As I mentioned in the origin story for Aftercare, I have a gay male Muslim friend (and beta reader) who was the inspiration for Aayan. Not the literal inspiration for Aayan—he’s nothing like Aayan—but the inspiration for writing a Muslim character.
As we writers do, I spent a considerable amount of time finding the perfect name for Aayan. It had to be dashing, unique, worthy of a hero and a Dom. But his brother? I slapped the first name I thought of on him. Working in IT, I frequently had co-workers from the Middle East, and Syed is like John there. I knew a dozen Syeds.
But when I joked about Syed’s non-glamorous name to my friend, he admitted he’d always found the name Syed particularly sexy. A Dom named Syed? Ooh la la. He wanted to see that story.
I hadn’t been planning on a Syed sequel, but I had this Dashiell character who’d shown up on a date with Garrett, and since I didn’t have any other use for him, I brought him back onstage and gave him a little crush. Still, I no real intention of following through. I was placating my friend, nothing more.
Then readers started complaining about not getting resolution for Jamie’s murder. See, I was writing a courtroom drama. The story ends when the client is found not guilty. Lawyers don’t solve crimes. I didn’t even know who’d killed Jamie. It was a hate crime—that seemed obvious—but I try to write about the upside of being gay and leave explorations of homophobia to #ownvoices.
But I could only stave it off so long. In the end, the readers (and my friend) got what they wanted: a sexy Dom named Syed and to see Jamie’s murderer brought to justice.