Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Today's Special - - Kris Kennedy

Fan Girl moment here...

I'm so excited to have Kris Kennedy blogging with us today.  I'm a huge fan of medieval romances and those written by Kris are among the best I've read in recent years.  Her debut book, The Conqueror recieved good reviews, her most recent book, The Irish Warrior was on many Top 10 lists of 2010, including mine, and I can't wait to read her upcoming release, Defiant (April 26th).   In fact, when you read this, I'll be sitting on the beach with Defiant in my (hopefully) hot little hands! Please join me in giving Kris a very warm welcome to The Romance Dish! 

What Appears A Blessing may Be A Curse...

...and vice-versa.

I think this is one of my (many) favorite elements of fiction, and it’s used to great effect in romance fiction.

This is the time when the hero thinks everything’s going his way, and he couldn’t be happier. I mean, his plans are unfolding precisely as he wanted, right? What a confidence-booster.

Then wham—he suddenly realizes/learns/discovers it’s all terribly wrong. (Note: This is the most fun when it’s due to the heroine. )

The flipside is when the heroine has been dragged down further and further into, oh, let’s say some pit of despair. (Because pits of despair are fun in fiction.) When every attempt at problem-solving has resulted only in digging herself in deeper, when everything is going absolutely, positively wrong. (Note: This is most enjoyable when the hero is either the cause of the bad stuff, or the consequence of them—i.e. She has to spend more time with him.) Which, of course, will turn out to be the very best thing that could have happened.

Some of the best storytelling tension, the best humor, the best sensual tension comes from these reversals or switches of expectation/desire and outcome. Some of the best kiss scenes, some of the best clues to solving the mystery, to getting the bad guy, to facing the inner demons, to resolving the core story questions—almost always, some of the best ones come directly from this.

I think this is because this same phenomena happens in our everyday lives, very, very often.

Something happens to us that seems terrible. Perhaps we made a mistake, or maybe we missed the exit. Somehow, we lose out on an opportunity we think was the Very Best Thing and, furthermore, Exactly What We Needed.

But a lot of time, later on--maybe an hour, maybe ten years--we realize that Very Best Thing would have been all wrong. Maybe it would have closed off an opportunity that could lead to something we now cherish. Or maybe something wonderful came out of the ‘mistake’ or the loss, something we can’t imagine our lives without.

Perhaps some (most?) of this attitude, “Hey, it’s Actually A Good Thing!” is just our human capacity for storytelling, our drive to create narratives that explain the world, our desire to find meaning and make sense of the world. It’s a hard-wired thing. So, who knows, maybe we’re just making up these “Hey, it’s really a good thing now!” stories to make ourselves feel better.

But you know what? Most of the time, I don’t think so.

I remember once turning down a job offer that was pretty demanding and inflexible about how I put in my time. Almost immediately after I turned it down, I began second-guessing myself, berating myself for passing up the (not insignificant) increase in pay and prestige. I had a rough few months of it, especially as I was constantly encountering the person who took the job instead. I kept seeing what ‘could have been.’

But . . . a few months later, I re-discovered writing, and you know what? I needed that time, to not only to re-discover writing, but then to stay up until 2am writing, to flex my schedule so I could fit in the obsessive, 23-hours-a-day writing I was sometimes doing. I needed time to be inspired. I needed time to get it all down. Time I’d never have had with the other job.

Turns out, turning down the job was the best thing I could have done.

I’m not (necessarily) saying that things happen for a reason. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. I’m just saying that often, if we keep an open mind, (or have one forced upon us—oh, hello Romance Hero) a lot of times, the thing we wanted turns out not to be essential at all. And the thing we dreaded, that error in judgment, turns not to be an error at all. It’s not only not as bad as we dreaded, but it might just expose opportunities we could never have dreamt of.

This kind of irony is fabulous fodder for dramatic tension in stories. I think that’s because it resonates somewhere deep inside us, because we see it in our lives, every day.

In my May release, DEFIANT (Pocket Books), the hero and heroine upend each other throughout the opening scenes of the story. Each time the heroine upsets the hero’s carefully laid plans, every time the hero boxes the heroine in, each time there’s a reversal of fortunes, it makes them more desperate, more angry, and more committed to their original goal.

But what it really does is drive them closer together (all I’ll say is, in DEFIANT, there are ropes involved. . . .) And that, of course, is the best thing that could ever have happened.

So, what are some of your favorite stories / moments in stories, where the best thing turns out to be the worst thing, or vice-versa? Or, even in your own life?

