We are thrilled to welcome popular Gay Romance Author Jocelynn Drake to the BL Xpress.
New York Times Bestselling author Jocelynn Drake loves a good story, whether she is reading it or writing one of her own. Over the years, her stories have allowed her to explore space, talk to dragons, dodge bullets with assassins, hang with vampires, and fall in love again and again. She is the author of gay romance like The Exit Strategy and is now working on MM paranormal series, Lords of Discord. She has also co-authored with Rinda Elliot the following series: Unbreakable Bonds, Ward Security, Pineapple Grove, the Weavers Circle. Join us as we strike a conversation with the prolific writer, about the thought process involved in the making of these novels and their imaginative worlds!
1) Your novels are hugely characterized by the concept of “Found Family” or have strong vibes of Brotherhood. Why is this notion such a valid theme in your books?
The concept of the “Found Family” is definitely one of my favorite themes. I like the idea of characters cultivating their own tribe of people who have no blood tie or sense of obligation, and yet they make the choice time and again to stand by this person purely out of love and respect no matter the danger or potential negative consequences to their own lives. It’s a theme that comes up in the Unbreakable Bonds, Ward Security, and the Weavers Circle series.
I think one of the things that both myself and readers enjoy is the idea of choice. These characters are choosing to stand together, they are choosing to fight the bad guy and put themselves in danger for this person. In the end, we all want someone to choose us through thick and thin.
Though, Lucas, Rowe, Snow, and Ian would likely argue that it’s not a choice. They just have to stand by each other because of their deep love for one another.
2) I’m a huge fan of your “Unbreakable Bonds Series”. Four men- Lucas, Snow, Rowe, and Ian, drawn together, through various trials and tribulations. How you did visualize their personal connection? Why is this story so important to you?
Their friendship and “Found Family” was formed and hardened through fire and hardship. Lucas and Snow grew up together in less-than-ideal circumstances and protected each other through everything. Rowe was added while they were in the Army together. Ian was picked up as the missing piece to their puzzle.
For their family to work, they all have to bring something different to the table to give the group balance. Lucas is the serious, bossy protector of the group. He’s the mastermind, the control freak. Snow is the dark and broody one who feels things too deeply. The tortured soul who needs his “found family” more than he even wants to admit. Rowe is the joker, impulsive, explosive friend who is very good at finding and creating trouble. And Ian is the sweet baby who everyone wants to protect. He’s got a great level head on his shoulders and is the glue that holds everything together.
When Rinda Elliott and I started working on the series, it was with the idea that each person’s weakness would be balanced against the support of the others. They relied heavily on each other. They never hesitated to reach out to each other for help and that support only made the characters stronger.
These four characters and their partners became an extended family for me. I can hear them in my head as clearly as if they were standing next to me. My heart broke when they were hurt and was instantly healed every time they were with their family and partners. It was that endless support and love that drew me in, and I think it’s lured in a lot of readers as well.
3) “Ward Security” the new spin-off series from the Unbreakable Bonds, focuses on the employees of Rowe Ward’s security company. How different are these couples from each other and how much fun did you have writing their stories?
With Ward Security, I wanted to capture the magic we’d found with Unbreakable Bonds, but have the freedom for even crazier, and possibly more dangerous, situations. We continued with the code names we started in Unbreakable Bonds since readers seemed to love that part, but I wanted more variety in the types of stories we could tell. In Ward Security, we have threats from blood relatives, stalkers, betrayal, and even international spies. The guys have had a chance to travel more, with trips to Bermuda, Spain, Italy, and France so far.
The spin-off also allowed us to check in with the Unbreakable Bonds characters while introducing new characters and action.
I definitely had a lot of fun. I loved working on the code names, trying to come up with ways to surprise and entertain readers. It was always an adventure on how I could best top the last book’s insanity, explosions, and danger.
4) “Ice and Snow Christmas Series” has a recurring motif of second chances and lonely souls unexpectedly finding love. Where did you draw inspiration for this book series?
Funny enough, the Christmas series started as a palette cleanser for me. I’d been working on a lot of romantic suspense, which demands heavy planning and intricate plots. I wanted to write something sweet and fun before heading into my next explosive book. It just happened that I love the “fake boyfriend” trope and who doesn’t want to be rescued at Christmas time by a rich, handsome guy who seems to have it all but is hiding a lonely heart?
For that series, it was a chance for me to break out of my comfort zone, write something sweet and play with some tropes that I might not get the chance to write in some of my other series. In the Christmas series, I’ve got fake boyfriends, second chance loves, enemies-to-lovers, and late-in-life bisexual awakenings. And the nice thing is that they are all friends, so we get check ins with the other couples along the way.
5) In “Pineapple Grove Series”, we have main characters who try hard to fight their mutual attraction and yet inevitably end up falling in love. What did you have in mind while scripting their romance?
Pineapple Grove was intended to be cozier than the Unbreakable Bonds and Ward Security series. It was actually based on a town I was living near when I was in South Florida. I wanted a small town feel with a little light drama as characters found each other and fell in love.
