Bad to the Bone by Nicki Bennett
Cover Artist: Bree Archer
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Nicki Bennett here today on tour for her new Dreamspun Desires story, Bad to the Bone. Welcome, Nicki.
—Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Nicki Bennett Interview–
Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write? Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures?
I enjoy research so much that I have to be sure I stop eventually to actually write! But whether I’m writing historical novels such as the All for Love series or contemporary stories like Bad to the Bone, I want to be sure the details are accurate. When Ariel Tachna and I wrote Checkmate, we not only researched the Spanish Inquisition but also the distances between cities, how far a horse or carriage could travel in a day, and whether chocolate would be available tor Teodoro’s son Esteban to purchase in the local market (it would). For Bad to the Bone, I researched how Native American tribes use the income from their casinos, the Oklahoma juvenile justice system, what popular songs from 2007 the DJ might play at the Freeland High School reunion, and places where Ricky Lee could take Alex in Oklahoma City (which was so successful that now I want to visit there myself!)
Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it? You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed?
I hate killing characters off. When Ariel and I were writing Under the Skin, we set it aside for over a year because we’d worked ourselves into a place where we knew the only resolution was going to lead to a character’s death, and we didn’t want to do it. We tried and tried to come up with another solution, but we ultimately realized the only way to move forward was to write the scene the way it needed to play out, as painful as it was. Sometimes we’re more successful—while writing Checkmate, we needed someone for Teo to talk with while he was imprisoned by the Inquisition to avoid pages of internal thought. But by the time we were ready to rescue Teo, we realized we couldn’t leave his cellmate Javier to be killed! Fortunately Raul was able to save them both, and Javier went on to play a role in the next two books in the series.
Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?
I’m a romantic at heart—no surprise for a romance writer—and I want my characters to get their happy endings, no matter how long it takes. The Exploring Limits series may have started as a Happy for Now, and it took almost 250,000 words to give Jonathan, Kit, and Devon their Happy Ever After, but we got them there! There’s enough negative news in the world. I want my stories to leave readers feeling good.
Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?
I read a lot of everything—science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, nonfiction—but romances have always been my go-to escape reading. When I was a teen, I discovered Georgette Heyer and devoured everything she wrote, then went on to other Regency authors, though I’ve never found anyone to compare to her. In my twenties I went through category romances like popcorn—I had my Silhouette subscriptions, and I’d scrounge through secondhand bookstores looking for backlist titles by my favorite authors. When the Lord of the Rings films came out, I scoured the internet for fanfic, which soon led to my discovering slash fiction, and that eventually led to my reading, and ultimately writing, gay romance.
If you write contemporary romance, is there such a thing as making a main character too “real”? Do you think you can bring too many faults into a character that eventually it becomes too flawed to become a love interest?
At the beginning of Bad to the Bone, Alex Morrison, one of the two MCs, sees himself as a failure. He was the golden boy in high school—everyone was sure he was destined for NFL stardom. But injuries ended his college career, and he gave up the job he wanted to return home and take over the family business when his father got sick, which led to the breakup of his marriage. I think it’s very realistic that all those things could leave him feeling as if he hadn’t lived up to his potential, but I had to be careful not to make readers believe it too, or I risked making him unlikeable as a character. I hope I gave him enough good qualities to offset his lack of self-esteem, and that his friends and his sister are able to help him see those qualities in himself without turning into It’s a Wonderful Life.
What’s next for you as an author?
Ariel and I have started a series called Out and About, in which two friends start a business that organizes social events where LGBTQ+ singles can meet and mingle. Of course, you know that’s going to lead to romance! The first book, Out of Bounds, will come out this fall, and we have at least two more planned in the series. I also have ideas for several more Dreamspun Desires that I’m fleshing out to see if Dreamspinner is interested.
A second chance at first love—if he has the courage to take it.
Alex can’t think of himself as anything but a failure. In high school, he was on the fast track to a career in pro football when he forged an unlikely friendship with a half-Comanche boy from the wrong part of town, Ricky Lee Jennings. Their shared love of books could have grown into more—but a homophobic teammate attacked Ricky Lee, and Alex wouldn’t risk his scholarship to defend him. Ricky Lee was kicked out of school, and Alex never heard from him again.
Now Alex’s glory days are nothing but a memory. An injury ended his football aspirations, his marriage fell apart, and his dreams of making a difference as an environmental lobbyist are as dead as his fantasies of sports stardom.
But all that could change in one magical night, when Ricky Lee shows up at their high-school reunion.
“You have any preference on where to have dinner tonight?” Ricky Lee asked. “There’s a restaurant in the hotel, but it’s mostly burgers and sandwiches.”
“Freeland hasn’t exactly become a mecca of fine dining since you left.” Alex tilted his head, considering. “There’s not much unless you want to head up 44 to Lawton.” Stupid, Morrison, he told himself as soon as he said it. Remind him again of having to leave town.
“Maybe some other time,” Ricky Lee answered, and Alex could swear his deep voice went even huskier. “I think I’d rather stay close tonight.”
Alex hoped that was because he was tired from working on the build all morning and not because he’d put his foot in his mouth mentioning Lawton. At least it implies there may be another time. “Honestly, some of the best food in town is at the little mom-and-pop places along Wichita and Main. There’s a pretty good taqueria we could walk to from your hotel, or if you’ve had enough Mexican for the day, there’s the pizzeria, though they mostly do carryout.”
“Tacos sound good. Want to meet in the hotel lobby around six?”
“If you can wait until six thirty, that will give me time to help Alanna close up.”
“Works for me.” Ricky Lee unhooked his thumbs and took a step forward. “There’s just one more thing.” He moved even closer, backing Alex up against the ladders he’d just racked. “I’ve been wanting to do this all day.”
Ricky Lee lowered his head and brushed his lips against Alex’s. Alex drew in a startled breath, and Ricky Lee swallowed the exhale, closing his mouth over Alex’s. He raised his hands to grasp the shelves on either side of Alex’s head, pinning him in place—not that Alex made any move to get free. He clutched at Ricky Lee’s hips and opened himself to the kiss that bore as little resemblance to the innocent touch of eleven years ago as a wildfire did to the flicker of a birthday candle.
About the Author
Growing up in Chicago, Nicki Bennett spent every Saturday at the central library, losing herself in the world of books. A voracious reader, she eventually found it difficult to find enough of the kind of stories she liked to read and decided to start writing them herself.
You can find Nicki on her Facebook page: