CARA MCKENNA: ROMANCE AND EROTICA GENRE PICKED ME
Posted by Ognian Georgiev
Give it All by Cara McKenna is the second part of Desert Dogs series. The novel was released in February. “Can’t wait for the next book”, “Thrilling and emotional romantic suspense” and “This was an excellent follow up to the first book” are just few of the opinions from readers. We’ve got a great pleasure to welcome Cara McKenna as our next guest at Land of Books.
– Cara What is your last book Give it All about?
– Give It All is the second book in my Desert Dogs romantic suspense series with Signet Eclipse—the books all follow characters who are childhood friends from a rough town called Fortuity, in northern Nevada, which is besieged by corruption and violence when a large casino begins development there. The books are all full of sex and motorcycles and cussing and intrigue. Give It All is centered on the romance between Raina, the wayward owner of Fortuity’s dive bar, and Duncan, an uptight, entitled employee of the developers.
– How did you decide to write the story?
– I knew about halfway through the first book, Lay It Down, that Raina and Duncan’s story would be next. Their lust/hate chemistry was hard to ignore even then! Plus Duncan very badly needed to get his perfect feathers ruffled, which he does in spades in Give It All.
– What was the biggest challenge during the write up process?
Honestly, it was real life! I started that book when I was still living in Boston, and last summer, when I was about halfway through drafting it, my husband and I moved all the way across the country to Oregon. The book itself wasn’t one of my harder ones, but the upheaval and distraction of such a big life change made it much harder than expected. I find it’s harder, as a writer, to immerse yourself in a fictional world when real life is feeling exceptionally dynamic.
– Tell us something more about your main characters Raina and Duncan? Are they close to someone from your real life?
– No, they’re not! Raina’s very much a product of her hometown—Fortuity’s a hardscrabble place, in what I call the New Wild West. Very different from my own middle-class hometown in coastal Maine. She’s tough and unapologetic and totally capable of standing up to any of the roughnecks who come into her bar. And Duncan is…well, he’s Duncan! Raina’s polar opposite. He’s prissy and fussy and well-off, and a total control freak. He looks perfect on the outside but is a total wreck on the inside. I love him, but he’s a complete figment of my imagination. He’d be very hard to deal with in real life, unless you’ve got Raina’s backbone handy.
– How much time did you need to finish the story and to publish it?
– I can’t recall exactly, but I typically need about four months to draft a full-length book, and then there’s another six months or so before it comes out, during which I’m tackling a round or two of revisions and various editorial stages, while the publisher is designing the cover, proofing and typesetting the book and so forth, getting it printed. So maybe ten months from starting a book to seeing it on a shelf. A little shorter if it’s a digital-only release.
– Did you expect After Hours to hit Kindle Amazon Top 20 and what was your feeling when you saw the book among the most wanted titles on the planet?
– It was crazy! I was hoping that when Penguin decided to put it on sale and promote it that it might break the Top 100 in the romance category, but it managed to get all the way up to number 17 in the Kindle Store at large, and stay there for a nice while! On Barnes & Noble it made it all the way to number 5, and I was excited to take a screen shot of my book right next to Stephen King’s, to send to my dad. It was really neat. I have no idea if that will amount to After Hours hitting any sort of bestsellers list, but I’m just delighted by how many new-to-me readers must have found my work because of that sale—it’s going on through June 28, by the way, across a whole bunch of ebook retailers. It was the ideal book for Penguin to promote, as far as introducing new readers to my erotic romances goes. I’m very thankful for it.
– Who are you?
– I’m a full-time writer who’s settling quite ably into the laid-back west coast scene after spending my first thirty-five years in New England. I’m pretty low-key, and my husband and I are expecting our first (and likely only) child in late July, so that’s a big change! Lots of major life transitions in the past year.
– What are your writing habits?
– I’m sure they’ll change once the baby shows up, but for now I always try to write first thing. Shower, breakfast, write. I write far quicker and more intuitively in the morning, and it’s usually more fun for me, then. By the afternoon, real-life chores and issues are cluttering my brain, and it’s harder to slip inside my characters’ heads. I have daily and weekly word counts I try to meet, typically 2,000 words a day, 10–12,000 words a week. I like to take at least one day a week completely off from writing, to recharge my brain. If I’m on deadline that all goes out the window, though. The most I’ve ever written in one day was a little over 10,000 words, capping off a 28,000-word week! That was nuts. I was finishing the first draft of Burn It Up, the third Desert Dogs book, and just wanted it DONE. I expect childbirth will be a bit like that!
– Are you satisfied by the sales of your books?
– They’re all over the place, honestly. Some of my books are stranger than others, with weirder characters or darker settings, so some simply don’t appeal to as wide an audience, and I’m okay with that. I value the freedom and flexibility to write what excites me over the money I might make writing to trend, or writing only the kinds of books that have sold the best in the past. I think I’d get bored chasing the money. As it is, I’m a working writer. Books pay the bills, and that’s all I could really ask for.
– What are you doing to promote your books in the best possible way?
– Oh, I’m the worst person to ask about this! Promotion is not my cup of tea. I find it exhausting and I always feel obnoxious, telling people they ought to buy my books. I try to just be myself online—I’m mainly on Twitter, no Facebook—and I also do a newsletter several times a year, whenever a new book comes out, which I enjoy. I like doing interviews and Q&As like this one, too, and guest blog posts once in a while, but that’s about it. I need to be greedy and hoard the bulk of my time for writing the books themselves. This is why I’ve chosen traditional publishing so far, as opposed to self-publishing. There’s a lot of money to be made in self-pub, if you have the motivation and energy to self-promote. I don’t, and I recognize that about myself. I leave the heavy-lifting to my publisher and publicist!
– When we will see your next novel and would you unveil something more about it?
– My next full-length book will be out on September 1. It’s called Crosstown Crush, and it’s the first book in a new erotic romance series (though the books are all standalones—you can read them in any order, as they’re only linked by setting and theme.) The series is called Sins in the City, and it’ll consist of three new stories featuring three-ways! Crosstown Crush is about a kinky married couple—the husband has a cuckolding fetish, and wants to watch his wife with another man, in their bed. They find a third who’s up to the job, and things get hot—and later, complicated—from there.
– You won many awards during your writing career. What kind of psychological boost is giving such recognition for your future projects?
– Oh, it’s mostly a vanity boost—but a welcome one! I’m a RITA finalist this year, which means pretty much nothing to the average reader, but within the romance industry it’s a big deal. I think most romance authors hope to final in the RITA at some point. I’m lucky enough that I can now say I have, and it probably amounted to a sales boost and makes me look a little shinier in the eyes of publishers, but more than anything it’s just gratifying, and cool. It puts a little frosting on the year. No matter if all my upcoming books tank, at least I can look back on 2015 and say, “That was a great year! I finaled in the RITA!” I won’t be able to go to New York for the ceremony, sadly—I’m due to give birth the day before!
– Why you select romance and erotica genre? Did you remember the moment when you decided that this will be your field of expression?
– It sort of picked me. I always liked writing and felt I was good at it, all through grade school, high school, and college, but I was primarily a visual artist—I drew and painted and did photography and pottery all through school, and have a degree in Fine Arts. I was a graphic designer as my first career, and it was nice to get paid to be creative, but I wasn’t ultimately satisfied by that job. Stories started nagging at me in 2008, and I began to wonder if I was capable of writing a novel. The following fall, about 16 months later, I sold my first novella. Romance—in particular, steamy romance—appealed to me naturally. I can’t not write explicit sex scenes in books. Sex is too key a component of people’s lives, and an expression of their deepest fears and needs, to keep the bedroom door shut (in my experience.) It wasn’t a choice; I immediately gravitated there. Lucky for me, it’s been an auspicious period in publishing history to be writing erotic romance!
– If you may ask yourself one question in the interview what it will be?
– Jeez, good question… Maybe, “What’s the most important tool you use, as a writer?” Mine is undoubtedly exercise. If I’m stuck, unsure what needs to happen next in a story, or uncertain what a character really wants, a good long walk while listening to music that fits the book almost never fails to dislodge whatever’s clogging things up. Moving your body is key, especially in a job that might have your ass planted on a chair for hours and hours everyday. Get your blood flowing, and the words will follow.
Thanks for having me, Ognian!