The list of kudos, awards and testimonials for writer, editor and activist CECILIA TAN, if listed here, would break this blog. She has been inducted into the Saints & Sinners Hall of Fame for GLBT Writers, won a coveted RT Reviewers Choice Award in Erotic Romance, the Maggie Award for Excellence, and TAN herself was awarded the RT Career Achievement Award in Erotic Fiction and the RT Pioneer Award in Genre Fiction for Erotica at the last RT Booklovers Convention.
That’s the short list.
CECILIA gives us imaginative, heart-felt, well-crafted stories that’ll melt you like a latex body suit. After reading Slow Surrender, I have never looked at marbles the same way. If I ever re-read the Harry Potter series, I’d likely say the same about Harry after the Magic University series. (All good.)
Oh, and in addition to writing many books, she is founder and editor of Circlet Press.
“Cecilia Tan is simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature.” ~Susie Bright
She has a passion for baseball (and has written several baseball nonfiction books) and TaeKwon Do and plays several musical instruments. She once was a professional ski instructor and taught mime and Spanish to elementary school kids.
Who else feels like an underachiever right now? <<Raising hand>>
But CECILIA also is really nice and approachable in person. She was the keynote speaker at the BDSM Writers Con two weeks ago, where her table at the book fair never went unvisited by admiring fans.
(My favorite quote from one of her many presentations at the Con: In “real” dominant-submissive life, “subs will endanger themselves to please their tops. Tops have to accept this irrationality about bottoms. Submissives fear disappointing their Dominants more than bodily harm.” For a writer that provides all kinds of fodder.)
Speaking of ideas and wisdom . . . CECILIA stops by today and shares with us what’s next, writing-wise, and how she got started — among many other insider anecdotes, such as how Slow Surrender was born. An amazing story.
Welcome, Cecilia! Thanks for talking with us at LadySmut. First, of all the writing genres you could write, why erotic romance?
Erotica and sexuality have always been my number one topics to write about, going all the way back into my childhood writing days. I always knew I was going to be a writer. I thought when I was growing up that I was going to be a science fiction writer, but when I started publishing professionally in the early 1990s it was clear the place where I really found my “voice” and the stories I was burning to write were erotic science fiction and fantasy. Erotica is still my main theme, whether it’s wearing the label of romance or urban fantasy or women’s fiction.
You write magical realism, fan fiction, science fiction, contemporary and more. That’s quite a mix! I might be making this up, but I sense a theme of “out of the ordinary.” Would that be an appropriate way to characterize your work?
And cyberpunk and LGBT and high fantasy… et cetera. The main thing is all of them are erotic or exploring sexuality and sex in some way.
You liken writing Fan Fiction as “a professional ballet dancer going out to a disco or dance club.” Have you had any pushback from fans of the Harry Potter series when you published your Magic University series?
Not that I’ve heard. I’m deeply embedded in Harry Potter fandom, both online and in real life through Harry Potter conventions and regional meetup groups, and the reaction has been universally positive. Potter fandom is incredibly accepting of alternative sexuality and supportive of creativity, as you might expect from a book series that has tolerance and diversity as a main theme. (The final book in the series comes out next week–September 15!)
In your award-winning Struck by Lightning series, you have one very reluctant rock star/artist who begins an unconventional relationship with the heroine, a grad student/waitress. How did the series idea come about? Was there an “inciting incident” (I’m picturing you at a rock concert!) where the story just came to you?
The “inciting incident” was that my agent called me on the day that 50 Shades of Grey was on the front page of the New York Times. That was a Friday. She said, “Because of this, on Monday, my phone is going to ring off the hook because every editor in New York who has been telling me for 15 years ‘Cecilia Tan is too kinky for us,’ is going to call and say ‘get me Cecilia Tan right now.'” So she advised me to cook up a proposal over the weekend. I cleared my schedule, sat down with my laptop, and wrote the entire first two chapters–the meeting in the bar, the game with the marble down her panties, the walk down the Manhattan street while he watches from the limo–pretty much all in one day. I simply started with a blank page, heard Karina’s voice in my head, threw a mystery man at her, and we were off to the races! My agent was right: that book launched a three-book series at Hachette/Forever.
