I've always wanted a platform like this blog to just explain some of the thought-processes and behind-the-scenes things that go into my books. In particular, if you were to read my catalog from start to finish, you'd notice that my style goes through phases and that I've experimented with a lot of different flavors over the year or so I've been publishing.
Before I get into the why, I thought it'd be helpful to kind of organize my catalog on the spectrum I write within, which is basically a range from rom com to dark BDSM. Though, I should probably add that my version of dark is admittedly on the lighter side. The same goes for my take on BDSM.
As you can see, a lot of my books fall on the serious/dark side of things. I'd actually like to add more books to the light and funny category, but I always try my best to keep my own opinions out of the mix when it comes to what I write. That probably sounds crazy, but I pretty much have to ignore whether I personally thought a book was great or bad. The most accurate measurement I can take is whether the book reached a high rank and was read by a lot of people.
So my style journey has gone like this: In my early books, I put a lot of emphasis on having a relatively strong external plot moving outside the relationship, but I always wanted the plot to show up and interact with the relationship development. To me, a good book was one where the plot and relationship became more and more intermingled as the book went on. You'll see this style quite a bit in His, Mine, Dark, The Bodyguard, and Punished by the Prince (which I forgot to add to my little chart, but it's a kind of light BDSM/fantasy book).
My style evolved--or more accurately--adapted to shave off some of the focus on plot. I noticed some of the really popular indie romance authors didn't even have an external plot at all. To be completely honest, I didn't even know that was an option when I started writing. So I started experimenting with less plot to a degree, but it wasn't until later (when I wrote Knocked Up by the Dom) that I really took my shifting style to a completely new place.
My Single Dad books were all a lot of fun. Just like with kids, I probably shouldn't have favorites when it comes to my books, but I definitely do. Single Dad Next Door always sticks out as a book I think really came together well. It has my favorite scene I've ever written to date about half-way through the book, and it's one of the few times my own writing has had me laughing out loud during a re-read.
I'm going to go ahead and admit this now. Single Dad's Hostage was *not* my favorite. In fact, I'd go as far as saying that out of all the books I've written, I'm most disappointed with Single Dad's Hostage. The short version is that I was on a tight deadline and the premise I had thought up just wasn't flowing as naturally as I imagined. I had 20,000 words written (close to half of the book) when I realized that what I had just wasn't good enough. It would've taken way too long to fix, and I thought the only solution was to start again from scratch. The end result just felt like it was missing some charm or some life. I think I had written too many books of a similar style in a row, and I just had trouble making Single Dad's Hostage special enough to give my readers something I was proud of.
After that, I went off the rails a little with Punished by the Prince. At the time, I thought I was going to write something that really resonated with readers but also let me flex my creativity a little and step into the world of royalty romance. Unfortunately, it was probably my most self-serving book I've written. While I personally love the book and had a blast writing it, I don't think the reception was as universally full of praise as I expected.
It was kind of a tough pill to swallow. I wrote something that was extremely special and personal and it felt like a commercial flop. I think that contributed to the mini writers block I had afterwards going into my next book, which was supposed to be a follow-up called claimed by the prince. I still have the cover done somewhere, and it was a beautiful cover (sad face). But once I accepted the truth and realized my readers weren't as into the fantasy romance as I was, I scrapped the book about half-way through (I still have it sitting somewhere in my google docs, lonely and unfinished!). I ended up not having time to write a full book in time for all the promotions I had booked, so I went back and re-mastered Protector (now called The Bodyguard). It was a book I always thought was really fun and creative, so I wanted to go back and make it as good as it could be.
Next came the book that makes me more sad to think about than any of my books. Miss Matchmaker felt like the culmination of everything I had been working toward. I thought I'd made some mistakes with my past few books and learned from them. I also felt like I was really starting to grasp the genre and where I could move outside the lines without losing readers.
So I wrote a book that, still to this day, is one of my favorites. I've never felt the connection between a hero and heroine as strongly as I did in Miss Matchmaker. It felt so real to me while I was writing it that I could feel myself just getting pulled along in the romance too, which was such a special experience. But as these things go, Miss Matchmaker was my biggest commercial failure to date. I think it still lost me money after I factor in all my expenses.
