Thanks to readers, Kodiak Chained is forever going to be one of my favorites of my Sentinels series. Oh, I love them all, and all for different reasons. And I fall in love with each of the heroes in turn (and a little bit with the heroines, too, because that’s the way it has to be when you write them).
But Ruger James has a little something extra. He owes Kodiak Chained –and his chance for a happily ever after–to readers.
Ruger made his initial appearance in Jaguar Night, the very first Sentinels book. As the Southwest healer and Kodiak grizzly shifter, he cropped up about two-thirds of the way through the book to dispense healing, cut through nonsense, and take no guff. He didn’t have a huge role, but let’s just say he made an impact. About half of the people who wrote to let me know they enjoyed the book also said, “And when does Ruger get a story?”
This is pretty much a first for me. I’ve brought secondary characters to the foreground for their own stories before–other books, other genres–but I’ve never received such strength of want feedback. “Huh,” I said. “My ears are perked. I wonder if I could sell a book for Ruger?”
Of course, by the time Jaguar Night came out, I’d already written Lion Heart. In that book, Ruger had a larger role. “Yay!” said my readers. “When do we get more?” And I said, “He’s a big, bearded bear shifter. I’m not sure a proposal will fly. But I’m going to try.” And then we all chatted some more about who would be a match for a man like Ruger. Or a bear like Ruger.
Boy, was that fun. And while at that point I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d do, I walked away with two things–a really strong understanding of how much people wanted to see Ruger’s story written, and a neat new kind of connection with the readers who took the time to mention their druthers.
So guess what. The proposal flew. And so did the book in the writing, because I had not one bear shifter, but two. And they are, as it happens, extremely forthright characters with a very strong sense of self. Not without flaw, but never without heart.
It’s a story that might never have been written if it hadn’t been for readers, and I thought you all should know. Take credit where credit is due, and never underestimate the power you have–whether it comes through in reviews, or in your purchases, or in your feedback straight to the writer.
Thank you! I’m so glad I had the chance to write for Ruger and Mariska…and I’m looking forward to the next one.