Synopsis: Kerris Moreton should be the happiest woman in the world: She has a successful business and is about to start the family she’s always wanted. But the man of her dreams-the one whose green eyes see straight into her soul and whose gentle hands make her body hum with pleasure-is not hers.
Each secret moment with Walsh Bennett serves to remind Kerris of what she’s missing. And every stolen hour makes it harder to see her future without him. But being with Walsh would betray a sacred promise and upend her perfect life. When tragedy strikes, the razor’s edge between love and loyalty grows sharper than ever. And Kerris must decide where her heart will fall . . .
Kennedy and I go way back. At least it feels that way. Along with Katie Oliver, we make up Wiz’s Angel Spice Girls. Or was that Spicy Angel Girls? We never did figure that one out. Whatever it is, we laugh ourselves to tears together and that’s how we like it. After all, that’s why I’m on Twitter. She’s a great friend and if anyone tried to take her away from me, well, there’s a reason why my friends call me Rocket the Raccoon and why former co-workers nicknamed me Hunter. If you ever need a good romance recommendation that’s left of center, she’s got them. I’ve learned to not question or resist when she tells me I should read something because she’s always right. Now if only she would learn I’m always right about TV shows…
Kennedy’s debut novel, When You Are Mine, was released in June, introducing us to Walsh, Kerris, and Cam. Before the release, Kennedy was open about this being a book with a love triangle and things would happen that people would not like. I was absolutely riveted from the first page. This from the person who is not fond of the love triangles in which the person who must choose, waffles back and forth. I was so taken with the book that I had to tear myself away from it to eat and bathe, and I was finished by lunchtime.
When you wrote When You Are Mine and Loving You Always, they were originally one book. What was the deciding factor to split them into two? Length was the deciding factor, for sure! It would have been about a 600-page novel. I actually was shocked the agent and editor even requested it when I pitched it because I was crazy enough to be honest about how long it was! LOL. When I pitched, I just thought it was good practice because I had never pitched before. I did not expect the agent and editor I pitched to at my local RWA Conference to both request fulls, much less both sign me. If you’ve read WHEN YOU ARE MINE, the ending point was almost exactly halfway through the book, so that was a built-in cliffhanger! J The publisher kind of led with that. Are you willing to break this up into two stories. It was non-negotiable. I am just glad that soon people will have the full story!
How did you go from your initial vision of Kerris holding her arms out keeping Cam and Walsh separated to a story full of angst and heartbreak? Gosh. You’re right. I didn’t know names or the full story. I just had this one image come to mind, which was of this girl standing between two best friends. Physically separating them from fighting. And I kind of started asking questions about how she got there. As I started asking questions, I didn’t edit the answers that I “heard”. Infidelity is not a part of my life. I have a no-tolerance policy for it! LOL. Even the kind of emotional infidelity we see in WYAM. I didn’t judge the characters. And I decided not to rescue them. The opening scene of the novel takes some people aback because I pull no punches about the fact that the heroine marries the wrong man. She does it on page one. A lot of writers in the romance genre let the heroine get to the altar, and then her true love rushes in and convinces her they should be together. Disaster averted. I wanted the reader to know on page one, I am not averting disasters in this book. They will happen. I will not stop them, and the characters will have to live with the consequences. And you will watch! LOL! It is apparent there is a vital connection with the best man making the toast at Kerris’s wedding. So that isn’t a secret, and it isn’t the point. The point for me was more how that person’s damaged self-image and the unresolved, unaddressed issues from her childhood abuse led her to settle for something less than what she could have had. Not that Cam is less of an awesome guy, because contrary to popular opinion, (LOL), he’s not a bad guy. A “bad boy”, yes, but not a bad guy. But Cam and Kerris kind of settle for one another because they believe only someone as damaged as they are would accept them…as they are.
