International best-selling romance novelist, SIERRA CARTWRIGHT, has authored more than 30 erotic romances about capable, submissive women who yield to powerful, alpha male Dominants. She doesn’t see that as a conundrum, saying submissives are some of the strongest people around. She was born in Manchester, England where she earned the nickname, “Bossy Britches,” and she once ran a company. Now, thankfully, she writes seriously hot books full-time. I had the good fortune to say hello to SIERRA at the April RT Booklovers Convention, and learned her thoughts on writing and BDSM are as fascinating as her characters. SIERRA stopped by LadySmut to, well, kiss and tell . . .
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: First things, first. Did I hear correctly that you once kissed William Shatner? You know, we have to know more…
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: I wish it was more spectacular than it was! Should I make up a story? Make it scandalous, rather than totally innocent?
I remember sneaking down the stairs and hiding behind the couch to watch Star Trek when I was a little girl in England. It came on past my bedtime, but I loved the show so much. I’m totally sure my parents knew I was there, but since I was quiet, I was allowed to stay. I was so in love with Captain Kirk. (ES Note: Me, too!!) As I grew older, he made me swoon. So handsome in his uniform. And that smile…
One year, for Christmas, I got twelve books, in a big box. They were all Star Trek books, a series of them. Star Trek Five had a red cover! LOL
The first book I ever wrote was a Star Trek fanfic. Handwritten in blue ink. I think it was 123 pages long. I’m not sure now whether or not it was legible. It’s fair to say I was one of the original Trekkies. (Before they were Trekkers!) And, yes, I went to Trekkie gatherings.
I think I was sixteen when William Shatner appeared in the play Death Trap at the Elitch Gardens Theatre. I remember driving myself, and no one was as in love with him as I was, so I went alone. After the play was over, I dashed backstage with my program clutched in my hands, shaking. I wanted his autograph so bad.
He was as lovely and as gracious as I had hoped he would be. And I was bold. I told him my life would be complete if I kissed him. Did I mention he was lovely and gracious? He tipped his head to the side and let me kiss his cheek.
Can I tell you a secret? Because he was so kind to a smitten girl with her first celebrity crush, I’m still a little in love with him…
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: What a great story. Speaking of which, let’s talk about your books. I just finished Bind (The Donovan Dynasty). Loved it. What a fabulous premise with compelling characters, not to mention hot as Hades. Which character came to you first, Lara or Connor? Did you start BIND with the premise of Lara going to Connor for help or was their “arrangement” a surprise to you as you wrote?
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: Thank you for saying so… Wait until you get to the elevator scene in Boss. Even I needed a cold shower! <g>
And it’s an astute observation that one character comes to me before the other. In this case, it was Connor Donovan. He was such an interesting character to me. There are three brothers in the Donovan Dynasty series, and that’s a dynamic I’ve never before explored. But of course I can’t do anything the easy way. So the oldest brother is actually the bastard child who lives hours away from the rest of the family. Connor is technically the second son, but because Cade runs the family’s agribusiness, Connor gets to be head of the family.
Originally, I’d seen him as a bit more of a hardass than he turned out to be. And since his Dad had been in a marriage he didn’t want to be in, I thought it would be fun to give Connor a marriage of convenience. In playing with that plot idea, Lara then came to me. I wanted her to be equally strong, so I made her an only child. And I made her an executive.
I loved playing with two strong characters and watching their negotiations and seeing them evolve. Iron sharpens iron, right? But these two make each other better people. It just takes a lot to get them there…
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: When choosing the various smexy acts for your books, do you try for a broad spectrum of BDSM in each book, or do you think, “okay, this is going to be primarily a spanking book.” Or “this is going to be primarily a bondage book.”
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: I try to let the BDSM acts arise from the characterization, rather than the other way around. I’ve never really written a book I’d consider primarily a spanking book because I adore the full spectrum of BDSM. I’ve had newbie heroines, a heroine who is a submissive at a club, even a heroine who was a masochist. I think BDSM is unique to each couple, and their personalities will influence the naughty tools and implements. For example, the heroine who enjoyed masochism is considerably more likely to enjoy or be familiar with the cane than a heroine who has never experienced BDSM.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: You’re great at warning readers what your books include (because let’s face it, not everyone likes to be surprised). Are there any fetishes or sex acts (not talking the usual ones that most publishers refuse to print) that you just won’t write?
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: That’s a tough one because the minute I say I won’t do something, I’ll get an idea for it. I guess if the idea seems to fit, I might run with it. If it’s kind of unusual or questionable, I might work it into a subplot using secondary characters. I learned that trick at a writer’s workshop once, taught by Stella Cameron.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Do you ever discover ‘trends’ in the BDSM writing world? Like this summer it’s all about bondage or this year it’s all about Femme Dommes? Do you decide to incorporate that new trend in your work?
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: I wrote my first BDSM novel about eight or nine years ago. Back then, it was a very small subgenre of erotic romance. I’ve never written to trends, though I wish at times I was able to! Truth is, I write too slow for that. It would be like me trying to catch a train that had already left the station. I can picture me standing on the tracks, bent over, gasping for air, and wondering what happened.
