Getting to Know You

  • Tell us a bit about yourselves.

    • B: I’m Brooke, 32, been married for almost 10 years, and have a ten-year old daughter. I’ve been writing full-time since 2013 and have published 43 titles  to-date. 13 solo as Brooke Cumberland, 30 with Lyra under Kennedy Fox. I live in Wisconsin, am coffee obsessed, love dogs, and live in black leggings. I’m an introvert and have a hard time “relaxing” but when I finally manage to, I prefer a hot bath or watching Hallmark Channel.
    • C: My real name is Courtney and I live in Texas (born and raised) and I write under the pen names Lyra Parish and I’m half of Kennedy Fox. I’ve been writing romance since 2013 and published my first book in 2014. It’s been a crazy seven years and I wouldn’t change a thing! I have a youtube channel called The Courtney Project (  where I chat about self-publishing and my personal writing journey. I quit my corporate job in 2020 to write romance full-time and it has been a dream come true, like my number 1 bucket list item! I can literally say ‘I’m living the dream’.
  • You’re both successful writers individually. Why did you decide to collaborate under one pen name?

    • B: In 2016, I decided to join an MLM (0/10 recommend) and about 5-6 months into it, I wanted out but had invested my entire savings into it, which meant I couldn’t just walk away. I needed to get back to writing but was worried my name was now associated with that MLM. I used my real name for both and wanted to branch out, rebrand myself, and have a fresh start at publishing. Courtney (Lyra) and I became friends through this MLM and decided we both wanted to start over with pen names. I asked if she ever co-wrote before and I had tried once in the past, which didn’t work well because our writing stories were too different. I told Courtney I had a story started I wanted to write and sent it to her to see what she thought, if she’d want to write it with me. I felt a little out of the groove after taking months off and a few days later, Courtney wrote the next chapter of the book and send it back. That book became “Checkmate: This is War.”
    • C: I think it’s because we wanted to write something different and new without worrying about the brands we had already established as ourselves. Kennedy Fox was a way for us to fall back in love with writing after experiencing what I’d call burnout after signing up for a stupid MLM. That’s a whole different story though and I can say I’m very #antiMLM because of it. Don’t even get me started. Haha!
  • How different is collaborative work from solo writing? Can you list a few pros and cons for collaborations?

    • B:  It’s very different. You don’t just get to jump into something with your eyes closed, you have to be well aware of how each partner’s writing and editing process is. Short answer: it’s quite different. Our writing style is similar but our process is the opposite of each other. I’m a slow writer, I edit as I write, always tweaking and re-reading previous scenes. I love details and descriptions and need that as I write. Courtney is what I call a “vomit writer.” She gets it all out, and doesn’t re-read until she’s done. Then, she’ll edit from beginning to end, no skipping. It took some adjusting at first but now it’s our process and it works amazing. She’s usually self-editing/doing re-writes while I’m finishing up the ending chapters.Having a writing partner is having a built-in critique partner. When I was solo writing, I’d have to send to beta readers and wait for feedback or I’d have to brainstorm with someone who wasn’t as invested as I was or see the storyline like I could. At this point, it feels like we share a brain. We know what our brand is, we know what our readers expect, we know what we each enjoy writing (I get the birthing/baby scenes, she gets the wedding scenes) and we get to do it with someone who’s as passionate and driven as we are. The ONLY con in my opinion is needing to make sure you’re profiting enough money for both of you. One pen name has to cover two households.
    • C: It’s night and day, but it’s also a lot more rewarding because you have someone who understands the ups and downs of publishing. You have someone to celebrate the wins with and someone to cry about the losses. When you have another person who’s just as committed to writing as you are, who also depends on you to meet deadlines, it gets rid of a lot of the issues you have solo writing. You can BS yourself, but you cannot BS your writing partner. When it comes to cons, there really aren’t many. Sometimes we don’t agree on things (not often) and we have to take time to work it out so then we’re on the same page. We have to come to an agreement on everything so it’s a lot of give and take. I tell people that co-write is like being married–we have property and kids (our books), bills (literary expenses), and a friendship. I call it being Literary Married and you have to pick and choose your battles. But with that being said, I wouldn’t change a thing. We work well together and get things done without worry. Also we’re both as committed so it makes crazy deadlines not so lonely. I actually kinda feel sad for people who don’t have a co-writer. LOL! 
  • Why did you choose romance as your genre? Were you an avid romance fan before you became authors?

