Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Xtina Dodd says BONDAGE MAKES THE HEART GROW FONDER
Nevertheless, every reviewer mentions bondage in a jump-up-and-down, this-is-fun sort of way, so I thought — let’s talk about our favorite bondage books!
The ones that popped to my mind were: the Dara Joy book MINE TO TAKE. Isn’t that the best cover? Nothing beats a naked guy chained to the wall, especially a gorgeous naked guy. If I recall correctly, the whole plot was predicated on her releasing him if he would have sex with her while he was chained so she could refuse to marry the bad guy. Did you follow that? At the time, it made sense to me, but my brain steams up when I think about it.
There was the Johanna Lindsey book PRISONER OF MY DESIRE. The heroine has to get pregnant and avails herself of a very angry, very handsome (of course), very tied-up man. Very provocative and great fun. She rapes him. He rapes her. A good time is had by all.
When asked, Susan Elizabeth Phillips suggested, “UNTAMED by Elizabeth Lowell. The hero put some kind of bells on the heroine — very odd and very sexy.”
Jayne Ann Krentz said, “Bondage books? Any good list of books has to start with THE SHEIK by E. M. Hull. There's no actual tying up, just domination, but we do get whips and stuff. And then there's Angela Knight's MERCENARIES (Berkley Sensation). Lots of bondage in that anthology. But probably my favorite all-time semi-bondage book is Anne McCaffrey's RING OF FEAR. Great politically incorrect sex scene and I think someone gets spanked.”
I checked in with Squawkers and asked, “What are your favorite bondage books?” And do you know what I got back???
From Geralyn Dawson: “I had bondage in my harem honeymoon scene in HER SCOUNDREL. She ties him up.”
From Teresa Medeiros: “There's a VERY sexy scene at the beginning of THIEF OF HEARTS where Lucy is tied up after being taken captive by my pirate. No actual sex or even foreplay but it's still a very hot scene. And in A WHISPER OF ROSES, she makes Morgan hold onto ribbons tied to the bedposts while she ‘ravishes’ him.” (Interesting … both books are by Teresa Medeiros.)
From Elizabeth Bevarly: “I did a scene in BRIDE OF THE BAD BOY where the hero, whom the heroine thinks is a mobster, ties her to a chair with the sash of her bathrobe and gropes her. That was fun.”
From Connie Brockway: “ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT — that steamy sexy classic where she masturbates him after she ties him up. THE BED IS UNMADE — that steamy sexy classic anthology story in ONE UPON A PILLOW where the heroine ties the hero to the bed.” (In case it’s not clear, Connie Brockway wrote both stories.)
From Lisa Kleypas: “WORTH ANY PRICE, moi's Rita book, when Nick is feeling out-of-control because he is falling helplessly in love with the heroine, he comes to her in the middle of the night and ties her up and . . . oh, it was fun writing that!”
Eloisa James was the sole holdout and when asked if she had written a bondage book, she said, “Not yet.”
All I could think was — wow. My friends are a bunch of perverts.
But as I said, in THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS, Princess Amy kidnaps Jermyn Edmondson, marquess of Northcliff and chains him to the wall in her basement and demands a sizeable ransom from Jermyn’s uncle. It’s a simple plan, destined to succeed. Except Uncle Harrison is Jermyn’s heir and he would be delighted if someone killed his nephew and left him with the title and fortune, and it seems that Jermyn is handsome, arrogant and a little cranky with Amy for manacling him. So there is no sexual bondage in THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS.
At least … not at first.
So me and my perverted friends want to know — do you like bondage books? Do you think they cross the line into icky? (That’s okay! Everyone has their right to their own tastes … so to speak!) If you like them, what are your favorite bondage books? Your least favorite? And why?
Monday, January 30, 2006
EVERYBODY LIKES MIKE!
We've always said an assocation with the Squawkers can only do great things for an author's career and Mike Spradlin is living proof of that. Only a week after appearing on Squawk Radio as a guest blogger, his first young adult novel SPY GODDESS: LIVE AND LET SHOP has been nominated for an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America for Best Young Adult Novel. Way to make us look good, Mike! (Oh, yeah, and CONGRATULATIONS from all your friends at Squawk Radio!)
