#1 NYTimes best-selling author,
Sherrilyn Kenyon lives a life of extraordinary danger...as does any woman with three sons, a husband, a menagerie of pets and a collection of swords that all of the above have a major fixation with. But when not running interference (or dashing off to the emergency room), she's found chained to her computer where she likes to play with all her imaginary friends. With more than twenty million copies of her books in print, in over thirty countries, she certainly has a lot of friends to play with too.
Writing as Kinley MacGregor and Sherrilyn Kenyon, she’s the author of several blockbuster series including: The Dark-Hunters, The League, BAD Agency, Lords of Avalon and the forthcoming Nevermore and Chronicles of Nick. Her Lords of Avalon novels have been adapted by Marvel and her Dark-Hunter novels are now a New York Times bestselling manga published by St. Martins.
Her books always appear at the top of the New York Times, Publisher's Weekly and USA Today lists. She’s one of only three authors in the last eighteen months to claim seven #1 slots on the New York Times bestseller list. During the same time, she's claimed eight #1 slots on Publisher's Weekly.
Hi, Sherrilyn, it’s great you could be a part of this issue of RWNZ Heart to Heart!
Thanks so much for inviting me. I really appreciate it.
What significant milestones have marked your journey to publication?
The fact I think I’ve racked up more rejections than twenty authors put together and that I survived the single worst rejection of any writer I know or have heard of. “No one at this publishing house will ever be interested in developing this author. Do not submit her work to us again.”
Honestly though, every book is a milestone and I cherish each one.
What has been the most surprising aspect of your publication journey?
That is was so hard and that I kept going. I always say there are two things you never want to ask me about. Childbirth and pregnancy because I’ll scare you off both.
What’s a typical working day like for you?
A case study in Murphy’s Law. I don’t really have a typical day because of the above :) I get up between 6-7 am. Help hubby get the boys off to school. I answer emails and usually hit the gym between 8-10 (yes, I do workout for this body LOL- can you imagine what I’d look like if I didn’t?). Then I take business calls, answer emails and write. But the majority of my writing time is done after 8 PM when the house is quiet. I usually work until 2-3 am and then get up and start over. Sometimes I stay up for a couple of days in a row.
What is it about your books that makes them so popular?
I have no idea :) But fans tell me that they like the fact that they laugh and cry in every book. That the characters seem real to them and that even when a character is bad, they understand and feel for them.
I’ve read several interviews where you’ve commented that whenever you see a copy of FANTASY LOVER, the book manages to make you smile in amazement. Could you tell us a little about the origins of the Dark-Hunter series (I believe you originally submitted a list of over 40 synopses to your editor for this series) and why FANTASY LOVER took so long to find acceptance in the publishing world?
Publishing doesn’t like things that are different as a rule. At the time I sold FANTASY LOVER, there was no paranormal market at all and hadn’t been one in years. Same for the Dark-Hunter novels. The reason why the vampires are called Daimons is that no publisher would even consider a vampire novel.
When I sold the series no one, other than Anne Rice, had ever put one on a major list so no publisher was interested. I tried from 1989-1994 to sell the Dark-Hunters as novels. I wrote FANTASY LOVER hoping that since it didn’t have the Daimons in it, that I might entice a publisher to take a chance on the series. I submitted it from 1994 until 1999 when it was finally bought.
The novels come from the Dark-Hunter short stories that I published in small press magazines from 1985-1990. I got the idea while working as an editor for an SF magazine, Cutting Edge. My boss wanted an ongoing serial that could boost our subscription rate. I asked if I could write vampires. He was a little reluctant, but finally told me I could write whatever I wanted.
At the same time I was taking a class in mythology and also working for a local paper (I had to work three jobs to pay for school). Since it was Halloween, I was doing a series of articles on the origins of various legends such as vampires. While interviewing my professor, I asked the question why he thought no one had ever done a vampire series based on Greek myth since Apollo was both the god of the sun and of plagues and voila, the entire idea for the Dark-Hunters was born in that one instant. The rest they say is history.
Your world building – the mythology and complexity of your characters – in the Dark-Hunter series are as detailed, and can be compared to, epic fantasies. Was the DARK-HUNTER COMPANION a way of keeping the world building details straight for you and us? How do you keep track of the details in all your series?
I keep everything in my head. I don’t ever look at the Companion. Alethea put that together for the fans, based on information I had on the site to help the fans keep it all straight. I have no idea how I keep it straight, but somehow I do.
2008 was the Year of ACHERON. His story was one of the most highly anticipated and significant in the Dark-Hunter series. The writing of the book, the build up and promotion of it and finally its release – did you feel any pressure while writing the book, and how did you cope with it while staying true to his story, yourself and living up to reader expectations?
Not at all. I write for the sheer enjoyment of it. For the character exploration. While I definitely care what readers think, I don’t sweat that until after I’m finished with a project and am waiting on it to come out. I’m always fine during the writing. It’s after it’s done that I sweat.
Zarek & Acheron’s stories make me cry every time I read them. They’re such scarred, incredibly complex heroes who struggle to come to terms with their difficult pasts. The same can be said of some of the perceived “villains” in this series. How hard or easy is it to develop heroines who equal your heroes? Has the “matching” ever been a challenge?
Not really with the one notable exception of Kyrian. The first draft I tried to hook him up with Tabitha. That was a disaster. It was while working it over that I realized I had him with the wrong sister.
I read in an interview that you tend to relate more to the heroes in your books. Why is that?
Probably because I’ve been surrounded by men my entire life. I was raised in the middle of eight boys and have three sons. Most of my friends growing up were male and I worked in male dominated fields such as computer training and programming. While I’m definitely female, those experiences have given me a lot of insight into the male mind and how they think. I adore men and love to write about them.
