Fresh FIction Box Not To Miss

Shelly Laurenston | From Here to There

March 27, 2014

Shelly LaurenstonBITE MEYears ago, I saw a standup comedian on cable wondering how the author of Deliverance, James Dickey, came up with his idea of a male friends’ weekend in the wilds of Georgia. For those who’ve read the book or seen the movie, you know that not everyone on that trip had a pig-squealing good time. In fact, their bro-bonding weekend turned into an absolute nightmare. But how did Dickey get there? It was, as the comedian pointed out, not your everyday way to go when you put a bunch of dudes in a bad situation.

Now, at some point over the years, Dickey may have explained his thought process in an interview or at a speaking engagement, but I know nothing about the man. But it doesn’t matter because for every author out there I’m sure there’s a different answer for how authors get from an idea to a fleshed-out book. Some authors get stuff from headlines (which is one I’ve used), some write from personal experiences (my life is way too boring to even consider this as a viable option), some have “muses” (my personal neurosis won’t let me have a muse. It’s too close to a mild form of schizophrenia for my comfort level). But for me, the ideas I stumble upon I see as simple inspiration. And I never know what’s going to inspire me.

For instance, the hero I created in BEAST BEHAVING BADLY, Bo “The Marauder” Novikov, didn’t come from some hockey player I saw on TV or an indepth study I read on OCD and its ramifications on the human psyche. In fact, Bo was inspired by my need to have my apartment cleaned. Actually…not just cleaned, but organized. I joke with my friends that I’m just one traumatic incident away from becoming a full-on hoarder, and at that time, all I wanted was for someone to come in and just clean my place, throw out unnecessary stuff, and then organize what was left. And I wanted all that done while I was sleeping or on vacation. I wanted no involvement at all in the process because the mess was starting to overwhelm me—”How can I throw out this one sock? What if I find the missing one? And why give away two of my three bundt pans? What if I need to make three bundt cakes in one day even though that has never happened before? It still could happen.” And from that deep-seated need came Bo. The OCD-riddled, polar bear-lion shifter who is all about time management and keeping things organized to the point where the heroine, Blayne Thorpe, believes he must need help because no one could be happy and that organized.

But a lot of what I use for inspiration comes from documentaries. I watch those to learn about the animal side of the shifters I create. Some of the docs are straightforward and informational. But over the years I’ve found some rather life-changing ones. One of my favorites was “Predators at War.” A NatGeo documentary about predators during a devastating drought on the African Plains. The usual were there, lions, hyenas, leopards. But they also had African wild dogs…which I’d never really heard about until that point. And it was fascinating. I mean, I’m a dog lover, so to see what was probably one of the earliest breeds totally sucked me in. And then add in how the wild dogs functioned as a pack and how could I not use them in my next book? If for no other reason than the mere idea of what it would be like to have a constantly yipping wild dog pack forced to interact with the always stoic wolf pack. That simple concept alone led me to Book 2 in my Pride series, THE BEAST IN HIM.

To be honest, though, by the time I started to plan for my eighth book in my Pride series, I figured I knew about, and had written about, most of the predators out there. At least the land-dwelling ones. I didn’t think I would have anything new to touch upon. And then, one day I was reading the online news blog “Gawker” (I think), which led me to the most hilarious video I’d ever seen. For once it wasn’t about cute cats or adorable dogs. It was some video taken from what looked to be a straightforward documentary on some animal called the honey badger. But what was great about it was the narrator Randall who put his own twist on what he called “The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger.” I laughed hysterically watching the video (and I do love to laugh), but I was also fascinated by this unbelievably tough animal. I mean the badger was bitten by a deadly snake before he managed to kill it, passed out from the deadly-to-animals-ten-times-bigger venom, woke up a little while later…and continued eating the snake that had tried to kill him. How flippin’ cool is that???

Yet I didn’t immediately think I would create a character from this. I just thought it was funny and wished the honey badger was a wee bit bigger. But as I began to work on WOLF WITH BENEFITS, I wanted to try something different. I wanted the heroine, a jackal, to have an interesting friend. Something I hadn’t worked with before. The badger? I thought. Nah. It was still too small. But then I remembered that not all my successful-with-readers predators were 500+ pounds. I had foxes (tiny), wild dogs (my 80-pound pit bull is bigger than some of them), mountain lions (I’ve seriously considered them as pets but legally and morally I can’t really make that happen). So then what if I did use a honey badger? And the best part about honey badgers? They take on anybody, including lions, hyenas, jackals, humans…anybody. Honestly, most of my heroines kind of have a badger quality to them. They’ll take on pretty much anybody except other females like wolf shifter Dee-Ann Smith, from BIG BAD BEAST, who is avoided like the plague by everybody from Siberian tigers to polar bears to entire lion prides.

And, with the decision made, Livy Kowalski from BITE ME was born. She went from a small, passing thought while watching Randall’s video to a fully formed heroine with a crazy badger family, shifter friends, and an unholy love of honey in her own full-length book. Honestly, that’s the best part of writing for me. Taking one thing you read or see on TV and turning it into this other thing that, hopefully, people will also enjoy and want to know more about. Although I would strongly suggest not trying to make a honey badger an actual member of your family (and yes, I’ve looked into it. It’s not legal in this country…and the moral thing again, I guess). They are truly mean and vicious and deadly and, unlike lions who instinctively kill, it isn’t about instincts for honey badgers, in my opinion. They know exactly what they’re doing and they do what they do because they really just don’t like you. Or anyone. Which, for me, makes them perfect characters for my books. But not pets. I can’t have them as pets. And I will continue to tell myself that until I believe it or the laws change. You know…whatever.

So what authors have made you wonder, “How the hell did she [or he] get there???”

Win a signed copy of Shelly Laurenston’s BITE ME


The Mane Event




The Beast In Him




The Mane Attraction




The Mane Squeeze




Beast Behaving Badly




Big Bad Beast




Bear Meets Girl




Wolf With Benefits



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