Sunday, January 29, 2006
A Delicate Matter
A little “situation” has arisen here on the home front. It’s a delicate matter. Nothing life threatening, nothing earth-shattering, just one of those little social problems that crop up now and again which need to be handled with a bit more tact or deceitfulness or subterfuge or honesty or something that I don’t have enough of. So, of course, I brought this problem to the attention of the squawkers who, after much discussion and head-scratching and failure to reach a quorum, decided to dump it in your collective laps, suggesting, “Why don’t you ask the people on our blog?”
So, for your consideration
THE SQUAWK CRISIS DU JOUR
Here’s the situation: I have a friend who has a wonderful male friend who has been widowed for three years (and before you roll your eyes and say, “oh, sure, Connie!” honest! This really isn’t about anyone I know. I would SO get busted if I wrote about someone publicly! It’s my fate: "Connie must Never Get Away with Anything." And becasue I am so paranoid-- I have manipulated the story a bit!) Anyway, this guy's allegedly a real sweetheart, an intelligent, down-to-earth gentleman, soft-spoken, well-mannered and, looks-wise, pretty conservative.
This friend also has a female friend who she’s known since college who is kind, smart, generous and fun. Even better her two friends share many of the same values and interests and likes. Of course, my friend thinks they should date!
"So what’s the problem, Connie?"
My friend’s female friend. While at work she dresses in a refined, even elegant, manner but when she get ready for a date her body is suddenly possessed by the spirit of a Britney Spears wannabe which freaks my friend out. Because "Being Britney" might be okay if you're 24—but she’s 48. She apparently plies on heavy, neon blue eye make-up with a trowel and wears her daughter’s spangled tube top. (No, I didn’t ask how much she weighs. Want to...didn’t. One of the few times discretion won. Yeah, me!)
Now, my friend claims these two belong together, but they don’t stand a chance because of that all important first impression. She is afraid her male friend would take one look at her female friend and go into mental lock-down. And this is sad and unhappy because her girlfriend’s "date appearance" doesn't represent who she is at all.
So, the question she posed me, and which I posed the squawkers, and which we now in turn pose you, is this: What’d ya do?! Do you say something to the woman? How? Do you fix up the blind date and say something to the man beforehand? Do you fix up a blind date and say nothing? Do you forget the whole thing? Is there another option?
My steno pad at ready. Teach me, Obi Wan(s). You’re their only hope!
ELOISA THINKING ABOUT GIRLFRIENDS
I don't know about the rest of you, but I don't have one circle of friends, I have several. I have the Squawkers (at a dinner, above, but missing Lisa). And then I have my roommates from university (we still talk every week). And I have a group of Shakespeareans--all women--who meet at Shakespeare conferences and drink a lot of wine, just like the Squawkers, now I think about it.
In Angry Housewives, the friends have a book club, and they meet once a month for thirty years to discuss a book. We Squawkers are a little less intellectual. We bicker (a little), we offer unconditional support (some of the time), we talk about husbands/partners/sex/work (some), we talk about sex/clothes/makeup/exercise/weight (a bit more), we talk about publishing (a lot). We almost never talk about friendship and love, because it's a given.
So I thought I'd stick this up on a Sunday. LET'S CELEBRATE GIRLFRIENDS! Who love us even when we're jealous of them. How cruel to have friends with no need to diet, husbands who love doing laundry, children who are never, ever held back a grade. And yet... and yet... we couldn't live without them!
Tell us about your friends -- how does you list compare to that of the Squawkers??
Saturday, January 28, 2006
TERESA POPS HER HEAD OUT OF THE DUNGEON TO BRING YOU SOME FINE EYE CANDY ON THIS SATURDAY MORNING...
I am in deep...well...deep deadline mode right now so I'm pretty much incoherent. Even though words have deserted me unless they pertain to the last few chapters of my manuscript, I can still look at pictures and go "Pretty!"
