For a long time, I’d wanted to write a love story that incorporated both love and danger. I suppose it’s partly due to the fact that I enjoy novels that keep me on the edge of my seat.
Growing up, I enjoyed the works of many authors, and had read a variety of the classics while still in high school. While it would be wonderful to claim that I enjoyed everything about such novels as The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy, Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe or Moby Dick by Herman Melville, I must admit that I didn’t. Perhaps it was age related, but I found myself able to put those books (and others like them) aside for days before eventually picking them up again. I’d initially begun to read them because my mom had recommended them to me; strangely, it took me a long time to notice that when my mom settled in to read for the night, she often chose modern story-tellers such as James Herriot, Dick Francis, and Agatha Christie.
Sometime around the age of 15, my dad recommended that I try a novel by Stephen King, and from the moment I opened the cover, I couldn’t put it down. It was The Stand—destined to be a classic in the horror genre, I believe—and the ever-mounting tension compelled me to read long after I should have gone to sleep.
This dramatic tension associated with fright was something I wanted to create in my own novel, not only because of my own preferences, but as a way to keep this particular novel fresh and original for my readers. Yet, creating fright and tension wasn’t as much of a change in the style of my novels as most people might assume, even though I’m most known for writing love stories. Throughout my career, I’ve varied the theme in each of my novels, which is the reason, for instance, The Notebook is hard to compare to A Bend in the Road. After all, the theme influences everything in the novels – characters, settings, structure, length, and voice of the narrator– and by changing themes, it’s my hope that the reader never knows exactly what to expect. In the past, I’ve written about everlasting love, love after loss, first love, love as rescue, love and forgiveness, love and sacrifice and for The Guardian, I simply chose to write about love and danger. In other words, I wanted to write a story in which two believable characters fell in love, but I wanted to add elements of suspense that would ultimately put both characters in jeopardy.
The Guardian, unlike my previous novels, is a story completely derived from my imagination, yet the conception of the story wasn’t necessarily more difficult than it has been in the past. Once I’d decided on the theme – love and danger – it was simply a matter of getting the right elements into the novel. The first, and most obvious question dealt with the cause of the danger. My choices were simple – it could either be a dangerous place, a dangerous event, or a dangerous person. In the end, I went with the latter, simply because I believed it would be the most interesting for the reader. And with those thoughts in mind, I sat down to start writing, thinking the story would be both simple and enjoyable to write.
Only later would I find out how wrong I was.