The Irish Devil

Let’s make this perfectly clear: I was a happy, calm (more or less) person until I went to Tombstone, Arizona. I worked full-time as a computer consultant. I was a full-time Ph.D. student. (Yeah, so maybe I should have had my head examined.) I wrote lots and lots and lots of geeky jargon and I read tons – tons, I tell you! – of romance novels in my spare time. I was content.

Then came the family reunion and the trip to Tombstone. For some odd reason, it seemed every second or third tour guide had to tell the story of a specific miner’s widow who’d performed hair-raising deeds sufficiently well enough to escape the town alive. Everybody expressed the strongest admiration for her – but nobody ever said she was happy. In fact, it was pretty clear she’d been pretty miserable. Her big victory had been departure, not joy.

Now, I love visiting historical sites and I’ve heard a lot of true stories. But this one hit me harder than any other one. I didn’t want her to have simply survived – I wanted her to be happy. Unfortunately, the only way to give her a happily ever after was to retell her story myself, as fiction – and I so wasn’t a romance author. Writing prose featuring phrases like “the widget must” and “the widget shall” doesn’t prepare you for plot arcs and love scenes!

That’s when I told her to go away and be happy, having survived in real life.

She didn’t let me forget about her. She nagged me during my homework. She got in between me and my term projects. For two years, I fought her off, desperately reminding her exactly what I wrote during the day job and my total lack of fiction writing skills.

I think it was while I was sitting in traffic waiting to go home from class, that she knocked me over the head again: she announced she needed a man, the worst of bad boys, somebody who no one in polite society would ever accept as an eligible partí. But somebody who could keep the most brutal killer, the most cunning kidnapper away from her no matter how vicious the fight.

I nodded agreement, being much more interested in getting home at something approaching a reasonable hour. (Does anybody else have conversations with their characters in their cars late at night? I seem to do a lot of it.)

She announced, quite triumphantly, that he had to be Irish.

Irish??? Oooh. My brain came alive. Sexy men, smart and tough, accustomed to making a living in a strange country after seeing their own families and homes decimated by a great famine. Music. Horses. Somebody you could call “the devil” with affection.

I wanted to write their love story – because I needed to give him a happily ever after, too.

I started learning how to write fiction. I wound up dropping out of graduate school. (Yup, I left that Ph.D. program behind to write romance.) When the chance came, I pitched this story to the only editor in New York who might publish it – and, yes, I was quaking in my boots! But, lucky for me, Kate Duffy of Brava bought it.

It became The Irish Devil, the first of the four Devil books – The River Devil, The Southern Devil, and The Northern Devil. To my vast delight, I’ve even signed a contract for three more. All because a persistent voice took up residence in my head, back in Tombstone.

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