Today we welcome to the Author Spotlight our very own RWA blog supremo, Juanita Kees. Welcome, Juanita, and congratulations on the release of ‘Under Cover of Dark ’! Could you give us the blurb, please?
New Australian romantic suspense follows Under the Hood, about a Western Australian drug gang, the teenagers they recruit, and the cop who wants to bring them down.
When Mark Johnson delves deeper into his investigation into the murder of Tiny Watts and the involvement of a teenage gang with sleazy lawyer, Gino Bennetti, and his drug world ties, the last thing he expects is to be interviewing Gino’s widow, a woman in a world of trouble.
When her husband is shot and killed, it is both a relief and a disaster. Lily has her son to protect and secrets that run deeper than the scars she bears. Mark Johnson is the last person she wants uncovering those secrets, especially the truth about her son, Luke’s involvement in Tiny Watts’ murder.
As the investigation continues and Lily’s wounds begin to heal, she finds the detective easy to trust and the friendship between them blossoms into more. But the secret Lily holds places everyone in very real danger. When it is finally revealed, Lily will lose everything: her son, the man she’s grown to love, her freedom, and her life.
Also, congratulations on being a RUBY finalist for ‘Under the Hood’. How did it feel to see your name in the finals?
Surreal! There are so many wonderful names up there amongst the finalists. I am both honoured and in awe. I’d hate to be one of the judges with all that talent to choose from. I’m thrilled to make it to the finals with this baby. I had so much fun writing it. Thank you to the judges who read and enjoyed it enough to get it nominated for this fabulous award.
You are one busy, busy lady! Between being a freelance editor, writer and senior editor on the RWA Blog, mum to three boys and wife, how on earth do you manage your time?
Don’t forget the dog! Plus I work three days a week as an administrator at a Holden Dealership. Seriously? I don’t know. It takes a lot of juggling some days. Perhaps because I love what I do with such passion, I don’t see it as a chore. I do know that there are days when I could use an extra twenty four hours!
‘Under Cover of Dark’ is a romantic suspense. What are the elements of a compelling romantic suspense?
A fast pace, tension, high drama and the odd plot twist surprise to keep the reader engaged in the story, always wanting to know what will happen next. I like to take my readers on an emotional journey as well as an adventure. When they put the book down, I want them to be exhausted, emotionally drained and in love. If the reader feels as if they’ve been a part of the characters’ journey, the author’s job is done.
How do protagonists and heroes in romance differ from those in romantic suspense?
Romantic suspense characters have an edge. They are mysterious, brave yet protective, a little dangerous and love taking risks. While romance heroes wine and dine their heroines in comfort and style, romantic suspense heroes are out there in the wild world saving their heroines in the face of danger. I’d happily settle for both!
Is there any other genre you could see yourself writing in the future?
I’m dabbling in a little Fantasy at the moment with my next series set on Paradise Beach.
When you’re not editing, writing, RWA-ing, what do you do in your spare time?
Spare time?? I potter around my garden, restore garden furniture, read and enjoy the odd motorbike ride to wherever the road takes us.
As a professional editor, do you find that in your own work you edit as you go? What is the main challenge in being both an editor and an author?
The hardest thing is shutting down the editor in me when I write, so yes, I edit as I go. It takes forever! One of my critique partners once said, “You write a very clean dirty draft.” The downside of that is my stories don’t get written very fast!
What would we find on your bookshelf/ereader?
A LOT of romance in any genre, my Tony Park and Matthew Reilly collections, and the odd biography.
You’ve written about subjects as diverse as a motor dealership, gangs and drugs, and kidnapping. How do you go about researching these topics for authenticity?
I’ve worked in the motor industry forever and am a car fanatic. My father was a mechanic by trade, my mother hails from generations of General Motors employees and I married an auto electrician. I have oil in my veins and loads of material to work with!
In Under Cover of Dark, I was lucky enough to have the help of a prison officer who I probed mercilessly with questions. Understandably, there were some questions he couldn’t answer but I was blown away by his absolute commitment to juvenile offender rehabilitation, despite the possibility they’d re-offend.
I watched a lot of reality programs on gangs in prisons and studied their habits and methods of communication. It’s fascinating to see how many ways a coded message can be delivered.
Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress?
I’m working on the next book in the Tag Raiders Series, Under his Protection, which features the youngest member of the gang, Connor, his mum Mia, and Ethan Wright who is a counsellor at the Tiny Watts Rehabilitation Centre opened by TJ and Scott Devin (Under the Hood).
Thanks for coming on today, Juanita. Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Under Cover of Dark’, please?
He stood almost toe to toe with her now. She felt the warmth of his body, the temptation to sink into the comfort it provided. Her body swayed towards him with the strength of the pull. Strong, warm fingers tipped up her chin gently. Dark grey eyes searched hers for the truth and promised a safe haven from harm.
‘My offer of witness protection is still on the table. Take it and let’s end this nightmare of yours.’
Lily hesitated a moment longer, torn between telling the truth and protecting her son who had suffered so much at the hands of these criminals already. She’d borne this burden alone for too long. The strength to fight against it waned as the ache of her strained muscles surfaced.
‘Yes, he has a diary.’
With a sigh, Mark pulled her into his arms and held her against the beat of his heart. Lily listened to the comforting tattoo for a moment, savoured the warmth of his arms and allowed herself to believe he meant what he said.
Juanita is kindly gifting one eCopy of ‘Under Cover of Dark’ to one lucky reader. To enter all you have to do is leave a comment for Juanita below. The winner will be contacted via email, so please make sure that we can reach you!
And finally, on behalf of all RWA members, thank you Juanita for all that you do for this wonderful organisation. We wish you the best of luck with the RUBY and the Lynn Wilding award!
*Ed’s Note: Thank you for having me! I cannot tell you how much it means to me to be part of such a wonderful family here at RWA. Each conference is like coming home, a family reunion that inspires, encourages and motivates. Volunteering is a way to give back to the members what they give me – love, support, creative advice and a place where I feel I belong. Here’s to many more years of success and growth for all! You rock!
To my fellow nominees in the Lynne Wilding and RUBY, wishing you all a hearty congratulations and good luck for Awards night. I’m already a winner to be in such talented company. Thank you.