Charlotte Stein Is In Control
November 8, 2012
Charlotte Stein first caught my eye when she posted on a group blog called Passionate Reads about her obsession with Michael Fassbinder. After that, my friend Nara recommended I read a novella Charlotte Stein’s called RESTRAINT. It blew me away. Loved it! And then, the same friend Nara Malone, who recommended Charlotte’s story Restraint, recommended I try SHELTERED and I just loved that book too. Since then, I’ve become a big, big fan.
Right now I’m reading CONTROL and enjoying it mightily. Charlotte Stein is a clean, excellent writer. Her books are exactly what erotic romance should be: thoroughly emotionally engaging, with hot, hot sex that I think pretty much any reader will enjoy.
Today on Lady Smut I get to ask her some questions about her process as well as her interests in erotic romance. You, lucky reader, can leave a comment down below and win your choice of one of her books.
MADELINE IVA: I love the way you manage to get your heroine to be the aggressive one when things start getting steamy–even if up to that point she’s the most inexperienced one or she’s insecure. Tell us how you craft that kind of scene–and what you enjoy about it.
CHARLOTTE STEIN: I think the thing I always think about is – just because a heroine is shy or insecure or inexperienced, doesn’t mean she won’t be excited when sudden sexual situations present themselves. It’s a bit like trying new and exotic food. Yeah, you might find the weirdass thing on your plate somewhat terrifying, but if you’re the kind of person who just loves food, you’re going to go for it. For me, it’s basically the same principle. You might be scared, but seriously, who would pass up a hunk who looks like Armie Hammer? No one would. Most people wouldn’t be able to wait to get their hands on him.
So I guess the most important thing in crafting a scene like that is to express eagerness, even as you counter it with trepidation. The tension between the two always works well.
MADELINE IVA: What’s your background in writing aside from erotic romance? Because you’re an awesome writer, and, well…how’d you get to be so good at it?
CHARLOTTE STEIN: LOL awww that’s the sweetest question I’ve ever been asked! Thank you. That’s made my day, that has.
I don’t know whether I really am, but any ability I have has come from three things: writing every day for years before I ever published, reading voraciously, and learning everything I could about writing and publishing. You’ve got to love it, too. You’ve got to really love it. If I don’t love what I’m writing, it dies a death for me.
MADELINE IVA: It’s so hard for many writers to know how to pace the beginning of a book. We want to take a large info dump on the reader, mostly. You seem pretty brilliant at these perfectly spaced blots of needed info. What tips can you offer a writer about how much back story to place at the beginning, and what information the reader can wait for?
CHARLOTTE STEIN: Oh God, just been having this talk with my creative writing students. It’s one of the hardest things to do – pacing the info. But what I always recommend is to just stay in the moment, in the beginning. Focus on an event that’s happening right now, instead of the end game of a story you’re trying to tell. Readers will stay with you as long as the action is coherent and people are doing recognisable things – really it’s us who panic that the reader won’t understand the wonderful world we’re trying to create, and the brilliant plot and characters.
You have to take a leap of faith!
MADELINE IVA: At least two characters in your books come from a very sexually repressive background. Is this your way of getting around the problem of a lack of barriers between modern day lovers, or did something else (from your own past, perhaps?) inspire you to write about this kind of character?
CHARLOTTE STEIN: Yes yes yes yes. You hit the nail on the head with that first guess. I’m naturally drawn to repressed characters, both male and female, but part of why I’m drawn to them is the idea of barriers and boundaries. I love the idea of the forbidden, and in a modern setting things are only really forbidden if the characters think they are. And that’s why I like them.
MADELINE IVA: I’m dying to know some of your favorite erotic romance authors. I know that you’ll probably want to give a shout out to many friends and not offend anyone who might feel bad at being left out–feel free to do so–but please let us know if there are there any erotic romance book titles in particular that you simply could not live without?
CHARLOTTE STEIN: I have many, many friends who are my friends because I’m a fan of their work. In fact, I’d say 90% of my writer pals came about that way. Portia Da Costa, Justine Elyot, Cara McKenna, Ruthie Knox, Delphine Dryden, Daisy Harris, Shoshanna Evers, Janine Ashbless, Madelynne Ellis…all became my friends because I loved their work.
But if I had to narrow it down to particular book favourites of mine:
The Stranger, by Portia Da Costa
Menage, by Emma Holly
Babysitting The Baumgartners, by Selena Kitt
Dirty Thirty, by Cara McKenna (actually, my fave McKenna is summat else, but I can’t say what)
Dreamers In Time, by Sarah Copeland
Taking Care Of Business, by Megan Hart
Meeting Her Match, Justine Elyot
MADELINE IVA: What kind of erotic romance do you prefer to write? I’ve read two of your m/f titles, but I know you’ve also written excellent m/m/f romances. ;> ( ALL OTHER THINGS, CONTROL, DOUBLED, GUARDED, etc, etc.)
CHARLOTTE STEIN: I prefer to write MF, to be honest. I love menage, but my weakness is for deep, unending, passionate, explosive connections between two people. I want crossing oceans of time to be with each other, can’t breathe without the other person, obsessed beyond all reason love and lust – and it’s only recently that I’ve really felt like I can write that. Up until the start of this year, the market was all about hotter sex and darker scenarios and women with seventeen men – which is fine. But it’s not my thing as much as that quite sexually straightforward one on one connection.
MADELINE IVA: Do you like to stick with what you know, and what your readers may expect, or do you like to shake things up? Hey, didn’t you write a book for EC’s Kink line called CLOSER? What was that experience like? Would you do something like that again?
CHARLOTTE STEIN: I like to stick with what sets me alight. I do listen to the market, and there are certain things I won’t write because I know it won’t sell. But I don’t feel hampered by that, because there are so many different types of heroes and scenarios that I love. I love dominant heroes, I love submissive heroes. I love vampires and werewolves and aliens and the apocalypse. I love suspense, new adult, angst, drama, contemporary, billionaires…you name it, I love it. So it’s just about finding something I’m excited about within existing genres and trends, and finding new directions and angles within that.
As for Closer…it was fun to write, but no, I don’t think I’d ever write anything like that again. It’s shorter than I would ever write now, for a novella, and it’s missing that real love connection I was talking about earlier. I was aiming for dark kink, but I think you can tell from reading it that my heart really isn’t in dark kink.
I’m actually quite light and vanilla, at heart! I prefer to wring the most juice out of a quite simple sexual situation, and have the intensity come from the emotion rather than some kink I’ve just jammed in there to shock and awe. I’m not always successful at it, I’m sure. But I try!
MADELINE IVA: Thanks so much, Charlotte. I think you are hands down, one of the best erotic romance writers that I’ve read. Please readers, I encourage you to leave a comment below and you’ll have a chance to win one of these Charlotte Stein titles: RESTRAINT, SHELTERED, or ALL OTHER THINGS.