Words – Interview with Author Kathy Kulig

Best Selling Author, Kathy Kulig
Best Selling Author, Kathy Kulig

Robin: Today I am interviewing best-selling author Kathy Kulig. Hi, Kathy, and welcome! I’m so glad to have you here.

Kathy: Hi Robin. Thanks so much for having me!

Robin: You write and are multi-published in erotic paranormal and contemporary romance. For those readers who don’t know, what makes a romance erotic as opposed to spicy?

Kathy: The level of heat in romance book varies and there is a gray area between erotic and spicy. Different authors and publishers may have different definitions. For me, erotic means no closed doors, no euphemisms, and the explicit emotional and physical interaction between the characters is all on the page. Erotic usually has more kink, more straightforward verbiage and more sex scenes. The premise in these stories tends to bring about a sexual relationship quickly between the characters. Most readers who read erotic books expect sex early and frequently. But the important thing is that erotic stories are not just a string of sex scenes with well detailed body parts and stage directions, they are well developed stories and fully developed characters. Sex should never be thrown in without it causing something to change in the story.

Robin: Very well stated, Kathy. I think people who are unfamiliar with the genre don’t realize this. Your stories run the gamut from futuristic steam punk to stories about demons and vampires to members of the CIA. Recently, however, you mentioned that your favorite storyline involved shape shifters. Do you want to talk a little about why?

Kathy: I guess you can say I’m a gypsy writer. I do write in a lot of different genres because I enjoy reading in them too. But I do love shifters and have written a number of them. A couple are out of print right now, but I plan to re-release them with a new series and new books. My other shapeshifter series is my Demons in Exile series. The shifters are based on a Norwegian myth where a person can don any animal skin and change into that animal for a time. There are four books (one short story prequel) in this series.

Robin: You’ve written a series involving political intrigue and a group of operatives who work within the political sphere to protect individuals and the country. How do you research that topic?Kulig.RedTape

Kathy: Red Tape, book 1 in my FLC Case Files series took a lot of time to research. It takes place partly in the White House and I had to get an idea on the layout and then embellish it with a dungeon, secret passages and rooms. I also researched military weapons, foreign governments, CIA, Secret Service and many other things. I managed to contact someone who is retired from the Navy and now works as a merchant marine.

Robin: A lot of work! How does the erotic nature of the tale fit into this type of story?

Kathy: Ha! That’s the fun part. In the story, the First Lady’s Club is a secret organization run by the First Lady that uses blackmail, coercion and undercover sex scandals to manipulate foreign and domestic policies and take down some really bad guys.

Robin: You’re quite accomplished as an author, with a number of novels and novellas under your belt. When can we expect your next book?

Kulig.HisLostMateKathy: Thank you, you’re a doll for saying so. I still have much to learn. I just released His Lost Mate—a paranormal romance—a couple of weeks ago and I plan to release Red Tape Protector, book 2 in my FLC Case File series. It will be out around mid-August.

Robin: You have been published by Ellora’s Cave and also self-published, including anthologies with other authors of erotica. How did these collaborations come about?

Kathy: I was really fortunate to get in on the Spice Box collection last year. That was my first step into self-publishing. Talking with other authors online and at conferences, letting them know I was interested in taking part in a box set helped that opportunity come about. AC James was organizing it and she asked me. An opening came up last minute and I had a book ready so I jumped on the invite. There were sixteen authors in this collection and many were heavy hitters in the romance genre. Their huge mailing lists and fan bases and everyone’s hard work during the release pushed the sales where we hit the New York Times and USA Today lists. I’m in a couple author groups now and we’re working on new collaborative projects into next year. I really like working on these projects. Collaborative groups are like mastermind groups. Authors pool their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. I’ve learned so much from these groups.

Robin: It seems that erotica is the underlying theme in all your stories, binding them together (excuse the pun) despite the varied settings and characters. Does having such a common theme make it easier for you to find inspiration for your tales, or more difficult to fit the theme into the setting?

