Meet Debut Author Kris Kennedy

Kris Kennedy writes “passionate medieval sagas set in the wild beauty of Ireland and England.” Her debut novel, The Conqueror, released by Kensington May 5, has received excellent reviews.

Before Kris landed her initial two-book contract, she’d taken top honors in the 2008 Golden Heart® contest. She won best Historical, adding a lovely necklace to the ensemble she wore to the Awards Ceremony held at RWA® Nationals in San Francisco on August 2, 2008.

Kris lives with her very own hero and young son and their dog in the Pacific Northwest. Before motherhood and writing took over her life, she worked as a psychotherapist. All writers hear voices in their heads, but Kris can accurately analyze hers. Often it’s one of her medieval alpha heroes telling her the next feat he wants to accomplish or battle he intends to win.

When Kris isn’t writing, she’s busy mothering her active son and wondering how much dust she can overlook. If she had any free time, she would spend it, well, writing. 🙂

I met Kris though the 2008 Golden Heart finalists’ Yahoo! Group. I was a lo-tech latecomer, not joining until April 30. Kris was one of the first of the Pixie Chicks (as we call ourselves) I got to know. She made her first sale the next day, which caused our loop to go wild. Kris was the first Pixie I met in person as I checked in at Nationals last July, and her enthusiastic welcome was just what I needed. We share a love of Germany, which she just visited again last month.

Join me as we learn about Kris, her writing and her debut novel.

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Kris Kennedy.

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The Journey Begins

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•Seven years ago you first began writing with a goal of publication. What was it that sparked the desire to begin your second career? Was there an ah-ha moment, or had you long held a dream of being a writer?

Well, I used to write as a schoolgirl. I’d be up in my bedroom, my mother would be calling me for dinner, and I simply wouldn’t hear her. Eventually, she’d come up, but wow, would she be angry. She thought I was being disrespectful, not listening to her, but truly, I was lost in the world I was creating. My poor mom. 🙂 It was never about “being a writer.” I WAS a writer. I never had to dream about it–it was.

But then the rest of my life took over. Horses, boys, college, travel, marriage, graduate school, moving cross-country, new jobs, etc.

Then, as I was working my way through the local library maybe nine years ago (? Not sure if that’s the right timeline, but it’s close), I kept coming upon these silly historical romance books. I’d turn away—no, not those books! Not those covers! You’re above all that. You have a master’s degree. Look away!

But, alas, I looked. I picked up. I read. I was . . . captured. The night I finished my first historical romance, I was up until 3 a.m., writing. And I didn’t stop. 🙂

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•American Westerns and Regencies abound, but you set your stories in medieval times. What was it about the period that captured you? What’s one aspect of the era you found most surprising as you began to immerse yourself in it?

I can’t imagine anything more perfectly suited for romance than dangerous knights in armor on somewhat dubious quests, and competent, strong heroines to thwart and assist them. Castles, battles, kings and queens: it’s built for romance.

It was a brutal time, of course, not pretty at all. But as the Middle Ages were the cradle of the first romance—the lay of a hero and his quest, his unrequited love for his lady—it feels like it’s meant for the kind of saga & drama that works so well with modern-day romance.

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Peaks

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•The year 2008 was an amazing one for you. You signed with your agent, who put your work out on submission, and you garnered some early interest. And then, on March 25th you received a call many romance writers only dream of. RWA called to say you’d finaled in the Golden Heart. Not only that, but both your entries finaled, making you one of the six double finalists. How did you react to the news?

I remember having the sense, deep inside, that I’d get a call. (Let us politely avoid talk of all the times I KNEW something that never ended up happening.) In fact, I was considering bailing out of my kickboxing class that morning, while my son was at preschool, and I said something neurotic and superstitious like, “Oh, no, then you won’t deserve the GH call later today …”

(Oh, if only I could control things in such a way.)

When I got the call, she said, “Your story The Conqueror is a finalist…” I was so excited, her words faded into the background noise that happens on Peanuts, whenever grown-ups talk. And I think I felt a bit queasy, although I can’t be sure.

What a way to forever prevent a memory from being re-experienced through the joy of nostalgia. Be so freaking excited you’re nauseous and unable to hear properly. LOL

Then through the buzz, I heard a small voice say, “And I have another announcement (or similar) but I think I’ll just do it now. Your other entry, Wanting Finian, is also a finalist … blah blah” Peanuts adult-speak ensued.

