Q&A With Katie Shephard

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Q&A With Katie Shepard 

My latest guest today is romance author Katie Shepard! Katie Shepard is the author of the books Bear With Me Now & Sweeten The Deal. Before becoming an author Katie studied Soviet History and worked in human rights law before becoming an author. 

Q: Katie would you like to tell the readers of the blog about both of your books Bear With Me Now & Sweeten The Deal? How did you come up with the concept for both books?

A: So, Sweeten the Deal was actually written before Bear With Me Now. It was the book I queried and went on sub with—the first of a planned trilogy of romances about a loosely connected group of people involved in the arts. 

Sweeten the Deal’s concept came out of my love for the sugar baby trope. There are a lot of romances about a wealthy, sophisticated older man falling for a naïve young woman despite his attempts to commodify the relationship. I also see complaints that all the power is concentrated in the man’s hands in those books—even when that’s explicitly the author’s point!

So I wondered what it would look like if I kept everything else the same but made the naïve young woman the rich one. I thought it would be hilarious to watch the straight-laced older man have to deal with the expectation that he should hold the cards in the relationship, even when he really doesn’t. So that’s how Adrian and Caroline were born—Adrian’s flat broke, yet he still thinks it’s his job to protect Caroline, who has $2 million and a lot more common sense than him.  

When we sold Sweeten the Deal to my publisher, my editor really liked the pitch for Bear With Me Now, which was originally conceived of as my third book. I’d just finished my manuscript for Sweeten the Deal then went to Montana to go hiking with my sister, and all those bear safety signs made me think “what if a meet cute at a bear attack?”  That central image, of two people running hand in hand from a bear, led to an entire plot where the very real bear is also a metaphor for running from your problems and being safe with yourself.  So I wrote that book on spec and it was published first.  

Q: You studied Soviet History and worked in human rights law before becoming an author. During that time, did you always want to write and was the transition going from working human rights to being an author an easy one?

A: I always knew that writing was something I liked and wanted to do professionally, but I spent many years writing only academic materials: articles, part of a book on asylum law, legal writing.  I had a few fiction projects going in the background, but I thought of it as an escape or hobby. It was only when I saw other professional women I respected seriously pursue traditional publishing—Ali Hazelwood, who’s a scientist, Jenna Levine, who’s a legal aid attorney—that I was confident enough to try to publish fiction. On the one hand, I really envy writers who spent their twenties learning the genre guidelines and plot beats and structures while I was mastering THE LAW. On the other hand, I think the discipline and attention to detail and experience working in a structured environment really helped when I moved to fiction.  

Q: Are you writing book three right now? If so can you reveal any details?

A: I turned in book three and am waiting for developmental edits from my editor! The prologue of book 3 is included in the paperback and e-book editions of Sweeten the Deal, so you can get a sneak peek there. 

Q: If you were to write in other genres besides romance which genres would they be and why?

A: I really love books that take you to a new world—some different time or place, or even an imaginary one. I want to write love stories, but I could imagine writing fantasy or historical fiction as long as there’s a happily ever after in there!  

Q: If Hollywood were to get the rights to your work (if they haven’t already) who would be the perfect actors to play the characters you created?

A: Oooh! Fun question! I imagined Michael Fassbender’s face on Adrian and Elle Fanning on Caroline in Sweeten the Deal. I want Jonathan Bailey to play Tom.  

For Bear With Me Now, I think Charlie Vickers for Teagan. Darcy was actually named after Darcy Lewis from the MCU, so I’d want her played by Kat Dennings!

Q: What drew you into writing romance? 

A: The romance arc was always the thing that drew me into whatever books I was reading. I was a big romance reader before starting to write it (mostly paranormal and historical more than contemporary), but even when I was reading fantasy my favorite books really nailed the romance arc. Like Kushiel’s Dart—it’s not really a romance, but the connection between Phedrè and Joscelin is what really makes the book special to me.  

Q: Where is your favorite spot or spots to sit down and plot, write and edit your work? 

A: I have a big red chair next to the window in my front room where I keep my plants. It’s got room for me, my lap desk, and 1-2 cats.  

Q: Do you use bits and pieces of real people and places to create your fictional worlds and characters?

A: On characters, certainly I steal people’s careers and give them to my characters! I’m afraid that dealing with lawyers all day long has made it impossible for me to see them as romantic beings, so if I’m going to give someone a career I’ve never had, it needs to be one I’ve had some exposure to.  

Q: What lessons do you hope readers take away after reading your romance books?

A: I write a lot of characters who are neurodivergent and tell their love stories through their points of view, so I hope my readers either see themselves in them or get the opportunity to experience what falling in love is like for someone whose mind doesn’t work quite the same way as theirs.  

Q: What advice do you give to aspiring authors on writing great romance as well as dealing with negative feedback whether it’s bad reviews, online trolls or family and friends who aren’t supportive of their writing goals? 

A: You have to protect yourself and your heart. Mute mute mute on social media, don’t go into reader spaces to read reviews, and build up a community of people who love you and love your writing to go to when you need support.  And also be that person for other writers. When everything feels impossible, building up someone else is often the best reminder of why you’re in this space to begin with. If you don’t know what to do for yourself, do something for someone else.