Julie talks her career shift from lawyer to author, urban fantasy series “A Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom,” contemporary romance series “Stark,” and plans for an upcoming web series.
JMW: Hello, this is Jean Marie Ward for BuzzyMag.com. With me today is best-selling author Julie Kenner, best selling author J Kenner and J.K. Beck. Welcome, all three of you.
Julie Kenner: Thank you. We are all very happy to be here.
JMW: We’re so glad you’re here. Let’s talk about Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom, your longest running series. Your heroine, Kate Connor, is a mom with two kids. You’re a mom with two kids. Kate Connor is an ex-demon hunter. You used to be a lawyer, which everybody knows is a subset of black magic. How autobiographical is this series?
Kate Conner is a suburban mom with a husband and two kids… and a happily retired demon-hunter. Unfortunately for her, she spotted a demon at Wal-Mart who turned up in her kitchen on the attack. Kate was forced out of retirement and worked her secret post into to her already hectic life.
Julie Kenner: Maybe just a little bit. Seriously, there are actually bits and pieces of my life, really more my kids life in it because Timmy has little bits of both my daughters in him. But honestly, the books were meant to be about a metaphor for being a mom, and so I am a mom and moms have to juggle all these different things. In that sense, it’s autobiographical but I think it’s also biographical for pretty much every mom out there because you’re always juggling something.
JMW: Seriously, a little bit more seriously, what prompted you to relocate urban fantasy into the suburbs?
Julie Kenner: It’s actually an interesting question and it’s one that I really like to get, because this is one of the few series, I’ve written a lot of books, and this is one of the few series that I can truly remember the actual spark that was the reason I had the series. I started out writing romance. I started out with Harlequin and then I moved to single titles. I was writing for Simon and Schuster Pocket Books at the time. This was also when chicklet was becoming the thing, Bridget Jones’s Diary, that type of thing. I was out of contract with Pocket and I was looking to pitch a new series, an option book. I was picturing these guys and I wanted to do a paranormal, and they were going to be demon hunters, really hunky demon hunters with, a spike-like black leather jacket.
JMW: So it doesn’t show the blood.
Julie Kenner: Right. exactly, and they’re cresting a hill, and at the same time I really wanted to do chicklet, but I was a new mom, I mean, a very new mom. I wasn’t very interested in the girl trying to go get a job in the city. I wanted to do something with moms, and I’m talking to my critique partner about this and like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, the two things sort of hit together and I literally was like, “Oh my God, a demon hunting soccer mom,” And I literally sat down and wrote the first chapter that night, and I think maybe three words in that whole first chapter of Carpe Demon ever changed. It was just so perfect, the story, the character, was exactly what I wanted and I’ve been in love with that series NK ever since.
Kate Connor is leading a double life: Juggling her duties as a mom while returning to a career of fighting demons… and most importantly, keeping it a secret from her family.
JMW: I understand it has a history in Hollywood.
Julie Kenner: Yeah, that was really cool.
JMW: Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Julie Kenner: It’s been an exciting, interesting ride. When we sent the book out in three chapters in a synopsis, we got interest from Hollywood. DreamWorks actually contacted, someone from DreamWorks, my agent, and was like, “What is this Carpe Demon thing, and can we see it?” And so my agent got a film agent involved and we went out to all the major studios and there was a whole big thing and it ended up with Chris Columbus in 1492 and Warner Brothers, which it was there for a long time. We really thought that movie was going to get made. It was doing really well. It was going to be a big summer movie, and Hollywood being Hollywood, things happened. They left Warner Brothers. It stayed 1492 for awhile, they brought in a different director, reworked the script.
Very enthusiastic about it, and they always treated the property with the greatest of respect but it ended up not working. Finally, a few years ago the option was not renewed and so it was only an option for…I mean it felt like five minutes, but it was probably about six months and then it was picked up by Warner Brothers Television, actually, for Alloway Entertainment for the CW, and so that was another option for about a year. It was interesting. They were going to take it to series, obviously, which I’ve always thought it would do well in a series just because the stories are so episodic. That ended up not working out, so it was out of option for another little period of time, and then a woman who had contacted me about optioning Release Me, which was my first erotic romance, and nothing ever happened there, although, things are still kind of in the pipe.
Nikki Fairchild and Damien Stark have an intense connection. Fifty Shades of Grey-esq, Nikki fears the pressures of his demands, and having to reveal the darkest secret from her past.
But she contacted me and said she’s working with Awestruck, which is a division of AwesomenessTV which is…if you trace it back, I believe it’s a division of DreamWorks, as well, too, and did I want to option it to them for a web series? I’m very into tech. I think tech is really cool. I have a friend who is very much millennial. I think the whole web series concept is great. I’ve been a fan of The Guild from day one, so I was like all over that especially because this time around I’ve gotten to be…I’m an executive producer.
JMW : Cool
Julie Kenner: We’re working on that. I worked with her to find and talk with the writers. We have a writer on board and we’re super excited. It’s on it’s way to being a web series. I’m really excited. I think it’s going to be great fun.
JMW : Oh, that’s so cool. That is really so cool. You mentioned your erotic series. That’s the one you write as J Kenner, and under the name J. Kenner, you won romance‘s highest award for the second book in that series Claim Me. How has writing erotic romance enhanced your fantastic fiction and vise versa?
Julie Kenner: It’s interesting because I think they both feed off each other, and the thing that… I have fans that cross over and I think it’s because my voice…even though one is very funny and one is very almost literary, the characterizations, it really helps in going…and the characterizations because you really see in writing erotic romance just how much the interpersonal relationships are and you can apply that to the paranormal, especially in a situation like The Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom where you’re dealing with family issues. There’s this extreme level of drama. The Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom books are plot heavy and the erotic romance series are very emotionally heavy. You put those together both ways and you get a deeper story. I think they feed off each other.
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JMW: And how does J.K. Beck fit into all of this?
Julie Kenner: J.K. Beck was invented after I was writing and I left Pocket, and then I came out with a series of books that were paranormal, they’re sort of a paranormal Law and Order, is how I pitched them. They had gone to auction, they ended up at Random House and we were thinking about how to best market these books. We decided that it would be great to launch them in the stores as a new name, and so we did. We used J.K. Beck, Beck is my maiden name, and J.K. is J.K. So that made a lot of sense, and I love those books, but three names is too many. Frankly, two names is probably too many. It’s a lot to deal with. Random House has actually rebranded them. They are all J Kenner books as well. You can actually find them if you search “J Kenner.” J.K. Beck is hiding off in the shadows somewhere now, which is appropriate because the series is The Shadow Keepers.
JMW: Absolutely. Absolutely. Was writing something you always wanted to do?
If you have the HANDCUFFS, I have the WHIPPED CREAM
Julie Kenner: Yeah. Absolutely. It was the first thing I can remember ever wanting to do. I used to write stories on my dad’s manual typewriter so fast that the keys would smash together.
JMW: Oh gosh. Yes, I remember those.
Julie Kenner: That was before I even knew how to read. I was just writing stories. I always wanted to do that, that was my dream, and I went to…I was a journalism major and then I switched to a radio, television, film major. I was going to move to LA and write screen plays. I really wanted to write novels. Picked film because I had no clue how to…there was no “how to write a novel 101” in college, there just wasn’t.
Julie Kenner: And then I ended up in law school, as one does.
JMW: As one does, and it’s really interesting, you’re the second person I interviewed today who went into law and then ran screaming towards literature.
some days it’s just not worth gnawing through the straps
Julie Kenner: I didn’t run screaming. I practiced law for 15 years. It was a long drawn out scream. I did enjoy being a lawyer and was I actually really good at it. I enjoyed the academics of it. I think I really would have enjoyed teaching, because I did teach for a little bit and I loved that job and I loved doing appellate work when when I clerked on the Fifth Circuit. I just really got into the meat of the law and I always enjoyed writing briefs, and I know judges liked reading them, because I would always tell a story in the brief, that was the best part. But I never lost the creative bug. I wrote a couple of screenplays when I was practicing law in LA with a friend.
I wrote a play, which will never see the light of day, when I was clerking for the judge. I started and tossed all sorts of novels. Then I finally was just like, “I want to do this,” And so about 1996, I guess, I started really seriously trying to write and I started with category romance because I thought, “Well they’re shorter and I’m working crazy lawyer hours,” And so it made sense. Then I quit to write full time in June 15th, 2004, but it’s not like I was keeping track or anything.
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JMW: You can probably give me the time, the minutes. Yeah, yeah I know that, I know that. Well, let’s jump from 2004 to 2016 and what are you working on now?
Julie Kenner: Oh actually, it’s really exciting because I am working on the seventh book in my Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom series, and that’s a lot of fun. That’s going to come out, I believe we have it planned out for December, and I’m excited about that, more adventures for Kate. I’m working on, because I’m taking a page from Douglas Adams, I’m working on the fourth book in my Stark series, the erotic romance series and that one is coming out in April, and then a lot of other things too, but those are the two that are right at the forefront right now.
JMW: Yes. Are you also going to, speaking of Douglas Adams, if you’re taking a page from him, are you going to weave 42 in there somewhere?
Julie Kenner: You never know. That’s my answer if anyone asks me a question, I’m…”Can I ask you a question?”
I’m like, “42.”
JMW: Well, I’m going to ask you one more question because we’re coming up against the end.
Jean Marie Ward writes fiction, nonfiction and everything in between, including art books, novels (2008 Indie Book double-finalist With Nine You Get Vanyr), and short stories such as WSFA Small Press Award finalist “Lord Bai’s Discovery” and “Personal Demons” in the award-winning anthology Hellebore and Rue. Her videos include author interviews and tutorials.