Guest Blogger – Kendall McKenna (AND CONTEST)

Hi everyone.  Please welcome Kendall McKenna, my latest Friday guest.  Thank you for being here today and welcome to the hot seat.  First of all, please would you introduce yourself to anyone lurking here?

My name is Kendall McKenna. I’m a relatively new writer in the M/M erotic romance genre. I specialize in authentic military and law enforcement characters. I’m a long time fangirl and geek!
What made you decide to start writing? 
I have always been a writer. All of my life I’ve been writing in some capacity. I let myself be sidetracked from making it a career until a few years ago. I looked around at the M/M genre being released in e-book and realized I could do that!
What genre(s) do you write and how did you get into it/them?
Currently, I write M/M erotic romances. I got into it through fandom. I’ve been in fandom since before the internet and I fell in love with graphic M/M fanfiction. This is just a natural extension of that love.
Is there any genre(s) that you haven’t written yet which you would like to?  If so, which genre(s)?
I have an idea for a M/M/F story and a M/M/M story. I want to give them both a shot eventually, to see if I can do that kind of poly-amory in a believable way.
What do you think makes for a good hero?
I think what makes a good hero is complexity. And there has to be some imperfection mixed in there. Flaws are where the fun is at. Some of the things I think are good in a complex hero-mix are intelligence, competence, an emotional reserve, an inability to see themselves as others see them (good or bad), loyalty, stubbornness, a tendency toward self-sacrifice (not necessarily physically) and self-flagellation, and personally, I like to play around with the idea that a hero, for some reason, doesn’t believe he deserves a happy ending.
Now, since I write M/M, this all applies to both halves of my romantic pairings. Personally, I don’t write feminized heroes or a masculine version of a heroine.
What do you think makes for a good villain?
Believability and sympathy. The reader has to believe the villain would do the things he does. That old fashioned scene where the villain spells out his entire nefarious plot to the hero, delaying his escape so he gets captured, just doesn’t fly anymore! Also, readers can’t just hate the villain. There have to be hints dropped as to the villain’s motivation. The reader won’t necessarily agree with the villain’s reasoning, but at least they understand it. It all has to make sense.
Do you write your stories in order from start to finish or do you write out of order?
I am a linear writer. I occasionally skip small, connecting scenes that I go back and fill in later, but very rarely. I think that’s because I learn a little about the characters as I go, and skipping around ruins that continuity for me.
Do you plot out the stories before you start writing, or do you let the characters take over?  Or is it a bit of both?
I am what is called a ‘panster’. I write by the seat of my pants! And yes, it probably a case of the characters taking over. I do a little outlining and make notes things to remember or research I’ve done, but for the most part, I just write.
Which of your own characters is your favourite and why?
I adore Jonah Carver from Brothers In Arms. I relate to his impatience with incompetence, his dry wit, his bone-weariness, and the way he just sort of takes charge (cause somebody has to!).  Jonah is one of those who doesn’t see himself as others see him and it’s quite sure he’s entitled to a happy ending. He’s got a very cool exterior but he’s boiling with passion on the inside.
Where do you get your ideas from?
All around me. Like most writers, I see, hear or read something and I think ‘that would make a great story’. That’s how Brothers In Arms came about. The sequel I’m working on came directly from a true crime show I was watching one night. While the events of the show are a fraction of the overall story, it was the jumping off point for the larger story I realized I wanted to tell.
What kind of research do you do?
It depends on the story. For Waves Break My Fall, I didn’t have to do any because I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta a lot. I wrote a piece of fanfiction once where I did about 6 months of research that involved books, videos, scouring U.N. online documents and interviewing U.N. employees. For Brothers, it was a combination reading, interviewing and watching some intense videos of actual combat so I could accurately describe it. So far, I seem to have done a stellar job of that.
How do you keep disciplined in your writing?
It’s not so hard to stay disciplined because I enjoy it. Late nights are for writing. Free time where I can get it. About the only rule I have is that I finish one story before I start another, so I don’t have any WIPs other than what’s in edits and what’s in production.
What are the best and worst things about being a published author?
The best thing is the internal sense of accomplishment. I know I’ve done it! Despite the people who all told me I couldn’t. It’s also a cool thing to say, “I’m a professional writer” and have book covers to back it up!
The worst part is the promotion! It’s about as arduous as writing the books themselves! If all I had to do to promote the books was blog hops and guest blogs, it would be great!
