Welcome author McKenna Dean today to the blog. I had some hard hitting questions to ask this author and hope you enjoy the interview and a bit about their release, The Panther's Lost Princess.
Thanks for stopping by to talk a little about your writing! Let's jump right in. When did you begin writing and why?
I think I’ve been a storyteller my whole life. My family instilled a love in reading in me, and it’s a natural progression from there to telling your own stories. Mostly because you can’t get enough of your favorite characters, so you want to tell more stories about them. Eventually, you create your own characters and worlds. It’s an addictive process.
Do you have a favorite genre? Is it the same genre you prefer to write?
I cycle through my favorite genres when I read: historical romances, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy. I tend not to read much in my own genre because I worry about becoming derivative.
I think it is crucial for writers to be readers, however. I can’t think of any better way to understand the craft of writing than by reading a lot. I can get a sense of what is an appropriate rhythm and balance by reading good novels. That is also one of the pluses of reading in your genre—determining what reader expectations might be. I’m not going to claim I always write to reader expectations, but if you break genre rules, it should be a deliberate choice with specific reasons, and not an accident because you didn’t understand the game.
Do certain themes and ideas tend to capture your writer’s imagination and fascinate you?
Definitely. I write a lot about people who build their own families. I enjoy the process of self-discovery and self-acceptance. I believe in healthy adult relationships, so my characters tend to talk about what’s going on in their lives instead of letting the plot rest on The Great Misunderstanding.
I love romances, but I love action and adventure too—so it’s rare me to write a story that doesn’t include an element of danger or a dose of the supernatural. Give me a heroine on the run and a hero who respects her, and I’m a happy camper.
How do you balance long-term thinking vs. being nimble in today's market?
Whew. That’s a tough one. Every time I think I’ve ‘learned the ropes’ regarding publishing and marketing, something changes and I have to adapt. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I’ve known people who couldn’t or wouldn’t change their process, and I think they’ve missed out accordingly on finding their audience and new readers.
My goals are two-fold: write the stories I enjoy as quickly as possible (which unfortunately isn’t all that quick for me) and work with bloggers, reviewers, and marketing gurus to build my audience up over time.
There are days when I feel I spend too much time marketing. That’s when I take a self-imposed hiatus and get some writing done! I tell myself readers are like stray cats. If you feed them, they will come. Stop feeding them, and they will drift away to other feeding stations. I just wish I wrote faster!
How do you find readers in today's market?
That’s a good question! I spend some time on social media (probably too much) but I try to keep my self-promotion to a minimum. I start some conversations, I join in others. I look to see what other people in my genre are doing and I try to emulate them.
Some people think the day of the book review tour is over and it should all be about newsletters now. Others buy ads or participate in big anthologies. I don’t rely on any single tool. I think interacting with your fans/colleagues in a place where you feel comfortable is important. If I know the person involved, I’m ten times more likely to share their announcements when they enter my timelines.
It’s all a give and take.
Do you come up with the hook first, or do you create characters first and then dig through until you find a hook?
I suspect I find the hook first. I love asking ‘what if…?’ questions. Once I have a scenario (“What if you found out you were a princess on your thirtieth birthday?” or “What if you were desperate for a job but you think your new employer is a vampire?”), then the characters come easily to me. The hook drives the characterization needed to tell that story.
In my current WIP, my heroine used to show horses until a bad fall made her leave the sport she loved. Now, years later, she inherits a stable but the inheritance comes with strings attached—naturally. I was fascinated when the original character I had in mind for this role morphed into something else entirely. Instead of being the rather generic female lead I had in mind, now she’s a fangirl who dresses like her favorite comic book character because she draws personal strength from this. But makeup and manicures don’t exactly mesh with manure and mucking stalls. So I’m interested in seeing where this will go.
How do you create your characters?
Most of the time, the story idea molds the characters. Sometimes I have a mental image of what they look like in mind (like a specific actor or model). One of my favorite tropes is Opposites Attract, so whatever one main character is, the secondary lead is usually different in coloring and temperament.
The character building feeds off the initial templates. Sometimes they take unexpected turns (like the example I gave above). That’s the fun of writing!
What's on the top of your TBR pile right now?
I just started Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander. I adore her Lady Emily series—not just because she is a phenomenal writer but also because she brings real depth to her characters. Lady Emily is a Victorian heroine facing the problems that the women of that time had to deal with. It’s not glossed over or romanticized, but the romance is a satisfying part of the mystery.
Tell me a little about the characters in The Panther’s Lost Princess.
Oh, I am excited to share with you a little about this first book in my new series, Redclaw Security. The stories are all standalones, based around the members of an elite paranormal agency that investigates and solves shifter issues. There’s everything I love most in stories: romance, danger, and the world building that comes with paranormal tales.