My Fem Domme offering was published about seven years ago…proof positive I’m nowhere near the trends!
Psst… Crave (Bonds Book 1) won the Best BDSM Book of the Year award by the BDSM Writers Con in 2015.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Do you think that women seek to read about submissive women in the same way powerful men seek dominatrixes, i.e. even average women carry so much responsibility in their lives, they are looking for a few hours where they can fantasize about being completely without power, without having to take care of others? We know that’s a common reason for being in that role in real life, but I was wondering about the desire to read about it.
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: I fantasize about someone keeping my wineglass topped off while I soak in the tub with a good book. Oh, wait. I digress. 🙂
There’s something about storytelling that’s elemental. We stand around campfires and tell stories, and the more compelling, the better. I agree with you, Elizabeth, that we are so damn busy juggling a million responsibilities. And reading can be a great escape. I’m sure that giving up responsibility is a part of it for many of us.
I’m really struggling with this question because I think you’re absolutely right, and I also think there are other elements to it.
There are components such as: suspending reality, being swept away in a fantasy world, the emotional charge of being swept up in the drama of someone else’s relationship. I also enjoy identifying with the heroine and I yearn to be as brave or witty or smart as she is. Through reading, I vicariously seize new experiences and get the weak-knee feeling that comes from challenging an alpha while I’m the center of his attention. But most of all, I can ignore the goddamn relentless buzzing of the dryer and dinging of the microwave for a few minutes.
And especially when it’s the end of a long day and I simply just want to relax. I’ll bet if we toss this question out there, we’ll get a million different answers, too. Isn’t that the awesome thing about reading? It can be all those things. A romance novel got me through endless hours in the hospital waiting room. Another gave me blessed relief as I tried to cope with my beloved stepmother’s death. Annabel Joseph’s series occupied my time while I was driving cross-country for a funeral.
When I pick up a romance, I’m always guaranteed of that happy ending. I get the sense that life is worth the struggle and the effort. And I always feel good (maybe gutted at times) when I reach the end. I’m a romance fan, all the way to the end.
Great, great question. Oh, and I have different reasons for scening. But that’s another conversation entirely…
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Next time! What are you reading? What BDSM novels inspire you? Has your taste in BDSM changed over time?
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: I’m really an eclectic reader. I just finished the latest Harlan Coben paperback on an airplane, and I also downloaded an R.K. Lilley, an Aleatha Romig, and an Eden Bradley for the trip. On my last trip, I read an Annabel Joseph trilogy.
Another insightful question from you about my taste changing. I think the market has grown and evolved. We have new dark erotica titles to choose from. As for my tastes, I enjoy reading a broad range, from light BDSM to stuff that’s a bit more hardcore. But my writing has evolved, too, to more complex characters in more complicated relationships. The sex may have gotten hotter along the way, too.
ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: And, because readers want to know, what’s next for you, writing-wise? Anything you can tease us with?
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT:Thanks for asking. I’m finishing up a super-secret project that I’m announcing in the next couple of weeks. And then, due to reader demands (and a few threats), I think I’m diving into a story about a certified genius… This will be the most difficult writing I’ve ever done, mostly because I never intended for Julien Bonds to be a hero. So I made him outrageous and a bit of a mad man. Honestly, I’ve been working on character charts and plotlines for months. I’ve had several brainstorming sessions with other writers. And I’m still nervous that I might not have the skillset to pull off my vision. I’m not sure, honestly, that I’ve ever been scared as a writer, but I am now. Pass the wine. (ES Note: You are a woman after my own heart.)
FINALLY…THE LADYSMUT FAST LANE
LADYSMUT: Favorite song?
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: Depends on the time of day! Yikes! Right now I’ve got the Blake Shelton song, “Came Here to Forget” on endless loop.
LADYSMUT: Billionaire or military hero? (Or other?)
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: Give me a billionaire any day of the week. Didn’t I mention I want my wineglass kept full? And I want seriously good wine. (This is my fantasy, after all.)
LADYSMUT: Going back in time or jumping forward to the future?
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: I love technology. I want to go way, way into the future.
LADYSMUT: Leather or lace?
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: Not even a question. Give me the leather baby. It absorbs blows from the flogger better than lace does. Oh. Wait. Did I say that out loud? (Ed. Note: Oh, yes, you did! ;-))
LADYSMUT: Number one bucket list item?
SIERRA CARTWRIGHT: January in Mexico, or somewhere really, really warm. I checked out Key West just yesterday. The place I wanted to rent was $8,736. Can you send that billionaire my way, stat?
LADYSMUT: We’ll get right on that…once we’re through with him. He-he.
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Elizabeth SaFleur writes contemporary erotic romance and she’s not afraid to get graphic about it — “it” being the smex, the BDSM, or Washington, DC society, which she regularly features in her series, the Elite Doms of Washington.