Tag Archives: Self publishing

Booked author Leandra Vane on BDSM romance, writing male/male sex scenes and #ownvoices

16 Jun

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

As soon as I heard about the new BDSM romance novel Booked by Leandra Vane, I knew I wanted to read it. Actually, as soon as I saw the sexy cover with a man’s wrists handcuffed and the words “Detectives Were His Ultimate Fantasy” at the top, I knew. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? I don’t know if there’s a specific word for it besides “anticipation,” but I get tingly when I see a book and immediately know: You’re going to be mine.

Isn’t this a HOT cover?

I’m pleased to report that Booked was every bit as sexy and fascinating as my initial inkling indicated it would be. Vane, a prominent sexuality blogger and author, has spun a small town romance that’s kinky, smart and edgy, with a fast pace that kept me turning the pages as fast as I could (it’s for sale in print and ebook, but I’m a sucker for print). There are many layers to this romance novel, which features a kinky bisexual male protagonist, Nate, a writer who volunteers at the local library and also suffers from nerve damage. He has a BDSM mistress, Charlotte, who’s just started dating the also kinky Ian, but then Nate also falls for his town’s hunky new librarian, James. All that, and there’s even a happily ever after!

I wanted to learn more about the process of writing Booked, which seemed extra fitting for Pride month, so I emailed Leandra Vane and here’s what she had to say about writing male/male romance, #ownvoices, the mental side of kink and BDSM, self-publishing and much more. You can follow her on @Leandra_Vane on Twitter to find out what she’s up to next, and she also has an original tale, “A Stolen Story,” forthcoming in my November anthology Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3.

Booked author Leandra Vane

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: How long have you been writing erotica and how did you get involved with it? How is writing erotic fiction different for you than writing nonfiction about sex and kink?

LEANDRA VANE: I’ve been a reader of erotic fiction since I was a teenager. It has been a constant and important aspect of my sexuality for my entire sexual life. But I didn’t start writing erotica until I was 25 years old. I had been surrounded by a lot of sex negative attitudes growing up and had the basic impression that romance and erotica wasn’t “Real Writing.” But in 2013 I launched my sexuality blog The Unlaced Librarian where I reviewed non-fiction sexuality books that had been really helpful in my life. This bolstered some confidence so I started writing erotic stories and submitting them to anthologies. At first I just wanted to experiment and see how it felt to write in the genre. What I discovered was the kind of writing that suited me so well I could grow and thrive as a writer. June marks my four year anniversary as a sex writer and I’ve genuinely never been happier.

I think writing erotic fiction is interesting because it lets me explore certain topics from the perspective of different characters as well as exploring how the setting is infused into the sexual aspects of the story. For example, a lot of my stories take place in small Midwestern towns and that flavor certainly impacts how my characters work through their relationships and kinks. Writing non-fiction is more focused. I tend to take one viewpoint and keep it as concise as I can. It’s more structured in order to be effective as sex education and help people work through aspects of their sexualities without becoming overwhelmed.

Both types of writing are rewarding. But I love the ability to see different perspectives around a topic and explore the harsh and painful aspects in a creative way. There are some aspects of sex, disability, and embodiment that are difficult for me to write in non-fiction. But I dive right in with these themes in fiction because I’m more emotionally connected and my characters can serve as an outlet for all the different ways I feel about things, even when these feelings conflict.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: You’ve written that while the idea for Nate and James came to you easily, you almost didn’t write Booked because you weren’t sure you could do justice to a male/male plotline. What made you push past that initial resistance?

LEANDRA VANE: Ultimately I just loved my characters so much I couldn’t not write them. At first I felt like I was somehow “stealing” an experience that was not mine – being a gay man. But when I looked at certain characteristics and qualities of my characters, I saw that I was bringing a lot of my own experiences into the story and the characters. I asked friends and readers of an array of sexual orientations and body identities if they would like to read a story about a librarian and a tattooed novelist exploring kinky role play together and the answer was a resounding yes. I’m now open to writing a lot of different pairings I haven’t been in the past. I’m a romantic erotica writer and readers need and want interesting characters in a variety of pairings. So I’m going to write the ones that interest me. I’m easily seduced by my characters so this breakthrough has been really freeing.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Since this was your first time writing a male/male romance, I’m curious about how the experience was similar and different from the pairings you’ve written in the past. Were there aspects of it that you struggled with more than when writing female characters?

