I often get asked which of my books or characters are my favorites. This is an impossible question to answer and I usually answer with something like, "The ones I'm with."
See, every time I write a book, I lose myself in the world I'm creating so completely, I usually do nothing but sit at my computer--from morning until night--immersed in the characters and stories. I so love being with them and want to see what happens next, that I can't tear myself away. In fact, I now have to plan my life and make sure everything that needs to get done gets done, everyone who I need to connect with, I connect with, because for the coming weeks, I'll check out and struggle to get the laundry done!
Back in the day, regularly, I often didn't finish books mostly because I didn't want to say good-bye. And this is one reason why my characters cross over in different series, just so I can spend time with them.
Although I absolutely "love the ones I'm with," I will say that only twice did I end a book and feel such longing and loss that I found it difficult to get over it. This happened with At Peace and also, and maybe especially, with Law Man.
I have contemplated why my emotion after completing these books ran so deep. And the answer I've come up with is that I so thoroughly enjoyed spending time with heroes who didn't simply fall in love with their heroines. They fell in love with and built families with their heroines.
In the case of Law Man, Mara's young cousins, Bud and Billie, badly needed a family. They needed to be protected and loved. They needed to feel safe. They needed role models and an education. As any child does. And further, they deserved it. Loyal and loving, I felt those two kids in my soul.
So when Mitch Lawson entered their lives through Mara, and he led Mara to realizations about herself, at the same time providing all these things to Bud and Billie and building a family, I was so deep in that, stuck in the honey of creating a home and a cocoon of love for two really good (albeit fictional) kids, I didn't want to surface.
Also with Law Man, I knew the series would end with the next book, Motorcycle Man. With At Peace, the second book in that series, I knew I had plenty of time to be with Joe, Vi, Kate and Keira. But, essentially, Mitch, Mara, Bud and Billie were very soon to be lost to me in any deep way.
I remember standing at the sink doing dishes after putting the finishing touches on that book and being near tears, because I so desperately wanted to spend the next weeks (months, years?) writing every detail of Mitch, Mara, Bud and Billie's lives. Bud making the baseball team. Billie going to prom. Mitch giving Bud "the talk" and giving Billie's boyfriends the stink eye. Scraped knees. Broken hearts. Homework. Christmases. Thanksgivings. I wanted to be a fly on the wall for it all, seeing how Mitch and Mara took Bud and Billie's precarious beginnings on this earth and gave them stability and affection, taught them trust and showed them what love means.
Even now, when I reread Law Man, the beginning of the Epilogue makes my heart start to get heavy. Because I know it's almost done.
And I don't want it to be.
So standing at that sink when I'd said good-bye to this family, I felt that bad kind of nostalgia. The kind when you know something beautiful is over and instead of looking back at with fond memories, those memories will be bittersweet because you know you can never go back, and you so want to.
Recently, I had much this same reaction when finishing up Fire Inside. In this instance, it was the heroine, Lanie, who was coming into her hero, Hop's family. Not to mention, they'd begun building their own. And I had grave difficulties saying good-bye to Hop, Lanie, Molly and Cody. The good news about that was, like At Peace, Fire Inside is on the younger side of that series so I knew I'd be back with them, at least in my head.
This is one of the reasons why I cross-over characters and places so frequently. In building my books (save the fantasy and paranormal ones), all of them are pulled into a kind of KA Universe that includes people (all fictional) and places (some fictional).
So, say I need a security specialist, I call on Joe from At Peace. If I need a commando, I can call on Hawk from Mystery Man. If I need a graphic designer, I can call on Ava from the Rock Chicks, same with Roxie if I need a web designer. A mechanic, Tack, Ty or Wood can step in. And I've got all sorts of choice if someone needs a private detective!
And Mitch or Brock (or Colt, Chace or Mike, depending on where the action is taking place) can turn up whenever someone needs a police detective.
This is my way of dealing, knowing up there in my head all these worlds keep spinning. Kids growing up. Work getting done. Girls going out for drinks. Cool Whip tubs being emptied in happy ways.
It also soothes the soul to read what my readers think should happen because it tells me that out there too, the worlds I've helped them create in their heads are still turning. When I get suggestions of whose kid should end up with someone else's kid. What stories people are dying to read about secondary characters. Where they think someone from one series could possibly turn up in another. I love that. It always gives me a giggle. And frankly, it also gives me ideas.
So I battle the nostalgia by keeping those worlds spinning, writing more books pulling characters in or going to places I've created that I've missed, if only to be with them for a while. Just to check in. Just to make sure all is okay.
And then I'm free to build more worlds.
And fall in love again.