I do recall saying, “Oh, no!” As if it was a bad thing. LOL

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•You’d hardly had time to adjust to being a GH finalist when you got another call on May 1st. The Call! Your call story is so fun. Please share it for the benefit of those who haven’t heard it and so those who have can enjoy it one more time.

Think: Big Glamour. Think, “Oh, wow, if it could only be me!” . . .

I was perched sideways on the couch, one hip pressing into the hard ledge under the cushion, holding a warm compress over my son’s pink eye. He was very cooperative; I was very happy. It was a blissful scene of domestic tranquility. No, really.

Then, what? Is that my phone?

I sailed lightly across the clean carpet and picked up the phone, gently flipped it open, smiling benevolently over my shoulder at my 3 y.o. son, who was now writhing in ecstasy and happiness over my impending joy.  Ah, the prescience of youth. How could he have known?

So, as my agent told me the news, and I “ooh-ed” and “um-hmm-ed” in all the right places, I wondered if I was spreading pink eye germs onto the phone. I was, of course. So, immediately after hanging up, I cleaned the phone with disinfectant and went back to tending the pink eye. See? Glamour.

All jest aside, I was very excited to accept the two-book offer John Scognamiglio at Kensginton made. It’s been a wonderful breeze working with him.

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•Your good news continued. One of your entries, Wanting Finian, earned you a walk to the stage during the Awards Ceremony at Nationals. What went through your head as you faced the 2,000+ women and few brave men in the Marriott’s ballroom that night and accepted your Golden Heart necklace?

Well, again, we’re into buzz-land. 🙂 I do remember that during the whole conference prior to that point (which was the whole conference, as the Awards are the final night), I got fluttery, unpleasant butterflies in my belly whenever I saw anyone walk up on any stage. Speakers, workshop assistants, the guy who fixed the microphone. It was very stressful, actually. 😉

Once they called my name that night, all the tension went away.

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Valleys

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•To those hearing your incredible rush of good news, it may seem like your journey to publication was swift. But there were seven years filled with hard work, rejections and a dry stretch. How did you deal with the three years you took off after your son was born? What kept you going and finally drew you back to your keyboard and your stories?

I dabbled a bit when my son was young, but mostly, I didn’t have the energy or creative verve to write. I was just too tired. It was a hard couple years after my son was born.

He didn’t sleep more than 4 hrs at a time for almost 8 months. He didn’t sleep through the night until he hit a year, and then we started traveling, which totally disrupted his sleep once again. Ack.

Then, just after my son turned a year, my husband had to go away for work, overseas, and he was gone for 3 ½ months. Over the next 12 months, he was away for over 8 months, so it was just my son and I.

During this time, my mother also got very ill and eventually died. Since my parents lived across the country, it meant lots of cross-country plane travel for my son and I, which was very hard and also kept disrupting sleep and general routines and mood, so we’d go back to square one with tiredness.

So, to actually answer your question 🙂 , coming back to writing was really just a matter of waking up. My son started sleeping, stress receded to sane levels, and I started writing again.

To me, writing is simply like a river you live beside. Usually you go swimming every day, but sometimes you go away for a while. But whenever you come back, the river is still there, singing, and it still draws you in. 🙂

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The Journey Continues

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•You’re now an award-winning published author whose debut novel is on the shelf.

Wow. I don’t really see it that way. ‘Award-winning.’ Ha! 🙂 Honestly, I don’t think I’m good enough yet. But I’m working on it.

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My Google search showed that the original English version of The Conqueror is for sale not only in the U.S. but also on Web sites in: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Poland and the U.K. How cool is that! When was the first time you saw your book on the shelf and how did you feel?

It’s super cool! 🙂

A friend and I went down to our local B&N on release day. The books weren’t on the shelf yet, but one of the booksellers went in the back and brought them out. Very fun! And they were so nice. I signed the copies they had on hand, and then they took them and put them in the front of the store, on the shelf with other best-selling names. I was right above Sherrilyn Kenyon. LOL

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•Even before The Conqueror was available on Amazon or appeared in Barnes and Noble stores, the great reviews had begun to appear, including your four star review from Romantic Times. What are some of the reviews that have stood out? What comments have you found most surprising? Most rewarding? And have any tickled you?