Which is pretty much just what I did when I found this pic that included two of my favorite things--George Clooney and a pug! Yes, this is a man who is so handsome that it's rumored he doesn't even have to wear make-up on the movie set.
If you don't like George, enjoy the pug!!!
Friday, January 27, 2006
DO THE SURVEY....THEN THINK ABOUT HARRY! (below the survey)
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Eloisa's Dreamin' of Harry
There's been a little flurry of information about J.K. Rowling lately, based on an interview she gave to a newspaper. A friend told me that J.K.'s mother had just died when she designed all of the Harry Potter books (as a writer that task is so phenominally unimaginable that I'm stunned).
But, as a writer, here's my question. She has one book left. How many mysterious questions are really just red herrings that will never be answered, and how many will be wrapped up on the final book?
For example (and I'm sure everyone has noticed more, but this is what's coming to mind for me):
Hermione's cat. There's something strange about that cat.
Aunt Petunia. Is there something magical about her as well, something that would blow open the whole "Muggle" sister set-up?
Isn't something going to happen with Luna? I thought she was set up to be more than just a minor hanger-on.
WHO'S GOT SOME OTHER MYSTERIES THAT I'M FORGETTING?
MIKE SPRADLIN SAYS, "I’M NOT AN EXPERT, AND I DON’T PLAY ONE ON TV. BUT HERE IS WHAT I KNOW ABOUT ‘HOW GUYS THINK’."
I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what I could bring to the table when the goddesses of the blog here asked me to guest squawk about how “guys think.” Talk about a broad subject. No pun intended. Entire books and numerous talk shows have been devoted to this topic. I don’t claim to be an expert on any of this stuff. And since I obviously can’t speak for all guys I thought I might just tell you a few things I’ve learned.
I wouldn’t say they are earth shattering, or even all that profound. After all, it’s no secret that men and women are different. Vive la difference! Maybe it comes from my own experience growing up with a mom and two older sisters and being surrounded by fiercely independent women from a very early age. My Dad, rest his soul, when he wasn’t yelling at me to clean my room and mow the lawn, was a World War II generation quiet type.
So I was mostly raised by women. And now that my son is off at college, estrogen outnumbers testosterone in our house by 2-1. 3-1 if you count the dog. And I do. I think almost 24 years of marriage teaches you a few things. So here goes. Buckle up while we go deep inside the mind of a guy…
I have learned that there are three very important words that must be at the foundation of every good relationship and those words are: I was wrong. (Face it. You all thought I was going to say I love you! Psyche!)
I have learned that the amount of ironing I do is directly proportional to the amount of football I’m allowed to watch.
I have learned that it doesn’t make you less of a man if you stop and ask directions. (Although, with Mapquest and on board GPS we as a society are losing the ability to drive anywhere without help).
I have learned that most men are not good at multi-tasking. I do not know why that is. Some scientists have said it’s because men’s brains are hard wired differently through thousands of years of evolution. Men went out into the woods to get meat and had to have a single minded focus to avoid starvation. While female brains were hard wired for multi-tasking. While the man was out hunting, the women were minding the children, gathering the berries, planting the crops, balancing the checkbook and watching for predators all at the same time. This may be true, but I also think it has something to do with men wanting to avoid having to help with the laundry.
I have a theory that American football is a metaphor for the historical settlement of this continent. American football began its rise to prominence in the late 1890’s just as the American frontier was finally settled. With no more mountains to climb or lands to conquer, men turned to conquering the gridiron. I’m very serious about this. As George Carlin said: Football is territorial acquisition through the use of controlled violence. How was America settled? Territorial acquisition through the use of controlled violence.
I have learned that white chocolate is not chocolate. White chocolate is an abomination.
I have learned that Hell hath no fury like a fourteen year old girl denied hair products.
I have just recently learned that my 20 year old son is going to Greece this summer for his study abroad program. Out of the 24 students in his group, 23 are women. Why did they not have programs like this, when I was in college?
