This interview is part of our Paranormal Romance Author series of interviews where we interview some of today’s top paranormal romance authors! Be sure to check out our past Paranormal Romance Author interviews to learn more about various authors working in this growing genre!
This week's interview is with Keira Blackwood who is known for her series, Sawtooth Peaks, Protectors of the Pack, and Riverwood. Her latest release is Pierced, a standalone story which is already receiving rave reviews and is unlike any of her previous paranormal romance work!
Keira gives us the history of her three series, why she became a writer, about creating her own wonderful covers, and about her new release. She also shares with us an excerpt from her latest release, Pierced!
For those who are new to your work, can you tell us about yourself?
I’m a keyboard ninja, a late-blooming bibliophile, a proud geek, an animal lover, an eternal optimist, and a starving artist. I love everything paranormal, except if it’s scary. I live by the beach with my husband, sons, and snuggly hellhounds. But I only visit the water in the fall, winter, and spring.
I think it’s creepy that snakes don’t have legs. I’m helplessly drawn to small, fluffy, big-eyed everything. And I know for a fact that the best things on earth are marshmallow fluff, hot fudge, caffeine, and hugs.
As for my work, I write my heroes hot, caring, and growly. And I write my heroines strong and competent. My novels include big story arcs with action, adventure, and suspense. The female lead is always just as important as the male. There’s always a happy ending, because I’m a sucker for that satisfying feeling of walking away knowing that everything worked out in the end.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No. I know a lot of authors are born with the knowledge that literature is their calling. That was never me. I always enjoyed creative writing, and opted to fill my electives in college with courses on classic literature review. Still, I never considered writing, or any of my artistic endeavors, a career path.
It took me until a picked up my first romance book to realize that not only did I enjoy romance, but that I wanted to write full-length stories of my own.
Your first book, Running to the Pack, came out in January of last year. What's the inspiration behind it and the Sawtooth Peaks series it spawned?
I had a lot of ideas going into the Sawtooth Peaks series. I wanted to include everything I enjoyed about romance with the kind of stories I’ve always read—paranormal, action, fantasy, and suspense. Early imaginings resembled Sons of Anarchy, or Hamlet, with wolf shifters and a happy ending. By the time the story was written, it was nothing like my original design. And I think that was a good thing.
Running to the Pack wasn’t just the start of Sawtooth Peaks for me. It was the beginning of everything. Cole and Hailey’s story is a second chance romance for a young couple. The two grow apart after high school. Later, they are reunited, old feelings spark, and they realize that they were meant to be together. Their story continues in Defending the Pack, though there is a happy for now ending in Running to the Pack. Cole is heir to be alpha, but the only woman he’s ever loved is human. To take a human mate, he would throw away his right to rule. The couple gets their happily ever after in book two, but circumstances in Sawtooth Peaks haven’t been resolved. It’s up to Lance, Cole’s half-brother, to step up and clean up the mess that ensues after a rogue wolf ravages a neighboring pack. Luckily, his mate Trixie is a natural born leader, and helps him find his way as he helps her find peace.
Liam Blake plays a key role in Sawtooth Peaks. His story is completely separate from the Sawtooth Peaks series, but is told next in Riverwood. Twin wolf shifters Reynolds and Witt belong to the Sawtooth Peaks pack, but star in their own series—Protectors of the Pack. After that, I wrote the story that fans had requested the most, about characters that appear in both Sawtooth Peaks and Protectors of the Pack; Howl for the Holidays is Harkins and Amy’s story.
Looking back on your first series, is there anything you wish you knew then that you know now?
If I could send myself a letter back through time, or just jump in the TARDIS, I’d tell myself that everything would be okay. It was incredibly nerve-racking publishing my first novel.
I worried that my mix of romance and the paranormal would be too different from what other people were writing and that readers may not like that. I worried about not having everything figured out as an indie author—how and where to advertise, what’s really important starting out. And I worried that people would be put off by including humor and ridiculousness.
As it turns out, people like it. If I could go back, I’d turn off that filter of nervousness and just write. Because filters are for editing, not the the first draft.
After wrapping up the Sawtooth Peaks, you dove right into your next series, Riverwood. Can you tell us more about it and the first book of the series, Grizzly Bait?
