Behind The Scenes with Ann Jensen
In this Episode Ann tells you about writing the Dark Sons MC Series.
Series: favorite book and why? Favorite characters and why?
Lost in the dark – one scene makes me cry every time. Tami caught in the dark favorite character to write, loved inhabiting aspects of Cami that I really enjoyed. Dragon and his dirty talk because I like dirty talk. Tell us more about Dragon – big brother vibe, his love interest, Tari in book 2. Yoga scenes and the reality of what you can write, vs what you can actually do.
MC live in a world that is dark, but the men that create darks sons are special forces guy that missed the sense of purpose higher calling, brotherhood they shared in the military. They strive to create a community and world. Home, and family. Key element in my books is found family.
Was there a book in the series you found difficult to write?
Book 4 – the first time my characters tried to veer off course. Undercover in the Dark
Character, takeovers, happen for me, in the outline stages and I spend three weeks percolating and allowing it to settle. Before I decide to move forward with my final decisions on the plot and character development.
Most fun to Write: Caught in the dark, favorite to write.
Soon to release - Leap into the dark book 5 coming out next. Steamy sex scenes. Idea with this novel was to blow open stereo types.
Did you have an external inspiration for the series like another writer or series you have read?
Why MC? I had written urban fantasy with shifters and couldn’t find a home for it. I wanted to write a spicy romance with villains instead of internal angst. I spent some time in a MC bar and learned a little of their culture. I wanted to create the ultimate MC fantasy.
Are any of the characters based on real people?
I like to study people and makeup backstories about people I observe. I take these elements and place them into a made-up person.
What is your process for picking and developing a storyline?
For the Dark sons, I first outlined Hawks love story, the president of the club. I built his club around him. Characters, officers and a few others beneath it. Once I had the cast of characters. I wanted the women to have trouble but not be a bunch of victims. One kind of women would thrive inside the dark son’s environment. Then I created my female cast and then I placed them together. Every man was assigned a kink and that played into which woman would go for that? Which helped with matchmaking.
Two series that are slowly percolating. Mercenary and Alien. I’m also still working on my Urban Fantasy
What would you love to write?
A mystery if I had the skill set to write it.
Hi, I'm Ann Jensen coming to you from the east coast of New Jersey. Hi I'm Skyler West coming to you from the west coast of Canada. We are two romance writers using our life experiences to break down and share with you all things romance, how you find your next book boyfriend discovering genres and tropes and looking at what works and why and what doesn't work and why Hello and welcome to coast to coast romance. I'm here with a very special guest today my good friend and author Ann Jensen Welcome in whoo I'm on my own podcast of my own yes you are I have to laugh because we did a behind the scenes with Skyler West and you had mentioned that you were envious because I had more than one series and I said yes but you have the best series and I just checked your rankings and you do have the best series Oh the world agrees with me I might change some around a little bit of what I have here just because I know so much about your series and your thought processes but I don't know if the world realizes just how smart you are but they will soon enough Oh, I'm feeling nervous now. All right. All right, the pressure is on she's in the pressure cooker. So am I have read your series and I'm looking forward to beta reading your next one which will be hot off the press to me soon. Yay. I'm so excited. But so far, what is your favorite book in the series and why? My favorite book it's splits lost in the dark. When I read it there is still a scene in it that will make me cry every single time night. But Cammy from caught in the dark by far was my favorite character to write. I love her awkward yet outgoing stuttering yet seductive, crazy mind loved inhabiting that while I wrote her I actually found there was aspects of Cammy that reminded me of you as a person. And it wasn't the stuttering. But I found her character really interesting too. She's one of my favorites, for sure. She's definitely caught in her own head. And that is definitely an element that I have of my own. Right and being as we're talking about your favorite book in your series, is there anybody else that draws you to a specific book 123 or four because of their character I have to admit when I'm reading or writing I love dirty talkers by far dragon inhabits that naughty bed that you get while you're reading that kind of gives you that thrill as you're listening to what he has to say. And I won't lie might have a fantasy or two about a guy speaking Spanish to me, so it's awesome. Who doesn't like another language? Tell us a little bit more about dragon. When does he first show up in the series and how you've developed him dragon first appears in the first book as a prospect. He kind of acts like a big brother to Pixie who is the main female character in that book and gives her advice. And while he doesn't necessarily stand up to sharp her love interest, he definitely makes his feelings known when he thinks sharp has been a asshole. It's just that big brother energy and everything like that, that I absolutely loved. So of