I’m so excited to have as my guest today award-winning, multi-published author Keta Diablo. Keta writes historical, paranormal, and gay fiction. Today she shares with us her sources of inspiration, her thoughts on self publishing, and why she feels complimented that her characters have been called “politically incorrect.”
ELIZABETH SHORE: Welcome, Keta! We’re so happy to have you with us today. To start off the questions, let’s talk about your writing. I admire how prolific you are and even more so because you write successfully in three different genres – paranormal, historical, and gay fiction. Makes my head spin! How do you keep them all straight, and what inspires you to write in one genre versus another?
KETA DIABLO: First, thank you for hosting me Lady Smut. Happy to be here. I really don’t write in that many genres. Most of the time, I write historical romance and often add paranormal elements. For instance, Where The Rain Is Made is a historical novel with paranormal elements of raven shifters and time travel. The same with Decadent Deceptions, which is a historical novel with romantic suspense and mystery elements. (Decadent Deceptions on Kindle here: http://amzn.to/109E4WI ). And again, Sojourn With a Stranger, a Gothic historical novel with ghosts and voodoo (here on Kindle: http://amzn.to/15cDs3l ). I could list more of my historical novels, but I think you get the picture. My books are heavily slanted toward historical.
When it comes to writing gay fiction, again I prefer historical novels such as The Sin Eater’s Prince, a vampire/werewolf novel (more information here on Kindle: http://amzn.to/YFGDg9 ) But I have, on occasion, written contemporary gay fiction (Crossroads series, four novellas). I seldom read contemporary fiction whether it’s GLBT or heterosexual because I’m not overly fond of it. Like most authors, we tend to write what we enjoy reading.
You asked about that inspires me to write in one genre versus the other. I’m inspired by dreams and often articles on the Internet (think historical true-life stories). I do watch trends in the market, but seldom write according to ‘what’s hot right now.’ We all know how popular YA books have been in the last year or so, yet I’ve yet to write in that genre. A new genre taking hold is the ‘baby boomer’ books, and again, I don’t see myself writing in that genre. While I think trends matter when it comes to sales, I probably wouldn’t write in a genre I know nothing about or wouldn’t care to research. I have to like the time period I’m writing about most of the time and I don’t find the present all that interesting (lol).
ELIZABETH: I also find it interesting that you’ve chosen to have all of your books, no matter the genre, published under Keta Diablo. Could you talk about why you don’t use a different name for your various genres.
KETA: You find it interesting? Is that the same as strange? (another laugh). Rather, more like I find it strange authors use different names for genres and have often wondered why they go to all that trouble? It’s a lot of work to maintain multiple web sites, blogs and separate author names. And, of course, I wonder if that isn’t placing writers in a box. I mean, we keep hearing it’s “All About the Story” right? Why can’t an author who writes adult urban fantasy also write YA? If he/she is a good story teller and/or a good writer, why would they want a different name for every genre they write? Readers already know her as Jane Doe so doesn’t it make sense if they switch genres, readers will buy Jane Doe’s new urban fantasy? That’s one great thing about self-publishing: many of the boundaries and restrictions made and instituted by publishing houses/agents/editors have been breached. I say, “It’s about time.”
ELIZABETH: Hear hear! I agree wholeheartedly. And speaking of self publishing leads me right to my next question. You’ve been published by several different publishers, but I know you’re proud to publish independently as well. Why has it been important for you to go the independent route?
KETA: Oh, gosh, you should read the posts on several of the self-publishing forums I belong to. Traditional authors are leaving publishing houses by droves and their reasons all fall into the same categories, i.e., low royalties, poor record-keeping, restrictions on cover art, blurbs, content and heavily-weighted contracts slanted toward publishers. Many authors say there were expected to write formulaic romance – you know, boy meets girl, boy and girl fight, boy and girl make up and live happily-ever-after. Boring, boring, and thank goodness writers have found the courage to go it alone without all the restrictions and expectations that have been in place for decades. If you think about it, the large publishing houses have controlled what people read for years. They decided what books and authors to publish. Now with self-publishing, readers are choosing what they want to read. Again, it’s about time. I’m not against all publishers. Some are legitimate and supportive, but of course, they all want a large cut of your royalties – most of the time more than what the author makes. Until they bring royalty rates up to at least 50-50, I don’t see myself not self-pubbing. I have been solicited by a reputable NY agent to write a sequel to one of my books. I’d have to think long and hard before doing that – weigh the good with the bad, the benefits with the negatives before I proceeded down that road.
KETA: Cooling off? As in heat level? Not at all. I wrote Sky Tinted Water (more information here: http://amzn.to/15eANpB ) several years ago. I never saw the book as erotic while I was writing or pictured the characters as hot and steamy during the scenes. Not that they don’t have sex, they do, but sex doesn’t have to be explicit in order for the story to be compelling. If it’s truly about ‘the story’ then descriptive sex isn’t always needed. I like to think the plot or story line carries most of the weight in a novel. Sex scenes are an added bonus, but not needed in every book. Some readers love erotica and erotic romance, while others frequently say they skip over all the sex scenes and care more about the character’s journey. Again, if one writes to please the market, you’re doing your readers a disservice. I write the characters the way I see them in my head, with flaws and warts, however I see them. Most of the time that includes hot sex, but there’s nothing wrong with leaving sex out of the story. One reviewer once said, “Diablo loves to write the politically incorrect characters.” I take that as a compliment. I don’t write with the idea in mind that readers MUST fall in love with my characters. Many they won’t like, and again, I take that as a sign of doing my job. Writing cookie-cutter characters is not real life or realistic. Humans are not all gorgeous and perfect so why should we try to make them that way in every book? I mean this is fiction, but not dream-world fiction. Getting back to Sky Tinted Water, the book was lengthy at 110,000 words so I split it in two. The sequel SKY DANCE will be out by June, sans sex scenes.
ELIZABETH: Fantastic! We’ll look forward to that for sure. Moving on, I’d like to talk about your gay fiction series, Crossroads, which has garnered a lot of positive acclaim and reviews. Your main hero, Frank McGuire, is one tough alpha male but he’s sure got a soft spot for his lover, Rand. I imagine it’s been a fascinating journey for you as a writer to grow with these characters.
