SPECIAL INTERVIEW WITH SHANNON MCKENNA
Bestselling author Shannon McKenna is known for her scorching contemporary romances. Her unique blend of danger, nefarious villains and hot-blooded alpha heroes have certainly made readers take notice. Plus her steamy scenes keep loyal fans buying more!
But how does she makes her books sizzle every time? I couldn’t wait to ask!
And I’m thrilled to answer! Thank you so very much for having me! I love nothing better than to hold forth about my books and my characters, and hang out with people who will not consider me bonkers for doing so! Everyone on this blog is sure to get it.
1) Can you tell us how you began writing? Did you ever dream you would become such a successful writer?
I’d dreamed of it forever, but it wasn’t until I came to Italy that I started actually getting some traction. I read a bunch of books back then about unblocking creativity, most notably Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” and “Wild Mind” and Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way.” Those books really helped me cut through my own fears of writing total crap—which you have to be able to do, to be able to write at all! Then, slowly, you learn to pick the interesting bits out of the trash heap with a pair of tweezers, and start making stories out of those fragments. I’m so grateful that it worked out. What an awesome job—offering my daydreams to other people!
2) Sometimes I blush when I read your books –they are that intense! How do you keep your heroes so sexy? Where do you get your inspiration?
Oh, boy, there’s inspiration everywhere you look! (lots of handsome guys in Italy, cough cough.) I just try and fall in love with the character that I’m writing about, and if the magic works, the reader will fall in love with him, too. I am in love with so many fictional characters, I can’t even keep track of them all. If you’re intimate with someone, you’ve been invited inside his mind, his thoughts, and you see his struggles and his growth and all his secret fears and doubts, and how he overcomes them. How can you not fall in love? And in terms of the sexiness, it’s intimacy, realness, the sense of emotional intensity that makes it pop. I never even think about the sex—I try to figure out how the characters are feeling. The sexiness comes naturally.
3) Speaking of sexy, I feel the best sections of your books are reading the sexual tension between your characters. Do you ever feel embarrassed/shy especially when you started writing? Is it difficult to keep this intensity?
Not anymore! I have no shame! It was harder in the beginning. I had a very difficult time with the, er, um, ahhhh . . . words for certain intimate parts of the human anatomy. The clinical, anatomy book ones were totally not right for a sex scene, but the slang ones and the naughty ones made me flinch. They seemed too harsh, too porn. But I got over it, and learned to compromise. When I’m in the male POV, of a super tough guy with a really rough, hardscrabble background, I can use those words without flinching. But I very rarely use them from the female protagonist’s POV. It’s odd. It’s a delicate struggle and a difficult choice every time, and I know that I alienate some readers by choosing to write those words. I know. Because they write to me, and scold. It’s a shame, but hey. I can’t fall into the trap of second guessing myself, or the words will dry up altogether. It’s sometimes a challenge not to repeat myself, because there are only so many ways that you can describe the act of making love—but fortunately, there are a million different ways that you can feel about it, and that’s the aspect you have to focus on to make it seem bright and alive. In my opinion.
4) Thanks for explaining, That makes total sense! Actually, I have noticed many author seem to be trying to ‘out-do’ each other in the sex scenes. As books get racier, do you think there is a line authors shouldn’t cross or ‘warn' readers before they buy the book? What do you think of the influx of erotic books and e-books? Would you publish an e-book yourself?
In answer to the last question, all my books are currently in e-format—do you mean indie published? I am not sure what my future holds, but I rule nothing out. And I love writing erotic. It’s true, there is the tendency to try to “out-do” but I don’t think about what other people are writing all that much when I do love scenes. I just think about the characters themselves.
And I think that most writers and publishers make it clear, on the book jacket, the blurb, the cover, what you as a reader are getting yourself into. And if they don’t, they should. It’s only professional to clearly label the product so that it gets into the hands of the customer who will most fully enjoy it.