course, I had to patch him in and then his last love. Second Chance kind of romance came in Book Two were through circumstances beyond their control. The two of them were separated after a hot night of connection that ended up in the woman getting pregnant and chance and a yoga class manages to reconnect them because her students know him. And she starts describing him and then they're like, Hey, I know that guy, right? And I remember that scene. It was great when they made this discovery. Pixie was there, I believe? Yes. She was I in fact, I think the ladies were making eyes at each other like Could she be talking about? Yeah, exactly. And it was it was super exciting. And it was funny because I had written Tari before I ever met you and elements of her were actually based off of one of my cousins who's really into yoga and really into kind of like the Zen life and everything like that the complete antithesis of me. And then soon after that book came out you and I became friends. So it was sort of like karma, right? I remember I was talking about the reality of yoga scenes, you know? Yes. And you what scenes Can you have sex? And then what positions? Yes, I remember asking you about that because there's one scene where it was actually a beta reader. Originally, I was going to have the first sex scene and they were going to have oral sex while she was basically in a handstand in one of the positions that I had called out. One of my beta readers was like, well, even if you're really really strong, it's only gonna last so long. Especially if you're being distracted. Yeah, and God forbid you let go of one arm because you're hooped. Everything comes crashing down, that scene got rewritten to have them repositioned. That's awesome. It's fun. It's fun to add in these elements into our stories for sure. Yeah. And it was, it was fun, actually quite enjoyed that story I actually found so your stories have a balance, I'm going to go off track a bit here. Your stories have a balance between this harsh reality of a motorcycle gang. Despite the fact that they are not dark, like they're not as dark as a lot of motorcycle gang stories are portrayed these guys, despite what they do, they're still good guys. They have good intentions, right underneath everything. And so you've got this wonderful division that you blend together between this harsher side of reality and the softer side and everything. Yeah, it's what the story, it's different. And it's not even just a fantasy. It is the environment you create for the fantasy to show up, right. And what it is, is the world they're in is dark. They live in a world of corrupt cops, and the mafia and the brotha. And you know, people doing horrible things, self sex trafficking, and drugs and all that kind of thing. But the men that I've brought together to create the dark sons are a set of Special Forces, guys who got out of the military and missed that sense of purpose, that sense of a higher calling a brotherhood or something like that, while they're all firmly rooted in the reality of this hard, harsh world. They strive to create a community and they strive to create a world that when they're not in that harsh world, gives them an anchor, right, and gives them that sense of home and family and family is not something that necessarily one would associate with dark romance. But that is a key element in everything I write, which is found family. If you don't have a good family of your own, you can create one. Absolutely. And your books definitely create these interesting created families. Yes, I like them. Oh, that's great. So I know that you struggled in a few different sections as you're writing. But if you were to think about all of them, was there any particular book in your series that you found more difficult to write than the others and why the hardest book for me to write this book for part of that had to do with I fell in love with the characters and I fell in love with the story, but then being an Uber plotter. As I was writing the story, for the first time, my characters basically tried to completely veer left and go a different direction. And I fought against that for a while because the first three books I wrote out the outlines, I expanded the outlines, I wrote the book, I edited the book, it all flowed beautifully. The thoughts were jelled in my head. And this was the first time that I got about the halfway point. And the characters were like, we're gonna go over here. And I was like, No, no, no, you can't I have I have a timeline here. So I stumbled for about a month not writing anything on it. Eventually, I threw away my outline and I made a new one. There you go, aspiration. And I was like, fine, but this outline sticks. And then we got to like right near the end, like the climax, and the characters went right. I was not happy with them. But I didn't re outline I just went with it. So the last four chapters of the book were just completely off script. under cover undercover in the dark. Yeah. Yeah, nice. Well, I used to laugh when I used to see those questions of authors. You know, do you have characters that take over the story and I used to think in my very early days, why on earth would you let anybody take over your story and then of course I know better now. The thing is, is my characters do take over my story, but they don't take it over while I'm writing the rough draft they take over while I'm dreaming up the outline they take over while I'm expanding the outline to add in the bits and pieces that are going to happen between the major plot points right and I spend a good two three weeks on the outline not because it takes me two three