Isn’t the answer obvious?
I knew I wouldn’t score points with her if I made her feel like she’d just asked me a stupid question, so I thought about it for a second, trying to come up with a quotable answer. “They’re like superheroes without the Spandex,” I said.
My answer ran in her article in the Washington Post.
I didn’t set out to write a Navy SEAL stories. The heroes in my I-Team series include a variety of professions. Reece Sheridan from Extreme Exposure is a high school Social Studies teacher who ran for office to teach his students about government. Julian Darcangelo from Hard Evidence is an undercover FBI agent who goes after child sex traffickers. Marc Hunter from Unlawful Contact served as an Army Special Forces sniper and DEA agent before landing in prison on a murder rap. Gabe Rossiter from Naked Edge is a park ranger and extreme athlete. Zach McBride from Breaking Point is former SEAL who works the line—the U.S./Mexico border—as a deputy U.S. Marshal.
It was learning about SEALs for Zach’s background in Breaking Point that inspired the character of Javier Corbray. Javier came to me as a man from a working-class Puerto Rican family in the South Bronx who’d enlisted in the Navy and served with distinction as a SEAL, someone who’d risen through the ranks and had seen more than his share of military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But how does a woman who worked as a journalist get inside the mind of man who has spent most of his adult life serving as an elite operator?
Let’s face it — I am not SEAL material. When reading about SEALs practicing night jumps, my first thought was, “What if someone lands near a spider?” (I am not making this up.)
Still, I didn’t want to do this halfway. Out of respect for all special operators and my readers, I wanted to write the most authentic Navy SEAL hero I could.
I knew I needed help—a lot of help—so that I could depict a man who has been through the most rigorous training our military has to offer, who has deployed dozens and dozens of times as a SEAL, who has seen the horror of combat and, despite those horrors, signed up again and again.
Call it kismet or fate or luck, but I came into contact with an active-duty SEAL who has a lot in common with Javier Corbray. Since I can’t use his real name, I’ll call him Michael.
Michael enlisted before 9/11 and has been decorated for his service, rising through the ranks and serving as a SEAL for more than a decade in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places around the world. I sent him a copy of Breaking Point so that he could see the kind of books I write and decide whether he wanted to help with my research. I warned him up front that the story contained graphic sex scenes.
“Given the things I’ve seen and the things I’ve had to do, I’m pretty sure I can handle that,” he said.
“Yes,” said I, feeling kind of silly. “I suppose that’s true.”
Michael read Breaking Point and said he “absolutely loved it — all of it,” and graciously offered to answer my many questions about life as a special operator as his schedule permitted. I was elated.
Ever want to ask a question only to realize you know so little that you don’t even know what you don’t know? That’s how I felt.
Not wanting to come across as a complete idiot, I read every bit of nonfiction I could on special operators and life on the Teams, creating my own SEAL dictionary, studying photos of firearms and other weapons, and reading about real-life SEAL missions. Then I began to write, sending him sections that were heavy on SEAL action and asking him a zillion question.
Sometimes he got back to me quickly. At other times a month or two would go by, and I would wonder where he and his Team were—and whether they were safe. I found myself watching the news and even set up an alert for news articles involving US Navy SEALs. But Michael always got back to me, and he always had the answers. A time or two, he even expressed his surprise.
“I don’t know where you got this,” Michael said about one particular detail, “but it’s absolutely right on.”
When I finished Striking Distance, I sent him an edited PDF of the story. I heard back from him in less than a week.
“I think you really understand some of the dynamics of a good number of team guys,” he wrote. “I think there are so many aspects that you capture really well.”
I dedicated the book to him, and his response when he read the dedication was typical for him—humble and sincere.
“Thanks for the special dedication,” he wrote. “I will certainly seek to live up to the emotion, the passion, and the honor.”
As if he hasn’t already done that.
Striking Distance is a very special book to me. It took more than a year of my life and all of my heart to write it. Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:
Her past is a secret—even to her.
Discovering it will be the most dangerous move of her life.
TV reporter Laura Nilsson, known as the “Baghdad Babe,” spent eighteen months in an Al-Qaeda compound after being kidnapped live on the air. Two years later, she’s still wondering why.
No mission in Javier Corbray’s fourteen years as a Navy SEAL affected him the way Laura’s rescue did. No woman had stirred his protective instincts the way she did. And he wants her more than he’s ever wanted anyone.
As Laura and Javier’s passion ignites, so does Laura’s need to discover the mystery of her past. Especially when she learns that her abduction was not random—and that she’s still a target for a killer with an impenetrable motive. Now Javier will have to rely on his skills to keep the woman he loves from being struck down before she dares uncover the truth.
You can read the prologue on my website.
Striking Distance is available in mass market paperback, all ebook formats and in audiobook, narrated by the talented Kaleo Griffith.
Also, be sure to check out First Strike, the erotic prequel to Striking Distance. It tells the story of the crazy no-strings-attached weekend Laura and Javier share in Dubai, where they first meet. You can read an excerpt, or find it on sale for 99 cents on Kindle, Nook, and at Smashwords. Through Nov. 4, readers of this blog can download it for free through Smashwords using Coupon Code RP24W.
For the rest of today only, the ebook version of Breaking Point (I-Team 5) is on sale for only $1.99. Breaking Point tells the story of Deputy U.S. Marshal Zach McBride—think Raylan Givens working the U.S./Mexico border—and Natalie Benoit, who finds herself the prisoner of a blood-thirsty cartel. With 100 five-star reviews, it was chose by Amazon.com as one of their Top Books of 2011. Readers looking for an introduction to the I-Team series have a chance to try it out for $6 off the regular price. Read an excerpt, or look for it on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iTunes.
I hope you enjoy the stories!