Riverwood is unlike most paranormal romance series, including my other series. All three books focus on one couple, instead of the usual one-couple-per-book formula. I wanted to tell an epic tale of mystery and suspense, in a world where magic and shifters exist. All of this while bringing together two dynamic individuals in a believable way. There are a lot of twists and turns, mysteries to uncover, and it all leads up to a grand finale. Through everything, chemistry sizzles between small town sheriff Emma Hiller and Tribunal enforcer Liam Blake. He also happens to be a grizzly shifter. They face all of the trials together, each bringing the couple closer.
Like any small town, Riverwood has a spectrum of personalities. Emma’s deputy, and best friend, is reminiscent of Barney Fife. While one of Liam’s ‘brothers’ is a spunky fox shifter without respect for personal space. Her name is Mia.
To really tell the whole story, I felt Riverwood was best split into three books. Both Grizzly Bait and Grizzly Mate end with a piece of the mystery uncovered, a milestone in Liam and Emma’s relationship passed, and a happy for now ending. Ending with closure is important to me, even when the story continues, because I hate cliffhangers. I’m a reader that has to know what happens! All of the threads tie together in Grizzly Fate.
Not many authors design and create their own covers but you do- and very well! Are you an artist or graphic designer?
Thank you! At the core of my being, I’ve always known I was an artist. From crayon scribblings to murals, sculptures to book covers, cooking to writing—I’m happiest creating.
My first attempt at digital art was about a year before I decided to write a book, when I decided to try animation and software development. I found a great love for drawing with a mouse, and a confidence that I could teach myself to do just about anything. Still, I haven’t mastered the magical skill of opening jars.
Being able to control how you present your work including the cover artwork must be very important to you.
For me, it makes sense. Sometimes before a story has come together, I have a jumble of ideas. But what’s clear to me is the visual. I know what my characters look like, the way they scrunch their noses or tip their chins when the conversation turns. I know the scent of the river or forest, the layout of the tiny cabin that’s half-burned from fire. I take my outline and I start my cover by scouring for the right background and model. Then I modify my work as I write the story, because sometimes details evolve as the story comes together. By the end, the cover not only reflects the characters and setting, but my thoughts in pictures. I can’t imagine trying to explain those specific ideas to someone else. Plus, I think it’s fun; and having control over everything is why I go indie.
Protector of the Pack is your third series. It also came out in 2016. How were you able to produce so much work- including covers- in that time?
I worked every day. I don’t mean people watching and brainstorming, but rather forcing myself to sit down and produce words. Sometimes it’s hard. Like rip-out-hair, head-banging hard. And sometimes it’s easy, where the ideas just keep coming, and my fingers keep typing, and then somehow five hours have passed and I forgot to eat lunch, or that I was supposed to be asleep four hours ago. But I realized quickly that I can’t take a day off. Not Christmas. Not ever. When I do, everything slows waaaay down.
If I write something every day, inspiration flows like a chocolate fountain. I end up with more sweet ideas than time to write. I wake up in the night to write a new outline or opening for a book that isn’t scheduled for at least six months. With one day off, I end up stagnant, staring at the screen pulling words from my brain like a dentist pulling out teeth.
I had this mindset last year that I had to create as many books as possible as quickly as possible or I’d never get all of my ideas written down. I published ten. It was both exhilarating and exhausting. This year I’m publishing a bit slower, while making time to do some of the marketing I’ve previously neglected.
You just released Pierced which is not part of your past series. What can you tell us about it?
Pierced is the first book that I’ve written that has nothing to do with Sawtooth Peaks, its side characters, or the characters in the extended universe. I’d wanted to write about vampires since the beginning, but one story led me to the next. There never seemed to be time for vampires. Another story always felt more urgent. Finally I decided to give it a shot, and wrote those elusive vampires. Shifters are still an important part of my story, including the heroine, Hannah, who’s a wolf shifter.
It’s both a fun and intense story, full of action and steamy romance. As always, there’s a rich array of characters that are the heart of the story. I believe realistic dialogue and interaction make ridiculous circumstances relatable.
Scarlet Harbor is vampire territory. The king doesn’t tolerate other paranormals in his kingdom. Yeke doesn’t tolerate much of anything. With the emergence of half-turned vamps, called thrall, and the revelation of a shifter coed within city limits, Yeke loses what little calm he possesses. It’s up to vampire Bennet Pierce to find the she-wolf’s pack, while his brothers are charged to investigate the source of the thrall. There’s a plethora of problems, but the one that hits Bennet hardest is the undeniable draw to the woman who is supposed to be his enemy.
Do you plan on revisiting the world you setup in Pierced?
