Paige Tyler’s previous paranormal romance thrillers have earned slots on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. She returns now with her special blend of realism and dark fantasy in HER ROGUE ALPHA, a tale of a scarred serviceman, a beautiful shapeshifting heroine, and their life-threatening new mission.
Bestselling author Cynthia Eden has noted that Tyler offers “Non-stop action and thrilling romance.”
That’s evident in this latest in the X-OPS series, as the story opens on a battlefield in Kabul where a mission goes wrong for Special Forces Lieutenant Jayson Harmon, scarring him and killing his special ops teammates.
Stateside, 15 months later, Jayson finds himself in love with Layla Halliwell as he recuperates while operating a Department of Covert Operations gun range and battling prejudice against shapeshifters.
Soon, the mission that will take both Kyle and Jayson into harm’s way arrives, and the adventure really gets underway.
Tyler took some time to answer a few questions for The Big Thrill recently about HER ROGUE ALPHA.
Jayson, your protagonist, suffers terribly on the battlefield, and he’s conflicted and in emotional pain when we pick him up stateside. How did you go about crafting realistic emotions for him and making his pain seem so authentic?
My hubby (who is my writing partner) is retired military, so he’s seen and read a lot about soldiers enduring the emotional and physical trauma that comes with being severely injured. We used those experiences as reference as we wrote Jayson’s story.
What research did you do or what went into creating Jayson’s wounded-warrior pain and struggles?
We spent a lot of time researching the facts and figures of shrapnel wounds and PTSD just like we researched what Walter Reed looks like and how an injured soldier is medically separated from the service. But that’s all just window dressing. The real process of bringing Jayson’s pain and struggles to life meant putting ourselves in his head and living there for a while. To do that, you have to try to understand what it means to have a sense of self-worth so completely wrapped up in what you’re physically capable of doing. That’s where most of Jayson’s pain comes from—not the scars and damage, but the inability to do those things he believes make him a man and make his life worth living.
Tell us a little about Layla, your heroine, and her special abilities.
Layla is a natural born shifter. That means she has animal DNA mixed with her own. In her case, it’s feline DNA, so when she shifts, she gets certain feline characteristics, like claws, fangs, night vision, speed, agility, etc. She doesn’t turn into a big cat, but instead changes enough so that those attributes give her some advantages in the field. But these differences also bring out acceptance issues in the people she works with, some of whom consider her a “freak.” A lot of Jayson and Layla’s story revolves around acceptance, both of her shifter nature and of his injuries.
Layla and Jayson have an interesting relationship, paralleling many of the strengths and complications with which many professional couples can identify. In addition to being a shapeshifter, she’s a rising operative in her own secret organization. Jayson’s a little troubled by that. Tell us about exploring that territory fictionally.
A lot of this is about Jayson’s evaluation of his self-worth in a world where he can’t seem to do the things physically that are necessary for him to be a field agent. The idea of Layla going into the field without him there to protect her is extremely difficult for him. Then there’s the fact that he looks around and sees the entire rest of the world (at least the part he’s in) moving forward and having a life while he seems to be stuck in place with no future to speak of. These thoughts would send anyone to a dark place, and he can’t imagine why a woman like Layla would want to saddle herself with a man like him. As for Layla, she’s fighting to stay in his life and show him she doesn’t care about his limitations. She simply wants to love him. But when he keeps pushing her away, she’s not sure what more she can do.
Jayson and Layla are drawn into a big operation as your story builds. Tell us a little about the inspiration for that mission and the action you’ve woven into your story.
A big part of the X-OPS Series is the realistic action we attempt to bring to the stories. I think that intense action brings out the true emotions in our characters, some of which I didn’t even realize existed. As we were writing this story, there was a lot of fighting going on over in Ukraine between the forces seeking to split the country apart. The original mission that draws Jayson over there was intended to be simple, but things have a way of getting complicated once the bullets start flying. Jayson and Layla are thrown together, and if they can’t get past all the obstacles between them, they’re not going to make it. Neither will the other characters in the story who are depending on them.
Since Jayson and Layla have high degrees of proficiency with weapons, there’s a lot of detail in your book. How intensive is your weapons training?
My hubby helps with a lot of this stuff! But I have fired quite a few weapons (how many women can say their husband has taken them to a range to shoot shotguns and automatic weapons for their anniversary?) I’m no sharpshooter, but I can generally hit what I aim at. I have to admit, though, I’m not a fan of cleaning the weapons afterward.
You build an interesting world that has one foot in reality and a foot in a world of shape shifters and dark possibilities. What rules do you set for yourself to keep the fantastic side of your stories grounded?
When we first came up with our shifter world, we set limitations on what they could do. They’re not bullet proof and they’re not superheroes. What they do still takes courage and teamwork. We look at the story after we write it and ask ourselves if shifters didn’t exist in the book, would it still basically work? We also go out of our way to ensure we don’t depend on shifter abilities to get characters out of a bad situation. If you do that too much, there’s no sense of danger.
When did you first become fascinated with shapeshifters?
I read a lot of paranormal stories when I was younger, but it wasn’t until I read Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld Series, especially Bitten, that I really got into werewolves and shapeshifters. There was just something about how she approached the subject that I loved. Her attention to world building served as a model for the shifter mythology in our books.
Tell us a little about your writing day? You live on the Florida coast? Are the ocean and sunshine temptations to be kept in balance, or do your worlds keep you engrossed and drawn to the keyboard?
We live about ten minutes from the beach, but unfortunately, our writing schedule doesn’t allow us as much beach time as I’d like. We typically try to write a full-length novel as well as one or two shorter novellas every ninety days, so it can be difficult getting away from the keyboard. But I always make sure I have time for my hubby, our fur baby, and exercise. Those are the things that really keep me balanced and sane.
It’s always interesting to hear about influences. Who are some of your favorite writers, and what are some key things you’ve learned from your favorites.
I mentioned Kelley Armstrong, who definitely influenced my paranormal side. Then there’s Suzanne Brockman. I love how she handles multiple character POVs and weaves a variety of storylines into the same book. Since my hubby and I write as a team, it’s important to point out some of his influences. That would be Jim Butcher and Diana Rowland, and their urban fantasy books (the Harry Dresden Series and White Trash Zombie Series, respectively), as well as Joseph Rosenberger and Don Pendleton (I’ve never heard of Rosenberger or Pendleton, but he tells me they wrote all the action adventure stuff he read growing up.). He says that’s where he gets his detailed, fast paced style you see in the action sequences in our books.
Paige Tyler is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of sexy, romantic suspense and paranormal romance. She and her very own military hero (also known as her husband) live on the beautiful Florida coast with their adorable fur baby (also known as their dog). Paige graduated with a degree in education, but decided to pursue her passion and write books about hunky alpha males and the kickbutt heroines who fall in love with them.
She is represented by Bob Mecoy. To learn more about Paige, please visit her website.