It’s not every day you get to interview one of your favorite authors!
I met Laura over the summer at this year’s RWA conference in Orlando, and she was supremely kind, supportive and open. I’ve learned so much from reading her books and from getting the chance to speak with her, and it’s my pleasure to share this interview, so you can get to know Laura too, as she celebrates her latest release, Theirs to Take.
When did you realize or decide you wanted to be a writer?
I’d always been a writer of non-fiction; it was what I did in my day job as a historian and professor, where I’d published two non-fiction books. In 2008, I suffered a traumatic brain injury, and as I healed from that, I developed a strong and new creative urge. I started writing my first novel about eight weeks later, and finished a draft twelve weeks after that.
It was a mess!
Not that I knew it, which was why I immediately submitted it to agents (sorry guys!). But that experience changed me and made me realize there was a whole craft I had to learn. That’s when I joined RWA, my local Maryland RWA chapter, and began revising that first book which was eventually published as my vampire novel, Forever Freed.
What sort of challenges have you faced as a writer? How did you overcome them?
Everyone faces challenges. For me, time has always been a big one. In the first five years of my career, I worked a day job as an associate professor of history at the U.S. Naval Academy, had two very young daughters, and a husband who worked 15-hour days at the White House. That meant squeezing in writing around everything else. So I worked from 8-5, put on my mom hat from 5-8, and then sat down to start my writing after that until about 2 in the morning, before I started it all over again. But I wanted to be a writer. So I prioritized it in my life however I could.
The Hard Ink series has an obvious, long-form arc – did you know the whole series outline before you started, or did you figure it out along the way? What’s your process for researching and planning your books?
Noooo I am not a plotter. In fact, the Hard Ink series was what forced me to hone my plotting skills. I had to know the big beats of what questions the team needed to answer in each book, and what answers they’d find in each book. But most of the connective tissue I figured out as I went along. It was the most challenging writing of my career!
My research/planning differs for every book. It’s whatever’s needed in the service of a particular story. But before I can start, I must know who the characters are. What they want, why they can’t have what they want, what their wound and backstory is, and why they’re a terrible romantic fit. Everything else I figure out as I go along.
Have you learned anything really cool or interesting while researching your books? What’s been the weirdest research you’ve ever had to do?
All the time! And it’s amazing what you can now find online. Biker club governing documents, military protocol, gun specs, everything you could ever want to know about tattoos, guidance on sailing, BDSM protocol, ideas for costumes and settings (and maps and floor plans, too). I’ve don’t research on all of this at one time or another, and so much more. The weirdest research I’ve probably ever done was on penis tattoos. I told Twitter NOT to do that search – but of course no one listened! LOL!
Many of your series have male characters from a group, team or club that fall in love one by one. How do you ensure that each of the characters is fully and uniquely developed, and doesn’t bear too much resemblance to the others in team? Do you know all of your characters before you dive into a series?
I know a lot about all my characters, but usually not everything. And sometimes a later character will be really quiet in my head until I get to his book and I’m like oooooh that’s why he’s like that. The keys to creating unique characters in an ensemble cast are: unique physical descriptions, unique names (every one can’t start with an S!), unique speech (including accent, pet words, crutch words, curse words, degree of formality), unique mannerisms that allow you to signal who it is without saying his name (think of JR Ward’s Rhage and his lollipops), and unique backstories that shape who they are in the present, just like happens in real life. I LOVE writing ensemble casts!
Obviously military guys make for easy-to-love heroes, but biker gangs can be a little more complicated. How did you approach the issues of legal and moral lines when you first planned the Raven Riders series?
In the Hard Ink series, I have my military guys break laws for good reasons. That was my approach to the Raven Riders. I didn’t want them to be an outlaw motorcycle club, with all the illegality, hard crime, misogyny, and other issues that come with them. So I based them on a real-life organization called BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse) and made them a different kind of a motorcycle club with a protective mission.
They still cross lines. And they will defend themselves, those they love, and those who can’t defend themselves. But much of what they do they do for a very good cause, and that was key to making them sympathetic and lovable.
You’ve written across several genres, was that always the plan or did some of them come as a surprise?
Early on, I wrote whatever came to me. Paranormal stories (romance and otherwise) were my first love as a reader, so it was natural that they would draw me as a writer, too. But the story of Hearts in Darkness, about two strangers who get trapped together in a pitch-black elevator came to me out of nowhere, and so that started me down a sexy contemporary path as well. And then contemporary exploded in popularity. Erotic was a pretty natural departure from sexy contemporary, as was romantic suspense once I started writing military characters.
