• Tanisha D. Jones

Author Spotlight

Welcome author McKenna Dean, author of the RedClaw Security Series.

McKenna Dean has been an actress, a vet tech, a singer, a teacher, a biologist, and a dog trainer. She’s worked in a genetics lab, at the stockyard, behind the scenes as a props manager, and at a pizza parlor slinging dough. Finally she realized all these jobs were just a preparation for what she really wanted to be: a writer.

She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her family, as well as the assorted dogs, cats, and various livestock.

She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier.

Tanisha D Jones: Welcome to the Dangerously Seductive blog. I'm so happy to have you here. So, let's get started. Tell me about your current work.

McKenna Dean: Right now, I’m working on the origin story for the Redclaw Security series. Redclaw is an elite firm of shifters which investigates and handles matters within the paranormal realm. Each Redclaw story can be read as a standalone, but the origin story, Bishop Takes Knight, is set in the 1950s, focusing on a pair of human agents who get in over their heads when they become involved with the newly formed Redclaw Security. I’m having a blast with this story—it’s a bit like Nick and Nora meets the X-files or Warehouse-13. There will also be a spin-off series featuring a set of recurring characters who work in the Major Shifter Crimes division of Redclaw.

TDJ: Sounds intriguing. I love all of that, especially the Nick & Nora aspect.

Do you write more than one genre?

MD: I have in the past, though recently I’ve decided to focus on paranormal romance. I enjoy so many genres: historical, contemporary, paranormal, mystery, sci-fi… paranormal allows me to explore the kinds of questions I love.

TDJ: I completely understand. I love paranormal and how it allows you to create a world all your own. Do you find it harder to write in one genre over another?

MD: As a reader, I love romance in just about any form, but as a writer, I’m looking for that romance plus a little extra that makes it exciting to me. Give my characters a murder to solve or a quest to conquer while falling in love and I’m a happy camper.

TDJ: I get it. It adds a little excitement to a story. Why did you choose this particular genre? What inspired it?

MD: I love what paranormal romance brings to the table. I love the opportunity to explore the sense of being an outsider and the chance to make social commentary while telling an exciting story. I work with animals, so writing shifters just came naturally to me.

TDJ: I was told by a friend of mine that other than my contemporary romance, all of my character, especially the females, have a little something extra, something unexpected and sometimes a little dark. Do you feel that’s something you do as well? Create characters that are deceptive in one way or another?

MD: That’s an interesting question! I think, if anything, I tend to create characters that, for whatever reason, have difficulty being true to themselves. That part of their journey is to find the power of self-belief and the courage to show the world who they really are.

TDJ: How do you write? Do you start and stop? Or write furiously until it’s done? Do you plot or are you a pantser?

MD: I’m definitely a panster, though these days, I find I have to do more outlining than I used to do. I don’t have a lot of time to write, so I have to be efficient and plotting in advance helps. I wish I had the time and energy to write every day, but I’m lucky if I get in 2-3 good days a week. I’m working on that though!

TDJ: Do you have any strange writing habits?

MD: Not really. I prefer to write in silence as opposed to listening to music. Because my home life is nearly as hectic as work, I often get my best writing done in the library.

TDJ: I tend to write best when there is a lot of actively. I can’t do anything in complete silence. Maybe it’s a side effect of growing up with a large extended family.

MD: Recently I’ve begun writing at the local library, which I find very productive. It has the relative quietness I crave without the distractions of being at the house. I envy you your ability to shut out the rest of the world! I find myself becoming irritable when I have to deal with constant interruptions.

TDJ: Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?

MD: These days it’s harder to write a good sex scene and have it be fresh. Racy scenes still need to tell you something about the characters, and it gets harder with time not to be repetitive. You want that scene to be hot without covering the same ground over and over.

TDJ: I agree. It can’t be sex for the sake of sex. It has to make sense for the characters and be realistic. I have a character in my series who has two love interests and the love scenes are completely different because of the characters relationships. But it works. At least I think it does.

MD: That’s really intriguing! I never thought of it in quite those terms, but yes, I can see where those scenes would play out differently.

TDJ: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad?

MD: I don’t read reviews as often as I used to. I tend to read the first couple of reviews with a new release but after that, I’m focused on the next book and I forget to check. I’ve also developed a thicker skin with time. I never respond—that’s a no-win situation. A great review is wonderful, and stokes the fires for writing more—but most of the time a really nasty review isn’t about you—it’s about pleasing a group of followers. It’s the “meh” reviews I find the hardest to handle because it means on some level, you failed to reach your reader.

TDJ: True. I think outright nasty and mean spirited reviews are from people who hide behind their keyboards. I think the most critical reviews focus on positives as well as negatives. But I don’t respond to either. Name 3 authors/books that impacted your writing.

