Today we have an interview with J.K. Harper, author of such series as Black Mesa Wolves, Wicked Wolf Shifters (under the name Anna Craig), and the new Dragon Mates which launched recently with Dazzled: Reckless Desires.
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Tell us a little about yourself.
I “published” my first book when I was in the second grade and never looked back! It was for a classroom project featuring the deathless prose and finest crayon drawings of each kid in the class. My mom is still convinced I need to publish it for real and it will become a bestseller. Total mom love.
My early twenties were split between working with kids and the outdoors (summer camps, outdoor science school) and being an editor for a book publishing company, which was invaluable experience for a writer. I freelanced as an editor until just a few years ago, when I stopped editing for anyone else so I could spend more time on my own writing. Another freelance gig that was a great help for me as a writer was being a cover copywriter for Harlequin, which I did for years. I think I wrote the back cover copy for well over a hundred books. That taught me to write blurbs pretty well, and cut the excess words wherever possible in my own writing. I also had the usual varied resume of many writers, including being a temp and a waitress. You sure can learn a lot about people with jobs like those, all of which can help when creating characters.
Now, I write mostly fulltime. I own another business as well, so that occupies me some of the time, though I’ve scaled back on it considerably. Three horses and four cats (two of whom are loving ferals who basically moved into my house) take up a lot of my attention as well. I live in the beautiful Southwest with immediate access to spectacular hiking and riding trails almost from my back door. I love it here, and definitely take much writing inspiration from the landscape.
You currently have a bunch of books out. Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently if you had to start over again?
Don’t stop writing and publishing just when the sales are happening. Lol.
My very first self-published book, Guardian Wolf, was released in late January 2012. It did quite well, getting to rank #513 on Amazon within a few weeks of release, with no promo and with me being an entirely unknown name (remember that the indie publishing world was quite different then, though. That sort of good ranking and thus exposure pretty much doesn’t happen today without a big push for a first release from an unknown name.).
So naturally I didn’t release the next book in the series until November 2013. Not the best plan! I was working very fulltime then at an intensive job I loved, however, and also wasn’t remotely convinced I’d be able to make a go of this indie publishing thing. Keep on keeping on is something I learned over time. That’s especially crucial today, as the indie book market is much more crowded now with authors.
Other than famous authors and industry professionals, who inspires you to write?
This perhaps sounds a little silly, but I’d have to say my own muse. She won’t shut up unless I write, so I feel compelled.
Tell us about your Dragon Mates series. The covers are gorgeous. Who does them for you?
Dragon Mates is part of the Reckless Desires collection, featuring the books of 6 bestselling paranormal romance authors. This is the first time I’ve written dragon shifters, and I love it. My wealthy dragon shifter heroes are dark, broken emotionally for a variety of reasons, and each one in desperate need of his true mate—not that any of them would admit or even realize that at the start of each book!
The heroines are strong, a bit sassy, and every bit a match for their men. They’re also all connected to the world of ancient antiquities and preservation, with the current heroines being a museum curator, an underwater archeologist, and a historian with a specific interest in local ancient legends.
The setting is a bit unusual for most dragon shifter books, as I placed it in Los Angeles rather than a more remote, outdoorsy setting as seems more typical to the dragon shifter sub-genre. I grew up in the L.A. area, so it’s easy and fun for me to write about it.
I also chose to write multicultural characters for these books, to match what I experienced growing up. As an Anglo kid, I was the minority in my childhood neighborhood. Southern California honestly is a cultural melting pot, and it’s really fun to incorporate that sort of reality into my otherwise fantastical books.
There are currently three planned books in the series, with the possibility of there being more. Book 1, Dazzled, is out now. Book 2, Thrilled, will be out June 18th, and book 3, Burned, by June 29th.
Jacqueline Sweet does the covers for all my Dragon Mates (Reckless Desires) books. She’s extremely talented and I highly recommend her! My cover artist for my other two series is Aria Tan of Resplendent Media, who is also wonderful at making covers and is highly recommended as well.
What is it about wolves and dragons that have drawn you to writing about them?
The cool, fun, sexy factor! There’s something so primal, so elemental, about writing characters who can express that wild side of themselves so literally. I love magical stuff, having grown up devouring the books of Anne McCaffrey, Piers Anthony, Charles de Lint, Susan Cooper, C.S. Lewis, and so many more.
