So are we featuring one author this month, or two? The answer is: yes.
Historical romance author Vanessa Kelly writes poignant, funny, passionate Regency-set romance for Kensington Zebra. To put it bluntly, it’s awesome stuff. Her most recent release, My Favorite Countess, has been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Regency Historical Romance, and Vanessa herself has been called one of the “new stars of historical romance” by Booklist, a prestigious review journal.
Like all superheroes, Vanessa has an alter ego: V.K. Sykes, author of hot, fast-paced contemporary romance and romantic suspense. Vanessa writes the V.K. Sykes books in collaboration with her husband, and the stories all have one thing in common: alpha heroes, and heroines who are just as strong and determined.
Vanessa–or is that V.K.?–has graciously agreed to answer some questions about her two identities, the self-publishing brand V.K. is launching with other traditionally published authors, and what it would take to make her head explode. She’s giving away some books, too–read on!
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Vanessa, thank you so much for being here!
As Vanessa Kelly, you write historical romance, and as V.K. Sykes, you co-write contemporary romance or romantic suspense with your husband. What draws you to those different genres?
Desperation. I had to give my husband a hobby when he retired or I would have murdered him. Ha! I’m joking. Mostly. Anyway, I’ve loved historical romance since I was a teenager (thank you, Georgette Heyer!), so it was a natural drift toward that genre for me. When Randy and I began writing together, we started with something he was interested in—sports. That, of course, dictated contemporary romances, since a Regency sports romance probably wouldn’t work very well. We also both like thrillers and suspense novels, so that was a natural progression, too.
Randy does help me with my historical romances, though. He’s a spectacular researcher and he’s also one of my critique partners. This keeps him busy and out of my hair. Don’t tell him I said that. [TR: Your secret's safe with us! Unless he reads this post.]
Tell us about your most recent V.K. Sykes releases. How are they related to one another?
Our most recent book is Fastball, which is actually a prequel to our award-winning contemporary romance, Hardball (that book just won the Silken Sands Star Contest for Best Contemporary romance—I slip that in whenever I get the chance). The hero and heroine of Fastballare the married best friends of Nate, the hero of Hardball. We’d actually begun working on their book first, but switched to Hardball when we wanted to write something with a stronger suspense element. But once Hardball was out we realized how much we liked the characters from Fastball, so we dug out the unfinished manuscript and got back to work. For those folks who have read Hardball, Nate makes his first appearance in Fastball.
And, of course, both books are sports romances starring very hot athlete heroes.
We’ve also got another book coming out next week, called Hot Number. It’s not a sports romance, but the hero is also a very sexy guy—an ex-soldier who is now a security chief at a casino in Las Vegas. I’d say that puts him in the alpha male category, like our other heroes.
How do you balance writing in two different genres? Do you and your husband have a process for writing the V.K. Sykes books?
We never work on the same book at the same time. If he’s writing the first draft of a VK book, I’m working on a historical romance. When those drafts are completed we switch out—he edits my manuscript while I revise his. This is really important for me. If I had to write two manuscripts at once—especially in different genres—my head would explode or I’d have a nervous breakdown. Randy can probably compartmentalize better than I can, but he claims this strategy works for him too. If we tried to work on the same manuscript at the same time, I fear very bad things would happen.
You’re self-publishing some of these Sykes releases. How does the writing community support indie authors?
It’s wonderful that authors now have the opportunity to control every aspect of their work and go directly to readers. The downside is that indie books are flooding the market, and it’s getting harder and harder for readers to find quality read. I’m part of a group of New York published print authors who have also branched out into indie publishing. We’ve banded together as an author collective, and we’ll be officially launching Rock*It Reads next week. Our authors are committed to producing high quality books, both in terms of story and in production values. When readers see our logo—RIR—on our digital book covers, they can be assured they’re getting a story as good or better than anything put out by New York publishers.
Readers can find out more about us at www.rockitreads.com.
What do you love most about your hero and heroine from Hot Number? What do you think readers will love the most?
I love that Sadie is a geeky math professor and that Nick is a tough ex-soldier who works in the security business in Las Vegas. They come together pretty explosively, and they’re forced out of their usual comfort zones by their spectacular attraction to each other. This is also our funniest book, IMHO. Sadie is a master of the one-liner, and she’s a very endearing and charming character. And I think readers will love Nick. He is one hot dude.
One thing your historicals and romantic suspense have in common? Heroes with unusual professions. Your latest Vanessa Kelly novel, My Favorite Countess, gained praise for its hero—a Regency doctor!—and your Sykes books have featured a video game mogul and sports stars. How do you settle on your heroes’ jobs?
When I wrote My Favorite Countess, I was experiencing some very persistent and discouraging health issues. No one could figure out what was troubling me until I found my way to two very kind and brilliant doctors. In part, I think the book is a tribute to them and to the help they gave me.
Plus, it was fun to write about something other than your usual aristocratic rake!
The heroine of My Favorite Countess was just as unusual as the hero: Bathsheba was actually the villainess in your previous release (Sex and the Single Earl). What was it like to write a heroine with so much baggage?
Tricky but fun. Bathsheba just got into my head and wouldn’t let go. But I had to give her a compelling backstory—something that explained her bad behavior and at least made it understandable. Then I had to punish her quite a bit and make her genuinely remorseful. And, of course, she ends up saving the day, rescuing several characters from really nasty fates.
In honor of your Sykes sports plots—what are your favorite leisure pastimes (besides reading and writing)?
Well, I’m not much of a sports fan, although Randy is. But we enjoy riding bikes, going for walks, hanging out in coffee shops, and just generally lazing about. Reading, though, tops the list for both of us.
What’s next for Vanessa and V.K.?
My next book comes out in October. It’s a Christmas-themed historical romance called His Mistletoe Bride. It releases the same day another Christmas historical romance comes out—that particular book is by the very talented Theresa Romain. [TR: Oh, you. *blushes*]
Our next V.K. Sykes book is Hot Number, and it comes out next week.
Vanessa, thanks for being here–and please pass on my thanks to the other half of V.K. Sykes, too!
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And now, the promised giveaway. Vanessa is offering a print copy of her latest Vanessa Kelly novel, My Favorite Countess, and an e-copy of V.K. Sykes’s Fastball, to one randomly chosen entrant. To enter the giveaway, please stop by the Contest page and fill in the blanks.
But we’d love to have a chat here, too! You’ve read about the jobs Vanessa’s historical and contemporary characters have. Do tell–is there a book character that you thought had an unusual or interesting job?
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Bio: Vanessa Kelly writes Regency-set historical romance for Kensington Zebra. Her latest book, My Favorite Countess, was nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, and she was named by Booklist as one of the “new stars of historical romance.” When not penning stories about aristocratic rakes and feisty misses, she’s writing contemporary romances with her husband, under the pen name of VK Sykes. You can find her on the web at www.vanessakellyauthor.com or at www.vksykes.com.