LEANDRA VANE: At first I was a little caught up on trying to do things the “right” way and doing justice to my masculine characters. I asked both gay and straight guys in my life how they felt during and about sex. I learned a lot, but I was mostly struck with how their experiences with sex and romance were not so different from mine. I certainly kept some things in mind but ultimately I focused on making unique and complete characters. Once I got rolling, I was led by their unique pasts, motivations, and desires. Confronting this challenge has made me more aware and able to write well-rounded characters no matter what body or sexual orientation they possess, which is invaluable for me as a writer and an experience I’m so grateful to have had.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: There’s a gradual education about BDSM that unfolds for James, who’s had kinky fantasies but has never acted upon them until he gets together with Nate. Nate and Charlotte recommend books for James to read and they have plenty of detailed discussions before they actually try anything kinky together. Why was this important to both the story and to you as an author to have this slow buildup?

LEANDRA VANE: I personally think it’s important to bring a more varied level of sexual experience to erotic stories. One of the reasons I didn’t try to write erotica myself for so long was because I felt I was sexually inexperienced or not kinky enough. But there are way more people I know who are curious about or just beginning to explore aspects of sexuality than people who have had loads of hardcore, creative, kinky sex. I started wondering, why can’t I have characters who haven’t been sexual with a lot of partners? Why can’t I have a main character in a BDSM story who had fantasized about BDSM but had not tried anything yet? These were more interesting stories to me and ones I connected to.

Also, I feel like talking about sex and desires is intimate and vulnerable. I’ve read a lot of erotic stories where the action happens so fast and the characters go into the sexual situation nervous and sort of looking at each other from the corner of their eye and then things just happen. It’s exciting and all, but I don’t think the tension or excitement is lost when characters talk about things first. In a way, some of the dialogue scenes in Booked felt very erotic to me.

Communication and understanding yourself as well as your partner is a high value for me as a sex educator so I try to infuse this into my fiction when I can.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Something that stood out to me is how much attention is paid in the book to making sure there’s both consent and participation from both tops and bottoms in the BDSM scenes. At a play party, Charlotte asks Nate, “What is it you want out of this scene before you’re at the mercy of my hand and mood?” This struck me as different than a lot of the dominants I’ve read about. What does this level of care toward the submissives from dominants in the book signify about their relationships?

LEANDRA VANE: I personally find it erotic and enticing when the top is fully engaged with the bottom and the scene. It’s a personal preference but I often get turned off if there’s not at least a hint in an erotic story that all partners are consenting. When I play in kink scenes with my current top, I still always ask things like if I can touch him or if it’s okay that we do certain things in a scene and he does the same for me. We’ve been playing together for over a year.

I feel this reiterates the underlying friendship that the characters have for each other outside the dungeon. Sometimes I feel sexual or kink relationships somehow fall outside of parameters of being supportive friends toward each other and I wanted my characters to have a foundation beneath their power dynamics.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Another aspect of BDSM that I really liked was that you explore the psychological aspect of kink as much as (if not more) than the physical side of it, which is often the main image vanilla people have of BDSM. During their first time playing together, Nate tells James that he likes being blindfolded even though it’s “its own special kind of torture” because “It forces me to really give up control.” For Nate, what makes that giving up of control so arousing?

LEANDRA VANE: The psychological aspect of BDSM was really important for me in the book. I wanted it to be just as prominent as the physical aspects in the story.

For Nate specifically, giving up control is a complete matter of trust. Since he can’t feel half of his body, being blindfolded means he will not know if he accidentally gets hurt or even where the top is touching him. As a disabled person with nerve damage, I can say giving your partner complete control over your body like this takes an astounding amount of trust. Call me a vulnerability slut, but when you trust your partner that much, I find it really hot. Considering Nate had a very bad relationship based on lies and mistrust in his past, this is a personal development aspect of his character that shows he is moving on, investing in healthy aspects of his new relationship, and growing as a person.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Nate also compares the physical pain he suffers because of his nerve damage to the kind he craves in kink as a submissive, the main difference being he has control over the latter and can stop it at any point. Can you elaborate on that connection between unwanted and wanted pain?