weeks to do the outline but because I'm letting it settle Yeah, because I might go to bed at night thinking okay, they're going to go to the store and they're going to get robbed and then this not that and then all of a sudden in my head I'm like, or, yeah, yeah, for sure. Or this will happen. And then the rewriting the outline to me is a lot easier than the few times I tried to fully pants a novel before I ever got published. I have I would say I have about 10 novels that are about 50 to 60% done that my characters wrote themselves into a corner and I have no idea how to get them out of it. And I'm like, short of Superman coming down from the sky or the world blowing up. Y'all are screwed. There's no happy ending for you. Bye. Yeah you know if you can stay in the corner my computer and sulk that's awesome i love one day I might go back and like delete the last three chapters and then re okay so so now that we know that book four was you know had some you know some takeovers with making it a little more difficult to write Was there one that was easier what would you say was the easiest one to write out of the way you've just written you've just finished the rough draft of book five correct just finished the book rough draft of book five Have we got it yet leap into the dark? Whoo yes about leaving it sounds like a book I would like it is about a parkour champion. And the handle and ink the two tattoo artists Excellent. So I'm very excited. They're some of my favorite characters. Yeah, that one was the steamiest nice I have probably six or seven sex scenes that I pulled out because I had absolutely no other purpose than I was in the mood to write that that day. Maybe someday I'll release some of them but yeah, yes, that they were fun. But the most fun to write I think was caught in the dark with Cammy and Jojo. Yeah, I like that one that I got to bring in big personalities you know I mean, we have valve who goes through the whole series and she's your big personality Southern woman have to admit even though she's not a main character in any of my stories, she's my favorite because I love the things that she says and she just comes in for a minute and gives us a bit of wisdom and then you know, duck sack she's like the den mother. Yes, yeah, I got her and Jojo my drag queen in Book Three, along with Cammy and her wild imagination. I remember writing the scene where they were going in to confront tech addressed a Scary Spice and Japanese anime school girl and I remember just laughing she was laughing and laughing and laughing because I could totally picture it. I'm very active within the LGBTQ community. I have lots of friends who run the spectrum from full trans all the way down to drag queens or you know who are actually hetero their whole life they just like to dress up like fabulous divas it was important to me to put someone in one of my books that had not a I don't want to say a traditional sexuality but not he even within the non traditional six sexuality a non traditional because a lot of people think if dress like woman then you want to be a woman. Yes, I think there's a massive assumption that because you dress the because you have an inner diva that wants expression just as much as your masculinity or vice versa that that means that that transcends into your sex life and that is not necessarily true right? And so while he is a gay man he has no interest in actually becoming a woman he just likes looking fabulous. Yeah, and he's got expensive tastes Yeah, that was funny. Unlike many other people I had to seriously research to figure out what expensive shoes and dresses were because I had no idea that's not me. If so, you know, I have all my books are billionaire romances, despite their I mean, the underneath trope is always the guys rich. And so I get to write about really think like little things I'd like to do or see or be or have and try on and have that pretty woman experience. Right? Yeah. Whereas my Cammy is is a multimillionaire in her own right. But yes, it's not a thing. It's not a you know, she she's like, yep, I got money. You know, yeah, she, what's interesting about her character, she does have this money. What I liked about it is that I think there's another giant assumption that because you're wealthy, you don't have access, right? And that's such a lie. Yeah. And so what's great about her characters, yeah, she's got she inherited, I think, right? Well, so she inherited a good amount, but she also created Pat was created brilliant. Yeah, they did all of this money. Exactly. That's another thing. It reminds me when I start reading about the tech that she done, I'm like, Huh, again, I reminded of the author. Now and what's funny is that a lot of people again, this is one of the stereotypes that I wanted to blow when I wrote this book is I've known women who have stripped or been strippers, not because they were desperate and had no other option or that it was a choice for them. It was a lifestyle choice that they enjoyed the attention. They enjoyed, you know, whatever it is, and I wanted to have her be a stripper at the start of the book, because she was just exploring what it would be like yeah, offered her way of expression that she found difficult to do in a different aspect of her life, right? Yeah, no, I thought it was great. I really liked that character and how she played her two sides. And it's interesting that her best friend is also a powerful tech guy, but likes to be a drag queen, right? So also a personality with two powerful sides. Right, right. Yeah, it was very it was very well Okay what's now that we know that besides my me alluding to Cammy reminding me