Kathy: Some of my stories are hotter than others. My BDSM stories are probably the hottest and they’re pretty tame compared to some BDSM books I’ve read. All my books are very sexy, but they also have a detailed plot. Most have an adventure-type storyline and characters going through a major turning point in their lives. Those are the type of sexy stories I like to read and write. If I were to find a common theme in my books I’d say: The world may be coming to an end, but love will always find a way.

Robin: I love that! Great theme. You have been the interviewee in a number of interviews, eliciting reactions that are occasionally less than positive, almost personal in nature. How have you learned to handle such negativity?

Kathy: With a good sense of humor. Most erotic romance authors get the questions: Are your books autobiographical or have you done all the kinky sex in your books? Usually I answer with: Stephen King writes about serial killers. Would you ask him if he’s killed people to research his books?

Robin: You were also co-author on a non-fiction work, Write to Success, which is described as (taken from your website): Eight New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors share how to build a successful writing career. Write to Success covers all those frequently asked questions every new indie author wonders about self-publishing and has strategies for the advanced self-publisher. How did this come about? Can you tell me a little bit more about the book?Kulig.WritetoSuccess

Kathy: After the Spice Box set hit high on the NYT and USA Today lists, authors and new writers were asking us how we did it. So a number of the authors decided to get together and pool our expertise. This book gives a ton of information with lots of links to references. That reference/resource links page is worth the price of the book alone. We talk about the steps we took to make Spice Box a success. What we did right and not so right. The legal issues authors need to be aware of, as well as how to distribute royalties, cover, formatting, editing, coordinating, promotion, etc. There are also sections that are helpful to newer writers and those not pursuing self-publishing. I think it’s a very valuable reference book.

Robin: And, as I ask everyone, what are your plans for the future?

Kathy: I have a number of projects I’m working on now. I want to finish the FLC Case Files series and finish a four-book shapeshifter series. (Two of the four books are completed.) And I’m working on three box sets that will come out in the next year. Mainly keep writing and learning. I have met the most amazing people through my writing career—writers and readers—and many are my closest friends now.

Robin: Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. It’s been informative and I look forward to speaking with you again!

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Words – Interview with Author Karen Katchur

Karen Katchur
Karen Katchur

Robin: Today I am interviewing author Karen Katchur. Welcome, Karen. Nice to have you with me.

Karen: Hi Robin! Thanks for having me!

Robin: Your debut novel, The Secrets of Lake Road, is due out on August 4th from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Congratulations! I can’t wait to read it. How did it feel when you got the call from your agent that it had sold?

Karen: I was super happy, of course! I waited a long time for that phone call, and all the hard work I’d put in had finally paid off.

Robin: Would you mind sharing with me the process by which you found an agent? And a bit of the process from pitch to representation to publication?

Karen: It took me eight years to sign with an agent. There were many, many rejections along the way, but I kept writing and working on craft. Eventually, I started getting rejections with constructive feedback on my fourth novel. The best thing I did was to listen to that feedback. I worked on revisions for six months, and the day I was ready to query again I happened to get a copy of Writer’s Digest Magazine in the mail. Carly Watters was the featured agent in the Agent Spotlight. She had been on my radar for some time, so I queried her right away. From there, it happened quickly. She requested a partial and then the full manuscript. We talked on the phone, and I signed with her a few days later.

While Carly was busy pitching my novel, I was busy writing my next one. Somewhere in the process and after several rounds of revisions, I fell out of love with it. I couldn’t work on it anymore. We talked about it, and agreed it was time I put the second novel aside. Meanwhile, the first novel wasn’t selling (although we’re still hopeful). Again, we talked and decided to put the first novel aside, too. I didn’t let it deter me. I started writing my third novel, which happened to be, THE SECRETS OF LAKE ROAD. When it was completed, Carly pitched SECRETS. We had an offer within a week or two.

So it took me eight years to sign with an agent, and another two years to get an offer from a publishing house, a total of ten years to publication.