Inclusivity and representation are prevalent and important topics in yours books, including issues of PTSD in veterans and amputations from combat, can you speak a little to the inclusion of a diverse cast and how other writers can work towards wider representation in their own stories?
I write the world I see. That’s my starting point. And that means characters of all different backgrounds and experiences. I also write the world that’s true to my story. So if I’m going to tell military stories, there are going to be diverse characters, because the military is diverse. And if I’m going to set stories in Baltimore and Washington, DC, where a lot of my work is set, there are going to be diverse characters, because those cities are diverse. Beyond being a reality, I believe strongly that diversity is a strength, and I want my books to show that. I think a lot of us do. And it feels more important now than ever.
Obviously the Hard Ink series spawned some pretty huge spin-off series, did you know you were going to write the Raven Riders and Blasphemy Club when you went into Hard Ink? How did those other two series come about? What challenges have you faced producing them simultaneously?
I did not initially know I was going to write either of the spin-off series. It was more that the characters began to demand their own attention! The further into Hard Ink I got, and the bigger role the Ravens began to play in that series, the more they came to life for me as deserving their own. Blasphemy developed much later – after I wrote Hard to Serve, the Hard Ink book that introduced Blasphemy – it just seemed like a fun, lighter world to play in, and that was appealing to me as a writer.
Can you tell us a little about the 1001 Dark Nights Project?
1001 Dark Nights is a fantastic multi-author cross-promotion project where the participating authors write standalone novellas in existing series. Readers can dive into any novella, whether they’ve read the rest of that author’s series or any other Dark Nights book, giving them an entry point for finding new authors. And authors get the benefit of a large group of incredible authors sharing their readerships through cross-promotion. I’ve written three of these novellas so far and just think the world of this project.
What advice would you give to new writers in the field?
1) Write! You can revise, sell, or self-publish what you haven’t written.
2) Read widely in the genre you want to write so you can learn the norms, conventions, strengths, and weaknesses of books like yours.
3) Persevere. You’ll receive a lot more nos, rejections, and difficulties getting discovered early in your career. Keep writing, because the single thing that sells book your book – besides it being good quality – is publishing more books.
4) Be professional – from social media presence to putting out quality work and hiring/assembling the right team to ensure that quality to learning your craft.
Tell us a little about your writing nook! Favorite tea/coffee/writing snack? Any furry friends?
Most days I write at Panera Bread with my best friend and fellow writer, Lea Nolan! I have an office at home with a super comfy recliner chair where I write, too! I don’t snack as much when I write – mid-Hard Ink series, I’d gotten up to my highest weight and didn’t feel good. So I committed to getting healthier and lost 50 pounds. I do love me some iced tea, though! And I have a one-year-old German Shephard puppy named Schuyler. However, he is NOT a help with writing. LOL!
Of all of your own characters, who would you most want to date? (If you can pick!)
LOL! I have a pretty big partiality for Nick Rixey (Hard As It Gets). Though I wouldn’t kick any of the Hard Ink men out of my bed!
You have Ride Wild and Theirs to Take coming out this fall. Do you have another project in mind or something you’re currently working on? What’s next for you?
I’m about to go on submission with a brand new series – stay tuned! And of course I’m also gearing up for the release of My Dear Hamilton, my second historical fiction that I write under the name Laura Kamoie.
With over a million books sold, Laura Kaye is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of thirty books in contemporary and erotic romance and romantic suspense. Laura grew up amid family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses, cementing her life-long fascination with storytelling and the supernatural. A former college history professor, Laura also writes bestselling historical women’s fiction as Laura Kamoie. Laura lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.
Find her on: Facebook – Twitter – Newsletter or at http://laurakayeauthor.com !
About the Book!
Theirs to Take is a standalone erotic romance in my Blasphemy series, and it’s a menage story about two long-time best friends who meet a woman who makes them admit to desires they’ve never before shared. Here’s the blurb:
She’s the fantasy they’ve always wanted to share…
Best friends Jonathan Allen and Cruz Ramos share almost everything—a history in the Navy, their sailboat building and restoration business, and the desire to dominate a woman together, which they do at Baltimore’s exclusive club, Blasphemy. Now if they could find someone who wants to play for keeps…
All Hartley Farren has in the world is the charter sailing business she inherited from her beloved father. So when a storm damages her boat, she throws herself on the mercy of business acquaintances to do the repairs—stat. She never expected to find herself desiring the sexy, hard-bodied builders, but being around Jonathan and Cruz reminds Hartley of how much she longs for connection. If only she could decide which man she wants to pursue more…
As their attraction flashes hot, Jonathan and Cruz determine to have Hartley for their own. But the men’s erotic world is new and overwhelming, and Hartley’s unsure if she could really submit to being both of theirs to take…forever.