I have to admit, I’ve gotten more erotic now than I ever dreamed I’d be at the beginning of my career! I was gearing my love scenes to about the length, frequency and hotness of a Silhouette Desire or a Harlequin Temptation when I started writing, because those were the lines I was trying to sell manuscripts to. But I did a little of that trying to out-do myself business with the first couple of novellas, and then developed a taste for super-hot books. I read Fifty Shades, for instance, and then, just for giggles, compared it to some of my books, and proportionally speaking, my stuff was considerably more erotic. Page for page, there was just a lot more of it. Of course, I don’t do BDSM, so maybe it’s not as “out there,” but I think when I started years ago, my stuff was about as hot as anything out in the romance market. It just is no longer marketed as such. It’s marketed as romantic suspense.
I’m delighted that everybody is reading more erotic books and more indie published books! The more readers read, the happier writers are! It’s not a zero sum game--there’s room for everyone. Judging by my own humble self, and my own appetite for books, readers are voracious creatures who can never, ever be satisfied. I want to create more goodies, always more, more, more, and fling them out there to be devoured.
5) I love that many of your books are interrelated! The McCloud brothers are so fascinating and reading about them and their friends feels like ‘coming home.’ Will there ever be a holiday book concerning all of them? Could you write more?!
I hope I’m not going to upset you by saying this, but the McCloud Brothers series is being wrapped up! There’s Miles’s story, FATAL STRIKE, that comes out this September 24th, and then there’s Sveti’s story that I’m writing now, and that will be it. Eleven books, wow—you develop so much backstory, you start to stagger under its weight! This series developed organically, with characters that would come out of the woodwork and then become so interesting, I had no choice but to write a book about them. Knowing as I do how much I enjoy writing series, I think I would try to plan for shorter ones, quartets, quintets, six at the most. But we’ll see. The best laid plans. I have a bad habit of getting completely jerked around by my own books.
I love the McCloud brothers and all their friends and respective lovers with all my heart. Something about those characters really made me reach in deep, and give my best, so I’m proud of those books.
I have never even considered a holiday book—the McClouds to me are always associated with mortal struggle with demonic bad guys and desperate races against time. Holidays are a whole different kind of stress! (Although I do tend to have a lot of weddings in my books.) But you’re right about the “coming home” feeling. I love that in a series, both in reading them and writing them.
6) So sad. But I understand. My absolute favorite is Standing in the Shadows. Do you have a favorite and why?
I tried to pick one out for you—and then another would pop up, and another! I guess, put to it, I would have to say the first, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, because it was particularly fresh. I wasn’t following my own template, but discovering it. And then another that took me by surprise was EXTREME DANGER, which I thought would be a quick, easy book, the perfect one to write while gestating my second child. I had this sexy idea I was going to use for a novella, a girl who sneaks into a lavish pool at night to skinnydip, and encounters the sexy hero—and discovered as I wrote that the hero was undercover trying to take down the Russian mob, and that vicious organ traffickers were involved, and everything exploded, and I was, like, what? What’s this all about? I did not see it coming. It doesn’t always pop out of nowhere like that, and it’s such a gift when it does.
7) I loved that you have written a book about sisters! Can you tell us more about Tasting Fear and what makes it so special?
TASTING FEAR was an experiment in story structure, and it turned out to be more complicated than I’d ever dreamed. It was fractured into three narratives; three sisters beset with a mysterious and dangerous enemy and knocked head over heels by their hot heroes at the same time. Stringing the stories one after the other created problems I never imagined. When you start out, you never know how it’ll be. Books I thought would be easy turned out to be incredibly hard. Ones I thought would be hard were . . . . well, gee. They were also hard.
But since TASTING FEAR had an overarching story line, I had to resolve the love stories without draining the tension from the suspense story. Each story had to resolve its part of the mystery and build on the ones that came before, which forced me to violate one of my most cherished rules of romance writing—to resolve the most important plot elements last, and wrap up less important ones first. For me, the love story trumps all, but I couldn’t resolve the suspense plot for the first two novellas before I resolved the love stories! I could only get the first two heroines out of immediate mortal danger and safely into their lovers’ arms! Though there are worse fates, I suppose. I have since gotten more bold about breaking rules. There goes the neighborhood.
