Do you like the sound of a Choose Your Own Adventure Romance? If you answered yes, read on, my friend. Today, I bring you an interview with romance author Kenna Shaw Reed. I loved the sound of this type of book, and wanted to find out more.
Tell me about yourself
Despite falling in love with the wrong man on repeat, I never stopped believing in love. I never gave up on a happily ever after. Which is good, because darling hubby and I have now been married for more years than I ever expected, currently surviving three teens.
I’m loved by two dogs and ignored by a cat. My books are set in Australia, mostly Sydney and the south coast of NSW. But you’ll see my spelling is usually US. Except, my military heroes work for Department of Defence and holiday around Sydney Harbour which can be confusing for editors.
How long have you been writing?
My unhappy childhood was spent either reading books that gave me hope for the future, or writing poetry. Emotions on the page no longer felt insurmountable. But it wasn’t until 2017 when a health scare forced me to look at my bucket list. I’d always intended to ‘write some day’. I opened up my laptop and just started writing about a character who had been building in my head, and heart. Ava became The Uni Student.
Do you have a favourite book?
They’re all my favorites! Seriously, Derek is one of my favorite men. We meet Derek as one of the love interests in choose your own romance, 'The Intern'. He then has a starring role in 'The Unfaithful Wife' which I thought would give me closure. Then, I wanted to release a romance on what would have been my daughter’s 18th birthday. I wanted to show the hurt and grief and struggle of a couple, as they deal with the loss of a child. So, I turned to Derek again. 'Shattered Hearts' will always be the book the means the most to me – because of the subject matter and because each word was drenched in my tears.
Who are your favourite authors, and how have they influenced your work?
Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman of Substance was the role model I needed growing up. Jackie Collins’ Lucky, became another role model. But I also loved the broken yet strong women in Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls. I seem to binge an author and then move on. I love authors who have damaged characters and aren’t afraid to tackle tough and relevant topics. LJ Shen’s Ruckus and Broken Knight almost broke me, but Vicious is the standard I set for alpha assholes I’d like to … meet. Tanya Joyce’s Ripped and Ruined took a complicated relationship and made it real. I’ve just finished Jamie Diamond’s Dirty and Player series and have loved the way she weaves characters through each story.
For me, I have a fictional small town – Meringa – that is the base for a number of my romances. It was the escape for Erebus in Broken Trust, the town destroyed by bushfire in HEAT and then the location for my rockstar reverse harem. If I want a billionaire or corporate type, they either work for Derek’s consultancy or fictional software company, Softli.
What appealed to you about writing romance?
There’s nothing better than drowning into a character and embracing the ebbs and flows of a relationship. I’m a hopeless romantic, and love how relationships come in all types of constructs. I love to fall in love with my heroes. If I wouldn’t date him – sorry darling hubby – or embed my nails in his back, then he’s not good enough for my leading ladies. But the romances that tug my heart are the ones that are complicated. Where a woman is at a cross-road and has options. Think combining second chance with best friend with insta-lust. Each relationship is different, and I don’t think I’ll ever be bored writing or reading romance.
Can you describe your writing process?
Sometimes, it’s planned out and organised – which seems to take longer to write and get to readers. I’ve got a college / sports choose your own romance series that is outlined, but I’ve only drafted one. Then there’s a wedding belles series that is outlined but two drafted and none released.
But let me describe my rockstar reverse harem process from inspiration until now.
I wanted to write a romance about love in lockdown. If I was young, single and about to spend months in lockdown, what would be my fantasy? Lock me down with Dave Grohl, Jon Bon Jovi, Dave Navarro and Muse. Hmm. Sounds like a rockstar romance. What if my leading lady hooked up with a lead singer and accidently ended up spending lockdown with a band? What if she started to fall in love with all of the band? What if I could write a quick read as my first reverse harem?
Then I set an impossible publish date. Then I wrote. Sydney and Xavier spoke to me. Words flowed and suddenly the first book was finished. Their story had just begun, so I then wrote three more. Now, I’ve they are going to a Rockstars Ball in November (as part of anthology) so I’ve outlined two more of their reverse harem romance for release before then.
I tend to have two or three works in progress. I write, set it aside, write something else, and then come back to edit. There are a small number of superfans who’ve asked to beta read before I do the final proofread and then I press publish and move on.
What inspired you to create the ‘Choose Your Own Romance Books’? They sound like fun.
They are definitely fun to write. Challenging, but fun. My first book was a Choose Your Own Romance. I started wanting to write a romance for Ava who was leaving her small country town for a big city university – but scared her relationship wouldn’t last. I then threw a forbidden relationship at her (a professor) and then a sexy best friend who was also study partner. Each option is perfect and imperfect. Which is like real life. I pantsed my way writing The Uni Student and two others until the media inspired The Politician’s Wife.
It occurred to me that often women are only put in the media because of the actions of their famous husbands. How many politicians, footballers, actors cheat. How many women find out via media?
I wrote The Politician’s Wife in just over a week. Susannah finds out about her husband’s affair while watching breakfast tv at the gym. She deserved a man totally besotted with her (meet her now ex-husband’s chief of staff) or a man who can give her the life she deserves (billionaire older man who has been in love with her for years). Then, I wanted to know what her ex-husband would have to do to win her back.
I love challenging readers with three sexy options. The great thing is that readers can get to the end, and then go back and read another path. Three books in one. Three times the effort to write – but I can’t see myself stopping any time soon. Perhaps I’ll switch between why choose and choice.
Are you working on anything at the moment?
Oh, why did you have to ask! Three anthologies – two for fundraising and one rockstar. One is edited and ready for proof read, the others are drafted. Today, I wrote 3000 words for a first responder romance that is insisting on being written.
What advice would you give a new author?
Write fast. Edit slow. Push publish. Make friends with other authors – they will be the only people who understand.
You typed THE END. That’s worth celebrating, even if editing has just begun.
You’ve just spent a full day looking at hot guys on depositphotos to get the right image for a cover, yep and I still haven’t found him.
You feel like an imposter because you’ve read book XXXX and the writing is brilliant, the characters well developed and you don’t even deserve to own a laptop. So, write crap and edit later.
Hitting publish is scary. You’re putting your baby out to be judged by the big wide world. Do it anyway.
Take what you can from reviews to improve your craft, but don’t let reviews define you. See above – make friends with other authors – they will be the only people who understand.
Lastly, what do you like to do when you are not writing?
I’m quite boring. I have a day job, three teens and a husband who is still the love of my life. I read, watch TV and kayak. And, I spend far too much time on Facebook and Twitter talking to other authors.
Thank you to Kenna for chatting to us about her work. If you would like to check out her books, click on the links below.