And now she gets Jack Reacher, John Rain and Cotton Malone on the couch. Some women have all the luck.
You don’t write a continuing character who’s a sex therapist without being fascinated by a certain subject. So yeah, I admit it. Who we are sexually and why we’re that way is something I spend a lot of time reading about and pondering.
I meet people and wonder what they are really like under the covers. And not just real life flesh and blood people under Egyptian cotton sheets but paper and ink people under cardboard. (Or these days electronic pixel people.)
I’ve never read a Lee Child thriller without wanting to get Jack Reacher to tell me his secrets. Each time I finish one of Barry Eisler’s John Rain books I try, yet again, to understand how an assassin can be so appealing. And in every one of Steve Berry’s novels I’ve questioned why Cotton Malone can only show us so much before he closes the door, shutting us out of his love life.
And so one day I started to fantasize what would happen if my character from The Butterfield Institute series, Dr. Morgan Snow, got these tough guys on her couch. What twisted pasts, what traumas, what mysteries would she discover?
What a crazy creative challenge, was my second.
But could I ever get up the nerve to ask Lee, Steve or Barry to let me borrow their bestselling characters? No less put them in compromising positions. Writing about their characters sexuality seemed oddly too intimate. Perhaps a bit too revealing for me.
And even if I could pull it off and write in their voices, what possible reason would any of then have for saying yes?
The most important thing my mother taught me was not to be afraid of trying something out of my comfort zone. “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” she’d ask when something made me nervous. Together we’d go through all the possible results. Talking them out one by one- they never seemed as bad as they did in my imagination.
So I took a really deep breath and asked Lee Child first. He said he couldn’t imagine Reacher ever going to see a sex therapist but if I could pull it off, it sounded like fun. Steve Berry was next. He said pretty much the same thing. Eisler was no different.
The stakes got higher when Phil Gigante - who along with Natalie Ross –said they’d narrate the stories if the project came to fruition came up with a marvelous idea. What about asking Dick Hill - Reacher’s Voice, Scott Brick – Malone’s voice, and Eisler - who does Rain – to do their own dialog in the audio version?
I spent a good part of the summer writing the stories. Alternating enjoying the hell out the challenge, agonizing and cursing my hubris. Why had I thought I could do this? These are well established heroes. They have their unique ways of talking, thinking and acting. Not to mention that intimate part –I was taking these guys on sexually – and opening myself up for really awful rejection.
(Yes, I know how this sounds –but when you’re immersed in a sex therapist’s head – the double entendres come fast and furious.)
When it was time to send them off, have the authors read my efforts, do some editing if they wanted and hopefully give their blessing, I totally froze.
I’d written 11 novels. Had my share of nice accolades and reviews. Felt fairly good about my career. But suddenly I was as nervous as a the proverbial (and virginal) bride on her wedding night.
Why was I actively courting rejection and embarrassment? Why was I putting three writers who I respect and admire in the uncomfortable position of having to tell me I’d failed?
For an entire week I thought about scrapping the whole idea and not showing any of them the stories.
Amazingly, I never found out. And boy, did I have fun!
In honor of these amazingly generous authors who shared their heroes with me a share of the ebook proceeds and all the audio proceeds of In Session will be donated to David Baldacci's Wish You Well Foundation, supporting family literacy.