In mid-February I started work on the third book in my Touched by a Demon trilogy, The Demon Wore Stilettos. I’ve been looking forward to this one, because the she-demon Lilith, who has been a minor character in the previous two books, finally gets to take center stage.
I’ve had this book in the back of my mind for a while, so I knew the general premise: Megan Kincaid, a recent MFA graduate, sells her soul to Satan in exchange for making the New York Times bestseller list.
I also knew I wanted to make this a second-chance-at-love story, so I wanted Megan to have an old love she would team with to escape Satan’s clutches.
And that was all I knew.
The first question I needed to answer about this character was: what made her so ambitious she would sell her soul for success? So I googled, “What makes people ambitious?”
Reading through the various things that came back (Quora is awesome for providing lists of possibilities for questions like this), I created this list:
Lack of paternal love/approval
Needs to prove something to someone
Needs money for something specific
Frustrated by lack of opportunity
Because they’re brave enough to challenge themselves to achieve beyond their background
Desire to prove themselves worthy; for example, an adopted child
Desire to prove others wrong
I let all this roll around in the back of my head for a couple of days before choosing No. 9. Megan, I decided, was adopted. Since all my demon books have an inspirational element, she was adopted by an older couple, a minister and his wife. Reverend Paul Kincaid and his wife Edna were wonderful people, but the church community constantly reminded Megan how fortunate she was and how she needed to repay the Reverend and his wife by being successful. Megan is determined to do just that.
But this didn’t feel like enough to justify selling your soul to the devil–especially if you were brought up Lutheran. I decided to give Megan a younger sister, Kendra, whose reaction to the good people in the congregation was the opposite of Megan’s. Kendra, instead, went the way of their drug-addicted mother. At seventeen, she gave birth to a son with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
Just as Megan was preparing to graduate from Columbia with her MFA, (and a carload of student debt), little sister got caught dealing drugs. Rev. Paul and Sister Edna had already spent everything they had and mortgaged their house, dealing with Kendra’s past issues.
Then Lilith showed up, offering to publish Megan’s MFA project and make it a bestseller. The chance for Megan to bail out her sister and pay for a good treatment program, while also achieving her dreams and showing the community the Kincaids were right to take a chance on her, was too much to resist. She signed.
Because she was smart, though, she had her boyfriend, a third-year law student, review the contract. He suggested she ask for not just one, but seven bestsellers. He also made an amendment to one of the exit clauses.
The boilerplate contract stated that if the signer performs an act of complete altruism, they're off the hook. This is a fake out, though, because any act that gets the signer out of the contract, by definition, is not completely altruistic. James amended that clause to say that the fact that the act frees the signer from the contract cannot be taken into consideration in determining its altruism.
As the book opens, Megan has already turned in her seventh and final manuscript to her editor. In two weeks it will be released and will almost certainly hit the NYT bestseller list. On that day, Satan will collect her soul.
Okay, gentle readers–what are your thoughts?. If it doesn’t work for some reason, I’d rather know now!