TASTING FEAR also has a tender place in my heart because the emotional arcs of the love stories are based on some of the first love stories I ever wrote. Not a single word of the original stories made it into TASTING FEAR when I rewrote them and braided them together with the new suspense plot, just the arcs of the romances. But they actually have far more autobiographical material in them than the stuff I write now. The flower farm Jack owns? I grew up on it. Jack’s hippy childhood? I lived in free and easy communes in the Oregon mountains when I was a kid in the 70’s. Vivi’s jewelry business? One of my best friends designed jewelry on the crafts fair circuit. Nell’s scholarly bent? I was an English Lit nerd at Yale, my head stuck in a volume of Chaucer or Donne. That studio apartment where Nell lived in the Village? I lived there in the ’90’s. Nancy’s Irish musicians? I sang in an Irish band in New York City in the ‘90’s, and we were damn good, if I do say so myself. I totally bought into the “write what you know” rule. So there’s a lot of me, and my past as a writer and as a person in that book. These days, I tend to make more stuff up. Explosions and brutal mind control and icy-hearted villains bent on world domination and all that, well . . . I don’t have any of that in my daily life. In case you were wondering. I’m quite tame.
8) Sound sooo good! I also have to ask about your latest book, Fatal Strike coming out this September. Can you tell more about it?
Miles needs no introduction! His story has been so long in coming—I first met him as a basement dwelling computer nerd back in STANDING IN THE SHADOWS, madly in love with the SHADOWS heroine Erin’s sister, the feckless Cindy. Let’s just say, he has grown and changed a whole lot in the seven books that followed his entrance into the story. The McCloud guys have whipped him into shape, bigtime.
At first, I thought he would just end up with Cindy, since they finally got together at the end of EDGE OF MIDNIGHT, Sean’s story. But Miles kept intriguing me—and Cindy never grew up enough for me to consider spending a whole book with her. I just didn’t like her well enough. There just wasn’t enough there for me to work with. Not enough for Miles, either, though he’s such a good guy, it was hard for him to see that sad painful fact. So it was lucky that the Cindy romance did not work out. He suffered . . . but there was something more important in store for him.
The psychic elements in ONE WRONG MOVE end up getting developed still further in Miles’s book—and if you read ONE WRONG MOVE, you will probably be able to guess who his heroine will be. And I don’t want to say any more, for fear of spoilers!
9) And what about your book Secrets Never Die? What do you have planned for the two upcoming books?!
Oops, there is no book entitled “SECRETS NEVER DIE” although now that I think of it, it does have a nice, title-ish sort of ring to it! Maybe I will end up using that someday! That phrase was on the back cover copy of ONE WRONG MOVE. And there are not two, but only one upcoming book, and that will be Sveti and Sam’s still untitled story. I had to wait for Sveti to grow up to write it! I’m having a great time with it, but that will be it for the McCloud series. Then it will be time to dream up something entirely new.
10) Your books really speak to so many women and I think your heroes are any woman’s fantasy! Thank you so much for bringing me and all your fans so much reading pleasure.
Thanks so much for your kind comments, Steph, and thanks to all of you who are reading this, for making it possible for me to create my stories! I wouldn’t be able to do it without you all.
I was delighted to stop by. Happy reading to all!
Interviewed by Steph from the Bookaholics Romance Book Club
For Additional Information about Shannon McKenna check her out at:
Recent and Upcoming Romances by Shannon McKenna:
FATAL STRIKE -September 2013 When Lara Kirk was abducted months ago, Miles Davenport vowed he’d bring her home. But the mission failed. Miles has become obsessed; he can practically hear Lara pleading for him to save her.
Lara Kirk’s captors have poisoned her body with concoctions that enhance psychic abilities—and they seem to be working. To escape, Lara has formed a deep attachment with a man whose virile, sensual presence in her mind is her only comfort. She’s not even sure if he’s real—until the six-foot-five-inch powerhouse bursts in to rescue her…
Once freed, Lara has no choice but to trust Miles with her life. But they’re also fighting a dangerous attraction that could kill—or save—them both. Either way, it’s going to be a hell of a ride…
ONE WRONG MOVE -September 2012
SECRETS NEVER DIE
Alex Aaro has spent most of his life on the run from his Ukrainian mafia family. But when he learns that crazy Aunt Tonya, the only relative who ever gave a damn about him, is dying, he risks returning home to say goodbye. He’s prepared for anything except the call from his friend, Bruno Ranieri, that sends him on a wild and dangerous ride with a mysterious woman who holds a deadly secret and a white hot passion that binds them together.
