A Few Minutes With Mary Margret Daughtridge e-interviewed by Martina Bexte (April, 2008)
Another of our featured Sourcebooks Casablanca authors is Mary Margret Daughtridge, who lives in Greensboro, NC. She has been a grade school teacher, speech therapist, family educator, biofeedback therapist and Transpersonal Hypnotherapist. She is a member of Heart of Carolina Romance Writers, Romance Writers of America, and Romancing the Military Stone. SEALed With a Kiss - garnering rave reviews since its April 2008 release - is Mary Margret's debut novel.
Q: Navy SEAL heroes remain popular in romance fiction - what makes your hero, Jackson Graham, different?
A: SEALs are professional heroes. Their warrior persona is so staggeringly capable that it's easy to forget that when they don't have their flippers on, they are human beings fumbling through their lives just like the rest of us. Jax's difference from the usual SEAL hero is that the reader gets to see his private face.
Instead of starring in a romantic suspense, Jax is cast as the hero in what I call a 'feel good' story that's all about home and family and what love brings to us, and also what it requires. But I didn't turn Jax into Ward Cleaver in a wet-suit. He's still a SEAL. Oh yeah.
Q: You chose to focus on Jax's vulnerabilities in your story, yet he still comes across as very much the Alpha hero. Did you find this a difficult balance to maintain?
A: Nope, not at all :-).
Seriously, I had a lot of help from Jax. His Alpha traits are so strong that they show through no matter what the situation. Protectiveness. Leadership. A drive to excel. Hyper-responsibility. Awareness of his worth. And self-confidence the size of an aircraft carrier.
Actually, much of his vulnerability happens because of his Alpha nature. He loves his son and wants to be a good father as any good man would. However, that SEAL drive to excel makes him constantly evaluate his performance, and judge any failure harshly. Ignorance is not an excuse. Being unprepared is even worse. He's messing up with his son, and he knows it, and it KILLS him. He doesn't cut himself one bit of slack.
Same with responsibility. It's hard to even find the words to convey how responsible SEALs feel for those in their care. When Tyler almost comes to harm because Jax is momentarily inattentive, it doesn't just give Jax a scare, it deeply shames him.
Q: The heroine of the story is a family therapist who counsels members of the military. Pickett Sessoms knows SEALs in particular have a dismal success rate when it comes to relationships and marriage. Did you choose her career to generate greater conflict in the story?
A: Let's face it, the internal conflict had to come from somewhere. I knew I couldn't count on Jax. Alpha males in general, and SEALs in particular, don't experience much ambivalence. As soon as he decided Pickett was the one for him, that would be that. No obstacle or hardship would stop him. So the only character who could have a conflict was Pickett.
But I had to have a reason for her objections to Jax that didn't spring from prejudice. So who in modern society would have a view of marriage that was more rational than romantic? A family therapist. Who would see a red flag at SEALs' ninety-five percent divorce rate? A family therapist.
Pickett doesn't dislike military men or think all military marriages fail, but she knows way too much about the damage a military career can have on marriage to think she wants to try it. She's frequently overcome with admiration for the quiet heroism, and true grit she sees in military families, and sadly, she also knows "love" isn't always enough.
Q: Does your next novel focus on another military hero?
A: You would not believe how competitive these guys are! Before I was halfway through SEALed With a Kiss, Jax's friend, the subtle and wily Do-Lord, began putting story ideas in my head. And I fell for it. Then Chief Lonnie Swales - talk about a sweetie - well, it turned out he was an unlikely hero to an unlikely heroine: Lauren. And Davy - you haven't met him yet, but you will - he'd like it if I would drop everything and begin his book. He could make a quarter to a half million a year if he takes a job with a private security firm, and he needs the money.
Q: What's the most memorable part of the journey to becoming a published author?
A: Memorable? That's a hard question. Let me tell you the most astonishing.
It was the last week in March and I hadn't received my author's copies yet, but I figured I would any day because SEALed With A Kiss was slated for release around April 14.
I was in the local Barnes and Noble. I'm a great believer in the power of visualization so my intention was to go to the romance section and visualize my book there under the D's. But first I swung by the new release shelf, because I like to see what's just come in.
When I saw the new release shelf, my heart began to thud with the strangest "what's wrong with this picture?" feeling I've ever had. Finally I realized what was odd was that I could see the cover of my book, and it hadn't registered because I had visualized it there so many times. On the other hand, I didn't think it had been released so I wasn't sure if I was really seeing it, or if I had finally succumbed to self-induced delusion.
After a while, I got up the courage to touch it, and run my finger over the embossing, and open it and inhale the new-book-fresh-ink scent, and let it sink in that my hands were holding my published book. Really!
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