    • B: Surprisingly, I didn’t read *that* much before I started writing. I used to write song lyrics, poems, and short stories of love when I was a teenager, then I got busy with college. I enjoyed my writing assignments in college and once 50 Shades of Grey blew up, I started devouring more romance. I did read Twilight and loved that but then college and work life consumed me. So in late 2012/early 2013, I was struggling with depression and anxiety. My husband is an amputee and his health had been rocky so as an outlet, I turned to reading and writing. I became obsessed and was addicted to writing a workplace romance story (my debut) that was inspired by how my husband and I met. (He was my boss haha) and one thing led to another, I quit grad school (I wasn’t happy doing it anymore) and turned to publishing full-time. I never thought this would be my journey to where I am now. But life throws curveballs, and I couldn’t feel more blessed and happy to be doing this.
    • C: Before I started writing romance, the books I was writing had strong romance elements. One of my very good friends encouraged me to switch from YA to Romance and I’ve been here ever since. No, I wasn’t an avid romance book fan though I do love a good romance story. I’m addicted to Hallmark so it just seemed to make sense to me. 

Your Work and Life as a Writer

  • Your Checkmate Duet Series is a bestseller. What’s the reason behind the series title? Is it safe to assume you consider love like a game of chess?

    • B: So funny backstory, originally when I started the book before Courtney and I worked on it together, the title was called something else. As the story progressed, there was so much tension, we were thinking of more enemies to lovers vibes. They threaten each other and say “this is war” as they start trying to get back at each other. She does something to him, then he does something back to her, and it becomes a game. We bounced around with the idea of Checkmate but realized coming up with a title for book 2 would be hard if we kept the chess theme. Stalemate was an option for book 2, but just didn’t have the same ring to it and then if we added more books to the series, we wouldn’t have titles that matched. So then we decided “This is War” but put Checkmate in front of it and title the series ‘Checkmate Duet Series’ and then incorporated the theme throughout the entire series. At the end of the month, we’re revealing brand new cover designs for the series and have actually dropped “Checkmate” in the title. So it’ll become “This is War” but the series title is the same! Just makes it easier for readers to find it and to put it on a cover.
    • C: I think it’s because we didn’t have anything holding us back when we wrote it. Kennedy Fox was a secret pen name so we could do and write whatever we want. If people loved it–great! If they didn’t, that was fine too because we wrote something that we enjoyed and had fun doing it.  I don’t even know how to play Chess. My husband keeps getting me to try to learn, but it seems like too many rules. Oh well! 
  • What about your ideal hero? A lot of your male leads are bad boys with hearts of gold. Was this intentional?

    • B: I find this kinda funny because I think we have a lot of cinnamon roll heroes! Many are hard-headed perhaps at first or arrogant, but the heroine is usually their kryptonites. I do think writing bad boys are more fun though, especially when you add in their hearts of gold toward the one they love and their families or friends. You get to show that character development in the plot as their walls break down and you get to the surface of why they are the way they are.
    • C: LOL, I don’t think they’re bad boys, it’s just they have a broken past and need a sassy heroine to help fix them. There’s something about a man who has a hard exterior who’s really a big old softie (except for in the bedroom). I dunno if it’s intentional or if Brooke and I have the same thoughts. At this point, I feel like our brains are connected.
  • Any tips for overcoming writer’s block?

