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

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - SPORTS - BY TARA BRAD­BURY

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.

TARA BRAD­BURY/THE TELE­GRAM

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.

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