LEANDRA VANE: Unwanted pain is terrible and for many people is a non-negotiable part of life. Not having a choice is perhaps one of the most difficult things to cope with in life. BDSM is all about choice, negotiation, and consent. When elements of pain feel good, it can be empowering to play with it and help you cope with the times in your life that you have no choice but to endure the pain.

I also know that certain aspects of pain can be very pleasurable but physical pain from sickness, chronic conditions, or illnesses can frighten people away from harnessing pain for pleasure. Having a character that goes through both experiences was important to me to include in the ongoing conversation about BDSM, which I feel I can contribute to through fiction.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: While the heart of Booked is the romance between Nate and James, Nate is also bisexual and a submissive to Charlotte, something that James takes very much in stride and is even interested in learning more about. Was it tricky to navigate the various relationships among the three of them as well as Charlotte’s other partners?

LEANDRA VANE: This aspect was not tricky in the sense that this is how I see things and how I experience sexual attraction. I get into a bad habit of thinking everyone is a bisexual polyamorous person and my friends have to remind me that isn’t how it works. (I can still dream!) Early feedback I received warned me that perhaps the aspect with Charlotte would not be believable or that James wouldn’t be okay with Nate having a Domme. I took a chance and developed this aspect of my characters anyway. I hope that in exploring the motivations and attitudes of my characters that the relationships feel natural and genuine. I’m toying with writing a sequel in which Nate, James, Charlotte, and her partner Ian have formed a loose BDSM-based Polycule. We shall see.

But, just like writing sexually inexperienced characters, I decided there was nothing wrong with writing sexually fluid characters too. It reflects my own experience of my sexuality and of some of my friends so I feel the representation in fiction is important.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Since the library where James and Charlotte work, and Nate volunteers, plays such a central role in Booked, I’m curious about the connection between books (and reading and writing) and romance in the novel. Clearly, all three are huge book lovers, and books play a central role in both entertaining and educating them, so I’m curious what you see as the role of books in Booked.

LEANDRA VANE: In the story both Charlotte and James first stumble upon their kinks in books: Charlotte in history books and James in a book about detectives and crime. Nate is also a novelist who uses his writing to explore some themes in BDSM. All three are indeed book lovers and though each character possesses their kinks for different reasons, it is the element of books that binds all three of them together.

My idea initially was to have the library serve as a metaphorical symbol for a church. It’s an historical building that becomes a sanctuary for my characters. Through the stories and information in books my characters transcend the mundane aspects of their sexuality to engage with their bodies and their fantasies in a deeper, more textural (and enjoyable) way.

It’s also a blatant relay of some of my experiences working at a library in the past. Whether it was the cute white haired lady who checked out mountains of “bodice-rippers” or stories of romance, sex, and violence that I read in the microfilm reels of my local newspaper, the library was and is a well of human experience. Sexuality is part of that experience I wanted to bring forth.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Booked is an #ownvoices novel, meaning that you, like your protagonist, Nate, share certain elements in common, such as having nerve damage. Can you share how your experiences with nerve damage relate to Nate’s, and why the ownvoices element is important to you, and to readers?

LEANDRA VANE: I used to think I shouldn’t write about disability in my fiction because people would call me a self-absorbed “Mary Sue.” But I learned that most of us carry around shame and never grow because we guard our secrets and experiences from each other. I believe by sharing our stories we can all learn and grow together. So I started mining the experiences living with a disability has given me and putting them into some of my stories. All my life I’ve turned to books to have the conversations with me that people in the real world were unwilling or unable to have. So I encourage all writers to share their experiences. You don’t have to be disabled to learn things from disabled characters. And if you do share the experience of disability, there might be pieces of your own puzzle you find in the story. So now I don’t shy away from writing about disability in my fiction.

As for Nate and I, one of the most amazing things I’ve found in experimenting and playing with BDSM scenes is how I experience sensation play and pain when I literally cannot feel over half my body. Exploring this through another character was not only fun but nurturing to me in validating my experience of sex.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Along the same lines, James has to overcome some of his preconceived ideas about BDSM as he learns what it’s like in real life for Nate and Charlotte. Did you have any stereotypes or misconceptions about BDSM that you had to unpack when you started getting involved with it?

