It’s time for a brand new…Authors Interviewing Authors! Today on Binge on Books we have Chaos Station co-authors, Jenn Burke and Kelly Jensen, joining us with a fun Q&A – and the twist? They ask each other!
For our joint interview, Jenn and I came up with a list of questions we were most interested in hearing the answers to, and then answered them all, putting ourselves as well as our co-writer on the spot. Given we’ve been writing together for a number of years now, there are few surprises for us here—well, except for favourite characters that the other writes. I’m pretty sure neither of us expected those answers.
What are your favourite and least favourite romance subgenres?
Jenn: I read pretty much every subgenre of romance, but my favourite would have to be paranormal romance. There’s just something about seeing magic + love in the modern world that really works for me. Give me vampires and werewolves and witches and demons…I love them all.
My least favourite would be historical romance. I’ve read it and enjoyed it, but…eh. It’s not my thing.
Kelly: I’m pretty sure Jenn could answer this one for me, and I could for Jenn.
I love contemporary romance. I adore it. It’s my comfort zone. I could read stories about people doing little other than fall in love forever. I really like reading stories that could be or could have been mine—which, of course, is why diversity in romance is so important. ☺
I don’t read a lot of erotic romance, if that’s a subgenre. I have read a couple of amazing erotic romances, but I’m one of those awful people that starts skipping the sex scenes if there are more than two or three…
Which of your co-writer’s characters is your favourite?
Kelly: I really want to say Mal here, but no one really knows about Mal. He’s a character Jenn roleplayed at Warden’s Vigil, opposite my stupid young knight, Andy. He was Andy’s mentor in a lot of ways, older brother in others. What I really loved about Mal was his steadfast nature and mature aspect. Writing older characters is difficult, in my opinion. With forty being the new thirty and so on, I think we all have a younger outlook than we used to and it’s often difficult to remember what makes an adult an adult—especially when we’re all watching superhero movies and playing computer games.
Jenn transferred the best parts of Mal over to Zander Anatolius, the character she wrote for the Chaos Station series. He’s a quiet man, stoic when necessary, compassionate, considerate and loyal to a fault. The part I hate love most, though, is his self-sacrificing nature. Jenn makes writing heroes look effortless. In comparison, my guys are selfish, self-absorbed pricks.
Jenn: My favourite character of Kelly’s…wow, that’s a tough one. Kelly has an amazing knack for creating very real, flawed, and relatable characters, and I love all of them. I’m going to have to go with a character no one will ever know about—her grumpy mercenary, Siorus. He was a roleplaying character from when we first started writing together, and actually, his character arc with the character I played was so amazing and incredible that it prompted us to try writing our first novel together. So, really, that’s where the magic started.
Kelly: Aww, Siorus.
Which of your own characters is your favourite?
Jenn: Gah, who came up with these questions?
Kelly: Obviously this one was mine. 😀
Jenn: If we’re talking unpublished characters, I’d have to say Aedan, a roleplaying character from way back. He was…difficult. At his core, he was a good soul, but having been raised an entitled noble, he could be very selfish and self-centred. He was my first truly, fundamentally flawed character, and a joy to write—even when I was banging my head on the keyboard, saying “No! Don’t—you moron.”
As far as published characters go, Okay…sorry, Zed, but as much as I love you, I’m going to have to go with Derrick Llewellyn from my m/f paranormal romance, Her Sexy Sentinel. Derrick is an alpha who kinda is, kinda isn’t—a protector, a guy who wants to do the right thing and has the tools to do so, but he’s also very human. He’s trained to protect his city, but he isn’t a war-hardened soldier, and that makes the choices facing him and his decisions that much more personal.
Kelly: This is like choosing a favourite child, it really is. I love them all, even the ones who break my heart (looking at you, Felix). If we were talking roleplay, I’d say that stupid young night, Andy. Playing him was like watching my son grow up and leave the nest. Such a rewarding experience.
From my books, hmm… Okay, let’s go with a current favourite. Marcus Winnamore (Counting Fence Posts and Counting Down). Often when I’m plotting a story, one character takes precedence over the other. The book is really about them. The other character, even if they have equal POV time, is often in a supporting role. I want good stuff to happen for them, but they’re there to make sure the first guy reaches his goals. (Or just to frustrate the hell out of him.) Increasingly, though, this “secondary” character’s arc ends up eclipsing that of the main character. He will grow on the page until suddenly his story is just as, if not more, important than the one I started telling.
That’s what happened with Marc and that’s why I wrote Counting Down (the sequel to Counting Fence Posts) from his point of view. I loved writing him. I adore his voice. His personality is unique when compared to my other guys too. He’s more assertive, more motivated. He’s a guy with goals and a definite plan for reaching them. More usually my characters are dreamers.