The pack mentality of wolves and the ability of dragons to fly are also big factors for me in terms of interest. Those concepts make for great character interactions, as well as useful plot devices.
Which of your own books is your favorite? And why?
Oh, my gosh. That’s like asking about favorite children. Uh, let’s see. I’ll probably go with Hunting Wolf, book 3 of my Black Mesa Wolves series.
I so enjoyed writing Caleb and Rielle and how they sparred with one another. It’s an “enemies” to lovers story, so there was lots of juicy conflict right from the start. Caleb is such a big goof, too. He’s a manly man who’s strong and studly, but he’s also kind of clueless when it comes to women. He was really fun to write.
And Rielle is both a bookworm and a girly girl, which was a great dichotomy to play around with. In the process of writing that book, I also learned some background history about the Black Mesa Wolves that surprised me, which is always a fun thing to have happen when you’re writing.
And now for the silly… If you could be stranded somewhere with your favorite book boyfriend, who would be with you, and where would you be? What would you take with you? (no electronics allowed)
Ah, haha. Hmm. Well, I don’t think I have a single favorite book boyfriend—I like so many of them. Hee-hee. So I’ll strand myself and my male harem of book boyfriends on a tropical island surrounded by cool blue waters and white sand beaches (yes, it’s cliche, but it’s really hot where I live in Southwest canyon country right now, so I’m dreaming of cool island breezes and lots of water), and naturally a luxurious mansion with ocean views. I’d take my favorite paper books to read, and a notebook and pen for writing. Bathing suit optional!
Do you have anything specific that you’d like to say to your readers, or to new readers just finding you?
I very much appreciate all my readers, so very much! Seriously, thank you all for reading my books and allowing me to live this amazing life. If you’re new to me, sign up for my newsletter and you can download Guardian Wolf, book 1 of my Black Mesa Wolves series, for free. Here’s the signup link: http://www.jkharper.com/newsletter-sign-up/
What’s in the works for you right now? When can we expect to see it released to the world?
Thrilled, Book 2 in my Dragon Mates series, arrives into the world June 18th.
We’d love to see an excerpt of you work. Do you have one you could share?
Sure! Here’s a snippet from Dazzled, Book 1 in my Dragon Mates series. In this scene, the heroine, Lacey, is working late at night on a new exhibit at the museum for her job as a curator. The hero, Sebastian, unexpectedly appears, and sparks fly.
Lacey swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand, willing away the fatigue. She had a new exhibit opening this weekend. An exhibit she’d been named lead curator on, which meant it was a Really Big Deal. Everything had to look perfect. She definitely was clawing her way up the ladder, just as she’d said to Gabi. In her case, clawing meant setting up fantastic exhibits that resonated with the viewers. That gave them a sense of connection to people long gone, people who had the same dreams and desires and longings as anyone alive today.
Taking a deep breath, she plunged back into it. What was sleep, anyway, when she was riding the fast-moving comet of her career?
She made one more tiny adjustment to the far corner of the exhibit she been fussing with for the past twenty minutes, then stepped back to examine it with a critical eye. No, she still had the lighting just a bit wrong. Or maybe it was that she had forgotten to add something else that needed to be in there? Yes, something was missing. A small, almost inconsequential piece that nevertheless would bring it all together. A tiny thing that was key.
She had no idea what it was.
Perhaps she just needed a broader view. It was a large exhibit, taking up half of the Californio Rancho room in the Sepulveda Gallery. She took another step back, then one more—and smacked directly into something hard, hot, and unyielding.
“Oh!” Starting forward as if she’d touched a live wire, Lacey spun around. “Oh,” she said again, this time her voice much lower. Nearly a whisper, but for the little catch in her throat as she stared at the one person she didn’t want to see in the middle of the night.
Sebastian Bernal stood there, dressed in a suit that fit him like a glove, his face freshly shaven, power screaming out from every pore. Power, and that crazy-hot sex appeal that drove her wild every time she was near him.
Lacey swallowed. No matter how many times she saw him, no matter what she said to Gabi, this man had this effect on her. The effect of making her forget pretty much everything in the world, even to the point of forgetting what her own name was.
