Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Guest Blogger, Joanne Kennedy

Please join me in welcoming author Joanne Kennedy as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Joanne is the author of “Cowboy Trouble” that was just released this month. 

Here’s a brief synopsis of the book: Fleeing her latest love life disaster, big city journalist Libby Brown's transition to rural living isn't going exactly as planned. Her childhood dream has always been to own a chicken farm—but without the constant help of her charming, sexy, cowboy neighbor; she'd never have made it through her first Wyoming season.

Handsome rancher Luke Rawlins is impressed by this sassy, independent city girl. But he yearns to do more than help Libby out with her ranch…he's ready for love, and he wants to go the distance. When the two get embroiled in their tiny town's one and only crime story, Libby discovers that their sizzling hot attraction is going to complicate her life in every way possible…

Joanne and Danielle at Sourcebooks are giving away copies of “Cowboy Trouble” to two lucky visitors who comment on Joanne’s post between now and Thursday, April 1.

Joanne has stopped by today to talk about why she writes with a western theme instead of a straight mystery with a touch of romance. Joanne, is it romance, mystery, western - or all three?

It’s all Luke Rawlins’ fault.
Cowboy Trouble was going to be a mystery, but then he showed up in his cowboy duds, my heroine fell in love, and next thing I knew, I had a hybrid on my hands. The book became a little bit of a mystery and a little bit of a Western, all wrapped up in a romance.

Luke is very persuasive—just ask Libby. He’s charming and funny and sweet, and once he turned up, he became the center of the story. Libby’s struggle to fit into her new small-town surroundings and her efforts to unravel the town’s one-and-only unsolved mystery are an important part of the book, but her relationship with Luke is the heart of the story.

But I can’t blame Luke for everything. I’m partly to blame, because I can’t help but write romance. I submitted an early draft of the first few chapters to a contest in the mystery category, and all three of the judges that read it deemed it “too romancey.” That was kind of an “aha moment” for me. I realized what I was meant to do—write romance—and I’ve been doing it ever since.

But sometimes straight romance is a little too predictable. The reader knows the hero and heroine are headed for a happily-ever-after ending, so the relationship arc doesn’t hold a lot of suspense—except that there are a lot of different ways to get to that happy ending. Still, Luke and Libby’s attraction was so strong and so clear that I needed to throw a couple roadblocks in their way, and the mystery added an element of suspense that gave the book another dimension.

I grew up on the gothic romances of Mary Stewart and Phyllis Whitney, and there was always an intriguing shot of mystery or suspense in those stories. I still enjoy romances with a touch of mystery. Linda Howard, Gemma Halliday, and Allison Brennan all infuse their romances with suspense, and I love them all.

Besides, it’s natural for me to blend genres because I read so many different kinds of books. I’ve worked in bookstores all my life, and bookselling provides a great excuse to sample a little bit of everything. If I had to cite influences, I’d name a lot of contemporary romance writers I admire—Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Linda Lael Miller, and Nora Roberts, among others—but my writing style comes from a lot of different sources.

I wanted Cowboy Trouble to be a fast, fun read, where you just couldn’t help turning the pages, so I used simple language and short chapters like James Patterson. I love the way Jonathan Kellerman uses short, one-sentence paragraphs for emphasis, so I use that technique once in a while, too. I admire Janet Evanovich’s zany humor, so you’ll find a lot of comedy in Cowboy Trouble.

The Western element comes from my own interest in Western history. I’m a transplanted Easterner, but I’ve always been fascinated by the West. I’m not sure what sparked my interest—Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, probably, and Ken Burns’ documentary on The West. Once I moved out here, the history and the landscape infused my mind with a passion for all things Western.

Oh, who am I kidding?

That’s all true, but what really gets me fired up about the West is the cowboys. I like my men manly, and wrestling a living out of this arid, uncooperative land makes a man tough and unflappable. I like to see a softer side, too, and training horses and caring for cattle brings out his nurturing side. The combination? Priceless.

And then there are the clothes. We all love a man in uniform, but we like our guys to be strong individuals too—and cowboy clothes give you the best of both worlds. The hat, jeans, chaps, and boots identify his profession beyond a doubt, but each man puts his own twist on those elements. Just go to any rodeo and check out the various styles, cuts, and colors. I doubt any self-respecting rodeo cowboy would admit to caring about his appearance, but their clothes make as strong a statement as any design maven’s career separates.

