Jen: Today we welcome Katie Kenyhercz back to Romancing the Book. Katie, will you share a short bio with us?
Katie: I live in Seattle with my Air Force hubby, and I write hockey romance. I played one season of roller hockey when I was fifteen–it hurt enough that I decided I liked it better as a spectator–and it’s been true love ever since! My fictional team is the Las Vegas Sinners, and my real-world team is the Pittsburgh Penguins. I like strong, capable heroines who bring out the vulnerability in their tough guys.
Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.
Katie: The hero in Fair Trade was inspired by Jarome Iginla, a real-life hockey player. He played most of his career for his home team, and they traded him out of love, hoping he could get a chance at winning the Cup before he retires. He hasn’t yet, but my fingers are still crossed for him! That set-up sounded really compelling, and I wanted to get into the emotions involved in that scenario, thus Grayson Gunn came to be. As a veteran player, it seemed likely he’d have recurring injuries, and who could be a better heroine than the team physician? All of my heroines are career professionals, but Olivia takes that to a new level. Her dedication to her work borders on obsession, and she’s just now starting to realize how much that impacted the rest of her life.
“All right, you know what day it is!” Nealy Windham’s shrill voice cut through the chatter on the ice and echoed in the empty rink.
We do? What day is it? Friday the thirteenth, sure. Did that mean something special here other than bad luck? Oh God, considering their coach, maybe it meant today’s practice was five hours instead of the usual torturous two. Grayson tried to keep his face blank while subtly glancing at his teammates. They were all nodding. And smiling, so it couldn’t be that bad. Right?
“Sorry, Gunn, forgot you don’t know.”
Did the woman read minds? Just when he thought she couldn’t get scarier.
“Every second Friday of the month we have a shootout contest. You all cycle through until everyone’s scored on Reese except one. That last guy usually has to grow a mustache until the next contest, but this close to playoffs, you’re all starting to look like Bigfoot, so that’s not really a punishment, is it? So this month, whoever loses has to wear this AHL jersey to every practice.” She held up a Carson City Saints sweater.
Lots of groaning on the ice, at least from the core players. There were a few recent call-ups from Carson that looked downright terrified, and that was understandable. As soon as they got to put on an NHL jersey, they might have to trade it back for the one they just took off? Poor bastards. Even as a seasoned vet, there was a small pit of fear in his stomach, too. He came to Vegas as a big fish looking for a big pond. All he needed was to lose this contest and have everyone look at him like a guppy. Not gonna happen.
“Okay, line up! Reese, ass in net.”
The goalie lumbered over to his crease and went through a complicated ritual that involved smacking his stick against each post, tapping the ice, crossing himself, and hopping into a game-on crouch. Every goalie had their thing, so it wasn’t surprising, but it always made Grayson smile. All hockey players were superstitious to some degree, but goalies always topped the scales. Had to have something to do with their choice to stand in front of 100 mile per hour pucks.
The guys stood single file by the bench and curved around to center ice, where there was a pile of vulcanized rubber waiting for a stick. Grayson skated toward the back, but Cole and a couple of the other guys shuffled him to the front. They wanted to see what he had. He smiled, but his heart was racing a 150 beats per minute. Okay, no problem. It was the first round. Every single guy behind him would have to score for him to lose, and Reese was too good for that.
Nealy blew her whistle, and he pulled a puck on the blade of his stick. He started down toward the goal, curved right, then left, right again. When he got close, he used some fancy handwork to deke side to side before firing a shot over Reese’s shoulder. When it hit the back of the net, Grayson almost went to his knees in relief. The guys behind him cheered while Reese cursed, and Grayson skated back to the bench, this time to take a seat.
“Nice work, Mr. Gunn. Who wants to join him?” Nealy appeared to derive a great deal of pleasure from teasing her players, but they didn’t seem to mind it. In fact, it looked like there was a mutual ribbing respect. A small pang of sadness hit him in the chest like a stone in a lake, and the ripples spread through his body. He’d only be a Sinner for four months at most. The end of his career was in sight. It was always a little sad to see older players who called retirement like the “boy who cried wolf and changed their minds at the last minute, unable to let go. He didn’t want to be that guy, but at this moment, he understood that guy.”
Jen: How do you remember ideas that come to you at odd times?
Katie: Luckily, even if I don’t have a pen and paper handy, I always have my phone. I text or email ideas to myself all the time. If my phone is dead, I’ll ask my husband or a friend to text me the idea. If I do have a pen, I’ll find something, anything to write on. It could be a receipt, a napkin, a show program, a gum wrapper. Anything. The back of my hand if I’m desperate.
Jen: Is there a genre you’d like to write? Is there one you’ll probably stay away from? Why?
Katie: I’d love to write paranormal romance because the possibilities are endless and love can be timeless and truly forever. Plus, it would be fun to write characters with super human attributes. I’d also like to write YA because emotions are so heightened.
Jen: How do you come up with characters’ names?
Katie: I usually start with my character’s occupation, then I’ll look through modeling websites to find a face that jumps out at me as a match. After that, I’ll say, “You look like a…” If I’m really stuck, I’ll post the picture to my reader group and ask what they think. The right name always surfaces. When I’m naming my hockey players, I take potential nicknames into consideration. In Fair Trade, I named my hero Grayson Gunn because I wanted the announcer to be able to say, “They’re bringing out the big Gunns!”
Jen: What do you do in your free time?
Katie: A writer has very little free time! For a while I was on such a tight release schedule all I did was write, eat, and spend some time with my hubby and our grumpy cat, Motley. When it’s not raining in WA, I love to go for 5k walks and listen to ’90s pop music. I’m also a crafter and a shopper.
Jen: What’s next for you?
Katie: I’m putting together a collection of Las Vegas Sinners short stories called What Happens in Vegas that I plan to release in spring 2016. It’ll catch up with every couple from the series at a time of transition when big decisions have to be made. After that, I’ve got a spinoff in mind, the Carson City Saints series. The Saints are the Sinners’ AHL farm team, and I can’t wait to explore that side of hockey.