Jess K. Hardy | Interview
Sci-Fi Romance With Humor, Heat, and Heart.
Visiting today is romance writer Jess K. Hardy whose sci-fi romance, I, Bionic, book two of the Ignisar series, releases today. I’ve read this novel and absolutely loved it! It’s funny, tender, sexy, and full of all the space aliens and adventure you can hope for in an intergalactic romp.
Thank you for coming to this little chat and congratulations on your new release! Tell me a little about yourself and what inspired you to become a writer?
Hi! My name is Jess and I’m a science-fiction/fantasy and contemporary romance author. In my non-author life, I work as a director of rehab at a skilled nursing facility in Montana. I have five published books and one story in a published anthology. I didn’t start writing until later in life, thanks to a job that required me to be away from home three nights a week. The spare time kicked my creativity into overdrive, and I churned out a 100,000 word fantasy romance hot mess that continues to sit on my laptop being adored from afar. Since then, I’ve published a MM romance novella called The Bench, a gender-flipped adult Beauty and the Beast retelling called Missing Charlie, The Ignisar sci-fi romance books, and a magical realism romcom novella called The 7 Rules of Moving on. I love writing romance, especially crafting fun, steamy, creative, and healthy relationships.
That all sounds fantastic. Where did you come up with the idea for I, Bionic and what’s it about in a nutshell?
I, Bionic is a sci-fi romance that follows half-human bionic, Elanie, an employee of the Ignisar, a deep space pleasure cruise. Elanie installed her Lunacorp hormone upgrade at the end of Love in the Time of Wormholes, and now she’s having difficult managing her changing body and emotions. Wanting to learn more about what she’s going through, she reluctantly meets with the ship’s physician, Sem, looking for answers. Sem is an empath, but empaths can’t read bionic emotions so he finds it difficult to help her, especially since he can’t stop thinking about her. There is on-ship flirting, off-ship intrigue and action, and a deeply satisfying happily ever after!
I rarely, or very loosely, plot my books, so I came up with the idea for this story pretty much while I wrote it. I knew I wanted to focus on Elanie, and I thought the dynamic of an empathic physician and a half-human, half-AI snark-fest like Elanie would be a fun one to explore. The issues that came up in this book, like AI rights and what does it mean to be truly free, threaded themselves through the story fairly organically when I really dove into these characters. I also knew I wanted to write a story that felt like an off-ship episode of Star Trek, where they must fight for survival on a hostile rock and just when you think they’re finally safe, you realize things aren’t at all what they seem. But with sex!
There’s a lot of my reader-happy-place in that description! What challenges did you encounter in writing this book?
I wrote this book during a Covid outbreak at the skilled nursing facility where I work. We had lost 11 residents in a matter of weeks and we were all absolutely devastated, terrified, and exhausted. I, Bionic was my refuge. I hadn’t had a single day off in over three weeks and hadn’t taken a PTO day in over a year. I felt such a connection with Elanie and her story, her dedication to her work but also how it held her back. There is a thread throughout I, Bionic of the importance of free time in a person’s life to self-reflect. Giving Elanie a life outside of her work was intensely cathartic for me at a time when my life was dominated by my own work. I love how writing can help us transcend our own circumstances and take our challenges and struggles and create something lovely from them. I, Bionic was this for me, loveliness out of struggle.
Wow. That makes Elanie’s situation all that more meaningful. If you can, pick a favorite character from your new release and tell me why they’re your favorite.
Mal the gen-1 bionic, 100%! I love Sem and Elanie so much, but Mal is just such a beautiful, genuine, innocent being. He will have a big role in book three keeping the twins in line!
Now you need to tell me more about book three!
Book three follows Rax, one of the Aquilinian twins who run security on the Ignisar. Rax had thought he was in love with Elanie and starts the book heartbroken and grumpy that she wound up with someone else. He decides to swear off love for good, until on a trip home with his brother Morgath to visit their mother, he ends up accidentally transporting a princess from one of the Aquilinian royal houses off planet while the entire Known Universe believes she’s been abducted. It’s a steamy sunshine/grump, bodyguard, marriage of convenience/protection joyride where Rax realizes maybe love isn’t quite done with him yet.
