Elle Kennedy wanted to be a writer since the first grade. At that time, growing up in the suburbs of Toronto, she was already producing various kinds of stories and committing them to paper. As an adult, Kennedy has built a bestselling career as a romance novelist, crafting romances that vary between suspense and contemporary erotica. Kennedy has also embraced a wide range of publishing strategies. After releasing around a dozen suspense-filled, erotic stories with Harlequin and Penguin/Berkley, Kennedy decided to pursue the Indie route for her new-adult book, The Deal. She soon found herself on the New York Times bestseller list, and The Deal sparked her Off-Campusseries, where she is in total control of the publishing process.
What drew you to writing romance?
Romance stories have the advantage that a lot of other genres don’t: They can have other components to their story (mystery, suspense, comedy, etc.) but you know there’s going to be a happily-ever-after. When I was a teenager, I devoured romance novels, and I loved them because even though a storyline offered fun twists and turns, I also knew exactly where it was going to end up, and there’s comfort in that.
What do you think makes a romance novel or series that really grabs readers’ attention?
Relatability. It sounds like an odd thing to say when there are so many romances about billionaires and mercenaries and scenarios we’re unlikely to find ourselves in, but it’s really about the characters themselves: Can we relate to how they’re feeling? Could we see ourselves having this ridiculous conversation with our friends? I think a good story and a good romance is one that, in some way, you could envision yourself in.
You’ve worked with multiple publishers. What made you decide to release titles on your own?
Honestly, it started with The Deal, and it wasn’t just about trying to self-publish, but also about challenging myself to do something new. The new-adult genre wasn’t one I’d written before, and it was more suited to the Indie market at the time, so I chose that route for the Off-Campus series. Since then, I have to admit there’s something nice about setting your own deadlines and having the final say on your books.
Do you think that self-publishing is introducing more interesting material into the genre?
I don’t know if I’d say the material is necessarily changing or becoming more “interesting” so much as that more people are becoming aware of these types of stories and have easier access to them thanks to the digital marketplace and lower prices. The same tropes have existed in romance for decades, but books in this genre were often viewed as a “shameful secret” if you read them. With that said, since self-publishing began, there are definitely more risks being taken in terms of content, particularly in the more erotic stories.
What do you find is the best way to reach new readers?
One’s existing readers! My readers have been incredible, and word of mouth and personal recommendations just can’t be beat. When readers tell me that they gifted someone one of my books, it really is the biggest compliment ever.
What can you tell us about your upcoming release in the Briar U series?
The Risk is the second book in the series, and it focuses on Brenna Jensen, the daughter of the college’s hockey coach, and her relationship with her team’s rival. Briar U is all about the ladies—and they’re strong, fierce, and any man who wants to be with them is going to have to step up his game!
Rhett Morgan is a writer and translator based in Paris.