Nikki Tate, the hero in my latest novel, Overturned, is a poker playing risk taker. Mostly, the risks she takes are calculated. There’s a good chance things will work in her favor. At least, that’s what she tells herself. You’ll have to read the book to see how right she is (hint: not very). But, I can tell you, from where I sit, creating her felt like the biggest risk of all.
When people ask about the things that intimidated me when writing her, they tend to focus on gender. She’s a girl. I’m a guy. Was I nervous writing in a young women’s POV? Nope. All of my beta readers are women. My agent is a woman. My editor is a woman. I had great support there. What scared me more were the two very foreign worlds in which she exists: Las Vegas, and the realm of high-stakes poker.
Starting this project, I wasn’t familiar with either. My previous novels had been set in my home state of Virginia, and not even real Virginia cities. I made up cities in my own state so I wouldn’t have to worry about pesky things like accurate geography, and facts! Now, here I was, tackling one of the world’s most famous cities, and trying to accurately describe a super popular, highly technical game I’d only had passing knowledge of. Why, though? Why not make Nikki a Virginia girl who played “Call of Duty” (now you know where I get my gaming kicks)? Why not continue the pattern that had worked so well? Because the poker angle was too good to avoid. Because Vegas was too iconic to shelve. Because I was at the point in my career where if I didn’t go for the hard worthwhile thing—if I didn’t take the risk of stretching beyond my comfort zone — I probably never would.
So, I bet that I could find good sources, paint a compelling and accurate picture with words, and put Nikki through her paces in ways that would satisfy you, Dear Reader! Did it pay off? We’ll know soon enough. But, I’ll tell you this much…
I really like my chances.