Integrating the Erotic in Romance and Hitting a Groove with Best Selling Author Joey W. Hill
JOEY W. HILL is en erotic romance author and storyteller who causes one-click, trigger-happy fingers. She’s garnered a legion of fans for her contemporary works, which feature a diverse cast from boardroom executives to cops, as well as her paranormal tales, which involve mermaids, vampires and angels.
Her stories never disappoint to melt your panties off while causing your heart to swell in your chest. Expect to fall in love along with her characters. Also plan to drop everything else in your life so you can finish the book.
She’s penned more than forty acclaimed titles and six award-winning series, and been awarded the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement Award for Erotica. And for good reason.
Joey generously stopped by LadySmut to answer some burning questions about her writing, how she comes up with her characters and what’s next in her many series.
Thanks for stopping by, Joey. Of all the writing genres you could write, why erotic romance?
Romance is my favorite genre to read, but growing up, I found the romance stopped short of how far I wanted it to go. Over time I realized it wasn’t even about “stopping outside the bedroom door”. I wanted a story where the undercurrents of Dominance/submission that were so prevalent in the 80s bodice rippers were fully actualized, as well as an important element of the story itself (not sex thrown in as filler or merely to titillate). I wanted a book that was every bit as good as any other quality romance. When I started writing, it made sense to me to write what I loved most – and what I wanted to read.
One of the many joys in reading yours books is reading about, and sharing, the deep emotional journey with your characters. Where do your characters come from? Do you start with “I’d like to write about something who is X?” or does the character come from some other place?
Thank you! Like most writers, I could claim this or that idea came to me from an intriguing person passed at the grocery store, or a dream I had one night, etc etc etc. However, once I put that down on paper, the character and story almost immediately starts shaping into something unique, with a lot more layers than those brief encounters provided, so I think the truthful answer is I don’t know where they come from. I’m just glad the muse lets me write the stories of these heroes and heroines. I do believe where I go with my characters is very influenced by the stories I loved as a romance reader. They were typically books by those authors who dug deep into who their characters were – Laura Kinsale, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Penelope Williamson, Nora Roberts. They made us feel and share their characters’ moments of broken heartedness and how they overcame obstacles to achieve their love stories.
In your books, you aren’t afraid of mixing up the power exchange stereotypes. I’m thinking about the male characters who are still “alpha-like” who submit (or at least grow equal) to a dominant female (The Vampire Queen’s Servant and Willing Sacrifice) or the dominant female who meets her match (Mirror of My Soul). Do you start a book thinking “I want to explore XYZ type character in ABC power exchange role” or do they come pre-disposed to their place in the power exchange and the story goes from there? Or other?
LOL – I used to have this running joke that all I had to do was think “I’ll never write a story like that” and presto, the muse would throw it right in my lap. My first BDSM romance, Make Her Dreams Come True, was a Male Dom/female sub story. Since I am a female sub and I love those delicious male Doms, I figured that was always the type of dynamic I’d be writing. Oh no. The very next story, Holding the Cards, was a Female Dom/male sub story, with a hot gay Dom helping to initiate the action between them. Then right after that came Natural Law, an alpha male homicide cop who needs to submit in the bedroom. I thought, “great, got that out of my system. Let’s go back to that simple Male Dom/fem sub dynamic. Nope, again, we went from there to Ice Queen, which threw together two Dominants, male and female. Yet writing those books was so stimulating, from there forward I decided whatever the muse deemed I should write next, I wouldn’t question it. That practice has allowed me to explore so many more aspects of the Dom/sub relationship than I would have if I’d just stuck to M/f alone. (though I still love writing those hot male Doms too. LOL).
In your latest contemporary erotic romance book, Soul Rest, you gave us two happy endings. (Thank you!) The two couples are people we’d been introduced to in previous Knights of the Boardroom stories – Ben and Marcie of Hostile Takeover, and Leland and Celeste. (We met Leland in Afterlife, and Celeste was referenced in earlier books as the reporter who gave the K&A men the “Knights of the Board Room” name; she also shared a free prequel vignette with Ben called “Retribution”, available on the JWH Connection fan forum). Were you always planning on giving these characters more air time? Or did they “ask” for it? (If the latter, do your characters do this often?)