MD: Dorothy Sayers/Gaudy Night. Sayers taught me what a healthy, adult relationship looked like. Laurie R. King and the Mary Russell books—truly stellar writing that made me believe Sherlock Holmes could actually fall in love. Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series, again astonishing writing. And Only To Deceive is one of the best mysteries, best romances I’ve ever read.

TDJ: Great choices. I think some of my readers should check a few of these out. If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?

MD: I’d have Hayley Atwell play my heroine, Rhett Bishop in my WIP. The hero is a little tougher—he has to have a humorous, yet endearing, sense about him. Probably someone like Chris Pratt.

TDJ: I think any of the Chris’(Evans, Hemsworth, Pine) would be charmingly endearing and funny. I think it’s like a prerequisite to be a Chris in Hollywood now.

MD: I have to laugh here because you’re so right! In fact, I almost named Evans or Hemsworth because they also came to mind!

TDJ: How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?

MD: Names are important to me. They have to sound right, have a certain rhythm. If the character is of a specific background, I research names to make sure they fit. I play around with them a lot—I don’t want to have two main characters with similar sounding names, nor to do I want a name that’s too hard to pronounce (or type). Occasionally I’ve held contests to name characters, which has been both fun and useful.

TDJ: I always think, how would this name sound when the character is being seduced? I mean, “Kiss me, Herbert” just doesn’t do it for me. Unless, it’s a comedic character. Then it could be awesome.

MD: Truly laughing out loud here. Yes, I recently had a character make up a fictitious name on the spot for her partner—which turned out to be inadvertently humorous. As for naming heroes, it’s a struggle sometimes to find an interesting name that sings for you without it already having been used a thousand times.

TDJ: Have you ever created a character that changed mid-project from what you first envisioned? Have they ever evolved on their own?

MD: I love it when characters evolve on their own! Sometimes I think I know which direction a story will take, on the characters get balky on me and then I realize they want something different. It’s the best feeling in the world when you figure out what they want.

TDJ: Me too! I have several characters who’ve taken turns and I’m like, where did that come from? I love it.

MD: It’s the best feeling in the world, isn’t it?

TDJ: It so is. It makes me feel that the character is a sully actualized person. Is it easier for you to write the hero or villain? What are the hardest scenes for you to write?

MD: Definitely the hero. I love conflicted heroes. I can identify with them. I love action scenes, adore writing witty dialog, love describing a scene so that you can picture it in your head as you read. The hardest part for me these days is writing sex scene that is both hot and brings something useful to the story. It needs to reveal something about the characters while still bring fresh and exciting.

TDJ: I think all heroes have the capacity to be a villain and all villains have the capacity to become a hero. I like that you can never be completely sure with some characters.

MD: They say the best way to write a villain is as if he believes he’s the hero of the story. I think that’s sound advice. And like you said, no one is all or nothing.

TDJ: I’m a Sci-Fi/Fantasy buff, I love movies/shows in this genre, was or is there a T.V. Show or movie which has inspired you (doesn’t have to be Sci-fi /Fantasy).

MD: I’m a Sci-Fi fan myself, so I love what science fiction brings to storytelling: the what if question. What if your co-workers could turn into animals? What if a gargoyle longed to be human? What if the prime suspect in a murder investigation turned out to be your fated mate? I’m a big Star Trek/Star Wars/ Stargate fan, so in the Redclaw universe, the advent of nuclear technology on Earth activated alien artifacts that had been dormant and only those with the shifter genes can make use of these powerful devices.

TDJ: I like subgenres of sci fi, westerns with ray guns and Victorian steampunk. I find it all wonderful and inspiring.

MD: I’ve recently fallen in love with steampunk, so I know what you mean!

TDJ: What are you working on now? What is your next project?

MD: I’ve alluded a bit to the WIP, which is the origin story for Redclaw Security. The next big project is the Better Off Red series, which focuses on the Major Shifter Crimes division of Redclaw and features a series of recurring characters (as opposed to the standalones in the Redclaw Security series)

TDJ: I like how you build out your world. I have the same plan with The Fallen series. I am planning another series called The Seven, from characters introduced in the Fallen series. They will be standalones as well. And who knows where that will lead.

MD: I can see the appeal of a series of standalones and a series with recurring characters. There’s room for both!

TDJ: I really hope so, we shall see. Last Question: Ice Cream or Chocolate?

MD: Chocolate. Though I have to limit myself.

TDJ: I completely understand. I live in a city famous for food so limiting myself is an ongoing challenge.

MD: I’ve developed some weird food sensitivities over the past few years, so a lot of my favorites are either off limits entirely or severely limited.

TDJ: You would not do well here. We have festivals full of food all year long. Hard to stick to a diet, but I try. Thanks so much for taking the time to share with me., it was great getting to know you and I look forward to your upcoming work. Make sure you let me know when your new series is released so I can share with my readers.

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