"Why don't we do it in the road?"by Stephanie Feagan
I love to write. Take away the hype, the promo, the business side of things, boil it all down to just me, the computer, a cup o' Folgers, and iTunes, and I'm at my absolute happiest. Before I sold my first book, I remember reading complaint posts by published authors on various lists about how they were bogged down in a book from hell, that finishing it was killing them, and they wondered if their career would be over because of the damn book that gave them heartburn. I always thought - rather smugly, I admit - oh get over yourself. How dare you gripe about a book you've already sold? I'd kill to be in your shoes!
Well, I didn't have to kill anyone, but hell if I didn't wind up in their shoes. A little over a week ago, I turned in the book from hell. It was over two weeks past deadline, and after I dropped it in Fed-Ex, I wanted to go home and cry. Instead, I went to a bakery and bought a ginormous chocolate chip cookie and ate it in the car and pondered my fleeting career as a writer.
A bit of history....
I wanted to write a Bombshell that was different than my first three, all of which had the same heroine. I gave it a lot of thought and came up with a petroleum engineer who fights oil well fires. When someone intentionally sets a string of blowouts, she's caught up in the villain's evil plot and - because she's a kickass Bombshell babe - it's up to her to find out who he is and stop him before he sparks World War III. The hero is a southern boy with an attitude who clues in pretty quickly to what's going on - and helps her. Bear in mind, Bombshells are all about the heroine saving the day, so I wrote the proposal with that in mind. I did some preliminary research, wrote 3 chapters and a synopsis and shot it off to New York. My editor, Natashya Wilson, who rocks my world, loved the premise and she bought it. Yay me!
Then I had to actually write the book. I contacted a blowout specialist, spoke to at least 7 different petroleum engineers here in my hometown - where they are plentiful! - got some information from a cargo pilot, spoke at length to a man who builds gas compressors and has spent a lot of time in the Middle East, and trolled the Internet for hours and hours, reading up on all things Saudi Arabian. It's still blowing my mind, how much research this book required.
You see, the heroine goes to Saudi Arabia on page 153 - she spends half the book in Saudi Arabia. The plot demanded Saudi Arabia and no other Middle Eastern country would do.
That's when this turned into the Book From Hell.
Women aren't allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
Women can't go out of their home without a male escort - and not just any old male. It's got to be someone in their immediate family.
Women must wear an abaya, a long, black robe, over their clothes, and a black scarf must cover their head. Veils are optional.
Women can't sit in a restaurant, even with their escort, unless the restaurant offers a family dining room, which means everyone in the room is married.
Women can't speak to a man not in their family, nor stand close to him. If he looks at her longer than a nanosecond he can be in serious trouble with the religious police.
Are you getting a picture of why this was a killer book to write? Remember, it's a Bombshell, where the heroine saves the day. "Gosh, hon, would you mind going with me as my escort while I go out there and kick some ass and save the world? Thanks!"
One night, at about 2 a.m., I seriously considered looking for the contract, to find out what I'd have to do to pull the book. Just send their money back and say, never mind.
Yeah, it was a killer to write this book, but I'm trying very hard to look at the positive. I certainly had to stretch myself to finish, and in all humbleness, I don't think it turned out too bad. I got to a point where I turned her liabilities to her favor - I used the draconian restrictions the Saudi government places on women as a plot point. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!
Nevertheless, I told my agent, if I ever again consider setting a Bombshell in a Muslim country, she should kick my ass and remind me about Blowout - the book from hell.
I should mention that another published author said she went through a very similar experience, that one of her books gave her nightmares. But she plodded through to the finish - and that book wound up being nominated for a Rita.
Let me just say, right now, if Blowout is nominated for a Rita, I'll buy everyone a ginormous cookie!
In the meantime, I'm watching my inbox for revisions. Whoo damn - that's going to be interesting.