I’ve had a few “official” reviews, the 4-star from Romantic Times and a 4.5 star from Wild On Books, a smaller review site. Also, Amanda Collins from Romance Vagabonds read the ARC and posted a 5-star review over at Goodreads.

Then All About Romance (http://www.likesbooks.com) gave me a B+, Wendy the Superlibrarian gave me a solid B, and Dear Author gave me a B- and a Recommended Book.

Of course, I know the hits are coming. And you know, as I re-read, I see so many ways I need to get stronger. Rein in the tendency for melodrama, pick up the pace, etc. I’m a better writer than I was a year ago, and I hope that trend continues.

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What are your plans once your second book, your Golden Heart winning story, Wanting Finian, is in the hands of your editor?

Wanting Finian is already in my editor’s hands. Or rather, his pile. 🙂 I will go back and tighten, but barring any huge revision suggestions from my editor, it is essentially complete.

I am already working on another book, which could follow The Conqueror, but works as a stand-alone book. It’s another medieval with a wronged & angry heroine who has to help a very, very dangerous hero, and both of them have something precious to protect. My working title is simply: The Jamie Story. 🙂

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Your “Firstborn”

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•Please tell us a little about The Conqueror. Knowing you love strong alpha heroes and seeing the picture on the cover, I’m sure Griffyn Sauvage exudes masculinity. And Guinevere, or Gwyn (a wonderful choice for her name, I think 🙂 ) must be quite the woman to conquer his heart.

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The ConquerorAww, thanks, Keli! Glad you like her name.

Gwyn totally catches Griffyn unaware. He’s about as reluctant as they get, but she keeps being courageous, unexpected and funny, and he can’t set her aside like he’s set everything and everyone else in his life aside. Or rather, he sets her aside repeatedly, after saving her repeatedly, but she just keeps showing up again . . .

The Conqueror is a story about redemption, about claiming the choices YOU make for the life you’re living—not the life your parents lived, or in response to choices others did or didn’t make. It’s about living intentionally.

But it’s much more fun than that, too. Or at least, I hope it is! 🙂

It’s a hot, sweeping medieval romance with a reluctant alpha hero, a desperate heroine, and a love that can unite a kingdom, or bring it crashing to the ground.

It’s full of the “adventure” piece I love so well. Abductions, midnight rescues, sword fights. Hidden agendas. Betrayal. Revenge. Imprisonment. Buried treasure. Enemies on the prowl. Oh, it’s fun! 🙂

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Conclusion

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I’ve enjoyed having you as my guest, Kris. And now it’s your turn to ask your visitors a question or two. What would you like to know?

Question for your readers: yes!

I’d love to know this: if you could go back in time and live in any period, which would it be? Why? Is there someone you’d love to meet? Experience the customs? Check out some rumor you’ve heard?

To “when” would you go, and why?

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Find Out More About Kris

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Visit her Web site: www.kriskennedy.net
Friend/Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads under Kris Kennedy

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Leave a Comment for Four Chances to Win

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Kris’s Two Drawings

At the end of the day May 11, Kris will choose two winners from those who’ve left her a comment. One person will win an autographed copy of The Conqueror. The other will win a paid entry to a workshop sponsored by Hearts Through History, the historical chapter of RWA of which Kris is a member.

To enter the drawings, just enter your email address when prompted. I’ll contact you and will then relay the necessary information to Kris.

Congratulations to Walt M, winner of an autographed copy of THE CONQUEROR and to Pat Detweiler, winner of a Hearts Through History workshop.

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Keli’s Drawing

My next drawing will take place May 20th. The winner will receive a choice of a $15 gift card to Starbucks, Sees Candy or Barnes and Noble. Coffee, chocolate or books? Tough choice, isn’t it?

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on any blog post by May 20th and enter your email address when prompted. (I don’t share your information or add it to any mailing lists.) On May 21st, I’ll post the winner’s name in the Welcome post at the top of the blog.

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You could also win a First Sale Scrapbook!

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If you’d like to have a chance at winning a First Sale Scrapbook created by me, your blog hostess, Keli Gwyn, leave a comment on any post between now and May 31. Be sure to include your name and email address when prompted if you want to be entered in the drawing. (Your information will not be shared.) Click red link above to see samples of covers and pages.

