This story was a labor of love, with the emphasis on labor! While it’s the third book I’ve published since the start of the pandemic, it affected Forbidden Moon far more than the others. Though I never contracted COVID-19, pandemic fatigue plagued my writing efforts from the beginning. Distracted by work issues, stress, and the disruption of life routines, my poor brain lacked the energy and creative juices needed for the project.
When I began, I fully expected the process to take about four months. Instead, it launched after eight and a half! There were serious plot issues to fix, doubts to overcome, and days where I couldn’t write anything at all. Bone tired and discouraged, I wondered if the manuscript would EVER be completed. When the glorious day finally arrived, the sky-high word count forced me to cut over eleven thousand words—and it was still too long. I came to the conclusion that Forbidden Moon was destined to be both BIG and beautiful!
Despite the challenges, the book contains some terrific ideas that were fun and exciting to write! It also included a number of firsts for the series:
- first Black character
- first human/shifter mating
- first wedding
- first visit to the Afterworld
- first bar scene
- first shifter-human conflict
It may not be apparent to the reader, but this story wasn’t supposed to have two bad guys. Originally, I intended for Dominic to be the heavy and then make sure he was suitably punished. Well, that idea went out the window about twenty-five percent of the way through, as I came to realize I couldn’t do that to him. I liked the character too much to bring down the full weight of wrath upon his head!
Instead, I cooked up a different but related evil character in the person of Russell. Doing so was no easy feat, and for several weeks the manuscript came to a standstill while I figured out how to integrate him into the story. I was terrified that I’d written myself into a corner and would never get out. That left two options: start the book over or abandon it altogether.
I can’t recall now exactly how the solution came to me, but it finally did and I got busy writing again. In the end, Dominic unintentionally caused a lot of trouble for the pack, but he goes on to find a better life. On the other hand, Russell became the sketchy character I needed to pull off the dangerous and dramatic portions of the story. Of course, he got what was coming to him.
As mentioned above, this book features my first Black character (RJ). He even made the cover! You may wonder why that’s such a big deal, but I was eager to present him realistically without my own cultural baggage and attitudes. So, I searched for information and found an informative blog post written by a lovely Black author. Her guidance gave me the courage to move ahead with the idea, and I wrote to tell her so. Coincidentally, her mother was also going through stage four cancer treatment, the same as RJ’s mother! I still consider this real-life connection to my fictional characters inspirational.
My favorite story threads were those relating to the romance of Jonah and RJ. I grew to love them as they struggled to build an unconventional relationship under difficult and dangerous circumstances. It was a fun challenge to create and implement an entirely new set of rules for the first shifter-human couple. They turned out to be sweet, funny, and smoking hot in the bedroom! While their future family situation remains unresolved for now, I expect to address the issue in a forthcoming book.
Introducing new characters is always enjoyable (even the bad guys), and this book has quite a few. I found Dominic’s story arc particularly satisfying, and my sassy waitress, Darlene, was a hoot to write! Walter’s nephew, Gray Claw, was another intriguing addition, though there wasn’t adequate time to give him the attention he deserved. Something tells me we’ll be seeing more of him in the future.
I must also mention the importance of recurring characters, as they are the backbone of the series. Readers tell me repeatedly how much they love the Gladstone pack and miss them between books! Honestly, I’ve come to think of them as real people and enjoy watching them grow and change with each new story. The tough part is choosing which ones get the limelight since no single volume could ever contain significant updates on all of them. It’s a somewhat arbitrary decision, but I try to give past characters a chance to shine, whether a little or a lot, in each addition to the series.
Lastly, I want to mention the creation of the book’s cover. This one turned out to be a collaborative effort between the author and the graphic designer. I always look for photos that resonate with me and send them to the artist for consideration. So far, none of my suggestions ever made the final cut. This time, she loved the image as much as I did, and it fit perfectly with the overall design of the series. After a few minor tweaks, it became not only my personal favorite but hers as well.
No one is more invested in a book than the author, and while I love each volume of the Gladstone Shifters, Forbidden Moon is a personal triumph over daunting circumstances. Is it perfect? No. Is it the best in the series? You decide. Am I proud of it? Yes!