Payback: Ellis Leigh Writing As Kristin Harte

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I’ve always been fascinated by authors who write under a pen name—as well as by what it takes to co-author a book with another writer. So when I got the chance to interview Ellis Leigh, I couldn’t have been more excited! Ellis has not one but two pseudonyms…she writes paranormal romance as herself, #sexytimes books with a co-author as London Hale, and she’s just released PAYBACK, the first book in a brand-new romantic suspense series, as Kristin Harte. Did I mention she also has a day job? I am in awe of her…and you will be too.

Hi Ellis! It’s so great to meet you. We’ve actually connected through a fellow author, Brighton Walsh…who you collaborate with under the pen name London Hale. Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s like to work with another author to complete a book? What’s your process…do you outline together, go back and forth as you’re writing chapters, or something else entirely? And how did your collaboration come about?

Thanks so much for having me, Emily! I’m so glad Brighton put us together. She’s the extrovert in our writing partnership for sure.

Working with another author was both fun and stressful. Fun because it’s Brighton—she’s a riot. Stressful because I hate to disappoint people, so I always felt the pressure to live up to what was expected of me. Thankfully, we worked really well together even though we came at a lot of things differently. I had to adjust my writing process to accommodate hers, and she had to put up with me saying things like “just get it done and go back later to clean it up,” which isn’t at all something she does. In the end, we worked it out and published eleven fun, tropey erotic romance novellas in six months and helped launch the Dirty Bits line with Carina Press this past fall.

Our process is pretty basic. Pick a trope (or two or three), go back and forth on ideas and plot points, and write. Our stories are dual POV, so we’d pick whichever character spoke the loudest to us and dive in. Brighton’s a plotter who usually has an extensive outline before she starts writing. I’m not. I live and die by GMC (goal motivation conflict), so once I have the character set in my head, I plot out a loose structure and can go from there. Brighton plays choose your own adventure with her characters—if he does this, then he’ll do this. But if he does that, then he’ll do something else. I see specific scenes as GIFs or videos in my head, so the path to those scenes can vary without losing the overall goal. Totally different, but I think it worked for us because we both respected the other’s process enough to give them room to do what they needed to. We’re lucky that we live close enough to do some things in person (like plotting a blow job scene in a crowded Corner Bakery) but usually we handled discussions over text, Google docs, and a massive Dropbox shared folder.

FYI to any authors thinking about collaborating on naughty stories—don’t even attempt to be in the same document when writing a sex scene. Just…don’t. It’s so awkward. Our sex scenes were all solo written as drafts and then edited to add in details so they started out with a lot of action and feelings and heat and then “Hero says something naughty here” or “she should probably respond in here somewhere.” Again, it worked for us.  

As for how the collaboration came about, Brighton and I met when we were both reading and writing Twilight fanfiction. She lives within an hour of me, so our friendship eventually moved offline (our first “date” was a group thing to see Magic Mike and eat breakfast—she prefers sweet breakfast foods and I prefer savory, if you’re wondering). One night, over good food and wine, we brought up wanting to write something fun. Stories designed to fit the market, to be quick reads because we’re all busy, and of course to be filthy. We figured we’d try one just to see if we could work together—that was DADDY’S BEST FRIEND, and we wrote it in like five days.

OK, now that we’ve talked about your sexy, sexy pseudonym, let’s move on to your brand new book, PAYBACK—written under yet another pen name: Kristin Harte. What’s PAYBACK all about—and why the pen name? Is it part of a series, or a standalone book?

PAYBACK is the story of a good man doing bad things to protect the friends and family he cares about. It’s the first book in the Vigilante Justice series, but each book reads as a standalone romance. These books fall under romantic suspense and feature ex-military heroes, vigilante justice, and logging. The wood jokes write themselves.