KETA: I had enormous fun writing about Frank (talk about a jerk) and Rand. These were some of my early books into the world of gay fiction. Frank is one of those characters I alluded to above – he’s an ex-cop with a lot of baggage, including a bad attitude. Frank is not likeable in the first novella and that was no accident on my part. The point is, Frank is not a hopeless case. He is redeemable and changes and grows by the end of the series through his relationship with Rand. I wrote Frank as I saw him with a chip on his shoulder and a few fetishes tucked into his pocket. I knew he would be a very controversial character, and I love him to death, major faults included.
ELIZABETH: It really does make him an incredibly memorable and fascinating character. In addition to all the positive reviews for the series, some readers objected to the non-consensual sex element in Book 1. I’d love your comment on that.
KETA: Oh, yes, well nothing we can do about people taking objection to a book or a character. Number one, there is an enormous warning (in red) on all the Crossroad novellas stating: EXPLICIT SEX AND LANGUAGE. I don’t know what more I can do to alert readers the books walk on the raw side. Second, I have to chuckle at all the controversy over the “non-consensual sex.” Good grief – can we say double standard? In my early teens, I gobbled up Rosemary Rogers’ and Kathleen Woodiwiss’ bodice rippers like millions of other women. They aren’t called bodice rippers for nothing. We’re talking rape in every book, i.e., The Wolf and the Dove, The Flame and the Flower, Sweet Savage Love and all the sequels to SSL. Why weren’t these people calling foul then? Non-consensual sex has been predominant in books for decades and suddenly people are offended? I don’t get it. Third, some people think when authors write about taboo topics that means the author approves or condones that conduct. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can’t speak for other writers, but again, I write the characters as I see them. And, I’m sorry, but with Frank’s tragic background and his long-time passion for Rand what did people think they’d do in the book – shake hands? Bad things happen in life, including non-consensual sex. Should we pretend they don’t? People have many facets to their persona, not all are admirable. Does that mean they don’t have good qualities too? My advice to those who are easily offended is to read the warnings that come with books. If you are at all squeamish about these things, don’t purchase the book.
I learned long ago authors will never please everyone, no matter what they write or how they construct their characters — the book is too short, the book is too long, the characters are boring, the characters do unacceptable things, there’s too much sex, there isn’t enough sex. I love my readers and have been extremely lucky (as you mentioned) with reviewers, but in all honesty, I have to write for me. If I don’t, I’ll go nuts. I seldom read my reviews and most certainly don’t search for them. I do get notified by review sites when they’ve written a review and I’m profoundly thankful and grateful that many like my books. But if they don’t, they don’t and I can’t change that.
ELIZABETH: I love your candor and honesty so thank you for that, Keta. Finally, what do we have to look forward to next from you?
KETA: Thank you for asking. HIS ALONE was just released, proof Keta Diablo hasn’t cooled off. It’s a hot, sizzling novella available on Kindle, Nook and Kobo. I’m working on a historical/paranormal called BREATH OF LIGHT and an erotic romance series in the western historical genre. Follow my blog if you’d like to know when they release: http://ketaskeep.blogspot.com
And again, thanks for hosting me, Lady Smut!
ELIZABETH: Such a pleasure having you. Thanks, Keta.
MADELINE IVA: Any thrilling erotic historical romances by other authors that you’d recommend to our readers? (Especially books that motivated your own writing?)
SAMANTHA KANE: Thank you! I’ve co-written a steampunk with author Mari Freeman which our agent has diligently been shopping around. I love, love, love the genre! The book we wrote is titled ENGINE NO.9 and it’s about a group of female secret agents in 1869 in the American West. There’s adventure, train chases, mystery, romance, and the British Navaho airship fleet.
A traditional definition of Regency romances imcludes setting in the British Regency period (1811 – 1820), strict and accurate attention to historical detail, an emphasis on intelligent, fast-paced dialogue, and on the developing romance between the protagonists. It does not, however, generally include explicit, sensual sex scenes. But that didn’t stop author Elf Ahearn from writing the kind of Regency she likes to read, which amps up the heat in a most satisfying way. Her new release is A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, and she joins us today to talk about her book, her work as an actress, and what’s in store next.
ELIZABETH SHORE: Hi Elf, thanks for joining us today! Why don’t we start out by talking about the setting for your book. Of all the historical time periods that a writer could choose from, you’ve picked the Regency era for your series. Could you talk about why that specific time appealed to you?
ELF AHEARN: My sister is totally into Regency romances, she won’t read anything else, so to guarantee at least one sale… well, I had no choice (Not true – she’d read any dribble I scratched on paper). The real story is that the Regency chose me. I wanted to write something with sex and adventure – women risking everything – their reputations, their lives, their fortunes, for love. It’s very freeing that Ellie Albright, the heroine in A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, can’t clap a cell phone to her ear and call the police when she’s in trouble; Hugh Davenport, my hero, can’t access a therapist to work out his hostility towards his mother, and my villain can’t be found via his credit card purchases. Working in the past is awesome.
ELIZABETH: Did you start out writing A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing knowing it was going to be a series, or were you thinking it was going to be a single book that later evolved into a series?
ELF: It took me four years to write this book. Romance is a genre that has very set rules – I had to learn those rules to my bones before I could really create, plus, I’m stubborn. I had to write a scene first – even if my critique partners warned me in advance – before I learned that it didn’t work. If I’d thought about a series before I started, I probably would have quit. So, the answer is, no, I didn’t have a series in mind, but as I learned to relax into the genre, know my way around a little, romance writing became such a joy that I had to start another book.
ELIZABETH: As I mentioned in the intro, Regency romance readers may be surprised by the heat level in your books as regencies are traditionally more “tame” than what you’ve written. Inquiring Lady Smut minds want to know, why are your books steamier?
