McKenna Dean, author of the Redclaw Security Series, writes shifter romance with flair and an interesting twist I’ve not run across in other shifter romances. She has a new book coming out this month, Bishop Takes Knight, which is first in the Redclaw Origin Series. Before we talk about the new book, I want to know more about Redclaw.
Hi, McKenna. Thanks for taking time out to talk about Bishop Takes Knight. Since it’s the first book in your new series, Redclaw Origins, I’m hoping to learn more about how in the world you came up with your ideas for Redclaw. Right now, I’m enjoying the first book in the Redclaw Security Series, The Panther’s Lost Princess. I must say, the shifter world you’ve created is different from any I’ve read about before. Would you like to tell us more about it?
Thank you, Anastasia, those are very kind words! And thank you for hosting me here. I guess I got part of my inspiration for the Redclaw Universe from Agents of Shield—there was a storyline where everyone got exposed to something (I don’t remember what) and it brought out latent mutant abilities. I love the idea of having secret powers locked in our DNA and we just haven’t accessed it yet, so when I created the Redclaw universe, I had two elements that were important to me: the presence of alien artifacts that only certain members of the population could activate, and the triggering of dormant shifter genes with the detonation of nuclear weapons during WW2.
For the purposes of the universe, I envision the older, mythological beasts we know about, such as dragons and griffons, as belonging to a small sect of powerful families that rule the shifter community due to their wealth and longevity. However, the explosion of newer shifters, like lions, tigers, and bears J, mean there is a power shift within the community.
Then there’s the added issue of the alien tech. What is its purpose? How did it come to be on Earth? And what should the shifter community do with it? During Redclaw Origins, we learn the Shifter Council has determined these artifacts should be collected, examined and cataloged until such time it can be determined how best to use or not use them. There are many who disagree with this decision, and wish to claim the power this tech provides for themselves.
Would you say that your shifter world has benefitted from your experience as a vet tech and biologist?
Absolutely! The time spent in the woods performing biological surveys or observing animals during my work definitely comes into play when I describe the majesty of a Great Horned Owl coasting through the forest on soundless wings, or the way a cat’s tongue curls and its whiskers bend forward when it yawns. The animal shifter scenes are the easiest ones for me to write!
Bishop and Knight has such a cool premise. Will it surprise fans of the Redclaw Security Series? Please tell us about it.
A little bit, I think, yes. Redclaw Security features a different couple each story, and since fated mates are a big part of that world, these stories include steamy sex scenes. The Redclaw Origin books are set in the 1950s and written from the heroine’s POV. I adore Rhett Bishop—she’s a practical, no-nonsense heroine with a dry sense of humor, but she’s somewhat reticent about sharing her sex life with me. That’s not to say she’s not a passionate woman—at least with the right man—but much of that activity is off-screen. Her relationship with Peter Knight is a bit antagonistic at first, but in a world were Rhett is often underappreciated and underutilized, Knight is one of the few people who believes in her. As such, Rhett easily falls for most of Knight’s crazier schemes, especially if it gives her the chance to prove herself.
The beauty of a series like Redclaw Origins is that it gives me a recurring couple to work with during the course of the series—and we’ll get to watch Bishop and Knight’s relationship develop as they seek out alien artifacts, battle competing forces for the technology, and banter their way into love.
The vibe I get from Bishop and Knight — a man and woman investigating alien activity — brings to (my) mind the X-Files — only much cooler and sexier. It’s not my imagination, is it?
Hah! There is definitely a bit of Mulder and Scully vibe between the two--in fact, at one time I described Bishop Takes Knight as the X Files meets Leave it to Beaver, though these days I think it would be more accurate to say Warehouse 13 meets Bringing up Baby. There's the paranormal/investigative aspect but also the combative-yet-complementary vibe as well. I love bantering couples, so give me Castle and Beckett, Nick and Nora, Mulder and Scully, Laura Holt and Remington Steele...
Great banter notwithstanding, from what I’ve read, the main characters in your books are deep, likeable, and down to earth, which brings me to themes. Is there a particular theme or focus you’d like to share with us?
Aw, thank you! I guess one of the things I like to explore is characters finding out what they’re made of. I jokingly say I like to put my characters in hot water to find out how strong they are—like tea bags, only sexier. That’s because I love exploring characters coming into their strengths—usually with the help of someone who loves them and believes in them. I’m fortunate to have someone like that in my life after many years of being told I wasn’t enough: not smart enough, pretty enough, ‘good’ enough. Sometimes it can be hard to overcome lifelong lessons to the contrary, but the love of a good person helps a lot.
Oh, I agree. It’s been nice talking with you, McKenna. I’m looking forward to Bishop Takes Knight. Thanks for sharing an excerpt, which follows this interview. I wish you all the best.
Thank you for having me! I love being interviewed—as long as it’s on paper and I have time to consider my answers. :) This has been great fun!
