When Kilby Blades looks at her peer group, she sees dating disasters, relationship problems, and divorce. This made her want to tell the truth about what love and romance really looks like for high-achieving people and Snapdragon was born. A romance novel unlike any other, where two people are in a relationship that could be defined on its own terms rather that following the formulaic path: "first comes love, then comes marriage..." As our Author of the Day, Blades tells us all about the book and how she made it into the top 5 in romance and top 35 across genres.
Please give us a short introduction to what Snapdragon is about.
Darby and Michael are high-profile, career-driven thirtysomethings, each on the brink of greatness in their fields. They have each (reasonably) concluded that marriage, children, and other culprits that often derail illustrious careers are out of the question. On top of that, neither grew up in a happy home and they simply don’t believe that traditional relationships can work.
So they strike up a simple arrangement: unattached companionship, toe-curling sex and a clean break when it inevitably ends. And it does end. Michael gets transferred. Darby’s been offered her dream job back home. They've never spoken the "L" word aloud, but the truth doesn’t change the fact that sacrificing either of their careers is not an option. It is only when they are separated that the real story emerges, one that explores what epic love looks like between two people who fight the inclination to drop everything else for love.
What inspired you to write a book about two lovers who could use the word "Snapdragon" to break things off?
We live in an age of sexual liberation. A woman’s value is no longer defined by her decision to marry or have children. For men and women alike, traditional family life is not necessarily a goal. I wanted to write a novel that showed a relationship that could be defined on its own terms rather than according to a formulaic path. “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes Darby with a baby carriage” is what I refused to let happen in this book. Yet, even without those constraints, my characters fall deeply in love and the duet (with the second book, Chrysalis) ends in a very satisfying happily ever after.
Snapdragon was well received and ended being a Semi-Finalist in the Publisher's Weekly Book Life Prize for fiction. What has the experience been like so far since publishing the book?
It’s very difficult for new authors to get noticed—especially independent authors, and especially romance authors. Making it into the top 5 in romance and top 35 across genres in such a well-respected international competition has been vindicating. So many talented authors remain undiscovered simply because marketing is so hard. Awards are a great way for undiscovered authors with real chops to gain recognition and have their work read by influential people in the publishing world.
Your book also explores deep themes such as the choice between love and a career—why did you take this approach?
Romance is full of doctors, lawyers, moguls, and CEOs, but very few realistic portrayals of high-pressure careers. I myself am the Chief Marketing Officer in a technology company—I work 65-hour weeks. I spend a lot of time sleeping in hotel rooms in faraway cities and in airport lounges and on planes (I am in the Panama City airport, even as I write the answer to this question). And, when I look at my peer group, I see dating disasters, relationship problems, and divorce.
In Snapdragon, I wanted to tell the truth about what love and romance really looks like for high-achieving people. I wanted it to be a book in which the time, stress, and pressure involved in holding elite jobs would not be downplayed. And I wanted to prove that, even when two people aren’t together every single day, there is tremendous (maybe even heightened) potential for deep connection and romance.
Why is Michael such a good match for Darby and how did you get your readers to fall for him?
Darby needs to be with somebody who understands the complexities of her elite world. Her father is a highly-visible, and very crooked, politician and as a result she gets a lot of unwanted media attention. Michael is also a celebrated figure in his field and they share an understanding of the intense pressure of being in the spotlight. They are fighting some of the same battles, both personally and professionally. Each one needs to reconcile the expectations placed upon them by other people with their own authentic hopes and dreams. Above all else, they are closely bonded friends who care about one another and about overcoming their demons and living their best lives.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
Everything I’m good at relates to stories—hearing them, telling them, helping other people tell theirs. It’s no mistake that my primary profession is marketing. I speak four languages, and I used to work as a travel writer but that lifestyle was all about getting out in the world and talking to people. I’m also a huge oenophile and when I was doing food, wine and travel writing, I became certified as a sommelier. Both of my upcoming titles have a tie to food and wine.
What prompted you to make the move from writing fan fiction to original fiction?
I lost touch with the fanfic community after I took a 5-year break from writing in order to have kids. I lost my mojo for a while but reached a point at which I knew I had to write again. At that time, I was no longer involved in any fandoms that could be an outlet for my story ideas and, in any case, the stories were original enough to stand alone. As a fanfic writer, I’d always made big changes that flung the characters far off of canon, so it didn’t feel like a very big leap.
One reviewer wrote that Snapdragon "rewrites the book on what a 21st-century relationship should look like." Would you agree and why?
I loved that review when I read it, and I totally agree. Darby and Michael are true upper-crust millennials—they’re educated, ambitious, and are trying to make it in high-pressure, white collar professions. For big city millennials, dating has become weird (at one point, the book mentions how they live in the age of Tinder). I love that Snapdragon is truly contemporary in its discussion of how young people in cities really date.
What sets Snapdragon apart from other erotic romance novels?
A lot of times, erotic romance is heavy on the erotic and light on the romance. The love affair between Michael and Darby is truly an epic romance novel.
Have changes in your own life affected any of your characters?
I’m a pretty good mélange of both Darby and Michael. I identify deeply with Darby’s predicament of working under a misogynist boss (I’ve had a few of these in my career), and of dealing with intense competition and sometimes hostility from peers—such is the nature of being a high performer in these kinds of jobs. I identify with Michael’s different motives around achievement, and his reluctant resignation around being in the public eye. And I certainly identify with the long hours, the jet-lag, and the tradeoff between spending time with your partner and getting sleep.
Talk to us about your writing routine; what’s a typical writing day for you?
Speaking of fatigue, a lot of it depends on how tired I am. I write best in the mornings, so a great writing day for me is one in which I wake up early and get in a few hours before everyone else in the house wakes up. I have small kids and a busy, full-time job so I get the writing done on the margins.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I write entire stories in my head. After that, it’s a matter of getting down a draft. I come up with most of my best layers during the self-editing process.
What are you working on right now?
The lighter one I just finished is called The Secret Ingredient. It’s about a famous television chef (Cella) who rents a great house in a beachfront town to write her next cookbook. When she discovers that the sexy doctor next door (Max) is the nephew of a legendary chef, she enlists him to be her assistant. Things take an unexpected turn when Max teaches Cella a nuanced sensuality to cooking that she didn’t learn in culinary school. Things between them get hot in the kitchen, but it’s also a solid HEA romance.
In my angsty one, Crocodile Tears, twenty-something Ruby returns home to attend the funeral of Dale, the patriarch of a family that has feuded with hers for generations. Outing their secret friendship will cause a stir, but her attendance was his dying wish. When extended an invitation to the reading of the will, Ruby believes that Dale has left her some small memento. Yet, to the chagrin of his estranged son, Wes, and to the utter surprise of Ruby, Dale has left her half of his estate. But Dale’s bequest comes with conditions: Ruby and Wes have three weeks to demystify the origins of the family feud, and learn how Dale’s family became sole owners of a wine empire once half-owned by Ruby’s. This one is an enemies-to-lovers story—literally! With a family feud in the mix, Wes and Ruby have to overcome a lifetime of being programmed to hate one another and allow themselves to nurture a heightening attraction that’s impossible to ignore.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
My web site is http://www.kilbyblades.com/ and I have a mailing list that folks can join. All of my new releases are announced on BookBub (https://www.bookbub.com/authors/kilby-blades) and I also hang out and chat a lot on Facebook. Folks can follow me at http://www.facebook.com/kilbybladesauthor.