Thursday, February 24, 2011

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboy Romances

The wild plains of the West, a rugged cattle hand, some good dogs, and the smart and sexy heroine. Like a snug fittin’ pair of boots and denims, Joanne Kennedy’s Cowboy series will win you over.

After 25 years in the business of selling books, she decided to sit down and write one. Five years and a lot of hard work later, she got her first novel, Cowboy Trouble, published with Sourcebooks.

Cowboy Trouble combined humor and suspense in a romance written for women whose interest ranged beyond high heels and hairstyles; readers whose idea of high fashion is wearing Wranglers in “slim fit” instead of “cowboy cut.”

The third in the series, Cowboy Fever, is about to be released. Joanne will be signing at the Barnes in Noble in Thornton, Colorado this Saturday February 26, 2011.

I met Joanne at an RMFW conference a couple of years ago. She’d just gotten the deal with Sourcebooks and we’re all glad that the series has taken off.

CIR: Why do you think romance continues to be the strongest selling genre?

JK: I think the way romance has changed with the times has kept it strong. Romances these days aren’t about women who succumb to love; they’re about women who reach for it and attain it on their own terms. Even though the books center on a relationship, they’re about people discovering their inner strength and learning what matters in life. They’re empowering and they give you hope that your future will hold everything you hope for if you stay true to yourself.

CIR: Who are some of your writing influences?

JK: I’ve worked in bookselling all my life, so I read everything. But in romance, some of my favorites are Jodi Thomas, Linda Lael Miller, Kristan Higgins, and Catherine Anderson. They all put lots of heart in their books, which is what I aspire to do. In other genres, I’ve been reading Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley mysteries while reading her fantastic book on writing, “Write Away.” I have learned so much from her – her depth of characterization is incredible.

CIR: Your cowboy series has mysteries entwined in them. Is it a challenge to ensure that you’re giving enough attention to the romance or mystery element of the story?

JK: I wanted to write mysteries when I started out, and that’s where Cowboy Trouble came from – but when I started entering it in contests, I kept getting the comment that it was “too romancey.” I realized then that I am a romance writer. It’s what I do, and every story turns to love and relationships. So my books are very much romances, with a little mystery thrown in for fun. In fact, I’d call them suspense rather than mystery because you often know “who-done-it” fairly early on.

CIR: How did you find your agent?

JK: I met her at a conference! At that time I was sending out lots of submissions and already had one waiting on her desk. She didn’t remember it when we met, but a week later I got an offer of representation from a different agent and let everyone I’d submitted to know I had an offer. I gave them two weeks to respond. Elaine was the first to call me and we just hit it off. I was lucky to find the perfect agent the first time out. The moral of the story is, don’t shy away from multiple submissions. I wound up with four very good agents to choose from – and I’d been submitting seriously for over a year and had survived well over 100 rejections.

CIR: Do you write anything besides Western romance? Any special secret projects?

JK: I have two paranormals that I love. The first one, Hell’s Angel, won the RMFW contest a few years back, and it’s actually the book that earned me my agent, but we couldn’t sell it. It’s a little quirky, and I’m making some changes to make it work better for the market. I have two other paranormals in the works as well, and I have a YA idea I very much want to write. Is there anyone these days who doesn’t have a YA novel on the back burner?!?! That genre is just so much fun these days!

CIR: On the Chiseled in Rock blog, we strive to be unique. As part of that we always ask an oddball question. You’re from Massachusetts. How’d you become a cowgirl?

JK: I was a horse-crazy kid, and my parents wouldn’t buy me a pony, which scarred me for life and led to an unhealthy fascination with men who swagger and wear chaps.
Seriously, I moved out West in the early nineties and I just love this world. Love the open spaces, the big sky, the people and the animals. I sometimes feel like a fish out of water being a New Englander in the West, but I think that helps me see what makes the West so unique, and why readers from all over the world love our cowboys!

Gusto Dave


Luanne G. Smith said...

I sat in on Joanne's workshop on writing strong Endings at the RMFW conference. I experienced a few aha moments by the time it was over.

Well deserved success, Joanne.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Thanks, Dave, for the great interview and the chance to be on Chiseled in Rock. And thank you LG Smith for the compliments on the workshop. I love, love, love talking and teaching about writing, so I hope to do more. It's nice to give back to RMFW - they've done so much for me!

Carolyn said...

I recently became hooked on cowboy romances and can't wait to check this series out. Hope to review more cowboy genre in the future! Thanks for the post!

Joanne Kennedy said...

Thanks, Carolyn! You might like the cowboy romances by my friend and fellow Sourcebooks sister Carolyn Brown. She wrote the "Lucky" series and the "Honky Tonk" series - she's an Oklahoma cowgirl.

Joanne Kennedy said...

I'm looking forward to seeing all my Colorado friends at the Thornton B&N on Saturday, 11-3. The other authors at the event will be Melissa Mayhue, Ashley March, Allegra Gray, and Mary Hagen. There will be cookies!

Mary Anne Landers said...

Thanks for your interview, Joanne. Wish I could come to your upcoming book signing. But if you ever do one in my neck of the woods . . . .

Got a question for you. How has your long experience in bookselling helped you as a writer? Any advice along these lines you'd like to pass on to other writers?

Keep up the good work!

Vinay said...

This is really a great blog and I enjoyed the information given about Love and Relationships Thank you for the useful detailed information.

Joanne Kennedy said...

Hi, Mary Anne! Thanks for stopping by. I wish we could get together sometimed, too.
Working in bookselling gave me a really good understanding of genres and the various niches within them, and helped me see what parts of the market were oversaturated, what was selling, and how to position my book to make it attractive to agents and editors. It really is extremely important that you know exactly where in the store your book will be shelved. And because I've worked as a buyer as well, I knew what worked as far as "back cover copy" to make readers pick up the book, and that helped me with my query. If you can't work in a bookstore, I highly recommend lots of browsing - even in this e-book age, there's no replacement for handling the books!