Absolutely. When I first started writing Pierced, I was convinced that it would be just one story. I was going to write about Bennet and Hannah, without getting too attached to those around them. That was the plan. As always, the more I built Scarlett Harbor and the vampires and humans that live there, the more I fell in love. By the end, I knew what the reaction would be. I knew people would ask for more, because I wanted more.
Some time in the not too distant future, likely summer, I plan to revisit Scarlett Harbor and make Pierced book one in a three to four book series.
What else do you have planned for us in 2017?
Probably more than I have time to write. My current project revisits Liam Blake’s family, the brothers introduced in Riverwood. I’ve intended a series of standalone novels for the Blakes since before I completed Grizzly Fate last year. Mason gets to be first. He’s an enforcer for the Therion Tribunal, a polar bear shifter, a loner, and as closed off as the secluded cabin he lives in. Everything changes when a crate is delivered to his front door. He hopes it’s a big box of frozen steak, but what he finds is a gorgeous woman and trouble he wants nothing to do with.
Other than vampires and the Blake brothers, I’m planning dragons, witches, and maybe even a phoenix.
And finally, can you share an excerpt from Pierced?
Absolutely. This scene begins with both Hannah and Bennet reluctant to acknowledge the magnetism between them. They both know that it’s there, and the longer they resist, the harder it is to stay away from one another.
There was the soft hint of dew on freshly cut grass. When I closed my eyes, it felt like home.
A fit woman with her hair pulled high upon her head jogged along the paved path that circled a well-lit clearing. The golden retriever by her side kept pace. A small man with a thick, grey beard and puffy coat laid down on a metal bench beneath a tall oak tree. I’d found the park, though not the solitude I was searching for.
Three pathways led from the park along sidewalks, one toward the harbor, one toward the heart of the city. But it was the other trail that caught my interest, the one that led away from traffic, office buildings, and artificial light.
The blacktop ended, but the walkway continued. Instead of manicured grass, there were weeds. Vines encased the trunks of tall pines. Saplings and brush bordered the winding dirt path on both sides. Soon after, the passage widened into a meadow.
The overgrown grass was undisturbed, waist-high at its tallest. I slipped off my shoes and relished the cool, soft dirt beneath my feet. The tops of the tall grass shoots felt like feathers on my open palms. Squirrels and birds rustled in the treetops, but I was otherwise alone.
I knew I should have taken the opportunity to do exactly as I had said I would. I should have shifted and experienced the freedom of this private place in my most natural form. The yellow-eyed monsters were still wandering the night. Walter was still out there. I didn’t know how long I could be alone in the dark meadow before the next attack. But I found myself feeling the same pull I had every night, the same desire I had nearly indulged before Ashley had found me.
And before I could talk myself out of it, his name was on my lips. “Bennet.”
When I opened my eyes, he was there, nearly within reach.
Clouds drifted away from the moon, lighting the world and revealing his face. Short, dark hair covered his head, and traveled down his square jaw, highlighting the strength of his bone structure. His mouth was hard, masculine, just like everything about him was. The familiar intensity was present in those dark, umber irises.
Butterflies flipped in my stomach. Excitement mingled with nervousness, making me feel like a giddy teenager. But for once, I didn’t care.
My memory of him was dull compared to reality, though it had hardly been any time at all since I had seen him last. A matter of days that had felt like an eternity. Taller than he had been in my dreams, his size was intimidating. Shifter men were big, but Bennet’s frame was leaner, more athletic than stocky. And he carried a sense of danger that drew me. The thin fabric of his button-down shirt hugged his chest and abs as he moved, revealing his flat, chiseled shape. Desire tingled through me as I remembered the feel of those muscles beneath my fingertips. But that was only a dream. Reality had to be even better.
“Can your hearing really be that sharp, or are you stalking me?” I asked, breaking the silence between us.
“Shadowing,” he replied, without any sign of emotion. His long, black jacket blew in the breeze, just like the tall grass, while his body remained as still as stone.
“I think that’s just a vampire word for stalking,” I said.
“It’s my duty,” he replied. “If you wish for more distance-”
“I was just teasing,” I blurted, regretting my choice in conversation.
“What can I do for you?” Bennet asked. “Hannah.” My name rolled off of his tongue as if he savored it, and I felt a blush creep over my cheeks.
Thank you so much for the opportunity. I had a lot of fun with the interview!
Want to stalk, err, shadow me and my work? I hang around these places most often: