Susan Mallery ... Sizzling

After writing nearly ::gasp:: a hundred books, I have discovered there are far more ideas out there than I will ever have time to write. They seem to come to me in two distinct forms. Easy and hard.

Easy books arrive in my brain almost fully formed with a great opening, characters I can instantly relate to and a plot that makes me whimper with excitement. Hard books often arrived with next to nothing.

So why bother with hard books, you may ask. It’s an excellent question. There are a couple of reasons. First, I don’t get that many easy books—maybe two a year and I write close to six books a year. Second, there is something satisfying about creating a story from nothing. I love taking different pieces of ideas and fitting them together. Turning them over, working them around and around until I start to have a book, then ripping it apart and putting it together a different way.

My current book—Sizzling—is an interesting hybrid of easy and hard. Reid, my hero, arrived to me fully formed. I knew everything about him from the moment he entered my brain. But his story took an interesting journey.

Sizzling was supposed to be the second book in a four book series about a family who owns restaurants in Seattle. But while I was writing the first book I realized that Reid wasn’t ready to be a hero and that his brother, Walker, wouldn’t wait. So I flipped them. Walked went second in Irresistible and Reid had to grow up a little.

Reid is a former professional baseball player and a playboy. His idea of taking responsibility is thinking ahead far enough to order pizza before the game, so he doesn’t miss a minute. My first thought for his heroine was a marine biologist. Don’t ask me why. Then some former homeless girl who had been rescued by a teacher and was now a social worker. Then while I was writing Irresistible Reid happened to meet a home health care nurse named Lori and she really didn’t like him.

Irresponsible, playboy heroes have a lot of growing-up to do and Lori seemed just the woman to take on the job. She was smart and had a lot of attitude, at least on the surface. So I let go of the marine biologist thing and my heroine was created.

There was only one other major element missing. The catalyst. If Reid was going to grow up and be a hero any still-breathing woman would be desperate to adore, something had to motivate him to change. So what is the worst thing that could happen to a guy like him?

I put in calls to my writer friends and we brainstormed and talked and laughed. At the end, I had a list of horrible things that could drop-kick Reid to the worst moment of his life. One of them stood out as the most interesting, most compelling, most fun for me, as the writer. A newspaper article talking about how poor Reid wasn’t “all that” in bed. Yup—I was gonna hit him where it would hurt the most.

At that moment, Sizzling went from hard to easy. I loved torturing Reid. Then he grew up and became the kind of man who deserves to be a hero. But not without a few twists and turns along the way.

Happy New Year. May you find happiness, healthy and plenty of fabulous reading in 2007!