After writing over fifteen romantic comedies and novellas, Karen Kendall is making a change . . . a genre change. TAKE ME IF YOU CAN kicks off her first romantic adventure/suspense series about an agency that recovers stolen art. Karen has always loved the stories that great art has to tell, ever since she made the impractical decision to study art it college. Before she started writing, she helped with kids' education programs in museums and worked for a successful art gallery.
In her new series, starting with TAKE ME IF YOU CAN she introduces readers to Avy Hunt and art crime, a dark, dangerous game where every move could cost a recovery agent's life.
Tell us a little about your April release, TAKE ME IF YOU CAN. Why did you decide to switch genres from romantic comedy to romantic adventure/suspense?
TAKE ME IF YOU CAN is the story of art recovery agent Avy Hunt, who’s co-founded an agency that specializes in tracking down and “repossessing” missing treasures for the owners and their insurance companies. Sometimes the work is easy and involves following a paper trail. More often, Avy finds herself in dangerous and provocative situations, stealing back the goods. In TAKE ME IF YOU CAN, she’s tracking down a multi-million dollar antique sword . . . and her prime suspect is diabolically sexy British cat burglar Liam James. He’s the best of the best, but Avy’s out to prove that she’s better.
I decided to switch genres mostly because this series just feels right. These books still contain humor, but they’re higher stakes and more exciting than anything I’ve ever written. Plus I get to use my art background. (Poor mom and dad paid for an art history degree, which pretty much spells “u-s-e-l-e-s-s” when it comes to getting a job . . . LOL.)
People made fun of me for being an art history major—which sounds so fluffy but is really a tough combination of about three different disciplines: history, art and philosophy. Some psychology, too. Art fascinates me not because it has snob appeal, but because it tells great stories--just in a visual way instead of with words. Years ago, I was working on a master’s thesis about the creative similarities of making marks with words vs. making marks with pictures. Instead of finishing that thesis, I wrote my first novel. I guess maybe I’m coming full circle now.
What was your biggest challenge in making this transition?
Probably the fear that I couldn’t do it. And working with a much more complicated plot, which doesn’t come at all naturally to me.
TAKE ME IF YOU CAN is the first novel in the TAKE ME series, which revolves around an agency that recovers stolen art. How did you come up with the concept for this series?
Well, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was initially inspired by the remake of the Thomas Crown Affair—and by To Catch A Thief. I didn’t want The Crown Affair to end, and suddenly I thought, “Wow—what if the Renee Russo character had a whole agency that recovered missing art? What if she contracted with a bunch of different insurance agencies? Oh, cool!” And then I started thinking about the success of the Alias series and the Sidney Bristow character, who travels all over the world on dangerous missions. My brain just started spinning and I couldn’t sleep until I got these ideas down on paper. And then Liam (my hero) jumped in to start the party . . .
Avy Hunt, the main character, manages to be both feminine and tough. How did you dream her up?
Avy is a complicated woman, one who enjoys men (she spent a lot of time with her father, doing extreme sports) but doesn’t necessarily trust them. She’s both voluptuous and athletic, so she can dress like a tart one day and be a tom-boy the next. I’m not sure how I formed her character, to tell you the truth. I just started writing text (even before doing the proposal for Signet) and she came to life on the page. She’s got some of her mother’s southern belle qualities, but she’s very much her father’s daughter—and he’s a tough, hard-nosed U.S. marshal. Avy may have studied art, but she also knows her way around a gun. She can handle herself in any situation.
What about Liam James, the hero?
Believe it or not, Liam was originally the villain in TAKE ME IF YOU CAN. He was going to be a minor recurring character who showed up at inconvenient moments to give Avy a hard time. He was a silver-tongued serpent . . . not the hero! The hero was supposed to be a secret service agent working for the U.S. Treasury Department. But about halfway through the manuscript, I had lost the spark between them. I sat down to analyze why, and figured out that the values of hero and heroine were too similar and so the friction, the conflict, had sort of died. That’s a really bad thing to discover when you’re half done with a book. What I’d written wasn’t bad . . . but it could be so much more. I agonized over this with some plotting buddies and one of them said, “Your problem is that the villain is so much more interesting and fun than the hero.” Lightbulb. Liam had to become the romantic interest. As a world-renowned thief, he’d stolen the show!
We heard an ugly rumor that during the writing of TAKE ME IF YOU CAN, you tossed out 200 pages! Why? How painful was that?
Yeah, thanks, Liam! Thanks a lot, buddy. Tossing two hundred pages was both the best and the worst thing I’ve ever done in my career as a writer. The best, because a much stronger book was born. The worst, because it meant starting over almost from scratch. But writing a book the wrong way teaches you so much! And so when I began the manuscript again, I had more confidence and knew exactly what I wanted to do. It was a great lesson for me. Not that I’d really care to repeat it, LOL.
What kind of research have you had to do?
All kinds of crazy research on art crime, insurance, ancient weaponry, money-laundering, the U.S. Treasury, the Secret Service, computer forensics . . . and because of the shift in hero and plot, I ended up not using a lot of it. Very interesting, though!
Avy’s agency, ARTemis, Inc. recovers stolen art, but the missing item that Avy is chasing down is a valuable antique sword. Why a sword and not a painting?
Well, I wanted to do something different. There are a lot of books out there about stolen paintings, and I wanted this object to stand out. It was a thematic choice, too—the sword represents not only the conflict between Liam and Avy but also a hidden battle that’s exposed at the end of the book.
What do you think readers will love about TAKE ME IF YOU CAN?
I think readers will especially love Liam James, the British cat burglar. He’s got to be my favorite hero of any book I’ve written. He’s such a charming, sexy rogue! The book is also very fast-paced, a little wicked . . . it was so much fun to write.
Will we see any of the characters again in book two of the series? What’s the title of the second book and when will it be out?
Readers will be seeing Gwen Davies, the secondary character, again in TAKE ME TWO TIMES (working title). It’s her story. But Avy and Liam will be back, too—and Sheila, the smart-ass receptionist/wardrobe woman.
There’s a mysterious character in TAKE ME IF YOU CAN: Kelso. Will we ever find out who he is? Will he get his own story?
I’m keeping very quiet about Kelso! But yes, I have plans for him and if Signet agrees, he’ll get a book of his own.
Thanks! If you’d like more information on TAKE ME IF YOU CAN or want to read an excerpt, please visit www.KarenKendall.com.