I wrote in my author’s note at the end of the book that sometimes characters speak to you, but that Alder Kennard, the hero of PAYBACK, screamed. That’s honestly what happened. I had a thought one day about motorcycle club romances—what if the motorcycle club guys weren’t the heroes? Who would they go up against and who could possibly win against them? The world of the Vigilante Justice series started fitting together in my head, but nothing concrete. At least not until I heard the song Small Town Boy by Dustin Lynch. One line—I’m a mama’s boy, I’m a fistfight—and Alder Kennard appeared in my head. He refused to let me ignore him. A particular scene from the book played out so strong and clear in that moment—a man watching the woman he loved, the one who had no idea he felt the way he did, grieving beside others but not really attached to them. Almost like a stranger to a town suffering a loss. I built the book around that scene..

As for the pen name, I’ve been writing as Ellis Leigh for almost four years now and have built a pretty solid brand for my paranormal suspense. I wanted to make sure the break between contemporary and paranormal was clear, and Alder Kennard refused to let me morph him into a shifter or a vampire, so the new pen name was born.

Since we’re on a pseudonym roll…do you face challenges when you’re marketing books under several different pen names—and how do you handle them, if so? How did your decision to use multiple pen names come about?

It’s definitely a challenge. Ellis Leigh is a USA Today bestselling author with a solid following and an established brand. Working on London and now Kristin has been an exercise in starting over. You have to invest in your brand, find your readers, set and meet expectations…all things that take time. But in the end, I (and Brighton) wanted to be true to our established readers and not tie stories that wouldn’t be what they expected into our existing catalogs. I think clear delineation keeps readers from being disappointed when they really want vampires and blood and instead get loggers…and still blood, just not in the way they expected.

You’re an incredibly productive writer—and I know you have a day job, too. What’s your secret?

I’m a professional project manager and an obsessive list maker. Seriously—you should ask my mom about the list I made of things I should keep in my first car. Pretty sure I had spare underwear on the list (in case I fell in a lake—no, really).

Because of these things, my entire life revolves around taking huge ideas and breaking them down into tasks. I have a master schedule spreadsheet where I log and break down every project into weekly chunks, which I later break further into daily tasks. I can’t tell myself “You have a book to write in six weeks” without having a spike of anxiety that makes it impossible for me to move forward. What I can do is break that book out into something like “I need to write two-thousand words today, assign ISBN numbers, schedule my proofreader, and update the book details on Goodreads.” That’s much more manageable. You have to know your process, though. I can draft up to three stories at once, but when I get to my final read? I have to work on just one. I know how many words I can write per week without pushing myself too hard, know when I need to take it easy based on more admin type tasks, and I’m not afraid to utilize all sorts of fun tools to make sure I meet my goals.

And in case you think I always get things right, I once had to write a MMF ménage scene while sitting in the viewing room for my toddler’s dance class because I couldn’t meet my daily word count goals. I’m no longer capable of blushing, by the way.

When we were chatting earlier, you said, “As Ellis, my first series was a motorcycle club series featuring wolf shifters, so it was fun to flip the script and write the MC guys as the villains.” Tell us about this—what inspired you to turn the tables? And what draws you to write about motorcycle clubs—do you ride?

I used to ride—I haven’t in a lot of years, though. I grew up just south of Detroit, so cars and bikes and just about anything with an engine and wheels were a huge part of my life. My uncle owns a transmission shop, my dad’s a master mechanic, brother-in-law works for one of the big three, and another uncle married a woman who’d been involved in motorcycle clubs and he did bad things himself for those same clubs. I wasn’t in in the MC world, especially not the 1% or criminal side of it, but that world was close enough for me to run into occasionally, and those run ins were memorable. Because my first MC world revolved around men who shifted into wolves (and tigers and dragons), I could suspend my disbelief to write a motorcycle club way different than what I knew to be true. Humans? Not so much, so I wrote my MC as paranormal and moved on to other projects.

