Meet Carolyn Crane, Annika Martin Wandering in Dark Forests: Our Right to Imagine and Fantasize
CAROLYN CRANE and ANNIKA MARTIN have thrilled the world over with best-selling and award-winning books. CAROLYN writes romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and other tales of love and adventure. ANNIKA writes love stories about criminals–some of them are dirty and fun while others are dark and intense. I had the good fortune to run into her at the RT Booklovers Convention last spring. Yes, her. I can confirm that she is, indeed, one person—sweet, smart and oh, so imaginative.
For one, if you’re like me, you’ll read her Kinky Bank Robber series and be thoroughly disappointed during bank visits when a band of sexy, incredibly skilled, modern-day pirates do not kidnap you and they do not whisk you away so they can worship your glorious self in private. (Do you hear that Bank of America? Get on it, K? You need a new marketing campaign anyway.)
In the meantime, CAROLYN/ANNIKA stopped by LadySmut today to give us an inside look at what’s on her writing docket, why she writes under two names, and what’s behind her exploration into darker erotica.
ELIZABETH SaFLEUR: Welcome CAROLINE/ANNIKA. Thank you for being here. First up: Our readers are dying to know, how did you decide to write under two names? Do you find it hard to keep track of each?
CAROLYN CRANE/ANNIKA MARTIN: Hey, first of all, thank you so much for having me here! Your blog rocks. [[Thank you. We kinda like it.]] Okay, ahem. LOL. Are you thinking about a second pen name, my friend? Because, beware!! Oh, it’s hard to work one author name, let alone two.
ELIZABETH SaFLEUR: Don’t I know it.
CAROLYN CRANE/ANNIKA MARTIN: I’m not entirely sure I’d recommend it. I took the Annika name because I worried about the reactions of my freelance clients and impressionable nieces and nephews, and even Carolyn Crane readers.
So, while I was first writing The Hostage Bargain, I would say to myself, You can be as dirty as you want–nobody will know! Truly, that made me feel more free and allowed me to take risks I wouldn’t have taken. I had such crazy fun writing it.
Now, however, I’m out and open with both names more or less. I think about collapsing them, but it’s too late.
ELIZABETH SaFLEUR: Of all the writing genres available to writers, how did you settle on yours: erotic romance, romantic suspense, and urban fantasy?
CAROLYN CRANE/ANNIKA MARTIN: As far as genres, I tend to go wherever my personal interest is and what I feel the most energy around. That’s how I pick what characters to write next in a series, too—whoever kind of pops for me. It’s not strategic at all.
ELIZABETH SaFLEUR: The Taken Hostage by Kinky Bank Robbers series is super hot, fun, unique, and did I mention, hot? How did you come up with this story? I’m picturing you standing in line at the bank, thinking, hmmm, I wish someone hot, dangerous and adventurous would burst in right now.
CAROLYN CRANE/ANNIKA MARTIN: Thank you so much!! That is so funny because I do think about the gang when I go to the bank now.
But, no, I didn’t dream it up at the bank. The inspiration is more out of being obsessed with tales of people exiting their lives and living as new people with new names and radically different lies. So that led to my big what if…what if you got taken hostage by really hot, dirty-minded bank robbers, and then you didn’t ever want to go back? If you said, hey, I’m keeping this new life of ménages and bank robberies. I had to work hard making my heroine not an asshole to do it, though. For there to be compelling reasons for her to stay gone.
ELIZABETH SaFLEUR: In other words, you’ve written themes that some writers fear to tread: dubious consent, non-consent, and captivity. Some say this genre is growing more popular. What had you explore these areas?
CAROLYN CRANE/ANNIKA MARTIN: I don’t know if the audience is growing—it’s so hard to determine these things. I just write what I want to, and I am writing more “dark,” including a six-part, dark mafia saga. Also, Skye Warren and I have begun the new Prisoner book (though it got “back-burnered” due to other projects).