Robin: Tell me about the story. And by the way, I LOVE the cover.

Karen: Thank you! I love the cover too, although I had nothing to do it. It was all SecretsLakeRoadthe design team at Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. They did a fantastic job.

The story is a suspenseful women’s fiction about the destructive power of secrets. Below is the summary found in the inside jacket copy.

Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend’s drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For her daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. At twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother’s love and doesn’t understand why Jo keeps running away. Then seven-year-old Sara Starr goes missing from the community beach. Rescue workers fail to uncover any sign of her—but instead dredge up the bones Jo hoped would never be discovered, shattering the quiet lakeside community’s tranquility. Caroline was one of the last people to see Sara alive on the beach, and feels responsible for her disappearance. She takes it upon herself to figure out what happened to the little girl. As Caroline searches for Sara, she uncovers the secrets her mother has been hiding, unraveling the very foundation of everything she knows about herself and her family in this riveting novel that is impossible to put down and hard to forget.

asters_and_bluesRobin: You like to set your tales in the Pocono area. What is the reason for that? How and why does the area inspire you?

Karen: I grew up in the Poconos area with its lakes and rivers, streams and trails, and winding mountain roads. It’s got this great mix of beauty and danger, and it really makes for the perfect setting for the kinds of stories I want to tell, part women’s fiction and part mystery/suspense.

Robin: Are you working on your next book? What type of routine do you set yourself for writing?

Karen: I am busy writing the next book. When I’m writing the first draft, I have a 1000 word count a day, Monday through Friday, so 5000 words a week. I take the weekends off from writing to spend time with my family and to let things percolate. I find I need time away to think about the story and characters, or as I refer to it, recovery time. I get my best ideas away from the computer. I keep a notebook handy for each novel, so I can jot down the things I think of while I’m not at my computer.

Once the first draft is written, I take as long as I need to work on revisions, which is usually several more months where I do a lot of re-writing.

Robin: I know we’ve talked about other storylines you’ve come up with, and they’re always quite beyond the ordinary. Where do you get your ideas?

eveningalongthehosensack2TKaren: I tend to build my fiction around an event. The event can be of a personal nature or it can be from something I’ve read or heard about in the news or wherever. For SECRETS, it just happened to be from a personal experience. When I was nine or ten years old, a young teenage boy had drowned. I’d watched them drag the lake for several days until they’d finally pulled his body onto the beach. It was the first dead body I ever saw, and the tragedy of that day had stayed with me. The fear and helplessness I’d felt during that time was what I attempted to capture in Caroline’s character.

Robin: What do you plan or hope to write in the future?

Karen: I love writing what I do which has been called suspenseful women’s fiction, so I hope to keep on doing just that.

Robin: You have several book signings scheduled for the near future. Where and when?

Karen: Yes! Thank you for asking.

Book Launch on August 4th at 6 pm at Moravian Book Shop, Bethlehem, PA

August 6th at 7pm at Open Books Bookstore Elkins Park, PA

August 13th at 6pm at Let’s Play Books! Emmaus, PA.

Robin: I will definitely see you there. I want you to sign my copy of The Secrets of Lake Road! Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. Perhaps when you have a publication date for your next book we can get back together to talk about that one, too.

Karen: Of course! Thank you so much for having me, Robin! It was fun!

Words – Interview with Author Casey Hagen

Shadow Lake, the inspiration for Casey Hagen's latest work.
Shadow Lake, the inspiration for Casey Hagen’s latest work.

Robin:  Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing author Casey Hagen.  Hi, Casey! Nice to have you here.

Casey: Hi Robin! Thank you for having me here. I’m excited. This is officially my first interview!

Robin:  You are, I believe, as yet unpublished, but you write contemporary romance with a bit of suspense.  When did the writing bug first hit you?

