring Audrey back for this story (can’t you just picture the ranch man-eater trying to seduce Rick?) but decided that would over-complicate things for poor Tina, so I kept Audrey away. Far away! Instead, I brought in Carly, the youngest of the Hawthorne siblings and a strong personality herself. Carly doesn’t know it yet, but she, too, has a fated mate. Just wait `til you see the sparks fly in Desert Roots! But that’s a story for a different day.
I hope you enjoyed reading Desert Heart as much as I enjoyed writing it! Make sure you follow up with Tina and Rick’s continuing story in two upcoming short stories, Happily Ever After and Desert Yule, the Christmas story that allows you a sentimental catch-up with all the characters you’ve grown to love on Twin Moon Ranch! Both are part of two different box sets available here: Happily Ever After as part of the Wicked Alphas, Wilder Nights collection and Desert Yule as part of the Sugar, Spice, and Shifters collection.