ELF: One of the first Regency romances I ever read was by Sabrina Jefferies, whose love scenes are scorching hot. I thought, heavens to Betsy, I could never be so graphic! My hand may have even clutched my heart, I can’t remember. Once the story got underway, however, my inner poet seized on the sex. Beyond the throbbing members and heaving bosoms, I thought, ‘What does a man’s leg look like in moonlight – that slash of shadow under a taught thigh muscle… and what does the curve of a woman’s hip feel like to a man when he first runs his hand over it – the skin, smooth and soft, the bone fitting perfectly into the cup of his hand… Well, you get the picture.
ELIZABETH: Oooooh, I sure do! OK, as I fan myself to calm down . . . You’ve said that you think a good tag line for your books is “Regency romance with a gothic twist.” Could you talk about that?
ELF: “Regency romance with a Gothic twist,” is my warning label. Not all Regency romances, but most Regency romances, are what I think of as parlor dramas. The hero and heroine have a personal battle that takes place, typically, in the confines of a magnificent English estate. In A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing, there’s a struggle between the hero and heroine, but also an exterior conflict where the stakes are life or death. Pretty dark for a novel taking place in 1816. I didn’t want readers taken by surprise by the book’s intensity. And the sequel, Lord Monroe’s Dark Tower, is even more “Gothic.”
ELIZABETH: And what about the horse who plays a prominent role in Rogue. What’s the appeal for you?
ELF: Growing up, The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, one of the greatest young adult novels of all time, was my bible. I was mad for horses, and when I became an adult, I vowed I would seize my chance to write a horse race and give it all the Walter Farley magic I could muster. Hopefully, the clash of thoroughbreds in Rogue is more exciting than a worm versus a slug. Readers, let me know.
ELIZABETH: In your past you were very active in the theater. Has your theater background helped with your career as a writer?
ELF: Yes, absolutely. I have a highly dramatic sensibility and that all stems from my days trodding the boards. It has nothing to do with my personality, which is exceedingly calm, cool and collected (I lie). But truly, theatre gave me a good feeling for dialog and dramatic structure that serves me well in writing fiction.
Aspiring writers! become an actor first, starve for several years, forage for food, then take up fiction, then starve for several years…
ELIZABETH: Oh but we’re SO happy you’ve made the sacrifice! Tell me, are you blogging? Where can we find you?
ELF: A few years ago I started a blog exclusively about my cat, Sufie. It became such a pain, though, chasing her around every day with the camera. She wouldn’t stay in the poses, she resented the intrusions on her privacy, the interviews weren’t going well. I gave up. Now, I’m planning a blog titled, The Writer’s Cat, and I’m looking for others to submit stories about their felines. I’ll sit back and let everyone else do all the work, while Sufie soaks up the peace and quiet. Hopefully a few gals from Lady Smut will make contributions. As for where you can find me, my Web address is elfahearn.com.
ELIZABETH: Great! So what’s next for you?
ELF: Crimson Romance, my publisher, bought the second book already, Lord Monroe’s Dark Tower, so hopefully it will be coming out in the next six months or so.
ELIZABETH: Sounds great!
Elf Ahearn is a professional writer with nearly two decades of experience. Her first novel, A Rogue in Sheep’s Clothing is available at Amazon.com, and BookStrand.com. She lives in New York with her wonderful husband and her pesky (yet adorable) cat.
Thanks for being our guest today, Elf!
Kim Harrison, Jeaniene Frost, Pamela Palmer, and Vicki Pettersson four sirens of the urban fantasy landscape hung out with me at The Virginia Festival of the Book last Saturday sharing their magic with a large audience who had assembled to see them.
The panel was called Strange Brew: Urban Fantasy Authors ‘Spell’ Out Their Secrets. The spillage was excellent. Here’s what we learned from the authors:
KIM HARRISON: How does she create that magic edgy relationship between Rachel and Ivy?
Kim Harrison is the author of The Hollows series. Rachel is a kick-ass witch living with Ivy the bi-sexual vampire who’s chosen not to feed. Rachel and Ivy live together and co-own a sleuthing biz, but the close proximity puts Ivy into a constant frenzy of sexual/feeding hunger around Rachel. As Ivy’s scent winds around Rachel’s body, they fight the nasty beasties that haunt this other worldly Cleveland. Rachel’s intimacy with Ivy grows and she accepts Ivy’s friendship, as well as her preferences. Yet that knife-edge of tension remains between them. How long can Ivy manage to hold back before nature takes its course?
HER SECRET: Harrison says if she had tried to write about such a relationship it never would have worked. It just popped out onto her computer screen one day and she sat staring at what she’d written scared witless. Yet she put it out there–and readers have lined up ever since. Scare yourself, folks. This is the take-away from the birth of the first Ivy/Rachel homo-erotic moment. Scare yourself with what you write and don’t ever stop.
How do Frost & Palmer write such bad boy heroes that we readers find sexy-hot instead of villainous?
Palmer reveals that she thrives on writing a seriously flawed hero. Her type of man needs to find the serious commitment to change. They’ve got to dig down deep to touch base with the better man within.
I like that. I like someone who has to work to find his better side and make it stick. Meanwhile, what woman doesn’t love a challenge? These sexy guys need a moral make-over, and Palmer’s heroines have got to be strong enough for two. If you’ve read her latest work–VAMP CITY–you know the hero’s not a nice guy. Meanwhile, in a world full of bad options, he’s the heroine’s only hope, her one small flame in a dark, dark world.
I don’t know about you, but something in me is so happy when you have a desperate heroine who needs a guy so much, she’ll even choose–even in a vampire who feeds off her fear as she fights to survive.
Frost, meanwhile, maintains that her new hero, Vlad the Impaler, is over his pointy stick phase. He’s come through the middle ages with all of history shaping him into who he is. So yes, he’s taken the heroine’s friend and tortured him for information. Yes, he can set people on fire just by looking at them. It’s been a hellishly long 600 years of history, most of it was violent and bleak, so sue him for being a little slow to learn about compassion and mercy.
Frost said her secret was that no matter who her hero skewers, his heroine is always safe in his arms. Frost says if the hero is trustworthy when it comes to the heroine, then we know we can trust him too. Vlad keeps his heroine safe and everyone else in danger–a sexy combo of protectiveness and threat in one package.