In The Panther’s Lost Princess, Redclaw puts their best agent, panther-shifter Jack Ferris, on the case: find the missing heir to the throne of Coreldon. When he finds Ellie West, a waitress in a hole-in-the-wall diner and a wanna-be singer, he’s gobsmacked to realize she’s his fated mate. She can’t be his mate, she’s the mission.
Ellie isn’t your typical damsel in distress either. She has plans for her life, plans that don’t include giving up everything she’s worked so hard to achieve to run off with some guy claiming she’s a princess in disguise. But there are forces behind the scenes that don’t want a missing heir returned to the kingdom. Thrust into a world she scarcely believed existed, Ellie has to make some tough choices—not only to be with the man she’s falling in love with—but to stay alive.
Where’s the story set? How much influence did the setting have on the atmosphere/characters/development of the story?
The story is set in small-town North Carolina and the Appalachian mountains. That influenced the characters quite a bit, particularly when Jack takes Ellie to his former clan up in the hills in order to buy them some time and safety.
I found myself imagining that shifters who live in the city, unable to change very often for fear of discovery, might lose connection with their animal forms and not even realize what they were missing. That’s when the idea of a resort geared just to shifters struck me—especially if society was anti-shifter and they had to hide their identities. I liked the idea of an untamed stretch of land where shifters could be free to shift into their animal forms.
If you had to write your memoir in five words, what would you write?
Passionate, self-effacing woman writes stories. (Self-effacing is one word, right?)
How often does your muse distract you from day to day minutiae?
It’s not so much a distraction as a lifesaver, I think. My job can be very stressful at times. Being able to escape into another world, however briefly, is fantastic.
What do readers have to look forward to in the future from you?
There will be more in the Redclaw Security series—each team member or relative will get their own story.
I’m also working on the origin story for Redclaw—how the shifter agency came into being. That will be part of the Bishop and Knight series, named after my principal characters: two humans investigating the slew of paranormal events that sprang up after WW2. A little like the X-Files but set in the 1950s.
I also am working on a lighthearted series called the Shifter Sisters: a band of shifter women who team up to find each other the perfect mate because in the shifter world, if a woman hasn’t chosen a mate by age thirty, her hormones take over and she will mate with the next shifter she comes across.
I also am working on a straightforward contemporary story about a woman who’s left an inheritance with strings attached, and she must work with the co-inheritor or lose everything. Both protagonists have their issue they must overcome to learn to trust anyone—let alone each other.
A new paranormal romance series! The Panther’s Lost Princess (Redclaw Security Book 1)
Find out why readers are saying they couldn’t put it down and can’t wait for more!
Ellie West has always known there was more to her story than being abandoned at birth. A child of the foster-care system, she didn’t get many breaks, but the one thing she can do is sing. It’s her only ticket out of poverty and obscurity. Nothing else matters, not even the nagging sense that she’s different. She’s headed for great things. She only needs a chance.
Jack Ferris couldn’t agree more. His firm, the elite paranormal agency Redclaw Security, has been hired to find a missing princess and return her to her family. Discovering that Ellie, a waitress in a hole-in-the-wall diner, is both the princess and his fated mate is like being hit with a sledgehammer. Ellie West can’t be his mate. She’s the mission.
The sooner Jack completes this job, the better, only Ellie has no intention of throwing her dreams away for a kingdom she’s never known. With hired assassins on their trail, Ellie might not have a choice. They must do whatever it takes to stay alive.
On Amazon and KU: http://a.co/i1r1wVZ
She closed the distance between them with grace and determination. When she stood a mere breath away, she looked up at him from underneath her bangs. At some point when he’d been upstairs, she’d taken out those horrible fake blue contact lenses. Now she gazed at him with eyes that glowed gold in the firelight. With her index finger, she lightly traced down his arm, hesitating as she neared his wound.
“Does it hurt much?” Her voice, velvety-soft, connected with something inside of him and pulled him a step closer.
The words dried up in his mouth, and he had to swallow hard before he could speak. “Ellie.” He wasn’t sure where he was going with that, only that he had to try to make her understand why he couldn’t accept her invitation.
“Jack.” The way she said his name, with such amusement at his futile attempt to resist, battered at his remaining intentions.
“We can’t… I can’t. It would be wrong. I’d be taking advantage of you. Surely you can see that, right?”
“What if I want to be taken advantage of? What if I choose you?”
Her words pulled a groan out of him. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“I know what I want. Better than anything I’ve ever known as long as I can remember. I want you, Jack Ferris.”
Take her. Mark her. Make her our own.
Author Bio and Links
McKenna Dean has been an actress, a vet tech, a singer, a teacher, a biologist, and a dog trainer. Finally she realized all these jobs were just a preparation for what she really wanted to be: a writer.
She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her family, dogs, cats, and various livestock.
She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/McKenna-Dean-Author-262328784224302/