The low rumble of his voice shimmied through her very bones, igniting something warm deep inside her. “Working late again? Ms. Whitman,” Sebastian added, pinning her with the look that always seemed to promise a long, luscious night of worshipping her body. Well, in her dreams, at least.
He never called her by her first name. Even though she’d asked him to do that many times, given his status as her superior several times over.
She didn’t want him to call her by her first name just because she wanted to hear what it would sound like on his lips, of course. Definitely not. Nope.
Swallowing again because her throat suddenly seemed ridiculously dry, she said, “Of course I am, Mr. Bernal. This exhibit is very important, and it opens in just a few days. And for the last time,” she added without thinking, “you can call me Lacey. Especially when no one else is around. Oh!”
Her and her idiot mouth again. A dark fire slowly lit in his eyes when she said that, which only added to the warmth definitely spreading out from somewhere well below her belly.
Mirth? He was enjoying playing with her. Wait a darned minute now. “That’s not what I meant,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him just a bit and taking another healthy step backward. Being this close to him was dangerous. Something crackled off of him. The fire she always sensed within him, coupled with the low, rolling desire that seemed to pulse out every time she was near him.
A wild, reckless energy between them that, as always, threatened to topple her sideways. That would be just the professional image she kept trying to impress upon him. Struggling to keep herself from doing anything else idiotic, Lacey stood her ground as she tried to gather her thoughts.
He raised his eyebrows. It was such a small gesture, but it transformed his already ridiculously stunning face from that of a gorgeous devil to that of a sinfully dangerous angel. Ah, what had she been thinking about?
Dazed, she just stared at him, struggling to hold onto her own thoughts. Something about wanting to toss her panties onto the ground and let him do whatever the hell he wanted to her, right?
Wait a minute. No, that’s not what she wanted to think. Dammit. Just being around him completely fried her brain.
“So, when nobody else is around, I can definitely call you,” and here, Sebastian leaned forward just a bit, close enough that Lacey’s pulse stampeded in her throat, “Lacey?” He stroked her name as he said it. His voice curved around it, tasting it, savoring the sound of it in his mouth.
Holy shit. He’d just addressed her by her first name. Or maybe she’d fallen asleep at her desk and was now just dreaming?
Lacey knew her jaw was unhinging slightly, but there was nothing she could do about it. His dark, sun-kissed skin, the charcoal black hair, a small bit of which just started to trace one eyebrow, his unbelievably stern yet incredibly tempting lips. And his eyes. For the millionth time, she thought to herself that she’d never seen eyes quite like his. Hazel with a touch of some sort of flickering fire deep within them, right now they sported a dusky umber tone lit with flecks of jade green that drew her in and made her breath shorten.
Dammit. Every single time? Really? This was ridiculous. She was an adult. She was a professional. She had a Ph.D, for crying out loud. She refused to react this way just because of the way the man said her name.
He’d said her name.
Sebastian’s gorgeous eyes examined her as her brain raced with her confused thoughts. “Hmmm,” he murmured.
Holy shit. Were her—was she—yes. Her panties were getting damp. Like, really damp. Dear god.
Quick. She had to think of something. Earth to brain. “So,” she frantically grasped for the first thing that might make the slightest bit of sense. “I, uh, there’s something not quite right about this exhibit.” Exhibit. Yes. She was a curator. A bright, rising star in the museum world. Right. Taking another step back and turning to gesture at the exhibit, she managed to say in her usual smooth voice, “I can’t figure it out. Something’s missing. Maybe you can help me?”
Lacey looked at the exhibit as she spoke, trying desperately to tamp down his intoxicating scent of bright bergamot and sage, and something indefinable that reminded her of a wild, primeval forest dusted with cedar. Then, dear god, Sebastian took a step in her direction, stopping literally only inches from her.
Swooning was a word that had always struck her as something completely ridiculous that only the dumbest romance novels would ever actually use.
Right now, Lacey was definitely about to swoon as the full force of Sebastian’s presence, his enthralling scent that was making her crazy with the desire to do something completely insane, like kiss the man, bombarded her with relentless intent.
“Ms. Whitman.” His voice was pure silk. Divine, soft, luxurious silk. “I am more than ready to help you in any way you please.”
How can we find you? Do you have a newsletter link you can share, a Facebook author page or other links to social media?