I'm currently writing my 18th book, King's Reign. Yesterday, after being immersed in King's world through my words, through the images I've drawn inspiration from and collected together on my King Pinterest board, and through the music I've added to my King's Reign Spotify playlist, I had a life moment. Writing gives me these moments occasionally. They crash into me and show me something about myself I hadn't seen or understood completely.
Life moments are confessions from my soul.
I write for these.
I'm often asked why I chose to write bikers. Why I write the kind of men I write. I always give the only answer I've ever had. I wanted to write alphas, and bikers gave me the space to write the badass, bossy as fuck alphas who push boundaries to the extreme.
This is true, but yesterday it finally came to me why I really write these kind of men. Why I continue to write them. And why I love writing them.
I don't write because of the men.
I write because of the women.
I write bad boys because I'm exploring why and how women fall in love with them.
My personal journey with bad boys began when I was 17. In a backyard in Brisbane, I saw the sunrise snuggled on the lap of a guy I'd spent the past few hours making out with at a party. He was this tall, black dude who had a bad boy reputation at our school (we were both in our final year of high school). I'd never spoken to him. I was the shy, good girl in high school. He was the complete opposite. But give me a few drinks, and I come out of my shell (the same is just as true today as it was back then). I got very drunk at this particular party and somehow ended up with this guy. You see, this was a guy I should not have ended up with. He was the guy my best friend desperately wanted to date. Yes, I was that girl. Of course, I never spoke to that guy after that party. It was just some fun for him, and honestly, I'd never been interested in him. For those few hours, though, he made me feel special. He gave me butterflies in my tummy. He made me do things I never thought I'd ever do. That's the power of the bad boy.
Admitting to you I was that girl was hard. No one wants to be that girl. No girl ever wants to do that to her bestie. But it's just one thing I've ever done in my life that I'm not proud of. My list is long. I'm guessing yours is too. Because that's life, right? None of us are perfect. None of us move through life doing only the right things. We are flawed creatures, and after 42 years of trying not to be so flawed, I'm done with that.
The last few years have been ones of a great deal of change for me.
Something shifted in me after I began publishing.
I thought it was that after years of failure, I had finally succeeded at something.
It was my writing.
It was always my writing. I just didn't fully understand that until yesterday.
I've always written in some form. I've started many stories. I've written in a lot of journals. Writing helped me work through my feelings because I'm not good at verbalising my feelings. I never finished a story until I wrote Storm, so up until that point in my life, I'd never dug deep with characters and seen their journeys through. It wasn't until I wrote King's book, though, that I learnt the true meaning of digging deep with my characters. And just how writing these characters allows me to work through the events of my life.
I know this man like the back of my hand. I know his pain, his happiness, his regrets, his hopes, his fears, his loves, his hatred, his disappointments. I know his flaws so deeply I feel them. I understand what drives him to be the asshole he can be and the profoundly loving brother and uncle he is. I accept he will never be the perfect man some women spend their life wishing for. I accept him for who he is and I never try to force him to be anything else.
Where some readers don't see him the way I do, I can't see him for anything else than this.
Because, you see, King is a mosaic of all the men I've known or come across in life.
He's my exploration of how a woman like me could ever fall in love with a man like him.
For as long as I can recall, I've strived to gain the approval of those I love. I did well in school. I did the extra-curricular activities my parents encouraged. I cultivated friends my mother liked. I got a job. I went to university. These things all made my parents happy. I'm not saying they didn't make me happy, but I can't deny I felt all kinds of warm and fuzzy when my parents were happy. Throughout all that, I hid a lot of things I did from my parents. This isn't a story we haven't heard before—I was the quintessential good girl, striving for approval.
And then I met the first guy who challenged my good girl ways.
I was 18, he was 25. I didn't do drugs, he did. I had a job, he didn't (not unless you call dealing drugs a job). And when all I wanted to do was hang out with him, I deferred my studies so I had extra time for him. He was the obsessive kind of guy, always wanting my attention. I loved feeling so wanted. And so I changed my life for him. Not that he asked me to. I became the kind of person I don't like—I would be late for work because of him, I would spend my shifts at work talking on the phone to him, I ignored my family because of him, I stopped spending time with my friends so I could spend all my time with him. My first prison visit to a man was to this guy. When his wife rang me begging me to stop seeing him so that he would go back to her and their son, my innocent 18 year old self experienced her first knife to the heart. I didn't know he was married. I didn't know he had a son. And after going into denial over it all for a few days, I woke up and admitted he was a liar and not worthy of me. I broke up with him. Of course, he didn't give up on me and kept calling begging me to take him back. And like the flawed human I am, I gave in a month later. We met for the day and then I promised to meet him out that night. I never made it because I got held up with some friends instead. I never heard from him again. Bullet dodged.
He wasn't the only bad boy I ever dated. I've only ever dated bad boys, and I've carried a lot of baggage over this side of me (that's a whole other story – *sigh* the power we give some people in our lives to make us feel bad about ourselves).
And so we circle back to why I choose to write the men I write.
I've seen reviews and had discussions about the women I write. The women who choose to fall in love with my bikers. Some readers say, “A woman like her would never make the choices she made. Would never let a criminal into her life.” I love discussing my books, but I've realised I need to take a step back from it, because it can fuck with my headspace and my writing. You see, while you may not be able to wrap your head around the women I write, I'm writing these women from experience. I know their struggles with self-confidence. I understand their doubts. I feel their fear. I know how the dark side calls to them. I've made their choices.
I write these stories to explore all those things.
Life is hard. Some days are shit. Some months are excruciatingly painful. Some years are soul destroying. We all make choices that aren't good for us. We all make decisions we regret. But in the midst of all the struggle, we can find love and support in the strangest of places. Sometimes we find love from a person others would never dare consider accepting love from. We can never presume to know the connection between two people. All the intricacies of a relationship, all the steps forward, all the steps back, the dance taken together. The tapestry of love can't always be explained. Sometimes it just is.
Life isn't black and white.
If you can't buy into my stories, that's okay.
It took me 17 books, but I'm finally writing completely for me. While I've never written something I didn't enjoy writing or love, I'll be honest and tell you that in a market where it is damn hard to sell a book, there have been many moments while writing where I've thought something like, “Mmm, would my readers actually want that to happen?”. Ask any writer about that, and if they're honest, they'll say they've experienced that too. We want you to like our characters. We want you to love our books. It's an inherent characteristic of artists I think.
I took a chance with King. I mean, I didn't fully realise it at the time because I was simply writing a character who'd lived deeply inside me for years, and I wrote him exactly how he came to me. I delivered a book with a character you'll either love or hate. And that right there is where the magic is for me as both a writer and a reader.
I want to be challenged.
I want to be shown a person with flaws I can't always understand.
I want to see a journey through life that is achingly beautiful because of the ups and downs.
For me, that's the role of fiction.
It helps us explore both the choices we've made in life as well as those we don't think we'd ever make. Immersing ourselves in someone else's story this way is how we safely delve into the parts of life we grapple with. It can be confronting. It can be eye-opening. And often it can be hard to swallow. But I promise you it can be real life for many.