One person who shares their story will win a copy of my upcoming May release, DEFIANT!

And below, for anyone interested, is my paltry re-telling of a Chinese proverb that speaks this notion of reversals, and the value of adopting a mindful, accepting embrace of life as it comes, because we never, ever know what lies around the bend:

A humble man in a village owned the most magnificent horse in the countryside, a powerful, beautiful stallion. All the villagers told the old man how blessed he was. But he would always reply, "Maybe so, maybe not. What appears a blessing can be a curse, and what appears a curse can be a blessing."

Now it happens that one day, the stallion ran away, and the villagers lamented for the man, saying now that he must be cursed. And he replied, "Maybe so, and maybe not. What appears a curse can be a blessing, and what appears a blessing can be a curse."

A few days later, the horse returned, and had a whole line of beautiful wild horses following behind. By the law of the land, this made them all the old man's. His neighbors exclaimed at how truly blessed he was. As always, he replied, "Maybe so, and maybe not. What appears a blessing can be a curse, and what appears a curse can be a blessing."

A few days later, the man's eldest son was out riding the stallion, and got thrown. He broke his leg. Now the villagers all cried, "Ah, how cursed you are." The old man replied, "Maybe so, and maybe not. What appears a curse can be a blessing, and what appears a blessing can be a curse."

The next day, the army came through the village, conscripting all able-bodied men for their campaign, a war being fought for no reason other than to satisfy the emperor's greed. The army took every young man and boy in the village, but they left the old man's son behind, because his leg was broken. All the men and boys of the village who went were killed in terrible battle, but the man's son, being home, lived.

Now, that’s certainly not what you’d call a romance, and to my mind, the village menfolk had to suffer pretty horrifically in order to make the point, but at its core, the story speaks to reversals of fortune. In fiction and in life, this is pretty compelling stuff.

So, let me hear your stories, either fiction or real life!

Kris Kennedy writes sexy, adventure-filled medieval romances for Pocket Books. Visit her website  and sign-up for the newsletter, read exclusive excerpts, or just drop Kris a line saying Hi!


  1. I love in stories when something bad happens and this leads to the hero and heroine falling in love. Many books have the hero kidnapping the heroine, which would seem to be a bad thing but she always ends up falling in love with the hero. In a recent book (ONE NIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH by Anne Mallory) the heroine's father bets a night with his virginal daughter and looses. It ends up being a good thing for the heroine, and the hero.

    This book sounds really good. I have not read any books by Kris Kennedy yet but I do love a good historical.

  2. I have just been re-reading Wuthering Heights & when Heathcliff is suddenly thrust into their lives it turns out to be the best & worst thing for Heathcliff & Cathy. Such passion & pain!!

  3. Oh I love medievals and I have to tell you that I have managed to miss Kris' I think I will have to rectify that error immediately.

    One bad thing that happened to me was divorcing my second husband. I was devastated, but I ended up with my beloved son who is my living, breathing blessing.

  4. Medievals used to be a subgenre I assiduously avoided. Then my friend Manda, who was not exactly a fan of Medievals either, said, "You should read The Conqueror. It's a Medieval, but I think you'll like it anyway." I did read it. Manda was was right. And Kris Kennedy was added to my autobuy list.

    Not a Medieval, but one of my favorite reads of 2011 nonetheless is Julie Anne Long's What I Did for a Duke. The story opens with a Very Bad Thing: the hero discovers his betrothed in bed with another man. But his thirst for vengeance leads him to the home of the other man with a plan to seduce the man's innocent sister--a Very Evil Thing--but the Duke falls for the sister--a Very Good Thing-- and is transformed by love and ends up with an HEA, the Very Best Thing. Sigh!

  5. June, I've heard good things about that Mallory book but haven't had a chance to read it yet.

    Hope you enjoy Kris's books. I love them!

  6. Marybelle, I haven't read Wuthering Heights in years!

  7. Dianna, definitely give Kris's books a try. The Irish Warrior has a permanent place on my keeper shelf!

    I'm sorry you had to go through the pain of your divorce but so glad you've known (and continue to know) the joy of your wonderful son!

  8. Janga, I've been a fan of medievals for many years but if I had not been, Kris's books would have been the ones to turn the tide.

    I love your summary of What I Did For a Duke! :)

  9. This one sounds great. I am looking forward to reading it.

  10. Love medievals and Kris's books, so I'm definitely looking forward to Defiant.

    I agree with Janga's example, and the way she said it. What I Did for a Duke also on my top read list for this year.

