kisslaunch Just this month, Harlequin officially launched their new KISS line of books promising readers modern stories that are fresh and fun. Sometimes when I read contemporary romance, the characters seem very old-fashioned so I was curious to see what I would find in the new line. I ended up having The One That Got Away as a review book and I picked up the other three to read on my own. While the tone and stories varied, they did all feel believably modern. I was able to interview two of the launch authors, Kelly Hunter and Kimberly Lang, and this is what they had to say about the new line:

Well, the obvious question for any new line is this – what drew you to KISS, out of all of the Harlequin lines? What do you think makes it different from others?

Kelly Hunter: There’s so much to love about this line – superb individual author voices (so many KISS authors are category romance royalty, how cool is that?), amazing global settings, and there’s a special mix of lightness and depth that that all our authors bring to the stories. Humour and drama. Light and Dark. Fun and flirty, yet serious about finding and keeping love…
kimberly Lang: There’s a fresh feeling to KISS that really attracts me. I love that we can (and are encouraged) to stretch expectations and try new story ideas that don’t quite fit in other lines. It’s exciting.

In reading over the launch titles, one thing I’ve noticed is how varied they seem to be in plots and tones. For instance, Hitched! by Jessica Hart has a light, flirty tone, but Kelly Hunter’s The One That Got Away definitely goes to some darker places. Do you think this is part of what makes the KISS line different?

Kimberly Lang: Definitely. And I think that’s part of the attraction to KISS for both the authors and the readers – there’s something for everyone, and the variety of tone, story and voice means you won’t get that feeling of “haven’t I read this before?”
And Kelly Hunter added, “Absolutely.”

I know that the guidelines for KISS mention the need for 21st century alpha heroes. What would you consider a 21st century alpha to be?

Kelly Hunter: Whenever I hear the phrase 21st century hero I always picture a spaceman in a tinfoil hat (possibly something to do with all those sci-fi stories of my youth, but I digress). The heroes I write about are hot, smart, confident, loyal, protective and sometimes tortured. They have more than a passing acquaintance with the word equality.

Kimberly Lang: To me, that means he’s more approachable. He’s flirtier. He also expects (and respects) strong women who know their own minds and have their own goals and wants and he’s not going to be surprised or horrified that he can’t walk all over the heroine.

And what about the heroines?

Kimberly Lang: See above. J They’re strong women – regardless of the circumstances they find themselves in in the book. They’re the kind of women you’d want to be friends with – and sometimes the kind of women you’d want to be!

Kelly Hunter: I love a heroine who knows what she wants and goes after it. Smart, self-aware, generous, beautiful, fun… the full fantasy of all those things I want to be…

With a book like How to Get Over Your Ex, particularly, where the heroine has to move past a huge and public rejection, there is certainly a need for growth and healing.What kind of character development do you like to see in your stories?

Kelly Hunter: I love opening up restrained or reclusive characters to the possibilities of love. Especially if they feel they don’t deserve it.

Kimberly Lang:I like to see characters find the inner solution to whatever the external situation has unearthed. Whether the present is making them come to terms with the past or forcing them to draw on a strength they didn’t know they had, I want to see them become happy with themselves and their lives. Not all problems can be solved and not all baggage can be unpacked, and sometimes the solution is just what that Serenity Prayer advocates: the wisdom to accept the things they can’t change, the courage to change the things they can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Life is messy and complicated and I want to see characters learn to accept and thrive within those sometimes messy and complicated situations.

So, what do you all have coming up next? And what KISS titles are you all particularly excited about in coming months?

Kelly Hunter: I have a friends-to-lovers story on the go at the moment. It’s set in Turkey, and there’s apple tea and silk carpets, brotherhood, a pretend marriage and amnesia. Party in my head.

Kimberly Lang: I’m very excited to be a part of a continuity with Aimee Carson, Amy Andrews, and Heidi Rice coming in late summer/early fall. It focuses on four former college roommates whose lives get re-tangled when one brings them all together for her wedding. For me, it was amazing and inspiring (and not a little intimidating!) to work with such wonderfully talented authors. And it was so much fun!

Thank you both for taking the time to visit!
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And here’s the giveaway part – Harlequin has generously donated sets of the 4 launch titles from the KISS line (The One That Got Away, The Downfall of a Good Girl, How to Get Over Your Ex, and Hitched! for three (3) lucky readers. To enter, just comment with one thing you would like to see in a contemporary romance. Contest is open to readers in North America from now until 11:59 pm on Monday, February 18, 2013. Good luck!

– Lynn Spencer