Despite the growing market for same sex romances, it is still a long way from being mainstream.  Do you see a time when they make it to the bestseller lists?
Oh yes, I do. It’s like a blossoming flower. More people become aware, more participate, the stigma drops away, and more people become aware and read. Again, I’ve watched fandom go from a dirty little secret to something that’s almostrecognized by pop culture. We never would have thought that could happen. The M/M romance genre is an outcropping of that and will continue to grow and mature. We just have to get the mainstream media to stop treating us like freaky specimens under glass.
What is the best and/or worst reaction you have had after telling someone you write same sex romances?
I have never had a bad reaction to my face. What they’re saying about me behind my back hasn’t gotten around to me yet!
Two fun reactions I received that were good was telling a friend about the genre and having her become fascinated by the history and the idea that mostof my audience are straight women.
And then my husband told a friend of his what I write and I expected a negative reaction and instead, got a lot of humour, and requests to be put into one of my books. It was a pleasant surprise.
There seems to be some controversy about heterosexual women writing male/male romances, and whether they should or not.  Have you encountered this and what is your opinion on the matter?
Brothers In Arms received a review on Amazon from a gay man who is totally unaware the M/M Erotic Romance genre exists. He’s frustrated that all these women are trying to write gay literature. That’s his lack of awareness and understanding and not my problem. I’ve indirectly experienced people saying woman can’t write gay men because we aren’t gay men and I call bullshit. If that argument had validity, men couldn’t write female characters, none of us could write children, young writers couldn’t write senior citizens, etc. It’s about writing good, solid, believable characters who are experiencing universal, human themes. If I can write a hero and a heroine well, I can write a hero and a hero well.
It also totally negates the fact that women have owned fandom for well over 40 years. Just because you can get an e-book from Amazon instead of having to troll around under the table at the sci-fi convention for the box of fanzines, doesn’t make us any less significant to the activity. Straight women and gay men also have a lot in common, right down to the way our brains process the world around us. There’s more commonality than most people think.
As for realism, we’re talking about romance novels. I grew up on the Harlequin & Silhouette lines of the 1980’s and as ‘real’ as we all make these stories factually, there’s a deliberate note of fantasy that is understood and expected, no matter if it’s m/m, m/f, f/f or whatever your preference.
Do you enjoy films and/or TV shows?  Which are your favourites?
Of course! I said I’m a fangirl, didn’t I!
I’m a Star Trek and Highlander fan from way back. More recently, I was heavy into Torchwood which got me into Doctor Who. Currently, I get a little nuts over Haven, Sons of Anarchy, Justified and True Blood. I’ve got friends trying desperately to get me to watch Teen Wolf, but currently, I think Copper has eaten my brain. That’s the short list, anyway.
Do you like to travel?  What are your favourite places to visit?
Oh yes. My favourite close destination is Puerto Vallarta. My favourite city I’ve ever visited is Salzburg, Austria.
Is there anywhere you would like to visit which you have not had chance to yet?
Australia and New Zealand. I want to go to NZ and take the tour of Lord of the Rings film sites. See, told you…geek.
Do you like history?  If so, what is your favourite era and why?
I’m a huge history buff. My favourite era changes constantly. Last year, it was the formation of the state of Israel up to the third Arab-Israeli war. Now, it’s the Crusades. I’ve been fascinated by ancient Rome, WWII, Vietnam…lot’s of different periods.
What are you working on at the moment, and what are we likely to see from you in the coming months?
I am currently writing the sequel to Brothers In Arms and it’s called The Final Line. However, next up to be released (no date yet) is a paranormal story about Marine Corps werewolves.
Please tell us about your latest book.
My favourite book to promo is Brothers In Arms. It’s very plot heavy, lots of action and suspense. The romance is low key with mostly UST, but the love scenes it does have are graphic and scorching. The characters are very well developed. I’m very proud of this story. 
Blurb:
Jonah Carver–a Marine and combat veteran–and his former Captain, Kellan Reynolds, once shared a scorching night, but then lost touch; something Jonah has long regretted.
When an investigation into government corruption ends in a killing on Jonah’s watch, the FBI arrives. With them is Kellan Reynolds. Together once more, sparks fly and Jonah begins to believe in second chances.
Nothing is that easy, though, as the suspects will stop at nothing to halt the investigation. Jonah must keep everyone in his charge alive while helping the FBI and Kellan find the proof they need.
When Kellan is kidnapped, can Jonah keep the investigation from unraveling and avoid losing Kellan for a second time?
Excerpt:
Diyala Firmbase, Diyala Province, Iraq
September 2008

