Saturday, March 1, 2014

An Interview with Author Kevis Hendrickson

I'd like to welcome author Kevis Hendrickson, whom I have gotten to know a little since I first started reading his "Rogue Hunter" series. Following this interview, I will post my review on his latest contribution to this series, "Life Force". So without further ado, please enjoy!

Rebecca (Me!), aka Sister Sinister: Hi, Kevis! I'd like to begin by talking about your books, so I thought you could give a little background information on your leading lady, Zyra Zanr. She actually started life in another series before “Rogue Hunter: Inquest”, didn't she?

Kevis: She sure did. The old version of Rogue Hunter had a strong comic book feel to it. It was almost wall-to-wall action and not as much attention was given to Zyra’s character development. That was one of the reasons I wanted to start from scratch. Zyra deserved better.

Rebecca: Was it hard to essentially start over?

Kevis: Absolutely. I fought tooth and nail to keep the old storyline. I’d written a sequel and a screenplay for a feature film using the old material. But when I considered how much better the story would be if I rebooted it, I decided that I had to take the plunge. I did know that there would be a price to pay with my readers for discontinuing the old series. It’s something I’m still dealing with now and have to prove myself to readers that I won’t drop the ball again and that this time, I will finish what I start.

Rebecca: What's different, would you say, between the old series and the new one, and would you recommend readers pick up the first, older series?

Kevis: Due to my dissatisfaction with the old series, I pulled the old books from the market. The only way for readers to get their hands on them would be to find someone who purchased the old books or risk getting themselves a pirated copy. It’s not something I would advise. The new books are far superior to the old ones and in many ways does what the old books did, just better.

Rebecca: In the first Rogue Hunter book, “Inquest”, we hear about a mark Zyra had taken out by the name of Molly Black. Who is she? Is she from the old series?

Kevis: Molly Black made her debut in Rogue Hunter: Gaia. Gaia was a trilogy of short stories that introduced readers to Molly. Zyra and Molly were once best friends, but their relationship went south and they have an immense hatred toward each other. The intensity of their encounters in Gaia was what made the series special. Molly has been mentioned a few times in the new Rogue Hunter books and I know it has to be eating away at readers who didn’t read the old books what the fascination is with Molly.

I can happily say that I’m currently rewriting Gaia into a full-length novel. It will take the best elements of the old shorts and improve on its weaknesses. I should also add that the new version of Gaia is going to be one of the most important books in the series, so look out for it.

Rebecca: We learn early on that Zyra doesn't always make the best of decisions, and this causes some pretty significant consequences for her and those around her. In “Inquest”, she starts a war and unthinkingly betrays her girlfriend. In Book 2, “Dark Space”, she finds herself in a brutal fight for survival. In Book 3, “Life Force”, she becomes involved with a married man. Do you think this has a lot to do with her age? Is this something she will outgrow?

Kevis: I’m not sure how much of her poor decision making is due to age. Some of it is, of course. But I think Zyra has an innate and inescapable talent for getting herself into trouble. In some respect, she’s just like me. It’s a curse I’ve dealt with my entire life. I always find new and creative ways to muck things up and I think for the foreseeable future, Zyra’s going to have to deal with the same curse as well. One thing’s for sure, it makes for an interesting story!

Rebecca: In “Life Force” Zyra is far more emotionally vulnerable than we have seen her before. Was it hard to write this side of her?

Kevis: I had a tough time writing this book. In fact, it almost sent me into a serious bout of depression. I noticed I was in a bad mood the entire time I wrote this book and am only now starting to emerge from my negative state. I know women who have been, and in some cases are still being physically abused. It’s heartbreaking to hear about what they have been through. I drew upon those experiences when I wrote Life Force. Knowing my most beloved character, Zyra, was being put through such hell left me in a dark place—a place I’ll add that I don’t want to return.

As it goes, Zyra is a strong and fiercely independent woman. One of the problems she faces in her life is that most of the men she encounters aren’t able to deal with her independent spirit. There’s a scene in Life Force where Zyra is reduced to total helplessness and a loss of her independence and strength. That scene tore at my heart and I imagine, it’s the scene that will touch readers the most. It was not an easy scene to write and I’m still disturbed thinking about it.

Rebecca: In a foreword at the beginning of “Life Force” you state that writing this book was an emotional journey; that this book is how you see the Rogue Hunter series continuing. With more of the story centering on Zyra as a person and less on her action-packed Bounty Hunter career. Am I right in assuming you also mean to continue the erotic nature of Book 3?

Kevis: There will definitely be more erotic encounters in future books. In fact, one takes place between Zyra and a new lover in Book Six. What makes Rogue Hunter different than many other series I’ve read is that it’s not like a paranormal romance where the romance is the driving force behind the story or like other Space Opera novels where sex is almost always avoided. Zyra is a young woman and it would be completely dishonest for me to avoid the fact that she has romantic interests and explores them. In fact, one of the significant results of what she dealt with in Life Force is that she becomes even more sexually expressive in future books. As a strong woman, Zyra knows what she wants and is not afraid to go after it. It’s kind of sad that some people will end up taking her being sexualized the wrong way. James Bond is hailed as a man’s man for taking nearly every woman he encounters to his bed. But I wonder how many people will consider Zyra as being a slut for exploring her sexuality over the course of the series? It should be real interesting to see what comments are made about her as we are introduced to more of her sexual escapades.