Social worker Nina Christie has no idea how much trouble she’s in when her Aunt Helga shows up unexpectedly, emaciated and bleeding, and injects Nina with an unknown drug. Now a ruthless crime syndicate will stop at nothing to make Nina disappear, and only Alex Aaro, that inscrutable six-foot-four rock hard slab of lean muscle, stands between her and certain death. Now Nina and Alex are in a race against time, death, and their desire for one another…
TASTING FEAR -March 2012
BLOOD WILL TELL
Nancy... Nell... Vivi... Three sisters who know there is no force on earth greater than love . . . unless it is the desire for vengeance. When their adored foster mother is murdered, the D’Onofrio women come together to hunt for her murderer—and track down a family legacy gone missing; rare, priceless art from the Renaissance, a treasure worth killing for. The law can only do so much and the three sisters are on their own—until three mysterious men get involved...
Startled to find a brawny stranger at her mother’s house, Nancy is even more surprised at the heat of passion that flares between them. Liam is intense and instantly protective. But is it wise to trust him with every secret? Her sister Nell has turned to Duncan, her new boss, for help. He’s an expert on the dark underworld of cyberspace, where other clues may lurk. And Duncan is so sexy its scary. All Nell ahs to do is say the hardest word of all: yes. But what about the youngest of the D’Onofrios, the wild and wilful Vivi? She’s on the verge of falling in love with Jack, who’s all about fierce vigilance...
The sisters embrace the ultimate in passion as danger stalks them all. Unknown and unseen, the killer is very, very near...
BLOOD AND FIRE -October 2011
Restless and impulsive, Bruno Ranieri has the temperament to fit right in with the McClouds. And just like the McCloud brothers, Bruno has a dangerous past to contend with—one that’s about to come crashing back into his life…
Bruno Ranieri has always lived at a chaotic pace, and that goes double lately. Since his uncle’s untimely demise, Bruno is working himself to the bone, trying to keep his nose clean and save the family business. Not easy when the nightmares that plagued his childhood are hi-jacking what little rest he gets.
So when exotically beautiful Lily Parr sashays into his all-night restaurant, claiming to be on the run from mysterious assassins, Bruno starts to wonder if sleep deprivation is finally getting to him. Especially when Lily implies that Bruno is involved. But the violence that accompanies her arrival is no illusion. Nor is the blisteringly hot, completely inconvenient desire that explodes between them.
Lily Parr has been a fugitive ever since her father’s death a month ago in a mental hospital. Officials claimed it was suicide, but Lily’s gut—and the savage murder attempt she barely escaped afterwards—say different. Snippets of information led Lily to Bruno’s door...and his magnetic charisma compelled her right into his bed. But there are cold-blooded killers on her heels, with resources as limitless as their cruelty.
Running won’t help, not when the biggest threat is the terrifying secret lurking in Bruno and Lily’s pasts. A secret their mysterious enemy will gladly destroy them to protect—unless they can uncover it first...
FADE TO MIDNIGHT -May 2010
Gone But Not Forgotten
Davy…Connor…Sean… Three brothers who have conquered their demons, but they’ve never forgotten their long lost brother, Kev, whom they believed to be dead. When the McCloud brothers discover Kev is alive, they won’t rest until they find him...
Beaten and tortured almost to death, Kev Larsen was found eighteen years earlier in a warehouse alley. He survived his brutal ordeal, but his memories before that night were completely erased. When he nearly dies from trying to save someone from drowning, the brain surgery he has to save his life triggers fragmented, terrifying memories. With only these memories and the name of his torturer to guide him, Kev is determined to unlock the secrets to his past.
Edie Parrish has always been good at not letting anyone get too close to her. If someone were to learn of her unusual gift, her life would be immediately jeopardized. But when Kev Larsen discovers who she really is, Edie has only one choice: to trust him. And soon, Edie can’t resist her consuming desire for him—even though she knows she’ll have to pay a price for it.
Now Kev and Edie must race against time and place their faith in each other to stop a deadly legacy...