For “Something About Jace”, I’d been dying to write the “celebrity in hiding” story and Trent from the Ward Security series gave me that chance. For “All for Wesley”, we got the chance to do another enemies to lovers as competitors in the same business.
6) “Lords of Discord Series” is your first foray into the paranormal genre. What made you take a detour from your normal romance fictions?
Actually, the Lords of Discord series was my third paranormal series. My very first series was published through HarperCollins, called the Dark Days series. It was about a fire-wielding vampire and a vampire hunter who fell in love with her as they tried to save all of humanity.
My second series was called the Asylum Tales and followed a warlock-in-hiding turned tattoo artist who is very good at getting into trouble.
The romantic suspense books that I wrote with Rinda were a lot of fun, but I found myself missing magic and the paranormal dangers of the world. In most cases, I need danger, actions, explosions, and lots of angst in my books. If I can add in some magic and put the entire world in danger, that’s all the better.
For the Variks of the Lords of Discord, I discovered the covers first and sort of fell into the story. I knew I wanted to do something a little different. Usually vampires are solitary or parts of “found families” but I wanted to write a clan that consisted of actual blood brothers. The Variks have a tragic backstory, but they find a new life with the mates that are discovered along the way of protecting their clan. The four brothers resulted in a lot of brotherly banter and bickering, but also a loving closeness because they’ve grown up together and suffered together. They will always have a very special place in my heart.
7) “The Weavers Circle Series” focuses on six men, who are called forward to fight a growing darkness. How did you envision these strong men?
For the Weavers, I think one of the things I wanted to achieve was the vision of taking six very normal men and having them hit with a grand destiny they had no prior knowledge of. They are all fumbling in the dark, learning how to use their new powers, dealing with the burden that they have to save the world, all while trying to find their soulmates. It created a nice mix of angst and hilarity as strange and crazy things happen along the way.
8) You have worked with Rinda Elliot on four collaborations “Unbreakable Bonds”, “Ward Security”, “Pineapple Grove”, “The Weavers Circle”. How do you get past your creative differences?
I think one of the keys for working with a co-author is a lot of open communication. I’ve worked with Rinda Elliott on four series and with AJ Sherwood on the Scales ‘N Spells dragon series. Throughout each week, particularly when we are both actively working on a book together, there are a lot of conversations about plotting, pacing, character background, and character growth. I like to make sure that we have the same vision for the characters and the book before we get too far in our writing. Making sure that we have similar ideas before words hit the page means that the editing process is much easier.
When we go back through, it becomes about massaging the text to make sure that the book sounds like a single voice is telling the story.
9) Do you have any favorite book, drama or movie that has left an ever lasting impression on your mind?
Oh! That is such a hard question! There are always so many things that inspire and grip me. Most recently this year, I think the Chinese drama “Word of Honor” is the one that has held me in its grip the longest. I have become addicted to analyzing the push-pull balance of the growing relationship between Wen Kexing and Zhou Zishu. I love the way the drama unfolds the pace of secret reveals so that the audience is kept in the grips of angsty worry and anticipation through the entire series.
10) Do you enjoy reading MM Romance novels written by your contemporary authors? If yes, then who is your current favorite author and why?
There are so many amazing authors out there, it’s so hard to even pick just a few. I think these are just the first favorites who come to mind:
Josh Lanyon has amazing mysteries, particularly the wonderful slow burn of the Adrien English series.
May Archer tells a small-two romance like no other and I’m addicted to her fun characters.
AJ Sherwood also has amazing quirky characters who are great at getting into trouble. I love her Jon Mysteries.
Charlie Cochet does fantastic paranormal action and adventure as well as some sweet paranormal romance.
11) Being a Gay Romance Author yourself, what is your opinion about the current status of LGBTQ representation in books?
I will admit that I almost exclusive read LGBTQ romance/fantasy/action-adventure right now, so I’d say pretty great! But in the wider span of representation in entertainment, I’d say that we are making positive strides, but there is still room for improvement. I am excited for the day when LGBTQ is normalized, when everyone feels like they see a little bit of themselves in the books, movies, and all entertainment we enjoy.
12) What are you working on right now? Talk to us about your future books?
I am so giddy to finally share the brand-new series that I have been working on. The Godstone Saga is a LGBTQ fantasy series that follows the adventures of a prince in hiding and his three friends as they go on a quest to deal with sleeping gods, rogue kingdoms out for domination, and secret romances.
The series will be six books long and has a much grander scope than I’ve written in the past. There are going to be so many secrets, surprises, danger, delicious romance, and gut-twisting angst. I have definitely fallen in love with Caelan, Rayne, Eno, and Drayce as they protect each other and their kingdom, as well as grow as individuals.
The first book, Steal the Wind (readerlinks.com/l/2066036), will be out on October 29, while the second book, Breath of Life (readerlinks.com/l/2066072), follows on November 12.
The BL Xpress would like to thank Jocelynn Drake for taking the time to answer our questions!