When I was preparing to write Dream a Little Dream, I knew a couple of things. I knew that the heroine was Liza Reece, who readers would already have met in All That Mullarkey as the sister of Cleo. Liza was just too naughty and fun to leave in Secondary Characterland. And I knew that Liza, a reflexologist, would meet Dominic when he was dragged unwillingly to a reflexology treatment with something he was pretty certain reflexology wouldn’t help at all. I didn’t know what the ‘something’ would be.
Then random chance took a hand. I was in an online conversation about titles with a writing buddy and, speaking about a family situation, he said, "Life’s not a dream." Even as I typed, "Dream! That would be a great word to have in one of my titles," the idea flashed into my head to give Dominic the rare sleep disorder narcolepsy. Had I realised then what a complex, frustrating and fantastical condition narcolepsy is, I think I would have chosen something easier!
Researching Liza was comparatively easy. I found a reflexologist online, who also was a tutor, and lay back and let her fingers work their magic over several sessions, talked to her via email, and visited a batch of her students on their final training day. No hardship!
Researching Dominic… Much. Harder. I kept reading the same superficial information. I knew I wasn’t getting a handle on this thing so I began looking for case histories. This led me to two fantastic research sources, Narcolepsy UK and The Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine in California. Then, breakthrough: I joined the forum on Narcolepsy UK, outlined my project, asked for someone who’d help me and said my hero was called Dominic, was in his thirties, and had narcolepsy. After five kind replies from people of the wrong age/gender/both, I received: "I had to reply. My name’s Dominic, I’m in my thirties and have narcolepsy with cataplexy!" He became my major source of research and answered a thousand questions with apparent good humour. If you want to read an interview with Real Dominic it’s here.
So, without ever starting out with the intention, I found myself writing what you might term a ‘damaged hero.’ Damaged heroes are fascinating because they have to be stronger than others – and having a challenge doesn’t affect their hot sexiness at all. Dominic Christy, busy reinventing himself after his diagnosis, has to manage his slightly flaky cousin Miranda who wants to help just a touch too much for his masculine pride, but he has energy left over to pursue Liza.
Liza is little and feisty and has decided that she’s not to be trusted in a relationship, so it’s easiest to keep out of them, even with Dominic who looks like a young Kevin Costner and has a dog that skateboards. Liza has a dream, to take over the holistic treatment centre where she works – but, unfortunately, Dominic’s new dream conflicts with it. So if he gets his, she won’t get hers, and vice versa. All I had to do was hurl those factors into my imagination together with Dominic’s narcolepsy – and Dream a Little Dream came out. A Proud Mama moment.
Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes. Dream a Little Dream was nominated for a RoNA in the Contemporary Romantic Fiction category, and the Best Romantic Read Award 2012, which her earlier novel Love & Freedom won in 2011. Sue is a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner, has written a how-to book, short stories, serials, articles and courses, edited two anthologies and is a competition judge. Visit Sue's website and blog for more information.