After the close of the Feral Breed Motorcycle Club series, I thought I was done with MCs to be honest. I never planned to write more in that particular niche. But I was on an MC romance reading binge this past fall—I read something like forty different MC romances in two months—and in all of them, the men were so NOT like the MC guys I knew. I wanted the grit and the badness, the outlaw side to the men, but deep down, I wanted them to be good. My own personal rules about redemption and who is or is not a redeemable hero kept me from writing a true-to-life MC romance, but putting them in the place of the villains was an easy enough transition. That left me wondering what type of men would go up against those dastardly MCs…and if they could ever win when the clubs would always, and I mean always, fight dirty. The guys who work at Kennard Mills in Justice Colorado are those men. They’re the type of people I’d want on my side if something went wrong and the system in place to protect me couldn’t.

My heroes in the Vigilante Justice series live up to my tagline—very good men doing very bad things, but they’re doing them for the right reasons.

WANT MORE?

As Kristin Harte: http://www.kristinharte.com/

As Ellis Leigh: http://www.ellisleigh.com/

As London Hale: http://www.londonhale.com/

PAYBACK BLURB

He carries the burden of protecting an entire town

Being the oldest Kennard brother, I’ve got a centuries-old promise to uphold—run the family business to give the townspeople jobs and the sort of security they can only find in Justice. When a motorcycle club blows that plan apart, I’ll do anything to make them aware that they picked the wrong town to target. As a former Green Beret, I know just how to sabotage an enemy. The only weakness in my armor is my obsession with a five-foot-nothing blonde who unknowingly holds my heart in her hands. My attraction to her could cost me my life, but I’d sacrifice it all to save hers. 

She owes a debt that could cost her life

I’ve spent three years hiding out in Justice and paying off a debt to the Soul Suckers, one they’ve decided to collect whether I’m ready to pay or not. When danger lands on my doorstep, one man jumps in to help. Alder Kennard—former Special Forces soldier and current object of all my fantasies. But the Soul Suckers won’t let a debt go unpaid, and with the price on my head rising every day, it’s only a matter of time until they come back for me. Alder would put his life on the line to save mine, which is something I simply can’t afford.  

Everyone has a debt to pay, and the only currency I have left is my body. So when the time comes, I’ll trade my life for his.

I’ve always been fascinated by authors who write under a pen name—as well as by what it takes to co-author a book with another writer. So when I got the chance to interview Ellis Leigh, I couldn’t have been more excited! Ellis has not one but two pseudonyms…she writes paranormal romance as herself, #sexytimes books with a co-author as London Hale, and she’s just released PAYBACK, the first book in a brand-new romantic suspense series, as Kristin Harte. Did I mention she also has a day job? I am in awe of her…and you will be too.

Hi Ellis! It’s so great to meet you. We’ve actually connected through a fellow author, Brighton Walsh…who you collaborate with under the pen name London Hale. Can you tell us a little bit about what it’s like to work with another author to complete a book? What’s your process…do you outline together, go back and forth as you’re writing chapters, or something else entirely? And how did your collaboration come about?

Thanks so much for having me, Emily! I’m so glad Brighton put us together. She’s the extrovert in our writing partnership for sure.

Working with another author was both fun and stressful. Fun because it’s Brighton—she’s a riot. Stressful because I hate to disappoint people, so I always felt the pressure to live up to what was expected of me. Thankfully, we worked really well together even though we came at a lot of things differently. I had to adjust my writing process to accommodate hers, and she had to put up with me saying things like “just get it done and go back later to clean it up,” which isn’t at all something she does. In the end, we worked it out and published eleven fun, tropey erotic romance novellas in six months and helped launch the Dirty Bits line with Carina Press this past fall.

Our process is pretty basic. Pick a trope (or two or three), go back and forth on ideas and plot points, and write. Our stories are dual POV, so we’d pick whichever character spoke the loudest to us and dive in. Brighton’s a plotter who usually has an extensive outline before she starts writing. I’m not. I live and die by GMC (goal motivation conflict), so once I have the character set in my head, I plot out a loose structure and can go from there. Brighton plays choose your own adventure with her characters—if he does this, then he’ll do this. But if he does that, then he’ll do something else. I see specific scenes as GIFs or videos in my head, so the path to those scenes can vary without losing the overall goal. Totally different, but I think it worked for us because we both respected the other’s process enough to give them room to do what they needed to. We’re lucky that we live close enough to do some things in person (like plotting a blow job scene in a crowded Corner Bakery) but usually we handled discussions over text, Google docs, and a massive Dropbox shared folder.