Casey: I had a phenomenal English teacher who turned me on to banned books. I read Lolita and we had a one-on-one book discussion. I told him I was horrified by Humbert’s obsessive love for Dolores. He asked me, “Are you truly horrified by that or horrified that you feel for him despite who and what he ultimately is?” And he was right. I felt for Humbert despite the fact that what he was doing was so wrong. I hated reading. My teacher shifted my direction entirely. I earned my BA in English Literature and made up for all the reading I hadn’t done in high school.

Casey Hagen and her best friend
Casey Hagen and her best friend

When I graduated that teacher told me I should write a book of my own. He knew I liked edgy, controversial, and gritty and believed firmly that I should stick with what I love. I started plotting books with my best friend who was, and has always been an avid romance reader. We would record ourselves coming up with character ideas and scenes. Those cassette tapes lay buried in my closet for at least fifteen years before I dusted them off, struggled to find a cassette player to play them on, and listened to them again. At the time, I had never even read a romance novel, although when my former mother-in-law gave me Debbie Macomber’s This Matter of Marriage, I devoured it and became an avid romance reader ever since.

Robin:  What type of setting do you give most of your stories? Exotic? Small town? Big city?  Based on the name of the novel you mentioned to me, Sunset at Lake Crane, the story takes place at or near a lake. Do you have a specific affinity? Is the location based on somewhere familiar and/or important to you?

Casey: Sunset at Lake Crane is the first of three books I have planned for The Livingston Valley series. Just recently I decided to add a novella to the series that will come out last. It’s a small town setting and the hero lives on Lake Crane. Lake Crane is similar to a lake I loved to visit during my teen years. Every time I wrote, I pictured Shadow Lake in Glover, VT. Last summer, our family all met in Lake Ann, Michigan and that Lake Ann was a close second to Shadow Lake so it also served as inspiration.

Shadow Lake - pretty inspiring, huh?
Shadow Lake – pretty inspiring, huh?

Small towns come naturally to me. I grew up in small towns. I spent most of my time in Walden, Vermont going to one room school houses. Like Little House on the Prairie. Don’t laugh…I’m completely serious! Although, my settings aren’t quite that small, they are similar in size to the town where I attended high school. St. Johnsbury, Vermont has a population around 8000 so I like to stick to that size. It gives me a good frame of reference.

Casey's cover for her novella, Falling in Fiji
Casey’s cover for her novella, Falling in Fiji

I do have a completed novella I plan to release this fall also. It takes place both in a big city and an exotic location. The characters live in San Francisco, but end up taking a trip to Fiji together. That one required a ton of research since I based it on real places. Places I’ve never been to in real life to boot!

Robin:  Where does the suspense aspect come in?

Casey: In Sunset at Lake Crane, my heroine, Erynn is given an assignment to do an in depth interview on a wildly popular, mysterious writer. He writes under a pen name and no one has ever been able to find out a single detail about him. When she comes face to face with him she’s shocked to discover it’s none other than the man she walked away from eight years earlier…

She left, to protect him. Now that she’s forced to return, little clues crop up that lead her to believe whoever blackmailed her is still there and watching. The question is…who is it?

Robin: Where do you find your inspiration for your writing?

Casey: My friend and I used to talk about unlikely couples and how it would be possible to make those relationships work. In this case, I wanted to write a student/teacher romance that didn’t take the safe route of a college student and teacher.  I dance close to the taboo line without really crossing over it. Everything is perfectly legal, between two consenting adults. The issue is, they can’t prove that their relationship developed after graduation so that’s why she takes off.  She doesn’t want to risk his career.

Robin:  You shared with me the news you are pitching to an editor and to an agent at RWA in New York City this July.  How much time have you spent in front of a mirror honing your pitch? Are you nervous at all?

Casey: Ummmm, none. *Casey hangs her head in shame* I quite literally have not written my pitch, logline, synopsis…anything. I need to, but I’ve been so wrapped up in this book and getting it to my editor that everything else has been on the back burner. I’ve also encountered some personal challenges so it looks like the month of July will be for my pitch, *cough* impending panic, and tearing my hair out.  Am I nervous? Actually no. These pitching appointments are more for my practice and experience than about end results.

Robin:  I know you have a plan to self-publish if you are unable to find a home with a traditional or indie publisher.  What timeframe did you give yourself for that decision? What do you feel are the pros and cons of traditional and self-pub?

Casey: You know how to hit with the hard questions! With each passing day, I solidify my decision to self-publish. This is my story, and I plan to do it my way.

Casey's gorgeous cover for Sunset at Lake Crane
Casey’s gorgeous cover for Sunset at Lake Crane

As for a timeline, I want this book and stand-alone novella out by this fall. My goal is to have the rough draft of book two finished by the time I release book one so I can keep the momentum going.

Robin: I recently interviewed a singer/songwriter and asked him about his routine for creating, and he told me he often will write while doing household tasks, such as laundry.  I know I perform a lot of the mental creative process in my car, and then spend the evenings hunkered over my keyboard. How much time do you devote each day to your craft? Do you have a space set up for the sole purpose of writing, or do you type away with your laptop on the kitchen counter while you cook the evening meal?

Casey: First, I’m better at writing in the morning. Early morning. Before my kids can fill my head with a million different things they need me to do for them. I have to write with the TV on. I don’t watch it, but I hear the noise and that works for me. From 6am to 7am I listen to music on my computer as I get going. By 7am…I’m writing and listening to Parking Wars on A&E. At 8am I put it on Hallmark and listen to The Golden Girls. I know, I need help. After that it’s a series of court TV and Dr. Phil playing in the background.

Robin: Lol!

Casey: Those are my best days for writing. Of course, like most writers, I have to earn money too, so I own and operate my own residential cleaning business.  My husband has taken over dinner duties so I work right up until dinner and then after dinner, we all settle in the living room to watch our favorite shows together. I bring my laptop with me and keep it in my lap until we go to bed at night. It’s working for me for right now, but I’m getting my own office.

Ideas strike while I’m cleaning at customer’s houses, particularly during vacuuming. I don’t know what it is about vacuuming, but it’s very zen for me. I carry a small, leather bound notebook in my purse at all times. In one day I came up with three short story ideas and plotted them out, all during vacuuming.

Robin:  Are you currently working on another novel?

Casey: I am. I’m working on Nightfall at Hunter’s Ridge, which is the second story in The Livingston Valley series. In the first book, Erynn’s best friend Kat makes several appearances. Kyle, her love interest in the book is also in book one as sort of a surrogate brother to Erynn. Kyle has had a thing for Kat for quite some time, but she can’t stand him. He’s a cop and she hates cops.

Robin: When you picture the future of your writing career, what do you see?

Casey: I’m easy to please. My financial goal is to replace my cleaning income with writing income. I don’t clean that much so it really shouldn’t be too difficult after a few years. My husband views me as his retirement plan. I don’t like to get my hopes up to high so I’m not disappointed. He thinks I’m going to take off with this, he’s supportive like that!

I want to increase my output. I want to be able to put out four books a year. I don’t want to sacrifice quality to do it. If I can make that happen, I’ll be happy. I need to write. That’s what it all comes down to. If I can make some great friends, earn some fans, and continue to learn and grow, I’ll have achieved all of my goals.

Robin:  Well, thank you, Casey, for taking the time to speak with me.  Good luck at RWA. Let me know how everything works out!

Casey: Thank you so much for interviewing me! And for the well wishes at RWA…I’m going to need all the good mojo I can get since I’m working on my pitch, logline, and synopsis at the eleventh hour!

Peony Perfection

Perfect Bouquet
Perfect Bouquet

I’m a little behind in my blogging, but I thought I would share these two photos of lovely white blooms I brought indoors a couple of weeks back. Alas, the bountiful rain and hot, humid days have all but eliminated my peonies outdoors.

I didn't have a short vase, so I put the peonies in this glass canister and loved the effect.
I didn’t have a short vase, so I put the peonies in this glass canister and loved the effect.

