We’re so pleased to have author Kelly Jensen joining us today on the tour for her new release, To See the Sun. She’s here to chat a bit about her writing process, and there’s also a great giveaway, so be sure to check out the entry details below.
Behind the Book
At lunch with friends recently, I was posed the question: How do you approach writing romance? What they wanted to know was—do I plot the romance part first, or fit it into another story I want to tell?
I love questions like this because they encourage me to think about my process, which so often feels like magic. How a book happens is sometimes indefinable. This probably isn’t the most encouraging news, but I’m usually in awe of the fact I’ve written 80,000 words by the time I get to the end. And that they’re sequential and mostly make sense. I do actually have a process, though, and it typically begins with the IDEA.
The idea for To See the Sun happened one snowy afternoon when I was reading a Harlequin historical romance set in pioneering times. Two of my favourite tropes are “arranged marriage” and “marriage of convenience.” Mail-order-brides fit nicely in between. As I read this story of a young woman arriving in Montana by train only to learn the man who’d retained her had passed away, I wondered—as I often do—how I could make a story like this work for two men. One of the reasons I love writing gay and bisexual romance is the opportunity to take tropes and twist them a little, or sometimes a lot. So I jotted down something like “mail-order-groom story” and went back to reading.
About a month later, I started thinking about what I wanted to write over the summer. Free of contracts for the time being, I wanted to start a project just for me—write something that made my heart sing—and decided to fiddle with my mail-order-groom idea.
The most obvious hurdle to telling this story was the constraints of our world. Men couldn’t contract a male spouse in the last century, or the one before. Not on this planet. I could have designed a story around those problems, but homophobia (even internalized) and the threat of discovery weren’t elements I wanted to include. Not in this book. I wanted this to be a sweet romance.
What I love about arranged marriages and marriages of convenience—in romance—is that the relationship almost always works out. The hero and the heroine get to know each other, learn to like each other, and fall in love. It’s the getting-to-know-you part that fascinates me. The idea that two strangers can be put into a situation not necessarily of their own choosing and somehow make it work. That romance can spark, catch flame, and burn hotly. Of course, a happy outcome isn’t always the case in contract marriages, but when writing romance, we pursue the best possible result. It’s sort of the point.
So I wanted a place where I could tell *that* story, and the place ended up being a barely habitable ball of dust in a galaxy of my own creation. Instead of a mining town, I had a mining planet, a company owned rock with deep crevasses providing the only shelter from the harsh environment. The why of creating such a challenging setting for my love story is another post, but I can sum it up fairly simply: If you’re going to put a story in space, then space should affect the story. It’s a rule of science fiction. Just like romance requires a happy ever after, science fiction isn’t just a setting. The planet of Alkirak plays a major role in the story of To See the Sun.
Normally when planning a book, I start with a character arc. I have a story I want to tell and romance is probably going to happen along the way. Or, better yet, interrupt that arc. I will then create my setting, which is always integral to the story. For Chaos Station, we wanted a world where super soldiers were not only possible, but essential to winning a galactic conflict. So we set the story approximately 250 years in the future. In Block and Strike, I wanted the guys to live over a Chinese restaurant. Seriously. More importantly, I needed an alley behind the building where stuff could happen. That alley is on the cover of the book.
To See the Sun started with a trope. It started with two men who were going to find a happy ever after, regardless of where I chose to tell their story. So the setting came next. Then my character arcs. And when I finished writing it, I wasn’t quite sure what I had. There wasn’t as much science fiction adventure as I thought there might be, and I’d added a character who wasn’t in my outline. But I could already tell it was maybe the most romantic tale I’d ever told—and the sweetest of all my love stories.
Even though the environment plays into the plot in quite unpleasant ways, and though both Gael and Bram have their own plot arcs—stories that need to be told—the focus of this book was always on the romance, from beginning to end. And so the answer to my friends’ question, for this book, came as a surprise to both of us, and inspired me to write this post.
To See the Sun is unabashedly romance, then a story of two men, and then science fiction. I usually write the other way around, but for this book, starting with the trope worked.
About the Book
Survival is hard enough in the outer colonies—what chance does love have?
Life can be harsh and lonely in the outer colonies, but miner-turned-farmer Abraham Bauer is living his dream, cultivating crops that will one day turn the unforgiving world of Alkirak into paradise. He wants more, though. A companion—someone quiet like him. Someone to share his days, his bed, and his heart.
Gael Sonnen has never seen the sky, let alone the sun. He’s spent his whole life locked in the undercity beneath Zhemosen, running from one desperate situation to another. For a chance to get out, he’ll do just about anything—even travel to the far end of the galaxy as a mail-order husband. But no plan of Gael’s has ever gone smoothly, and his new start on Alkirak is no exception. Things go wrong from the moment he steps off the shuttle.
Although Gael arrives with unexpected complications, Abraham is prepared to make their relationship work—until Gael’s past catches up with them, threatening Abraham’s livelihood, the freedom Gael gave everything for, and the love neither man ever hoped to find.
About the Author
If aliens ever do land on Earth, Kelly will not be prepared, despite having read over a hundred stories about the apocalypse. Still, she will pack her precious books into a box and carry them with her as she strives to survive. It’s what bibliophiles do.
Kelly is the author of a number of novels, novellas, and short stories, including the Chaos Station series, cowritten with Jenn Burke. Some of what she writes is speculative in nature, but mostly it’s just about a guy losing his socks and/or burning dinner. Because life isn’t all conquering aliens and mountain peaks. Sometimes finding a happy ever after is all the adventure we need.
To celebrate the release of To See the Sun, Kelly is giving away a $25 Riptide credit and some swag stickers and a bracelet! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on August 18, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!