Ten Years of Ethan Blackstone

Original self-published cover. Design by Kim Killion, Hot Damn Designs. Image from Shutterstock.

Ten years ago on this day, I sent a very special character out into the world.  Ethan Blackstone hit the bookshelves and in a word, changed my life.  Things have never been quite the same since.  An off-the-chain, British Alpha with angel wings and a Shakespeare quote tattooed across his back.  A blue-eyed,  British Army veteran with severe PTSD who’d been through the bowels of hell and somehow returned to the land of the living.  A fiercely protective guy with a really filthy mouth who smoked Djarum Blacks and drove a black Range Rover around London for work.  Devastatingly handsome and beautifully damaged, this soul was about to fall in love with a girl he saw for the first time in a photograph.  Yeah, he was all of that and so much more.  After this day ten years ago, Ethan Blackstone took on the world all by himself, quite literally, and lucky me, got to come along for the ride of my life in his black Range Rover.  *winky wink*  He is among my best life accomplishments and I cherish each and every one of these last ten years with him.

August 25, 2012, was also the day I hit the “publish” button for my very first self-published book: Naked, The Blackstone Affair Part 1.  I had two historical romances with a small press publisher already out in the world, but this new book was different for many reasons.  Naked was not the first book I ever wrote.  It was actually the fourth book written, but the third book that I published.  The Muse was the first book I ever wrote, but it would remain in a box under my bed for a few more years before it was finally published.  Naked was my first contemporary romance though because I had only written historicals prior and assumed that historicals would be my genre forever and ever.  Boy was I wrong.

A little backstory to know where this story really starts…

In the final days of June 2012, Mr. Miller took the boys away to Boy Scout camp and I had the house all to myself for an entire week.  I had no responsibilities to anyone and so much blessed free time to write, enjoy the pool, sip drinks, watch movies, read books in the spa…you get the idea.  Well, I was truly in heaven.  Summer vacation was in full swing and I had just returned from a fun romance book conference in Denver called RomCon armed with lots of motivation to write my own contemporary romance since the buzz throughout that weekend had been Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James and how it blew the doors off the erotic romance genre.  I decided I wanted to take a stab at writing contemporary and had a great plot already outlined in my head to begin.  The book I was working on is what ended up becoming Priceless, The Rothvale Legacy Part 1.  An American art student, Gabrielle Hargreave, living in London, running from troubles at home in America, is tasked with evaluating a heretofore unknown art collection stashed away at the Northern Ireland estate of Lord Rothvale XIII.  This guy has quite the resume too: Cabinet Minister for the sitting government, member of the House of Lords, former Olympian in Archery, decadently handsome, wealthy Renaissance Man, and an all-around 10 (of course.)  LOL  He was going to be the modern-day Lord Rothvale descendant of my historical Lord Rothvale from my three other historical romance books in which he appears.  I had the historical Lord Rothvale created already in my books, so why not make a modern-day Lord Rothvale descendant story to complement a very loooooong story arc?  Well, that was my plan anyway…

I set to writing and had a good 20K written into my story when my “plan” got sidelined.  One night I was up scrolling stock photo sites for an image that could be my cover for Priceless.  This was going to be my first self-published book remember, so I would be able to choose the cover and make all decisions for my book.  I was into it and having so much fun searching for the perfect image when I stumbled across the picture that would become the cover of Naked.  A nude model in repose with her legs crossed in the vertical and a well-placed palm.  The picture was stunning to me.  I thought it was so beautiful and I bought it right then and there thinking I didn’t have a story for it but I was going to create one.

My mind spinning with ideas, I started typing at like 10:00 pm that night with what would become the first chapter of The Blackstone Affair.  I wrote it in 45 minutes.  To this day, those first lines are largely unchanged, they remain as they were originally written.  The heroine, art student, and part-time model, Brynne Bennett, shows up at the gallery showing of photographic art where a series of her nude photos are on display.  She talks to her photographer friend Benny about the tall, dark, and handsome checking her out from across the room.  She checks him out too and we get our first description of the beautiful man he is.  It’s no secret that I based the physical description of Ethan Blackstone on the one and only David Gandy.  Anyone reading that description of Ethan in the first chapter of Naked could put two and two together if they had any inkling of who David Gandy was in 2012.  I had been following him for a couple of years by that point so I had seen lots and lots of his photos to know what he looked like enough to describe him in detail.  He was an effortless muse for my Ethan.  Brynne feels unsettled as they stare at each other from across the room before abruptly leaving the gallery and heading out into the night towards the Tube.  Ethan follows her out and demands she allow him to give her a ride home.  LOL  Yep, that’s how it goes.  And I love him for it.  Zero apologies for his Alpha ways!!!

