Lisa: We’re so pleased to have authors Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott here with us today, on their release day, to chat a bit about their newest collaboration, Shatter, book two in the Unbreakable Bonds series.
How did you two ladies meet?
Rinda: We first met at an RT years ago, but that was only a brief introduction. She had just sold Nightwalker and made quite the impression with her gorgeous red hair and this fantastic black suit. I remember because we’re both very tall and cool suits like that are hard to find. LOL. But we actually became friends through email after that. I write erotic LGBT romance as Dani Worth and she likes my space opera series—even those early, too-short novellas. But she wrote me about them and we hit it off!
Jocelynn: That was soooo long ago. Rinda was the friend of a friend and I was so green and scared back then. But it was her lovely, naughty space opera books that drew me back to her. I fell in love with the characters and the world building. By the second book, I figured that if I couldn’t play in that world, well … darn it… I needed to write books with her. The reality was a few years off from that particular light-bulb moment, but we swapped a lot of long emails over the years about writing, publishing, and life. Rinda also became my gatekeeper for books. She introduced me to so many amazing authors and killer series.
Lisa: How long have you been writing together, and whose idea was it to co-author?
Rinda: We’ve been writing together about a year. (Though we beta read before sometimes.) I can’t remember who first brought up the idea of co-writing, but we kicked it around for a long time. Unfortunately, I’d had some publishing disappointments and was suffering burnout. I worried about taking on a new project, so I hesitated at first. She’s a good friend and I didn’t want to let her down. But I worked through my burnout and it was actually my critique partner, Rachel Vincent, who urged us to jump into the project we’d been talking about. Rachel critiques my urban fantasy and paranormal romances and she is also a friend of Jocelynn’s. She’s the one who originally introduced us at that RT years ago. Small world!
Jocelynn: Thank heaven for Rachel. She definitely gave us that final kick in the pants to get moving. Rinda had a lot of series she was balancing so I didn’t want to push when she had a full plate. At the same time, I was coming out of burnout myself after finishing my second series and looking to start some new trouble.
Lisa: Are Shiver and Shatter your first contributions to the M/M romance genre? What prompted you to want to crossover into the realms of LGBT fiction?
Jocelynn: Shiver and Shatter are my first contributions to the M/M romance genre. Can I just blame Rinda? No, that’s wrong. Well… I can’t blame her entirely. She started spoon-feeding me M/M/F menage and finally got me to try a M/M romance. I was instantly hooked. They were intriguing stories from a reader point of view, but it was the author in me that was absolutely over the moon. These books opened up a new emotional dynamic and a different electric tension that is so fun to write. And, honestly, these stories were the first that made me excited to write about love in a very long time.
Rinda: I’ve actually been writing LGBT fiction longer than I have anything else. I always planned to write M/M romance and told my agent that plan in 2008 when I signed on with her. Because my kids were young, I used a pen name for all my sexier books (Both MF and MMF) for a time, but I’m slowly transitioning all my writing to this name. I like writing all kinds of different love stories, although I will say I predominantly read M/M romance and have for many years.
Lisa: The books are set in Cincinnati. Why Cincy? What makes it such a great city to set a series in?
Rinda: Jocelynn is from Cincinnati and it’s fantastic working with someone who has such an intimate knowledge of the setting. Though I do try my hand at threading it in, she goes through and weaves her love of the place in so thoroughly, it feels like another character in the book!
Jocelynn: Home! I have been itching to write about Cincinnati for years, but a certain urban fantasy author who is also a dear friend beat me to it. And since I got my start in UF, I had to put Cincy on hold. When we were searching for a location, I didn’t want to tackle something huge like a Chicago, NYC, or LA. I was afraid that something too big would lose its flavor.
Cincy is a medium-sized city with enough cosmopolitan aspects to keep it from feeling backwater while still managing to have a touch of that slower, small-town feel. I lived in Cincinnati for three decades and go back often to visit family. That experience has allowed me to weave in both the popular spots as well as some of the more hidden places in the series. The majority of locations mentioned in the books are real. With Cincinnati, we can have the boys downtown for an expensive meal at four-star restaurant before heading to the ballet, or the boys can drive twenty minutes south along some winding road into the rolling hills of Kentucky and be in the middle of nowhere with only fields and farms as far as the eye can see. There’s a little bit of everything at our fingertips in that city.
Lisa: What does your ideal MC look like? Is he flawed and vulnerable, alpha and dominant? In other words, do you feel like you write a “type”?
Rinda: I tend to like different MCs but they are usually flawed in some way. I do tend to write stories about lonely people who find families that love them for who they are. That’s a thread in everything I’ve written. As for a type? I actually don’t write overly alpha males often. (Jocelynn loves them like crazy!) I do love them, though. But I tend to write men who kind of straddle that line. Yes, they are take charge types—strong and caring—but I tend to tamp down some of their bossier habits. (I’m deliberately messing with Jocelynn here now because you should have heard us working on Shiver. LOL. )
But I do love all kinds of MCs. From that overbearing alpha to the sweeter hero. For instance, Jude in Shatter is one of my very favorite characters. He’s nurturing and strong and tends to take charge when needed…or when he’s er, excited…but he also pays attention to what people need. He goes out of his way to comfort because that’s his nature.
As for Snow, when Jocelynn and I first started Unbreakable Bonds, Jocelynn actually had the four main characters already in mind and she introduced me to them in that first chapter. She knew me well and knew I’d latch on to Snow when we divvied up the characters. Snow starts out kind of rough but if you pay attention, his friends calm him down pretty easily and it’s only when he lets stress get out of control that he can be kind of a handful. Okay, okay, not kind of. He’s often moody, bossy and kind of snarly. (Can you tell I love him??) But I knew exactly what kind of man he’d need and Jocelynn agreed when I brought forth Jude.
Jocelynn: “Overly alpha”?!?! Really?! I feel like that was a dig on Lucas and he won’t tolerate that. Actually, there are probably more similarities between my personality and Lucas’s than I’d like to face, let alone admit.
Rinda interjects in a whisper: This is sooo on point…The personality similarities, of course. 😉
Jocelynn: In truth, I don’t know if I have an “ideal.” There’s a part of me that wants to say that any character with the right amount of love and circumstances can be an amazing MC. However, when starting Unbreakable Bonds, I needed to start with the Alpha of the Alpha. He was the foundation upon which the series is built. The world balances on his shoulders in some ways. (Of course… now I’m wondering what happens when you break that foundation… whatcha think Rinda? See… this is why I need a co-author? The world isn’t safe with me writing alone.)
I like them damaged so I can heal them. I like them laid back and chill so I can push them over the edge. I like them bossy and controlling so I can force them to step back. I like them grouchy and cranky so I can make them purr.
Lisa: What are some of the challenges to co-writing that you don’t run into when writing alone? Or is it easier in some respects?
Rinda: First of all, see her last answer? Sometimes, I do have to rein her in a bit.
Jocelynn huffs, indignant: It’s not like I’m trying to kill off all the characters
Rinda: But that’s the beauty of our working relationship. Sometimes, she makes me take bigger, needed chances. As far as challenges, there are actually a lot. We both have very different writing styles and trying to smooth them out takes work. We don’t always agree on certain scenes and we’re learning that there has to be give and take on some of these so all of the books feel like they belong to both of us. Though we each have certain characters, the other sometimes has to write the other’s characters into scenes, so we go through and smooth out dialogue—things like that. So far, our process is that we each do the majority of a book, leaving a bunch of chapters or scenes for the other, and then we both do revisions. It gets to the point we can’t tell who wrote which line sometimes. It’s tricky, but it seems to be working for us. We also have a BLAST plotting!
Jocelynn: It was kind of hard to get used to checking with someone when I wanted to change the direction of a scene, a location or a character. Writing solo, you just make the change and move on. With a partner, you need to step back and brainstorm with her, discuss why you think this change needs to be made. While it can sometimes slow down the process, it can keep us both out of trouble later.
Co-authoring also means checking your ego at the door. Just because I love a scene doesn’t mean it’s a good scene and needs to stay in the book. Being open and listening to your partner’s critique can be damn hard, but you have to be open and patient if it means creating the best book you can.
Lisa: Tell us a little bit about Snow and Jude, the MCs in Shatter. What are a few things you think they’d say they like about each other? What attracted them to each other?
Rinda: Snow is a handful. He’s arrogant, smart, incredibly caring though he doesn’t come off that way to those who don’t know him, and unfortunately, he’s emotionally kind of broken. Though some felt he came off a bit psychotic at first, he really isn’t. He just sometimes can’t get the kind of pressure release he needs. When I first told Jocelynn I wanted to weave some pretty harsh personal experiences in to make up his past, she was all for it. We wanted to take a person whose sense of self-worth had been affected by this damaging environment and give him love and family.
