What was the inspiration for Regina's character?
Mostly it was Dr. Ruth. Do you know her? She is a brave, brave woman. I used to stay up late to watch her on TV and used to secretly listen to her radio broadcasts when I was married. I would never have been able to hide her books without being found out, so I never bought then. My ex would have cringed, but I found her fascinating. She used the REAL NAMES for body parts and talked openly about sex. I was raised in a household where I wasn't allowed to use the word "period" regarding my menstrual cycle. In fact, I wasn't allowed to talk about being a woman at all. Dr. Ruth helped me correct this in my own household. It was not a problem for my two daughters, but my son is still a bit traumatized from me insisting he use the terms "vagina" and "penis" when he was eight and wanted to ask me questions (he had two older sisters and LOTS of questions). Like many males he had his pet name for his "man parts" and I said that was fine, but insisted he use correct terms when we talked. I was in practice to be Regina then and didn't know it. There was always a lot of laughter in these discussions. My son grew to be a very good man who never had a shortage of beautiful women in his life. This has not been not a surprise to me.
The other inspiration was Beyonce. Didn't see that coming, did you? By accident, I ended up watching a biography of Beyonce on TV. She shared about how hard it was always having to try to hide her identity to go out in public and. . .to date. The biggest idea light bulb I've ever had turned on in my head and it lit up my entire being. The writer in me got so excited that I was literally vibrating with inspiration. I thought--OMG--how difficult would it be to have to be incognito all the time to date? But personally I also thought it sounded a bit fun, too. So Regina's and Ben's dilemma was born. Actually, I hate that lack of privacy for celebrities and personally think it would awful to live that way. I am a private person myself and the social media work I do is excruciating enough. I can't even imagine living that way. Or at least I couldn't until I walked in Regina's shoes while she was wearing her brunette disguise. (FYI for those that haven't read the book, Regina is a red-head.)
Not expecting company, Ben checked the peephole first. Outside the door stood a dark-haired girl wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses, a short black leather skirt, and ankle boots. She was holding a steaming pizza box. It was so fresh Ben could smell it through the door.
He opened the door a crack, leaving the safety chain in place.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Pizza delivery for Kaiser,” the girl said, her voice impatient with him.
“Sorry. You have the wrong address. I didn’t order pizza,” Ben told her, alarm bells going off inside him.
“Order was from a Logan to deliver to a Ben Kaiser at this address,” she explained tersely. “It’s already paid for, mister. You want the pizza or not?”
“Just a minute.” Ben couldn’t imagine why Regina had ordered a pizza for him, but he closed the door and slid the safety chain away.
When he opened the door again, the girl barged passed him to get inside.
“Excuse me—,” Ben began only to be interrupted.
“Close the door,” she demanded, whipping off her glasses.
It took Ben a couple of beats to recognize the pizza delivery girl was Regina in disguise. He smiled and shook his head as he took in her outfit.
“Nice skirt. Black leather looks good on you,” he told her as his gaze dropped to her legs before coming to rest on her face and hair. “Being a brunette definitely does not suit you though.”
“You’d be surprised, Benjamin. No one recognizes me in this outfit. I can go anywhere,” Regina told him, pushing the still hot pizza into his hands. “Hungry?”
Ben answered her by claiming a searing kiss before heading to the kitchen with the pizza.
Regina tagged along behind him, pulling off the cap and attached wig as she paused in the doorway of his tiny kitchen.
Ben put the pizza on the counter and started setting a small table for two.
“Aren’t you going to grill me about my disguise? Question me about why I’m here?” Regina asked before grinning at the don’t-be-ridiculous look Ben gave her.
As she watched Ben set the table, Regina unpinned her hair and let it fall to her shoulders, finger combing the waves. She needed a mirror, but she didn’t want to give Ben too much time to dwell on why she had shown up at his house uninvited.
“No. We’re going to talk about this incognito stuff over dinner and decide what we’re going to do about it,” Ben said rationally, proud of himself for not instantly trying to wrestle her out of the skirt.
What was the inspiration for Ben's character?
In the larger sense, the "all good men in the world" sense, my son-in-law was the inspiration for Ben's character. In June of 2010, my oldest daughter died after a year long battle with cancer. I am convinced that no man ever loved a woman more than my son-in-law loved her. I practically lived with them that whole year she was ill and I saw evidence daily. And when we were reduced those last four to five months to virtually endless hospital stays, I saw clones of my son-in-law in every room in the oncology ward. Good men. Loving men. Strong, caring men. Loving and losing is hard, but not loving when life is so very, very short is too sad to contemplate. This world is hard and everyone needs comfort. It is my sincere wish that the man my daughter left behind finds love again. He is capable of so much of it.
In the smaller sense, I made Ben as perfect as I could based on Regina's specifications. I thought Regina deserved to have every fantasy and every wish she had ever secretly harbored in her life come true. As a therapist, her job is to fix people for a living. In my mind, there is no higher calling. I wanted to serve up the perfect man for her character, but someone she wouldn't have to fix. I wanted him to be motivated to find solutions for their relationship issues because being with her was worth it to him. And I liked that Ben was older, knew his own mind, struggled on his own, went looking for help, and last but not least, was willing to change some pretty fundamental things in his life to be with her. I actually know several 50 year old men with this kind of open mind to love. And yeah, that's pretty much the description of perfect in my mind. It seems many of you agree with me because I've heard as much about Ben in notes as I have about Casey (LOL). Variety is good, right?
When Regina raised her face to his, Ben saw fear and doubt, but also hope. He was sad that not a lot of people had come through for Regina in her life. It made him more determined to be one person who did.
Regina put an arm around Ben’s shoulders and hugged. “I believe you love me enough to try, which is more than I ever thought I would have with a man. I know it’s my job causing the problems for us. I’m happy for every day you don’t run away from our problems or me.”
Ben lifted Regina into his lap and wrapped his arms around her. He lay down with her on the couch and tucked them together. She barely struggled anymore no matter how macho he acted with her. It was incredibly arousing and incredibly loving.
Ben hugged her tight and sighed against her.
Regina snuggled closer, sighing herself at the comfort Ben brought to her. “I’ve thought about fading back a little in my field, Ben. The problem is my work isn’t done yet. Being out front in my field draws a lot of publicity bullets, but it also draws hundreds of people to hear what I have to say. I am helping people. I know I make a difference. If I wasn’t so sure, I would find other work and just be content to be your wife.”
Ben tightened his jaw as he stroked a hand down her back. Lauren had been absolutely right. He was never going to be able to have Regina without taking Dr. Logan as well. Fine, Ben decided. He wanted all of her anyway.
“Now that I know you, I could never ask you to give up your work. I admire all you’ve accomplished. You handle the press badgering you or a room full of doctors arguing with you the same confident way you drive a car. I find all of it sexy and wouldn’t change any of it. You’ve fought too damn hard to get where you are to give your work up for anyone,” Ben said logically, “including me.”
It was amazing, Regina decided, just how much she had longed for those words from someone in her life, and equally amazing the effect hearing them from Ben had on her.
She wanted to cry, and cry hard, but crying wouldn’t help either of them. So she swallowed the tears, promising herself she’d indulge later. She cleared her throat against Ben’s chest.
What else was going on in this novel (aka what I hoped was going into it)?
I wanted to create a less-than-perfect woman that found love anyway. You're laughing. I can tell even if I can't see you. Regina swears worse than any man, has a vile temper that scares her friends, and drinks to handle stress. She is loving, but not really "nurturing" in the typical sense. Her career takes too much of her. Caring for patients is probably all she can handle in her life. She is about as far from the ideal woman as it gets in a female and would not be a restful person to spend time with daily. But I doubt I have ever created a woman character who is more real. Every woman I have ever met either IS like Regina in some way or would like to be when it comes to self-expression. My generation was taught to "be nice", be a lady, and keep your unpleasant thoughts to yourself missy. And for pity's sake, don't be too honest or say what you want in bed or. . .fill-in-the-blank. Then again, we grew up in the age of Gloria Steinem, bra burning, and women's liberation. Baby boomer women have lived very conflicted lives until this point. Some amazing personal growth happens between the ages of 40 and 50. Well, maybe I will never be as brave as Regina in reality, but oh how wonderful it is to be a writer at a time in my life when I no longer care about impressing people with my "niceness". I am as good as I'm going to get and all grown-up at 53. I like who I am. I like to create heroines who are comfortable with who they are or at least on their way to being so.
Do I share any of Regina's chutzpah? Let me think. Yes. I do. My children know, and most of my friends know, that if they ask me an embarrassingly tough question I will answer it no matter how embarrassing the answer is to either of us. I have to dig deep, but it partially gives me back the personal power I was socially trained from the cradle to give away to everyone else. It took me most of my life, but I have learned that speaking your truth; however hard, is a much, much more satisfying way to live.