Rebecca: Tell me about writing the steamy scenes. Was it a challenge for you?

Kevis: I’m the typical geek when it comes to storytelling. My fascination has always been with the characters and plot, not bedroom scenes. I don’t think I’d even attempted to write a steamy scene until a couple of years ago. It just wasn’t something that was high on my list of things-to-do.

What’s interesting is that I’m one of those authors who pays very close attention to what my readers are saying. It annoyed me that some readers had a problem with Zyra’s bedroom scene with Mikaela in Inquest. More than one reader referred to the scene as being “gratuitous.” What irked me about those comments is that the bedroom scene was a fade-to-black moment. There was some kissing and a little petting and that was all we were allowed to see. So when readers kept mentioning the bedroom scene as being too intense, I figured I’d give them the real deal the next time I had a chance. Now when they say the sex was gratuitous I know they’ll be right! Life Force has many “explicit sex scenes” and some of them are pretty erotic.

Also, I’m a writer. So it’s not hard for me to write any scene be it a stroll through the park or characters getting it on in the bedroom. What was tricky is understanding the nuances of how to make erotic scenes play out as a mini-story within a larger story. I got the basics right on my own, but I sought the help of some very talented writers of romance and erotica to help me make sure I wasn’t missing any of the essentials, particularly in the emotional department. When my friend who is an erotica author told me that my scenes were so hot she might be out of business I knew I didn’t have much to worry about, lol.

Rebecca: You plan to create an offshoot series for Zyra fans who want the action and pursuit of bounties. What do you plan to call this series and when do you expect the first book to be out? You said that it will follow the same timeline as Rogue Hunter?

Kevis: I’m almost done writing the sequel to Life Force which is definitely a return to the series’ action-oriented roots. But to satisfy Rogue Hunter’s oldest fans, who knew Zyra when she was just a badass, I’ve got a new line of Rogue Hunter books called the Adventures series. The first book in that line up is entitled Rogue Hunter: Armada. We go back to the early days of Zyra being a bounty hunter in that one. She’s a no-nonsense tough girl during those years. You can forget about seeing her touchy side in Armada. It’s pure badassery from cover to cover, just like my old fans like.

Rebecca: Do you have a particular character in the series so far that you don't like? One who just pissed you off while you wrote them? What about a favorite one? Will we see Logos again?

Kevis: There’s a really nasty character who shows up later in the series. He really puts Zyra through her paces and is going to be a big problem for her. You’ll meet this character in Rogue Hunter: Alliance. The character who I love (almost as much as Zyra) is Jaxa. She was mentioned in Life Force, but we won’t meet her until after the next book. Let’s just say Jaxa’s a lot of fun and I can’t wait to introduce readers of the new series to her.

Rebecca: You have some truly beautiful covers for the Rogue Hunter series. Who is your artist and how did you come to work with her?

Kevis: Char Marie Adles of Wicked Cover Designs is the one who comes up with the beautiful Rogue Hunter covers. We sometimes have a very adversarial relationship. I’m always pushing her and sometimes she pushes back! But in the end, Char always comes up with amazing cover art for the series and I really couldn’t imagine anyone else doing what she does. She really keeps Zyra looking good.

Rebecca: Can you give us a sneak peak at what Book 4 will be about?

Kevis: Well, the first thing I can say is that physically Zyra won’t be put through the grinder like she’s been through the past couple of books. She really suffered a lot of punishment in Dark Space and Life Force. I can’t handle seeing my beloved Zyra go through any more of that. At least, not for a while.

As for the storyline, Zyra is still reeling from what happened to her in Life Force and she’s in a really bad mood and everything sets her off. I don’t think we’ve seen Zyra this miserable before. She definitely isn’t someone you’d want to be around in Book IV. Fortunately, the bad guys she encounters in the next book are going to learn that the hard way.

A very important thing also happens in the next book. So far, we’ve seen that Zyra is mostly a self-centered woman just trying to deal with her own problems. She hasn’t yet achieved “hero” status. In fact, she’s failed miserably as a prospect to become a hero. The first time she had a chance to be a hero was in Inquest. Even though it might not have made a big difference if she had turned him over to the authorities on New Venus, it was a moment when she could have been a hero. Unfortunately, we all know how that worked out.

In Rogue Hunter: Longshot, which is the title for Book IV, she is given another opportunity to be a hero. The question remains, will Zyra finally take the plunge and become the hero we know she has the potential to be? Or will she fail to put the needs of others before herself? We’ll be finding out real soon.

Now that you've gotten to learn more about Kevis Hendrickson, it's time to check out his website! And stay tuned, my review of Life Force is going up shortly. =)

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