I have learned that being a stay at home parent is, hands down, the hardest job there is. Raising children is no day at the beach, and certainly not all parents are able to stay at home with their kids, but for those that make it work the payoff is spectacular.
I have learned that life and especially romance is not like it’s portrayed in the movies. I have found that the true meaning of for better or for worse lies not in the grand romantic gesture, but in the everyday things. A supportive pat on the back. Turning on the coffee pot in the morning when you don’t even drink coffee. Your wife quietly replacing the tie you’ve picked out with one that better matches your suit when you’re packing for a business trip. The rare moments when the kids are asleep and the two of you can just revel in the quiet of your home. Of those things, good marriages are made.
I have learned that most marriages work best when the man is just a little bit afraid of his wife.
I have learned that most women on average are smarter about life, relationships and people. Call it women’s intuition or whatever you want. I think smart men realize this and take advantage of these qualities in their spouses.
I have learned that it makes me angry to see the way that most husbands and fathers are portrayed on TV and in the movies. In 90% of the movies and TV shows out there the husband/father is a liar, cheat, and a general all around louse. Where are the portrayals of the husbands and father’s who love their wives, adore their children and go to work every day and do the best they can to help support their families? I can name about 50 guys like that that I know, but I couldn’t name five on TV. Maybe the ‘regular guys’ just don’t make good drama.
I have learned that it is very hard to raise children but in my opinion it is much harder raising girls in this day and age than boys. Maybe that’s the father-daughter thing versus the father-son thing. I love both my children equally, but I have worries about my daughter that I just don’t have about my son. We live in a world where my daughter is four times more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than my son. That keeps me up nights. Still, despite the sleepless nights, I wouldn’t trade her for anything. Or him.
I have learned that very few men have been as lucky in finding their soul mate as I have.
I have learned that every time I think I have a greater understanding of women, I find out I was wrong to think that.
I would love to know what you have learned about these things…do you have any of your own secrets about how women think to share?
Thank you all for reading and responding to my postings here this week. It has been a blast. Thanks to Christina, Terri, Connie, Liz, Lisa, Eloisa and Susan (that would be the legendary Susan Elizabeth Phillips who suggested to the Squawkers that I be a Guest Blogger) and all the divas of Squawk Radio for this opportunity. I’m richer for having known all of you. I hope I can come back sometime…
This is The Romance Guy signing off and wishing love and happiness to all of you…
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Q. What do you tell authors when they ask you how they can improve their sales?
I get asked that question all the time by writers and my answer is always the same: write the best book you can every time. It’s not meant to be patronizing and it’s not me dodging the question. I firmly believe in the ‘if you build it they will come’ theory of writing. If you strive to perfect your craft, if each time you do every thing you can to write the very best book that you have inside you, then the readers will find you.
Everyone knows two things about romance readers--they buy and read a lot of books and they tell their friends what they like. Especially now in the age of the internet. If you are writing a great book each time, then readers are going to find you. It’s just math. There are no gimmicks. There are no shortcuts. There are no secrets. Don’t chase trends. Write good stories with great characters and you’ll succeed. It may take a while, but like Stephen King said (and I’m paraphrasing) “they built the Great Wall of China one brick at a time, but today you can see that sucker from outer space.” Easier said than done, I know.
There are certain basic things that I think every writer should do. One is to have a web-site. They don’t cost that much and they can do a lot to spread the word about you and your book. The next thing is, build a regular snail mail mailing list and keep it up to date. When your new book comes out, send out a postcard to everyone on your mailing list. If you have a computer and a printer you can go to Office Depot or Staples and by a pack of computer postcards and make your own in about 15 minutes. (Important disclaimer: For all that is holy, I would like to state here for the record, that it is my lovely wife who makes all of my promotional material because she is the most loving and supportive wife in the history of wives. I’m helpless at that stuff). Mail them to everyone on your list the week before your book comes out. Friends, family, your insurance agent everyone. Postcards only cost $.23 to mail and mail still has impact on people.