Did you always know you were going to produce a BDSM series?
Blasphemy is a spin-off of my Hard Ink series, and was first introduced in the book Hard to Serve. After that, I was hooked and wanted to write more about the 12 Masters who own, run, and play at Baltimore’s most exclusive BDSM club.
Each of the Blasphemy books focuses on a different element of BDSM and kink. Do you have those specifics planned out in advance, or were they on a book by book basis?
Planning those out in advance was one of the most fun things about this series! I needed to know so that when we saw other Masters in earlier books, I could characterize them correctly.
What would you like readers and other writers to know about the BDSM community and writing BDSM novels? How do you think public perception of the lifestyle differs from the reality?
Sexuality is a spectrum of needs and desires, and what’s normal to one person is kinky to another. As long as it’s not hurting anyone else, whatever two (or more!) consenting adults want is perfectly fine. So incorporating the acceptance of self and others into these stories is key to how I write BDSM. The kink doesn’t drive my stories – the couples and their needs do. I think the public perception doesn’t fully recognize that every kind of person is into the lifestyle.
You’ve produced multi-partner romances before. How does writing them differ from writing two-partner stories? What are the best and the most challenging parts of working in the ménage genre?
I don’t think the romance element of menage differs from writing a couple, except the why and how behind it takes more development because it’s outside of most people’s everyday experience. The best part of writing menage is the complexity of the relationship and the variety you can include in sex scenes. The challenge are the pronouns and the choreography of the sex scenes!
What was your favorite part of writing Theirs to Take?
I loved the dynamic in this threesome, and how all three were needed to make it a whole.
Can you give us any hints as to what’s next from the Blasphemy series?
I’m not sure which book is next, but it’ll either be about Master Alex or Master Hale. Coming in early 2018.
Is there anything else you’d like to add, about the new book, writing or the industry as a whole?
Just, as always, thank you to the readers!
Jonathan pulled back until he could look Hartley in the eye. And his were on fire. “Christ, Hartley, we want you. Both of us. Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Somehow, Hartley managed to pull her gaze away from the intensity of Jonathan’s, because something inside her disliked the idea that Cruz might be feeling left out of this moment. She looked at the other man, and found him standing stock still, as if he were restraining himself from moving.
As if he were restraining himself from joining them. And she hated that.
“Yes,” she said, her voice a little shaky, the room threatening to spin around her. “I understand. I won’t lie, it scares me, but I want you, too. Both of you.” She aimed her last words right at Cruz.
He was at her side in an instant, his hand on her lower back, his shoulder touching Jonathan’s. “No reason to be scared, Hartley. We only want to treat you good, to take care of you.”
She looked from one man to the other. “But I don’t know what…or how…” She shook her head. “I don’t know if I’m…submissive.”
Threading a hand into the hair at the nape of her neck, Cruz’s voice dropped when he spoke. “Hartley, close your eyes and keep them closed.”
She did. God help her, she did. Even though not being able to see what they might do to her made her tremble even harder. But that wasn’t the only reaction her body had. Because she was suddenly wet between her legs.
“Open your mouth.” That was Jonathan speaking now, a sterner, grittier tone to his voice, too. Swallowing hard, she dropped her jaw, ovaling her mouth. His cock hardener even more against her belly.
And then a finger traced the oval. Jesus, not knowing whose finger was an utter freaking turn on. Her hips jerked, and Jonathan’s hold tightened around her back.
“Suck.” Cruz, again. That finger slid onto her tongue, just a little, just enough for her to close her lips around. Was it Cruz invading her mouth? Or Cruz giving the command to suck Jonathan’s finger? She wasn’t sure which was sexier. And then the finger, wet with her saliva, slid in and out as she sucked.
When it finally pulled free, she felt bereft and couldn’t restrain the whimper that spilled from her lips.
“Hartley, open your eyes,” Jonathan said. It was a tone that was almost a growl.
She obeyed, and found them both staring at them her with such intense expressions that it made her knees go soft.
“God, you’re fucking beautiful,” Cruz bit out.
Jonathan gave a single nod. “That, Hartley. That was submission. The beautiful way you just gave into what we asked of you. That’s what we enjoy. Commanding a woman to do things that will please all of us, that will make all of us feel good. Deciding how to give her pleasure, and asking for her willingness to receive that pleasure.”