Respect, Subversion and the Erotic Genre – Meet Amy Lane, Authoress Extraordinaire
You’ve got to be intrigued by an author whose bio reports she lives in a “crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse, and that she also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day.” Meet AMY LANE.
AMY writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance–and, she reports that “if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.” Amen, sister.
She had written a LOT of books, has several publishers, and you’ll find many free reads on her web site.
I discovered AMY LANE’s books by pure accident. I wanted a vampire erotic romance and found her book, Vulnerable, the first in the Little Goddess series in–wait for it–the bookstore. I found a new world of fantastical creatures who refused to let anyone in their reach suppress their greatness. Can you say “never looked back?” I devoted an entire summer to pretending I lived in her fictional “Green’s Hill” where all manner of paranormal folk find love, sex, and redemption. Sometimes I go back to visit, just to say ‘hi’ to the friends I’ve met in her books. They will perpetually live on my bookshelf.
We’re happy to host AMY at LadySmut today because it’s Friday! You deserve a special treat.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Welcome, AMY LANE. Of all the writing genres you could write, why erotic fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance?
AMY LANE: Well, there are a couple of things that keep appearing in all of my work– equal respect for each partner, a sort of distrust of conventional wisdom and established authority, and the idea that there is no blueprint for the perfect family.
If you look at all of these genres, the idea of equal respect for both genders and both partners is an underlying subtext– in erotic fantasy, women are expected to take charge of their bodies and their sexuality with as much authority as men. In urban fantasy, women often have the same “social heft” as men, even if it’s the supernatural world building that gives it to them. In m/m romance, the men are already on equal social footing– they’re men! And there’s nothing sexier than respect and equality.
The same applies to distrust of conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom says that girls have to be “nice” and let the men do the talking, and that women are the nurturers. In urban fantasy women get to kick ass–being nice isn’t part of their social agenda. Add to that the subversive, alternative governing system that most urban fantasies are run on, and you can see why I leaned that way. As for M/M Romance–besides the social acceptability of gay relationship, there is also the fun of turning traditional tropes on their end. I’ve always believed men could be nurturing, and I’ve known some awesome communicators. I also like looking below the surface, so the guy who could seem like a total dick from one end can turn out to be really kind with another look. So, again, these genres sort of lend themselves to the subtext I really enjoy writing.
And as for the unconventional family– well, yeah. Urban fantasy and m/m romance both lend themselves to that.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Your books, especially The Little Goddess Series, mix a number of fantasy and supernatural characters. You take them on deep emotional journeys. I sense a theme of “broken people who find acceptance.” Is that what you intended?
AMY LANE: At the very beginning I just wanted to write a vampire romance–I swear! But the more I wrote, the more I wanted to show characters doing what was humanly possible to fix a broken world. Acceptance, tolerance, unconditional love–as a teacher, a mother, and a social activist, these things seemed so necessary in the world–and in such short supply. I guess that theme of broken people who find acceptance comes from the idea that it’s a very human, very accessible way of making the world better.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Where did your characters in the Little Goddess Series come from? Cory, Green, Adrian, Brack, and the others?
AMY LANE: Cory was an amalgam of who I was as a college student, and the kids I used to teach. My school was sort of rough–but I’d see kids every day that other teachers would write off when they really only needed a sympathetic adult and a reason to believe. I have this one image of this girl–red-headed, petite, wickedly funny, and never on time. I was actually behind her in traffic once as we were pulling into the school, and I saw her hand out the window with a cigarette. Now, this is California– we’ve pretty much criminalized smoking and told the kids that smokers are “bad, evil, inconsiderate people.” I mean, one of our principals spent money to have drug dogs come out and sniff student backpacks for cigarettes. But this kid wasn’t bad, evil or inconsiderate–she was a smart kid with a smart mouth and a not so wonderful habit. I wanted to write a story for those kids. Not the kids with the perfect lives or who were on the honor roll or who had the parents who charged them through to college. The other kids that the system had given up on–and the people smart enough to see that the system was flawed and that conventional wisdom often hurt more than it helped.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Do you start a book thinking “I want to explore XYZ type character in ABC situation” or do they come pre-disposed to their journey and the story goes from there?
