Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Today's Special - - V.K. Sykes

It's my pleasure to welcome two of my favorite people to The Romance Dish today!  Please say hello to historical romance author Vanessa Kelly and her husband, Randy Sykes.  Together, they form the writing team known as V.K. Sykes, creators of romantic suspense and single title contemporary romance novels.  Their newest book, Lethal Confessions is a gritty, emotionally charged, romantic suspense story set in the South Florida world of minor league baseball and one I highly recommend.  

You can discover more information about V.K. Sykes and their books at their website and connect with them online at Facebook and Twitter.  


Welcome, Vanessa and Randy!  Congratulations on the release of Lethal Confessions!  Please tell our readers what they can expect from this book.  

Lots of chills and thrills and a great love story - we hope!  Luke and Amy, our hero and heroine, are strong, capable people who are very good at what they do.  They also both carry deep emotional wounds-especially Amy-that they must overcome in order to establish a trusting relationship.  And they have to do it while on the trail of a really dangerous killer who's after Amy's family.

While the tone of this book is different from your contemporary romance novels, the story still has a strong baseball connection.  Who is the baseball fan in this writing partnership?  What is it about professional baseball that makes it a good backdrop for your books?

Randy is the baseball fan.  He follows the major and minor leagues; he's always been interested in the difficult path most players must travel through the minors as they struggle to make it all the way to the majors. That's one of the reasons why we picked a minor league baseball setting for Lethal Confessions.

Pro baseball also makes an interesting backdrop for several reasons. For one, the players are visually accessible and fans often sit very close to the field, especially in smaller stadiums.  Unlike sports like football and hockey, where players are helmeted and padded, baseball stars can be easily recognized, and that seems to create an additional bond with fans.  Also, the stakes are enormous for players, who are expected to perform at a consistently high level or face public and management criticism that can really trash a career. For many pros, baseball has been their whole life, and they can't conceive of what they'll do without it, even though they know the journey will end--and in most cases far too soon.  Finally, as with most pro athletes, outsized egos are often involved, and clashes with heroines are therefore inevitable!

The villain of this book is a truly scary character. What's it like as a writer to create a serial killer?  Do you find yourself being frightened by your own creation?  (Because, as a reader, I can assure you this character sure scared me!)

This is a very interesting question, PJ.  We wanted to create a serial killer who was convinced he was murdering for all the right reasons-out of necessity really.  In his delusional mind, he's a vigilante exacting justice.  He's also a man who-like most serial killers-passes for completely normal to those around him, and yet carries in him the ability to kill in cold blood and inflict unimaginable pain while doing so.  So, yes, even though we created him and obviously scripted every move he makes, re-reading those draft scenes often brought chills because we believed this guy could be real.  (P.S. Vanessa, here.  The killer in this book scared the hell out of me!)

Right there with you, Vanessa. What I found so scary about him was that he did appear completely normal when he wasn't in killer mode.  I confess, it had me giving my new neighbors second looks!
   
Amy and Luke are characters with whom I connected immediately.  What would you like readers to understand about these two?

We wanted to create strong, self-aware characters who are also very much a product of their backgrounds and personal histories. Amy, in particular, sees herself as something of an outsider. She was born and raised in Francophone Quebec, reluctantly moving with her parents to Florida when she was a teenager.  She's adapted well to life in the South , but part of her will never be completely at home in Florida.  Amy must also struggle with a lot of guilt regarding the death of her twin sister, and she needs to make peace with herself before she can move ahead in her relationship with Luke.  Fortunately, Luke is a very patient, compassionate guy!



In May, you released Curveball, the fourth book in your sexy, USA Today Bestselling Philadelphia Patriots series.  Will you continue to write straight contemporary romance as well as your new romantic suspense books?  Will there be more Philadelphia Patriots books?  

It's certainly our intention to keep writing straight contemporary romance, as well as romantic suspense. We're working right now on a three-book contemporary series set on a small island off the coast of Maine. Grand Central will be publishing this series in print starting in early 2015. And, yes, the Philadelphia Patriots have a lot more games left to play, both on and off the field! The next book in the series should be out around the beginning of 2014, but we have plans for several more.  We hope Nate Carter can keep pitching for a very long time.

I hope so too!  And that trilogy set off the coast of Maine sounds very intriguing.  