I was obsessed with this story only an hour into it.  I sent the first chapter to my friend Franzi in Germany and asked her to read it.  She encouraged me to keep writing it.  And that’s exactly what I did.  I abandoned poor Priceless and made Gabrielle the roommate of Brynne instead of the heroine.  I made the hero Ivan, Lord Rothvale, into Ethan’s maternal cousin and decided I would write Ivan and Gabrielle’s story later on but placed them firmly into the world I was creating so I would have to come back to them at a further point down the line.  I didn’t have the prologue yet, the impetus for Ethan to be there watching Brynne in the first place, or why he knew about her photo at all.  I still had yet to work all of those details out.

I did that over the next few days.  Figuring out his backstory and hers.  I got the idea for Blackstone Security International, Ltd. while watching the opening ceremonies for the Olympics which were happening right as I was starting to write the book in August 2012, in London of all places.  I saw all those famous people and royalty at the ceremonies performing and thought: someone has to organize security for all those celebrities at big events like these…that’s what Ethan Blackstone does!!!!  It was that simple. Done.  All I had to do was write the rest of the story.  I wrote the book in three weeks.  Then the edits and cover design and getting ready to press publish.  Forever thanks to Lacey Wetherford and Belinda Boring for their helping assistance with navigating the strange and unknown process of Amazon and Smashwords self-publishing in those early days.  I don’t know if I would have gotten through it without their help because I knew n-o-t-h-i-n-g.  But somehow I learned the ropes and managed to get to today…ten years ago.  It was scary but exciting.  I didn’t have huge expectations to fall far from because I was creating this story for the pure joy of doing it. Because once I started writing it I couldn’t do anything but keep going.  It was magic from start to finish.  The words had poured out of me while I was writing and now it was time to set them free out into the world.

It was one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Endless thanks to all of the people who have read and fallen in love with Ethan Blackstone and his beautiful American girl, Brynne.  You made this wonderful dream of mine a reality.  You made it possible for me to do this gig full-time.  You made it possible for me to be offered a major book deal from a (then Big Six) publisher.  You made me a #2 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author.  Thank you for that and for reading my books.  I am ever humbly grateful.

xoxo Raine

Here are some extras for you courtesy of Becca Manuel from Becca the Bibliophile who interviewed Ethan as the very first guest on her blog when she started it a few months later.  We had a lot of fun doing this one.

Exclusive Interview with Ethan Blackstone

And also the first book trailer she ever made was for Naked.  It still gives me chills every time I watch it!!!

And a last final thought to leave you with.  You haven’t heard the last from Ethan Blackstone.  There is more to come and it will.  Time has been static for Ethan and Brynne in their world.  Ten years have not passed for them only about a year and a half by the time we meet up with them again in The Blessings of Ethan Blackstone.  Stay tuned, my friends.

xo R


About The Blackstone Affair

Five Years Ago Today Something Wonderful Happened…

Apparently today is the five year anniversary of the birth of Ethan Blackstone and his beautiful American girl. July 15, 2012 as reminded to me by Facebook Memories. 
After Mr. M and the boys had gone off to camp, I was left to my devices at home and got to writing on my story about a British Lord and the art conservationist come to help him with his collection of paintings. That story was what would eventually become PRICELESS.
But what happened later that night was life changing.
I found the picture of the nude model posing with her legs up and got an idea for a NEW story. Weirdly possessed by the striking image, I dashed off a chapter and sent it to my friend Franzi, asking her what she thought of my idea.

The picture that inspired me.

She told me to write it, and so I set aside Priceless and got to work on this new story instead.

I wrote a story about an American grad student studying in London who did some artful modeling on the side. We didn’t know then the reasons behind her need to make such provocative pictures, but the answer would come later on.

I wrote about a security specialist with a harrowing past from his time in the British Army who looked a lot like David Gandy, and named him Ethan Blackstone.  I gave him a filthy mouth, but made sure he remained a gentleman.  An alpha male in a beautiful suit addicted to Djarum Blacks and obsessed with a girl he saw first in a photograph.

