Couple takes readers on sexy literary ride
Michelle and Joshua Keep — a.k.a. Alexis Abbott — have made bestsellers lists with their erotic romantic suspense novels
Alexis Abbott’s newest romantic suspense novel was released Tuesday; by Wednesday, it had 70 reviews online, the vast majority of them favourable. With mafia hitmen, vivid action and a ton of steamy sex scenes, it’s not a surprise readers were staying up all night to finish it.
Abbott is really two authors: husband and wife writing duo Michelle and Joshua Keep of St. John’s. A couple since 2001, Joshua (of Bonavista) and Michelle (of rural Ontario) met on the internet as teenagers.
At first, their writing was limited to handwritten love letters they’d send back and forth. After Michelle moved to Newfoundland — three days after graduating from high school — the couple began writing video game fan fiction, just for fun. A friend read one of the stories and suggested Michelle and Joshua post it online.
They did, and quickly found their work had an audience.
The Keeps kept writing the stories, moving from fantasy romance to erotic romance and erotic romantic suspense. One day, Michelle showed Joshua an article about author e-publishing, and the couple decided to give it a go, publishing their first short story on Amazon.
“The first day we got a sale and it was $2.30,” Michelle, 33, says. “We were like, ‘We made money on our writing! Somebody bought our book and somebody is going to read it!’”
That was 2012. Both Michelle and Joshua had full-time jobs, she with an oil and gas company and he as a historian, and the writing was just something on the side, for fun.
“Then some of our stories started blowing up and started getting real money,” Michelle explains. “Suddenly, we were paying our bills with our writing. And then we were paying bills and rent with our writing.”
“And then bills and rent and groceries,” Joshua, 34, adds.
Joshua left his job in 2013 to focus on writing, and Michelle left hers a year later. As soon as they started taking their novels really seriously, things just snowballed.
Today, the Keeps have published more than 300 pieces of writing, many of them short stories. With the 10 novels they’ve published as Alexis Abbott, they’ve made the USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestsellers lists.
Their most recent novel, “Bound For Life,” was released this week and blew up right away. It’s part of a trilogy — the next book, “Bound to the Mafia” is due to be released Oct. 1, while the third, “Bound in Love,” will be out in December.
Michelle and Joshua are known for their dangerous male characters: hitmen, Navy SEALs, criminals and others. “Bound For Life” is centred around Mafia enforcer Bruno and former Mafia princess, Serena … with some sizzling, graphic sex scenes.
“They’re not always good people, but they fall in love and have a happy ending,” Michelle says of the type of books she and Joshua enjoy writing. “We were always so fascinated by that because we’re such squares, such goody-two-shoes. This was our kind of fantasy stuff.”
“We went through some rough times, some very impoverished times early on, so the idea of people finding each other at very dark, troubling times and then getting through it just really appealed to us,” Joshua says.
The Keeps will brainstorm a storyline together, then one of them will start writing in a Google Doc file, enabling the other to open it and continue the plot. Their novels are usually written in first person, but go back and forth between the two characters.
They admit sometimes the work gets put on hold for the bedroom when the steam on the page gets too much (for the sake of research, of course).
The Keeps — who have never spent a night apart in 15 years — have now made more than 800,000 sales, with the majority of their readers in the United States, U.K., Canada and Australia. Michelle says their topselling book so far, “Sold to the Hitman,” earned them more in a month than she made in a year in her oil and gas job, and the feedback from all over the world has been incredible. It hasn’t all come from the typical middle-age housewife reader, either.
“We see people of all walks of life buying our books,” Michelle says. “We had a comment earlier this week from a woman who said she was 66 years old and she loves reading stories like this because they make her feel alive. We have so many people who talk to us about how they have disabilities, how they’ve experienced a traumatic loss, and the romance stories are what keep them hopeful.”
A higher-than-typical percentage of the Keeps’ readers are men, something Michelle credits in part, when it comes to romance novels in general, to e-books. The books can be read discreetly on a phone, she points out, without the barechested Fabio covers.
Michelle and Joshua’s goal is to continue writing as long as they can. They’d eventually like to be seniors, still writing romance novels together.
“I don’t think the idea of a soulmate is someone you just run into one day on the street,” Joshua muses. “A soulmate is something you become for someone you love. Because they needed you and you needed them in return.”
Alexis Abbott’s books are available online on Amazon, iBooks and other sites, as well as through the Keeps’ website, www.alexabbottauthor.com.
Joshua and Michelle Keep are a husband-and-wife writing duo who publish erotic romantic suspense novels under the nom de plume Alexis Abbott. Their newest book, “Bound for Life,” was released this week.