Pettersson is writing about a PI noir figure who makes his first appearance with black wings. Shaw is a centurion, the most simple form of an angel, sent to usher others into the great beyond. When he’s suddenly sucked from his heavenly duties into an earth bound body, he’s finally has a chance to solve his own murder from years before.
The best part is that he immediately encounters an uber-curvacious rockabilly chick who’s hunting for her bff’s killer as well.
Pettersson’s secret is to create great characters that know why they are and what they like without caring about what others think. Her distinctive writing wears a retro patina to the point where her work isn’t so much paranormal–it’s para-noir. Yum!
A few weeks back, I wrote a post on culinary romances and Amanda Usen was one of the writers featured in that post. We struck up a Twitter conversation and eventually I asked if she’d answer a few questions for Lady Smut. She was happy to and it was a joy to interview her. I hope you check out her books. And in the mean time, she’s doing a giveaway today. Answer her question and you’re entered to win a copy of one of her books. PLEASE make sure to leave your email address or we won’t be able to reach you. Dear readers, I give you Amanda Usen.
Liz: So, I thought your culinary romances were pretty hawt. And I still do. Yet, like you, I wouldn’t call them “erotic” romances. But you do paint some hot scenes. What is the line you don’t cross in your foodie romance? Does your editor help you with that? Or do you know the line and walk it, so to speak?
Amanda: Ah, the line! It’s there. I also write erotic romance, so I’m very aware of the difference between the genres. In my mainstream contemporaries, I generally stick to two people of opposite genders having Tab A/Slot B sex—with no props. (Well, there’s a vibrator in Scrumptious, but I used it for comic effect. In Luscious, the heroine blindfolds the hero with a drapery tie, but the prop isn’t the focus of the sex scene. It’s about the heroine revealing herself.) I had to tone down the heroine in Scrumptious quite a bit. Marlene loves sex, loves men and doesn’t apologize for it. However, we were afraid readers might not identify with her boldness. My editor helped me soften Marlene’s edges, yet retain her enthusiastic sexual identity.
For me, the heat in a sex scene comes from revealing more than flesh. Sex is rarely as uncomplicated as it seems in romance novels. (This was a big shock to me since I started reading romance novels before puberty.) Admitting desire takes courage. Going after what you want in bed, or even merely asking or explaining what works for you, can be difficult. Since writing a sex scene is basically writing a sexual fantasy for my characters, I try to make at least one of them be brave, even lawless. To me, brave is “hawt!”
Liz: So you are married to the subject of a lot of fantasies—a chef. What do you think is the most common misconceptions about chefs?
Amanda: The glamour. The perception that cooking is glamorous gives me the giggles! When my husband comes home from work, he smells like an onion ring. His fingers stink of garlic. His clothes are stained. He isn’t a line cook anymore but when he was, it was backbreaking, fast-paced work. There was a lot of swearing. A lot. Professional cheffing isn’t all beautiful plates, fine wines, and fancy dining rooms…at least not for the people cooking. It is fun, though, and I love being married to a man who shows his love through food. The salmon BLT Joe makes for Marlene in Scrumptious is one of my husband’s specialties, and he still makes it for me when he’s trying to get…loved.
Liz: To me food and romance seem like a natural pairing. But like you, I have a background in food. For me, it’s food writing and for you it’s hands-on culinary experience. I can see how it informs your writing. What do you think of the trend in culinary romances? I can always tell if someone doesn’t really know food, you know? I often end-up rolling my eyes, thinking “this person has never worked in a restaurant or bakery or whatever” and chucking the book. (Unless the sex is really hawt. I might stick around for that…heh.) I’m wondering if this happens for you, too.
Amanda: I think those moments happen occasionally no matter what the subject. The only time I’ve stopped reading a book was related to a sex scene. I didn’t think the act happening on the page was physically possible. (It was a Tab A and Tab B in Slot C.) I know, right?! A few years later, I saw a video in which I discovered I was wrong—learn something new every day…
I’m thrilled by the trend in culinary romances. Dare I hope it sells our books? That would be fun. Then we could write more! And eat more! And drink finer wines!
Liz: Back to the food and romance. What is the fascination? Why does it work so well? Is all about the primal needs for survival, for sex, love, and food being so twisted around each other?
Amanda: *Sigh* Oh, Liz! I am the worst person to ask about this. I write about food and love because I met my husband in culinary school. He walked by me at the gym, and I thought “I’m going to sleep with that guy.” (Please don’t judge me. He’s scrumptious!) After graduation, we moved down to New Orleans, a great food city, and got married. Since then, we’ve both been working in the food industry. I think about baking and writing all the time, and my husband thinks about sex all the time. Unsurprisingly, my first book idea was about a chef and a pastry chef falling in love, and I wrote Scrumptious. I sold it in a two-book deal, so Luscious was born. Luscious was challenging because I set it in Verona, Italy. Speaking of chucking a book against the wall—I’ve never been to Italy. I was terrified readers would shred me in reviews, but my inspiration for the book was Romeo and Juliet. I couldn’t imagine setting the book anywhere but Verona. I researched my ass off, and depended on my high school BFF’s mother-in-law to fix my Italian phrases. So far, so good! I came back to familiar ground for the new series I just sold to Entangled’s Indulgence line. I set the books in three cities I know well – New York, New Orleans and Los Angeles. Into The Fire comes out in June, and I can’t wait!
(I think you might be on to something with the primal needs, though. And it gives me a great idea for a giveaway. What do you look forward to more: your next meal or your next sexy encounter? My answer varies, depending on what’s on the menu!)
Liz: You are an extremely busy Mom, wife, writer, and cooking/baking instructor. I can relate. Sometimes I feel guilty about the time I spending writing. Sometimes I have to eke out the time to write along with all the other stuff. Do you have tricks and tips for those of us out there struggling in the same way?