Kerris and Cam have similar traumatic pasts, but different responses to it. Was how they handle/respond to sexual intimacy a discussion they had when they started dating? I deliberately had both Cam and Kerris experience sexual abuse and respond differently, because that happens IRL! Cam is a very sexual person. Not promiscuous, by most standards, but definitely has a very healthy sexual appetite. Kerris, though, has difficulty with sexual intimacy. She calls herself “frozen” over. Really, she never met the person who tempted her to deal with her fear of sexual intimacy, moreso than she hates sex. Really she had corded herself off emotionally from so many people. When she meets Walsh, she opens up to him. It’s like she is a lock, and he is the only one who has ever figured out her combination. For whatever reason, she tells him things she hasn’t even told Cam. And that emotional intimacy is what opens her up to Walsh physically in ways she has never considered, which to me, is as of as much consequence as physical betrayal. Yes, giving your body to someone else is a betrayal. But giving your heart? Sharing your secrets? Baring your soul to someone who is not your partner? Definitely as great of a betrayal, if not greater. Cam knows Kerris suffered abuse in foster care, as he did, but does not get the full story until they are married. He revealed his story shortly before the got engaged. He did know she was not sexually active, never pressed her for physical intimacy, and remained faithful when they were dating, even though he had never abstained since he was probably 14 years old. LOL
Readers had a strong reaction to Cam in a particular scene in When You Are Mine. Will we see him grow and learn from that experience in Loving You Always or do we have to wait for book 3? Oh, yes. I don’t want to spoil book 2, but Cam and Kerris both grow a lot over the course of these next 2 books. This series spans about 6 years. There should be a lot of growth in that time, especially for people in this stage of life – their early twenties. We meet these characters at their genesis. They are the rawest and most immature they will ever be in the story arc. They make mistakes – huge, seemingly irreversible mistakes in this first story, and really the next two books deal a lot with them cleaning up the spilled milk of book 1. And growing as characters, like we all have to. People have the strongest reactions to Cam of any character in this story because of the scene you are referring to. I honestly didn’t anticipate readers processing it the way they did. I don’t think Kerris even processed that scene as some readers did. Cam sees Kerris as “his”. He is a very possessive person. He even mentions in the lead up to their wedding that they will be one another’s only. A lot of that stems from his rootlessness. He and Kerris both grew up in foster care. They had different paths to the system, and Kerris was there a lot younger and longer, but neither has any family. At all. And that is what draws them together. It is not romantic love. It is the chance to finally “belong” to someone. To have someone who will not abandon you, is tied to you, who will be your family. Cam never envied his best friend Walsh for the wealth or position he has. The thing he envies most is Walsh’s mother, Kristeene, who sees Cam as a second son. He sees Kerris as his one shot at a family. When Walsh threatens that, Cam has a gut-level reaction that was not wise. I think you’ll see him acknowledge that as the story unfolds.
How much do you think your choice of point of views used plays into readers’ empathy for Walsh? Such a great question! And as I hear people’s visceral reactions to Cam, I think of deleted scenes from his POV. There were several scenes in the original drafts from Cam’s POV. This would have made a tremendous difference in people’s responses, I think. I will release one in the coming months leading up to book 3. My editor’s perspective was that we needed to limit POV, just Walsh and Kerris, to clearly define who the hero and heroine actually ARE, even though it is a love triangle. Basically who you’re supposed to be rooting for. It is a manipulation, to some degree. Many readers consider this Walsh’s story primarily, which surprised me because I saw it as Kerris’s story in the beginning. I had never written male POV, but I find that I enjoy it. And I think some of that comes across in Walsh’s scenes. He becomes the odd man out, but we hear how much Kerris means to him. How devastated and unmoored he is when she marries Cam. We see how terribly off course his life goes for awhile after their wedding. And he has some horrific experiences outside of the romantic aspects during this story. We walk with him through all of that, which garners our sympathy. We don’t get to hear how Cam processes seeing his best friend fall in love with his wife, and suspecting that she has feelings for him, too. The insecurity it breeds in him. The buttons from his childhood it pushes. Frankly, since I know things about Cam that readers don’t know yet, I needed to be very disciplined in how much of him I revealed because he is a scene stealer! I honestly think if readers knew more about Cam, were in his head, many of them would root for Kerris to be with him. And I couldn’t have that. Hahaha.
Readers were left hanging at the end of When You Are Mine. What can readers expect from Loving You Always? Um…resolution. Not easy resolution. Difficult life experiences that push these characters to hard choices. Honesty. I think a lot of readers were frustrated with Kerris’s emotional dishonesty. I get that. I really do. The things that happen in book 2 force her to be honest. She is exposed and has to deal with things she has been avoiding. She has to decide what she actually wants her life to look like, and do what it takes to get there.
