I didn’t plan to become a novelist, or a triathlete for that matter. I like my Kona in a coffee cup, with vanilla stevia drops and no-sugar-added coconut almond milk, to be exact. I barely even knew Kona as the name of the triathlon world championships until ten years ago, when I said “I do” to Eric.
On our wedding day, he bored into my soul with his eyes intense and green (which they only are when we are nose-to-nose—the rest of the time they are hazel) and asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Well, hmmm, I was already a mother and a lawyer at the time and I kind of thought I was all grown up, too. “What exactly do you mean?”
“Like what kind of dreams have you not fulfilled? I want to help you make them come true.”
I’d fulfilled my most important one by marrying him—spending my life with a wonderful, gorgeous guy who spoils me and makes my toes curl. But once upon a time I’d had other dreams, too. Dreams that I had forgotten about. “To write a novel. And to run a marathon.”
That brought a smile to Eric’s olive face. “Well all right then. Which one’s first?”
And that is how it came to pass that one year later, while in training for our first marathon, I did a Half Ironman triathlon. It turned out, by the way, that a Half Ironman is way harder than a marathon, but I didn’t know that at the time. (They say ignorance is bliss!) It was then that the Kona triathlon, which is on the Hawaiian island of Kona—became important to me. It’s a full Ironman: a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bicycle ride, capped with a full 26.2-mile marathon run. Yegads! I’ll bet you can guess that a Half Ironman is exactly half of that, too. My husband wants us to a full Ironman together someday, which I wrote about in a mostly funny but sort of inspirational book called Hot Flashes and Half Ironmans.
First I had to write a novel, though. So, six months after my intro to Half Ironmans, I wrote a silly novella about a woman named Katie and a jumbie house named Annalise for Eric while he was on a work trip to India. (Yes, it was the start of the Katie & Annalise series, for those of you in the know about my books.) I thought that would “count” and that we could put the scary novel thing to bed. It didn’t. Not for him or for me.
In November of that year I signed up for NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—which is a “contest” to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days held each November. I highly recommend. So that November 1 rolled around and I had no idea what to write about. Then inspiration struck. Eric and I had just finished a long run (we were training for an ultra-marathon) sandwiched in between events at our two daughters’ swim meet. Some insignificant thing he said or did set me off, and I drove home early and alone, spitting mad. Note to self: adrenaline is not always your friend.
Somewhere between the Fort Bend Natatorium and our home in Meyerland, I realized I was being a pill. I loved this man who treated me like a queen, and God forbid something would happen to one of us and the other’s last memory would be that I was shrew. What if a stalkery old girlfriend had been hunting him down for years, and found him today, derringer in hand? What if he got lost, as he is prone to do, and ended up in the crossfire of drug deal gone bad? Or what if he was kidnapped and forced to work for terrorists in Siberia who needed the specialized knowledge he had about refineries in Libya?
A devastating despair came over me, and I knew what I had to write. As soon as I got home, I started typing Going for Kona, the story of a couple training for the Kona Ironman. When tragedy strikes, it’s not a random act but murder, and the protagonist, Michele, must overcome grief and every other damn thing life throws at her to protect what she has left: her son Sam and stepdaughter Annabelle. It’s a romantic mystery inspired by the years I’ve spent training with my own husband for triathlon and my feelings for him. The plot is pure frenzied, make-believe fun.
Now, I like my Kona in a fast-paced mystery, and I think you will, too. But it’s even better read with a cuppa.