I’m sure if you interview the big authors about their inspiration for their biggest works, you’d hear a lot about sunrises or walks along the shore or something grand and beautiful and, my God, I wish I had a story like that for Playing Hard To Forget, my debut novel from Dreamspinner Press, but when the story involves Hot Topic, a thousand year old folk tale, testing your beliefs in the supernatural in the Mojave Desert, an Italian restaurant known more for its steadfast devotion to letting customers know it was air conditioned than for its food, and a somewhat maligned episode of Doctor Who, there’s no way to spin things into a watercolor mist of emotion.
It started...I guess it started with Scotland. Hello. My name is Piper. I am 4000% Scottish. Give or take. I have everything a good stereotypical Scot should: red hair on top of a huge, hard head, a nasty temper and a creative vocabulary to match when I’m angry, and a belief that the bagpipe is, indeed, one of the most haunting and underrated instruments of all time. My family lines go back over a thousand years. A thousand. I can’t even remember what I was doing yesterday and here my ancestors have managed to keep it together for a millennium.
And not only have they managed to keep getting it on with the best of the best of Scotland to eventually produce me (did I mention the Scottish ego?), they also managed to pass down our folk tales. One particular tale involves a patriarch of the family saving the King from a wolf using the ancient equivalent of a butter knife. He was rewarded with land and a title and a castle and went on to have many children (probably from all the groupies he gained saving the King).
It probably wouldn’t make for a very interesting story on its own and certainly not outside his proud descendants, so imagine my surprise when one day I saw elements of our family’s story show up in an episode of Doctor Who entitled Tooth and Claw. Wolves. Royalty. Saving the royals from the wolves. Where have I heard this story before?
But the episode turned the idea on its head: Werewolves. Now, wait just a minute here. You can’t just take my family’s story and go crazy with it. That, I thought, my Scottish temper flaring, is MY right. And from there the idea was sort of born.
Now, wolves have been a part of me for as long as I can remember, even before I heard the tale from my great uncle. When I was young I used to have these crazy dreams where I would wake up in a small clearing in the middle of the Mojave Desert. It was pitch black except for a small fire lighting the space between the bushes. There was an old man I couldn’t see, speaking a language I understood at the time (he was telling me about my destiny, but I couldn’t understand what he said when I woke up), and a wolf standing guard, protecting us from things beyond the brush. And there were things. I just don’t know what. I was too afraid to look.
My mother, who I swear is the real life inspiration for Edina Monsoon from the 90s BBC comedy Absolutely Fabulous and considered herself an expert in mind-altering experiences, thought this was the greatest thing she had ever heard and immediately dragged me up and down the desert to find its meaning.
What did I learn on my quest? Redheads should always wear sunscreen.
And that strangers who claim to have various supernatural abilities inevitably link me with wolves. Just last year a friend hired a psychic for a party and she made a beeline to tell me about my long and sordid history with the wolf and how there was a wolf guarding and guiding me.
But werewolves? Could I pull off werewolves? The idea kept growing. I started to see inspiration everywhere. My mother’s side, also Scottish, gave itself the motto “ne m’oubliez,” Latin for “Don’t Forget Me.” Not to be confused with hit song “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from the ALSO Scottish--and amazing--band Simple Minds, of course.
Could I blend my two families better than my parents had (the possibility of two stubborn Scots staying married is low. It’s why I married a Canadian)? The plot was, pardon the turn of phrase, thickening.
I plotted. I diagrammed. I storyboarded. I cried. I did the exercises for writer’s block. I drank. I curled up in the fetal position. I went down to the archery range and shot till my fingers hurt. I went out with friends to dinner, to the mall, and somehow--somehow--ended up in that black hole that sucks you back into 2005.
To this day, I don’t even know how I ended up going in, considering I’ve never actually heard a Paramore song. And, there, over the steady din of faux goths and holdover emos wishing Fall Out Boy would get back together, I heard the most beautiful sound I’d ever heard (in a Hot Topic, at least): Siouxsie and the Banshees singing a cover of “This Wheel’s On Fire.”
For those of you playing at home, a different cover of this song was the theme song for the aforementioned Absolutely Fabulous and I’d heard it a billion times growing up. But something in the lyrics, in Siouxsie’s amazing, amazing voice hit me that night. I had my plot. I knew how to tie together the tales I’d heard growing up and put them in a modern, romantic setting. If your memory serves you well. It was perfect.
From there I consumed all the dark new wave music I could get my hands on. Bauhaus. Peter Murphy. Sister of Mercy. Depeche Mode. Every new song sparked a character trait or a plot line. But it needed balance, just like my characters needed balance. Something lighter. I obsessively devoured music in all its forms until one day, pulling out of my driveway, a folky Simon and Garfunkel-ish song I’d never heard came on the radio. It was called Moth in the Porchlight by an indie band called Folly and the Hunter.
Now, Playing Hard To Forget is set in the American South...Florida, actually. To be specific, a strange little town called Lakeland. In the south, porches and bug control are serious business, so I was already intrigued. But as the song went on, I recognized my boys--Ethan and Liam. I heard so much of the story I’d already written and by the time the song was over, I knew how their story would end. It was an amazing feeling and I couldn’t wait to get home and write.
So where does that leave us? We started in Scotland in the year 1000 and took a few very weird turns to get here. I guess we’re at the point where I tell you I hope you’ll enjoy reading the very hot tale of Ethan Robertson and Liam Kinnaird, two Scottish boys--one of whom happens to be a werewolf--hopelessly in love despite a thousand years of angry, hard headed Scots telling them they should be otherwise.
And what does my own thousand years of hard headed Scots think about all this? I guess my mother’s happy I managed to make some kind of sense out of those wolf dreams and, for all the reasons you as a reader would like to infer, I’ve modelled one of the villains of our story after my father, so his opinion is not really taken into consideration here.
And what about the air conditioned Italian restaurant? Well, you’ll just have to read the book. And if any Lakelander can guess where I’m talking about, I’ll send you a signed copy of my book myself, separate from the official giveaway!
But in the meantime, please enjoy “Playing Hard To Forget” by Piper Doone (that’s me!), out December 26, 2014 from Dreamspinner Press.
About the Author:
Piper Doone had decade long career in professional sports that lasted ten years too long. Before that she was in entertainment at a gigantic theme park in Orlando. Today she works in marketing and raises two kids, three hedgehogs, a dog, and a cat with her amazing husband, who not only tolerates her insanity, but also encourages it. She also a freelance photographer who enjoys shooting on film with equipment older than she is.
She hates long walks on the beach, sunshine, and summer. She lives in Miami. Obviously.
She considers anyone who believes The Parent Trap remake with Lindsay Lohan superior to the Hayley Mills original a mortal enemy and she has a soft spot for the Canadian folk god, Gordon Lightfoot.
You can find her on Facebook.