What is it like to co-author books with your spouse?  Do you have a certain writing process that you follow?  What happens if you have different visions of the direction your story should take?

Though co-authorship is a bit unusual, especially in the romance genre, it works well for us, probably because we've gradually established roles that are by now quite well-defined.  Our writing process starts with brainstorming the broad aspects of a plot and the key characters. Randy then writes an outline which we discuss and finalize as a guide but not a straight-jacket. After that, Randy writes the first draft beginning to end, but leaving out the steamy scenes.  Then it's over to Vanessa to add, subtract, and polish the manuscript, ensuring that there are no crazy "a woman would never do that!" moments.  Let's just say that Randy's drafts, while sometimes poignant, are not generally the most emotional scenes in the history of the English language! Shocking, really, for a guy, isn't it?  As to different visions, we generally sort that out before we start writing, and Vanessa always wins.

Which is why you're still happily married, I'm guessing?  *grin*




Vanessa, you also write historical romance as Vanessa Kelly. What's next from your historical persona?  

My next historical series from Kensington is only a few months away! The Renegade Royals kicks off with Lost in a Royal Kiss, a digital novella,, on Nov. 26th.  The heroes of the series are the illegitimate sons of the royal princes of England, and they're going to have lots of adventures with their heroines before they find their HEAs.  Book One, Secrets for Seducing a Royal Bodyguard, will release in January, 2014, in both print and digital.

What a beautiful cover!  I'm looking forward to this one.  

Readers, for more information about Vanessa's historical romances, visit her website.  You can also connect with her online at Facebook. PinterestTwitter Goodreads and Rock*It Reads.


Autumn is just around the corner.  This is the time of year when I immerse myself in college football and my favorite fall fruits and veggies.  What's your favorite cool weather activity? Favorite fall comfort foods?  

Randy like to watch the baseball playoffs and World Series, and Vanessa enjoys walks in the cooler weather.  We also make a point of going for drives and walks in a nearby national park when the leaves start changing color.  As for favorite foods, beef stew, roast chicken, and pumpkin pie are perfect to usher in the change of seasons!

I love photography, especially taking pictures of places I'm visiting for the first time.  Please give us a "snapshot" of where you live; the sights, sounds and what makes it special or unique?

We're very fortunate to live in two quite different locations.  We spend about seven months in Ottawa, Canada and the other five (winter) months near Amelia Island, Florida.  As Canada's capital, Ottawa has all the usual capital-type attractions such as great national museums and historic buildings, including the Parliament of Canada and the Supreme Court.  It's also in a physically beautiful location, at the intersection of the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers, and has the historic Rideau Canal running north-south through the city. The Canal is frozen in winter to create the world's longest skating rink, and quite a few folks don their blades and skate along the canal to work-it's really a cool sight.  We also have the province of Quebec just on the other side of the Ottawa River (less than half a mile from our home), and that adds an additional Francophone flavor to the area culture.

Our Florida home is quite different-small (10,000 people) and totally laid back.  It's actually half a "resort" type area and half a working town, with two big factories and a thriving little container port.  It's probably best known for its place in the history of shrimp fishing, and the spring Shrimp Festival is one of the highlights of the year.  The Amelia Island beaches are spectacular, as is the inland waterway, just a stone's throw from where we live.  The King's Bay naval submarine base is just across the St. Mary's River in Georgia, and we've been lucky enough to twice see nuclear submarines being escorted out to sea by their protective Navy and Coast Guard vessels and helicopters.  Add in whales, dolphins, turtles, herons, egrets and even alligators, and you've got a fantastic setting for walks or just hanging out and enjoying nature.

I'm familiar with your lovely winter locale, having lived in Jacksonville for many years.  Ottawa is a city I've never visited but I'd love to.  I think I'd have to come in winter though to see the skating commuters! :)

What's on the horizon for V.K. Sykes?  

We're working on our small-town contemporary series for Grand Central, and Randy has just finished up the first draft of the next Philadelphia Patriots book.  We've also got two more romantic suspense books we'd like to publish, one of them the sequel to Lethal Confessions.  Stay tuned for more murder and mayhem!

This makes me one very happy reader!

Vanessa and Randy, thank you so much for visiting with us today.  We wish you much success with all of your books!  Is there anything else you'd like to add?  A question you'd like to ask our readers?

What's your preferred balance in romantic suspense-more romance, more suspense or 50/50?

Randy and Vanessa have two giveaways today!  One randomly chosen person will receive either a print copy (North America only) or digital copy (international) of Lethal Confessions by V.K. Sykes.  The second randomly chosen person will receive a print copy (North America only) of His Mistletoe Bride by Vanessa Kelly.



65 comments:

  1. Congrats on the new release, Vanessa and Randy. I like a perfect balance in romantic suspense, but there are a lot of instances where the romance seems rushed so I think a split of 60 percent romance and 40 percent suspense will work, too.

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    1. Thanks, Jane! I will admit it's hard to strike the right balance! Hubby and I have lots of discussions about that.

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  2. Hi Vanessa & Randy! Congratulations on your new release! I don't read too many romantic suspense but when I do, I prefer it more slanted towards the romance with just a small touch of intrigue and suspense. It makes more sense with a 50/50 split but I'm looking towards the HEA so I'd want more romance all the time!

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    1. I love the HEA too, Anita. To me, the romance so important!

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  3. How wonderful that a husband and wife are writers together. That must be such fun for both of you and I’m betting it has made your marriage quite solid. Congratulations to both of you.

    I’m such a sucker for romance that I would think that 70 percent romance and 30 percent suspense or mystery is a great combination.

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    1. Connie, I'm sure you're correct! I steered Randy toward writing when he took early retirement - I knew he had to have something to do or we would drive each other crazy!

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  4. Welcome, Vanessa and Randy! So great to have you here today!

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    1. Happy to be here, PJ, and thank you so much for your incredibly kind introduction. You and Andrea are two of our favorite people, too!

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  5. Hi, Vanessa and Randy! I confess that I'm a wimpy reader who avoids being scared into nightmares. I read very little romantic suspense. But yay for more Philadelphia Patriots books and the series set in Maine sounds great. And, of course, Lost in a Royal Kiss is on my must-read list for November.

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    1. Hi, Janga! I confess, I leave the scary parts to Randy. I practically had to cover my eyes when I revised the parts of the book with the serial killer! And thanks for the shout-out for Lost in a Royal Kiss. I'm really excited about starting that new series!

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    2. I'm kind of wimpy too, Janga but Lethal Confessions was worth looking over my shoulder for awhile. Great book!

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  6. Congrats on your new release! I love to read a good romantic/suspense! I love one that keeps me intrigued from the first chapter. I would love to read your books!

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    1. Kim, this one will grab you from the get-go! It kept me reading way past my bedtime. ;-)

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  7. Congratulations of your newest release! I absolutely adore romance and "His Mistletoe Bride" looks like a great read.

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    1. Thanks, Debra - I think His Mistletoe Bride is a fun book, if I do say so, myself!

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    2. Debra, His Mistletoe Bride is a terrific read. I read it last Christmas when it was released and plan to re-read it again this year. It may become one of my holiday traditions. :)

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  8. Hi Randy, hi Vanessa! There, I put Randy first this time! *wink* Well, actually, in romantic suspense I like the romance and suspense about 50/50. It's a great combo I think. If I want more romance and sensual tension buildup, I go for Vanessa's historical romances...and I've pre-ordered Royal Kiss and Royal Bodyguard. :-) Your comment about the minor leagues vs. major leagues is interesting. In Sacramento we have the minor league River Cats, which has struggled for many years but is finally climbing up the charts. They have a lot of loyal fans in the area and it's true that all of the seats close up to the diamond are filled up before the others are. Congrats on the success of your husband-wife writing teamship. It sounds like you've really worked out the kinks in such a partnership...all to the better. Love your books, both of you! jdh2690@gmail.com

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    1. Janice, you are a sweetie - thank you so much! My sister lives in Sacramento. I'll have to ask her if she follows the River Cats. Her family are sports nuts, so I expect she does.

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    2. Janice, I've never lived near a minor league team but when I lived in southwest Florida we hit the spring training games a lot. Always a fun time! :)

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  10. I love 50/50, need the thrill as well as the smut =D
    Thanks for the giveaway & Happy Tuesday!
    //Linda

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  11. I prefer 50/50 if I'm reading romantic suspense.

