Building New Worlds with Jeffe Kennedy (and #Giveaway)

So, there are the Academy Awards for film actors, Emmys for TV, Tonys for the stage…and for writers whose work includes any degree of romance, there are the RITA awards. They’re really hard to win, but my guest today is a 2017 RITA award winner! Jeffe Kennedy would never say that about herself, of course, but it’s a Really Big Deal. So before we even get into talking about her new release, The Shift of the Tide, let’s give her a big old congratulations!

About Jeffe Kennedy: Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms. Book one in that series, The Pages of the Mind, has also been nominated for the RT Reviewer’s Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 and won RWA’s 2017 RITA® Award. The second book, The Edge of the Blade, released December 27, 2016, and is a PRISM finalist, along with The Pages of the Mind. The next in the series, The Shift of the Tide, released in August 2017. A high fantasy trilogy taking place in The Twelve Kingdoms world is forthcoming from Rebel Base books in 2018.

She also introduced a new fantasy romance series, Sorcerous Moons, which includes Lonen’s War, Oria’s Gambit, The Tides of Bàra, and The Forests of Dru. She’s begun releasing a new contemporary erotic romance series, Missed Connections, which started with Last Dance and continues in With a Prince. In 2019, St. Martins Press will release the first book, The Orchid Throne, in a new fantasy romance series, The Forgotten Empires.

Her other works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract.

ABOUT THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE (Uncharted Realms #3): Released from the grip of a tyrant, the Twelve Kingdoms have thrown all that touch them into chaos. As the borders open, new enemies emerge to vie for their hard-won power—and old deceptions crumble under the strain…The most talented shapeshifter of her generation, Zynda has one love in her life: freedom. The open air above her, the water before her, the sun on her skin or wings or fur—their sensual glories more than make up for her loneliness. She serves the High Queen’s company well, but she can’t trust her allies with her secrets, or the secrets of her people. Best that she should keep her distance, alone. Except wherever she escapes, Marskal, the Queen’s quiet lieutenant, seems to find her. Solid, stubborn, and disciplined, he’s no more fluid than rock. Yet he knows what she likes, what thrills and unnerves her, when she’s hiding something. His lithe warrior’s body promises pleasure she has gone too long without. But no matter how careful, how tender, how incendiary he is, only Zynda can know the sacrifice she must make for her people’s future—and the time is drawing near…Find buy links by clicking here.

Now, let’s hear from Jeffe, and read on to win a digital copy of the new book!

Hi all! It’s always a pleasure to visit Suzanne’s blog.

We’re an amusing pair because I was supposed to send this post to her last week, but then my assistant Carien said she thought Suzanne had forgotten about it, because she’d put up a note that she’d be on hiatus a few days while she finished a big project. I seized the opportunity to procrastinate, as I’d just come back from romantic beach vacation with the man and was headed directly into far-less romantic road trip with the family. Then Suzanne emailed asking if she’d lost the post. Which, of course she hadn’t, as I’d never sent it. So we agreed I’d send it for September 7 (today). That date seemed well into the future at the time, but I was so wiped from the road trip that I had to email Suzanne late last night to ask if I could send it today. She graciously agreed.

Whew!

So, that’s why this is late-ish. Totally my fault. One day I’ll get ahead of this accelerating boulder called time.

*Anyway*

What Suzanne asked me here to talk about is worldbuilding, not busy writer schedules. Specifically, she asked about my favorite part of building my Twelve Kingdoms (plus!) world. It’s an interesting question. I’m not a person who typically picks favorites. When I do, they tend to change over time. But this goes deeper than my favorite color or song. Really what this is about is what makes worldbuilding most satisfying to me as a writer.

I’m going to diverge slightly to mention that I attended a panel on worldbuilding at Bubonicon a couple of weeks ago. The moderator asked the writers on the panel where they started with worldbuilding—with plot, character, theme, science, etc. Interestingly, every one of them said with character. I’ve been mulling that because I think it’s true for me, too. The world always begins in a character—for The Twelve Kingdoms, it began with Princess Andromeda—and grows from there.

