My research got into what are the dynamics of cult beliefs? What separates it from religions that might have funny beliefs (to some people) but don't brainwash? There have been many highly successful people who joined cults. It offers them something they aren't finding elsewhere. In this story neither my hero nor heroine are in the cult; thus are looking at it from the outside.
Having had a personal period of time in religion-- two versions of Christianity, I had some life experiences to bring to this story, but basically it's not about religion as such. It's about those who run cults to manipulate and use mind techniques to control their members.
The added appeal of this book was having my hero have a Navajo mother, who he didn't know very well. My interest there was to have a character with something in his DNA, not his upbringing but was it still calling to him? How important is our DNA to our identity?
To have my hero be a successful builder/architect let me explore how buildings can influence the dynamics of groups and how we see things. Having been a sculptor, an interest in geomancy worked right into this story.
Having a heroine be a photojournalist gave me a chance to use my interest in photography. I like writing about career women and especially when I can give them something to do that I know a bit about. She has a pal who is also a photographer. A secondary character gets her own romance in 'Her Dark Angel' that comes two years later. Her husband was murdered in this one.
Again I set the book in Portland, down the valley out of Roseburg and up the Umpqua River. Setting is always a consideration for where a story should be and makes for part of the fun of writing.
Snippet from Hidden Pearl:
"Hey Chris," the tall, balding man said as he pulled open the door. "I wondered when you'd be back." When he looked behind her and saw S.T. his homely face broke into a broad grin. "Who's your friend? Hey, I already know you. Glad to meet you in the flesh so to speak." Brannigan struck out his hand.“We met before?” S.T. asked taking Hank’s hand for a firm shake.“In the photos Chris took. Beautiful shots." He tilted his head, studying S.T.'s face, then scanning down his body. "I wouldn’t mind shooting some studies of you myself. Gratis, of course."Before S.T. could get past his surprise, Christine said, "You do remember I told you he doesn't take kindly to cameras? Where’s Jerry?""He’s out but should be back.” He glanced at his wrist watch. “In an hour or so. Why don’t you like having your picture taken? With a face like that, you owe it to the world." Hank barely seemed to blink as he studied S.T.’s face. "All those sharp bones and angles. I don't suppose you'd let me photograph you in buckskin maybe with a feather.""You've got to be joking," S.T. shot back.Hank laughed. “I do? Chris told me about you and the camera. Just like to joke around a little… Of course, if you’re open to no clothes on a river bank, I’m your guy. Anybody ever catch you buck naked?”“Not with a camera." S.T began to recognize Hank's offbeat sense of humor and found at least a modicum of appreciation for it. He gave Christine a telling look. "At least I don't think so." She smiled innocently and said nothing."So what'd you do to your ankle?" Hank asked."Wrenched it," S.T. said."Or broke it," Christine put in. "He won't go to a doctor.""Want me to look at it?""You a doctor as well as photographer?" S.T. asked. "Or do you just like looking at-- swollen flesh?"Hank laughed loudly. "I was a medic in 'nam. Did a lot of quick patch-ups. Come on back to my kitchen. I'll take a look." Hank led the way down a narrow corridor to his private quarters, then glanced back. "You think about that modeling thing though. You could make good money at it."