Amanda: Guilty about the time spent writing—I have so been there! Family time often happens without me, especially when I have a deadline. If I force myself away from the computer when the muse is whispering, I am often distracted, which isn’t fair to my husband or kids. I wage an epic, daily struggle with balance. Writing, teaching, mothering, managing the household, sleeping, romancing…I’m going to stop now because I’m getting stressed out.
I remind myself that I write because I enjoy writing. Writing is important to me. It is part of my identity. I deserve to do the things that make me happy, and my family respects that. In fact, my husband pointed out that it is wonderful for our kids to see me achieve the difficult task of finishing a book. It’s also good for them to see me working so hard to do it. It teaches them that hard work gets results. I whooped out loud when I was offered my first book contract, and my eleven-year-old was the first one to hug me. She got it, and she was proud of me.
On the flip side, writing is not the most important thing in my life, even when I have a deadline. Everyone, even me, is happier when I try new recipes, spend time on lesson plans, go to yoga, pay the bills on time, vacuum the rugs, fold the laundry, snuggle the kids and do the six-thousand other things that add value to our lives. As for tips on how to maximize writing time, the only thing I have to offer is this: balance the other important-to-you aspects of your life as well as you can. That way, when you do have time to write, you aren’t feeling guilty. At least, that is what’s working for me…this month.
I’d love to give a book away! To enter, leave a comment telling me whether you want Scrumptious or Luscious…and whether you look forward to your next meal or your next sexy encounter. If you have and advice for me about how to find balance in the writing life or any advice for Liz about how to eke out time to write, please feel free to philosophize. Liz, thanks for having me on your site. I enjoyed pondering your insightful questions about my two favorite subjects—food and romance!
Amanda Usen knows two things for certain: chocolate cheesecake is good for breakfast and a hot chef can steal your heart. Her husband stole hers the first day of class at the Culinary Institute of America. She married him after graduation in a lovely French Quarter restaurant in New Orleans, and they spent a few years enjoying the food and the fun in the Big Easy. Now they live in Western New York with their three children, one hamster, two guinea pigs, a tortoise and a new-to-them beagle. Amanda spends her days teaching pastry arts classes and her nights writing romance. If she isn’t baking or writing, she can usually be found chasing the kids around the yard with her very own hot chef husband. If you want to chat about romance, writing or recipes, please visit her at http://www.amandausen.com where you can find recipes for many of the yummy dishes in her books. She can also be found on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/amandausen and Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/AmandaUsen
Joe Rafferty is just as mouthwatering as the food he cooks. But if he thinks he’s going to waltz in and take over her kitchen, he’s denser than a thick slice of chocolate ripple cheesecake. Marly has invested too much of her life in Chameleon to hand off the restaurant to someone else—especially a cocky-as-all-get-out superstar chef. But there’s no denying the man knows how to light her fire. Question is: Can she have the sizzle without feeling the burn?
Eat, play, love
Plain old ice cream just isn’t going to cut it. To beat these blues, chef Olivia Marconi needs the good stuff: rich, creamy tiramisu gelato. And no place better to get it than Italy. But a fresh start is nearly impossible with Sean Kindred dogging her every move. She’s been burned by his too-hot-to-handle antics before. Though there’s no denying the man can still get her all fired up. Could a weeklong affair finally turn into something more lasting…or will it all go up in flames?
Mary Hart Perry, author of THE WILD PRINCESS is here today to discuss her second book in the series: SEDUCING THE PRINCESS. (What a delicious title, btw!) This book focuses on Queen Victoria’s painfully shy youngest daughter Princess Beatrice. Here’s a short blurb:
Convinced she is unattractive and unloved, the dutiful Princess Beatrice finally accepts that she will never marry and vows to devote herself to the queen in Victoria’s waning years. In fact, her mother secretly discouraged suitors for Beatrice’s hand. Then Beatrice meets Henry Battenberg, a dashing nobleman from the Continent who risks his life and liberty to woo Bea.
But Henry isn’t the only man interested in being welcomed into Beatrice’s bed. The timid princess has become the target of a cruel plot. Enemies of England have sent a ruthless agent, a charming Scot, to seduce the naive princess and spy on the queen. Will Beatrice discover which of the two men pursuing her she can trust, before it’s too late?
MADELINE IVA: Your heroine is faced with a choice between a dashing nobleman-good guy and a bad boy Scot. (Yum!) Which are you more drawn to when writing fiction? The good boy or the bad?
MARY HART PERRY: I think I’m initially torn between the man who’s safe and protective…and the one who’s sexy and dangerous. The good guy wins out for me though, because he’s strong and sexy in his own way, and he acts on the heroine’s behalf rather than plotting against her, for his own selfish reasons.
MADELINE IVA: I myself like the sound of the Scot, especially because he’s a spy. Knowing that sometimes people drawing from history have to massage the facts to make the fiction compelling can you tell us if these two men were actually vying for Beatrice?
MARY HART PERRY: The “real” suitor was Henry of Battenberg. According to all accounts, he was quite a handsome man and persistent at winning both Beatrice and the Queen’s approval. He and Beatrice really did fall in love and bring about the match against the Queen’s early objections. So that much is true. It’s also true that Henry’s older brother was foiled by the queen when he made an attempt to catch Beatrice’s interest when she was much younger. Victoria didn’t want Bea to marry at all. The fiction comes in the form of the Scot. After all, we need an antagonist who is a strong match for Henry.
MADELINE IVA: So glad you made him up, then. :> Queen Victoria was a bit of a long distance micro-manager with her daughters. Were you surprised by the lengths she went to in keeping them under her thumb?
MARY HART PERRY: Oh, yes, you’re so right. Micro-managing–she was formidable. As far as Beatrice was concerned, the queen came right out and said Bea would never marry. She was to stay at her mother’s side, as her companion, until the queen was in her grave. And when the young woman showed any interest in breaking this rule, her mother punished her by refusing to speak to her. She reduced their communicating to passing her notes, instructing her how to spend her day, or giving her jobs about the palace.
MADELINE IVA: Sheesh! Meanwhile, how steamy is your novel in terms of love scenes? Do we get to see that bad boy Scot undressed?