The idea is that even if you send a postcard to your Mom and she sticks it up on her refrigerator like the proud mama she is, everyone that comes to her house is going to see it. People will talk about it. Some of those people will buy it.
Write a note and your own press release and send a copy of your book to all the local newspapers and television and radio stations, even the big daily metropolitan papers. Look on their website and find the name of the book editor and the features editor and send it to them. Burn your book cover and author photo and press release onto a CD and send that as well. Again, all of this can be done in a few hours at your computer. Local media outlets are always looking for local interest stories and most papers have a web-site. Once you’re in the paper you’re on the web-site and then you’re in search engines and that’s all good. You never know what is going to happen and if your book lands on a reporter's desk during a slow news week, boom, you’ve got a feature.
Lastly if you’re published at Avon, make sure you’re encouraging readers to sign up for Author Tracker. It’s an amazingly efficient way for readers to learn about your new book.
Again, it takes a little time and effort on your part to do some of these things, but it pays dividends.
Q. Aside from Romance what other types of books do you sell and what are you most excited about on your upcoming list?
I sell pretty much everything. Mystery, Science Fiction, non-fiction, audio books, whatever ends up on our list.
As for the books I’m excited about, one is The Fallen coming from T. Jefferson Parker next month. I think Jeff is the best thriller writer working today. In fact, if you’re a writer and you want to learn how to create three dimensional, tragic and flawed heroes, then this is somebody you must read. Almost every one of Jeff’s books is a stand-alone thriller, yet each time out he’s able to create these phenomenal, incredibly drawn characters. And just about every book of Jeff’s has a tragic and tender relationship between a man and a woman at the heart of it. Last year he won the Edgar Award for Best Novel for California Girl. I think he’s brilliant.
Then I would say in March to look for A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore. I fell in love with Chris’ work about 12 or so years ago when I read Coyote Blue. His books are hilarious, profound and oftentimes heartbreaking in a single sentence. One of my favorite reviews of Chris once said that “he’s like Carl Hiassen on acid!” He just this year won the Quill Award for The Stupidest Angel. These are wickedly funny novels and underneath the humor there is always an amazingly tender love story. (Sounds perfect for Romance fans!) With A Dirty Job I think he’s going to hit the big time.
Q. What it is it like to be one of the few men that attend the annual RWA convention?
I love RWA. We always send a fairly large contingent to RWA, especially from the sales department. Our romance authors are a vital part of our company. I always feel it’s important for the authors to know how glad we are to publish them and showing up at RWA each year to meet and support as many authors as I can is my small way of saying thanks to them.
The convention itself is a blast. I always like to talk to and be around people who are passionate about what they do and whether it’s writers or fans, RWA is full of passionate people. My first convention was in Anaheim in 1997 and I haven’t missed one since.I will say it can sometimes be hard to find a men’s room in the hotel!
Q. Are there men out there writing romance and if so why don’t men publish under their own names instead of a pen name?
Good question. There are a handful of men writing romance but most of them are published under a pen name. I’m not sure why. I think it would be a tricky thing for a publisher to try. By and large the consumer research tells us that the audience for romance is women by an overwhelming margin. If a man wrote a Regency historical romance, would the audience come to it? I don’t know the answer to that. I suppose if it was a really good book, then probably yes. But would the average romance reader in the stores pick up a romance written by “John Smith”? I think that is the question and I think it is hard for publishers to take that kind of risk. Publishing is a business and you really have to maximize your opportunities and sometimes that means you just have to play it safe.There have been male authors that have written some pretty terrific love stories. Nicholas Sparks and Erich Segal spring immediately to mind. But those books don’t actually follow the conventions of the romance genre as it is traditionally practiced. There’s no happy ending. The hero and the heroine don’t ride off into the sunset together.
Maybe someday there will be guy romance. Maybe I should start it? I have this idea….
Q. Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
There are a lot of things I’d like to know. I love to talk to and interact with actual readers. I’d like to know your reading habits. How many books a week do you read? Where to you shop for books? What is your favorite sub-genre in romance? Historical? Romantic Suspense? Paranormal? Tell me about you as a reader. That’d be neat.