LEANDRA VANE: I had always viewed my kinks as a “dirty little secret.” This bit of my soul I kept wrapped up in a shoe box in a dark corner that I only took out every once in a while. I thought if I let it out my whole identity would be dictated by the fact that I was a fetishist who had kinky thoughts.

Becoming involved with the BDSM community and the fantastically supportive world of erotica writers has changed all of that. Imagine, well-rounded, kind, creative people who are also kinky as fuck. Amazing!

I believed in a stereotype that if you’re kinky, it infiltrates every part of your life until you’re just a sex-crazed drone intent on only one thing no matter who you hurt to get it. (Did I mention earlier I was surrounded by a lot of sex negativity growing up? Yeaaahhh.) But now I know the complexity and deeply human aspects of kink and BDSM and I’ve brought it into my life in a healthy way, embracing my kinks and unleashing my creativity as an erotica writer.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: You self-published Booked, as well as several other books, such as your memoir Trophy Wife and fiction A Bloom in Cursive and Cast From the Earth. Why did you choose self-publishing, and do you have any advice for new authors looking into self-publishing?

LEANDRA VANE: I honestly chose self-publishing because of the combination of things I write about. BDSM/Multiple pairing and disability? Yeah, that’s probably a Venn Diagram not many publishers want to see in a pitch. But just because there aren’t oodles of people wanting to read what I write, they are out there. I’m more interested in getting my work to the readers that need to read it or appreciate it the most rather than going the traditional route right now. And I’ve found the small or independent publishers that publish really unique erotica anthologies are a great fit for my work and are the stories I want to consume as a reader. I’ve found a wonderful home for my work this way and I love it.

Of course this did not happen overnight. Before I became a sex writer, I published books under two different pen names, submitted work to lots and lots of lit journals, and launched and folded two blogs. My books and stories were half-baked and my platform was unorganized. I made mistakes. But I learned from them.

As far as advice, I would say work on becoming a better writer first and foremost. Don’t focus on things like awards or accolades. Read, read, read then write, write, write. Find a book that makes you think “how can I make readers feel the same way as I did when I read that last word?” Practice.

Also, even if you self-publish some work, do submit stories to outside publishers. It helps you network, keeps you writing, and builds your CV. It also gives you practice for coping with the business of writing when your work is declined (and it will be declined). But write new things. Try again. Listen to feedback.

Finally, I say this as a joke, but really, you might also want to convert to Buddhism. Your ego is your worst enemy once you start putting work out there. Managing it well will help along the way.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: This week we’re celebrating luck here at Lady Smut in honor of the release of Lucky by Elizabeth SaFleur. Does luck play a role in Booked for any of the characters?

LEANDRA VANE: Every time I pick up an erotica book or write a sex scene, I truly feel lucky to be living in a time and place where we can read and write about sex and relationships. A little over 100 years ago things like the Comstock laws prohibited the sending and receiving of “obscene” materials including books and sex education writing. So I feel lucky to be living in a time and place where technology allows me to not just write but also self-publish my work.

My characters comment in places how lucky they feel to have met each other. Also, there is an historical undertone of the small town they live in with buildings from the 1800’s and the tragic stories of people that lived before them. My characters definitely feel lucky that they were able to work through their kinks in time to still have plenty of life left to enjoy them.

Booked by Leandra Vane is available now in print and as an ebook.

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This post is part of our Lucky week at Lady Smut, celebrating the release of the latest Elite Doms of Washington erotic romance novel, Lucky, by Elizabeth SaFleur! If you like hot , hunky dominant heroes, you don’t want to miss this book.

Lucky by Elizabeth SaFleur

Billionaire, entertainment investor and resolute bachelor Derek Damon Wright and dance studio owner Samantha Rose are unprepared for their mutual attraction to one another. She desperately wants to have a baby, and family doesn’t match Derek’s sophisticated life of private jets, vacations in the Caribbean and his BDSM activities. Yet a magnetic passion draws them closer—at least until their past mistakes arise and threaten all hope of a real future.