On June 1, I will choose one person who will have her/his choice of several covers on an 8×8 inch, twenty-page scrapbook in which s/he can document that long-awaited first sale. The pages will cover various milestones including The Call, signing the contract, receiving the first advance payment and holding your “firstborn” in your hands.

(No scrapbooking skills required. You just add your photos and journaling.)

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
This entry was posted in author interview, first sale story, Golden Heart, Romance Writers of America, RWA Nationals, writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Meet Debut Author Kris Kennedy

  1. Walt M says:

    Kris,

    On further reflection, it may have been the Spanish. If they (or the Dutch) had been nice to an English ship, pigs would have flown.

  2. Sarah Tormey says:

    I would live in Regency England! The more research I do for my own writing, the more I want to live in a time before cars and trains:)

    Great interview and congrats on your first sale:)

  3. Great interview, Keli!
    Kris, I’ve already ordered The Conqueror from Amazon–looking forward to it getting here soon :-). Congrats, again!!

  4. kitwilkins says:

    I’m a day late as usual!!! I really need to get off digest 🙂 Kris, so fun to learn more about you. Can’t wait to read your debut novel. Keli is always saying she knew exactly who would win the GH last year. YOU were the only one I felt very sure about. I wish a long successful career. Blessings. Look forward to seeing you soon. And, I’m with Lynn…no TT for me.

  5. Shelley says:

    Thanks for the wonderful interview, Keli & Kris. Your journey — particularly as it relates to your traveling husband, ill mother, and precocious child — is so inspiring and a great lesson in timing and patience. Thank you! As for time travel, I’m all for Renaissance Venice…as long as I get the sanitized and plauge-less version. 🙂 Hugs!

  6. Sorry I missed your day, Kris! great interview, Keli, as usual!

    I am amazed at your perseverance and ability to write through all of the ups and downs of life. BUT, I completely understand as writing has been my escape for years. I LOVE the analogy of the river outside your door. What a great way to portray our love affair with the written word!! And how COOL that your book is being read all over the world!

  7. Kris Kennedy says:

    Kit~
    LOL–okay, fine, you don’t have to time travel. 🙂

    I wish you all the same, sweetie: a long,successful career that brings your family happiness.

    Only a few more months . . . September is right around the corner!

  8. Kris Kennedy says:

    Shelley~
    Oohh, Renaissance Venice without the plague . . can I come? CanIcanIcanI? (Wait, I’ve been around children for too long . . .)

    🙂

  9. Kris Kennedy says:

    Louisa~
    Isn;t that a cool image for accessing that amazing, mysterious energy within us/in the world, the ‘river’? I really love it. I’m glad it touched you too.
    🙂

  10. Kris Kennedy says:

    Okay . . . prize time . . .

    The winner of copy of The Conqueror is . . . WALT! Yay Walt!

    And the winner of a workshop at HHRW is . . . Pat (Gwynlyn)!

    Hurray!

    Walt, if you can email me your address, I’ll pop it off this week or early next.

    And Pat, email me too, and we’ll work out the details of how I’ll cover the workshop fee for any of the currently-listed HHRW workshops. There’s a bunch there:
    http://www.heartsthroughhistory.com/class.htm

    Thanks for everyone, and to Keli, for hosting such an amazing blog, giving aspiring and debut such great information and opportunities to connect.

    Thanks all!

  11. C.J. Redwine says:

    Late to the party! Sorry about that. I blame the Swiss cheese that passes as my brain on my three boys.

    I’m so super excited for everything going on in your career right now. You deserve it!

    In answer to your question, I’d say Medieval times, but only if I get a really cool horse, get to hang with the gentry, and get to smuggle some soap and mouthwash from our time period to theirs. =D That’s allowed, right?

  12. Kris Kennedy says:

    Cj~
    Swiss cheese brains allowed. It’d be so unkind of me to deny in others what I have in such abundant supply myself–holes in my brain.

    Yes, medieval!! And yes, let’s say you may bring 3 items from modern day. Mouthwash, soap, and, what else? Stilletos? Not too good on the cobbled streets . . . Hmmm . . .

    Thanks for coming by, CJ! Your career is about to take off too, and we’ll all be waving as you rocket away into superstardom, or something like that.
    🙂

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