Isolation was the backdrop of the Toxic Game story in a way. I put the GhostWalkers in Indonesia, specifically in Sumatra because there really are suspected terrorist cells there, but also because the deep jungle there is very far away from home on so many levels. I wanted Draden and Shylah to feel the isolation from all that they know and have only each other as their final “home”.
The jungle of Sumatra also set the mood being unsettled as it’s wild and unpredictable. There, you’re reminded that as human beings, we are also animals. And as animals we are predators. We’re taken to our basic level of survival and realize who and what we really are. Draden and Shylah had to realize their limitations and trust each other’s strengths in order to survive.
They’d been exposed to a deadly virus that killed painfully, brutally and without mercy. And where many people would accept their fate, hole up and wait to die, Draden and Shlyah couldn’t do that. They were driven by a moral code and need to use the last days of their lives to save others.
Saying goodbye, while also still trying to complete their mission, affected more than just Shylah and Draden. Knowing there really are people who go out on dangerous missions and make the ultimate sacrifice I wanted to show how that affects their entire team, their family, their friends. It’s a loss that is personal and extends to so many.
Writing the scene in which Draden realizes he is likely infected and he has to be left behind was emotional. I had to imagine the reaction of his team, and most specifically Joe’s reaction since he was their leader and a close friend. Each of the GhostWalkers on that mission who got out safely, what would they be feeling, how would they react and though I didn’t address each individual I wanted readers to realize the team’s feelings about leaving a man behind. Of course having to leave someone behind isn’t the same as giving up.
At one point Shylah is given the opportunity to say goodbye to her “sisters” Zara and Bellisia and that was even more emotional. To me, I felt the women would feel a sense of injustice on Shylah’s behalf because they found love and Shylah was left to die.
Of course this is a romance which promises a happy-ever-after so the story is also filled with hope, action, adventure and love. And of course the GhostWalkers aren’t going to just give up. If there’s a way to cheat death the GhostWalkers are going to be the ones out looking for it.
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