I am so excited one of my favorite people, and RITA® Award winner, Jeffe Kennedy is back with us on the blog. Today she’s celebrating her upcoming title The Shift of the Tide by sharing with us what it was like to be a RITA® Award finalist and winner. Please help me welcome Jeffe…
If I can’t visit my friend, Jen Twimom, in person – I can at least visit her blog! Yay!
And because she and I live on opposite ends of the country and can’t sit down over margaritas to catch up, she’s asked me to talk about what it was like to win the RITA® Award.
Well, I have to tell you – it was pretty damn awesome.
First, let me tell you about getting the call that I was a finalist. See, I’d totally forgotten the calls were going out that morning, which is healthy for me. I’ve spent a lot of years knowing it was The Day and checking my phone every ten minutes to make sure it was working. And I’d refresh the website, watching the list of notified finalists mount up in my categories, feeling my chances slipping away with each new name added.
Then I’d be depressed for the rest of the day. See? So not healthy.
So, I’d deliberately forgotten what day it would be. Didn’t mark it on my calendar or anything. I write in the mornings and that goes best if I don’t log onto the Internet at all before I get my words in. I don’t open email, either. And I turn off the sound on my phone. I had my cell on my desk, though, because my husband David was out of town and I’d feel the buzz if he tried to call.
The phone buzzed and I turned it over to look at who was calling. It was a San Diego number. I nearly didn’t answer, but we’d been out in San Diego the week before with my mom, celebrating her birthday. I figured it could be the hotel calling about a problem or forgotten item. I answered, and it was only static. I said hello a few times, then hung up in disgust. The phone buzzed again. Same number. I answered, sounding pretty annoyed, I think, and this time a woman said, “Hi Jeffe, this is Helen Kay Dimon from the Romance Writers of America Board of Directors.”
Now, Helen Kay and I are friends. We shared a terrifying cab ride together and I wheedle her ARCs out of her. So, I wanted to say, “Yes, Helen Kay, I know who you are.” But something had begun to penetrate my brain. I realized what time of day it was and the time of year. Sure enough, she told me THE PAGES OF THE MIND had finaled in the paranormal romance category.
My first RITA® final and it was amazing. I was super happy to have that final. When so many people said they were rooting for me and had their fingers crossed for me, I’d answer exactly that – that I was over the moon to have finaled and I’d be happy just to have that.
I meant it, too. Just being in that group of amazing writers whose books finaled was a huge accomplishment and milestone for me.
Fast forward to July and I arrived at RWA Convention in Orlando. I had my silver RITA® finalist pin on my badge and my pretty, bright green finalist ribbon. Everyone was so wonderful to me. Convention for me is one big homecoming week, getting to hug on and chat with good friends I see in person maybe once a year. So many congratulations on finaling – and, to my surprise, so many people confiding that they hoped I’d win. I was so moved.
And it put me in mind of being at the RWA Convention in 2010, at that exact same hotel, sitting in that exact same bar, and being in total despair. An agent I’d pitched to had cut me cruelly. I’d felt farther than ever from achieving my goals. It was a serious low point for me. Looking back on how far I’d come in seven years, from failure to RITA® finalist was most satisfying.
So, I went to the parties and the finalist reception on Wednesday night and – maybe it was so many people saying they hoped I’d win – but I started to think that maybe I would win.
Now, I didn’t say this to anyone at the time. I’m superstitious and, besides, saying I thought I might win sounds arrogant. I mean, look who I was up against! But I had this FEELING and it grew stronger as Thursday went on.
I got my hair put up at the hotel salon, which is a special treat for me and a way of celebrating myself. Finalists and their VIP guests get into the awards ballroom early, so I was sitting at a table up front. My agent, Sarah Younger, sat on my left, and the amazing Brenda Jackson, who was presenting an award, sat on my right. Also at the table were Helen Kay Dimon – coincidentally enough – who was also a finalist in another category, and her agent and a longtime friend of mine, Laura Bradford.
Beverly Jenkins received the Lifetime Achievement Award right before my category, and she had us all in tears with her incredibly moving speech.
When my category came up next, I wasn’t nervous. I had that FEELING. Mostly I thought about what I wanted to say, if I did win. When the presenter read off my title, and I heard “The RITA goes to The Pages of the Mind…” well, I just burst with joy.
It was a transcendent moment.
Sarah snapped a pic of me right then. It’s blurry, but it says it all.
I stood up, and Brenda Jackson hugged me. I think that’s pretty fantastic that Brenda Freaking Jackson was the first person to hug me. Good luck, yes? I walked around the table, and at the table next to me Kerri Buckley of Carina Press was standing, clapping and calling my name. I went up and said what I wanted to, which included speaking to where I’d been during that dismal 2010 convention.
By the time I got back to my table – after photos behind the curtain – my silenced phone had lit up. Every messaging medium I use had notifications. Totally crazy. Including texts from Ms. Jen here. <3
After the awards, so many old friends came up to congratulate me. Avon sponsored an after-party in the lobby with dancing. Sarah was amazing. She bought a bottle of champagne and followed me around with it, topping off my flute and helping me with my things so I could hug people and balance my (really surprisingly heavy) trophy. She even babysat it while I ran to the ladies room.
One more super cool thing – RWA livestreamed the ceremony. I’d told people, but I didn’t expect anyone to watch. Because of the time difference back home, David would be treating patients, and my mom hadn’t sounded like she’d be watching. Well, it turned out that David just happened to be between patients and looked right as I won. And my mom, who can’t stand suspense, hadn’t been watching, but then decided to peek – and looked just as I won also.
So many others were watching from home – like Jen – and it was amazing and wonderful to celebrate with so many people who love books and fantasy and romance.
Winning the RITA® Award? Transcendent experience. Thank you, everyone, who helped make this happen.
About the Book:
Released from the grip of a tyrant, the Twelve Kingdoms have thrown all that touch them into chaos. As the borders open, new enemies emerge to vie for their hard-won power—and old deceptions crumble under the strain…
The most talented shapeshifter of her generation, Zynda has one love in her life: freedom. The open air above her, the water before her, the sun on her skin or wings or fur—their sensual glories more than make up for her loneliness. She serves the High Queen’s company well, but she can’t trust her allies with her secrets, or the secrets of her people. Best that she should keep her distance, alone.
Except wherever she escapes, Marskal, the Queen’s quiet lieutenant, seems to find her. Solid, stubborn, and disciplined, he’s no more fluid than rock. Yet he knows what she likes, what thrills and unnerves her, when she’s hiding something. His lithe warrior’s body promises pleasure she has gone too long without. But no matter how careful, how tender, how incendiary he is, only Zynda can know the sacrifice she must make for her people’s future—and the time is drawing near…
About the Author:
Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author whose works include novels, non-fiction, poetry, and short fiction. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award.
Her award-winning fantasy romance trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms hit the shelves starting in May 2014. Book 1, The Mark of the Tala, received a starred Library Journal review and was nominated for the RT Book of the Year while the sequel, The Tears of the Rose received a Top Pick Gold and was nominated for the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2014. The third book, The Talon of the Hawk, won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2015. Two more books followed in this world, beginning the spin-off series The Uncharted Realms. Book one in that series, The Pages of the Mind, has also been nominated for the RT Reviewer’s Choice Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 and is a finalist for RWA’s RITA Award. The second book, The Edge of the Blade, released December 27, 2016, and is a PRISM finalist, along with The Pages of the Mind. The next in the series, The Shift of the Tide, will be out in August, 2017. A high fantasy trilogy taking place in The Twelve Kingdoms world is forthcoming from Rebel Base books in 2018.
She also introduced a new fantasy romance series, Sorcerous Moons, which includes Lonen’s War, Oria’s Gambit, The Tides of Bàra, and The Forests of Dru. She’s begun releasing a new contemporary erotic romance series, Missed Connections, which started with Last Dance and continues in With a Prince.
In 2019, St. Martins Press will release the first book in a new fantasy romance series, Throne of Flowers.
Her other works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns; the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion; an erotic contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera; and the erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, which includes Going Under, Under His Touch and Under Contract.
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular SFF Seven blog, on Facebook, on Goodreads and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency.