In The Spotlight ~ Author Sloane Kennedy ~ (Giveaway)
Hi Sloane and welcome to Bayou Book Junkie as our Author Of The Month! We’re so happy to have you here today and excited to be chatting to you about life, your plans and what we can expect to see from you in 2017 and beyond.
For those who aren’t in the know *sniggers, as if that’s possible*, Sloane is the author of 21 tales to date, 4 of which are MF romances – before she discovered the better, hotter, sexier side of romance – gay romance, lol! Sloane is US-based, lives with numerous friends of the fur-and-feather variety and may also have an army of little helpers and exist on very little sleep, if any, because the rate at which she writes is phenomenal. Not that we’re complaining.
Anyway, that’s enough of an intro, so let’s pass the mic to Sloane.
BBJ: So, did I cover it all in the intro, or are there some little things you’d like to share with readers and fans – go on, you know you want to. 😀
SK: Gosh, I wish my life was more exciting so I did have something more to share. I’ve got a pretty routine kind of life. Days are spent writing, nights are spent in front of the TV or curled up with a book and weekends are about catching up with errands and family. I’m definitely a homebody and I like my routines (to the annoyance of my family – someone once compared me to Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory!).
BBJ: We have it on good authority that you’d written for years and years before deciding to take the plunge and press publish - what made you realise that the time was right? And, please, tell us about your early works and your audience.
SK: I used to write stories when I was in high school, but they were all for myself and they all had that knight-in-shining-armour theme going on. Even back then I used to read a lot of romances so the need to write my own was just a natural evolution, I guess. As I got older, I started writing screenplays because I absolutely love movies and dreamed of a career in Hollywood as a writer.
I actually managed to win a small screenwriting contest with a screenplay that would later inspire The Escort Series, specifically Shane and Savannah’s story. I also wrote my first novel, Letting Go, around that time, but had absolutely no intention of publishing it, especially since self-publishing wasn’t even a thing back then and I knew I didn’t have the talent to have anything professionally published. So my audience was just myself and my stories and screenplays got stashed in a big plastic bin in my garage when I had to grow up and get a real job.
Two years ago, I stumbled on a link on Amazon about self-publishing. I was struggling financially and thought that even a few bucks a month would help pay some bills so I pulled Letting Go out of that bin, updated it and tossed it up on Amazon. And the rest as they say, is history.
BBJ: Sloane, would you tell us a little about how life is settling down in the US, following the inauguration? Do you feel/see that the LGBTQIA community has banded together?
SK: I won’t lie, the election results had a huge effect on me. I try to avoid political conversations on my social media accounts because all it does is fuel angry discussions between opposing sides. But on that day and in the days that followed, all I could think about was, How did this happen? To me, the man that so many in this country chose to put into office is a bad man, plain and simple. Period. Full Stop.
I can’t understand how someone who lies and preaches hate has been entrusted with running this great country of ours and representing us on the world stage. It’s an ugly reminder that there are still a lot of people in this country who feel the same way – who don’t want equality for all and who hide behind things like religion to excuse their archaic values.
I think we are just now starting to see the LGBTQIA community being impacted and it remains to be seen how we fight back (and yes, I do consider myself a part of the community even though I am a straight woman). Honestly, this is new territory for me so I will be looking to others to see how I can best lend my support. I’m hopeful that we will be able to come together and not let the Trump administration undo everything the LGBTQIA community has spent so many years fighting for.
BBJ: Please describe your typical writing day and the army of furry helpers I’ve seen around.
SK: I have a weird sleeping schedule so I end up sleeping until about 10am. First thing I have to do is give my chickens, Sunny and Blossom their morning treats and let them out of their coop. Let me tell you, this is not fun when it’s 10 below outside and there’s ankle deep snow to wade through!
After that, it’s coffee time, which for me is usually a homemade iced caramel latte. Then it’s upstairs to my office which is attached to my bedroom. I end up walking past my bed full of dogs and cats. I spend a bit of time on emails and social media, then I dig into writing. Some days I only manage a thousand words. Other days I can work for ten hours and write ten thousand words. It all varies depending on where I’m at with the story and if I’m really “feeling” it or not. I don’t write with an outline so it’s kind a fly by the seat of your pants kind of thing. In some ways I think that really helps me, in other ways it can be a detriment. But I have to go with what works for me and, so far, it has most definitely worked for me.
I’m usually done writing by dinner time and then I try to relax either by watching TV or reading. My little 4-legged army of helpers’ contribution is to force me to walk away from my computer long enough to let them outside or to feed them or, in the case of the cats, to sit on my lap or my keyboard, usually while I’m in the midst of writing a steamy sex scene.
BBJ: And, what’s this we keep hearing about Dom and Logan ‘ruling’? Are they perhaps your fave MM couple? You can confess; we won’t tell the others…this is the tale that started your venture into gay romance, right? You never forget your first, eh?
SK: LOL. I don’t think I’ve ever used the term “ruling” though I have a very lovely friend who does like to insert that little statement wherever she can (😉).
What can I say about Logan and Dom? I was actually reading through Shane’s Fall the other day as I was formatting it to be part of my bundle of books and came across scenes with Dom and Sylvie when they are first introduced to one of Logan’s best friends, Shane. In those early scenes, there was no plan to hook Dom up with Logan – my goal was just to introduce a lovely couple as secondary characters who would eventually be forgotten. But when it came time to start thinking about what kind of woman to hook Logan up with, Dom was there, whispering in my ear that I’d already found Logan’s perfect other half. Yes, it meant killing off the lovely Sylvie, but when your characters are telling you something, you have to listen.
Are they my favourite couple? Most definitely. Because they literally changed my life. And because they inspire me to want the kind of love they have between them. Even though Logan’s Need is not my strongest book in terms of the quality of writing, their story captures everything I believe about real love. So yes, Logan and Dom really do rule and I suspect they will long after I’ve written “The End” for the very last time!
SK: The only outing I have planned for 2017 is GRL in Denver. My hope is to visit the UK in 2018 for a signing, but we will have to see how it goes. I’m humbled by how many readers I have all over the world and it would be amazing to get out and meet them in person if I can work out the logistics.
BBJ: Would you please be so kind to tell us about your writing schedule for 2017 and perhaps even hint at what’s in store for 2018?
SK: I have several books planned for the rest of the year, most of them Protectors books. Here’s the tentative schedule:
Redemption (Phoenix and Levi) – May 2017
TBD (Vincent and Nathan) – Summer 2017
TBD (Jace and Caleb) – Summer 2017
TBD (Aleks and Vaughn) – Fall 2017
Forgotten (Remy and TBD) – Winter 2017 (this book will be the first in a spin-off series called “The Four”)
I’m also hoping to try my hand at a standalone M/M/M/M story at some point this year. For 2018, there will be more books from the spin-off series and of course, more Protectors books. I might also try some more standalones that explore lighter themes, but not really sure yet.
BBJ: So, we got to see Logan and Dom’s wedding in a connected novel – could you tell us what their first dance as a married couple was to, and why? Was there particular significance to that song for them, and for you?
SK: I feel terrible about this, but I actually didn’t give it any thought when I was writing that scene. Maybe because it was from a different character’s perspective, not sure. I rarely tend to think about auditory things when I’m thinking about a scene. One of the only scenes that comes to mind where I do mention a specific song was in Freeing Zane when Connor is dancing in his kitchen to a Taylor Swift song (while Zane watches). I’m currently in the process of having my books turned into audiobooks and it’s been really challenging to find actual voices for my narrator to use as models because when I hear my guys in my head, I don’t associate specific voices with them.
I will definitely have to think about what song Dom and Logan would have liked for their wedding…maybe I’ll need to make it up to them by writing a short story about their big day!
BBJ: You’ve made no secret that your tales touch on topics that some might find hard to deal with, and I’ve seen responses from fans telling you how much your tales resonated with them and made them feel. Can you tell us how that impacts on you, knowing that you’ve affected lives in such a positive way?
SK: It’s an incredible thing, but also very surreal. I still struggle to even acknowledge how many people read my books, so to accept that the words I’ve put on paper have actually changed lives is sometimes challenging. But the proof is there in the emails and messages I get.
What I really like is that these comments come from people of all walks of life. Despite writing romance between two (or sometimes three) men, I will get messages from men and women alike, gay and straight. Sometimes the messages are about someone gaining awareness, sometimes they are about the individual finding the validation they needed in accepting their sexuality, sometimes the feedback has nothing to do with sexuality at all. Each and every message is resounding and impactful and makes me strive to continue to be true to the stories I write.
More importantly though, it reminds me that there are real people who’ve lived the stories I write. I’ve had moments of self-doubt where I was worried I was exploiting certain topics, but having received some of the feedback I’ve gotten, I now know that writing about those dark topics really does help people. I make sure to include trigger warnings in my books and blurbs to make sure readers know what to expect since I am well aware of the impact different triggers can have for different people.