Those flowers I placed in a green glass container were fairly ant-free and smelled heavenly, even after they had drooped and started losing their petals. I still have the unopened buds in a small vase for the scent alone. When fresh, they looked like the perfect bridal bouquet.

Friday Morning Visitors

Lizzie in her favorite spot for sleeping.
Lizzie in her favorite spot for sleeping.

The only pets I have at this point in time are cats. Five of them. And true to cat behavior, they occasionally wreak havoc in some fashion. Well, more than occasionally…and always in the wee hours of the morning, when I have important things I need to attend to…like sleep. Subsequent to this nocturnal kitty behavior, I spend my mornings bleary-eyed and catering to their needs before my own (well-trained human that I am), after which most—if not all—of my five cats promptly curl up somewhere and go to sleep.

A disconcerted Ziggy.
A disconcerted Ziggy.

Not so much this morning. The sated-with-food-time-to-ignore-you phase of their morning was interrupted by the sound of what I misinterpreted as little feet running across the roof. Up they jumped from their various degrees of slumber and began racing from window sill to window sill in search of the culprits.

Squirrels, I thought. I even went so far as to open the front door and yell, figuring any animal with half a brain would take flight at the sound of my voice. Sure, like my cats do (not). Apparently, I angered the squirrels and they began to stomp across what I had been assured seven years ago at installation were the very durable shingles of my new roof. I began to worry their aging durability was being put to the test, and went outside to shout again, until it occurred to me I was voicing my displeasure at a possibly bigger animal.

Dale, undisturbed.
Dale, undisturbed.
Bella ("Uh-oh, what the heck is THAT?")
Bella (“Uh-oh, what the heck is THAT?”)

I ducked back inside. The hunter instinct of my kitties (except the deaf one, who slept on undisturbed by the ruckus) shot to the fore, and they began an anxious chase from one side of the house to the other. By this time, I could hear the distinct noise of claws and what seemed to be the dancing of bears to and fro. The bears even went so far as to tumble against the metal chimney pipe, which reverberated through the house like a bell.

Stevie - the usual troublemaker.
Stevie – the usual troublemaker.

What the hey?

The beginning of the venue.
The beginning of the venue.

At this point, a dark shadow glided past the window. A very large, very dark shadow. When another swept past, I hurried in the direction it seemed to have gone and through the window spotted a vulture landing in the dead pine tree beside the driveway. He was not unaccompanied. A couple of his buddies had preceded him. They seemed quite content hanging out among the barren branches and, in the meantime, the bear party continued unabated on the rooftop.

Wait a minute. Wait a stinking minute.

I decided the time had come for a full-blown investigation. For one thing, I needed the cats to return to their somnolent state, since they’d worked themselves into such a frenzy I feared extreme havoc was in the offing. For another, I had a sneaking suspicion my visitors weren’t bears, after all.

The Committee of Vultures (you can't see most of them)
The Committee of Vultures (you can’t see most of them)

Marching outside, I found to my astonishment no less than fifteen—fifteen!—vultures cavorting across the roof of the house and the garage. Not sunning themselves as vultures sometimes do, but roughhousing like a bunch of—well, a bunch of cats. Needing proof, I started taking photos with my phone. Needing my head examined, I talked to them as well, addressing the venue as if they were, indeed, just a feathery brood of kittens. Apparently they liked it. One of the vultures on the garage roof came to the edge and cocked his head from side to side in great interest as I regaled him with a rambling monologue about his cuteness (yes, I did call him cute—did I mention I was bleary-eyed and addled thanks to the nighttime antics of my cats?)

He seemed to like what I was saying...but who knows?
He seemed to like what I was saying…but who knows?

Dismissing what one might consider the creepiness of more than a dozen carrion eaters arrayed across my domicile, I reveled instead in the never-ceasing wonder that is Nature. Even so, as I climbed into my car and pulled away from the committee hanging out on the roof, I did a quick check of my pulse. Just in case.

