Saturday, September 1, 2012

Brothers in Arms author Kendall McKenna Takes Center Stage

Sura Nualpradid/
Welcome once again to the House of Taboo! I'm thrilled to welcome to the Center Stage someone who writes in the same genre I do. Kendall McKenna writes M/M erotic romance and her recent release Brothers in Arms blew me away! Not only did she present two strong Alpha males in a relationship, she threw them together in the most inhospitable environments: the Marine Corps in the middle of a desert war zone. If finding love wasn't tough enough, her heroes had to do it while dodging bullets and avoiding ambushes. We'll hear more about the book in a bit, but first let's welcome Kendall to the stage and learn a little bit about her outside of her job as a writer.

Besides reading and writing, what activities do you enjoy in your leisure time?
What leisure time? Just kidding. But not really. I write! I write long, plotty, sexy books. I know that doesn’t sound like leisure, but it is. Yeah, it’s work and it’s difficult, but I really enjoy it. I do other things, too, lest you think I live in my mother’s basement, never seeing daylight. I like to jetski in the summer. I love to travel, particularly to warm places where I can SCUBA in a 7mil or thinner wetsuit. I love musical theater. My favorites are Wicked and American Idiot. I have tickets to the Book of Mormon in October. I’m also a long-time fan girl and I really enjoy getting together with friends and marathoning our favorite shows and movies.

What’s your day job? Do you like it? Why or why not? How has your job affected your personal development? How has it affected your writing life?
I do have a day job! I love my day job! How awesome is that? Not only am I a published writer, but I love my day job! I’m an Executive level assistant in the International Department of a pretty well known company. People ask me when I’m going to quit my job and write full time and always laugh. I love my job, I love the people I work for and work with, they show their appreciation daily, and I make really, really good money. If the pay sucked or I hated my job, I might think about quitting, but right now, I’ve got it made. 

This job reminded me of the things I’m good at. It reminded me that there is value in the things I’m good at. That’s allowed me to take on and learn new tasks that I’ve turned out to be pretty good at, too. 

It’s been good for my writing because the hours are 8-5, Monday through Friday. I’m not so stressed out that I can’t write after I get home. There’s no travel (I did that for 9 years, I’m so over it), so my weekends are my own. It’s left me happy and energized enough to keep on writing. 

What inspires you to write?
The characters. One or two characters will present themselves with a conflict, or a lesson they need to learn. The desire to tell those stories, to walk that character through the lesson, is what inspires me. Also, if I have an idea that seems like it’s too big, or too much, the desire to see if I can rise to occasion and pull it off inspire me to write it.

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Are you a plotter or panster or a little of both?
Usually, I answer a little of both. But really, I’m a panster. I make notes and jot down things I don’t want to forget, but really, I fly by the seat of my pants while I’m writing. Panster. Total panster.

Do your stories tend to be character driven or plot driven?
Character driven. The characters and their arcs are what drive the plot. Even Brothers In Arms, which is very, very plotty, is a vehicle to get the main characters where I wanted them to be. I knew going in that I was going to write that final, climactic, heart-pounding sprint through the Iraqi town because it leads directly to the conflict resolution between the two main characters. The rest of the story is woven around the strengths and the emotions of those characters, leading them right to that danger-fueled sequence. 

Do you listen to music while writing? What kinds of music work best for you? Do different types of music help you for different types of scenes?
Yes, and the music I select relates directly to what I’m trying to write. It definitely reflects the mood of whatever scene I’m writing at that moment. Scenes of conflict between lovers is usually Matchbox 20 and Rob Thomas. Action and angry scenes are usually Nickelback, Fuel, Daughtry, Linkin Park. Mixed in there is the cast recording to American Idiot. A lot of P!nk songs, because she runs a wide gamut of emotions from playful and party, to heartbreaking and melancholy. Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of The Script, but with Matchbox 20’s album releasing on my birthday, that’s probably going to be my new obsession. Along with P!ink’s new album.

I listen to a lot of the same music, especially Pink. You can't ever go wrong choosing one of her songs to write to!  
Tell us about the different types of characters you like to write about? Why are these types so appealing to you?

At this moment, I’m writing about BAMFs (badass-motherf***ers) who are highly intelligent and competent. What makes them so challenging and appealing to write, is that they’re CLAMs ( I have to find ways for them to express themselves and communicate with each other with a minimal number of words. Or rather, a minimal amount of direct dialog. 

Lately, I’ve been playing around with characters who are unaware of how other people see them. They’re baffled to find the men of their dreams return their affections, because they’re unaware of their own charms and strengths. 

I also like my BAMFs damaged. Either early childhood (emotional) trauma or a recent case of PTSD, I like to explore the reality of emotional damage but still have my characters develop the strength they need to adapt and overcome.

