15 May 2011

Guest Author: Kris Kennedy

This week on Excerpt Thursday, we're welcoming Kris Kennedy, as she celebrates the release of her latest historical romance, DEFIANT, available this month from Pocket Books. The novel is set on the eve of the Magna Carta, in which the political intrigues of the time shape the events of the story. It’s an age rife with tension, drama and conflict. Here's the blurb:

A warrior with questionable intentions . . .

Jamie Lost is the king’s most renowned commander, a fearless lieutenant ordered to kidnap an exiled priest before rebel forces close in. The mission is simple—until he meets a mysterious thief who will steal his quarry and then his heart.

A lady of remarkable courage . . .

Beautiful Eva is also seeking Father Peter, but she intends to protect him from a secret that could cost him his life. She senses that she, too, should fear Jamie—not just for his wickedly sharp sword and dangerously muscular body, but for the powerful longing he ignites within her.

A secret that could overthrow the king.

When a band of mercenaries abducts the priest, Jamie and Eva must form a volatile alliance. As civil war unfolds around them, they embark on an epic journey that betrays the truth about their hidden identities, their unexpected loyalties, and the simmering attraction that could seal their fates forever.


When did you get the idea for Defiant?
 The word ‘idea’ is frighteningly specific. Everything about this story, right down to the plot, morphed as I wrote it. And rewrote. And wrote again . . . . The writing of this story is a saga all on its own.

As far as when the first little hard kernel of an idea came to me . . . Back in 2006 or 2007, I had an idea about a woman being taken somewhere she did not want to go. As I imagined it, the story had a rather Robin Hood-esque feel, except for a few small details: the hero was the one taking her where she didn’t want to go, and the heroine was the Robin Hood character. :-)

Defiant today bears very little resemblance to this, but I still see that story down there in the creative ‘well,’ so to speak. :-)

What research did you do?
I did extensive research on King John’s reign, with special attention to the time of Magna Carta. I researched via tottering piles of the big, fat academic books—the wonderful kind--and I also researched online. Since I have written many stories set in this era, some of my research is the sort that’s done over years, and the knowledge gets rather embedded, for better or worse. But luckily, there’s always research specific to the particular story, and that’s fun.

(And then, of course, there’s always the chopping of scenes with research done specifically for the story, which is not so fun. But the point is to unwrap the story, not the research.)

A sampling of some research done specifically for Defiant: King’s John’s household knights; slave trade in 12th and 13th century; travel distances & methods in 13th c England; river ferry travel; perceptions of disease and contagion; manuscript coverings/bindings; children’s games; treatment of Jews in King John’s time; goldsmithing and jewelry-making; wolves and their extinction in medieval England.

If you viewed documents, where did you go and how did you find them?
As alumni of my university, I was able to access many online articles via JSTOR and MUSE, two wonderful resources of digitalized academic journals. I also used Oxford Biographies. I, sadly, was not able to view any source documents in person.
Is Defiant being adapted for film or television?
Yes, constantly, in my head. :-)   
I have to say, I think these medieval adventure stories would make great TV and movies!

What is your ideal writing routine?
I definitely write by the seat of my pants—my muse is a fickle thing, and comes in strong gusts like a wind, so I really like to grab those times when I can. This could mean writing for 20 out of 24 hours, maybe for days straight. Then the crash.

Which is all fine and good, until you get the fabulous opportunity of having deadlines. Deadlines and seat-of-the-pants writing are mortal enemies in my home, with a young child and little time to write.

Nowadays, I write for whatever time I can get during the day, which, depending on illnesses, school vacations, school activities, carpools, and related, is anywhere from 0 - 4 hours/day. Then I steal from elsewhere. It’s been difficult, but worth it.

Do you ‘identify’ with the characters and situations you write?
I’ve never been hunted by kings and barons, so there’s a certain ignorance that I simply have to guess my way through. J  But I hope that at their core, the emotional experiences of the characters are the kind of thing anyone can relate to.

The central emotions are pretty similar to what we experience in daily life these days. Loneliness, a sense of your own broken nature, fear of being rejected, unloved, of not belonging, of not being ‘enough’ (good enough, strong enough, etc.), and the deep-down knowledge that fear is the only thing stopping you from being amazing.

These can be pretty universal experiences, and they certainly plague my characters. J In that way, I hope they are familiar and ‘identifiable.’

What have people told you they love about your stories?
The comment I get most often are:
They love The Sexy;
They love the heroes, their goodness and their danger;
They love the competent, strong heroines;
And in Defiant, my current release, some people are really loving what might be a more ‘literary’ feel, while others, not so much. :-)

What kind of  heroes do you like the write?
I have a very clear sense of that guy. I call him the ‘good’ alpha.

The man who’s supremely confident in himself and his capabilities, so much so that he has no problem letting the heroine shine. He can be impressed by her, intrigued by her, and royally pissed off by her, without it ever making him feel threatened as a man. He’s the kind of guy who leads because everyone around wants to follow him.

What kind of heroines do you love to write?
I love fish out of water. I love the strong, competent heroine forced into situations that are totally unexpected, for which (she thinks) she’s totally unprepared. I love the woman who becomes determined not to get pushed around, even in a time when women were eminently push-able.

What's up next?
I’m working on another sexy medieval adventure for Pocket, about a con man and a bankrupt silk merchant in late 13th century England. Of course, things can change rapidly in these story worlds. But I know for sure it’ll be super sexy, adventure-y, and the hero will get utterly upended by the heroine. :-)

Thanks so much for having me by today!

Please leave a comment to win a copy of Kris Kennedy's DEFIANT, available now.