Author Stephanie Tyler shares how her own relationship with Africa shines through in her portrayal of the continent in her romantic suspense novels. Delve into the wilds of this beautiful and dangerous land with Tyler's newest heroine, Dr. Olivia Strohm, who learns her own true strength in this month's Promises in the Dark. And don't miss the excerpt at the end of the post!
I always tell people that I could easily live in Africa and I truly mean that. The continent will always has a special place in my heart, as my husband was born in Songea, Tanzania and we’ve returned many times. Africa is a study in contrasts, with so much lush beauty and so much heartache mingling together, spectacular and tragic at the same time in an almost overwhelming way. It’s a place I understand, a place that contains so much beauty and danger and to me, that’s what romantic suspense is all about. Many of my books are set in Africa for this very reason.
My upcoming release, Promises in the Dark, centers around the Sierra Leone area. Dr. Olivia Strohm had been kidnapped in my previous book, Lie With Me, by a terrorist organization based out of Western Africa and at the start of Promises, we discover she’s escaped and she’s been hiding out in the rural areas of Kambia.
The African bush is a place of great danger, yet it affords Olivia the perfect place to hide. It’s not easy traveling in most areas and since word of mouth travels more quickly, it actually gives her an opportunity to stay ahead of her captors. As a woman alone, attempting to survive with no real medical supplies or money, she trades her medical expertise with the local women in exchange for the basics of food and shelter, and also safety. They look out for her, warn her when strangers ask about her, which they always will, as she’s a curiosity in the area, a woman bringing both help and trouble where ever she goes.
In the book, I Dreamed of Africa, Kuki talks about the fact that Africa claims a high price for allowing them to live there. And that’s what I sought to convey with Olivia and her rescuer, Navy SEAL Zane Scott. Both their individual stories of survival and their inevitable escape from Sierra Leone mirror the complexity of the area and makes their love story all the more intense. The subplot story of Doc J and the mission he runs also showcases the different facets of the area, and how it’s very much like the Wild West in terms of lawlessness. In order to survive and thrive, the people he works with need to depend on one another and rely on their instincts. They might have to do things that they would never have to do - or could never do - back in the States...and it forces all of them to rely on their inner moral compass.
In the end, Africa gives Olivia - and several other characters - back their strength. It’s not an easy place to survive in, but it’s ultimately a rewarding one.
- Stephanie Tyler