In what ways are your characters like you? In what ways are your characters not like you?
Oh, the characters with the most sarcastic lines of dialog, the impatient ones, the ones who tend to disdain people, and who don’t suffer fools gladly – those are the characters who are speaking for me, most likely even with my true voice. 

Well, a lot of my characters are men so that’s very much unlike me! The early days of my relationship was very much unlike my characters’! There was no drama, there was very little conflict. There was no great resolution. We met, we dated, we moved in together. It’s been pretty drama-free all the way around! The relationship itself has been pretty adventurous and eventful, and some of our exploits have turned up in my stories, but I’m not going to tell which ones! LOL! Hmmm...I think I'm going to have to set up another interview with your significant other. ;)

What are the recurring core issues in your stories? Why do you think you are drawn to these types of characters/plots again and again?
At this moment in time, I’m writing an awful lot about the futility of war, the modern warrior culture, and the damage war does to the warriors themselves. I don’t need my Psych degree to tell why I’m currently returning to these issues and themes over and over. 

My entire life, I’ve known men with PTSD of varying levels of severity. It’s only recently been known as PTSD. Previously, it was shell shock and went pretty much unrecognized and undiagnosed. But I’ve seen the effects first hand. Now, we’re 10 years down the road in two futile ‘wars’ and I’m watching history repeat itself, only with greater intensity. These themes and issues have repeated themselves in my life, of course they’re going to repeat in my art. 

available from Silver Publishing

In one or two sentences, give the core premise behind your story.
It’s titled Brothers In Arms. A platoon of U.S. Marines find themselves helping the FBI investigate the illegal business practices of private military contractors. The investigation reunites two former lovers and they rekindle their feelings for one another, while simply trying to stay alive. 

When and where does your book take place?
Diyala Province, Iraq; 2008.

How does the time and setting weave into the plot and persona of the characters?
I’ve actually received some fantastic positive reviews for weaving the setting into the story the way that I did. The oppressive heat, the smell, the desolation of the country are another character in the story. The conditions are miserable and it makes the horror of what’s taking place that much worse. 

Who is hero #1? 
That would be Gunnery Sergeant Jonah Carver. He’s a Recon Marine and the most experienced of the Marines stationed at Diyala firmbase and is somewhat of a legend. 

What drives him?
He’s a warrior. He thrives in the warrior culture and constantly pushes himself to be the best and the smartest warrior he can be. He values competence above all else. 

What is he running away from (literally or figuratively)?
Absolutely nothing. Jonah is running toward the next challenge. Could a case be made that he’s running from intimacy and commitment? Possibly. Mostly, he’s waiting for his Mr. Right to come back into his life. He’s just so preoccupied with being a warrior, he doesn’t realize it. 

What obstacles will he encounter in this story?
A VIP under Jonah’s protection is murdered. No one thinks it’s important to tell him what’s going on, so he’s stumbling around in the dark. He’s assigned to protect the FBI team that shows up to investigate the murder, and what they discover shakes him to his core. 

What draws him to hero #2 in this story? What gives him that push away from him?
Jonah is drawn to Kellan because Kellan embodies everything Jonah values. Kellan is brilliant, he’s competent, and he’s a natural leader. He’s principled, he has honor and integrity. Kellan is charismatic, which adds to the sexiness that attracts Jonah in the first place. Cause Kellan is hot. He’s 6 feet tall with luminous green eyes and a nice ass. 

The push away comes from Jonah’s own hesitance. It comes from DADT. It comes from geography.

What does he need to learn to make the happy ending possible?
Jonah needs to learn that he’s worthy of Kellan, that he deserves to get what he wants, and that Kellan actually returns his feelings. He needs to learn that, despite the differences in their lives, they can work it out. 

What about him will make readers sympathetic to him?
His anger and sense of betrayal over what the private contractors are doing. Jonah’s so smitten with Kellan, he charms readers and they relate to him. I also think we can all relate to Jonah’s disbelief that someone he thinks so highly of could possibly want him in return. 

 Who is hero #2? 
That would be Kellan Reynolds, former USMC captain.

What drives him?
Kellan is driven by the need to be a part of something bigger than himself. He’s driven to challenge himself and to make a positive impact on the world. Kellan needs to always be striving toward something that matters.  

What is he running away from (literally or figuratively)?
Kellan is literally running toward Jonah. He doesn’t have to go to Iraq, but when he realizes Jonah is involved in what’s going on, he gets on the C-130 and goes. 

What obstacles will he encounter in this story?
Kellan’s obstacles are; a group of corrupt corporations, a hesitant Jonah, and one big, huge obstacle I can’t tell you about because it’s a massive spoiler.

What draws him to hero #1 in this story? What gives him that push away from him?
Kellan is drawn to Jonah because he’s sexy as hell. He’s a 6 foot 3, blond haired, blue eyed Southern California surfer boy. He’s smart as hell and challenges Kellan intellectually and philosophically. Jonah has always had utter faith in Kellan, which Kellan has always tried to live up to. The push away is time, distance, DADT and his own ambition. 