Jude is this interesting mix of family man and bossy caregiver. He’s strong-willed, compassionate, and caring. He also doesn’t take crap—not even from the moody doctor he wants something fierce. He goes after what he wants when he knows that want is returned. And because Snow isn’t the picket fence type, Jude adjusts. He loves fully. Also, who knows what a truly loved Snow will eventually want? 😉
Jocelynn: Snow is the type to push the world away because he doesn’t think he deserves love or respect. He responds to Lucas and Rowe because they can see through his bluster and anger, and still love him. I think that definitely one of the first things that caught Snow’s attention when it came to Jude. The man didn’t walk away or back down like the rest of the world so quickly did.
And Jude… I mean, how can you not fall for a sexy paramedic? I think the groundwork was laid when he saw glimpses of Snow with his family (Lucas, Rowe, and Ian), but the final clincher was the vulnerability that he saw in Snow. Jude is a protector and a caregiver first, and Snow needs protection and love more than anyone.
Lisa: Do you have the series planned out to a specific number of books, or will you keep writing as long as the ideas keep coming? Can you tell us whose book is next, or is that a secret?
Rinda: The next book is a secret at this point. Sorry! The plan was for four books for sure, but we also felt that the men in Unbreakable Bonds had bigger stories and could possibly get more books. It was really going to depend on whether or not the series picked up enough fans. We hoped like crazy because we LOVE these stories, but we’re also both known for writing mostly M/F so we’re basically new writers to fans of M/M. So far, the readers have been so, so fun. We even started a readers group on FB for them and we drop early snippets and sexy images of our character inspirations in there.
Jocelynn: Mean, cruel Rinda keeping secrets! Come to Auntie Jocelynn, she’ll take care of you. Just send $50 in check or money order to … No, just teasing. The focus of the next book is a secret, however, the title for book 3 is Torch. So I’ll just let you stew and speculate about that. Rinda is also right that we’d love to take another pass at the boys after we finish the first four books. Mmmmm…. More Andrei and Lucas….. But we also have a lot of other plans for future books and series. It’s a matter of finding time and prioritizing and weighing the market and keeping readers happy.
Lisa: What’s up next for you now that Shatter has been released? Do you have any WIPs or upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
Rinda: We’re working on the third book and also putting together a bundle of short stories that we offer free on our website. (They are set after Shiver and before Shatter.) The bundle will have new stories in it and it will also be a little sexier than what’s offered on the website. We also still have individual projects and there are early discussions on possibly doing another series. Maybe combining our mutual love of urban fantasy and M/M romance. (Rubs hands together!)
Jocelynn: Books and books and books and books… (skips off singing) Really, I just sit down and write what she tells me to write.
Lisa: Thanks so much to both of you for stopping by to chat today, it’s been so much fun! Will you tell us where we can find you on the internet?
Jocelynn: Thanks for having us. Now back to the salt mines. I owe Rinda more words.
Rinda: We can be found several places. We know different readers prefer different social media platforms, so we vary them.
Our website where we have lots of fun extras there about the series. Our Facebook page. Our Tumblr. We have a Twitter account, but we’re probably more fun on our personal accounts. Our combined twitter will keep readers up on new blog posts and book release info. It’s @drakeandelliott. We also have a fun readers group for fans of our series on Facebook called Unbreakable Readers.
About the Book
Series: Unbreakable Bonds: Book Two
Length: 290 Pages
Categories: M/M Romance, Mystery/Suspense, Action/Thriller, Contemporary Romance
Blurb: Maverick trauma surgeon Ashton “Snow” Frost keeps the world at a distance, relying only on his three closest friends to keep him connected. But when a ghost from their past returns to Cincinnati, Snow stands to lose everyone he loves. Framed for murder and reeling from attacks on his friends, Snow is pushed to his breaking point.
Jude Torres won’t let the doc shatter. The paramedic has been attracted to the doctor since he first laid eyes on him at the hospital, even if the arrogant, solitary man doesn’t fit into any of his plans. One hot, reckless kiss shows that Snow isn’t who he appears to be. And one night together will never be enough. Jude will fight for the doc.
Fight to keep him whole. Fight to keep him safe. Fight to simply keep him.