MARY HART PERRY: I knew you’d ask-heh, heh! It gets steamy in a few places, mostly because Bea is so innocent so the least bit of touching really shakes her up. The Scot as partially undressed in the climactic scene.
MADELINE IVA: Partially undressed sounds excellent. And talking about stripping down–Queen Victoria seems ready to undergo some revisionist work by feminists. How are our ideas about her changing now that we’re taking a fresh look at her as a leader, a mother, and a historical figure?
MARY HART PERRY: The thing is…everything I’ve read, accounts of her life and her letters, she really didn’t like the idea of women working or even having the vote. She believed, and said, that women should stay at home and let the men in their family take care of them. The problem was, not all men saw that as their duty, so there were literally thousands of women left homeless with no way of supporting themselves. If you weren’t married or didn’t have a father or brother who was able to shelter and feed you, you were in a bad way during most of the 19th century.
MADELINE IVA: Patriarchy at it’s best. Bleah! So Mary, you’ve written about a wild princess and now a shy princess. What’s next in the series?
MARY HART PERRY: The book I’m working on now focuses on a few months of horror that completely paralyzed London. I’m pitting Vickie, the Crown Princess against the famous (but never revealed) serial killer, Jack the Ripper, who roamed the streets for victims. Should be fun!
MADELINE IVA: Yes she does. After doing all this research, which child of Victoria and Albert is your favorite?
MARY HART PERRY: How can I choose? They’re all so amazing in different ways. I will always hold a warm spot in my heart for Beatrice. She had to struggle so hard to get out from under her mother’s thumb. She did it, and deserves credit for making a life of her own. Louise the heroine of the first book, The Wild Princess loved art and was determined to get the education she needed, the same as a boy or man would have expected to receive, so that she could be a professional artist. She persisted, bucking not only her mother but Victorian society, and became a talented sculptress. I think that’s just so wonderful. We all should be that brave–focussing on what we want in life, then going after it with a vengeance. Right?
MADELINE IVA: Right! I wish I was Louise–an ideal heroine. Vicky’s got a bit of a wicked look in her eye that beckons to me as well. Meanwhile, I just love the idea of innocent, shy Beatrice having these two forceful men bent on winning her over at the same time. So delicious! Thanks so much for talking with us today–and good luck on your new release.
MARY HART PERRY: Thanks for the lovely visit. I’ve enjoyed our chat!
Hey readers–today we’re having a giveaway of SEDUCING THE PRINCESS in e-pub kindle format. Leave a comment below and you just might get lucky.
Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s a treat for you all—Liz Everly’s book SAFFRON NIGHTS is out at Kennsington. A fellow Lady Smut contributor and a good friend, her new book is the first in a culinary romance trilogy highlighting exotic foreign locations.
MADELINE IVA: Hi Liz! Give us a little synopsis of SAFFRON NIGHTS to start us off. Who are our hero and heroine and what are they doing together?
LIZ EVERLY: Here’s the cover copy, which I really like.
Brazil…Hawaii…India….As a food writer, Maeve has just been handed the
hottest opportunity of her career. She’s being sent on an
international research tour for an aphrodisiac cookbook. The downside
is that she has to travel with rock star photographer and womanizer
Jackson Dodds. And the upside is that she has to travel with Jackson
Dodds. Because once they meet, Maeve understands why he’s been named
“America’s Most Eligible Bachelor”—and despite her best intentions,
all she can think about is putting their arousing recipes to the test…
Sexy and talented, Jackson can have any woman he desires. But lately,
the thrill is gone—until he lays eyes on Maeve, who exudes sensuality
like no one else. She’s determined to keep things professional, but he
knows the attraction is mutual. And as they travel the world, sampling
warming saffron, juicy papaya, silky avocado, rare herbs and teas—and
a mushroom whose very aroma sends women to heights of ecstasy—both
discover a hunger they’ve never known, and don’t want to resist, even
amid unexpected danger…
MADELINE IVA: In your other life how did you get involved in food writing and how did that experience lend itself to writing culinary romances?
LIZ EVERLY: The cookbooks and food stories I wrote are narrative. There’s a lot of food journalists and recipes writers out there. What I did was a form of journalism, but it was more storied, otherwise known as creative
nonfiction by some folks. I love writing about food. It’s something everybody can relate to and that many people are interested in.
MADELINE IVA: You seems pretty orgasmic about food, but I know you, and you’re not EVER going to qualify for The Biggest Loser. How do you know when to say when, Liz?
LIZ EVERLY: I exercise just about every day, which helps to keep the pounds off. But I have to say that being pregnant, carrying an extra 60 pounds, and having a difficult time getting it off, really influenced me. I didn’t feel good about myself and I felt uncomfortable moving around. So I went on the South Beach Diet and lost the weight–most of which I’ve kept off. Around that time, I began to see how food really affected my mood as well. If I eat a lot of junk food, I just don’t feel good. Also, I had a bit of a paradigm shift in that I began to see dieting as not denying myself something, but rather I was giving myself a better self. I hope that answers your question. I do LOVE to eat. But on a daily basis, I watch it, which allows me to splurge from time to time.
MADELINE IVA: Do you think you can tell anything about how a person has sex from their appetite? For instance, do you think an adventurous eater (say someone who’s willing to try chocolate covered grasshoppers) might be more adventurous in the bedroom as well?
LIZ EVERLY: I think so, yes. I think an adventurous person might be adventurous in just about every part of their lives. Many people find chefs really sexy and think they are adventurous. Maybe they are, once they are well rested and so on. But many of the chefs I know are such hard-workers and lacking sleep and good food (seriously a lot of them don’t eat right themselves!), so I’m not sure how sexy, let alone adventurous they are really. LOL.
MADELINE IVA: People often eat for reasons other than hunger—such as eating for comfort. Obviously we don’t always have sex just to procreate. Do you think having sex for comfort and reassurance is appealing?
LIZ EVERLY: Absolutely.
MADELINE IVA: Are there other kinds of sex that you like to write about–angry make-up sex, etc?