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com. You can follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.

Sexy Saturday Round-Up

31 Jan

By Liz Everly and the Lady Smut Bloggers

LS Fb squareHello Sexy! Hope your weekend is going well and that you have some time to catch up on some reading. The lady smut bloggers have been searching the Internets to find the perfect blog posts for your reading. This week, we’re covering virtual sex, penises in fashion, and, um, the codpiece memo.

Enjoy!

From Liz:

Should Doing Porn Ruin Your Life?

Authors: Thinking of a BookBub promotion? Check this out.

Virtual sex? Yep.

Sonali Dev has a diverse-authentic ah-ha moment. Much to think about here. 

From Elizabeth:

Deciding Fashion Week needed some shaking up, designer Rick Owens figured penises were the way to do it.

What we need to know about self publishing in 2015.

Getting ready for the big game this weekend? Then you better know the top studs from each team.

Some people just don’t get it. An Australian newspaper leads its obituary on celebrated author Colleen McCullough by calling her “plain” and “overweight.” Real class act.

What’s a little cold weather to stop you from having outdoor sex? Here are some tips for getting hot in the cold.

From Madeline:

As a big fan of WOLF HALL, I’ve learned the TV series has had to deal with some sensitive issues from Henry VIII’s reign. I bring you The codpiece memo.

A Daily Show reporter freaks out over people who have a mixed relationship.

The scandalous (and LONG) history of sex ed movies.

Oh no they didn’t! California’s new rape laws spring into action after two bicyclists save an unconscious woman from being raped by Stanford student on the swim team.

From Alexa:

I love the wise-ass Valentine’s Day cards.

It’s still cold outside. Are you looking for a blizzard boo?

If you’ve got a little while, why not listen to Ann Mayburn and Kallypso Masters drop some knowledge at Marshall University about erotic romance, BDSM, and feminism?

 

Stay Hungry,

Liz

 

 

Revisiting: Lusty Wenches and Hawt Spies–Loving the Historical

14 May
Photo by Alaska Dude

Photo by Alaska Dude

By Liz Everly

Note: This blog post is a reblog of one that I wrote some time ago. I’m running it again because I’m celebrating the fact that the historical romance I wrote has now found a home with Tirgearr Publishing. It turns out the Kemberlee Shortland, one of the owners of the company loves this time period in history as much as I do. You just never know, do you?  I’m thrilled to share this news with you. Please stay tuned for more details as they come along.

I’ve been thinking about historical romances ever since I read that Dear Author post about the death of them. Also, I sat in on the Shindig historical romance panel that included the RITA nominees. The Dear Author post was a topic of conversation.

I adore historicals. I wrote one several years ago and it’s one of my favorite books I’ve ever written—even if it’s never been sold. So many of us have books like this, don’t we? Books that we loved writing but just have not found a home yet?

A little about my own homeless historical

“Tempting Will McGlashen” is set in 1765 in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. This was the frontier. Roads were being blazed out of old Native American trails. People were seeking opportunity for more land at cheaper prices came to the Valley, mostly from Pennsylvania, which was becoming crowded and expensive.

Photo by OZinOH

Photo by OZinOH

My heroine is an innkeeper’s daughter and my hero a blacksmith that comes to work for her father. Both my agent and my current editor loved the book, but he could not get the rest of his committee on board. The main reason was that the time period and the place are just not easy to sell. (And would be even harder with a first time novelist.)

I’ve thought about self-publishing it—and I probably will at some point. But right now, I don’t have the time. (Kudos to those who can do it and do it well.) I’m writing two series and several blogs, and do have a life. (Imagine that.) But it’s a project that is very near and dear to my heart. I loved the research and the writing. And I keep the thought of doing something else with it tucked back in my mind.IMG_0269.JPG (1)

Mathilde, the innkeeper’s daughter , is second generation of German descent. She’s 20-years-old, loves to cook, and converse with the travelers who eat and stay at their “ordinary,” which is what inns were called in Virginia then. Oneof the reasons I set the book at in and ordinary is I wanted her to meet many people. She has a lively mind and when her father mentions that it’s time to consider marriage to a young man who owns a farm in Pa., she balks. She doesn’t want to be tucked away on a farm, and she can’t imagine marrying Joshua. But she tries to consider him because she’s a dutiful daughter. She goes along with her father up until a certain point.