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  12. *waving madly* Hi, Vanessa and Randy! It's so good to have you visiting with us today. Congrats on the new release and your upcoming series with Grand Central! I look forward to them along with Vanessa's upcoming Renegade Royals series. :)

    I'm with Randy--I love baseball! Though, I'm sure we root for different teams; I've been a Braves fan my entire life...even when they used to always dwell in last place. ;-)

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    1. Hi, Andrea! Thanks so much for hosting us! Randy is a Blue Jays fan - I think. As you can tell, I don't pay much attention to that end of things!

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  13. Hi Everybody! Thanks for dropping by today. I'm at the doctor but will be back to play this afternoon!

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  14. I'm still married because I let my husband always win lol. I'm going with half and half. I guess you could have suspense without romance but why would you want to lol. I love your latest cover - just gorgeous.

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    1. That is a beautiful cover, isn't it, catslady?

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  15. Thanks, catslady - the cover was done by the talented Trish at PickyMe.

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  16. I say half and half I am the willow in my marriage and my husband is an oak so that's how our marriage works...


    Donna

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    1. I really like that, Donna! Lovely way to describe your marriage!

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    2. Oh, I like that description too, Donna!

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  17. I like my romantic suspense 50/50!! Congrats on the new release. Will be putting it on the wish list.

    mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

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  18. A 50-50 split is a good balance. Or maybe 45/55 towards romance. I like a good suspenseful book but I tend to like romances a whole lot more :) Congrats on the new release, Vanessa & Randy! Looking forward to reading it!

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    1. Ada, I like a good bit of romance in my suspense novels, too! Pamela Clare and Cynthia Eden are really good at doing that with their books.

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    2. I like plenty of romance too, Ada but I do enjoy the edge-of-your-seat suspense as well. Vanessa and Randy balance it very well!

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  19. Congrats on the new release! I actually prefer more romance to suspense. Sometimes a little suspense can go a long way. LOL

    Marcy Shuler
    bmndshuler(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Especially scary romance, Marcy!

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    2. For me, it kind of depends on my mood. I always enjoy the romance but sometimes I'm just in the mood for a good suspense-filled thriller.

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  20. I think my TBR pile just grew ;-} ~ I like a tad more romance, but I do like the mystery/suspense except when right in the middle of figuring out if the danger is really close (or not), the romance barges in and you're left with that big breath you just took and... and ...

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    1. And...and...you keep right on reading! (at least, I do!) *grin*

      If you're not a big suspense fan, do check out the straight contemporary romance books from V.K. Sykes and Vanessa's historical romances. There's some good reading there!

      Thanks for stopping by today!

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    1. That seems to be the general consensus, chey!

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  22. I prefer more suspense to romance...a 65-35 ratio is my preference. Interesting post. Thanks for visiting.

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    1. Ah, a true suspense lover - Randy likes that sort of balance, too!

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  23. I'd have to say I'm a 50/50 fan :) I want some story with my romance! Thanks for the fun post and congrats to VK on the new release!

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  24. Congratulations on your new release! I think it is awesome that you write together like that!

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    1. Thanks, Kelly - we do have fun coming up with these wild stories!

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  25. I'm 50/50 but like a strong romance story there. Thanks for asking. Lisagk(at) yahoo

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  26. Informative and interesting interview. Thank you.
    I knew little about baseball before moving to our present location. We have several minor league teams in the area, and it debunks the image of rich players living in luxury. Players live with host families and don't really get paid very much. The host families do it for the love of the game, and some have been host families for many years. These teams and games give everyone an opportunity to see the game and the players up close and personal.
    Good luck with the release of LETHAL CONFESS. It sounds good and should be a success.

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  27. I prefer 50/50 but only if the romance is properly developed. I hate when there is not growth in the relationship.

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  28. I'm more for the romance so I'd say 60/40. I do athletic heroes and heroines! I will look for your baseball series.

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  29. Congratulations on the new release. I prefer the mystery to be secondary, so I'd say 60-40 for romance.

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  30. Hi Vanessa! Where's Randy? Loved seeing you both in Atlanta and you already know that I LOVE all of your books. I usually like a book to be a bit more on the romance side so I'll cast my for the 60/40 romance/mystery mix. Congratulations to you both on the exciting changes to your publishing success!

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  31. I've read some of Vanessa's books but am curious to read one she writes with her partner.
    I've got have the romance, but love the suspense too so I'd have to say 50/50 is good for at least some of my reading.

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