  11. June~
    Oh, yes, the kidnapping curse-to-blessing! LOL--it's a fantastic one. In fact, a few writer friends and I just plotted out a kidnapping story for me...and I never thought about it in these terms. Thanks!

    I haven't read Anne's recent yet--thanks also for the reminder. :-)

  12. Marybelle~

    Yes-Wuthering Heights! Talk about reversals and emotional angst. Great example!

  13. Dianna~

    Thank-you for sharing your story. I used to practice as a psychotherapist, and I saw the heart-shredding experience that divorce was. But over and over, the thing that made everything worthwhile was the child that came from the marriage. As you said, the most indescribable, heart-filling blessing imaginable.

    I hope you love the book(s) if you read, Dianna. Let me know!

  14. Janga~
    What a great example, Julie Anne's book, WHAT I DID FOR A DUKE. yes, one would think the opening, um, *activities* would not lead to happiness.

    We're so used to categorizing events in our loves as 'bad' or 'good' and never revisiting the judgment again.

    But over and over again in romance, the storyline is *about* that forced re-evaluation. The hero & heroine *have* to look again, and again, and again.

    And each time, they change a little bit. Even if, for awhile, it's a change that lads to hardening and getting more *resistant* to change. But we all know those walls will be coming down soon.... :-)

    Thanks so much for your kind words about the books, Janga! I hope you love DEFIANT just as much--or more! :-)

  15. Kmannrn~

    If you check out DEFIANT, I hope you love it!!

  16. Hey there Pam P~
    Thank-you for stopping by and saying you love the books! I hope DEFIANT makes you just as happy as the others. :-)

  17. Karyn G~
    Good to see you! Thanks for saying you love the book, and I'm glad you like the new cover. For some reason, my publishers keep putting hot warrior guys on my covers...hmm...wonder why..?


    I'm noticing a theme among the Worst Thing Ever That Becomes The Best Thing Ever examples today.... ;-)

    Thanks so much for coming by, Karyn!

  18. OK, not exactly unbiased here, since I'm Kris's editor :). But I, too, was someone who didn't think she liked medievals--until I read DEFIANT!

    I'll just say that I fell in love with this book on the very first sentence, and leave it at that. You'll all have to read it to see why!

  19. Janga - I loved that scene in the book! Since that one has already been used, I guess I would have to say Eileen Dreyer's Never a Gentleman when Diccan and Grace are found in bed together - it was a great scene...of course, in this book it takes a long while before both the hero and heroine realize that it was a good thing.

  20. Great post, Kris!! I LOVE the Maybe, Maybe Not parable—I use it in my Tao of Publishing presentation I've given at several conferences, with and without my agent as a co-presenter. And I love Medievals—and Kris's are wonderful! Janga, I really enjoyed reading how you summarized What I Did for a Duke, too—what a clever, unique way to look at it! Thanks so much—you ladies are just endlessly kind, and I do like your taste in author guests. ;)

  21. Hi Kris! We're so happy to have you as our special guest today.

    I'm at the beach for the week. Just came in for lunch but I'm anxious to get back out to my beach chair and Jamie and Eva. I am so loving DEFIANT!

  22. Hi, Kris! I love medievals---yours are on my out of control TBR mountain. *moving them closer to the top* I must say that the cover of Defiant is very hot!

    Janga's choice of What I Did For A Duke is perfect---an extremely disastrous situation that turns out better than anyone could imagine. :-)

  23. I can relate to job twists. Years ago I got laid off from a good job, after a few months looking took (temporarily-couple months) a different job that sounded great and turned out anything but, however within a couple weeks after leaving the 2nd job I was hired at what turned out to be a really great job & have been there for over a dozen years now & still enjoying it. If it hadn't been for being laid off, I wouldn't have been looking & if not for that temp job, I might not have been available when the good job came open :)

    Congrats on the upcoming book. I enjoyed the first 2 and am looking forward to finding a way to fit this one into the reading schedule ;)

  24. Hello, Kris!!! And welcome to The Romance Dish! I love all romance writers, but especially those who write medievals. *sigh* Medievals will always be my first love :-)

    I can't wait to read yours!

  25. Hi, Kris! So glad you could be with us today. Congrats on your upcoming release!

    I'm with June--I loved Anne Mallory's latest. Heck, I love all her books. And I have Julie Anne Long's in my TBR pile and really need to read it soon! Especially after learning what the first scene is like!

