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Keeping secrets

Sara Kent, the main character in PERFECT SPECIMEN, has a secret.

Over the course of writing that book, I spent a ton of time thinking about that sensation. My own personal experience come mostly from keeping a good secret – something I’m dying to share because it’s so exciting, or cool, or funny.

A person with a good secret is bursting at the seams to tell someone. Almost giddy at times, right? And while I’ve heard about folks who get a nice, smug buzz from having one, I’m too weak for that. I just want to blab, blab, blab. And up until the moment I can do so, I’m frustrated but also tingling with excitement, and definitely energized.

But Sara Kent has a bad secret. One she doesn’t dare tell because it will endanger her and those she loves. I have to admit, I haven’t had to keep many bad secrets. And when I have, it’s only been for a short time – usually because whoever told it to me wants to be the one to share it with friends, family, etc.  So I just keep it to myself for a day or two, but those days can be so awful. So repressing.

So isolating.

In fact, that may be the defining quality of a bad secret. It isolates you, so that you feel horribly lonely, even in a crowded room.

And since Sara has had her secret since childhood, that loneliness defines her entire existence.  She cannot tell anyone, ever, that she is part of a cruel experiment being conducted by a genetic researcher from a distant world in another quadrant of our galaxy.  She learned early in life, when the scientist killed her father, that she mustn’t tell anyone. She must appear normal, healthy and happy to the outside world. If she cooperates, and passes all the psychological tests, she will accompany the geneticist back to his planet. If not, she and those she loves will be killed.

Even the experience of meeting an amazingly hot guy brings no joy. It’s all so hopeless, and the sooner she gets rid of him, the better. So that’s how the story opens – Sara is dumping Clay Ryerson. She picked him up in a bar as part of the experiment, and they agreed to keep it casual, but he’s getting too close, asking too many questions, so she needs to get rid of him, romantically speaking, before the alien does so literally.

She tells herself it will be a relief to break it off. It’s been difficult, being so intimate with him, yet so isolated at the same time due to her terrible secret.

But it turns out, Clay has a secret of his own – one of those energizing, euphoria-inducing good secrets. He’s in love. Ready to slay dragons for Sara.  But first, he has to convince her to tell him her bad secret. And if she won’t, he’ll figure it out on his own.

In other words, he’s going to get them both killed.

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