When I sat down earlier this year and committed to writing my first paranormal romance, Tasting Fire, I knew I would be competing against a lot of other books. I realized that to succeed, I would really have to stand out. I also knew I wanted to write the shape-shifting romance that I had always wanted to read myself, yet alluded me as a reader. I was reading a lot of stories about werewolves and shape-shifters, but to my frustration as a reader, not a lot of thought was being put into any explanation to their existence. I’m the kind of reader that needs to know why there are werewolves running around the woods. It’s not enough for me that they’re totally hot and having alpha male sex at the drop of a hat. I need to know how they came to be, and what are the rules that govern them. With that thought in mind, I created my outline as if I were dealing with shape-shifters in the real world.
I began writing Tasting Fire by drawing up an outline that treated shape-shifters as if they were real and existed in our world. I knew that I would have to devise a plot mechanism that gave a plausible reason for their existence. I researched methods of bacterial transmission and eventually came up with the idea that if shape-shifters throughout history were caused by an infection, it would have to be difficult to catch, otherwise everybody and their grandmother would be a shape-shifter by now.
I decided to make the infection come from a thermophilic (heat loving) bacteria that only lives in hot springs around the world. Thousands of years ago from time to time, primitive nomads from every culture on the planet would take a swim in these healing waters. If they happened to bath in a hot spring that had this rare bacteria floating around in it and got a little water up the schnoz, they would temporarily have the bacteria floating around in their system. If the nomads had the just the right RNA receptors they were at risk of having their body attach a secondary DNA code to theirs. For example if they got bit by an angry snow leopard within a few hours after their swim, the DNA from the leopard saliva would attach to their DNA. You can’t catch the bacterial infection itself from another infected individual, as it dies quickly (within a few hours after ingestion), but you can inherit the condition from your parents. This method of transmission limited the outbreak, yet gives rise to the many different mythologies of shape-shifters that have evolved from every culture on the planet.
Basic outline completed, I struggled mightily with the pacing of sexual tension in Tasting Fire. Due to the nature of the intricate plot, I had to include several chapters of world building that I knew could possibly frustrate avid romance readers waiting for the action to get steamy. As a debut author, I wasn’t sure what the right mixture was. Not enough world building and character development and the book would suffer later on. Too much and I could lose readers. I decided to include the first love scene early, in Chapter 7 as a recollection of my heroine’s previous relationship that has just ended in a rather dramatic fashion. My heroine relives the first time she and her ex made love. After that there was a slow build of sexual tension between my hero, Kai Tenzin and my heroine, Dr. Rae Hales. In my experience as a reader the more a writer builds a relationship between the two main characters, the better the story. Although I have read a few romances (which I won’t name) that waited too long for the steamy scenes and I got bored as a reader.
Tasting Fire really crosses over many different genres and it’s hard to categorize the book. It has a very strong plot for a standard romance, it also has secondary characters that are so strong they should be featured later on in prequels. (hint, hint). The book has a strong spiritual tone which is unusual for a paranormal romance and is action packed.
There is no magic in Tasting Fire by design. This forced me as a writer to develop an extremely strong
plot and create three dimensional characters. Tasting Fire is not a light read. If you want a book where the hero and heroine fall into bed together within the first two minutes of meeting each other, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for a rich, textured story and if you wish to lose yourself in an intelligent, romantic, erotic, adventure, this is your book!
My thanks to Ramblings from a Chaotic mind for inviting me on the blog today to share my experiences writing Tasting Fire with your readers.
Shape-shifters have always walked the earth. Shrouded in myth and folklore, hiding in the shadows, watching and waiting. Advances in modern science are now about to reveal them to the world. Kai Tenzin is the self appointed leader of the Pari people. He and his kind evolved from the most reclusive predators on earth, the Asian Snow Leopard. They live and hunt in the most fearsome and rugged terrain known to man, the Himalayas. As a young man, Kai left his small village where the mountain touches the heavens, determined to do anything to protect his people. When he is forced to enlist the aid of the beautiful American scientist Dr. Rae Hales, the last thing he expects to find is a woman who will ensnare his heart and endanger them all. Their action-packed adventure will take them around the world to discover the truth behind the legends and reveal the future of humanity.
Rae took an admiring look at the vista below as she dropped her heavy pack on the ground. The mountains in the distance looked purple and the desert brush spread out below them like a master oil painting. It was awe inspiring to human eyes. Rae wondered what would it look like to a snow leopard. She suddenly realized many a biologist would sell their very soul for the opportunity she had at that moment. Rae turned to Kai who had been sitting on the ground with his pack and fishing around for lunch and asked him “what is it like when you’re in your Shan form out in country like this?” Kai rewarded Rae with the most brilliant smile she had yet seen to grace the handsome shape-shifter’s face. He seemed truly delighted to discuss the subject with her. Kai stood up to answer Rae’s question. He addressed the human scientist. “It’s like nothing you can imagine Rae. Every sense is in tune with the planet. See that tree over there” he pointed a few yards away at an ancient gnarled pinyon. “Yes” Rae replied. Kai walked up behind Rae and put his hands on her shoulders and directed her to look even closer at the tree. He whispered intimately in her ear as if they were in a church or another sacred space “when you look at that tree with your limited human vision, the average person can certainly appreciate its form and color. A biologist like yourself would ask what type of tree is it and how old it is. A philosopher might ask who may have sat underneath it in the past or who might sit underneath it in the future. All of you might even wonder when will it die. That’s the limit of your human perception. When you’re in Shan form every single leaf will bid you a glorious greeting as you walk up to the tree for the first time. Every drop of sap tells you the history of the tree’s life like an intimate biography written in the utterly sensual language of scent. The tree itself will tell you if it’s healthy or sick. You can smell if the water that nourishes it is bitter or sweet. If you deeply pay attention you can smell every animal that has ever been there.” Kai looked to Rae like he was experiencing a spiritual moment and Rae suddenly realized he was. The enthralled shape-shifter continued to explain to Rae the nuances of the animal world “when you are ready to move on to another place you reach up with your powerful claws and dig deep into the bark to mark the tree with your scent. It’s added harmoniously to the scent of hundreds of other animals. You do this not just to mark your hunting territory, but to tell every animal after you have left this world that you lived and breathed here at one time in the great mystery that is life. That is your only immortality in the animal world. There are no monuments to mark a man’s ego, or family albums for a mother to remember her children by, but neither is there hate, nor fear of the future or regret of the past. You are fully alive in each and every moment. It’s a wonderfully free existence. I wish I could truly share it with you… words, words pale in comparison.” Kai looked so happy at that moment. Rae was so moved by what he had just shared with her that all she could do was reach out and touch his wrist. “Thank you!” she whispered. Kai nodded at her in acknowledgment, but he was too emotional to even speak.
My name is Shelly Holt and I live in the middle of the harsh and unforgiving Mojave desert. I write my stories looking out of a window that shows sweeping desert views. Outside is a barren and severe landscape, yet inside my head lives a world filled with exotic shape-shifters come to life, pulled from the pages of myth and legend, ready to entice and seduce any reader brave enough to take them on.