AMY LANE: Actually it’s usually the first thing–XYZ character in ABC situation. However, my usual metaphor is “road trip”. You have a few stops planned– sometimes it’s a fight, sometimes it’s a love scene, sometimes it’s a personal moment or an epiphany– but those are the things you think are essential for this story to have impact. (In one of my latest, Deep of the Sound, it was a fight with an insanely gigantic illegal fish.) But on the best road trip, it’s the unplanned moments that really spark magic, so you keep your mind open for that to happen. An example? In Wounded from The Little Goddess series I had the beginning and the end planned. And then, in like, the second chapter, Bracken was suddenly fully on board the Cory train, and I realized he’d loved her since Adrian had and the stoic bastard had never let on. I mean–BAM–just like that, this character completely re-wrote not just the book, but the entire series. And then Nicky got caught up in the magic wash, and Cory–who was supposed to be just with Green, I kid you not–suddenly had a whole other life she had to figure out. It was glorious.
AMY LANE: My contemporaries come in two flavors– angsty orange and sunshiny lite yellow. (Seriously–It’s how I brand them!) In books like Candy Man and Bitter Taffy, I tend to go for the odd and the quirky. I love it when you meet somebody who just spins your whole perception of the world in its end. In the case of this series, I met Darrin– the real life owner of a candy store in Sacramento–when I was hot, sweaty, and following my husband who had just run the half-marathon. Mate was just fine–a little tired, a little spacey, but fine. I, however, am fat and out of shape, and I’d pretty much walked a 5K just to see him run. I wandered into the candy store irritable and out of sorts, and I found Darrin–who is over six feet of spangly, fabulous, cowboy-boot wearing perfection. He was fun and quirky and just a little bit out of this world–so I took that and ran with it. In the books he’s slightly clairvoyant, very snarky, and his entire focus is helping out the people who wander into his candy store while pretending to be very much uninvolved. So if you’re looking at an Amy Lane yellow title, that’s the kind of thing you can expect– the unexpected, the weird, the slightly over the top but, I hope, very real and emotionally authentic. That’s often how I see the world, so that’s what I write.
If you’re looking at an orange contemporary–say Deep of the Sound, Beneath the Stain or any of the Promise Rock or Johnnies titles, be prepared for a slightly more intense experience. When I write drama, I go deep for the pain. Hopefully there’s still some quirk, and even some humor, but I’ve been accused of brewing my morning coffee from the tears of my readers, and these are the books they’re talking about.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Your covers are quite striking. Do you design your own covers?
AMY LANE: I do not design my own covers, because I’d suck at it. I’ve been lucky to have some really lovely cover work done by Anne Cain (Who did Immortal and Beneath the Stain) and Reese Dante (Johnnies) as well as Paul Richmond (Promises series and The Candy Man books). They do ask me for a concept though, and usually I will flail and say things like, “Blangh blargh, color red, cute boy, ulk, thing, marnk, BLAGH!” until they read my mind and, by the grace of God, come up with something beautiful.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Do you start book series with more than one book in mind? Or do they develop into a series later?
AMY LANE: LOL– I wish I could say I totally masterminded the entire series from the beginning. I. Wish. However, I usually have an idea of who is “sequel bait” by the end of a story. Shane and Jeff from Promises were like that. As I wrote them, I thought, “These guys have back stories–I’d love to read them.” And so I wrote them. The Johnnies series (one of my angstiest and saddest series) actually started out as this really lighthearted short story–Super Sock Man. As I was expanding this 3k story into a 25K novella, I added this character–Chase–who enjoyed his friend’s attentions, but who wouldn’t admit he was gay.