You started off writing paranormal in the early ‘90’s before the genre was hugely popular and switched to writing historical romance under the name Kinley McGregor. What draws you to this genre and can you tell us what’s next for Kinley?
I actually started off writing horror for publication. My first pubbed story in 1978 was a horror short story and I focused on those for many years before publishing science fiction and then fantasy and romance. It’s all basically marketing labels anyway. As I’ve said repeatedly, the Dark-Hunters were first pubbed as horror, then fantasy, then science fiction, then romance and now they’re classified fiction even though it’s the same series and style I’ve always written. Everything I’ve written from the beginning has been cross-genre stories. I’ve never liked to color inside any lines or to be confined.
I go wherever my muse takes me whether it’s the Middle Ages, Arthurian fantasy, science fiction, suspense, mystery, whatever. I don’t believe in limiting myself or my muse. As for Kinley, the next one out is DARKNESS WITHIN which is Arthurian Fantasy. It should be out January 2011.
The LEAGUE series isn’t new, you released them as e-books back in the ‘90’s. Where did the idea for this series originate and how is it the stories are being re-released?
Not ebooks, all but BORN OF FIRE was a novel first and BORN OF FIRE was the first ebook published by a New York pubbed author. One book was released by Dorchester and the other by Kensington. This was the original series I started writing when I was seven years old. Yes, you read that correctly. I was seven. Nykyrian and Syn (then called Rachol) were my imaginary playmates when I was a kid. Since I was raised on Star Trek and Star Wars in addition to horror, it was my other love. While I pubbed the horror stories, I diligently worked on the novels over the years. I don’t remember exactly when or how I came up with the universe and characters- it was too long ago. It just seems like they were always there. Probably had something to do with the fact that my older brother was obsessed by ninjas and I saw them as ninjas in space.
I completed the first draft of what would become BORN OF NIGHT when I was twelve and my best friend still has a copy of it. The next draft was finished when I was twenty-one and that was the one I’d intended to submit to New York. Tragedy struck and it would be another three years before it would make the rounds.
The series sold in 1992 (in my early twenties at the time, I was the youngest writer then published by both Kensington and Dorchester) and the books came out 1994-1996. The books won numerous awards and landed on a couple of bestseller lists, then my career and personal life plummeted. It would be over four years before I’d sell again and some of that time was spent homeless with my children. It was horrible.
Even after the career finally took off again, I never got the books out of my heart or the desire to return to them. Last year, St. Martins allowed me to completely rewrite the books from scratch and rerelease them. They instantly became #1 New York Times bestselling novels, driving my number of NYT bestsellers to over 50. It’s also the first time a futuristic has hit #1 since 1992. Thank you fans!
Your non-fiction book EVERY DAY LIFE IN THE MIDDLE AGES is a fantasically concise and great introduction for a writer for that time-period. How did this book come about?
While I was still in college, my editor at Writer’s Digest asked me if I’d like to write it. Many of the sources were from the bibliography I was using for my dissertation. However, I would caveat any researcher that the information in that book is now twenty years old and extremely dated. There have been many, many more and better resources put out since then.
You have an eclectic variety of interests – restoration and rebuilding of classic cars, boxing, computers and web design, marksmanship – are these a result of research for your books?
Not at all. Gets into the fact that my father was a drill sergeant and I was raised with all boys. I was actually the sparring partner for two Golden Glove boxers and am the only one whoever knocked one of them out. Since they were my playmates, I did things like play quarterback and learn to flush out radiators and rebuild trannies. As for shooting, my father had me on a range as soon as I was old enough to hold a gun. He was an avid collector and passed that gene on to my brother and I.
You’re website is complex and fascinating – its potential as a promo tool is huge. Is a website a must for an author? What works to connect you with your readers? What advice can you give those thinking about promotion?
Do only what makes you comfortable and don’t fake it. Like dating. Readers can tell when you’re being fake and they don’t like it.
Sites help, but plenty of authors have made careers without them. I think it’s just up to the writer. Stay in your comfort zone and don’t do anything that seems unnatural or strained to you. I like people, all people, so it’s easy for me to go out and embrace them. I like web design so it’s easy for me to expand my site and play around with it. But that’s definitely not for everyone.
Promotion is an ongoing venture and there’s not one thing that will make or break your career. The only thing that is universal is to respect and like your readers. Never take them for granted.
What do readers tell you that they enjoy the most about your books?
That’s as varied as my readership. Some love the humor, others the emotions, the action, the depth of world building, the realness of the characters... it just really depends.
Is there something you’ve always wanted to write but haven’t had the chance to yet?
Not really. I’ve pretty much pubbed in all genres.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
What is it like to win a hundred billion dollars?
Well, it doesn’t suck.
And lastly, what can we look forward to reading next from you?
The Dark-Hunters Volume 2 manga, SILENT TRUTH and the paperback editions of BAD MOON RISING and WHISPERED LIES are out now.
INFINITY which tells how Nick met the Dark-Hunters and was sucked into their world hits the stands May 25th.
July 6th is the release of IN OTHER WORLDS which combines a League story (Adron’s), a Were-Hunter (Dragonswan) and an unrelated short story that tells my personal view on what happens to characters when writers don’t write about them.
August 3rd bring NO MERCY which is the story of Dev Peltier and a Dark-Huntress.
Sept 28th is the Dark-Hunters Volume 3 of the manga.
And the year finishes out with BLOOD TRINITY up Oct 26th. It’s a new urban fantasy series Dianna and I are writing together. Excerpts, covers and information on all of the above as well as the 2011 books can be found on my website.
Thanks for a great interview, Sherrilyn!