It varies. Sometimes, from the moment a secondary character walks onto the page, I know he or she is going to have a book of his/her own. They have such a strong presence, there’s no doubt in my mind. When Leland came to Rachel’s rescue in Afterlife, he filled up the screen. So he was one of those. Celeste was a bit different. She’d only had a brief mention in the previous books. Then I did a free novella for the fans of the series that featured her and Ben in a prequel. During that freebie, it was mentioned that Matt was going to help her leave the social column for the paper and secure a foothold in crime reporting. As soon as I wrote that line in “Retribution”, I saw her and Leland together. But up until then, I wasn’t sure if or when she’d have her own story, or who Leland’s heroine would be. So it really just depends on the character.
The Vampire Queen books present quite a world! The power theme also runs throughout these books with servants and masters either by choice or force. What would you like your readers to get from these power struggles? Or perhaps they are just meant to be a sexy romp and power is sexy!?
It’s funny you should ask this, because recently I’ve received a couple of emails along the lines of “you should really have your next character be like ‘this’,” or “the storyline should go ‘like this’.” I have no control over that, seriously. When I started the Vampire Queen series, I had always wanted to explore the Dominant/submissive possibilities in the vampire-servant relationship, because I loved the mysterious quality of that bond. Discovering how many ways a vampire and servant can express that connection is fascinating, so I’m basically on the same ride with the readers.
We confront situations that aren’t the least bit comfortable and are sometimes downright offensive. They’re almost always politically incorrect, but amid that spiral, at the center of it, we find really intense love stories, which to me is the whole point of any of my stories. Love doesn’t fit a formula, doesn’t have a static etiquette or fit just one mold. It’s as unique as the people involved in it. When you add in Dom/sub elements AND the freedom of putting it in a paranormal/vampire context, you get a captivating journey.
Though yes, it can also be a very sexy romp (grin). Since these books can be pretty extreme at times, there are places where unexpected humor and some less emotionally intense sexiness can help us ease back. Unrelenting drama can be exhausting, after all.
Do you start book series with more than one book in mind? Or do they develop into a series later?
These days, most of what I write I know up front if it’s going to kick off a series or not. The exception to that was my very first series. I’d written Holding the Cards and then Natural Law, and was working on Ice Queen when my publisher said, “Hey, since all these explore different facets of a BDSM relationship, why don’t we make them into a series?” So the Nature of Desire series was born and became the series that launched my career.
What is your definition of erotic romance versus steamy romance?
In steamy romance, I think you have great sexual tension and a good amount of sex scenes that are enjoyable to the readers and add to the story, but they don’t drive it. You could tone them down, lift out a few, and the story would still be the story. In erotic romance, particularly BDSM romance, the erotic is integrated with the story such that you would lose important elements of the book if it was removed or watered down. This is not the same as saying the book is just all about sex and there’s no story beyond the bedroom. It means the emotional development of the characters and what makes the readers want to know more about them and see if they get their happily-ever-after is driven as much by the erotic interaction as any other part of the book. It sounds like a fine line between that and a sex-for-sex’s-sake, one-handed read, but it’s a line that erotic romance readers are pretty clear about! (LOL)
Do you have a favorite writing “moment?” Perhaps something just came together or a character you love just appeared (or anything at all)?
No favorite moment per se, but anytime I hit what I call “the groove” when writing, that’s bliss. That’s the moment when all of a sudden I know what’s emerging on the screen is REALLY working, that it’s the way it’s supposed to be. I still might have to edit the crap out of it, but I know it’s the right stuff (beaming).
You are quite generous with your (many) fans, visiting the JWH Connection (fan forum), being on social media, and always willing to engage them. Do you have a favorite “fan” moment?
