Hey there! Look who's here! Meet Mary Margret Daughtridge! Mary Margret is a romance author who's current SEALed Series about "Hard men...soft hearts" is making a splash. She's joined us today for an author interview and I couldn't be happier to have her. To keep things easy Mary Margret Daughtridge will henceforth be referred to as MMD!
Keira: It's obvious that the hunky men who comprise the Navy SEALs inspired SEALed with a Promise, but why focus on SEALs versus say men from other armed forces?
MMD: Honest and truly, the choice of SEALs was serendipitous. I didn't know at the time that I was starting a series-if I had I might have chosen a group which would be a little easier to research-like Green Berets who train at Ft. Bragg, only ninety miles from here. I just needed someone in the military whose job made extreme demands on his time. That would be a SEAL. Everything about them is extreme.
Keira: I read in the back of the book the acknowledgment blurb and it talked about several of the people who let you pick their brains in the name of research. How does one go about finding and then approaching these people for assistance?
MMD: Years ago when I worked as a family advocate, I used to brag I could find out the answer to any question in six phone calls or less. The same principle applies. I just go in a direction that seems promising and keep asking people who do they know who would know. SEALs are a relatively small group. One can lead to another, especially since I have demonstrated that I'm not a groupie, I don't want to know any secrets, I'm not nuts-okay, not dangerously nuts-and I won't misuse their time.
Keira: What was the hardest part of writing SEALed with a Promise?
MMD: The fact that Caleb had chosen such a hard path. I understand that a desire for revenge can be a healthy response to powerlessness, but I don't really like revenge plots, and I resisted writing it. Still, I loved Caleb. The fact that his great strength had made him so vulnerable grabbed my heart. It was often emotionally difficult to let the story unfold because I wanted to protect him from himself.
The above makes it sound like the book is heavy or dark. It isn't, but SEALed With A Promise was emotional for me to write. I cried. A lot.
Keira: Caleb and his Brad Pitt lips - is there an inspirational photo to go along with this fabulous hero? I would love to see! How about Emmie?
MMD: LOL. Caleb looks a little like Matthew McConaughey, and radiates the same laidback charm, but a little rougher and a little colder, at least on the surface. Try this one:
Emmie? I don't know. It's more a look of intelligent innocence than any particular features. A young Teri Garr would come closest I think. Traylor Howard, who plays Natalie Teeger on Monk, has some of the same look.
Keira: What do you think makes Caleb a heroic character and hero to swoon over?
MMD: I hate to admit this, but...I don't know. LOL. All I know is, I write characters I love, and to me that means writing characters-both men and women-who are full of heart. I think there is no sanity without humor, so they have a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at themselves. They need generosity and the capacity to put another's needs before their own. Finally they need to be human. That means they get it wrong sometimes. They mess up. They have blind spots. And sometimes they are led astray, not by their faults, but by their virtues.
Keira: How do you define love?
MMD: The definition I'm always working from as I craft the relationships between hero and heroine is I love the person I am when I'm with you. I believe love heals and allows us to show ourselves, and others, our best, while making space for the fact that we are human.
While I enjoy a fantasy fairytale romance, I have a strong resistance to writing them myself. My intention is to craft a relationship which really would work. And that means neither party gets "fixed" by the relationship, and yet the relationship creates a safe space in which each can grow.
I don't think any intelligent reader believes Caleb and Emmie will live happily ever after, but I do hope readers will see that a good strong foundation of respect, appreciation, and fun has been established from which Caleb and Emmie can continue to grow in love.
Keira: How do you decide on the character names (for Caleb and Emmie especially)?
Names are important. They summarize a character's history. Caleb's nickname, Do-Lord, popped into my mind the same instant he did, and I knew that it was given to him at the start of his SEAL career-a mark of his acceptance into a special group, but also a name he hid much his true self behind.
But I didn't know what his real name was for quite a while. I thought he needed a Biblical name and played around with Jesse, but it just didn't' work. One day another writer mentioned Caleb. I looked up the Biblical story and realized Caleb was an Israelite spy sent by Moses to spy on the Promised Land to determine if it could be captured.
It was perfect because Caleb was determined to use his covert skills to spy on Senator Calhoun, and Caleb's mother (who named him) would have considered Calhoun's life to be the Promised Land.
The Biblical Caleb is often designated as "the spy who told the truth," which adds a layer of irony to my Caleb right up to the moment when he decides to tell the truth, knowing the truth will destroy his relationship with Emmie.
Emmie needed a name that put her solidly outside the mainstream. Her full name is Emelina Theodora. Her missionary parents had waited for children so long that they considered her birth a miracle. They named her for a grandmother, Emelina, and added Theodora which means "gift of God."
But despite her brains, she needed a name that showed that those who knew her best valued her and held her in affection. Thus the pet name of Emmie.
Keira: Why did you decide to write romance or "mush" as some people are inclined to think (wink)?
MMD: I believe in the message of romance. Oh not happily ever after-that isn't possible, of course. But the structure of romance always carries the message that good people working together can overcome adversity, and find valuable qualities in themselves and others. I happen to believe that this message is true, and we need stories that keep us going in the dark times.
Another reason is that romance of all the genres is the most psychological. In the romance genre I have the freedom to explore character at some depth.
Your wink is referring to some of the SEALs who have helped me in my research. They tease me about writing mush. I teased them back by having Caleb, a voracious reader, read romance novels while in Afghanistan-because he's already read all the techno-thrillers, and the romance novels are all that are left.
SEALed With a Kiss garnered a lot of praise, but the praise that meant the most to me was "Mary Margret understands the human condition-and makes you feel good about it." That was written by a retired SEAL who has become a dear friend, JC Roat.
Keira: What do you think is the greatest creative risk you've taken?
MMD: Deciding to cast a SEAL as a feel-good-romance hero. Until my books, the SEALs were always the leads in romantic suspense-a subgenre I thoroughly enjoy in the hands of Suzanne Brockmann and others, but I didn't want to write it. I knew my books would confound some people's expectations.
There are people who don't get it. Occasionally, I'm criticized for not idealizing my characters, especially the SEALs-the suggestion being that I am disrespecting them. The truth is, I respect them too much to portray them as little tin gods, shiny but hollow. SEALs' extraordinary qualities seem more amazing to me because they exist in thoroughly human, fallible, vulnerable creatures-not Superman.
I'm very fortunate that Deb Werksman at Sourcebooks was willing to take a chance on a "novel" concept. (Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.)
Keira: What do you hope your readers will gain from your books?
MMD: First of all, I write entertainment fiction, and make no apology for it. Making people happy for a few hours and leaving them feeling good is honorable work. Anytime I've done that, I'm happy.
If readers gain an appreciation of the fact that people-even wonderful people-aren't perfect, and that very often their greatest strengths are also their greatest shortcomings, then maybe they will have more compassion for others. And for themselves.
Keira: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?
MMD: Just my thanks. You offered some great, insightful questions which I thoroughly enjoyed discussing.
I love hearing from readers. They can contact me through my website http://marymargretdaughtridge.com.
Well you heard Mary Margret! Go visit her site! Thanks for joining us today it's been a blast! Don't miss SEALed with a Kiss.