What does he need to learn to make the happy ending possible?
Kellan has to learn that he has got to spell it out for Jonah. There are too many things that can happen to get in the way, Kellan can’t afford to play coy with Jonah. Kellan has got to learn that he has to make the first move, because the power dynamic between them prevents Jonah from doing it.  

What makes this hero infuriating to the hero, if anything?
Nothing about Kellan infuriates Jonah. But Kellan’s altruism and idealism does sort of frustrate him, at the same time he admires it.

What makes hero #2 hot and lovable? 
Did I mention Kellan’s green eyes and fine ass? How about his broad shoulders and tight abs? Beyond that, he’s scary smart, scary competent, honorable and humble. He’s vulnerable – to Jonah – and sensitive. 

What about him will make readers sympathetic to him?
When Kellan finds himself caught up in something he’s unprepared for, he refuses to back down. He also tries to be the man Jonah sees him as, not realizing he doesn’t even have to try. I think readers will find most sympathetic, Kellan’s determination to rekindle things with Jonah, without being entirely sure Jonah returns his feelings. He’s taking a chance we can all relate to. 

Is the oppositional force in this story more external or internal or a little of both?
Almost all external. They’re all in such physical danger so much of the time. However, DADT is always lurking just beneath the surface. 

Is there a villain? Who is he? What’s he like? Why is he/she the way they are? What motivates him/her to cause oppositional force to the characters? Without giving any spoilers, can you give a hint as to what sort of opposition he/she gives to the main characters?
No, no one single villain. In the final climactic action sequence, there is finally a small group of men who represent the overall villainous organizations. I can’t tell too much without spoiling, but it’s a story of corruption and greed and a complete disregard for human life. 

What is the theme at the heart of your story?
No one benefits from war except the politicians who start the wars while they sit home in safety and comfort, and the corporations who pay to get them elected. 

What message do you hope readers take away from this story?
Hate the war, love the warrior. 

Carpe Diem.   

Is this book a part of a series?
Um…no. Yes. Sort of. It wasn’t, but it is now….

What is the theme of the overall series and how does this story fit into that?
It’s still taking shape, but it seems the overall theme is that real people serve in the military, not empty uniforms. They believe in what they’re doing, despite the costs to them personally. 

Will these characters show up in other books in this series? 
Yes, Jonah and Kellan have already shown up in book #2. They’re supporting characters this time around, though. I never intended for this to be a series, but the supporting character of Corey Yarwood has turned out to be very well liked with lots of requests for a story about him. So, he’s getting his own boyfriend. Yay! I was rooting for Corey to get with Jonah at first until it was clear that Kellan was "the one." Corey deserves to get his happily ever after too!

How many books to you anticipate will be in this series?
Possibly 3. There is a supporting character in Corey’s story who could develop into a main character in a future story. 

What are you working on now?
The sequel to Brothers In Arms. It’s called The Final Line and it comes from a Marine term - final protective line – the perimeter at which the enemy has begun to overrun friendly troops, signals the commencement of final protective fire in desperate self-defense.
Which is where Corey finds himself personally and professionally as the story develops. He’s dug in and is desperately defending his sanity, his career and his heart. 
Oh, I can't wait for this one to come out too. Hurry up! ;)

What’s coming soon?
A paranormal story about Marine Corps werewolves. It’s the first of 3 and it’s called Strength of the Pack. The second is called Strength of the Wolf. I don’t have #3 developed enough yet to know what its strength is. Quite possibly, Strength of the Mate.

If you would like to read Brothers in Arms for yourself, just click on the cover above to take you to the Silver Publishing website. It's also available from Amazon, B&N, and ARe.


Jonah Carver--a Marine and combat veteran--and his former Captain, Kellan Reynolds, once shared a scorching night, but then lost touch; something Jonah has long regretted.

When an investigation into government corruption ends in a killing on Jonah's watch, the FBI arrives. With them is Kellan Reynolds. Together once more, sparks fly and Jonah begins to believe in second chances.

Nothing is that easy, though, as the suspects will stop at nothing to halt the investigation. Jonah must keep everyone in his charge alive while helping the FBI and Kellan find the proof they need.

When Kellan is kidnapped, can Jonah keep the investigation from unraveling and avoid losing Kellan for a second time?

You can reach Kendall McKenna at:


  1. Hurry up and get the next book done, Kendall!

    Lia Michaels/Tammy Dennings Maggy

    1. I'm sitting here writing it this very moment!

  2. I have to say I LOVE a military man! And you're telling me in this book I'm going to get two hot marines? I'm in. I'm off to pick up the book now! Great interview!

    1. Yes, you get a whole pack of hot Marines in this story!

      I hope you enjoy the book!


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