Do you have a character you’ve written whom you most strongly identify with?
At this point in the saga, I’d have to say Maximus, Gaius’s former pleasure slave. At the start of Dominus, we learn that Max, a 29-year-old black man from North Africa, has recently received what the Romans called ‘conditional freedom.’ Ancient Rome was a strictly hierarchical society; Max has gone from being a slave (property without rights) to a client (person with rights). Max is confused. Who is he now? What are the expectations and responsibilities of a client? In fact, one of the themes of Dominus is coping with life’s unexpected as well as inevitable transitions. Every character, from our Roman general to our youngest slave, is confronted with change, both good and bad. This resonates with me since I’m currently facing my own transitions, both personally and professionally. I can relate to Max’s feelings of insecurity and anxiety coupled with excitement. And Max has a wicked sense of humor and is loyal to a fault.
What is your writing process like? Are you a planner? Pantster? What is your favorite writing tool or tip?
I’m a bit of both. I have a general outline for a story and certain scenes that I know in advance that I want to write (or that the characters demand I write), but much of the time the plot takes off in unexpected directions. I’d prefer to be a full-time pantster because I adore following my characters as they wander off into unknown plot territory but I’m too much of a control freak. And I tend to create so many sub-plots (murder, pregnancy, revenge, etc.) that I’m forced to outline and create time charts to keep everything consistent and logical. My favorite writing tip would be “cut out the extraneous verbiage,” also known as, “keep it simple, stupid.”
How would you describe your writing style/tone of your stories to someone who hasn’t read you yet?
Stripped down, funny, foul-mouthed and filthy sexy.
What’s the meanest thing you ever did to one of your characters?
So far, murder. We’ll see what happens in the next book. 😉
What is the most compelling reason you can give someone who has yet to read your work to pick up one of your books?
Since this is my first book, this is a super important question, so here goes: If you love a slow-burning erotic m/m romance where ‘historical’ characters act and talk like real human beings without those “look at all my research” info dumps, then give Dominus a try. Don’t be turned off by the ancient Roman setting—I take great pride in translating ancient Rome into a tangible, sensuous place that is filled with men and women who are flawed, silly, lusty and sometimes even loveable. But they do swear and hump each other, a lot.
Tell us a little about your current WIP.
I’ve begun book two in my current four-book alternate history series. The tentative title for the second book is “The Lion of the Lucky Fourth.” Without giving away the plot twists in Dominus, Gaius returns to Rome to confront the emperor and demand justice. Eventually, everyone in his extended family becomes entangled in webs of deception and revenge. I’m excited to introduce a few new original characters (Allerix’s Dacian companion, Brasus, and the captain of the Praetorian Guard, for example) as well as more actual characters from Roman history, including Tacitus, Sabina and Pliny the Younger. I adore fictionalizing real historical Romans for my own wicked plot purposes. Most important, the relationship between Gaius and Allerix continues to develop and they are put in a situation where they are forced to spend gobs of time together. Will they learn to trust each other? Love each other? Stay tuned.
A young man stood by the doorway, dressed in a thin, creamy-pale tunic cinched with a wide leather belt. The pretty lad was shorter than Allerix by a hand and a looked to be couple of years younger—nineteen, maybe eighteen. He had a similar build, lithe but nicely muscled.
“I’m Simon,” he said in a soft voice, as he took a couple of tentative steps forward.
A thick quiff of honey-brown curls dangled just above Simon’s emerald green eyes. His face was sun-kissed, a faint sprinkle of freckles above his cheeks, his features strong and perfectly proportioned. He was far too damn beautiful for a boy.
“I see you’ve finished all of your first meal. Plautus is a good cook, isn’t he? Bit of a stodgy old grouch, but he bakes the best bread that I’ve ever eaten. Not that I leave our villa much.”
Allerix relaxed and tilted his head, as he tried to appear bemused and ignorant. This fetching sprite carried no weapon and seemed harmless enough. He reminded him of Gorgas.
Rolling his eyes, Simon pressed his palm to his forehead. “Shit, I’m daft. You can’t understand a fucking word that I’m saying, can you? Well, that’s why I’m here.” Simon walked over, plopped down on the bed and sat cross-legged next to Allerix. The brunet leaned back against the wall, rested his hands on his knees and stared at Allerix’s face.
“You have amazing eyes—they’re like an owl’s eyes—with those big droopy eyelids and those long feathery lashes.” When Simon reached out to touch his face, Allerix made a low noise in the back of his throat and pulled back.
“Hush, I won’t hurt you. You are called Paulus. Pau-lus, understand? I am Simon. Max—you know Max, right? He was Dom’s favorite for a long, long time. He’s been freed, and now I’m Dom’s favorite. Everything’s a bit upside down and confusing lately.” Simon raked his fingers through his thick hair, and scratched his scalp.
“Anyway, what was I saying? Oh, right. Well, Max—who, by the gods, has the biggest fucking prick you’ve ever seen—sent me here to teach you how to talk. Dom had me schooled properly when I was a boy, so I can read and write both languages, although my Greek is spotty. Sometimes I get to copy Dom’s correspondence and read stories to him.” Simon leaned forward and rested his chin in his palm. He blew a rogue curl out of his seductive eyes and pointed to Allerix’s wrists.
“Do those shackles hurt? Those are called sha-ckles.” Simon rubbed one of the embossed golden bracelets that adorned his own wrists and grimaced dramatically. “Do they hurt? The sha-ckles?”
Allerix looked down at the heavy iron bands that bound his hands together with a few inches of chain. He lifted them from his lap and shook his head back and forth.
“Good gods, you understood me, didn’t you?” Simon clapped his hands softly and brought his fingers up, pressing the tips against his rosy lower lip. “That’s wonderful! I taught you some words, didn’t I? Max said that I’d make a fabulous teacher.”
“Should we petition the town council to erect a statue of Pedagogue Simon, Tutor of Bearded Barbarians? Would you prefer it stood in the forum or the gymnasium, oh great learned twat?”
Allerix looked over at the doorway and his breath caught in his chest. Wearing a wicked grin on his handsome face, a man leaned against the jamb, his muscular arms crossed high and haughty. Crinkles framed the corners of his tapered eyes, eyes that sparkled bright as blue stars against his bronzed skin.
Simon jutted his chin out and pointed. “And this, Paulus, this shit head is Nicomedes. He’s a cunt.” Simon made a smooching noise and blew a kiss at the striking man. With a sultry infectious laugh, Nicomedes cupped his balls through his dark green tunic with one hand and made a gesture with the other. Allerix didn’t recognize the two-fingered motion but he guessed its obscene meaning.
Where can we find more information about you and your books?
When she doesn’t have her nose stuck in a dusty old history book, JP Kenwood relishes writing erotic m/m fiction. JP prefers plot-packed, sexy, and romantic tales that explore loyalty, trust, betrayal, and sacrifice. She is currently busy penning the second book in her alternate history series, Dominus. The second book—tentatively titled, “The Lion of the Lucky Fourth”—follows our auburn-haired bastard of a protagonist, Gaius Fabius, and his gaggle of clients and pleasure slaves as they travel to Rome for love, laughs, and vengeance. JP has a terrible habit of posting preliminary drafts of chapters and snippets of her latest work to her online blog prior to publication.
Connect with JP Kenwood Online:
My blog: http://dominusjpk.tumblr.com
Dominus is available at Smashwords, Amazon and Barnes&Noble.