Guest post by Jennifer Hayward, author of Changing Constantinou’s Game
What would you do if one life-changing event made you realize you’ve been living your life on the sidelines? What if it changed everything?
As writers we often get asked where we get our inspiration from. “How do you come up with all those stories?” For me, true life is often stranger than fiction and many of my ideas have come from a newspaper story or a tale a friend has told. Sometimes, my inspiration comes from a subject I love – such as wine with my debut Delicious De Campos trilogy. Not only do I love consuming it, but I find the art of making it fascinating. And finally, my inspiration comes from my own experience, my own life.
For Alexios and Isabel in Changing Constantinou’s Game, my inspiration began with a flight home after a vacation where I sat beside a marine biologist from the Great Barrier Reef. He was charming, very attractive and charismatic and we chatted most of the flight. He was visiting my hometown and kept throwing hints my way I could show him the sights. I was young and frankly a bit shy about taking an attractive, worldly man I didn’t know sightseeing. And I didn’t.
I thought of him as the ‘one that got away’ at the time. Except he wasn’t really because then I found my Swedish Viking many years later when I was ready to settle down. That chance encounter with the marine biologist, though, got me thinking. I hated that I didn’t have the guts to go for it and show him the town. What if I had? Would things have unfolded so differently for me? Would I be living in the Great Barrier Reef instead of Toronto? Or would he and I have discovered that night we weren’t compatible at all?
With Izzie, I wanted to create a heroine who comes across that charismatic, beautiful man in her travels, is overwhelmed by his pure presence, but this heroine doesn’t shy away from the opportunity. No – she sucks it up and does what many of us wish we would have done. She goes for it!
The only problem with Izzie’s Carpe Diem moment is that she’s a driven young Manhattan television reporter and her hot one night stand turns out to be the story she needs to land an anchor job. She had no clue the Alexios she met in London is the Leandros she was looking for. Alexios thinks she’s lied to him and is using him for career gain. It puts Izzie in impossible situations, tests her character and forces her to grow and make decisions that define her as a person. It makes her question everything she’s ever believed about herself and success. And love.
To me, she is a most courageous heroine who doesn’t take the expected routes. She learns to follow her heart. I loved writing her. She’s the gutsy heroine I always wanted to be.
Here’s a scene from the night in London where Izzie decides to take her leap with Alexios:
Izzie focused on forking the small amount of food she thought she could consume into her mouth at the small candlelit table Alex had set on the terrace. The herbed pasta was delicious, but it was hard to eat when her heart was still pounding and her hands trembling so much negotiating a fork seemed like a new and highly complex activity. And why wouldn’t it when she had literally jumped into the deep end and invited the most spectacularly good looking man she’d ever met to kiss her–and he had! Not to mention the fact that the kiss had been the most incredible of her life and all she could think about was experiencing more of the bone-meltingly delicious heat that had coursed through her veins. It was like every nerve ending in her body had been switched on for the first time and she wasn’t sure whether to revel in it or be completely terrified of what she was feeling.
She swallowed hard, forced down the food. The fact that she’d been right–that Alex was attracted to her–made her head feel like it was going to blow off. Maybe Jo was right. Maybe it had been her defensive attitude that had turned men off in the past and not the fifteen extra pounds she’d been carrying. Which had always been her excuse.
She took another sip of the rich, full Cabernet that was going a long way to mellowing her out. But the wine didn’t seem to be having the same effect on Alex who’d glowered at her throughout the entire meal-as if she’d committed a crime rather than simply kissed him.
She risked a quick glance at him. He was still watching her with that same, implacable frown on his face, that penetrating blue gaze of his impossible to read. And it occurred to her she hadn’t fully thought through her plan. She had the mind numbing confirmation he was attracted to her…the question now was what was she going to do about it?
Her heart pounding in her chest, she set her fork down with an abrupt movement, and the sound of metal clattering against fine china echoed in the still night air.
He gave her half-empty plate a narrowed glance. “That’s all you’re going to eat?”
“It was delicious, thank you. I think that’s about all I can handle.’
“All right.” He laid his fork down with a deliberate movement and pushed his plate away. “Let’s talk about what happened.”
Gladly. She took another sip of her wine to fortify herself and set the glass down.
“That kiss shouldn’t have happened.”
She was ready for that one. “Why not?
“I’m much more experienced than you, Isabel. I’m not interested in relationships, in fact mine never last longer than a few months, and the women I date are well aware of that.”
He did a double take at the belligerent note in her voice. “You’re also probably still in shock from what happened today.”
“I’m absolutely fine,” she countered. “In fact I feel like I have more clarity right now than I’ve ever had in my life.”
He sat back in his chair, his gaze on her face. “What kind of clarity?”
She twisted the stem of her wine glass on the table, watching the blood red liquid shimmer in the candlelight. “That was my worst fear today. Facing it-getting through it-” she paused, looking up at him, “–it’s made me realize how much of my life I’ve lived in fear…how many times I’ve not gone after what I wanted because I was afraid I wouldn’t get it or it would explode in my face.”
He gave a wary nod. “That’s a good realization.”
She shook her head. “I’m not looking for a relationship, Alex.” A husky laugh escaped her. “In fact, that’s the last thing I need right now.”
His eyes narrowed. “Then what are you looking for?”
“I don’t want to live with any more regrets.”
He shook his head, a wry smile curving his lips. “You’re twenty-five, Isabel. How many regrets can you have?”
She took a deep breath, meeting his gaze head-on. “I will regret it if I walk away from tonight without exploring the attraction that’s between us.”
A muscle jumped in his jaw. He sat there completely silent, staring at her. “I’m not sure you know what you’re doing.”
She shook her head. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”
A long moment passed, it might have been four, five seconds, she wasn’t sure. All she knew was that she was holding her breath, sure at one point he was going to reject her. The warm night air pressed so heavily against her lungs she thought they would burst. And then something shifted, morphed on the air between them. And she got her answer in the darkening of his eyes.
Thank you so much for having me! I’d love to know about a leap you’ve made in your life? Or one you wish you’d taken?
JENNIFER HAYWARD has been a fan of romance since filching her sister’s novels to escape her teenaged angst. Her career in journalism and PR, including years of working alongside powerful, charismatic CEOs and traveling the world, has provided perfect fodder for the fast-paced, sexy stories she likes to write, always with a touch of humour. You can find out more about Jennifer and her books at her website.