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With every book, comes a revelation--the theme, the underlying real life story that begins and ends within the one book, yet affects my protagonist and her family and their overall story arc. In Blood Heat, I wanted to cover how easily a small community can isolate outsiders, others. The idea morphed from a general thought to a more specific theme about hate crimes, bullying, and those horrible situations where the "locals" treat the newbies as enemy, instead of befriending them. How odd indeed that as I write this message, the news is full of dead teenagers, committing suicide due to being treated as the enemy, as someone different and not worthy of life. I'm sad to say that my fictional solution isn't translatable to the real world, but sometimes I wish it were.
Having lived in a small Texas town during high school, I saw some of that behavior. My local town, Lago Vista (on which Rio Seco is based), didn't have its own school when my family first moved there. Instead, we were bussed 40 miles to Leander High School, a very farmcentric community with 4-H clubs, Future Farmers of America and wonder of wonders (to me) VoTech (Vocational Technologies--a school study program based on the idea that you weren't good enough to graduate and go to college--at least, that was my limited take on it). The 30-some students that bussed in from the lake were definitely the outsiders. Our parents weren't farmers or blue collar workers for the most part. We were the kids of salespeople, of the golf pro, of others who worked in this resort area. We understood nothing of farming or the culture surrounding it.
I wanted to capture that sense of being from "somewhere else" in Blood Heat. Though Keira and her family are really "other", Rio Seco has accepted them, since they've been around for a couple of centuries. So I created the town of White Rock, bigger than Rio Seco (enough to have a football team) and extremely conservative. I didn't model it on any specific town in Texas, but used the observed behaviors I'd seen over time in various places. Sadly, it was too easy to do so. Not only are Keira and company viewed differently, so is the werewolf pack introduced in this book. Like the Kellys, the pack is trying to mainstream some of their kids, two boys, specifically, who are now in high school and on the football team. Unfortunately, this doesn't work out the way they'd hoped.
As I wrote and researched, the book became more specific, more personal. I remembered how in Jasper, Texas, three men beat then dragged James Byrd, Jr., an African-American man behind a pickup. Byrd died as a result of this. All Byrd ever did was accept a ride from these hate-filled men. I thought of Matthew Shepard, the teen who was tortured and murdered near Laramie, Wyoming for being gay. I thought of the catcalls and insults my friends and I got when exiting a Dallas area gay nightclub back some 20 years ago.
I wanted to write about hatred, about how sometimes, just existing is enough for some people to see you as their enemy. I wanted there to be a real threat, a reason for Keira and her group to get involved. I think I succeeded. Hope you all can let me know if I did.
- Maria Lima
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