BBJ: Ahem…a little delicate, perhaps…but we feel that in the interests of BBJ readers, we simply must ask you about all the talk of licking and butt-touching that we see mentioned on your Fb page. Would you care to tell us where that came from and why? 😉 😉
SK: LOL. Well, I’m blessed with amazing friends who’ve gotten me through a lot in the past year. One of those friends happens to have a quirky sense of humor and somewhere along the way, she decided when she met me in person for the first time, she was going to do a bit more than just the obligatory hug. Somehow that evolved into talk of all sorts of groping and licking (in a platonic way, she assures me).
This friend, who has been dubbed Pita (aka “Pain in the a$#”) is as stubborn as me so we often take what we like to call our epic battles online (we’ve fought about everything from who has the better cookies to the nastiness that is vegemite). My Pita has taken it a step further and has somehow managed to start a little revolution among my readers. So now I have several people (ladies, you know who you are) who not only encourage the Pita, but whom I also expect will be getting in an extra squeeze if and when they meet me for the first time.
It’s all in good fun and I think people get a laugh out of it. By the way, I ALWAYS win our arguments and the result is the Pita owing me an apology poem that she has to post online…she’s actually quite good at them. Then again, she should be after having had to write so many of them!
BBJ: Can you tell us a little about the best pieces of fan mail you’ve received. And, how varied is your readership, Sloane?
SK: I’ve been really lucky to get fan mail from all over the world. Some are from straight women who’ve never tried M/M before, but have gotten hooked after reading my books, while others are from gay or bi men who share stories with me about the challenges they’ve faced in their own lives about accepting their sexuality and sharing that with their family and friends. I’ve had other people who’ve felt connections to my characters based on some of the topics I write about (including abuse and depression). Most messages are very touching and inspiring. I’ve been fortunate enough not to get any kind of hate mail yet, but I do occasionally get comments with just a little too much TMI (too much information) - like details about the physical reactions my sex scenes inspire in some people. LOL.
BBJ: And Sloane, on a scale of 1-10, how much of a romantic are you?
SK: I’m a 10 for sure…probably more. I haven’t been fortunate enough to find much romance in my own life, so I live vicariously through my own characters as well as through the characters of other authors. I suppose some of my notions about romance are a little bit idealistic, but I figure it doesn’t really hurt to dream that life mirrors fiction when it comes to true love.
BBJ: Which of your tales would you say is most popular with readers and why?
SK: Wow, that’s really hard to answer. I’ve had contests in my fan group asking people to list their favourite couple or threesome and the answers are incredibly varied. I think Logan’s Need is right up there because that is how many people found me and Dom and Logan’s tale made it possible for me to start crossing my series over with one another, a move that seems to be wildly popular (if not a little bit confusing for readers new to my work). Forsaken, Retribution and Atonement are probably the favorites of the Protectors series. My M/M/M books are also pretty popular since people seem to like how I portray three men in a relationship.
BBJ: Quite a few of your books could be considered GFY or OFY, is there a particular reason why this theme seems to appeal to you?
SK: I actually didn’t know this was a “thing” when I was writing Logan’s Need which was my first M/M story. I think I like the appeal of a character being forced to explore a new side of him or herself and accepting that we don’t all fit into neat little boxes. I think a really good romance is based on overcoming obstacles and what bigger obstacle is there than the preconceived notion that we’re only supposed to love people from a subset of the population?
BBJ: Same with the ménage theme, many authors have written MMM books but I've noticed with yours that they just feel so natural. Is there anything in particular that has lead you to write so many MMM books?
SK: It’s funny because I don’t actually give it much thought as I’m thinking about the next book in a series. For 2017, I wrote Finding Hope early on in the year, but it wasn’t until a reader asked me about my next M/M/M book that I realized I don’t have another one planned, even though I have the books I want to write for the rest of the year mapped out already.
I was inspired to try my hand at writing M/M/M after reading Riley Hart’s Broken Pieces many years ago. The emotion and seamless way Ms. Hart brought the three men together just did something to me that I can’t explain…that book was the reason I decided to try my hand at writing (in addition to wanting to make a few bucks). I wanted to capture that intense level of emotion. My second gay romance was also my first attempt at M/M/M and I was hooked from that moment on. Trying to find that balance between three men with each being an equal in the relationship is just really exciting. But it isn’t something that can be forced either. A lot of things have to come together to make it work.
BBJ: How do you come up with characters that balance each other out so well?
SK: I guess I’m just really lucky that it’s something that comes naturally for me. The majority of my books have the dominant character as well as the more submissive character. But I make sure that the submissive character isn’t some weak person who needs saving. Yes, there is that aspect to it, but in a lot of my books, the physically weaker character often has to be the emotionally stronger of the two.
