Bridging Two Hearts–Backstory and Research

Bridging Two Hearts

About Bridging Two Hearts

Bridging Two Hearts,a novel in the Heartsong Presents line (Harlequin, February 5, 2013 ISBN-13: 978-0373486458; mass market paperback) 192 pages

When Amy gets a job as a massage therapist at the glorious Hotel del Coronado, she is excited and terrified because it means driving across the Coronado Bridge to work every day. Josh, meanwhile, returns from a Navy SEAL assignment more than a little uncomfortable about possible claustrophobia–but he’s not afraid of anything, right? The two meet, fall in love and learn to deal with two very different ways of handling fear.

“The character development in Bridging Two Hearts is more believable to me than in some other romance novels I have read, they seem like real people working through real life issues and history. Because of the reality of their lives, when they finally do come together it is much more rewarding.” ~Amazon reviewer

How I wrote the book

I had three months to write Bridging Two Hearts, based on a proposal I had submitted six months before. I didn’t even remember the storyline when I accepted the assignment!

I agreed to write the book shortly before Christmas and went right to work, particularly on my research. Good thing, too, because my research on Navy SEALs forced me to realize I had some major holes in my story line!

Indeed. My story would not work.

Worried, I contacted the friends whose home I’d visited on the Naval Amphibious Base on Coronado and which was the genesis of my story. They lived on San Diego bay and had told me about the nights SEALS trained off their back yard. My friend also worked just up the road at the Hotel del Coronado and that set my mind to dancing.

I discussed my dilemma with them and also with my husband. All three came up with ideas that ultimately found their way into Bridging Two Hearts. It’s helpful to have military personnel among your friends if you’re writing a military story!

The Skullduggery involved in writing about Navy SEALS

Once I straightened out my storyline, I went directly to my local military recruiting center. I stood at the locked front door and picked up the phone to call in with my name and reason for visiting (since I obviously was not a candidate for enlistment). A camera overhead moved to settle on me and I pretended I didn’t care.

The receptionist sailor introduced me to a woman chief–a dive officer who had a large photo of herself in a diving bell posted on the wall behind her desk. I explained that as a retired Navy wife, I had spent twenty years of my life without a need to know things I didn’t need to know, therefore, I didn’t have a problem with not needing to know important details about SEAL life.

She smiled. As did ever military person I explained this to over the next several months.

But, she explained, she could not give me any SEAL details and I understood that. Instead, she picked up a hot pink post-it note and wrote a name and a phone number. I should call “Steve” and he could give me information.

When “Steve” picked up the phone, I could hear the click of pool balls in the background along with what sounded like a sip out of a glass. You can envision “Steve’s” surroundings as well as I did!

I explained who I was–that I was writing a story about Navy SEALS and I just needed background information about the domestic side of SEAL life. I’ve read enough memoirs, I understood how grim their lives were and I did not need any information about operations.

“Where did you get my number?” “Steve” demanded.

I explained about the chief at Navy recruiting.

“I’ve been shut down,” he muttered. “I can’t say anything. I can’t help you.”

I went through my line about not needing to know and he snickered.

“Well, try this name and number. He’s a PAO (Public Affairs Officer) and maybe he can help you.”

I dialed “Dave’s” phone number–it had an area code from the Bay Area.

This office sounded more efficient, but “Dave,” too, had a terse question: “Where did you get this phone number and my name?”

I tried to remain professional and explained about “Steve” in Sonoma County, and “Dave” relaxed.

He didn’t give me a lot of information, “I can’t discussion current operations,” but did provide me with an appropriate age for my hero and what he would have covered in his military “pipeline.” That helped.

A week later I noted a mysterious Naval intelligence officer is now following me on twitter . . .Navy Special Warfare Trident Insignia worn by ...

What better way to start a story than with a mystery?  🙂

About the Navy SEAL divorce rate

Part of the conversation I had with the Navy PAO surrounded the domestic life of Navy SEALS. He told me, “I can’t imagine how you can write a romance featuring a Navy SEAL. Their divorce rate is 90%; not very good odds.”