The story was instalove chocked full of cliches and tropes, but I loved it, and so did the few readers I had already reading my historicals.  It combined all of the elements I loved to read in a romance book, but was something I had created from inside my own head.  It took me three solid weeks to write, and then a couple weeks more to edit and prepare it for publishing with a cover, etc.  Naked was my first indie-published book.  Little did I know clicking that publish button would change my life in ways I could have never foreseen at the time.

But change things it did.

Within a week it was moving up the Amazon charts and hitting genre lists.  I can remember clearly the day I came down the stairs and told Mr. M that I was going to break 100 books sold that day and was dumbfounded as to why.  I just couldn’t believe people were reading about Ethan and Brynne and connecting so deeply with their story.  My blog hits had jumped from about 15 to 500+ visitors in a day.  Book blogs reviewed the book and began sharing it around social media.  Sales increased and the book hit the top 100, then top 50, then top 20.  Agents started emailing me asking things I knew nothing about.  I was just an elementary teacher from California who liked to write romance in her free time.  Selling enough books to make a living at my writing gig wasn’t even on my radar.  But exactly five months from the day I was inspired to write this very special story…is when it happened.  I became a full-time writer and started an exciting new chapter in my life.

And the rest, is history.

xo R

Naked for National Nude Day!

I’ve missed it by a day but oh well, July 14th is National Nude Day in the US.  That’s cool, but don’t count on me expressing any desires to actually be nude in celebration or anything, cuz that won’t be happening…ever.  The date is interesting though because one year ago, nearly to the day, something happened that changed my life.

The summer was going as it usually does, kids home all day, husband home with us (both teachers on summer vacation) and various summery activities going on around me.  So the third week of July 2012 comes and that is when the life-changing event happened.  My husband took our two sons away for a week at Boy Scout Camp.  I love that week every summer when they all go to Boy Scout Camp.  It’s my favorite.  I have precious solitude and know I’ll get a lot of writing done.  House stays clean.  I don’t have to cook anything unless I want to eat.  I can swim in my pool without children splashing around in there.  I get to stay up late watching HBO and Showtime without worry that a kid will see what I’m watching.  *all the shows I like to watch are inappropriate for children*  Basically, I am a very happy woman alone with my free time.

I got right to work with a manuscript that needed some attention.  I wrote during the day and then in the evening I combed over online stock photo sights and looked for images that could potentially go onto my book cover.  On the second night of my domestic freedom, I found an image that changed everything.

The picture that inspired me.

The picture that inspired me.

It was a beautiful picture of a naked woman posing in an unconventional way but so perfect everything just clicked into place all in an instant.  A serendipitous moment.  I thought about the picture and what it would be like to be a nude model and meet the man who bought your portrait.  My first indie published book was born in that moment with just the seed of an idea and a picture.  Naked, The Blackstone Affair Book 1 was that story.  I sat down and wrote the opening chapter right then and had to set aside the other manuscript I was working on.  I wrote like a fiend for three weeks until it was done.  I couldn’t stop writing and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  The whole idea and story pretty much took over my life for the rest of the summer.

I was scared to self-publish Naked, because I had only written books for one small press publisher and knew next to nothing about how to go off independently all on my own.  But I was blessed with the wise words and helpful encouragement from a dear friend and fellow author, Belinda Boring, who got me to press ‘publish’ on KDP back in August of 2012.  What happened next was a whirlwind-roller-coaster–ride-of-crazy that didn’t really stop until after the holidays.  The books became bestsellers, landed me my super agent, and eventually a traditional publishing contract with Atria Books.  It’s all a blur to me now.  A crazy, scary, unbelievable blur with Christmas decorations and those little chocolate bottles with liqueur inside, mixed in. True story.

Naked went on to make the New York Times and so did its sequels, All In and Eyes Wide Open. Nobody was more surprised than I was, and nobody could have told me then, that one year later I would be a full time writer going to book signings and conventions with lovely people standing in line to meet me.  The whole concept is still bewildering and I imagine it will stay that way to some degree for the rest of my life.

The book that resulted.

The book that resulted.

So back to my original idea for this post–National Nude Day.  It was a good day for me to reflect on what inspired me to even write the book that changed my life in the first place.  A beautiful nude image.  Never give up on your dreams, you never know where they can lead.  Look where a naked picture took me!!!


xxoo R