So I take that approach whenever I start a new book. Yes, I like the hero that swoops in to save/protect the guy or girl, but I try to take it a step further so that they are saving each other. I also try to mix it up so that not every character fills the same exact mold. Take Atonement for example – in that story, you had two alpha type men who were used to being in control and who were capable of taking caring of themselves. Yet, they were both stronger together.
BBJ: Abuse is a topic you seem to talk quite a bit about in your books, whether they are MF or MM. What led to such dark yet important themes in your stories?
SK: I think one of the things I most admire about people is their strength – something I didn’t have for a really long time when I was younger. I’ve been fortunate in that I was never sexually or physically abused, but I did struggle with some emotional abuse growing up. It left me feeling weak and helpless and I turned that pain against myself.
Writing became my way of speaking out – of standing up for myself even when I couldn’t in the real world. I wanted to be stronger than I was so I think that is why I gravitated towards characters who had to overcome something major to find happiness. I got to express some of the emotions I couldn’t vocalize. So by writing about darkness, I started to overcome my own.
BBJ: If you were trapped on a deserted island and could have just one of your characters there with you who would you choose and why?
SK: It would be a toss-up between Dante from Atonement and Hawke from Retribution. Hawke has the cool, calm thing going on and I know he’d be great in any kind of survival situation, but Dante’s humor would make things a whole lot easier!
BBJ: Have you ever considered writing books in other genres like paranormal, sports, historical or romantic comedy? I personally would love to see what you could do with a shifter story or a motorcycle club romance.
SK: I haven’t given it much thought. I think for something like paranormal, you have to have a certain level of imagination for things like world building, which I just don’t have. Same with the motorcycle thing…I’ve read a few of these and the terminology alone would be a challenge to try and learn. I’m not a huge fan of sports or historical romances and I don’t have the talent to pull off humor (I did okay with Dante in Atonement, but it was nerve-racking to try to come up with the more humorous sections of that book).
But I’ve also learned to never say never. I never thought I’d write stories that included kids because I didn’t think I could write children very well, but look at how great Matty from Retribution turned out.
I’m also open to the idea of maybe co-authoring a book with an author who can tackle some of the other genres. Perhaps we’d find a way to balance our strengths to come up with some really interesting stories.
BBJ: You recently told your family that you write gay romance specifically. Why was it important for you to do this and what was their reactions?
SK: I told them because it felt like by not telling them or by dancing around the topic, I was ashamed of it, which I’m not. My sister had already known and she was very open to it when I first told her. She admitted that it wasn’t something she understood (she isn’t a big romance reader in the first place) but she was totally fine with it and incredibly excited for me. She often reads my reviews and helps me with my swag (she’s very creative). She even helps me brainstorm on occasion.
I told my parents a few weeks ago. My father seemed to already know since he knew my pen name and had likely looked on my website at some point. They were both very open and understanding…not at all what I expected. It felt great. I even told my banker last week when I was opening a new account and he asked what kind of books I write. There’s always that moment where you wonder if you’re going to run into someone who’s going to be a jerk about it, but I figured those are the people I don’t want to be around so better to know the truth. The banker was really cool about it and asked questions – gives me hope that acceptance and tolerance are definitely starting to outweigh hatred and bigotry.
BBJ: Finally, the quick-fire round:
What’s your favourite food and drink? I love sweets like cookies and cake. Favorite drinks are espresso drinks like lattes and frappucinos.
What’s your star-sign and how typical of it are you? I’m a Taurus. I think there are some characteristics that match up like looking for stability in life, being relaxed, deliberate and committed. However, unlike a Taurus apparently, I am pretty quick to make decisions. It took me less than two days to make the decision to quit my well-paying job to pursue a full-time writing career. While many of my spontaneous decisions haven’t paid off, that one most certainly did!
What’s the most attractive trait in a person? I like people who are “real” – who are not afraid to be themselves. I’m very drawn to emotionally strong people.
What’s your favourite kind of novel to read? Do you even have to ask? Gay romance for sure…I tried going back to read some of my favourite M/F authors after I made the switch, but it was impossible. It’s exclusively man on man action for me at this point!
Describe yourself in 3 words: Resilient, Soft-hearted, Loyal
Thank you for visiting, Sloane. We hope you had fun and wish you all the very best for many more books in your future. Now, please rush off home and get busy again, lol!
SK: Thank you so much for having me! I truly appreciate the support.
PS. Logan's Need is free for three days, starting on Friday, April 14, so don't miss out on this fabulous deal and read where it all started with Logan and Dom!
PS. Logan's Need is free for three days, starting on Friday, April 14, so don't miss out on this fabulous deal and read where it all started with Logan and Dom!