When I wrote Cowboy Trouble, I wasn’t consciously making an effort to blend genres. But this was Luke and Libby’s story, and Libby can’t help her penchant for righting wrongs. Luke can’t resist helping Libby—so it was natural for the two of them to plunge into the heart of their hometown and reveal its secrets.

Do you like your romance straight, or with a shot of suspense? What are your favorite genre-blending books?

Thanks so much Joanne for blogging here today. All the different elements in the book coming together to give your readers so many different genres in one is great.

Joanne will be dropping back by today to answer any questions you may have, as well as respond to your comments. Now a little background on her. She has worked in bookstores all her life in positions ranging from bookseller to buyer. She is a member of Romance Writers of America and Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, and won first place in the Colorado Gold Writing Contest and second place in the Heart of the Rockies contest in 2007.  Joanne lives and writes in Cheyenne, Wyoming. For more information you can visit her at


  1. All the genre blending that's going on in books is such a fantastic idea! It's great that you're bringing in romance readers, western readers, and mystery readers and delivering them something to enjoy!

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. Joanne, Although, my fav is mystery, I like the blending. Oh and I like my men manly too - like cowboys. :) Interesting book.

    Mason, Great interview.

  3. This sounds like a really fun read. I'm putting it on my list. Thanks for hosting her, Mason.

  4. Elizabeth, I'm learning books I thought were just romance have a little mystery in them and the mystery books sometimes have romance. It's nice.

    Teresa, thanks for stopping by.

    Karen, appreciate the nice words.

    Carol, hope you enjoy the books. It does sound like a good read.

  5. The whole idea of blending genres is very intriguing. What a great way to change up a standard read, bringing something new to it with a different genre. From the writer's viewpoint, it can really open up the storytelling process, as well. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Very interesting sounding. I also like to blend genres, writing "crossover" books. Best of luck with this!

    The Old Silly

  7. enjoyed this posting very much...will keep my eyes open for your wonderful book :)

    kmkuka at yahoo dot com

  8. This looks like just the kind of book I'd like--romance, mystery and western all rolled into one--I used to live on a cattle ranch in Idaho,and I love mysteries and I seem to be drawn to romance--but not the overly flowery kind--so this looks GREAT!

  9. I love blended genres. I like mysteries that involve at least SOME likable, honorable characters--not all jerks.

  10. I'm glad everyone is so enthusiastic about genre-blending romances. I think it widens our readership. In fact, the men who have read Cowboy Trouble enjoyed it because of the mystery elements, and the humor. I think they like the mushy stuff, too--or at least the sexy stuff! But they don't want to admit it:)

  11. Marvin - I agree; I like to read and write crossover books, but I discovered there's still some resistance among editors and agents to true crossovers. Until you're really established, they really want you to identify your work as a particular genre. Blending is fine, but they want to know exactly where it goes in the bookstore, so it's best if one genre predominates. No problem for me, since everything turns into a romance no matter what my intention!

  12. Mary - I'd love to hear your comments on Cowboy Trouble since you've been a rancher yourself! Drop me a line if you get a chance to read it.

  13. And Ms. Stebbins - Luke in Cowboy Trouble is definitely likable - and honorable to a fault:)

  14. Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I'm sorry it took so long for me to get back to you, but I was working today! I'll check back again later tonight. In the meantime, I appreciate your comments and wish I could send you all a book!

  15. Joanne - I completely agree - who doesn't love a cowboy!! :)

    Mason - I've got an award for you over at my blog!

  16. Joanne, thanks so much for blogging here today. We understand about having to work and not being able to check in often. Cowboy Trouble sounds like such an interesting story, can't wait to read it.

    Jemi, thanks so much for the award. You're a peach.

  17. Thanks for having me, and letting me ramble on about my favorite topics - cowboys, books, and romance!

  18. No need to enter me for a copy (much as I'd love one; it's not you, Joanne!). I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book.

    Joanne, if you've got other stuff to promo, we'd love to help you spread the word.

  19. Thanks, Susan! I have another book coming in September - "One Fine Cowboy." I'll keep you posted. Thanks for posting the giveaway!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.