BREATHE YOU IN - USA TODAY REVIEWER'S RECOMMENDED READ OF 2013
What can you tell us about Breathe You In?
Breathe You In is a story that’s been inside me for a long time. Before taking up writing I worked as a nurse in London. I spent some of that time in coronary care and was lucky enough to witness amazing, life-saving surgery. It was during this time I realized what an emotive organ the heart is, during anatomy and physiology classes we were taught to see the heart as simply a chemically driven pump but I learnt that it was so much more.
I was in surgery when a woman in her forties was treated for a serious heart condition. Afterwards, back on the ward, I continued to care for her until she went home. I told her I’d been in the theatre during her surgery, and she found it fascinating that I’d seen her heart. When her husband came into visit he was equally as curious, in fact he looked at me as though I’d just told him I’d seen fairies at the end of the garden. He said he found it magical that I’d seen the organ that loved him. Is that a bit weird? Mmm, maybe but it didn’t seem it at the time. We talked about it, they were a great couple and she went home fit and well and looking forward to carrying on with her life that had been restricted due to her illness.
Having a vivid imagination I thought more about this and wondered about people who’d had heart transplants and what that meant to them. It seemed very different to a kidney transplant or liver—for some reason the heart stirs up so many emotions in us. If we’re sad we’re heart broken, if we’re happy to see someone we might say our heart skipped a beat. If something is devastating it’s heart- wrenching, I could go on...
It was this idea that a heart could hold emotion that I wanted to play with in Breathe You In, not really of course, I’m too much of a scientist to believe that it could, but for Katie, my protagonist she can’t rest until she knows where her dead husband’s heart is. It turns out it’s in a man who could help her rebuild her life, but she wasn’t supposed to find him. She broke the rules, behaved unethically, and then didn’t own up to her fascination.
Breathe You In is a story about loss and love, about obsession and grief, it’s also a sweet romance with a seriously hot guy at the center and plenty of sexy scenes as they both embark on a new way to be after their lives were devastated.
Katie’s loss is painful to read, particularly following her dream at the beginning of the book. Was it difficult writing about such a delicate topic?
Grief is always a difficult topic and not normally associated with erotic romance novels but talking about bereavement and knowing you’re not alone helps. Again I called on my experience in nursing, it’s impossible to be a nurse and not be touched by death and witness the agony of losing someone.
What I wanted to show with Katie, though, is that after nearly two years as a widow she was still grieving yet everyone was expecting her to get on with her life. Her time to be sad was up! But she didn’t complain, she conformed to the pressure of society, slapped on a smile, went into work and pretended to be interested in her friends’ lives. Yet inside, and what the reader understands, is that she’s really not coping, she’s still haunted by her loss.
So was that first chapter difficult to write? Yes because I ached for my heroine, her aloneness, the weight she carried, it felt like mine as I wrote, and I’ll confess I shed a tear. But the good thing about being at rock bottom, is the only place to go is up.
Katie’s secret is disturbing, but her fascination with finding Matt’s organs recipient is almost bordering on obsession. Why did you choose to explore the psychological effects caused by grief?
This is sounding like such a depressing book LOL, it has many funny and sweet moments plus hot and racy ones! However you’re right, it’s Katie’s fascination with finding Matt’s organs that brings her to Ruben, and without Ruben there’d be no man-candy in Breathe You In—oh yum!
To answer the question, I believe grief can exaggerate and intensify many feelings. It can turn simple things into mind-blowing, all-consuming, obsessions. Kubler-Ross states there are 5 stages of grief, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and finally Acceptance. Katie is in the depression stage but there is an element of bargaining too, ‘if I can just visualize where his heart is I’ll be okay...’
I like to explore many emotions in my writing and grief is certainly a powerful one. Breathe You In shows how it’s possible to climb out of despair and find happiness again.
Why did you choose to continue Katie’s deception of Ruben once he reveals his medical history?
Katie should have never gone looking for the recipient of Matt’s heart. There are legal and ethical reasons in the UK why this shouldn’t have happened and she could have got into trouble. But she did go looking. She hired a private detective and found out where he was. She only planned a glimpse but of course a glimpse turned into a walk in the park, a glass of champagne, a picnic, a roll into bed... Ruben swept her off her feet—his vulnerability, easy smile and desire to get his own life back together was exactly what Katie needed in her life.
As with most secrets the longer Katie kept it the harder it became to confess. As she fell for Ruben, and felt his heart beat during orgasm she couldn’t bring herself to confess that their meeting at the museum hadn’t been accidental at all, she’d contrived it...
Of course it’s always in the back of her mind that Ruben will think she’s mad, unhinged, to be with him when he has her husband’s organs. She worries that he’ll think she’s only at his side to be close to Matt. That she doesn’t love him for him but what he represents to her. This isn’t true, but Katie can’t take the risk.
You show the sacrifices which Ruben has had to make as a result of his medical condition. Did a lot of research go into writing about F1 and McLaren for Ruben’s backstory?
I didn’t do lots of research but I have been to Silverstone several times so I called on those memories. The noise of the cars, the smell of the tarmac and the sleek machines are not something easily forgotten. I wanted to project Ruben as a fun-loving, adrenaline-junkie before his illness. He lived life in the fast lane, enjoying parties, cars and women as his job took him around the globe. The fact that he became ill changed his life as much as Katie’s was changed by losing her husband. This is why they’re so good together, they’ve both lost so much and are rebuilding, finding a new way to be.
Was it important for you to show Katie and Ruben’s happy ever after in the epilogue?
I do love a good happily ever after! Epilogues are such fun for me as writer. They’re a way to tie up any loose ends and say goodbye to characters that have been with me for a few months as I’ve written their story. It’s nice for the reader too, to be able to have a last bit of time with characters once the conflict is straightened out, kind of like a little window into the future before that last page.
You can grab BREATHE YOU IN from Amazon as a complete novel, or from iBooks split into three, part one FREE.