Please welcome Jenna Bennett, author of BEFORE YOU, part of the SEX ON THE BEACH series. This series includes the novellas BEFORE YOU by Jenna Bennett, BETWEEN US by Jen McLaughlin, and BEYOND ME by Jennifer Probst. Enjoy!
In the beginning...
The idea for the Sex on the Beach trilogy originated in the spring of 2013, when Jen McLaughlin, Jennifer Probst, and I decided to write and self-publish a continuity – a series of interconnected books set in the same universe, with each book written by a different writer.
Our first idea was to write about three authors on a writers’ retreat on a tropical island. Straight contemporary romance, the kind the two of them specialize in and I play with in addition to the mysteries and suspense I write.
I had my whole book planned out when we learned that one of our publishers was working on a continuity about writers on a retreat.
By then, it was the fall of 2013, and Jen McLaughlin had just published her first NA romance, Out of Line. When it became clear that we couldn’t use the writers-on-retreat idea, she suggested we move our focus from adult romance to New Adult.
New Adult bridges the gap between YA – the Young Adult genre – and good, old-fashioned romance novels. The characters are out of high school, but still in college, or at least college age. They can legally drink, smoke, and do a whole lot of other things they couldn’t just a few short years ago.
But more than that, they’re at a time in their lives when they’re trying to figure out who they are and where they want to end up. In some ways it’s a time even more fraught with emotion than the teenage years, since there’s still room for error while you’re living at home and haven’t reached majority. Once you’re out of the house and on your own, the mistakes get bigger and the consequences a lot more dire.
If you don’t believe me, look up the difference between being tried as a juvenile and being tried as an adult sometime.
Anyway, we decided to write a trilogy of New Adult novels. And to keep with our original tropical island theme, we decided to make it three college girls on spring break in beautiful Key West.
Sun, sand, and hot guys.
Sex on the Beach.
Like the drink.
And the activity.
Jennifer Probst came up with her title first. Beyond Me. It was a short step from there to brainstorming other B-titles and other pronouns. Calling the other books Before You and Between Us was a no-brainer, really.
Beyond Me is the story of workaholic and bleeding heart Quinn Harmon, and her unlikely fling with wealthy playboy James Hunt.
In Between Us, America’s Sweetheart, country singer Mackenzie Forbes, hooks up with local Key West bad boy Austin Murphy.
And Before You is Cassie’s story.
Like her friends Quinn and Mackenzie, she’s twenty-one and a student at the University of Chicago. And like both her friends, she comes to Key West with the purpose of having fun, and with the additional goal of getting rid of her pesky virginity once and for all.
When she meets Ty McKenna she thinks she has it made.
There’s only one problem: Ty doesn’t want Cassie’s virginity, even as a gift.
So there’s no sex on the beach for Cassie. In Before You, the sex on the beach takes on a more sinister meaning, as someone is going around Key West spiking drinks and sexually assaulting girls.
Girls who look like Cassie.
In putting together the Sex on the Beach series, we gave each other carte blanche to write the kinds of stories we wanted to tell. It was no holds barred, anything goes. We coordinated the timelines, to make sure the events of the week corresponded, but we each structured our story in our way, and dealt with issues that were important to us.
Cassie’s story ended up being less about romance and more about growing up and coming face to face with some of life’s more unpleasant truths, and turning out a little different as a result. The girl who boards the plane to go home to Chicago after a week in Key West, isn’t the same girl who arrived a week earlier. She goes back changed, and ready to change her life a little bit in response.
And isn’t that what becoming an adult is all about?
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