Today I am so pleased to welcome Eden Winters to Joyfully Jay. Eden has come to chat with me about her latest release, Benediction, the ninth and final book in her Diversion series. She has also brought along a great giveaway.
My regular readers know I am a huge fan of your Diversion series, and today we are chatting about the final book in the series, Benediction. For folks who may be new to the series, can you give a quick overview of the series and the final book?
After Lucky Lucklighter’s drug trafficking conviction earned him ten years in prison, he was given the opportunity to work off the last eight years of his sentence with the Southeastern Narcotics Bureau as a “consultant”, working cases under close supervision. This Atlanta, Georgia based organization deals with pharmaceutical crimes, such as pill mills, unscrupulous doctors who hand out opioids like candy, the gray market, and traffickers such as himself. As the story starts, he’s about to complete his service once he trains his replacement, Bo, who also wound up in the SNB after a run-in with the law.
Bo is by-the-book, outgoing, friendly, vegetarian, and environmentally conscious, with an annoying tendency to quote textbooks. He’s everything Lucky isn’t. After a case spent together, rubbing each other all the wrong (and right) ways, Lucky’s death is faked, and he returns to the bureau as Simon “Lucky” Harrison, a full-fledged agent.
Most of their cases could be pulled directly from the headlines about drug crimes, shortages etc., and I’ve tried to keep a balance between realistic cases and the relationship between our two heroes.
While some readers thought I’d wrapped up the stories earlier, there was one character that needed the plotline completed, and Benediction puts the SNB firmly on the right track after some close calls due to unscrupulous people. While Lucky and Bo have followed different paths within the organization, they’re both comfortable where they’ve ended up, and their homelife is beyond what Lucky could ever have imagined. That’s about all I can say without giving too many spoilers.
I’ll admit that reading this was bittersweet because I LOVE these guys, but I am so sad to come to the end. What was it like writing the final book for Bo and Lucky?
I was very nervous writing this one. Bo and Lucky have their loyal fans, and I didn’t want to disappoint them, but it was time to end the series. Also, while writing Benediction, I lost my dear friend and critique partner, PD Singer, who is listed in the dedication. She’s the one who challenged me to write my first novel, and was with me for each and every one, so I felt kind of lost releasing this book without her input. For a while I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish. Some wonderful friends stepped in and critiqued for me, and encouraged me to keep going.
I did my best to tie up all loose ends, and what I couldn’t fit into Benediction, I added in Domestication, the bonus novella included in this volume. I’m sad to say goodbye to Bo and Lucky, but I hope the ending will satisfy their fans. I think I left them in a good place.
One of the things I have loved about this series is watching Lucky’s growth from a super prickly, cocky guy who doesn’t really like people, to someone who has developed these really close relationships. Can you talk to us a little more about Lucky’s arc over the series?
At the start of the series, Lucky is carrying around a load of guilt, thinking he was the cause of his former lover’s suicide. His family also rejected him when he went to prison. Believing no one loves him, and if they do, they’re crazy, he actively pushes people away. Who could ever love an ex-con?
One by one, people enter his life who see beneath the bravado to the real him, and though it’s not easy, they persevere to get past his carefully-constructed barriers. Granted, it’s only a handful of people, but for Lucky to trust anyone is a huge step forward.
At the end of the series, he’s still rather prickly, but his friends and adopted family aren’t afraid to call him on it. While he’s grown tremendously, he’s still Lucky, and will never be the lovable, open soul Bo is, which makes Bo the perfect balance for him.
I also have enjoyed the way that Lucky and Bo have moved to the middle over the series. Lucky was sort of the law-breaking renegade, while Bo started out as the uptight rule follower. And they still are these things to a degree, but definitely have softened over the books. Can you talk more about the ways these guys have influenced one another?
In the beginning, both men are overcompensating for what they feel are their shortcomings, Lucky by pretending he doesn’t care, Bo by trying to be perfect. As time passes, they let down their guards. Some of their new behaviors were already in their personalities, covered by a hard shell they’d built to protect themselves. They came to trust each other, and as partners both on and off the job, had each other’s backs. Deep down, though, they admire each other, and the sincerest form of flattery is imitation.
But I must say that Bo going undercover as a badass biker was a high point of writing these two, and a pivotal point in his character development. Of all the couples I’ve written, Bo and Lucky came the closest to becoming two halves of one whole. They complete each other.
I am a big romantic suspense fan, but I have never seen a series approach the drug trade from this angle, particularly early on when it is was very focused on the problems with prescription drug theft, etc. Can you talk more about how you conceived of the series and what kind of research was required?
At the time I began writing Diversion, part of my day job was to read pharma trade magazines and triage articles to colleagues who needed to see them. One article in particular caught my eye. Two men stole an eighteen-wheeler full of drugs from a truck stop. It took them two and a half minutes to make off with close to a million dollars’ worth of prescription drugs. In the story, I changed the time to five minutes, because one of my crit partners told me people might not believe the original time.
Because of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act, which happened around that time, I read a lot about drug diversion and how to keep the supply chain safe. Suddenly, my criminal became a good guy, or rather, on the fence. Coming in to a warehouse through a skylight? Yes, that really happened.