FYI to any authors thinking about collaborating on naughty stories—don’t even attempt to be in the same document when writing a sex scene. Just…don’t. It’s so awkward. Our sex scenes were all solo written as drafts and then edited to add in details so they started out with a lot of action and feelings and heat and then “Hero says something naughty here” or “she should probably respond in here somewhere.” Again, it worked for us.  

As for how the collaboration came about, Brighton and I met when we were both reading and writing Twilight fanfiction. She lives within an hour of me, so our friendship eventually moved offline (our first “date” was a group thing to see Magic Mike and eat breakfast—she prefers sweet breakfast foods and I prefer savory, if you’re wondering). One night, over good food and wine, we brought up wanting to write something fun. Stories designed to fit the market, to be quick reads because we’re all busy, and of course to be filthy. We figured we’d try one just to see if we could work together—that was DADDY’S BEST FRIEND, and we wrote it in like five days.

OK, now that we’ve talked about your sexy, sexy pseudonym, let’s move on to your brand new book, PAYBACK—written under yet another pen name: Kristin Harte. What’s PAYBACK all about—and why the pen name? Is it part of a series, or a standalone book?

PAYBACK is the story of a good man doing bad things to protect the friends and family he cares about. It’s the first book in the Vigilante Justice series, but each book reads as a standalone romance. These books fall under romantic suspense and feature ex-military heroes, vigilante justice, and logging. The wood jokes write themselves.

I wrote in my author’s note at the end of the book that sometimes characters speak to you, but that Alder Kennard, the hero of PAYBACK, screamed. That’s honestly what happened. I had a thought one day about motorcycle club romances—what if the motorcycle club guys weren’t the heroes? Who would they go up against and who could possibly win against them? The world of the Vigilante Justice series started fitting together in my head, but nothing concrete. At least not until I heard the song Small Town Boy by Dustin Lynch. One line—I’m a mama’s boy, I’m a fistfight—and Alder Kennard appeared in my head. He refused to let me ignore him. A particular scene from the book played out so strong and clear in that moment—a man watching the woman he loved, the one who had no idea he felt the way he did, grieving beside others but not really attached to them. Almost like a stranger to a town suffering a loss. I built the book around that scene..

As for the pen name, I’ve been writing as Ellis Leigh for almost four years now and have built a pretty solid brand for my paranormal suspense. I wanted to make sure the break between contemporary and paranormal was clear, and Alder Kennard refused to let me morph him into a shifter or a vampire, so the new pen name was born.

Since we’re on a pseudonym roll…do you face challenges when you’re marketing books under several different pen names—and how do you handle them, if so? How did your decision to use multiple pen names come about?

It’s definitely a challenge. Ellis Leigh is a USA Today bestselling author with a solid following and an established brand. Working on London and now Kristin has been an exercise in starting over. You have to invest in your brand, find your readers, set and meet expectations…all things that take time. But in the end, I (and Brighton) wanted to be true to our established readers and not tie stories that wouldn’t be what they expected into our existing catalogs. I think clear delineation keeps readers from being disappointed when they really want vampires and blood and instead get loggers…and still blood, just not in the way they expected.

You’re an incredibly productive writer—and I know you have a day job, too. What’s your secret?

I’m a professional project manager and an obsessive list maker. Seriously—you should ask my mom about the list I made of things I should keep in my first car. Pretty sure I had spare underwear on the list (in case I fell in a lake—no, really).