In walks Will McClashen, fresh from Scotland, whose voice “sounds like song” and makes Mathilde’s heart race. Will has a few secrets of his own and knows that acting on this heated attraction with Mathilde might put his new job (and new life) in jeopardy with his new boss, her father. Where he comes from, marrying outside of your class is not done. And besides, as far as he knows,  Mathilde is going to marry Josh. So even though he has a burning desire for her, she is off-limits. Or so he thinks.

A little about the tension therein

Is there anything worse than wanting a lover you can’t have for whatever reason?

Photo by Happyhippysnacks

Photo by Happyhippysnacks

This kind of plot is not unique—feeling love and attraction for someone that society deems unacceptable. This convention exists is many, many romances. What makes each story unique is the setting and circumstances along with the characters, complete with their own foibles and quirks. And of course, the narrative the author place over that “structure.”

This scenario is even popular in contemporary romances. Think about  the colleagues who should not have an affair, or the boss and employee, and yes there’s definitely still “class” lines drawn in the sand, especially in other cultures. And let’s not forget the multicultural taboos. But all of those lines are more sharply dawn in historicals. And I wonder if that’s one of our fascinations with them. We also love history coming alive, imagining ourselves back then, how would we have reacted? What would we wear? What station of life would we be in? Would we be one of those who went against convention or would we have the courage to walk our own paths?

I think that good historical romance writers are some of the best writers. Think about it. Not only must they be accurate in the historical manner, but they also must bring some kind of modern sensibility to their storytelling or today’s reader could not relate. Achieving that balance in an artistic, yet readable  fashion is not easily done.

What do you think about historicals? Are they dying?

Spicy Hot! – A Q&A With Erotic Romance Author Keta Diablo

24 Apr

His aloneI’m so excited to have as my guest today award-winning, multi-published author Keta Diablo. Keta writes historical, paranormal, and gay fiction. Today she shares with us her sources of inspiration, her thoughts on self publishing, and why she feels complimented that her characters have been called “politically incorrect.” 

ELIZABETH SHORE: Welcome, Keta! We’re so happy to have you with us today. To start off the questions, let’s talk about your writing. I admire how prolific you are and even more so because you write successfully in three different genres – paranormal, historical, and gay fiction. Makes my head spin! How do you keep them all straight, and what inspires you to write in one genre versus another?

KETA DIABLO: First, thank you for hosting me Lady Smut. Happy to be here.  I really don’t Where the rain is madewrite in that many genres. Most of the time, I write historical romance and often add paranormal elements. For instance, Where The Rain Is Made is a historical novel with paranormal elements of raven shifters and time travel.   The same with Decadent Deceptions, which is a historical novel with romantic suspense and mystery elements. (Decadent Deceptions on Kindle here: http://amzn.to/109E4WI ).  And again, Sojourn With a Stranger, a Gothic historical novel with ghosts and voodoo (here on Kindle: http://amzn.to/15cDs3l ). I could list more of my historical novels, but I think you get the picture. My books are heavily slanted toward historical.

The sin eater's princeWhen it comes to writing gay fiction, again I prefer historical novels such as The Sin Eater’s Prince, a vampire/werewolf novel (more information here on Kindle:  http://amzn.to/YFGDg9 ) But I have, on occasion, written contemporary gay fiction (Crossroads series, four novellas). I seldom read contemporary fiction whether it’s GLBT or heterosexual because I’m not overly fond of it. Like most authors, we tend to write what we enjoy reading.

You asked about that inspires me to write in one genre versus the other. I’m inspired by dreams and often articles on the Internet (think historical true-life stories).  I do watch trends in the market, but seldom write according to ‘what’s hot right now.’ We all know how popular YA books have been in the last year or so, yet I’ve yet to write in that genre. A new genre taking hold is the ‘baby boomer’ books, and again, I don’t see myself writing in that genre. While I think trends matter when it comes to sales, I probably wouldn’t write in a genre I know nothing about or wouldn’t care to research. I have to like the time period I’m writing about most of the time and I don’t find the present all that interesting (lol).