The room was sweltering. Jonah was sprawled on a mat on the floor, along with the rest of Bravo Company. This was what they did while in Iraq. This was what they did in the heat of the day, between bursts of danger-fueled adrenaline. They slept or they sparred. They tried to eat, but the monotony of the MREs and the repressive heat did little for their appetites.

Jonah was only just aware of someone coming into the dim room that served as 2nd Platoon’s barracks in their current firmbase. Boots crossed the room quickly but quietly. Jonah’s hope that he could pass the afternoon undisturbed faded when the boots came to a stop near his head.

“Gunnery Sergeant Carver,” said a quiet voice.

He took his arm from across his eyes and looked up at the Lance Corporal standing rigidly beside Jonah’s mat.

“Yeah,” Jonah growled, voice rough from sand and heat and yelling orders over the sounds of chaos and explosions.

“Captain Hoegerl has asked to see you,” the young Marine said, respectful of the dozing men around them. He stared straight ahead and refused to meet Jonah’s eyes.

Sometimes, Jonah really hated his combat reputation. It worked to his advantage when he wanted to keep some distance between himself and the men. It got in the way when baby Marines rotated in and moved around in complete awe of him. The whole thing was a pain in his ass and just got worse with each ambush he detected and each firefight his men survived.

“Tell him I’ll be right there,” Jonah said, sitting up to tighten and secure the laces of his boots.

The Lance Corporal scampered off with a barely audible, “Yes, Gunnery Sergeant,” as Jonah stood to his considerable height of six-foot-three and straightened his T-shirt and pulled on his blouse. He ran a hand over his closely shorn hair.

As with most structures in Iraq, the hallways were narrow and the entryways short. Jonah’s height and the broad width of his shoulders had him frequently turning sideways and ducking when he was indoors.

The room Captain Hoegerl, the Bravo Company Commander, used as an office was as dark and oppressively hot as the barracks room. The rickety table he sat behind could loosely be termed a desk. As always, Marines made do. Also inside the office was Jonah’s Platoon Leader, Lieutenant Darren Stoop.

Captain Gregory Hoegerl was a few years younger than Jonah’s thirty-two and didn’t have anywhere near the same level of combat experience. However, he was smart and practical and cared for the welfare of his men. Captain Hoegerl prepared methodically and reacted intuitively and Jonah didn’t think twice about serving under him. On comms, he used the call-sign Predator; a name he’d earned in Boot Camp. It was said he had an unnatural ability to stalk and eliminate enemy forces.

In contrast, Jonah’s Platoon Leader, Lieutenant Stoop, call sign Hitman-Two, was unimaginative, indecisive, and as boot as the day he was born. It was an open secret that Jonah, as Stoop’s Platoon Gunnery Sergeant, was the de facto commander of Bravo Company, 2nd Platoon. He was up to the task and, most times, things ran smoothly. Jonah was just getting too old to be taking orders from incompetent children who excelled at nearly getting him killed.

“You asked to see me, sir?” Jonah stepped in front of Hoegerl’s desk and stood at ease, giving a brief nod to Stoop.

“I need you for a mission, Jonah,” the Captain said, looking up. “And you aren’t going to like it.”

Jonah allowed himself a small smile. “That must mean it’s either babysitting a POG,” he said, using the acronym for persons other than grunts, the combat Marine’s term for support staff, “or being Command’s errand boy.”

“Got it right in one,” Hoegerl said ruefully. “Dignitary protection.”

Jonah didn’t bother to hide his surprise. “Not to question the wisdom of the Marine Corps, sir,” he said dryly, “but isn’t that a job for the Security Contractors?”

Iraq was crawling with private security firms. They were supposed to augment the regular forces by handling all non-combat missions, freeing up troops to be actual warriors. Things didn’t always go as planned, the contractors sometimes being little more than thugs, but Jonah was always happy to leave babysitting duty to them.

“The State Department asked specifically for regular troops to handle this,” Hoegerl replied. “Given the importance of the mission, it was decided Recon should be assigned.”

“Recon, Captain?” Jonah asked, raising one eyebrow.

Hoegerl seemed almost apologetic. “Given the high level of the dignitary in question, I feel it’s wise to assign the very best of the best. That means you, Gunnery Sergeant.”

“Thank you, sir.” Jonah grinned slightly, acknowledging the compliment and Hoegerl’s awareness of Jonah’s distaste for this mission. “Still, why won’t the Delta team escorting him from the Green Zone simply stay with him?” The Green Zone was the securest portion of Baghdad, out of which all U.S. Military operations were coordinated.

“He’s not coming from the Green Zone,” the Captain replied. “His transport is flying in straight to our airstrip.”

The rarity of that type of occurrence was an answer in itself. “Understood, sir.”

Hoegerl handed him a single sheet memo. “Here’s a mission overview. I’ll forward the details and itinerary as they become available.”

Jonah nodded as he scanned the memo. His mission was to commence at 0630 the following day. “Pick your team from the members of second Platoon and handle your own briefings as you see fit,” Hoegerl said. “Utilize the call-signs Hitman-Two-One, Two-Two, and Two-Three.”

“Aye aye, sir. Is this to be in addition to our regular patrols?” Jonah asked. His team was scheduled for a tour the next day.

“You and the men you select will be out of rotation,” Hoegerl explained. “First Platoon will deploy as scheduled tomorrow and Third Platoon will rotate in after that.”

“Will do,” Jonah replied.

“Dismissed,” Captain Hoegerl said. “And good luck tomorrow, Gunnery Sergeant.”

Jonah spun on his heel and left the room. He sighed heavily, finding humor in the absurd. Damn babysitting duty. Just what Jonah joined the Marines to do. As evening set in and temperatures dropped, or so the thermometers said, Marines began to shake off their torpor and take up various activities. Some cleaned weapons, others sparred, and still others tried to write letters home.

Contest

To win an e-book copy of Brothers In Arms, leave a comment with your email address. The winner will be selected at random on Monday, Sept 10th. 

Buy Link at Silver:
Where can we find you and your books on the web?  (Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter etc)
You can find me all over the place.
You can purchase Brothers In Arms in both e-book and print at all the usual outlets (Amazon, B&N, ARe) but here’s my link to my publisher:
And for social media:

32 responses to “Guest Blogger – Kendall McKenna (AND CONTEST)

  1. Let's make this interesting…If you leave a comment, I'll hold a drawing for an e-book copy of Brothers In Arms!

  2. This book sounds fantastic. Can't wait to read it. Thanks for the great interview and excerpt. I like that you can pick out a favorite character that you've written. Does that change with the current book you have finished?e.balinski(at)att(dot)net

  3. OOOOO I am so keeping my fingers crossed to win this!!musings-of-a-bookworm@hotmail.co.uk

  4. Great question! It didn't change when I wrote Waves Break My Fall or Strength of the Pack (still in pre-release editing), but I think I've fallen in love with Corey Yarwood. He's a popular supporting character in Brothers but he stars in The Final Line. I broke him and I'm building him back up and I think I really like the quiet, inner strength he's turned out to have.

  5. I'm glad you stopped by to enter! Good luck!

  6. I'm always thrilled to discover a new m/m author! I hope you do write the menages; I'd love to read them. And I remember Susie Bright saying that it's absolutely valid for women to write gay romance, because women can fantasize about whatever they damn well please. I always thought that was awesome…vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

  7. I agree, it is awesome! And we CAN fantasize about whatever we damn well please! Thanks for stopping by and good luck!

  8. Fingers crossed you get to check out the LOTR sites in NZ. Some of the filming took place in my hometown and a couple of weeks ago we went for a bush walk through an area that was used in the first film. Looking forward to your sequel to Brothers in Arms :)Henshawfamily@xtra.co.nz

  9. I hope I'm not too late to put my name into the hat to win a copy of this book. It sounds like a great storyyinyang1062 at yahoo dot comthanks

  10. Brothers in Arms looks like a great read. The exerpt made me want to read more and the upcoming Marine Corps werewolves sounds interesting.Pwilli8021@aol.com

  11. This book sounds awesome! I can't wait to read it:)~Jenjenniferwright4@yahoo.com

  12. That is #1 on my bucket list to do! Just need to save the money! I'm hoping in the next couple of years! You are so lucky to be from such a beautiful part of the world. I'm writing the sequel as fast as I can!

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Nope! You're right on time! I'll be taking comments all weekend! You're in! Good luck!

  15. You're in the contest! I'm pretty excited about the werewolves. I broke some conventions in my worldbuilding and I love it!Good luck!

  16. The excerpt sounds interesting – please enter me also in your contest. Always happy to read a new M/M writer and good luck in your writing.Demetrademetra21@yahoo.com

  17. See? This IS what I like most. Action! Keep me at the edge of my seat and I'll keep coming back for more! Not saying romance is not for me either, just that action stories really do it for me. I'll sure be reading this one.Thanks for the contest!taina1959 @ yahoo.com

  18. Sounds like a VERY compelling book. Would love to win this one. Thanks.npat78@yahoo.com

  19. It's one of the things I'm proud of about this book, too, that it's got such a full plot with a solid romance woven into it! And a great deal of authentic action. The final action sequence is a nail biter!Good luck!

  20. You're entered! Good luck!

  21. You got it! You're entered!

  22. SOunds like a read I would like to add to my list of many books on my to read list. Thanks for adding me,Christopher Hammelchristopherinwonderland@yahoo.com

  23. This book sounds so cool, can't wait to read it! Thanks for the interview!tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

  24. I really enjoyed reading this interview! as a gay man, I couldn't agree more with the comment you made about us having so much in common with straight women. My closest friends are these wonderful women. I've not read your books yet, but am eager to jump in. Hugs!Jim

  25. Great interview!Yvetteyratpatrol@aol.com

  26. Thank you for stopping by to read and comment!

  27. Awesome! I hope you do get a chance to read them and that you enjoy them when you do!

  28. Gotcha. You're entered!

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