The Florida pill mills? Those were detailed in DEA case reports, which are online for anyone to see. But there’s just so much information that I couldn’t stop at one book. I like learning something as I read, along with connecting with engaging characters, so this was my way of conveying what’s going on in the world. I even had to include a forward in book two because several of my beta readers told me that the drug shortage plot was too farfetched, and could never happen in the US. Sadly, it was, and still is, very real.
You are currently putting this series out in audio. I have really been enjoying listening to narrator, Darcy Stark. Can you talk to us a little bit about creating the audio and picking a narrator? I feel like finding someone who can capture both Bo and Lucky, two such different men, must have been difficult.
I lucked up. I was new to audio, and had worked on a few smaller projects, but needed someone who could handle all the voices. To be honest, audio for an independent author is cost prohibitive. The narrators I contacted either cost way more than I could afford, couldn’t start for a year, or wouldn’t sign on for a series. It took a year from when I started the project until the first book was recorded.
In the end, Darcy contacted me. As Lucky would say, “Hallelujah!” I was so nervous, with no idea what to do, but he held my hand through the whole process. And while I liked the voices he chose for Lucky and Bo, Walter’s blew me away. And he gets better with each book. He tells me he’ll be sad to see these two go, and he’ll begin recording Benediction in February.
The series ties up so nicely for Bo and Lucky, really showing how far they have come as a couple, as well as with their extended family. When you first started this series, did you see these guys where they are now? Or did you have a different idea of how things would go for them (and the series)?
I actually set out to write only one book. When more ideas came, I thought I’d stop at a trilogy, but in the pharmaceutical world, there’s just so much to write about, and fans kept telling me they wanted more. So no, I never saw them ending up like they did, not until about the sixth book. I am a pantser through and through, and allowed the story and characters to write their own stories. Loretta Johnson was a huge surprise, and up until book three, a certain character we all thought dead wasn’t due to reappear, but I’m glad he did. I’ve grown to like him, and I understand that the editor of the Japanese edition really loved him and closely watched the art to ensure the character matched how they saw him. I love the art!
Diversion was meant to be a one-off. The series is what happened when I wrote strong characters who wouldn’t take no for an answer.
So now that the Diversion series has wrapped up, can you tell folks here what you have coming up next?
I’m currently working on a non-mpreg omega-verse story called, “Don’t Underestimate an Omega”. It started out as a 15,000-word novella, but apparently, I can’t write shorts. It’s now at 55,000 words and growing.
I’m also working on, “Mage Bond” and “Wicked” a high fantasy novel and an urban fantasy.
If readers want to learn more about your books, where can they find you?
And my Facebook group: Eden’s Diversions: https://www.facebook.com/groups/767589383760676
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For readers who haven’t begun the series, I’ll offer the perfect introduction. Until January 31, Diversion Box Set Volume 1 is on sale at Amazon for $1.99. That’s three full-length novels for one low price. And it’s Whispersynced, so for $7.49 more, readers can get the audiobooks too. That’s Diversion, Collusion, and Corruption, the first three books in the series. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07R8RSTM4
Thanks so much for coming to chat today, and thanks so much for such a wonderful series!
Thank you so much for allowing me on the site, and for all your support for the series!
“Are you afraid yet? You should be.”
Undercover narcotics agent and former drug trafficker Lucky Harrison paid his debt to society and now lives a law-abiding life, complete with a home, a man he loves, and their son.
An old enemy lurks in the shadows, threatening all he holds dear. A dead witness. A kidnapping attempt. Arson. All send the message: “I’m coming for you.” Hiding in Atlanta’s underbelly, always one step ahead of Lucky, the killer will stop at nothing to exact revenge on the man who thwarted his plans.
But if anyone thinks they’re going to take away the perfect world Lucky’s created, they’d better think again.
This volume also includes bonus novella Domestication, Diversion 9.1.
Benediction Link: https://www.amazon.com/
You will know Eden Winters by her distinctive white plumage and exuberant cry of “Hey, y’all!” in a Southern US drawl so thick it renders even the simplest of words unrecognizable. Watch out, she hugs!
Driven by insatiable curiosity, she possibly holds the world’s record for curriculum changes to the point that she’s never quite earned a degree but is a force to be reckoned with at Trivial Pursuit.
She’s trudged down hallways with police detectives, learned to disarm knife-wielding bad guys, and witnessed the correct way to blow doors off buildings. Her email contains various snippets of forensic wisdom, such as “What would a dead body left in a Mexican drug tunnel look like after six months?” In the process of her adventures she has written twenty-four gay romance novels, won several Rainbow Awards, was a Lambda Awards Finalist, and lives in terror of authorities showing up at her door to question her Internet searches.
When not putting characters in dangerous situations, she’s a mild-mannered businesswoman, mother, grandmother, vegetarian, and PFLAG activist.
Her natural habitats are airports, coffee shops, and the backs of motorcycles.
Eden has brought a choice of Benediction, a backlist book, or Diversion Box Set Volume 1 for TWO lucky winners. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Wednesday January 20th at 11:59 pm ET.
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