Time for an easy one: If you could have one wish granted, what would it be?
Kelly: Good health for all of my family and friends.
Jenn: Eradicate all cancer everywhere.
What’s your favourite thing about your co-writer?
Jenn: My favourite thing about Kelly is her attention to detail. She’s really good at chasing down facts for the smallest things, and you’ll never have a better proofreader. She’s also the one who creates our promo sheets of who we’ve contacted and when they’re expecting materials when we have a release, which is amazing. She fantastic at keeping us on track.
Of course, that’s just one of many, many things I love about Kelly. We were friends before we started writing together, and I think that’s helped us be better communicators.
Kelly: Jenn is endlessly patient. While I’m working my way through the cycle of “this scene sucks, this book sucks, this series sucks, everything sucks,” she waits, knowing this won’t be the last time I decide every word I write… err, sucks. (I really do have a larger vocabulary. Honest.)
Every writer feels this on occasion. It’s part of the creative process. What a lot of people don’t get is that simply telling us we don’t suck isn’t really the key. Sometimes you just have to wait long enough for a writer to write that one scene, the one that makes it all worthwhile. Then they’ll turn around and say, “Hey, it works!” That’s when the Jenns of the world will say, “I know.”
What’s the book you really want to write?
Kelly: All of them. Seriously, I have a notebook full of ideas for books I really want to write, but if I had to choose just one, it’d probably be the book I started a few years ago and put aside to work on when I became a better writer. It was a case of knowing how I wanted this book to work, and acknowledging that I wasn’t yet skilled enough to make it happen. As for the story, it’s a dark fantasy type thing about the life of an assassin. How he got started in his career and why he loves doing what he does. Interwoven between the chapters of his life—which will cover a series of contracts that are not only memorable in some way, but somehow linked—will be the story of his rescue of a fellow assassin who started as his rival and somehow became his best friend.
The inspiration for this book comes from a couple of places. One is a short story by Roger Zelazny called “Unicorn Variation”. The other is the fictional hero of one of my fictional characters. Because I’m that weird.
Jenn: I don’t know if I have one specific book that I really want to write, but I do have book themes I want to tackle. Like a superhero romance. My first completed manuscript was a superhero romance—way too full of melodrama and weirdness, but it’s one of my favourite tropes. Other themes I want to write someday include shifters (if superheroes are one of my favourite tropes, shifters are my absolute favourite). I’d also love to write an American/Canadian law enforcement series, kind of like Cut & Run meets Due South.
What’s your least favourite thing about the publishing process?
Kelly: Promotion. Spreadsheets are the only way I can cope with it. 😀
Jenn: Probably that first edit letter at the developmental stage of editing. They’ve invariably led to amazing edits and a better story, but getting a letter that outlines all of the stuff you need to change/fix is never really fun, you know? That’s why the advice to set it aside for a day or so and go do something—anything—other than writing is the best advice ever. Seriously.
Kelly: Dev edit letters are definitely a part of my “this sucks, everything sucks” rotation!
What’s something surprising about you that no one would ever guess?
Kelly: Umm, I can’t remember all too clearly about three years in my twenties. I’m pretty sure I had a good time…
Jenn: Tough question. I don’t really have many secrets! Maybe that I love muscle cars? Anyone who follows me on social media has probably seen pictures of my Camaro (which, alas, has been recently traded for something that will suit Ontario winters a bit better), so my love of muscle cars is not really a secret.
What’s next for you?
Jenn: I don’t have anything contracted, but that doesn’t mean I’m not writing. It does mean my self-imposed deadlines keep slipping, though. Whoops. Anyway, my current WIP is a male/male paranormal mystery romance set in my hometown. It features a werewolf who kinda isn’t and a witch who doesn’t realize he’s something else… and I’m having a LOT of fun with it.
Kelly and I have some additional books planned together, which we should be tackling in the new year. Ish.
Kelly: I have two books coming out early next year! Block and Strike is a contemporary romance novel and Counting Down is another novella, the sequel to Counting Fence Posts. Details about both books can be found on my website. My current WIP is also contemporary romance, another novel. After that I’ve got a science fiction project in mind.
Jenn and Kelly met in 2009 through a mutual infatuation with a man who wasn’t real. After all but crashing the video game’s forums with daily dissection of their obsession, they started writing together, discovered they really liked writing together and began plotting stories in worlds of their own creation.
The CHAOS STATION series aren’t the first books they’ve written together, and they’re pretty sure they won’t be the last. As long as their so-called smartphones keep making autocorrects that trigger brainstorming sessions, they’ll have enough character ideas and plots to keep them writing for years to come.
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