~Robin

 

Words – Interview with Author Kelly Jensen

Chaos Station, by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke
Chaos Station, by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke

Robin: Today I am interviewing author Kelly Jensen. Welcome, Kelly. It’s nice to have you.

Kelly: Thank you for having me!

Robin: When I write, I use my own name for sweet to sensual romance and the pen name Celia Ashley for the spicier variety. Do you use a pen name?

Kelly: Not at the moment. I write under my own name. When my co-writer (Jenn Burke) and I submitted CHAOS STATION, the first male/male manuscript for both of us, I considered using a pen name simply to separate the book from what I already had published. I’d heard so much about author branding, I thought I should use one name for male/female romance and one for m/m. But I loved CHAOS STATION so much, I wanted my name on the cover. Same went for my co-writer. Also, I only had one previously published title, so it wasn’t as if I already had a brand. 😀

Now that I have four m/m titles listed under my name (with two more to come in June!), I may rethink the pen name if I ever get around to publishing more m/f. It won’t be anything wild, though, and I’d like to have a clear connection to both names, with works by both represented on the one site.

Robin: That makes sense. I know a lot of authors have their pen names as separate tabs on their website menu and gain crossover readership that way. Now, your career writing romance began relatively recently, but you have spent more than a decade reviewing video games. Your first romance, LESS THAN PERFECT, is set in a post-apocalyptic America. Can we assume the setting was influenced by your gaming experience, or is this backdrop something that has always inspired you in your writing, separate and apart from the worlds of video games?

Less Than Perfect by Kelly Jensen
Less Than Perfect by Kelly Jensen

Kelly: I always dreamed of writing science fiction. I read a lot of it, and I love the idea of imagining our future. Tuck a love story in there somewhere and I’m a very happy reader. So when it came to writing my own stories, there is always an element of romance. But science fiction, particularly post-apocalyptic settings, is my first love.

I get some of it from gaming—the Fallout series is one of my favourites, and don’t get me started on the subject of Mass Effect (which is more impending apocalypse, on an inter-galactic scale) or we’ll be here forever. My obsession with post-apocalyptic environments originally stems from fiction, though. As a teenager I devoured books like Earth Abides, Day of the Triffids and Footfall. I could list a hundred books and tell you how each one influenced me, but it’s really a theme in general: new beginnings. To me, that’s what science fiction is all about, whether it’s post-apocalyptic, dystopian or optimistic. It’s us doing something new.

Lonely Shore by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke - Book #2 of the Chaos Station series
Lonely Shore by Kelly Jensen and Jenn Burke – Book #2 of the Chaos Station series

Robin: What made you switch from male-female to male-male romance? Was it based on the story you needed to tell, or…?

Kelly: I have other male/female WIPs and I intend to write more of it—with romance as the focus and with romance as an element. Jenn and I have written a fantasy novel together that has a male/female romance tucked into a tale of swords and sorcery. But when considering this project, we really wanted to write two men because there aren’t a lot of stories out there combining science fiction and male/male romance. Essentially, we wrote something we’d like to read. The setting lent itself beautifully to being able to explore a same sex romance without having to consider the constraints of a contemporary romance as well. There is very little prejudice in our world (which is set two hundred years in the future), and being who you are is more important than who you sleep with.

Robin: Do you think you will always write science fiction, or would you consider a different sub-genre?

Kelly: I read really widely, so I’d like to write widely too. I’ve written science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary at this point. I’d also like to try something historical—even though I’m sure the research would kill me—and perhaps even a mystery or suspense. Jenn and I are also fleshing out a light paranormal world.

Robin: On your website, I saw that you and your co-writer for CHAOS STATION, Jenn Burke, are best friends, but does that make the process of writing easier or more difficult? Would you tell me a bit about how your method of co-writing works?

Kelly: I think it makes it both easier and more difficult!