of you are there any characters based on real people other than what you shared already none of them are based solely on a single person right? One of my favorite things to do is to study people if I go to a coffee shop or whatever like that I make up stories about the people and they're someone has a bad attitude, why do they have a bad attitude and and like, I create this whole backstory in my head. And what I like to do is I like to take bits and pieces like, oh, if someone had this friend's flair for style, and this friends, OCD and this friend, so I take different elements, and then I make them into a new person, mostly because I think it would just be very disturbing for me to inhabit the head of someone I'm friends with. Yes. Now the bad guys I may or may not have face about bad people. You know. He's among people on the stories that I've made up about people who I didn't like, Yeah, no, I get that for sure. Okay, so did you have an external inspiration for the series? Like I, I know that you're a researcher, so I know that you kind of researched into sub genres of romance and tropes, and you decided to write an MC romance and I was that before you, Katie came up with the fruit characters, a couple things. One, I had written an urban fantasy series with shifters, couldn't find a home for it, and basically was told unless you turn this into a paranormal romance, you know, the market saturated and I had spent probably three years writing that series. I didn't want to take that series and turn it into a romance because that wasn't the story. I was telling him. That wasn't where I wanted to take those characters. Could I do it? Sure. did. I want to know so I said, I want to write a romance. But then I said, Well, I want to write a romance. That's not just boy meet girl straight contemporary or anything like that. I wanted to have a little bit of spice to it, because I prefer external villains rather than internal Nxd. So that took me down to romantic suspense. And then little known fact about me, I worked in a biker bar as a waitress for a while and I knew 1% bikers, I knew people who were their old ladies, I knew people who were sweet butts, they fascinated me because it was a whole different world. It was a whole different culture. And I had read a lot of motorcycle romances and there are some great ones out there but I kinda wanted to create the ultimate fantasy that's where you know the mixture of the military men and I did research into where did motorcycles clubs come from? And they came from the veterans coming back from war and that's where it all started so I was like, Okay, well let's take that to the next level and make them all extra special forces and parts of gold and yeah, protectors. Yeah protectors in their free time even if they aren't necessarily good guys in their day jobs right? That was how motorcycle romance was chosen. Now looking back on it I finished the first book in the series and the responses back were oh well No, nobody publishes motorcycle romance it's you got to self publish that and I was like ready to bang my head against the wall because I was like what I went from one type of series that I can't get published to another type of series that I picked up published but then I found a publisher and it's obviously those people were wrong because the books have done very well they have done very well and I you know, right now I think paranormal is the one that romance publishers are not taking in at this time just because they're not doing well and I think everything goes in sections so the people who gave you that advice might have been right you know, two years ago, right? And it cycles through Exactly, exactly. Okay, so you've talked about your outline, which is clearly part of your process. What is your process for picking and developing the storyline? And how how do you like when you're writing book one are you already thinking about book 234 or five and 60 already have those characters there and you're just waiting to develop the storyline or how does it work for you for the dark sons it came as Believe it or not, I first outlined hawks love story and I haven't done his yet but he's the president of the motorcycle club and he will get his his very non traditional love story last in this particular series he will be booked seven guests but it will be a series of short that add up to I don't know if it's short stories so much as you know snippets of time jumping through time and then I built his club around him and you know, I it was all characters It was built the officers and then I built a couple of characters underneath it and I said, Okay, you know, here's what I have to work with. Then once I had cast of characters in the guys, all of them probably fleshed out more than any person should flesh out characters that may or may not ever reach the page. I said myself now I don't want this to be about a bunch of victims damsels in distress, that sort of thing I wanted while Yes, they may be in trouble the women and they may need help getting out of that trouble. They aren't victims. They're they're warriors in their own right. They're strong in their own way. But then again, my psychological mind when okay, but they also have to be willing to live in this alternate society, not only do they have to be willing, but they have to thrive within it, they have to find a home within it. So what kind of women what backgrounds, what stories what right history would make the kind of women that would thrive within the society. And so then I created a cast of female characters. And then I looked at my cast of female characters, and I looked at my cast of male