I love everything about the premise. Tell me more about where I, Bionic takes place.
I, Bionic takes place in the 36th century on an interstellar pleasure cruise called the Ignisar. The Ignisar is known as one of the most debauched pleasure cruise ships to ever fly through a solar system called Juniper 13. Juniper 13 is connected to our Solar system via a wormhole discovered by an Amazon-type conglomerate called LunaCorp. Juniper 13 has its own planets, species, customs, but travel between the solar systems is so common that it’s just one big multi-species free-for-all.
What drew you to writing sci-fi romance?
I am a massive sci-fi fan, but I’ve always wished there was just a bit more hope and heart in the genre. I adore bringing traditional romance beats and tropes and HEAs into a bonkers, hopeful, non-stop-fun dream of what the future might hold.
I love it! There’s nothing better than an intergalactic romp and your books fit the bill perfectly! What’s a writer quirk you have that will make people raise their eyebrows?
I listen to music while writing. In fact, I can’t write at all without theme music. I know a lot of authors need silence when writing, but when it’s too quiet my brain eats itself (Darrow of Lykos quote). So I make playlists for every book I’m writing and listen to them and nothing but them until the book is done.
This is my exact MO too! I’m addicted to making playlists. Here’s a fun question, if you were bitten by a radioactive spider today, what existing secret skill do you possess that would be amplified as a newborn super hero?
Participating in conversations I’m not paying any attention to yet somehow doing it so well nobody realizes. I work full time (usually more than full time) so this superpower, while not ideal for the people in my life, is the only way I get any words on the page ever.
Ha! I need this superpower! What are you reading right now?
I am reading The Astronaut and the Star by Jen Comfort and LOVING IT! I’m also listening to The Heir by Sophie Lark. I found Sophie this year and have been devouring her books. I never thought I’d be into mafia romance, and yet…
Um…yes…I know what you mean lol. I’ve been known to download a couple of her books. So where can readers interact with you or find out more about your books?
I’m on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and occasionally and reluctantly, Tiktok.
Thank you for chatting with me today! Let’s leave some links here so readers can find your newest release and give them a taste of what to expect.
I, Bionic is available now!
While she climbed up onto his table, he walked to the sink to wash his hands again, frowning at his diploma. If his life had gone the way it was supposed to, he wouldn’t be about to ask a bionic, “What do you feel is wrong with your breasts?”
When he turned back around, the ship canted, pitched, flipped end over end because while he’d been washing his hands and having an identity crisis, Elanie had taken off her shirt.
His eyes doubled in size as she unclasped and removed her bra in the same perfunctory manner he might use to kick off his shoes at the end of the day. But instead of sore, blue feet, her efforts revealed the most flawless pair of breasts he had ever seen in his entire life. One of his knuckles twitched, threatening to rise up toward his mouth so he could bite on it. “I have gowns if you’d prefer—”
“They’re lopsided,” she stated, staring down at her chest. “And they hurt.”
Lopsided? Was she blind? He wasn’t blind. He was staring.
Her breasts disappeared behind her crossed arms. “Didn’t they teach you not to stare at the disturbing things your patients show you at whatever medical school you went to, Doctor?” She hurled the word at him. “I knew this was a mistake.”
“Disturbing?” he blurted out in disbelief. “I didn’t… I’m sorry…” He wanted to slap himself. He’d seen thousands of breasts in his career. There was not a single known species hurtling through space whose breasts he hadn’t examined. Her breasts had just caught him off guard, that’s all. If he’d been able to read her, he might have seen her sudden nakedness coming and prepared himself for it. Regrouping, pulling himself together, he took a breath. This was his job and, by the Saints, he was going to do it to the best of his abilities. “Why do you believe your breasts are lopsided?”