So that was when panic started to settle in. Writing is a fickle business, and you can only afford to flop so many times in a row before you have to start considering hanging up your belt and going back to the real world. That's where I was when I was planning Knocked Up by the Dom. Money was getting tight and the books weren't really earning anymore. Many of my friends in the business were all struggling right along side me. Authors were starting to speculate that Kindle Unlimited was collapsing and we were all going to have to find a new outlet to sell our books and learn new systems in hopes that they could let us keep doing what we loved.
So to say I was desperate would be an understatement. The last time I had been this close to total failure was going into the launch of Punished, which I still remember saying was the last book I could afford to book promotions for.
The failure of Miss Matchmaker made me want to do something drastically different. I took the time to read three or four romance books from the past few years by popular authors and I tried to take a good, hard and honest look at what they were doing well that I wasn't. The biggest answer?
They weren't focusing so much on plot. It was almost universal. So I told myself I'd write a new style of book. I wanted the sexual energy to happen fast and furiously. I wanted to take just enough time to ground the heroine and then let the reader see how her life was changed by the hero. And I wanted to make the book much steamier than anything I'd written before. This was also when I decided that maybe one of my biggest mistakes had been never forming a solid identity for my readers to latch on to. After all, when I follow an author, I come to expect a certain style and tone. Yet here I was alternating between light-hearted rom coms and dark gritty BDSM books.
So I decided I was going to try my best to pick a style and stick to it.
The result was Knocked Up by the Dom, which was my most popular book by far. Most of the time, when I start writing a new book, I go through the same period of doubt about twenty pages in. I start to feel like what I have so far is pretty boring and bland or maybe that it just doesn't flow right or feel real. But I don't let myself re-read earlier parts of the book until I'm done and going through edits. Full speed ahead, basically.
I remember re-reading the first twenty or thirty pages of Knocked Up by the Dom and kind of marveling at it. Maybe that sounds obnoxiously un-humble (is that a word?) but it's the truth. It felt like there was this non-stop energy pulling me from page to page, like once you set foot inside the book you couldn't help but keep going to see where it ended. I still chalk that up to a little bit of accident and a little bit of practice, but whatever it was, the book clearly resonated with readers. Knocked Up by the Dom earned me a spot on the USA Today Bestseller list for the first time. I also have to side-track for a minute to explain the funny story behind that.
So technically, books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited don't qualify to be part of the USA Today Bestseller list as far as I know. The book has to be available on more than one outlet. As it happened, about three days after I published Knocked Up by the Dom, somebody pirated a copy of it and put it up for sale without my permission on ibooks. I found out a day later and filed a DMCA takedown notice, but it took Apple about three days to get to it.
It was only when someone told me I was on USA Today that it clicked for me. I wouldn't have made the list if someone didn't pirate my book and technically make it available on more than one outlet, even if it was only for a day or two.
So as annoying as it was to see my book pirated, I couldn't be too mad in the end!
After Knocked Up by the Dom, I wanted to keep writing books that followed its example. Readers seemed to really enjoy the style, so I wrote Knocked Up by the Master and Knocked Up and Punished. The main difference was that Knocked Up by the Master dove a little deeper into the hero and some plot, and then Knocked Up and Punished dove even deeper and I think produced some really emotional moments.
After that, I wanted to change up the style again. I felt like the "have sex quick and get pregnant" setup was something I had done one too many times to feel fresh, so for The Dom's Bride, I had fun going back to a more traditional style for my story. There was still plenty of steam, but I drew it out just a bit longer and added in a little more plot.
After finishing The Dom's Bride though, I felt like I didn't try something different enough. It was the type of book I was comfortable writing and the type I'd been writing for a long time now. So with Savage, my most recent book at this time of this writing, I wanted to take on a new challenge.
I wanted to write a book where the hero and heroine had a much stronger hurdle to overcome. I didn't want their problems to feel superficial at all. I also wanted to write my first serious attempt at making a hero who you probably wouldn't like at first, not completely, at least. So that's exactly what I did.
Savage ended up being longer than my usual books by a few dozen pages just because the gap between the characters was so big I felt like I needed more space to help them work things out. To me, it was an extremely rewarding experience, but I won't go into a ton of detail because I wrote an entire post explaining what my thoughts were behind Savage.
And that pretty much leaves me where I am right now, about a fourth of the way through my next book that needs to be done in less than two weeks. Yikes! Why am I spending time writing blog posts?
Anyway, I'm not sure if this kind of thing is interesting to anyone but me. I thought It'd be good to have this on my site either way though, as a sort of reading guide slash autobiography of the journey I've taken from story to story.
Thanks for reading!