There’s a question I get a lot at writing events, and that is: What myths/fairytales/legends inspired my debut novel Every Deep Desire? I haven’t been to many reader events in the last two years, and a reader recently emailed me this question. Since the answer is a bit long, I decided to write a blog post about it.

All writers are inspired by the stories that came before ours, and fairy tale tropes, Greek and Roman myths, and legends are some of the greatest sources of ideas out there. In Every Deep Desire, I was inspired by five myths/fairytales/legends. The first four pertain to the heroine, Juliet. Rafe, the hero, gets the fifth one. 

Although Every Deep Desire is a contemporary romantic suspense with a sexy, ex-Green Beret hero, the story’s protagonist is his wife Juliet, a beautiful landscape architect. Rafe has a tortured backstory, but Juliet has the harder job. She must learn to love again. Early in their marriage, Rafe abandoned Juliet and, although she rebuilt her life, she never recovered her heart. Juliet’s character arc from a woman betrayed to a woman who chooses love draws from two myths, one fairytale, and a play.

The two myths are from the Greek stories of Ariadne and Persephone. These two goddesses, in spite of their tragic love stories, use their fierce, feminine courage to win their HEAs. 

Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, fell in love with a prisoner named Theseus. When Theseus faced the Minotaur in the labyrinth, Ariadne offered Theseus a sword to kill the beast and a ball of string to help him return. Theseus succeeded, took Ariadne to Naxos, and abandoned her. After years of sadness, and helping the people of Naxos, Ariadne fell in love with the god Dionysus. They married, had five sons, and lived happily ever after.

Persephone was abducted by Hades and taken to the underworld until her mother Demeter complained. Persephone was allowed to leave but, since she’d eaten three pomegranate seeds, she had to spend three months (winter) of every year with Hades. Despite disliking the arrangement, Persephone became queen of the underworld and helped souls—dead and alive. And every spring she returned, filling the world with beauty and fragrance. 

In both stories, neither heroine has a point of view. Ariadne’s story is told in Theseus’s tales. Demeter and Hades speak for Persephone. Yet, this lack of voice reveals these goddesses’ courageous choices, selflessness, and grace when faced with heartache. We see them through their actions, not their words.

And that’s what I wanted for my heroine Juliet Capel. She was traumatized by an early love and suffered before becoming a landscape architect in Savannah, GA—the city of gardens and labyrinths. She, too, has no voice in the beginning. Yet, as she changes, her voice—and her actions—are the only things that can save those she loves. 

My third inspiration for Juliet is Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault in La Belle au bois (Little Briar Rose) in 1697.

While other sources portray Briar Rose as a passive victim of fate, Perrault offers something new. Briar Rose, cursed by an evil fairy, pricks her finger and falls asleep until a prince wakes her with a kiss. Although they’re in love, she convinces the prince to marry in secret. His mother is an ogress and Briar Rose is concerned about the evil fairy. They hide in the woods until her mother-in-law/ogress tries to kill their two children and serve them for dinner. But Briar Rose outwits the ogress and saves her children. 

What I love about Perrault’s version is that the heroine falls asleep a cursed, young princess and wakes up a strong-willed queen who’ll do anything to save her family. In Every Deep Desire, Juliet believed in love, had her heart broken and shut down her emotions, only to be reawakened as a woman who does things she never thought she’d do—like stand up to a group of ex-Green Berets and the leader of a secret army of assassins in order to protect those she loves.

The fourth inspiration is Romeo and JulietEvery Deep Desire is a loose, contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s tragic play as well as a redemption of the love story. I’ve always wondered what the lovers’ marriage would’ve been like they’d lived. If their passion would’ve dissipated or increased with maturity. In Every Deep Desire, when Juliet Capel’s young marriage died a metaphorical death, fulfilling her father’s warnings, she shut down emotionally. It’s not until Rafe returns and forces her to face her life (an awakening) that she realizes, in order to truly live, she must risk her heart again.

The fifth story—a legend—is about the hero. Rafe is an ex-Green Beret who left his A-team and abandoned his wife to join the Fianna—a secret army known for its brutal training and covert assassinations. 

The idea of a secret army of assassins is based on the stories of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the hero of the Fenian Cycle of Celtic Poetry. Fionn and his men lived in 1st century AD Ireland. When Rome invaded Britain, Fionn gathered men, trained them hard, and attacked Rome’s legions. 

The key thing about Fionn’s men, and the Fianna army in Every Deep Desire, is that they had to give up everything tying them to this world, including everyone they loved. In Rafe’s case, he gave up the men in his unit and his beloved wife.

When Rafe returns to protect Juliet from an enemy of the Fianna, he finds a woman so shut off from her emotions that she’s only half living. His goal is to take down the enemy and teach her that if she wants a full life, she must open her heart. 

Except Rafe has been gone a long time and, despite the fact he’s returned a sexy man who still loves her, she can’t return his love. As she helps him find his enemy, and begins to open her heart, she doesn’t discover until the end that their success means they’ll be separated forever. Juliet then has to decide whether or not she cares enough to outwit a unit of ex-Green Berets and the leader of the Fianna—not with violence or weapons, but with grace, dignity, and a fierce, feminine courage. A courage modeled by Ariadne, Persephone, and Briar Rose. A courage driven by an epic, forever kind of love.

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