By Guest Blogger Karen Harper

Escape the winter blahs! A $7 getaway to romance and thrills in sunny south Florida!

OK, I didn’t mean to get carried away with hype. I really do have something a bit deeper to say about my new book and the craft/art of writing in general.

Readers (and my own 86-year-old mother!) often ask me where I get ideas for my novels. I guess they think, with a 25-year writing career and 46 novels to my name, I’ll run out of plots soon. Nope! Everywhere I look I get ideas and patch them together in different forms for my fiction. My inspiration for my beach read romantic suspense, BELOW THE SURFACE (Mira Books, $6.99, released Jan. 29) is typical of how I get ideas to write a thriller/mystery/suspense/romance.

For 23 years, my husband and I have lived in Southwest Florida for part of the year, so I feel almost as much of a Floridian as an Ohioan. We’ve walked the beaches and swum in the Gulf of Mexico and hiked in the Everglades and enjoyed every minute of it. But some things started to not seem quite right: Red Tide, an algae-tainted water, sometimes burned our skin. Fish and even shells seemed to be disappearing. And several spots that used to feel like Old Florida are now as much on the endangered list as the Florida panther. Since pollution and “green” eco-problems were stalking paradise, I had them endanger my heroine too.

Coverbelowthesurface So Briana Devon was “born,” my scuba diving heroine who was hired to photograph an underwater sea grass meadow in the gulf. Sea grass is the touchstone, the health of the once pristine, now more clouded, gulf waters. But wait—this is not an eco-rant but a romantic thriller laced with family-conflict. So I added a rugged hero of Hispanic heritage who sails and whose dream is to build boats by hand—and who rescues Briana.

From the moment she surfaces from photographing the meadow and finds her diving buddy and twin sister Daria and their boat are gone—4 miles from shore with a storm approaching—the tension tightens. She knows Daria would never voluntarily desert her. Who had a life-and-death stake in keeping their dire report on the health of the gulf from going public? Or perhaps, Briana didn’t know Daria as well as she thought.

Another thing I find endlessly fascinating, which is key in this book, is the entire mystery of family birth order: Does the order in which we are born affect out personalities, our futures? What is it like to have a twin sister, but beyond that, how does that impact others in the family? I come from the classic 3-child family, where I’m the oldest, the “caretaker.” The middle child is supposedly a bit of a black sheep, the youngest, charming and funny. In an Oct. 29, 2007 feature article, Time magazine focused on the “Secrets of Birth Order.” I find the topic fascinating and had already used it in this novel. Could an older sister who resented her twin sisters’ getting all the attention, their being so close, be resentful and jealous enough to harm them?

Since I was a high school and university English teacher/instructor for 17 years, I always used to give a very ‘teacherly’ answer when someone asked me where I got my ideas for my books. I would say that I got them either off the page or off the wall, meaning sometimes I intentionally researched for them and other times I just stumbled over them—serendipity. Actually, unless I’m writing one of my historical novels where research really counts, serendipity is much more fun. So next time I’m walking the beach or sailing or I see a storm come up over the Everglades, I’ll be not only looking for shells or wildlife, but ideas for my next book. =============================
Karen Harper is the NYTimes, USA TODAY bestselling author of romantic suspense (INFERNO, DARK ANGEL) and historical novels (THE LAST BOLEYN and THE FIRST PRINCESS OF WALES.) She is the 2006 winner of the Mary Higgins Clark Trex Award. She loves to spend time with her 8-year-old grandson, who advised her to “write a book on dinosaurs with the T-Rex as the star.” She and her husband travel whenever they can, and divide their time between Columbus, OH and Naples, FL. Please visit her website at www.karenharperauthor.com

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