ELIZABETH: I also find it interesting that you’ve chosen to have all of your books, no matter the genre, published under Keta Diablo. Could you talk about why you don’t use a different name for your various genres.

KETA: You find it interesting? Is that the same as strange? (another laugh). Rather, more like I find it strange authors use different names for genres and have often wondered why they go to all that trouble? It’s a lot of work to maintain multiple web sites, blogs and separate author names. And, of course, I wonder if that isn’t placing writers in a box. I mean, we keep hearing it’s “All About the Story” right? Why can’t an author who writes adult urban fantasy also write YA? If he/she is a good story teller and/or a good writer, why would they want a different name for every genre they write?  Readers already know her as Jane Doe so doesn’t it make sense if they switch genres, readers will buy Jane Doe’s new urban fantasy? That’s one great thing about self-publishing: many of the boundaries and restrictions made and instituted by publishing houses/agents/editors have been breached. I say, “It’s about time.”

ELIZABETH: Hear hear! I agree wholeheartedly. And speaking of self publishing leads me right to my next question. You’ve been published by several different publishers, but I know you’re proud to publish independently as well. Why has it been important for you to go the independent route?

KETA: Oh, gosh, you should read the posts on several of the self-publishing forums I belong to. Traditional authors are leaving publishing houses by droves and their reasons all fall into the same categories, i.e., low royalties, poor record-keeping, restrictions on cover art, blurbs, content and heavily-weighted contracts slanted toward publishers. Many authors say there were expected to write formulaic romance – you know, boy meets girl, boy and girl fight, boy and girl make up and live happily-ever-after. Boring, boring, and thank goodness writers have found the courage to go it alone without all the restrictions and expectations that have been in place for decades. If you think about it, the large publishing houses have controlled what people read for years. They decided what books and authors to publish. Now with self-publishing, readers are choosing what they want to read. Again, it’s about time. I’m not against all publishers. Some are legitimate and supportive, but of course, they all want a large cut of your royalties – most of the time more than what the author makes. Until they bring royalty rates up to at least 50-50, I don’t see myself not self-pubbing. I have been solicited by a reputable NY agent to write a sequel to one of my books. I’d have to think long and hard before doing that – weigh the good with the bad, the benefits with the negatives before I proceeded down that road.

ELIZABETH: Your books are deliciously spicy hot, but then you throw me for a curve and recently publish Sky Tinted Water, a sweet romance. What gives? Is Keta Diablo cooling off?Sky Tinted Water

KETA: Cooling off? As in heat level? Not at all. I wrote Sky Tinted Water (more information here: http://amzn.to/15eANpB ) several years ago. I never saw the book as erotic while I was writing or pictured the characters as hot and steamy during the scenes. Not that they don’t have sex, they do, but sex doesn’t have to be explicit in order for the story to be compelling. If it’s truly about ‘the story’ then descriptive sex isn’t always needed. I like to think the plot or story line carries most of the weight in a novel. Sex scenes are an added bonus, but not needed in every book. Some readers love erotica and erotic romance, while others frequently say they skip over all the sex scenes and care more about the character’s journey.  Again, if one writes to please the market, you’re doing your readers a disservice. I write the characters the way I see them in my head, with flaws and warts, however I see them. Most of the time that includes hot sex, but there’s nothing wrong with leaving sex out of the story. One reviewer once said, “Diablo loves to write the politically incorrect characters.” I take that as a compliment. I don’t write with the idea in mind that readers MUST fall in love with my characters. Many they won’t like, and again, I take that as a sign of doing my job. Writing cookie-cutter characters is not real life or realistic. Humans are not all gorgeous and perfect so why should we try to make them that way in every book? I mean this is fiction, but not dream-world fiction. Getting back to Sky Tinted Water, the book was lengthy at 110,000 words so I split it in two. The sequel SKY DANCE will be out by June, sans sex scenes.

CrossroadsELIZABETH: Fantastic! We’ll look forward to that for sure. Moving on, I’d like to talk about your gay fiction series, Crossroads, which has garnered a lot of positive acclaim and reviews. Your main hero, Frank McGuire, is one tough alpha male but he’s sure got a soft spot for his lover, Rand. I imagine it’s been a fascinating journey for you as a writer to grow with these characters.

