|Credit: Florin Gorgan|
Welcome to a Romance Around the Corner interview, where the questions are longer than the answers. Our guest today is Jill Sorenson, one of my favorite Romantic Suspense authors and a long-time friend of the blog.
Q. Hello and welcome back, Jill! Your new book, RIDING DIRTY, is a bit of a departure from your usual work, both in terms of story and the way it’s been published: it’s a Motorcycle Club book, it’s an electronic-only release, the tone is darker, and the sexual content is higher. You have been very open and frank about your struggle and desire to sell more books, and you recently talked about how the upcoming Aftershock book, WILD, has been dropped by the publisher and your plans to self-publish it. How much of this new direction you’re taking with RIDING DIRTY is motivated by the market and what currently seems popular, and how much of it is driven by inspiration and the desire to explore a new side of your writing? Is it hard to balance the business aspect of writing with the artistic and creative process?
Jill: Hi Brie! Thanks so much for having me. These are such great questions. I’m not going to pretend that my motivations for writing this book were purely creative. I’ve struggled in traditional publishing and romantic suspense has been a tough road. I wanted to go digital-only to keep the price down, and I wanted to capitalize on a hot trend. But I was also more inspired by this story idea than I’ve ever been before. For me, it’s all about a good concept. I can’t write something I don’t believe in. I also think that MC romance is a subcategory of romantic suspense. Some of my previous books have been dark and gritty, so it’s not that much of a departure.
About the sexual content. I’ve always enjoyed writing sex scenes and I love erotic romance, so increasing the heat level came easily to me. I know that some readers are tired of the focus on sex in romance, but I’m not. We criticize “sex for sex’s sake,” but I’ve never heard any complaints about fight scenes that are merely exciting or dialogue that’s just funny. A sex scene is an action scene. It can run the gamut from deeply meaningful or basely entertaining.
I love action scenes, sex included. I love writing about female pleasure and the female body. I think I’ll always be fascinated with female sexuality.
It is hard to balance the business aspects with the creative process. I have a lot of wild ideas that aren’t marketable. My books are unusual and perhaps difficult to categorize. I’m not into billionaires or extreme alphas. This book might not be what MC fans want at all. Who knows?
Q. Motorcycle Club books have been criticized for romanticizing a criminal lifestyle, for the misogyny that seems to be present in these groups, and because violent criminals don’t (or shouldn’t) make good Romance heroes. But RIDING DIRTY portrays outlaw MC’s as criminal organizations that do bad things and it never tries justify or defend their actions. The heroine, Mia, wants revenge and is using the hero, who spends the whole book in a very vulnerable position, to get what she wants. Was it important for you to always portray the Club under a negative light? Do you think that the fact that the heroine holds a lot of power over the hero, as well as the fact that most of the hero’s previous criminal actions were driven by his need to protect women, will deter some of the criticism? Do you worry that by making the story more realistic the fantasy appeal of MC books will be lost and readers will find it off-putting instead of appealing?
I’m not worried about the realism or lack thereof. Readers who don’t like criminal heroes will probably avoid this book and MC fans expect some hard edges. If anything, I anticipate comments that Cole isn’t forceful enough.
Q. As I mentioned before, RIDING DIRTY is a sexier book with a higher and more graphic sexual content. When I was reading the book, the sex was perhaps the element that surprised me the most, even more so than the Motorcycle Club elements. What made you crank up the heat level? Was it because the relationship between Cole and Mia, in many ways, starts and develops through sex, so the heightened sexual content came about organically? Or did you plan to write an Erotic Romance from the start? Are you worried that your established readership will be alienated by this direction, or do you think that they will welcome it with open arms?
Jill: I’d planned to write a sexier book. I wasn’t sure if it would be erotic or just really sexy, so I left it open and did what felt right. I’m not sure if my established readership will welcome this new direction or not. I’ve noticed that readers (myself included) seem to get more excited about sexy books. I’m hoping for that kind of buzz. There might also be backlash, and that’s okay. I’m actually looking forward to a few “eww vaginas” comments and some shaming slutmail! Legitimate criticism is welcome, too. The worst reaction I can imagine is silence.
Q. In which ways was this writing experience different and similar to writing your other books? What type of research did you do? Did you read other Motorcycle Club books before writing yours? What about those stories inspired you to create your own? Why are MC’s appealing to you as a reader and as a writer?
Jill: Writing this book was a little easier than most, but the overall process was the same. I outline before I start and edit as I go. I spend 3-4 months on the first draft and a couple of weeks on revisions. I’m not super fast.
I didn’t read any other MC romances. I tried, but I find it really difficult to read in a genre I’m writing. Instead I read several autobiographies of real-life MC members. The best was No Angel by Jay Dobyns, an undercover ATF agent. He wrote an interesting, honest portrayal of a ruthless MC. He doesn’t come off as a hero, not by a long shot. I think his book inspired me to write a story with blurred lines between right and wrong. Mia, Cole and the main investigator are all up to no good.
I’ve always been drawn to stories about bad guys and redemption. I liked The Sopranos. I’m interested in watching Sons of Anarchy. I love characters with double lives, undercover cops and secret criminals. One of my favorite movies is The Departed with Leonardo DeCaprio. The dynamic between his character and Vera Farmiga’s probably inspired Riding Dirty more than anything else. I also loved The Town with Ben Affleck and Out of Sight with Jennifer Lopez, among others.
The MC trend might be new, but criminal heroes aren’t. I’ve written several characters on the wrong side of the law before. Aftershock and Badlands both feature convicted-felon heroes. Eric from The Edge of Night is a gang member, and Javier from Freefall works for a drug lord. My heroine from Tempted by his Target is a wanted fugitive.
Q. Is RIDING DIRTY the first book in a series? The book is loosely linked to the Aftershock series by a couple of minor characters, so can we expect some of those characters to get a book in the future? What else can we expect from you in the future?
I’m self-publishing Wild, a stand-alone romantic suspense novel from my Aftershock series. It’s another earthquake story set at “San Diego’s Wildlife Park.” I just finished “Wild for Him,” a tie-in contemporary romance novella. I’m considering a book for Cadence, who was a little girl in Aftershock. My idea for her is a cruise ship/stranded island romance with a navy SEAL hero. I’m obsessed with disasters and survival stuff. Maybe a navy SEAL hero will give me the boost I need in RS. *fingers crossed*
Ideally I’d like to continue writing RS in both styles. I enjoy the gritty crime/MC romance and the outdoorsy action adventures.
Q. Finally, a completely off-topic question that I’ve been dying to ask for years: have you ever considered writing a Young Adult book? When your books include young characters, usually as a secondary couple whose story doesn’t always end with a conventional HEA, I’m always extra happy, because I find those younger characters incredibly fascinating and well written.
Jill: Thank you so much! I have thought about writing YA and NA. I read a little of both, and I love my teen characters. They’re so fun to write. But I also love my happy endings, and I don’t know if YA characters are ready for that. NA feels a little overcrowded right now, and might not be the best fit with suspense. As difficult as RS has been for me to break out in, I can’t seem to quit it. I hope sticking with it is the right move!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my super long questions! I hope we can do this again soon.
Jill: Thank you for having me! It’s been great. I hope my answers aren’t too boring. ;) If anyone has questions or comments, even critical ones, please feel free! I’m open to suggestions for my next career step also. Tell me what you think I’m doing wrong or what you want to see from me.
Connect with Jill:
About Riding Dirty:
He's her weapon of choice.
Psychologist Mia Richards wants revenge. Her new client, tattooed Cole "Shank" Shepherd, provides the perfect means. She just has to manipulate the felon-turned-informant into eliminating her husband's killers—members of Cole's rival motorcycle club. The first step, seducing Cole, is simple. As for walking away before she falls hard—it's already too late…
Dirty Eleven practically raised Cole, and he plans to double-cross the cops rather than sell them out. But smart, sexy Mia is an irresistible distraction. While she's evaluating his mind, all he can think about is her body…until he discovers her true intentions. Walking a fine line between desire and betrayal, they'll have to outrun her past, his enemies and the law for a love that's dangerously real.
Riding Dirty by Jill Sorenson
HQN. October 1, 2014
Zookeeper Helena Fjord has a dangerous job at San Diego’s Wildlife Park. She’s got no time for nonsense, and no interest in handsome, laid-back security officer Josh Garrison. She steers clear of his silly pranks and sexy smile. Until disaster strikes.
Josh has been coasting ever since his Navy SEAL dreams went up in smoke. He’s always had the hots for Helena, but the lady is off-limits. When a devastating earthquake hits, the unlikely pair must work together to secure the park’s borders. With wild animals on the loose, aftershocks imminent, and fires blazing across the city, they face serious peril—and a powerful attraction. Josh vows to protect Helena at all costs. But who will safeguard her heart?
Wild by Jill Sorenson
Jill Sorenson. 2014