What you kindly call generosity, I call gratitude for how wonderful my readers are to me, because they truly are. Thanks to them, I’ve been blessed with so many incredible moments, I don’t think I could pick a favorite. But I will pick a fun one (wink). I’m sort of embarrassed to say it gave my ego a mile-high boost (grin). I was at a conference and a group of very enthusiastic ladies approached my table and introduced themselves. One of the ladies held her hand up and said “Look, I’m shaking. I wasn’t even shaking when I met J.R. Ward!” Since I’m an enthusiastic fan of JR Ward’s BDB boys, that was high praise.
So that was one of the ego-stroking moments, and one I’ll cherish. But what has moved me the most over the years are the reader emails that tell me how my work has empowered them in ways that enhance their own loving relationships with significant others. Or how the stories themselves have helped them through some rough personal times. An author really can’t ask for more incredible praise than that.
What is next for you, writing wise? What can we look forward to?
Right now I’m working on the next Vampire Queen series book. While I’ve written contemporary M/m stories, and ménage a trois stories in this series that have some pretty heavy M/m elements, this will be my first purely male/male Vampire Queen series book AND one where both men are sexual Dominants. So it should be interesting to see where it goes! The book is called The Night’s Templar, because one of my heroes, Lord Uthe, was a Templar Knight. Here’s the blurb for the story:
Lord Uthe, a member of the Vampire Council, was a Templar Knight centuries ago. Even up to the present day, he has attempted to honor the spirit of the Rule, despite the volatile and highly sexual nature of the vampire world. Yet now he’s caught the attention of the Fae Lord Keldwyn, liaison between the Council and Fae Court. Keldwyn challenges Uthe’s emotional isolation and dominant nature. When a quest from Uthe’s past requires Keldwyn’s help to protect both their worlds, Uthe will have to decide whether the Fae male is a gift from God to be cherished and trusted, or a curse who will make Uthe fail the Order he promised to serve all his life.
I’m writing the first draft now, and hope to have it out before year end. I’ve been playing with images on my Pinterest board, so if you’d be interested in seeing my impressions of Uthe, Keldwyn and other things related to their story, you’re welcome to visit!
I also have another serial in the Naughty Bits world coming. Naughty Wishes, which will be released initially as a four-novella serial January-April 2016, follows a contemporary threesome. You can read an excerpt here (http://www.storywitch.com/book-nb-ts). Here’s their blurb:
Samantha is in love with her roommates, Geoff and Chris. She knows they feel the same way. After seeing Geoff’s reaction to a visit to Naughty Bits, an erotica shop with an extensive BDSM inventory, she’s also pretty sure he’s a sexual Dominant who wants to claim both her and Chris for his own.
Yet the two men have been best friends since childhood, and that friendship keeps them frustratingly hands-off toward her and each other. She wants to respect their code of honor, but she craves deeper, more primitive reactions from them.
Having a submissive nature herself, she’s more than willing to tease Geoff’s Dominant side to life. Chris is the wild card for them both, but Sam is ready to play the hand they’ve been given. She’s determined to see if her naughtiest wishes can become the love of a lifetime, with two men who are everything her heart desires.
Is there anything you’d like to tell readers that I haven’t asked?
Thanks for letting me hang out here! If you’ve enjoyed my work in the past (or find you enjoy it in the future) I write free novellas and shorts revisiting the characters from my series. It’s my way of thanking my readers for their support; plus it gives me a chance to hang out with the characters in a slice-of-life way, rather than putting them through a full length plot (wink). If you’d be interested in downloading any of those, they’re out on the JWH Connection fan forum. Access and more info about what you’ll find at the forum is available here. (http://www.storywitch.com/community)
Also, at my website you can find FREE excerpts and blurbs on all my books, as well as buy links for most to the multiple vendors. Here are the links to the series we’ve mentioned above if you want to take a look – just click on the book whose excerpt you want to read.
SPECIAL NOTE: A handful of my titles are reverting back to me after July 23, so you may find the buy links broken as we transition. Never fear, though – check back in the next week or so and we should have them up to date again!
Where to find out more about JOEY W. HILL:
Fan Forum: www.storywitch.com/community
Thank you for stopping by, Joey!