I enjoy writing and reading dark stuff because it challenges me and it makes me feel conflicted and wildly alive. I love how dark romance takes us into forbidden and taboo areas, lets us explore, experience and even enjoy things that are not okay in real life. It’s the grown up version of wandering into the dark forest and then coming out. That, to me, is the beauty of fiction—to take you places you can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t go in real life.
I know some people have a problem with it, but to me, women have a right to the full imaginative expression of their fantasy life, and dark fantasies can be a deep, ancient, and very genuine part of that.
I love how it challenges my feminism, too. There would have been a time where I would’ve said, Hey, this fiction is wrong for women. But these days, I’m all about women having a right to every iteration of their imaginative life, and never having to apologize for that. Women have a right to the stories they want and they have a right to step out the door into a culture where they are safe and respected. Women get to have both.
ELIZABETH SaFLEUR: Amen, sister. Along those lines, do you have a favorite writing “moment?”
CAROLYN CRANE/ANNIKA MARTIN: Oh, that would be when I dreamed up Simon from the Disillusionists series. He was this great teacher for me as character. I set out to make him an enemy for my heroine. I wanted somebody scary and unpredictable and threatening and just horrible.
But then Simon, total badass that he was, ended up being one of my favorite characters of all time—and a reader fave, too. When I released the need for the reader to love this guy, it allowed him to be his own wild self. The whole Simon thing was such a great lesson for me in how to think about characters. He eventually got his own novella, Devil’s Luck.
ELIZABETH SaFLEUR: What is next for you, writing wise?
CAROLYN CRANE/ANNIKA MARTIN: I’m working on four projects. One is this torrid dark mafia tale, a six-part saga that will release in quick succession early 2016. I’m also collaborating on an M/M spy mini-series with my critique partner, Joanna Chambers, and I’m seriously in love with this project—it is super over the top. The Kinky Bank Robbers #4 should be done soon-ish, and Skye Warren and I should be winding up the new Prisoner at some point.
ELIZABETH SaFLEUR: Yay for us! You’re a prolific writer. How do you write so fast? (And can we buy whatever special “fast” formula you have?)
CAROLYN CRANE/ANNIKA MARTIN: It’s funny that you would call me fast because I feel like the most glacially slow writer. I manage to get out an average of two books a year (this year it’s one!). It was not uncommon for me, after my slow first draft, to trash 50-75 percent of that book for a full do-over and many meticulous rewrites. Behind the Mask took eight months!!
I would read every book on fast writing there is, too, and feel like a loser.
This fall, a few tools have helped my speed shoot way up (for me). 2016 is going to be a massive year of releases. Since you asked and writers like to geek out about this, I will tell all!
Tools that have wildly helped me include doing a serious outline. I got the technique from James Patterson’s Master Class. It utterly revolutionized how I outline. I thought I outlined before but whoa!! He spends a ton of time basically telling the story in an encapsulated form over and over—an interesting little “nugget” paragraph for each chapter. Now I’m spending two weeks on an outline alone and it’s allowing me to make those blunders (where I trash half the book in disgust) in the outline phase. This has been a game changer for me.
In her excellent book 2k to 10k, Rachel Aaron talks about needing to really generate excitement about the scene or chapter you’re going to write, so I’ve been trying to build serious hooks for myself into every chapter at the outline phase. If I’m not fabulously excited about every chapter, the outline is lacking.
Also, I started forcing myself to lay down 1,000 words before I check email or social media. I can now write 3,000 words a day—sometimes 4,000. Previously, 2,000 was an amazing day. More importantly, I’m not going down wrong roads and tossing weeks and months of work. I feel like I can write a book in two to three months now. That is huge for me.
ELIZABETH SaFLEUR: And it will be huge for your fans. Everyone, be sure to, stay in touch with CAROLYN/ANNIKA via her social channels below to get notices of her hot new releases.
Speaking of staying in touch, don’t forget to follow us at Lady Smut, where you’re allowed to indulge in all the fantasies you can cook up.
Oh, and speaking of wonderful indulgences, don’t forget to pre-order our own Isabelle Drake’s latest, OFF THE RAILS. It’s never too late for that ultimate do-over.