Message From The Author
If youve ever been struck by literary inspiration, you know how exhilaratingand frustratingit can be. You read an intriguing news story, say, or recall a long-forgotten childhood incident, and suddenly a scene comes to mind, perfect in every detail and complete in itself. Then comes the difficult partweaving that scene into a story, giving the characters depth and history, dreams and desires. Nurturing that split second of inspiration into a compelling novel is a skill comprised of equal parts talent and dogged persistence.
Its a skill that Rachel Lee (aka Sue Civil-Brown) has definitely mastered. Like many of her books, AFTER I DREAM, her new romantic suspense from Warner, was born out of just such a moment of epiphany.
As so often happens to me, I wrote the
prologue for the book with absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it. The mood grabbed me, the sea grabbed me, and it all just tumbled out. Then I had to figure out what to do with it. The plotting part was hard work, needing as I did to carry that mood and sense of the sea as being alive throughout the story.
In AFTER I DREAM, Calypso Callie Carlson resents the sea for causing the death of her father. Since her teens, Callie has raised her brother, Jeff, almost singlehandedly. Despite Callies pleas that he go to college, Jeff longs to make his living at sea.
Matters are complicated by the arrival of Chase Mattingly, a former Navy SEAL and diving expert whos come to the Florida Keys to recuperate. Ever since his last salvage mission went wrong, Chase has been plagued by nightmares and fears of the dark, not to mention a bad case of the bends. (If a diver ascends too quickly, the rapid decrease in atmospheric pressure results in the release of nitrogen bubbles into body tissues. The bubbles cut off the oxygen supply, causing nausea, pain in the joints and abdomen, and, in the worst cases, shock, paralysis, and even death.) When Jeff is accused of theft and murder after attempting to salvage a sunken boat, Chase becomes involved, and soon realizes that Jeffs case may be linked to his own diving accident.
All of AFTER I DREAMs characters have a complex relationship with the sea, which is in itself a vital character, with the capacity
to be both benevolent and cruel. Does Rachel relate to the sea on the same kind of personal level as her characters?
Yes, I do. I sometimes wonder if I'm a reincarnated sailor. The first time I stood on the shore of an ocean (the Atlantic, at Cape Hatteras), I had an experience that was almost mystical. It was night, I was 13, and I stood alone at the waters edge watching the breakers roll in, watching them wipe away my footprints. I sensed the immensity of the ocean, but I also sensed her eternal nature and the vast reaches of time she transcends. That sense of connection has never left me.
Still, Rachel did draw the line at donning a wetsuit to do some hands-on research for the diving scenes.
I am far too claustrophobic, and putting a mask on my face would drive me nuts. This probably explains why I never fulfilled my dream of becoming an astronaut, she laughs. So I read everything I could find on the subject, including PADI manuals, and drew on the experiences of people I've known.
As in many of Rachel Lees romantic suspense novels, the characters in AFTER
I DREAM have fearsome challenges, both physical and emotional, to overcome.
The author doesnt necessarily agree with those who tag her stories as dark, however.
Everyone tells me they are! But
honestly, I believe my books are filled with light and hope. Though she relishes the opportunity to deal with controversial topics, shes reluctant to be pegged as an issues writer. When I tackle something which could be called a social issue, its never from the perspective of dealing with a social issue. Its always a desire to deal with the complexities that individuals have to deal with, whether its child abuse, rape, post traumatic stress disorder, or divorce.
After dealing with a subject like the death penalty (in Before I Sleep) youd think that writing romantic comedies under her real name, Sue Civil-Brown, would be the ideal remedy. Except: Writing comedy doesnt bring me any relief. Its probably the hardest writing I do. Yet I need to do it because there is this side of my nature that wants to tell stories that wont fit anything else. The Whisper Creek series [a contemporary series by Rachel Lee from Mira starting next month with SNOW IN SEPTEMBER] was another challenge
I needed. In it Ill be dealing with relationship issues only. No suspense, no murder, no killers. Maybe a dash of humor here and there for leavening.
And fans of Rachels Conard County series neednt fret that theyre being neglected. I love writing Conard County. I fully intend to keep writing it as time allows and as long as readers want it.
For someone whose burning desire has always been to write, Rachel certainly made a number of career pit stops (including security specialist, optician, and real estate agent) before selling her first Silhouette in 1990.
The kids must be fed. Need I say more? I did whatever was necessary, and whatever opportunity provided. At the time I wrote An Officer and a Gentleman, I was sole support of a family of four. I worked full-time and was going to college at night to get a computer science degree. I wrote the book in an hour here and there, stolen from my sleep late at night, or from my homework early on weekend mornings.
Yes, you have to cherish the dream. But then you have to do the scutwork.
Readers can contact Rachel c/o Warner Books, 1271 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10020. E-mail her at Rachel_Lee@poboxes.com. Check out her website www.rachellee.com
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