Bishop Takes Knight will be available September 18.
Excerpt from Bishop Takes Knight
I couldn’t decide if he’d insulted or flattered me, so I said nothing, but took two bowls down from the cabinet. Regardless of my earlier snack, the soup smelled good as he ladled it into the bowls.
He just shook his head when I added crumbled saltine crackers to my portion as we sat at the table. “Why don’t you just open the shaker and pour salt directly into your mouth?”
“I like crackers with my soup.”
He stabbed at my bowl with his spoon. “That’s more like you enjoy a little soup with your crackers. It looks revolting. Like chicken-flavored porridge.”
Put that way, it did sound disgusting. As I eyed the sodden mess, I changed the subject.
“You never said how it is you’re able to leave Redclaw with no one being the wiser.”
Especially in view of the added security.
He must not have been all that hungry, for he pushed the bowl of soup aside and fished something out of one of his pockets. After placing it on the table in front of him, he gave it a gentle push in my direction.
I didn’t reach for it. Much like the previous devices I’d seen, this one had that same dull metallic casing, with odd markings carved on the sides. Unlike anything else I’d seen before, however, it had a raised ring in the center that cast a warm yellow glow. “What’s that?”
An infectious grin lit up his face. “I call it an image-projector. I think about what I want to look like in great detail, and it projects that image over me. I’m still wearing the same clothes and everything, but if I can imagine it, I can look like it.” He swept the device back toward him when I would have picked it up. “Few people question the boss when he’s leaving the building.”
“What if you run into the boss? That could be awkward.”
He didn’t seem concerned. “The odds are low. Besides, I can just as easily be an anonymous lab tech. Have you been downstairs? There’s a lot going on, and as I said the other day, they’re more worried about unauthorized people getting in than paying attention to who’s getting out.”
“But to what purpose?” His attitude made little sense. “You’re safer inside Redclaw. Why leave?”
“Boredom.” He shrugged when I raised a disbelieving eyebrow. “Okay, then. The desire for decent food.”
My eyebrow went even higher as I stared pointedly at the cooling soup in front of him.
“Fine. I don’t like being caged. Is that answer enough for you?”
I could see his point. And since I had him here, I asked about something that had been on my mind since the day of the mechanical spider. “What do you think is the purpose behind these artifacts?”
He leaned back in his chair to the point he risked toppling it over backward. The front legs lifted until he settled the chair back in place with a thump. “That’s the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question, isn’t it?” His raised eyebrow implied both curiosity and concern. The combination was frankly compelling. “Where do they come from? Who or what is behind the technology? It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen, and I’ve worked on some top-secret projects. My guess? It’s not from this planet.”
My mouth dropped open. “You mean… alien?” I sputtered.
He nodded in all seriousness.
“You seriously believe Martians or Moon Men or something like that is seeding our plant with their gizmos?” The shock of his statement having worn off, scorn now laced my voice.
His shrug was eloquent. “Maybe. I think it more likely an advanced race implanted these devices millennia ago, knowing at some point we’d develop nuclear technology, hence the activation of said devices now.”
He shook his head. “A test? A trap? Who knows? Maybe the awakening tech triggered some kind of signal to the developers and even now, they’re on their way to greet us.”
I wondered if we would disappoint them. It was a distinctly disturbing thought. “Is this a working theory or are you just blowing smoke?”
His devilish smile made an appearance. The way it peeped out of hiding, combined with the fall of that rebellious lock of hair over his intense eyes when he leaned forward, would have charmed the pants off most women I know.
I don’t charm that easily.
“My dear, I just tinker with the gizmos.” He leaned back in his seat once more, his clever fingers toying with his spoon as he spoke. “I’ll leave winkling out the motives of the artifact-builders to the scary people, like you and Ryker.”
I straightened. “Me? Scary? What on earth have I done to give you that impression?” Ryker, I could understand. We knew so little about the shifters, how they lived, and what they could do. The way Ryker had tossed Billy around that day in the office was a fair indication he was stronger than most men, and of course, there was the rapid healing thing as well. More than that, I didn’t know.
I wrinkled my nose. “Am I supposed to thank you? That makes me sound like every other woman in the workplace. Standing behind the boss and making him look good.”
His laugh caught me off guard. “No, you have it all wrong. The smart man stands behind the girl with the ray gun.”
Okay. Perhaps I could be charmed a little.
McKenna Dean has been an actress, a vet tech, a singer, a teacher, a biologist, and a dog trainer. She’s worked in a genetics lab, at the stockyard, behind the scenes as a props manager, and at a pizza parlor slinging dough. Finally she realized all these jobs were just a preparation for what she really wanted to be: a writer.
She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her family, as well as the assorted dogs, cats, and various livestock.
She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/McKenna-Dean-Author-262328784224302/