Come celebrate five years of Nikki & Damien Stark with a signed book giveaway contest as a thank you to you, the readers!
People often ask me which is my favorite out of all the (almost 100!!!) books I’ve written as both J. Kenner and Julie Kenner, and I always reply that books are like children–you love them all equally but differently.
I stand by that answer … but at the same time, sometimes the characters in a book will resonate so much with an author that you want to continue spending time with them. That happened to me with Nikki & Damien Stark, and as I leap into the new year, I can’t help but look back in amazement and realize that it’s been five years since Release Me hit the shelves — a book that was originally supposed to be only one book, but turned into a trilogy during the course of writing it. And that trilogy sparked “epilogue novellas” as well as multiple spin-off series. And, because at some point the characters repositioned themselves in my mind from a romance hero/heroine to a romantic saga hero/heroine, there is now a fourth full-length book in the “trilogy” (Anchor Me) with a fifth coming out later this year (Lost With Me). (Yeah, I’ve rebranded it as a saga. A trilogy with 5 books and multiple novellas seemed a bit whack).
I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I turned in Release Me to my publisher in late 2012 for its January 1, 2013 release day. I had high hopes that it would do well (foreign rights had sold well before the book was published, so I knew that expectations were high), but I truly didn’t know if readers would fall in love with the characters the way that I had.
I was not just pleasantly surprised, I was blown away. Release Me marked the first time that I hit the New York Times bestseller list in my career (which at that point, I was thirteen years into) and only the second time I’d hit the USA Today list. In the second week, it fell off the NYT list, and I was fine with that. But then–holey moley–word of mouth had gotten out and readers were talking about the characters, and it went back onto the list and stayed on NYT and USA Today for multiple weeks. Even more exciting, I was getting reader mail pretty much every day, and we pushed the release day for books two and three (Claim Me & Complete Me) from July and December to April and July (which tightened my writing schedule, but I was fine with that. I was in love with the characters and happy to immerse myself in their lives).
Awesome readers once again showed their love for Nikki & Damien, and both Claim Me and Complete Me hit the number two slot on the New York Times bestseller list, and when readers asked to know what happened “after happily ever after” I dove in with Stark Ever After novellas.
Something about these characters just sings for me. They are flawed, smart, ambitious, caring, romantic, and they’ve forged a family from their friends, and have battled so many demons. It has been a pleasure spending so much time with them over the last five years, and I have to thank you, the readers, for allowing me to do that.
I’d like to say that I can write in a vacuum, and that if readers don’t buy the book, that I would continue to write them, but the truth is that I can’t. I wish I could, but there are bills to pay, food to buy, and children to put through college. So I am beyond grateful that these are characters you have wanted to spend the last five years with … and hopefully more years, too!
In so many ways, you, readers, are the force behind my keyboard, the rocket fuel that propels my imagination. And for that, I’m so truly grateful.
It’s been a great ride … I hope you continue to join me as the journey continues!
For a chance to win a signed copy of Release Me, just leave me a comment about the series. When you first met Damien? Favorite scene, favorite quote. Or, if you haven’t yet met Mr. Stark, tell me why you’d like to!