Because of these things, my entire life revolves around taking huge ideas and breaking them down into tasks. I have a master schedule spreadsheet where I log and break down every project into weekly chunks, which I later break further into daily tasks. I can’t tell myself “You have a book to write in six weeks” without having a spike of anxiety that makes it impossible for me to move forward. What I can do is break that book out into something like “I need to write two-thousand words today, assign ISBN numbers, schedule my proofreader, and update the book details on Goodreads.” That’s much more manageable. You have to know your process, though. I can draft up to three stories at once, but when I get to my final read? I have to work on just one. I know how many words I can write per week without pushing myself too hard, know when I need to take it easy based on more admin type tasks, and I’m not afraid to utilize all sorts of fun tools to make sure I meet my goals.

And in case you think I always get things right, I once had to write a MMF ménage scene while sitting in the viewing room for my toddler’s dance class because I couldn’t meet my daily word count goals. I’m no longer capable of blushing, by the way.

When we were chatting earlier, you said, “As Ellis, my first series was a motorcycle club series featuring wolf shifters, so it was fun to flip the script and write the MC guys as the villains.” Tell us about this—what inspired you to turn the tables? And what draws you to write about motorcycle clubs—do you ride?

I used to ride—I haven’t in a lot of years, though. I grew up just south of Detroit, so cars and bikes and just about anything with an engine and wheels were a huge part of my life. My uncle owns a transmission shop, my dad’s a master mechanic, brother-in-law works for one of the big three, and another uncle married a woman who’d been involved in motorcycle clubs and he did bad things himself for those same clubs. I wasn’t in in the MC world, especially not the 1% or criminal side of it, but that world was close enough for me to run into occasionally, and those run ins were memorable. Because my first MC world revolved around men who shifted into wolves (and tigers and dragons), I could suspend my disbelief to write a motorcycle club way different than what I knew to be true. Humans? Not so much, so I wrote my MC as paranormal and moved on to other projects.

After the close of the Feral Breed Motorcycle Club series, I thought I was done with MCs to be honest. I never planned to write more in that particular niche. But I was on an MC romance reading binge this past fall—I read something like forty different MC romances in two months—and in all of them, the men were so NOT like the MC guys I knew. I wanted the grit and the badness, the outlaw side to the men, but deep down, I wanted them to be good. My own personal rules about redemption and who is or is not a redeemable hero kept me from writing a true-to-life MC romance, but putting them in the place of the villains was an easy enough transition. That left me wondering what type of men would go up against those dastardly MCs…and if they could ever win when the clubs would always, and I mean always, fight dirty. The guys who work at Kennard Mills in Justice Colorado are those men. They’re the type of people I’d want on my side if something went wrong and the system in place to protect me couldn’t.

My heroes in the Vigilante Justice series live up to my tagline—very good men doing very bad things, but they’re doing them for the right reasons.

WANT MORE?

As Kristin Harte: http://www.kristinharte.com/

As Ellis Leigh: http://www.ellisleigh.com/

As London Hale: http://www.londonhale.com/

PAYBACK BLURB

He carries the burden of protecting an entire town

Being the oldest Kennard brother, I’ve got a centuries-old promise to uphold—run the family business to give the townspeople jobs and the sort of security they can only find in Justice. When a motorcycle club blows that plan apart, I’ll do anything to make them aware that they picked the wrong town to target. As a former Green Beret, I know just how to sabotage an enemy. The only weakness in my armor is my obsession with a five-foot-nothing blonde who unknowingly holds my heart in her hands. My attraction to her could cost me my life, but I’d sacrifice it all to save hers. 

She owes a debt that could cost her life

I’ve spent three years hiding out in Justice and paying off a debt to the Soul Suckers, one they’ve decided to collect whether I’m ready to pay or not. When danger lands on my doorstep, one man jumps in to help. Alder Kennard—former Special Forces soldier and current object of all my fantasies. But the Soul Suckers won’t let a debt go unpaid, and with the price on my head rising every day, it’s only a matter of time until they come back for me. Alder would put his life on the line to save mine, which is something I simply can’t afford.  

Everyone has a debt to pay, and the only currency I have left is my body. So when the time comes, I’ll trade my life for his.

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