Romance with a Kick...
Vicki Essex's debut book, Her Son's Hero, was released this month to great reviews. The book's hero is a mixed martial arts athlete - something I think it's safe to say you don't see every day in a romance novel. I invited Vicki to GLIAS today to give us the scoop on this cool and unusual book!
Fiercely protective single mom Fiona MacAvery would do anything for her ten-year-old son. They came to the small town of Salmon River to escape the disgrace of her ex-husband’s crimes and live a peaceful life. More than anything, Fiona hates violence; her ex was a brute, and she just wants to shield her son from any more pain.
Dominic “The Dominator” Payette’s life is all about fighting and winning the Unlimited Fighting Federation’s championship title. But when he sees the fear in Sean MacAvery’s eyes—and the mistrust in Fiona’s—all he wants to do is help this family.
When the two face off, it’s a sizzling, no-holds-barred battle to protect the interests of one little boy…and to win the ultimate prize: everlasting love.
Simone: Your book is unusual in that it features a hero who is a Mixed Martial Arts athlete. How did you decide to mix MMA and romance?
Vicki: Hi Simone,
Thanks for this great opportunity!
I was watching a UFC fight with my sister and a friend. Our favorite fighter, UFC welterweight Georges St-Pierre, was on the card. Apart from being a phenomenal fighter, he’s quite easy on the eyes. My sister and her friend knew I’d been writing romance for a while, and suggested I write a story about a mixed martial artist. I thought it was funny at first—after all, who wants to read about a guy who beats people up? But the more I thought about it and the more I researched the topic, the more convinced I became that this would be a terrific story.
On top of that, I started seeing parallels between MMA and the romance genre. The two are frequently mocked as low-brow forms of entertainment, and their fans are often pegged as being a certain kind of people, which isn’t true at all. The deeper I delved into the world of MMA, the more I appreciated it as a serious sport. My appreciation for the romance genre formed in a similar manner.
Simone: Did you do any research with MMA athletes?
Vicki: I visited a couple of facilities to see what the atmosphere was like. I think the most eye-opening moment was standing in an MMA cage. It’s a lot smaller from the inside, and the walls really close in when a second person is in there with you. You get a real sense of no escape. Apart from that, I mostly read a lot of books and watched a lot of instructional videos and fights. I also went to UFC 129 here in Toronto. Watching it live is so different from watching it on TV, and the experience was phenomenal.
Simone: You have what I think must be a very cool job - working at Harlequin headquarters in Toronto. Tell us a little about that.
Vicki: I’ve been a proofreader at Harlequin for just over five years now (with a stint in copy editing while someone was away on maternity leave). It really is the best job in the world. I spend my days reading romance books, editing for grammar, spelling, punctuation, consistency and continuity, and working with ancillary materials (covers, ads, press releases and everything in between). The company is terrific to work for, and the fact that I can walk down to hall to say hello to my editor has been a bonus. I do my best not to stalk her in the kitchen, though.
Believe it or not, I’d actually never read a category romance—or a Harlequin book—before I had this job. Boy, that’s changed…
Simone: This is your first book. How has becoming a debut author changed your life?
Vicki: In the office, where we deal with making romance books every day, I have a totally new perspective of everyone’s jobs. I got to see my book go through the whole editorial and production process step by step. It was exciting and nerve-racking, but made me totally appreciate how much time and effort goes into these books.
Simone: What's the best book you've read lately?
Vicki: When you read romance for a living and write romance on your off hours, it’s hard to make time for pleasure reading. I recently picked up The Hunger Games, which was fantastic. I mostly enjoy reading fantasy YA in my spare time. I also enjoyed Mary Sullivan’s Beyond Ordinary, which is available the same month as my book. We’re doing two book signings together (shameless plug). But seriously, without any bias, I am in awe of her talent.
Simone: Where is your favorite place to read?
Vicki: The bathroom. Honestly, I think it’s the only place where there are zero distractions. But if it could be anywhere, then in a shaded lounge chair on the beach by the water would do nicely. And can the lounge chair be made of muscly men?
Simone: What's next for you?
Vicki: I’m working on a couple of submissions and I have a few more ideas percolating. I’ve also been working on a YA Western Fantasy. I hope to pitch it to some agents before the end of the year.
Simone: That sounds awesome! Thanks Vicki!
I've never watched a MMA match before, but looking at the photo above (sorry, I couldn't resist) I think I might try it. What is your favorite sport, either to watch or to play?