LIZ EVERLY: Well, in my next book, CRAVINGS, I write a little about BDSM–a very light take on it. I liked learning about and writing about it.I don’t think I’ve written very much angry-sex or make-up sex. But maybe I will. I’ve written some “stranger” sex with people wearing masks and some menage sex. I really enjoy all of it. But I don’t go into a story thinking about what kind of sex my characters have. I let them take the lead.
MADELINE IVA: This is SUCH a personal question, but: have you every actually involved food in having sex? Any tips for the folks at home? ;>
LIZ EVERLY: When I was much younger I experimented a bit with whipped cream. Hasn’t everybody? My advice is always just to do what you are comfortable with. I think that just feeding someone (or being fed) can be a very sensuous experience. But a little research is a good thing in this area, the wrong kind of food on sensitive areas might not be sexy at all!
MADELINE IVA: Tell us about your series: SAFFRON NIGHTS is out now, what’s the next book?
LIZ EVERLY: CRAVINGS is the next book. I can’t go too much into here because I don’t want to give away the huge surprise. But the culinary focus is on chocolate, not chocolate bars, exactly, but it takes place in Ecuador and Saint Lucia, where cacao plantations are. It gives a glimpse into the industry that I think many people are not aware of. And as I mentioned earlier, there’s a bit of BDSM in it. My main male character, Sanj, begins to explore a side of himself he didn’t know existed until he meets this woman, “Mary.”
LIZ EVERLY: As I mentioned earlier, it’s chocolate. The heroine’s had a wild life. She’s become used to rough sex. The hero, Sanj, doesn’t know if he should trust her. They are brought together because a mutual friend has been kidnapped.
MADELINE IVA: Any hints about the subject of the third book?
LIZ EVERLY: Honey. Right now, I am in the research mode. In the third book, Jennifer–who is the ‘best friend’ in both SAFFRON NIGHTS and CRAVINGS–finally gets her chance to shine as the heroine.
You can find Liz here at www.Lady Smut.com on Tuesdays, and catch her Sexy Saturday Round Up Saturdays each weekend, or find her at her own website, or twitter. Order SAFFRON NIGHTS here or click on the photo image of the book.
Do you know what Ginger Figging is? I’m sitting at a breakfast table at Romanticon a few years ago. There’s this personable, charming, intelligent woman sitting across from me eating her scrambled eggs. It’s Shoshanna Evers. We’ve been making chit-chat and so I ask her what she writes. She says her latest book is about ginger figging. Everyone at the table is clueless, but of course we all want to know what THAT is. Shoshanna explains and our eyes widen. Shoshanna finishes her eggs and apologizes for the graphic sex talk so early in the morning . (You’re curious aren’t you? Look it up on wikipedia here)
…But that all happened before the 50 Shades revolution.
Cut to the New Jersey Put Your Heart In A Book conference: An editor panel kicks off by talking about what’s exciting in the upcoming year. An editor from Simon & Schuster says Shoshanna Evers is the name to watch. That’s right–Miz Ginger Figging herself. After publishing shorter works with Ellora’s Cave, a non-fiction book on how to write hot sex, and even self-publishing some of her own work–she landed a six book deal with Simon & Schuster. She’s a Cinderella story for our digital publishing age.
MADELINE IVA: Tell us all about your new series with Simon & Schuster/Pocket Books. (What’s it about?, when does it release?, etc.)
SHOSHANNA EVERS: Well, Simon & Schuster is calling this series “a sensual romp across the playgrounds of the unbelievably rich and extremely sexy.” So yeah – we’ve got the billionaire “BAD Boys” – that’s Billionaire Arrogant Doms, aka BAD, lol – these three very alpha male hot Doms who run the Brooks Wilde Chase Fund. And the series is about the women they fall for, and how that works out in a BDSM relationship.
This is the blurb for the first book, Enslaved, which, incidentally, is available for pre-order now. *coughs*
From a red-hot erotica writer comes an original eBook—a sensual romp across the playgrounds of the unbelievably rich and extremely sexy.
Elisabeth Anderson’s seen Trevor and his friends at the infamous Manhattan BDSM club WhipperSnapper, where everyone calls them the BAD Boys, for “Billionaire Arrogant Doms.” The BAD Boys—Trevor Brooks, Marc Wilde, and Roman Chase—are aptly named; they’ve become rich from the ground up with their aggressive investing at the Brooks Wilde Chase Fund.
Trevor gives Elisabeth full reign of his estate in Westchester, letting her do as she pleases. He has only two rules. Rule One: she must obey and submit to him while she is living in his house. Rule Two: always answer the blue cell phone. She’s happy to oblige, because being with Trevor makes her want to obey, to love him the way he seems to be falling for her. But Elisabeth’s never been good at being the quiet sub, she’s more of a fiery “brat” who gets off on the punishments she receives more than on pleasing Trevor.
Elizabeth can’t submit to Trevor the way he needs her to, so his friend and business partner (and fellow BAD Boy) Roman takes her in hand. But love triangles can have sharp edges…and somebody’s bound to get hurt.
The Enslaved Trilogy starts with the BDSM erotic romance ENSLAVED, which releases on April 8th, 2013. ENAMOURED releases May 13, 2013, and ENRAPTURED, the final book in the Enslaved Trilogy, releases June 10th! If you want an email when the books come out, you can sign up for my mailing list on my website at www.ShoshannaEvers.com
MADELINE IVA: Tell us about the transition your work has taken from (I’m just assuming here) straight erotica/erotic romance to something (again I’m assuming!!! Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) a series that is more plot driven. Do you have an agent who helped make the magic happen–and how steamy will this new series be, btw?
SHOSHANNA EVERS: I think, ultimately, that all of my stories are relationship and character-driven rather than plot driven (well, we might see that change with my next Pocket trilogy – The Pulse Trilogy, which is a dystopian post-apocalyptic series. Talk about a change, lol!).
The Enslaved Trilogy is absolutely erotica/erotic romance. We’re talking graphic, intense, full-on sex and BDSM scenarios, including (in the first book, ENSLAVED) a male/male subplot. I was surprised by how much S&S let me get away with (um…the heroine may or may not actually have sex with another man in the book…) and the freedom I was given to tell it like I do—raw.
My agent is Courtney Miller-Callihan of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. She’s awesome, and she was pivotal in making this deal happen. Basically, she took me on as a client for my book THE PULSE, and when she sold it and two sequels to Simon & Schuster’s Pocket Star imprint, they asked me to write what I’m known for first – which is BDSM erotic romance. Thus, the Enslaved Trilogy was born! Also, that started an insane kickoff of very tight deadlines, lol.
MADELINE IVA: You wrote something I remember seeing a while back that you promoted as this extremely raw, cave-man-ish, thang (I don’t even know exactly how to describe it, I just got the sense of it being super out there,) work that I think you self-published. (?) Did THAT work have any relationship or drive the inspiration for your new post-apocalyptic work?
SHOSHANNA EVERS: LOL! Yes, Held Captive by the Cavemen is super out there, to put it mildly. It’s a short novella, a time-travel erotic story where this modern-day woman accidentally gets thrown back in time, and is essentially gangbanged by a tribe of hot cavemen. They’re not Neanderthals – they’re homosapiens – humans. Just really, really, primal humans. The sex is intense and hardcore, and she has a fabulous time. It’s definitely “dub-con” (dubious consent) and it’s not for the faint of heart, lol. Read the warning in the blurb and heed it!
But, with the very long time that traditional publishing works, I actually wrote THE PULSE, which is the new post-apocalyptic series you’re talking about, about eighteen months before I even started writing Held Captive by the Cavemen. Since I self-published the cavemen story, I was able to have it available to my readers really quickly. But The Pulse Trilogy will also be from Simon & Schuster/Pocket so it won’t be out for a while.
Thanks for having me today!
MADELINE IVA: You’re welcome.
So everybody, you can find out a lot more about Shoshanna’s books and check out her free reads at www.ShoshannaEvers.com. Don’t forget to leave a comment below and perhaps win one of Shoshanna’s e-reads–your pick!
Welcome dear readers! Madeline here with a kicky author to introduce you to–if you haven’t read her work already. C. Margery Kempe has been rocking the anthology world with her naughty stories for some time. We get to chat with her today and find out more about what inspires her various story ideas.
MADELINE IVA: You are (under other names) known for writing fancy literary stuff. What drew you to the world of smut?
C. MARGERY KEMPE: I was always there! I just wrote it for a very select audience Then in 2008 an agent I knew said she was starting up an ebook publishing company focused on erotic romance. Hey, you mean I could make money writing these?! So I tried my hand at it. It was easy to write the sex; romance is a lot more challenging. But I’ve become much better at that. It kind of woke the slumbering romantic in me. I credit my fortuitous meeting of my current partner to my alter-ego Ms. Kempe (well, her and Twitter [http://www.asininepoetry.com/works/view/1845] both) because writing about love under the name of C. Margery made me open to the possibility once more.
C. MARGERY KEMPE: I’m not bothered — I write both and while I know some people definitely believe that they are completely different things, but I don’t see it that way. They are different kinds of narratives and the sex means something different when you add the element of romance, but the sex is the same — hot!
MADELINE IVA: I have a feeling that you (like myself) are drawn to fairy tales. Tell us about SPINNING GOLD. What interested you in taking the beloved Rumplestiltskin story and turning it on its head? Tell us about your other fairy tale inspired erotic romances as well.
C. MARGERY KEMPE: My story SWAN PRINCE from Tirgearr is another fairy tale and I have a few more in me (I wrote a fairy tale novel PELZMANTEL under my own name as well as a collection of stories based on Finnish folk and fairy tales, UNIKIRJA). They’re just endlessly entertaining. We have a deep bond with those stories and they are infinitely elastic. I was on a panel with Graham Joyce talking about them and we both agreed on that: the elasticity. So yeah, I could make Rumpelstiltskin full of twists — a boy masquerading as a girl because his mother didn’t want to lose him to war, falling for a prince who isn’t quite what he seems, either.
MADELINE IVA: You like spanking stories, yes? What can we modern feminist women do to understand our forbidden desires for fantasizing about spanking & sex?
C. MARGERY KEMPE We can accept and not judge them! Your sexual persona cannot be shaped into something that ‘should be’ — it is what it is. We should not be ashamed or afraid to say what we desire, though clearly we do. Feminism is about EVERYONE being who they really are and treated fairly. For all the scorn heaped upon 50 SHADES, it did a little bit to normalise some kink practises to the wider public. People do like to experiment and there’s now a vogue for spanking and some mild B&D, but a lot of people still see anything but vanilla sex as ‘deviant’. We need to get over our puritan cultural training and just accept that there are all kinds of ways to experience excitement.
MADELINE IVA: You also seem–interesting author that you are—to be dabbling in stories that involve cross-dressing. Tell us more about the forbidden appeal of a man in a skirt and pumps. You’ve done cross-dressing stories that are m/m as well as f/m, too. Did you work them differently, or at heart are they the same kind of story?
C. MARGERY KEMPE: I’ve never really thought about it specifically — I guess I do love masquerade. There’s that wonderful quote from Wilde: ”Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” This is why Halloween is so popular: people get to experiment, don another persona and walk around in it for a while. The story SEX CYMBALS was inspired by a friend’s music video, where he wore a wig and dress and it was really sexy, so I thought up the story at once. But there’s a lot of medieval stories where women have to pretend to be men; romances, but also saints’ lives. There are so many issues to explore. Fortunately there’s a lot more acceptance of gender blurring today, so it’s less about transgression than it is about blending. Playfulness! That’s the key.
C. MARGERY KEMPE: I’m working on a second MAN CITY story: another menage set in Manchester. I’m also trying to make headway on my erotic sequel to The Tempest called MIRANDA. It’s a challenge, but there’s magic and mystery as well as sexy goings on. Much fun!
MADELINE IVA: As one of our favorite people in the biz, Lady Smut wishes you much success and we hope to have more fun interactions with you in the future. Thanks again for answering our questions, Margery.