Q: How did you come up with Dr. Mark Scofield and actress Anna Porter? Not to mention her nemesis and personal trainer, Roger Niles?
A: They all emerged very organically. Of course, my own background is in show business: I've worked as a singer, entertainer and actress in everything from music videos to TV spots to serious stage productions. So I know the industry and the kinds of people it draws pretty well.
Q: You yourself underwent spine surgery, which was the impetus for writing this novel. Can you talk about that?
A: Yes, it's a very major procedure. They literally pull your body apart to get down to your spine and then they drill your bones and put huge titanium screws into them to hold them together. The goal is for two bones to actually fuse, the same way a broken leg might.
When I couldn't sleep -- because the pain from muscle spasming in the first few weeks is pretty intense -- I did a ton of research on all of it.
I actually had no idea whatsoever I would write a novel at all until the day I started writing it, and then it just poured out of me. I wrote it in under three months while working full-time. I didn't know that was apparently impossible. [laughs]
Q: What about some of the pretty deep and intense social issues you address in the book? Things like incest, rape, and the vast topic of getting involved with people you work with or a doctor-patient relationship?
A: These are issues that happen to real people, in real life, every day, and more often than we like to admit as a society. What I wanted to portray with Mark and Anna is that people can thrive even when they grow up in less-than-ideal circumstances, sometimes even pretty horrible ones. Humans are resilient, and everyone does better with someone by their side who believes in them.
I did a lot of research on the repercussions of a doctor-patient relationship that becomes intimate and was surprised that it is not only ethically denounced, but can actually be deemed criminal. Of course, we all understand that when underage patients are involved or it's nonconsensual in any way.
But for Anna and Mark, you have two people with many decades of life behind them and on equal footing in terms of their social and financial status. It created an innate conflict in the book, because in the eyes of the law, it's all pretty much thrown together, regardless of the circumstances.
I thought it was an interesting situation for a relationship to begin in. Because there were genuine repercussions for Mark to traverse, though for Anna -- coming from Hollywood -- it was not an issue at all. But then the potential impact for him also affects her, because now they're involved.
Q: There's no question the romance genre is huge right now. But most romance books seem to either be set in some far-off historical point in time, or have an added layer, like fantasy or the paranormal. You stuck with the here and now, and even made your couple baby boomers. What was the thought process behind that decision?
A: It was just the story I wanted to tell. I didn't even set out to write a book in any particular genre. When it was done, Romantic Suspense made the most sense, because the story is heavy on both aspects. But I wasn't writing thinking, "This will appeal to such-and-such a reader," at all.
In fact, I hope men will read 'Cut Back to Life.' I tried very hard to create real men, not fantasy superheroes. Dr. Scofield is an amazing neurosurgeon, but he has some kinky sexual fantasies and a high-testosterone drive.
He's never met a woman who gets him before he becomes involved with Anna Porter. She resonates with him because she is broken and needs him desperately, but she also allows him to truly be himself for the first time in his life.
I think that's more realistic than just making someone super-human on all fronts.
Q: 'Cut Back to Life' is your debut novel. Will you stick with the Romantic Suspense genre for your next one?
A: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed developing Anna and Mark's relationship, and let's face it, writing sex scenes is kind of fun. We live in such a tumultuous time for male/female relationships. We seem intent on killing everything that makes men be men: I mean, testosterone is a driving force in the XY mix and lots about that is wonderful. So I tried to celebrate it in this book. At the same time, the negatives -- such as Roger Niles' abuse of steroids and Anna's horrible childhood at the hands of her alcoholic father -- I also tried to paint honestly.
I also come from a news writing background, and the reporter's job is just to tell the story, not to comment on its morality. I think if you tell a story honestly, different readers will react differently, and that's ok. It's like a painting: not everyone sees the same thing.
It's not my job as a storyteller to decide how readers should react, that's entirely up to them.
Q: In Dr. Mark Scofield and actress Anna Porter, we see some more traditional aspects of men and women. And yet, they're each successful and have fought their own demons all their lives. Did you give much thought to these parts of their personalities as they developed?
A: We're living in this time where everyone gets to say they were "born this way" except for very feminine women and very masculine men. That's kind of crazy when you really think about it. So yes, it probably reflects my own essence, in that I am a very girlie girl and I like manly men.
I suppose we all put some pieces of ourselves into all of our characters, both good and bad. It's almost inevitable.
But I also think it's kind of sad that we've reached a place where being "gender-fluid" is more accepted than being 100% heterosexual. It's great to be accepting, but that has to go both ways.
I also made the conscious decision to include some erotic moments in the book, because that's part of a healthy, adult relationship. It just seemed like an integral part of the story. At the same time, I wanted to leave some details of these encounters to the reader's imagination. [smiles]
Q: What do you hope readers will take away from 'Cut Back to Life'?
A: That we're all so fallible and completely imperfect. That we can survive the most horrific circumstances and still find happiness eventually. That no matter what the rules are in any given society, some people disregard them and some of them don't really make sense to apply in all situations.
It's a story of hope against all odds on so many levels. That's my wish: that readers come away feeling like whatever it is they most wish for, nothing is impossible.