How do you feel after having such a positive response to When You Are Mine after being told Kerris did not act like a heroine and your story was not a typical romance before publishing? I actually see the response to WYAM as mixed! LOL! A lot of readers perceive Kerris as a kindle-thrower. Everyone universally loves Walsh, but Kerris? They give her less slack. I notice that sometimes, though. That we sometimes judge heroines more harshly for infidelity, emotional or physical, than men. To be fair to readers, though, many of them were not as frustrated with the infidelity as much with her emotional inauthenticity and the reckless decisions she made. I give them that. She made a bad decision based on a bad assumption. There is a damaged self-view underpinning those bad assumptions. Essentially, the overt reason she chooses Cam over Walsh is not the actual reason. She, at the core, does not think she is worthy of Walsh. Doesn’t truly believe that a man like would want her…forever. And forever is key to Kerris because she has deep-seated abandonment issues. I think that is what a lot of readers miss, which means I could have done a better job of making it clear. Her given reason may seem flimsy, and it is! Her actual reason is where the fundamental problem lies, and provides the hugest opportunity for growth. Because I wrote books 1 and 2 as one story, and a lot of Kerris’s growth occurs in book 2, I get how some readers were frustrated with her. So much of her maturation happens later in book 2. I don’t think it’s heroic to just not make mistakes in the categories we think characters shouldn’t. I think there is something heroic about owning up to our mistakes; taking responsibility, asking forgiveness from the people we hurt with our behavior, and growing as a result. And that is what Kerris will ultimately do. And I think that is heroic.
You are a busy woman who wears many hats during the day. How do you balance all those roles? Sometimes I don’t, to be frank. This has been a huge learning curve for me. Huge emotional learning curve, but also I am still finding my life rhythm with these additional commitments. I did not anticipate being published so soon. I had written this story less than a year before it was sold to Grand Central Publishing. I pitched to one agent and one editor and they both signed me. It all happened very fast, and I know that is a “published people” problem look some folks who have been at this for awhile will give me! LOL! But I have been in another world, not in publishing, for the last decade. I have a son who is profoundly affected by autism, and have been focused on him and serving other ASD families for 11 years. I started a foundation for Georgia families living with Autism about seven years ago. I still run that foundation, and it takes a lot of time and energy. My son’s life alone is a corporation. It really is. Between therapies and the paper trail that is his life; the things I have to manage – that alone would be a lot for most people. To throw in the foundation and publishing 3 books in less than a year. Whoa. And I get thrown off. My life has become…arrhythmic in some ways. I am still figuring out how to balance it all. I do not sleep very much. I am answering your questions at 4am. LOL.
What were your top ten songs you listened to while writing When You Are Mine and Loving You Always? I have Spotify playlists for both! Check them out, but you’ll see Amel Larrieux on both playlists. I adore her voice, and she is amazing and largely under-heralded. She has 2 songs that are key for both stories. Not in the actual storyline, as much as emotionally a soundtrack. I ALWAYS listen to Florence + The Machine. So many of her lyrics are about damaged people, and Kerris and Cam especially were influenced by her tone as a writer. More Cam. And more in book 3, but some in the first 2 books, too. Sometimes when I have lost my way in a story or a scene, I take a walk with my playlists. I chose the songs for a reason, and often when I need reminding of a character’s motivation or goal or feeling, I listen to the songs and it re-centers me. Or even gives me a deeper insight into the character. Not that the songwriter knows something I don’t about my own characters, but their emotional delivery, word choice – something about that song opens me up in a way to see things I was missing that connect to that character.
Someone gives you an all-expenses paid trip for yourself anywhere in the world. Where will you vacation? New Zealand. I have always wanted to go there. There is a certain exoticism to it. A mystery, at least to me. I’m sure not to the people who live there. Maybe they’d find where I live, Atlanta, exotic and mysterious. Actually, no they would not. LOL
Author Bio: Kennedy Ryan writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction. She always give her characters their happily ever after, but loves to make them work for it! It’s a long road to love, so sit back and enjoy the ride. In an alternative universe and under her government issue name, Tina Dula, she is a wife to the love of her life, mom to a special, beautiful son, and a friend to those living with autism through her foundation Myles-A-Part, serving Georgia families.