characters and I looked at the story that I had created for Hawk and I said, All right, you go first, and you would be good with him and I played the dating game with the cast of characters that I had created. And there is a plot that goes from book one all the way to book seven. And for those of you who haven't picked up on it, it has to do with the Brava. But if you've read book four i think i think that's become clear at this point. And there seems to be percolating and growing Yeah, there are there are bits and pieces of it that fall into every book. But at the same time as you don't need to pick up on those pieces to enjoy the individual books. I make sure that each book is a contained story within itself, obviously much better if you know the stories of the people who are now the cast of characters, but I went through before I ever wrote the first book and I outlined all seven books, right? And then it's gone from there. So in your outline, and you talked about your female characters, and then play the dating game lined them up with the male characters, I kind of did that to my nm series. How did you so you organize the characters individually, and then you organize them as pairs, so I organized them individually and I had assigned a kink to every man what he liked in the bedroom, what he what he needed in the bedroom, to to make him happy, or what kind of alpha lover he was, and then that played into Okay, which of these women would go for that right? Which one of these would enjoy having a man? Oh, the first one was exhibitionism. The second one was Boyer ism though Believe it or not dragon was not supposed to get his own book in my mind to start with, but he replaced Grindr was supposed to actually be the hero of book two. But after I created Tari and her likes and her needs and the fact that she was multilingual and all that kind of stuff, I was like, I think dragon Sorry, sorry, Grindr that someone else gets your someone else gets your slot. That's right. You've been booted out of the game, baby. That's awesome. Okay, so I know you are planning on making this series. Is it seven or eight books long? Seven. Okay, it's going to be six standalone novels. The seventh book, it'll technically be standalone. But without the other books, you just won't, it won't make sense. It will make sense but it won't be as full or rich or Right. Right. So when you're done, what do you plan on starting next? I've been waffling between two different series that are in my head and I've been slowly outlining them whenever inspiration hits me and it's between mercenary romance and alien romance. Sounds like fun and I bet you'd be fantastic at both. Alien romance though is one of those ideas that just could go on and on and on and on. So I'm like maybe maybe I'm better at containing myself within shorter series. Yeah, there's a series I read that was an alien it was well I guess you could consider it alien. What they were was some ancient breed of people or creatures or whatever, that inhabited the planet Earth before. You know, people came along, okay. And they were revered as gods, even though they didn't realize that the gods actually came from space. They came from a different planet, okay? It's because they just looked like well, they have the appearance of angels, you know, they glow they can hover. You know, they have longevity. They almost like a hybrid kind of idea. But anyways, that lady I don't know, I think there's 50 books in that series. Angelina Anderson, one of my favorite authors, she just keeps going and going and going and every book is as good as the one before it. And they have they have a sort of overarching story, but not really, it's more of the time moves on. Yeah, and so the shape of the bigger world changes not so much that there's an overarching, right, right. Oh, that's awesome. And yeah, no, that's anything else that you're thinking of working on in the next year. So I still work on my urban fantasy every chance that I can because I absolutely love it And someday maybe I'll publish it might just myself or it'll find a home or the time will be right or whatever the case may be, but Okay, well That leads to an interesting question. If you could write and publish anything in any genre, what would it be if I had the skill to do it? I think that I would love to do a mystery. But I think my brain figures things out too fast. Or I feel like I have to throw too many clues in or I you know, like, it's that a really good mystery can lay down the clues so that you don't figure it out until you're supposed to figure it out. But when you read it the second time, you're like, Ha, there it is. Right? So but I would love to be able to do but I think romantic suspense urban fantasy is where my particular skills Awesome. Well, is there anything else that you want to share with your listeners today? I think that I love to tell my readers is I love hearing from you, whether it's through a review or an email, or you know, friending me on Facebook and sending me messages. I absolutely love hearing your feedback. I have probably the thickest skin known to man, just because I hear your feedback doesn't mean I necessarily take your feedback, but it will at least spark an interesting character in my head. That's awesome. Well, thank you and for being a guest on our podcast today, sharing more about your process what you have coming up. Thank you. Thanks, everybody. We'll see you next week. Thank you for listening to coast to coast romance. I'm Ann Jensen. And I'm Skylar West. If you'd like to contact either of us, our links are located in the show notes. Have a great week. Thanks so much for joining us.