  26. Medievals were my first love in romance books and I "lost" them somehow over the years but then I discovered your books and was reminded why I so loved them in the first place! *insert a fangirl squeal here*
    I love it when the hero's intentions completely go into another direction due to the heroine's interactions and he gets so annoyed. Annoyance can leed to so much good stuff! *g*
    I'm so looking forward to Defiant!

  27. Yay--my editor stopped by! :-) I've promised Abby that I'll try to insert one-line double entendres into the opening of all upcoming stories. :)

  28. Dtchycat~
    And we are back to the theme of the wrong people in bed together as the Wrong Thing-Into-Right-Thing design. :) And a great example, may I say?

    Thanks for saying hi!

  29. Julie,
    Why, we have so much in common! An abiding RA affection, we go all Tao-y sometimes . . . :-)

    Janga *does* have a way of seeing and explaining the stories which is really wonderful. I love listening to readers talk about books they love. I agree with her entirely on yours.

  30. PJ,

    Thank-you so much for having me by today! I have to say, I really love the picture of you sitting on a beach reading DEFIANT. Is there sand in the pages yet? Sigh. Hope so. :)

  31. Gannon~
    Yay! I'm near the top of the TBR pile. :-) I consider the pull-and-move-it-up a mark of distinction, and am honored by your trust in the stores. Hope you love! Let me know.

    Now *that's* a fabulous story. What a perfect example of things working out so much better than we could ever have planned. Thank-you so much for sharing, and congrats o such longevity in what turned out to be a fabulous job.

    Thank *you* for having me here, and I'm so glad you're excited to get a hold of DEFIANT, which of course has nothing whatsoever to do with the cover, right? :)

  32. Andrea~
    I'm so appreciative of you ladies sharing your lair with me today. Thank-you thank-you!
    Yes, you have to check out JAL's latest. When it opened, I literally sat up straighter in bed, and muttered, "Uh-oh." My husband opened his eyes slowly and said, 'What" LOL

  33. ClaudiaGC~
    Why, you sure know how to make an author's day, don't you? And how serendipitous, as you needed a gold star today, didn't you? Here you go :presses it to your forehead. :

    Thank-you so much for your enthusiasm about the stories. My goal is to keep writing them so you keep loving them. Let me know.

    And thank-you thank-you! :)

  34. Great story Kris, I love your books and can't wait to read this one.

  35. I have THE CONQUEROR on my shelf and THE IRISH WARRIOR is on its way this week. I will definitely be looking for DEFIANT. The first romances I ever read were medievals and they are still my favorite.

    I am not really a believer in "all things happen for a reason," but I do believe in making the best of what you have. We do a lot of traveling, when we can and often don't end up quite where we were planning on going. We never get lost, we always take "bonus tours." It might end up being a more circuitous route, but we have found some pretty interesting places and pretty drives by taking a "wrong turn." I usually do the navigating and will admit to being guilty of many of those turns. Life is too short to get upset. You can always get back to where you started or just find a different way to get where you are going.

    In Julie Garwood's THE WEDDING, Lady Brenna is sent to the Highlands to wed. She is kidnapped by that Highlander's enemy - BAD THING. However, her intended is an evil man, so she was saved from him - GOOD THING. Her captor's ( now husband), stepmother and stepbrother don't like her and make her life miserable - BAD THING. The H & H discover these two were responsible for the heroe's father's death and arde in league with the evil Highlander. Evil is punished and the hero and heroine can have their HEA in peace - GOOD THING.

  36. I love this element in stories. I think that's why I am such a sucker for the marriage of convenience stories because the characters are forced to marry, and it doesn't seem like such a good situation, but as they work it out it turns out to be the best thing that happened. One of my favorites is The Secrets of Seduction by Madeline Hunter. The heroine has some major enmity towards the hero because she mistakenly believes he ruined her family, but they are compromised and must marry. It seems like a bad situation at first because she is now linked to the so-called enemy of her family, but they fall in love and she finds out the truth. I love the type of tension this produces between the two of them.

  37. Virginia~

    Thank-you so much for coming by, and letting me know you love the stories! :-)


    Your example about getting lost when on travels is a great one! So much of whether we're happy or not isn't what *actually* happens in the world around us, it's our attitude about those things.

    And great synopsis of the reversals of fortune throughout Garwood's THE WEDDING. Thanks so much!

    I'm 100% with you--LOVE the tension that can come from this kind of set-up! And great example of Madeline Hunter's wonderful work. I'm so glad you stopped by. :-)