That 90 % is a horrifying number I have not been able to verify through Navy resources (and thus am sorry I included an exact percentage in Bridging Two Hearts). The numbers I have seen range from 80% to 95% (the higher figure comes from the memoir American Sniper by Chris Kyle. It’s also cited by Naval Special Warfare journalist Steve Robinson.)

You can understand why, and Josh confronts a lot of those reasons in Bridging Two Hearts. Military marriages are by definition stressed relationships and the increased operational tempo of the last ten years in the United States has only increased the difficulties for families and couples

If you are contemplating marriage to a military member, please get pre-marital counseling and discuss the issues. If you are in a military marriage and having difficulties, consider visiting your base chaplain. The military has set up programs to help couples deal with marriage issues. Examine these websites: National Military Family Association for marriage enrichment information. Marriage Encounter has a military “division.” The base chaplains can access CREDO programs to help. Real Warriors.net also can provide a list of helps.

My husband and I know the challenges of living with deployment schedules. My husband’s twenty-one year military career gave us ample opportunity to examine our marriage and that of others. There will always be good days and bad days but many military families are stronger and healthier for the experience. We certainly are.

Interesting Links

I’ve written about the surprising ease of writing my story based on information readily availably on the Internet, here.

I’ve long appreciated Navy SEALS, and unearthed a story that reinforced an original post I’d written, The Kindness of Navy SEALS, parts one and two!

I ran into some interesting quandries while working on this manuscript: how do you decide what to name your characters? I altered my hero’s name to Josh, and explain why here.

Eventually, we needed to scout out Coronado Island, the site of the story. It was surprisingly easy–based on the maps I’d mentioned earlier–but was helpful for the actual writing to get a “sense” of the place.

Other blog posts written about the themes found in Bridging Two Hearts:

Eight Places to Get Blog Ideas
Some Thoughts on Fears and Phobias
What’s a Guy Romance Novel Anyway?
How Do You Demonstrate Unreliability?
Do You Have a Need to Know?
The Joy of a Spa Visit–Even for a Dog
Do You Base Your Characters on Real People?

Serendipity and Research

There’s always an element of serendipity for me when I research a project. In this case, I had gotten nearly to the end of Bridging Two Hearts and still needed to figure out how to wrap up all the story lines intelligently. Since the theme is fear and dealing with fear, I gave some thought to the Coronado bridge.

Hadn’t I read somewhere about virtual reality research?

I googled it. One of the ground breaking researchers on using virtual reality to deal with phobias was in–San Diego. And guess what? They worked with many military members.

When I spoke to the manager, he told me they already had a Coronado bridge virtual reality sequence loaded and frequently used at their center.

Oh, and two weeks later, my college daughter who earns money as a “lab rat,” took part in a virtual reality exercise.

You can’t invent stuff like that!

Closing Thoughts on Navy SEALS–and massages!

In addition to learning about Navy SEALS, I also learned a lot about massage therapy. Writing this manuscript meant I needed to have three massages myself!  Massage therapists at Coldwater Creek, the Montecito Heights Health Club and the Hotel del Coronado Spa asssisted me by discussing the art of massage therapy and explaining what they were doing while they, uh, massage me!

I have a much greater appreciation for the physical strength and training that goes into that job. Tip them well!

I also came to see that Navy SEALS are like the “sin eater” character in Francine River’s The Last Sin Eater.

Someone needs to take on the dirty jobs so the rest of us can live in peace. For Americans, those people include Navy SEALS. They and the ones who love them, pay a very high price for our way of living. Let’s pray for them and say thank you.

Writing Sample

From Bridging Two Hearts:

Of course Josh Murphy saw the girl as soon as he climbed on the airport bus. Who could miss a babe like that? Big brown eyes, honey blonde hair, cute little figure; but what caught his attention was her hands. They shook despite the death grip on the seat in front of her.

Was this a damsel in distress, or what?


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