Meet Graham Harrigan
I tap on the door.
"Come in," says a female voice.
I enter and see a cluttered desk in an equally cluttered office. The woman seated behind the clutter looks up. Her eyes roam up and down my body, and she gestures to a chair with a well-manicured hand. "Sit. Relax. It's not painful, I promise."
I guess it's obvious I'm not sure what I'm doing here. I sit in the chair she indicated. "Terry Odell said you're expecting me?"
"That's right." She clears a spot on her paper-covered desk and sets a tape-recorder in the middle. "All right if I record the interview? Less chance of me getting something wrong."
Now I know why I feel so strange. I'm the cop. I usually conduct the interviews. Being on the other side is awkward. "No problem, as long as I get a copy."
She nods, her mouth curving upward. "I can do that. Or would you like to use your own machine?"
I don't tell her my recorder's been running since I hit her receptionist's office. Old habits die hard. Instead, I pull it out of my sport coat's pocket and make a show about fiddling with the buttons. "Might save time."
She gives me another smile. Broader. White teeth flash. Definitely some interest there. I look a little closer. Light brown hair with gold highlights. Blue eyes, small nose. Slender figure, nice breasts.
I give her a polite smile back, not wanting to get into that game. Terry explained the Twelve Steps to Intimacy while we were working on the book, and this interview isn't going past step three, so when she makes room for my recorder, I'm damn careful not to touch her hand when I set mine next to hers.
It hits me, then, like the baton I carried when I was a patrol cop. Terry's ruined other women for me since the NOWHERE TO HIDE gig with Colleen.
"All right, she says." She doesn't look disappointed, but she doesn't power down the flirt engine, either. "Okay, moving on the basics. Six-two, early thirties, deep blue eyes, cleft chin, dark wavy hair."
I narrow my eyes a little, giving her my interview stare. "Chapter One, ma'am. Page three, I think."
"Our readers like to know this." She's almost apologetic.
"What I look like doesn't matter. I do my job."
"Which job is that?" she asks. "Being a cop or a romance novel hero? I think in the case of the latter, your description is of the utmost importance."
I cringe inside, but I keep my features neutral. "I can't help the way I was born, ma'am."
"Call me Cyndee," she says.
I glance at the nameplate on her desk. Cyndee with a Y and two E's. "Yes, ma'am. Cyndee."
"So, if you're a cop, why the switch to romance hero?"
"It's not a switch. I'm still a cop, but to be honest, the money's not all that great. Our schedules let us pick up some outside work. A lot of the cops do private security work, but I saw an ad and thought it might be interesting."
"What can you tell our readers about being the hero of a romance novel? Something they might not expect."
I have to think about that one. I thought I'd show up, learn my lines, have a legitimate excuse for some hot sex, maybe a little adventure. "Well, I had to learn to cook."
"A cooking cop? That's interesting."
I remember the burns and cut fingers. "The author seemed to think so."
"So it's not all pretend?" she asks, a glint in her eyes. Of course. She's read an advance copy. She's probably thinking of Chapter Twenty-five.
I hope I'm not blushing. "It's not as easy as it looks," I finally say. "Fortunately, my co-star had already worked with Terry before, and she explained there would be a lot of rewrites because the plot wasn't set in stone. She writes more by the seat of her pants."
"Was that a problem?"
I think of how many re-takes we did getting to know Colleen more…intimately… and shake my head.
Time to get some control over the interview. "No, I didn't mind. It's also a two-way street. The author was willing to listen to me when I explained some of the restrictions that real police work would place on her story. There was a lot of compromising. I think she learned a lot about the reality of being a cop, and I learned a lot about how everything had to build toward that Big Black Moment."
Her eyes widen. "Big Black Moment?"
"Like in the Wizard of Oz. Everything's going to be fine, but then the balloon takes off without Dorothy and she can't get home. It all goes to hell, if I'm allowed to use the word."
"I'm sure our readers are familiar with the term. And what was your Big Black Moment?"
I shake my head. "I'm sorry. That's something your folks will have to find out by reading the book. I will say there were a lot of scenes left on the author's hard drive before we agreed how things would play out. I lost a lot of page time, but in the end, I had to agree, it was a stronger book."
"That's fascinating," she says. "Perhaps we can continue this over lunch? I'd love to hear about those out-takes."
"I’m sorry," I say, although I'm not. "I've got a lunch appointment."
Her look says she understands. Which, of course she would, since she's read the whole book. Probably knows damn well what the Big Black Moment was, too.
She shakes her head. "Can't blame me for trying, now, can you?" Her eyes twinkle. "Do you think there might be an opening for a character in another book?"
"You never know." I pick up my recorder and leave. Colleen's waiting, and I promised to cook lunch.
Causes Terry Odell Supports
Pro Literacy Worldwide, The Nature Conservancy, The Adult Literacy League, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society