And my favorite part of building this world has been what it’s allowed me to do with character. All of these books are driven by different heroines, each kickass in her own way, as she strives to do what’s needed to save her people—however she might define that. In THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE, which released last week, the heroine is Zynda, a Tala shapeshifter. She’s appeared as a secondary character in the previous three books, and she’s been something of an enigma, as all Tala are.

For those who don’t know, the Tala are a magical race of shapeshifters, wizards and sorcerers. For centuries they lived isolated behind a magic barrier. Zynda is among the last of her line of pureblood sorceresses and shapeshifters. She’s a gifted shapeshifter, able to assume many forms, and also able to work magic. The niece of the powerful late High Queen Salena, Zynda feels compelled to follow in those illustrious footsteps, to do all she can to rescue her people from doom. This means she seeks a way to take Final Form, and become an immortal dragon.

So, what I really love about this world is the infinite flexibility to have characters like Zynda. She’s free in a way most human beings—mossbacks, as she thinks of them—are not. She can take so many animal forms that she doesn’t think like a typical person. Her plan to sacrifice her own humanity to lock herself into dragon form to save her people is a goal beyond what many characters can conceive. Which means that her fall into love with a mossback man tears her up profoundly.

I suppose it’s the scope and intensity of the world that makes it so fun and exciting to write. Also, writing Zynda, living inside the head of a powerful shapeshifter, provided an exhilarating ride.

If only!

Thanks, Jeffe! Yes, I’d like a few shapeshifter powers too…So, readers. What’s your favorite fictional world these days? What do you like about it? (Yeah, it’s a thinly disguised search for new reading material.) Leave a comment, and I’ll chose one winner for a digital copy of THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE. Giveaway ends on Monday, 9/11.

Sorcerous Moons and Evaluating a Series with Jeffe Kennedy (and #Giveaway)

 

Today, join me in welcoming one of my favorite people and authors, Jeffe Kennedy, who’s here to THE FORESTS OF DRU, book four in her Sorcerous Moons series. Isn’t that an awesome cover?

ABOUT JEFFE: Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award.

Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract.

Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms, with The Pages of the Mind in May 2016 and The Edge of the Blade in December 2016.

She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.

Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy.

http://jeffekennedy.com

https://www.facebook.com/Author.Jeffe.Kennedy

https://twitter.com/jeffekennedy

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1014374.Jeffe_Kennedy

ABOUT THE FORESTS OF DRU (Sorcerous Moons #4): An Enemy Land: Once Princess Oria spun wicked daydreams from the legends of sorceresses kidnapped by the barbarian Destrye. Now, though she’s come willingly, she finds herself in a mirror of the old tales: the king’s foreign trophy of war, starved of magic, surrounded by snowy forest and hostile strangers. But this place has secrets, too—and Oria must learn them quickly if she is to survive. A Treacherous Court: Instead of the refuge he sought, King Lonen finds his homeland desperate and angry, simmering with distrust of his wife. With open challenge to his rule, he knows he and Oria—the warrior wounded and weak, the sorceress wrung dry of power—must somehow make a display of might. And despite the desire that threatens to undo them both, he still cannot so much as brush her skin. A Fight for the Future: With war looming and nowhere left to run, Lonen and Oria must use every intrigue and instinct they can devise: to plumb Dru’s mysteries, to protect their people—and to hold fast to each other. Because they know better than any what terrifying trial awaits…

Buy links can be found here: http://www.jeffekennedy.com/the-forests-of-dru/

And now let’s hear from Jeffe as I put her on the spot!

THE SERIES CONUNDRUM

So, Suzanne has thrown down the gauntlet for me today, pointing out that THE FORESTS OF DRU is the fourth book in my Sorcerous Moons trilogy series. She asked me questions that plague all authors of series, I believe:

How to know when to continue a series?