When Chase in Shadow opens up, this kid is living with his girlfriend but in love with another boy–and he’s got a razor blade to his wrist.
I think it was right here, as I was writing, that I fully realized the scope of going from one character to the next–if I’m following each story from beginning to happy ever after, I never know what I’m going to find, and very often it’s a lot more painful than I expected and a lot more surprising than I ever dreamed of.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: How does a book start for you? A conversation between characters? A plot idea? Or do you just start typing and see what shows up?
AMY LANE: Yes. *laughs a little hysterically* Seriously–all of the above. Very often I’ll take a feeling, a moment, a character, a guy I see who strikes me as beautiful, a particular conflict that hits me as worth exploring, and…well…boom!
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Do you have a favorite writing “moment?”
AMY LANE: I have a couple. I think I mentioned Bracken– he’s on my top five.
Another top five is Aylan from my epic fantasy series, The Bitter Moon saga. He started out as sort of an antagonist, but the more you got to know him, the more you realized he was simply hurt. I was torn with this one–in this story, Torrant very obviously falls for Yarri–they’re moon destined. But oh, a part of me wanted Torrant and Aylan together so very badly. I found a way for them to be together, but the moment when Aylan has to choose his moon-destined over Torrant, who had become his lover and his family when they were both in an extraordinary situation–that was one of my favorite moments. I was sitting at my computer, talking to myself, typing like the wind, and sobbing–like full on machine-gun-snot-sobbing wookie cry. I almost couldn’t breathe. The entire family was watching me from the living room. “Is she going to be okay, Dad?” “Yeah-just, you know. Don’t talk to her, she’s writing.”
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: What is next for you, writing wise? What can we look forward to?
AMY LANE: *giggles excitedly* See– one of the things I wrote this year was Quickening, Parts 1&2, the latest installment in The Little Goddess series. It’s over 200K, and it took me what felt like forever. I’m excited about this book, although it doesn’t come out until late next year. However when I was done, I was so ready to write something quick and light and fun and bullet shaped…And that was Winter Ball which will be out on Christmas Eve.
Oh, I had fun writing Winter Ball. We’re a soccer family– my kids have been in soccer since my second child was seven– so that’s thirteen years down, nine more to go. One night I saw a couple of guys after a softball game at a park. They’d had a beer, and were standing an intimate distance away from each other– just guys talking, shooting the breeze. And suddenly I had this idea of guys, talking in their car, after a rec league winter soccer game…and BAM.
This story practically flew. And the guys–I loved them. They were IT guys so they weren’t stupid. Communication just wasn’t their strong suit, and they had to fumble toward a relationship when they didn’t have a blueprint. I loved Skipper and Richie so much–and I just love to share what I love.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: What is exciting you right now?
AMY LANE: Well, Gay Romance Lit retreat is coming up– and that’s always exciting and fun. I love meeting fans and talking to people about writing and stories. Talking shop is my favorite talk! Also, it’s in San Diego, and my family is going there a little early and playing for a couple of days. Hanging at the beach, whatever. I’m excited about this too–it’s like all my favorite things rolled in one!
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Before we wrap up, anything you’d like to tell readers that I haven’t asked?
AMY LANE: Actually, for those who have followed the series, Rampant, the last book here came out in 2010. A few things came up–both personally and professionally–and I wasn’t able to write the next book in the series until earlier this year. I know a lot of people have been waiting (some not so patiently!) and I wasn’t sure what to tell them. It was a hard promise to keep–I can’t dissemble. And it was a risk–it’s been so long since the last one, I’m not sure if anyone else is going to want to read it.
But it’s done–and I’m so proud of it.
This last year DSP Publications has been helping me dust off the rest of the series and re-release it, looking very pretty, and hopefully better edited, than it was in the beginning.
One of the things I’ve realized is that you really do improve with practice. I am (I hope!) much better than I was ten years ago when I released Vulnerable which is the first book in the series. I really hope this fifth book lives up to that.