KETA: I had enormous fun writing about Frank (talk about a jerk) and Rand. These were some of my early books into the world of gay fiction. Frank is one of those characters I alluded to above – he’s an ex-cop with a lot of baggage, including a bad attitude. Frank is not likeable in the first novella and that was no accident on my part. The point is, Frank is not a hopeless case. He is redeemable and changes and grows by the end of the series through his relationship with Rand. I wrote Frank as I saw him with a chip on his shoulder and a few fetishes tucked into his pocket. I knew he would be a very controversial character, and I love him to death, major faults included.

ELIZABETH: It really does make him an incredibly memorable and fascinating character. In addition to all the positive reviews for the series, some readers objected to the non-consensual sex element in Book 1. I’d love your comment on that.

KETA: Oh, yes, well nothing we can do about people taking objection to a book or a character. Number one, there is an enormous warning (in red) on all the Crossroad novellas stating: EXPLICIT SEX AND LANGUAGE. I don’t know what more I can do to alert readers the books walk on the raw side. Second, I have to chuckle at all the controversy over the “non-consensual sex.” Good grief – can we say double standard? In my early teens, I gobbled up Rosemary Rogers’ and Kathleen Woodiwiss’ bodice rippers like millions of other women. They aren’t called bodice rippers for nothing. We’re talking rape in every book, i.e., The Wolf and the Dove, The Flame and the Flower, Sweet Savage Love and all the sequels to SSL. Why weren’t these people calling foul then? Non-consensual sex has been predominant in books for decades and suddenly people are offended? I don’t get it. Third, some people think when authors write about taboo topics that means the author approves or condones that conduct. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can’t speak for other writers, but again, I write the characters as I see them. And, I’m sorry, but with Frank’s tragic background and his long-time passion for Rand what did people think they’d do in the book – shake hands?  Bad things happen in life, including non-consensual sex. Should we pretend they don’t? People have many facets to their persona, not all are admirable. Does that mean they don’t have good qualities too? My advice to those who are easily offended is to read the warnings that come with books. If you are at all squeamish about these things, don’t purchase the book.

I learned long ago authors will never please everyone, no matter what they write or how they construct their characters — the book is too short, the book is too long, the characters are boring, the characters do unacceptable things, there’s too much sex, there isn’t enough sex. I love my readers and have been extremely lucky (as you mentioned) with reviewers, but in all honesty, I have to write for me. If I don’t, I’ll go nuts. I seldom read my reviews and most certainly don’t search for them. I do get notified by review sites when they’ve written a review and I’m profoundly thankful and grateful that many like my books. But if they don’t, they don’t and I can’t change that.

ELIZABETH: I love your candor and honesty so thank you for that, Keta. Finally, what do we have to look forward to next from you?

KETA: Thank you for asking. HIS ALONE was just released, proof Keta Diablo hasn’t cooled off. It’s a hot, sizzling novella available on Kindle, Nook and Kobo.  I’m working on a historical/paranormal called BREATH OF LIGHT and an erotic romance series in the western historical genre. Follow my blog if you’d like to know when they release: http://ketaskeep.blogspot.com

And again, thanks for hosting me, Lady Smut!

ELIZABETH: Such a pleasure having you. Thanks, Keta. 🙂

Sexy Saturday Blog Round-up

8 Sep

Photo by Dollen

I love the Internet, don’t you? Here’s a round-up of some of my favorite blog posts from this week. All are pertaining to romance writing or the industry. Enjoy!

A fabulous post from Smart Bitches on Fifty Shades of Grey and how it’s affecting romance publishing.

Does reading romance novels help marriage? Amber Belldene thinks so.

Ms. Deanna Raybourn on self-pubbing. A voice of reason.

Romance Divas and an interesting take on being a working writer.

On Longing—the magic that makes romance work.

One for the historical romance lovers. Fascinating stuff  at One Handed Writers.

One just for fun. I have a bit of a crush on this man. We’ve never met. He has no idea I exist. But read his stuff, you’ll know why I adore him.

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