And if you have any questions I haven’t answered I’ll try to answer as many as I can. Thanks for having me!
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN…LIVE FROM THE JUNGLE ROOM AT GRACELAND…IT’S THE ONE…THE ONLY…THE ORIGINAL…ROMANCE GUY…ANSWERING YOUR FAQ’S…
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your position at HarperCollins?
Sure. My name is Mike Spradlin. I’ve worked in the publishing business for almost twenty-five years. The last sixteen years I’ve worked for HarperCollins, starting first as a field rep covering Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Northern Kentucky and Western Pennsylvania. Currently my title is National Account Manger (a fancy name for sales rep) and I sell a group of the HarperCollins imprints.
Q. Can you tell us about the role of the sales rep at a publishing company?
Well, we’re sales people like in any industry only in this case our ‘wares’ are books. We have sales reps that sell to independent bookstores, mass-merchandisers and wholesalers, chain bookstores and special markets like museum shops and non-traditional book outlets. We are usually selling to our accounts about 6 months before the books are published. And we’re selling. Working with buyers at all of these accounts and trying to convince them to take generous quantities of our books at the expense of our competitors. It is a buyer-seller relationship, like in any other selling situation. We also have a role in working with the marketing managers at our accounts doing everything we can to get attention for our books in their stores. Then there are detail parts of the job, making sure that orders are received on time, handling shipping and inventory problems. The job is a little like one of those guys at the circus that has all the plates spinning in the air at one time.
Q. What do you enjoy most about selling romance?
I would have to say my favorite part of it is the authors. These are some pretty hardworking, dedicated writers. I’ve had the good fortune to help build the sales of some very special talents. I think that is the most fun thing for me. A lot of our romance authors have published with Avon from their very first book and now ship hundreds of thousands of copies and routinely make the New York Times list. While it’s the writer that has to do all the hard work in writing the book, it’s gratifying to play even a tiny role in their success.
Q. How involved in the publishing process is a sales rep?
Well in my case, it starts nearly a year before the book is published. We meet in New York to review each book before publication. We look at the author, her sales history, the cover direction, and all of the marketing opportunities. Then about six months before the book is published, I sit down with the buyer at my account. We talk about the same things. The track record of the author, what promotions we can put the book in, the placement opportunities. It’s really a collaborative effort and it takes a lot of preparation. Since books are returnable, we need to look closely at what we ship on each title. We try to make sure we have the right number of copies in the stores so that we don’t miss sales, but that we don’t over ship and create returns which are inefficient for everyone. It’s a little bit of art and a little bit of science.
Q. How much reading do you do for your job?
A lot. Mostly though, it’s reading segments of manuscripts to get a sense of a writer’s style. Luckily I’m a pretty voracious reader and can read fast. As I’ve gotten older, retention has become a problem but that’s an issue for another blog!
Q. What do you see happening in the market today for books in general and romance in particular?
I think the book market is in great shape. I’m not one of those doom and gloomers that think we’re in a dying industry. I’ve been in the business for almost 25 years and must have presided over the death of the book at least 10 times. First it was the VCR, then it was the internet, then it was ebooks, then it was Gen X’ers aren’t reading. Hooey! More books are being published and sold every year. If we are raising a generation of non-readers, then someone kindly explain Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket to me. Books are a much more intimate experience than music or DVD’s, which are passive forms of entertainment. Books are one of the few remaining sources of entertainment that require you to engage your mind.
We constantly hear that the industry is in a state of flux, book sales aren’t what they used to be etc. etc. But I think much of that is ‘if you say it enough, people start to believe it’. More books are being sold and published every year. How does that happen? The answer is that we as publishers have to be smart about what we publish, learn as much as we can about the consumer, and publish books that people want to buy. Easy as pie!