    • B: I haven’t gotten it much since writing with Courtney because everything is outlined. I guess it’s not really writer’s block but burn out. With Truly Mine/Yours duet, I had massive blockage, which I don’t even know why. I was quite stressed out and had no motivated to write even though I knew our deadline was approaching. I’m the type that needs a fire under my ass to really get that motivation to bust through my chapters. Writing is sometimes a love/hate relationship. You feel the NEED to write and because you have deadlines, but your brain just isn’t cooperating. When that happens, I take time off, read an author I know I’ll love and will hopefully inspire me, or I’ll skip around and write a chapter that’ll make me excited again. Sometimes it’s just not knowing what else to write in that chapter, even if it’s outlined, so I’ll chat with Courtney and ask for ideas. That does typically help too
    • C: Haha, get a writing partner. It doesn’t exist when you have someone else depending on you and someone to talk out issues with. It literally hasn’t happened since I started writing with Brooke.

Something Extra for Your Fans

  • Do you believe in soulmates?

    • B: Kinda, I don’t believe there’s only one person for everyone, I believe we can have different types of soulmates. The one we marry, the friend we can’t live without, and even the one who got away. Whether it be bad timing or you’re better off as friends. I think two people can work hard to be together and still fail. I think two people can have an easy, content relationship but not necessarily last.
    • C: In a weird way, I do. When I first saw my husband, I knew he was the man I’d marry. We hadn’t even spoken one word to each other. I told my friend, that’s him. She thought I was joking, I wasn’t. We’ve been together since we were 19.
  • Hearts or Heads?

    • B: I’m a logical person so I want to say heads, at least in my real life, but in books, I would say hearts. Who cares if you’re thousands of miles apart, your families don’t get along, you’re pregnant with another man’s baby, and your friends would never accept the other? But you’re madly in love, so always follow your heart in fiction.
    • C: Hearts, though it’s hard to not think about something logically. Then again, what fun is that? When the heart knows, it just knows, right?
  • What’s an overrated romance trope? Underrated?

    • B: Don’t come at me but… bully romance and stepbrother. I used to love stepbrother but it’s become overdone. Bully romance, I associate with high school age, and I just can’t read that anymore. However, there are exceptions to that based on the author and if I love their writing regardless, but basically if either of those are the trope, I pass. Underrated in my opinion is taboo or forbidden romance, such as guardianship romance, nanny/single parent, age gap, cheating, love-triangle. Those are my favorite and only a handful of authors really nail it. (Ashley Jade, Penelope Douglas, Skye Warren).
    • C: Overrated is work romance. After working corporate for a decade and realizing how much I despised the environment and how douchey people were, it just seems highly unrealistic to be banging on your billionaire boss’s desk. I think love triangles are underrated and I don’t know why people hate them so much. Every freaking Hallmark movie is a love triangle. Prove me wrong! The heroine from the big city’s fiance always comes when she’s about to FINALLY kiss the hero. It’s literally a love triangle and people go gaga over them.
  • Makeup or Skincare?

    • B: I’m bad at doing both but I do enjoy putting on makeup for TikTok videos and going out.
    • C:  I don’t really wear makeup other than the Maybelline SuperStay Matte! My favorite color is #20 Pioneer and it’s $8 on Amazon. It will stay on for 12 hours straight and you’ll be using Baby Oil to remove it.  As far as skincare, I really like Roden + Fields because it’s easy.
  • Would you rather travel to the past or to the future?

    • B: The past! It feels like easier times haha but I think it’d be neat to experience after living in the present. The future seems too unknown and that’s scary.
    • C: I think I’d choose the past because I know what to expect. After living through Covid, the future scares me. I might go to the future and hate it then I’d come back to a regular day and realize what’s to come. Might ruin my whole outlook on life!
  • Ipad or Kindle?

    • B: Kindle for reading, iPad for watching YouTube.
    • C: I like both for different reasons, but my Kindle doesn’t kill my wrist, and considering I’m always typing, wrist fatigue is real life!

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