Another thing you might know about me is I'm a compulsive book buyer. I could buy several books and not read them until months in. This is what happened with Hearts in Darkness. It's a novella, so a quick read. I thought I'd give it a try. When I did, I couldn't put it down. Finally! I found a book that brought me out of my slump.
When I finished reading Hearts in Darkness, I sent an email to Laura Kaye, the author. I professed my love for her work and immediately asked if I could interview her for this blog. You might have noticed I don't do many interviews on my blog anymore. I decided if I did an interview, it would be with someone I really wanted to feature. Someone I'm passionate about. Laura graciously agreed to the interview.
Below are my questions and her wonderful answers. I decided to focus on the craft. What went into writing Hearts in Darkness. As a writer myself, I wanted to see what goes into the process of putting a story together that brings me out of a slump.
Laura: Sure! I’d be happy to! Makenna and Caden came to me as very lively characters. I knew right away he was the one with the claustrophobia, and I absolutely loved the dichotomy between his rough exterior appearance and his internal vulnerabilities. Interestingly, despite the fact that a lot of the book occurs in the dark, I saw the story very visually as I was writing it. I could see them in the darkness and knew exactly what they looked like and what they were doing the whole time.
K: That's so fascinating. I love when characters come already fully formed. How did you decide on the length of Hearts in Darkness?
L: I didn’t really decide the length of the story as much as the story dictated its length. I suppose I never expected it to be a full-length novel, but I didn’t set out to write a particular length, either. I’m a pantser rather than a plotter (i.e., I don’t outline a story before I start writing, I write by the seat of my pants…), so I always let a story and its characters guide me rather than trying to force it into a particular set of parameters unless, of course, I’m writing for a publisher’s line with very specific word count instructions.
K: I'm the same way. I believe in letting the story leave my head organically. It's so comforting to find another writer who is this way. Were you ever tempted to make it a longer book? To go beyond the elevator encounter?
L: The book does follow them outside of the elevator, back to Makenna’s apartment after they’re rescued. When I first wrote the book, I wasn’t at all tempted to expand it. The story was the story. The only reason I’m even tempted now is because so many of the fans have asked for more Caden and Makenna. But I still love HiD exactly as it ends now! *grins*
K: I would love more of them too! I’m a fan of the way you wrote this novella. How were you able to keep the whole situation happening in a few hours without making it look like a hook-up in the end?
L: I think the key technique I used to make their sexual connection feel legitimate and not rushed or cheap was deep point of view. I put the reader deep into the characters’ heads and emotions and physical responses and guided the reader step by step through what made each of them attracted to the other. Knowing the emotional makes the sexual more meaningful, and I really enjoy writing both equally.
K: Thank you so much for that insight. I love learning something new about the craft, and Makenna's and Caden's relationship did feel deep despite the circumstances and time frame. Tell us, why an elevator? And why in darkness? As opposed to other scenarios.
L: The story was always the story. I didn’t “think this up,” so to speak. The story came to me as two people trapped in a pitch-black elevator. I love forced proximity stories, where two characters are forced together and therefore have to deal with one another. And the addition of the darkness added a whole new complexity to the writing and the reading experience because it removed the possibility of physical attraction based on appearance. It was a very exciting challenge to write!
K: You removed the sense of sight, which I found brilliant. It's easy to rely on what the characters see when describing a scene. Let’s go back to the characters for a second. Why is Caden the only one with a past? What about Makenna?
L: Hmm…I think both characters do have a backstory. Makenna’s mother died when she was a very small child and was largely raised by her father and brothers, which is why she feels plain and not particularly feminine. She didn’t really learn about “girly” stuff until she hit college, and even in the present-day of the story she works in a mostly male office in a heavily male-dominated profession. So that shapes her belief about how Caden will react to her appearance, especially as she learns about his much more edgy appearance. The difference is that Caden’s backstory still impacts his present. The past is still very present in Caden’s life, in his personality, his fears, his appearance, etc., whereas Makenna was able to deal with her childhood losses in a way that don’t make them as key to her present-day views of life. Caden’s story is more prominent in the book because it leads to the phobia that is the central element animating the romantic plot—they play Twenty Questions to distract him from being trapped in the dark.
K: Beautiful! I didn't see it that way with Makenna. Thank you so much for clearing it up. I love alternating points of view in my own writing, what made you decide on alternating between Caden and Makenna?
L: This was never a question for me. Both their points of view needed to be told to get the reader to accept the growing attraction between them in such a short time. The majority of romance is written in third person alternating point of view, as well, so most of my books are structured that way.
K: Now that I think about it, you're right. A lot of the novels I've read do alternate. Last question before I let you go, do you ever get requests for a continuation of Makenna’s and Caden’s story?
L: This question is far and away the most frequently asked question I receive and has been for the past two years! *grins* It’s possible I will write more about Caden and Makenna, but I can’t say anything firm about that just yet!
K: Oh, you tease! But I look forward to anything that comes from you, Laura. You have made yourself a new fan. Thank you so much for spending time with us today, Laura. And thank you for getting me out of my reading funk. *runs off to read your Brazen titles*
L: Thanks for having me!
I love this Q&A. It really helped me get to know Laura a bit better as a writer and what her process is like. I am a writer, but first and foremost I am a reader. Finding authors to love is something that makes me really happy.
Let's get to know Laura a little more, shall we?
Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.
And make sure to visit her at the following:
When you leave here today, grab a copy of Hearts in Darkness. You'll miss an awesome read if you don't!