How does a book start for you?
That’s pretty much my process described above. “Hey, Cecilia, write something!” “Okay.” I sit down with a blank page and everything that has been stored up coalesces into fiction. For the big publishers I do have to write an outline, but often I write very very sketchy outlines because I really do not know what is going to happen until it does. I don’t know the backstory of the characters, I don’t know their quirks, none of that. I know there are writers who make out very detailed character histories, and have photos of actors who look like them, and know what flavor of ice cream they like and what brand of car they drive and all that. That would absolutely bore me to tears and pretty much kill any interest I might have had in getting to know that character “in person.” In my MFA program they called what I do “writing for discovery.” In the romance writing world they call me a “pantser,” i.e. I fly by the seat of my pants. Discovering the story locked in my subconscious can only happen through writing the actual story. if I dig it out any other way, it comes up broken and flat and no fun to write. Writing is a joy for me.
I understand your consult Tarot cards when writing. What a fascinating way to access choices, plots and decisions. Do you use the Tarot cards for all your writing? How has it helped you?
I mostly used Tarot cards when writing the Magic University books, where the magic of the Tarot is a big part of the plot and a recurring motif. But if I get stuck on a character or a plot point, they’re useful All the Tarot do, like a Rorschach test, is force you to look at what’s inside your subconscious. That’s what writing is: revealing the story in your subconscious to your conscious mind. So it’s just one more tool for doing that.
What is your definition of erotic romance versus steamy romance?
Is there such a thing? I’ll confess I’ve never seen the label “steamy romance” applied to a book before. Erotic romance, to me, means a romance where the romantic bond between the characters is built up throughout the novel through sexual interaction. Thus a romance that has some graphic sex scenes but only at the very end might not count as “erotic romance” to me. I find romances where the characters fall madly in love before they’ve ever had sex to be unbelievable, though. I just can’t suspend my disbelief that much. That’s so opposite to my personal experiences of love, I can’t relate.
Do you have a favorite writing “moment?”
My favorite writing moment was when I was writing the first Magic University book, The Siren and the Sword. Like the Potter books there is a mystery in each volume, plus an overarching plot that carries from book to book. As I was writing the big climax scene where our hero catches the culprit I have him holding hands in a group dance with two characters. One was supposed to be the culprit and the other an innocent bystander. WAIT, I thought, what if…the innocent bystander was the culprit all along? I ran with it and finished writing the book with that as the culprit and then I went back to rewrite, thinking well, now I have to put in all the clues that point to this new change I made. Right? Wrong. All the clues were already in there. My subconscious knew perfectly well who the culprit was, but just didn’t see fit to reveal it to ME until I actually wrote it. This is why I have learned to trust my subconscious and trust the “write for discovery” process.
What is next for you, writing wise?
Well, for those who love rock stars, there’s more in store. Not only is my gay series Daron’s Guitar Chronicles continuing–we just released book eight in that series and book nine will be coming in November–I’m writing a followup to Struck by Lightning for Hachette that combines BDSM and rock stars again, too! The new series is called Secrets of a Rock Star, and the first book, TAKING THE LEAD, will be out in January. (Amazon already has it up for pre-order!)
Anything exciting you right now?
What’s exciting me is that now that the world is finally ready to read my sexy, sexy books, I get to be the rock star! Well, sort of. I get to travel the world and wear fabulous outfits from time to time and meet people and inspire their erotic fantasies (through my books). That’s as close to being a rock star as I’m ever going to get!
Thanks for stopping by, Cecilia. Best of luck with Taking the Lead. We look forward to reading what you come up with next!
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