Hello and thanks so much for having me here this weekend at Petticoats and Pistols. A lot of folks have been asking where I got the idea for my April Intrigue, BULLETPROOF TEXAS. This romantic suspense thriller is about a pharmaceutical research scientist and a brooding caving guide who are forced to work together extracting cancer-eating bacteria from a flooding Texas Hill Country cave. As the sparks fly and passions rise, so do the dangers when a competitor decides this potential cure shouldn’t see the light of day–and is willing to kill anyone who gets in the way.
I seem to get some of my best ideas while I’m traveling. When my family and I were on spring break in Carlsbad Caverns a couple of years ago, I was listening to an audio tour that talked about cancer-eating bacteria found in a nearby cave. New research with the bacteria is showing great promise and from the moment I heard the details of this medical discovery, I was fascinated with the idea of setting a romantic suspense novel against such a backdrop. I’d just finished a manuscript with a biomedical edge and a pharmaceutical company’s machinations as part of the plot that would later be my debut novel, BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF (Harlequin Intrigue, January 2009). This new idea seemed the perfect fit for a sequel.
Once I got home, I did some reading to figure out where I could set my fictitious cave. In Lechguilla Cave, near Carlsbad, where the real discovery of cancer-eating bacteria was made, the cavern is not open to the public. In fact there’s a vacuum-sealed door to keep those pharmaceutical-grade discoveries untainted by any outside pollutants.
In order to get a feel for caverns in general, I watched the amazing footage on the PLANET EARTH video series and several movies featuring caves and climbing, too. (Have you noticed that every recent movie set in a cave is a horror movie?)
I’m sort of claustrophobic so doing a “get-dirty-down-on-my-belly-with-a-headlamp strapped-to-my-forehead-and-squeeze-into-a-crack-for-research” kind of venture was not in my future. But I do love walking through caverns on guided tours, so I decided to visit another cave in person.
Inner Space Cavern, just north of Austin, is part of the Edwards Aquifer system (also featured in BULLETPROOF TEXAS.) This cave was accidentally discovered in 1963 by a road crew working on Interstate 35. The workers were testing the ground to see if it could support a highway overpass and their drill bit kept busting through the limestone into nothingness. (Unknown to them at the time, this was one of the cavern rooms). The crew decided to lower a man through the one of the enlarged “test holes” on a drill bit. What they discovered was an extraordinarily well-preserved cave and prehistoric animal remains.
At the time of my visit, Inner Space Cavern was experiencing major flooding from heavy spring rains and run-off. Some rooms were completely underwater. No one working there had ever seen anything like it before. The tour guides were as excited about the flooding as the tourists, some even coming in on their off days to see how far the water had risen. The rooms I saw were all electrified and many of the lanterns were still operational. Light reflected off drenched surfaces everywhere with a constant drip, drip, drip in the background. As I walked through the partially submerged cavern rooms, I knew I’d found my setting in Texas. It was right there in front of me.
As for the hero and heroine, there’s a bit more to the Carlsbad Caverns story. On our spring break trip, my husband and I got separated from our children in the caverns. And we were assigned the grumpiest Park Ranger in the National Park Service to help us find them.
Now normally Park Rangers are very friendly, right? Not this one. I kept thinking why are you so prickly? (I’m the one who should be upset here…my kids are lost!)
For the record, my kids were 9 and 15 at the time and they were together. So my husband and I knew they were okay, but it was extraordinarily unnerving to not know exactly where they were in the caverns. And it took about an hour to find them. All while this Park Ranger was downright surly.
Now in BULLETPROOF TEXAS, Zach is grieving the death of his sister so he’s a very sympathetic guy, even though he’s a bit dark. But that line about “what you do may appear in my next book,” yep, it’s absolutely true! I seem to get my best inspiration on vacation, especially traveling in the Southwest.
Have you ever been inside a cave? If so, where was it? Did you like it? Or, if you’ve never ventured inside a cave, which one would you like to visit if you could? One lucky commenter will receive a copy of my new April Intrigue, BULLETPROOF TEXAS.
View Kay’s Trailer!
BULLETPROOF TEXAS is Kay Thomas’s second novel from Harlequin Intrigue and is on US store shelves this week. Romantic Times gave BULLETPROOF TEXAS 4 stars calling it “taut, tricky and worth the read.” Cataromance gave it 4 ½ stars calling it “non-stop action, nail-biting suspense and fiery passion.” Her debut novel BETTER THAN BULLETPROOF was released in the US in January and in Australia in March. To see excerpts, book trailers, enter Kay’s “Bulletproof Sighting” contest and more please visit www.KayThomas.net.
To Buy BULLETPROOF TEXAS, go to Amazon.