The first thing that applies to co-writing of any sort is you have to check your ego at the door. You’re not going to love every word your co-writer puts down and she’s not going to love every single one of yours. It’s definitely good if you like most of them, though. 😉 Thing is, it’s not a solo project, so you have to learn to compromise, and not to get your knickers in a knot while doing so. Sometimes that’s hard. None of us likes to hear criticism. Thankfully, Jenn and I have the sort of relationship where, for the most part, we can say: “This scene isn’t working for me and here’s why.” Sometimes we’re not that tactful. But we both love these characters and this world. We wrote the story arc together, we built the world together. We’re equally invested in making the series work. So we’re invested in making it work together.

Our method is fairly simple. Both of us write from the point of view of a single character—one of the two “heroes” or “main characters”. We share a third point of view character, taking on writing his scenes when we have a feel for what needs to be accomplished in that scene. When we wrote our first novel together—the fantasy one—we spent a lot of time sending the file back and forth with questions like: “What would your character do here?” A few chapters in, we gained enough confidence writing one another’s characters that we were able to complete an entire scene or chapter without asking for specific direction. Of course, if she has one of my guys making a gesture I don’t think fits, I can change it, and vice versa. Sometimes it’s a word choice. Usually simple things. We’ve been writing together for so long, though, that we know the personality and quirks of every character.

Nuts and bolts—we use One Drive. Sometimes we’ll work in a file together, at the same time. More usually, one of us will write a scene/chapter, then sit back and wait for the other person to write the next scene/chapter. We’ll alternate like that until the book is done. Then we edit the entire book together, leaving one another comments and suggestions.

Robin: Do you have other books planned together? Do you have other books planned on your own?

Kelly: We have so many books planned together. Honestly, we’re going to have to live to be 150 to write them all. We really enjoy world building and writing together, though, and our voices and style are very complimentary.

I also have a number of solo projects that I plan to fit in between the series I’m writing with Jenn. They range from short stories, which I love to write, to complete novels across a few different sub-genres.

Robin: The publishing world has changed so much since my first release (too many years ago to mention, lol). There are so many opportunities for writers now, though conversely, more struggles, too. It’s often difficult to know which path to choose. Are you published via small pub, self-pub, NY pub, or a combination thereof?

Kelly: Small pub. I have titles with Entangled Publishing, Carina Press and Dreamspinner Press. I’ve enjoyed working with all three, and feel small press is a great fit for me. There is more individual attention, and you have the opportunity to really connect with your editor. Small presses also have a strong cadre of loyal fans who eagerly await each new release, which helps with promotion.

Robin: Great to hear! CHAOS STATION was, I believe, released by Carina Press in March of this year. Is there a particular reason you write for each of the three houses? Was it a matter of what the editors at each were looking for at the time you were seeking publication, or something else?

Kelly: We specifically chose Carina Press for the Chaos Station series and were delighted when they opted to contract all five books. We chose them based on their catalog of offerings, which included a good number of both male/male romance and science fiction romance titles.

My submission to Entangled was in response to a call for geeky girl stories. Same with Dreamspinner—my story there was for an anthology call. I would consider both publishers again if I write more short fiction.

Robin: Do you have an upcoming release?

Kelly: I have several!

5/25/15 – LONELY SHORE (Chaos Station, #2) – co-written with Jenn Burke (M/M SFR) 6/1/15 – NEVER TOO LATE (A Daily Dose Anthology) (M/M Contemporary Romance) 6/1/15 – OUT IN THE BLUE (A Never Too Late Story) – My contribution to the anthology also releases individually on the same day June-July – WRONG DIRECTION – I don’t have a firm date for the release of this novella. (M/M NA Contemporary Romance) 10/5/15 – SKIP TRACE (Chaos Station, #3) – co-written with Jenn Burke (M/M SFR)

Robin: That’s an impressive amount of work! Thank you, Kelly for taking the time out from your writing to speak with me. I wish you all the best!

Kelly: Thank you for taking the time to chat. Writers love to talk about their work (as you may know). I hope we have the opportunity to talk again—about your work!

Robin: Thanks, Kelly. I’m sure we will be talking again!