When to end it?

When to morph one into a spinoff?

It’s funny timing for me, because just last night I was messaging with another author friend about series and reader expectations. I mentioned J.D. Robb’s In Death books and how the 44th book in that series is coming out on February 7. (Which, hooray!!) She said, “Good gawd. I’d have burnout as either reader or writer with a series that long.” Then belatedly asked me if I’d read them all.

My answer? Yes, I have. I have those books on auto-buy and eagerly look forward to their twice-yearly arrival. And in 2014, I went back and read the series from the beginning through book #39 (plus the nine short stories and novellas), just to see how she pulled it off. Because I have not burned out on that series. Not to say that there aren’t plenty out there that I have stopped reading—and would opine that the authors of those should have long-since stopped with them—but this is one that remains evergreen for me.

Now, J.D. Robb (which is a pseudonym for mega-selling author Nora Roberts) doesn’t have any concerns about her publisher cutting off the series. This is something that happens all too often in traditional publishing. Series get “orphaned” when the publisher decides for one reason or another (and puzzlingly, not always because sales are bad, or at least, not dismal) to not contract for any more books. I can think of five authors offhand who planned trilogies (or four or five books) where the publisher stopped buying them after the first two. Some of them had large fan followings who were disappointed not to find out what happened next.

In the bad old days, an author had little to no recourse. The series would be effectively killed. These days, authors have the option to continue the series on their own (unless they signed a terrible, restrictive contract) and self-publish it.

But then we come back to Suzanne’s questions. Should they??

I think the first thing to consider is the fan base. If the publisher dropped it because of poor sales, how bad are they, really? This isn’t always easy to know, because traditional publishers look primarily at Book Scan for these decisions and that counts only print books sales. All the successful self-publishing authors tell me that ebook sales make up over 90% (or more) of their sales. For the traditionally published author making this decision, ebook sales of the series are the key parameter. Also, it’s easy to be swayed by the passionate imploring of fans to continue the series, especially when they make personal contact, but if you figure on investing likely at least $2K in self-publishing the next book, you need more than 20 people to buy it to make back your investment.

Then the other side is how much the author cares. In a couple of those cases where I stopped buying and reading a series, the author had clearly stopped caring. I know of one who didn’t even want to write the last three books, but the publisher offered her so much money that she did it anyway. In other cases, the author might *care* but has lost touch with shaping a book with a complete arc. These series become almost masturbatory after a while, with the author just pleasing themselves and a few obsessed fans.

In the end, once the sales have been parsed—because those numbers do give a good reality check—it comes down to creative choice. An author might love a series enough to keep writing it even if the sales aren’t there.

That’s what it comes down to—a feeling of love for the story, world, and characters. Maybe that’s not the right word, but I don’t know a better one. With Sorcerous Moons, I’m still loving that tale and I’m not done telling it yet. I will be soon, in another book or two. I sometimes get asked if I’ll write more books in the Covenant of Thorns series and I don’t know that I will. That series feels done(ish) to me. I don’t have that same sense of connection. I don’t feel that love for it. Maybe if I go back to it, I’ll feel that passion for it again, but unless I do, I think anything I’d write would fall flat.

Thus my short answers to Suzanne’s questions are:

How to know when to continue a series? When you still love it!

When to end it? When you don’t love it anymore.

When to morph one into a spinoff? When that feels like the right thing to do.

Great summary of the whole problem, Jeffe! Of course, I asked for purely selfish reasons as I’m pondering the end of several series for different reasons that cover the gamut of emotions you mention—one I don’t love anymore, one the publisher abandoned because of its genre despite pretty good sales, and two that are on the fence and whose future I’m pondering.

What about you guys? Are there series you’ve abandoned? Some you’ll follow forever? Leave a comment for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card or Book Depo equivalent if you’re outside the U.S. And be sure and check out Jeffe’s Sorcerous Moons series!