Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You can’t keep a good man down – but it sure is complicated bringing him back from the dead

I’ve always wanted to write a back-from-the-dead book, which is one of my favourite tropes in romance. 
A Prior Engagement wasn’t supposed to be it.
But through the writing of the first two books in my Special Forces series I’d become intrigued by Lee Davis – outgoing, fearless and larger than life – killed when an IED exploded under the patrol vehicle in Here Comes The Groom.
I’d originally intended that his fiancee Juliet Browne would find a new love through his army buddies’ matchmaking except I couldn’t come up with a character as interesting as Lee. So I thought, Can this man be saved?
One of the problems of resurrection is that, in the absence of a body, the legal process of being declared dead can take seven years (twenty in Italy!).
However if the person has been in "imminent peril" – a plane crash, battle, a passenger on the Titanic - and fails to return “courts will generally assume the person was killed even though the usual presumptive death period hasn't elapsed.”
By filling in more details in Bring Him Home - Lee was thrown clear by the IED blast, and ‘lost’ in confusion of battle - my circumstantial evidence was in place.  
Except I had another challenge. The military make every effort to retrieve their fallen and Lee was in a Special Forces Unit  - the NZ SAS - ruled by the maxim, “No man left behind.”
Clearly, I needed a body.
So I got to thinking, What if his captors – aware they’d be hunted down  - dressed another body in Lee’s uniform and strapped it with explosives, which were detonated by a trip wire when the retrieval crew approached? This would all but destroy the corpse, create more carnage and make identification nigh on impossible.

Disclaimer: In real life writers are sensitive and care passionately for all living creatures. When it comes to solving plot problems we’re up there with Freddy Krueger. Apologies to the squeamish.

Certain I’d cracked the case, I ran this scenario by a doctor who helps writers with forensic questions and got this:

“Though the blast might harm some tissues and make them unusable as far as DNA analysis is concerned there would be plenty of material left to do the proper testing. There is no way that an explosion would completely destroy a body so that there were no tissues left at all.”

So how do you solve a problem like Maria DNA?

After much head-scratching, I decided a Taliban insurgent infiltrated the local allies militia. Not only did he provide a sample – a fingertip - for DNA, he was responsible for the insider information that led to the original ambush. And finally the circle is neatly closed.

Will you be able to suspend disbelief reading A Prior Engagement?  I think so. Did I labor on this constantly in the book? All this research probably resulted in  two paragraphs! But because I've answered my plausibility questions, hopefully I've answered yours and we can all relax and enjoy the romance.

I went to so much trouble because I wanted my hero to come home and discover his estate has been distributed and spent by the woman wearing his engagement ring. The woman who'd also rejected his proposal on the eve of  deployment. And I wanted him to be ambivalent toward the army buddies who unwittingly ‘left him behind.’ The same guys who, believing their dead buddy would want his ‘fiancée’ to be happy, introduced her to her new boyfriend.

Disclaimer: No heroes were (permanently) harmed in the writing of this novel.

So how about you? Love, hate or back-from-the-dead romances? If you love them, I’d really appreciate recommended reads/movies. At the end of March I’m doing a draw for backlist books on my website. Visit to enter.


Pamela Hearon said...

Sound like an amazing book! I love any book that can make me suspend my beliefs and gives me an HEA:-) And, yeah, I like back-from-the-dead, as ling as its plausible.

Remember the Cary Grant movie, My Favorite Wife? Soooo fun!

Geri Krotow said...

I'm in the midst of writing a "back-from-the-presumed-dead" romance, and it's an emotional heart squisher, to say the least! It sounds so romantic on paper, and when I've read them before, but to actually imagine it--another story (no pun intended).
Great post, Karina.

kris said...

Wow, Karina, you really had to go all-out for this one. Bravo to you for finding the answers that will absolutely make folks believe!

linda s said...

I love back from the dead stories that are plausible. I'll be looking for this on the book store shelves.

Karina Bliss said...

Pamela, I haven't seen that movie, thanks for the rec!

Geri, I thought my book was a comedy until I started writing it. It is an emotional premise, your characters aren't skipping around saying, 'Wonder when he's coming back from the dead.'

Kris, this would have been a lot easier if I wasn't two books into the series before I got the idea!

Linda S, I hope the book works for you in the plausibility stakes.

Joan Kilby said...

Karina, doing the research can be agony. All that time spent searching for the facts and trying to figure out if your plot is plausible at least. And then so little of it ends up in the actual book. But I'm like you, I need to be confident of my facts.

Your book sounds wonderful. I can't wait to read it!

Mary Preston said...

I've never read a 'back-from-the-dead' romance, but I love the idea.

Karina Bliss said...

Thanks, Joan! I'm waiting on your newest release from Book Depository (yes, I still like print). Congrats on your brilliant review from DearAuthor!

Mary, the angst, the don't know what you're missing in BFTD books. Hmm, not a great acronym.

Snookie said...

Don't love or hate them, it all depends on the author and how it's portrayed. You do a great job with your stories and are an auto-buy author for me, AND I've read all the rest in this series, so I am really looking forward to this one!

Karina Bliss said...

Aww thanks, Snookie!

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