As for Romance, I think the marketplace is and continues to be very strong. I think Historical Romance is still the guts of the business and always will be. Some of the Contemporary Romance sub-genres are not as strong as they were a few years ago, but sub-genres come and go and rise and fall in popularity all the time. There will always be a place for well written Contemporary Romance, just like there will always be a place for a well-written Scottish Medieval. I think the rise in the popularity of paranormal romance is a good thing, because it’s bringing new readers to the genre and more people into stores. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Romance is a genre that continually reinvents itself. That is what any ‘business’ needs to do to survive and flourish.
Q. How much influence does the sales department have over book covers?
Well. That’s a loaded question. Somewhere between a little and a lot. We devote a lot of time in meetings to covers and discussions about covers. The reason for that is this; for 98% of the books that are published every year, the plain fact of the matter is that the cover is what is going to sell the book. It is the cover that draws the reader’s eye; it is the cover that convinces the bookseller to put the book face out. So I would say that we in sales are heavily involved in the cover process in the sense that we provide feedback to the editorial and marketing departments both from experience and from our customers. Book buyers for the most part are pretty good judges of the potential for covers. They see a ton of books cross their desks every day and they know what is working in the marketplace.
I would say in my experience that getting a finished cover onto a book is probably the most difficult part of the process. It’s such a personal thing that getting the author, the agents, the editors, the salespeople and the customers on the same page can be daunting. This entire industry is based on taste both in what we read and what we like to see on the cover. It’s hard to bring all those disparate opinions to a single consensus.
Having said that, I don’t think anybody does it better than Avon. Tom Enger, the art director at Avon never ceases to amaze me. I feel we do better covers than anyone. So I’m biased. Sue me.
TUNE IN THIS AFTERNOON FOR CHAPTER TWO OF MIKE'S INTERVIEW WHERE HE'LL SHARE WHAT AUTHOR PROMOTIONS HE FEELS ARE MOST EFFECTIVE, DESCRIBE THE PLEASURES AND PERILS OF BEING ONE OF THE FEW MEN AT THE NATIONAL ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA CONFERENCE, AND ASK YOU A FEW QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR READING HABITS!
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Here is my thing. I’ve written and had published three books now. I’m lucky enough to have two more in various stages of production. I’ve worked in the publishing business for nearly 25 years. During that time, it’s been my good fortune to work with and meet literally hundreds of writers. Artists every one of them. Some truly talented people. Pulitzer Prize winners and New York Times Bestsellers. You name it.
As a teenager, I must have read The Martian Chronicles 77 times and I’ve had the distinct honor of meeting Ray Bradbury twice. Anyone who knows me well will find it hard to believe when I say it was one of the rare times in my life I’ve been speechless. For a kid from a tiny little town in Michigan who grew up loving books, I’ve been pretty lucky to meet so many great authors.
Because I hold writers in such esteem, I think maybe that’s why I have a really hard time using that word to describe myself. You know. The W word. Okay…here goes…‘writer’. (If there are any fans of the TV show Happy Days out there, remember the episode where Fonzie had to tell Richie Cunningham that he was wrong? And he keeps going “I was wrrrr….I was wrrrrr….I was wrrrr”. It’s kind of like that).
Whenever I’m introduced anywhere as a writer I feel myself cringe. It’s almost like an out of body experience. I look around to make sure there isn’t some other Mike Spradlin standing in the room somewhere. A doppelganger. A long lost identical twin. Or that guy from the X-files that could shape shift into anybody (wasn’t he creepy?). I say to myself, ‘they can’t be talking about me!’ As in The Princess Bride I expect some old crone to jump out of the crowd and holler “Liar!” “Faker!” “Queen of Garbage!” That hasn’t actually happened yet, but it could!
But here it is, publication day for my new book SPY GODDESS: To Hawaii, With Love in hardcover and SPY GODDESS: Live and Let Shop in paperback. (Reasonably priced at only $5.99!) So now I guess I have to deal with it. I’m a wrrrr…
A few years ago, I wrote a picture book for kids called The Legend of Blue Jacket. It was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. I wanted to do more. But I quickly learned that almost harder than getting published, is getting published again. So it took me a while to come up with a saleable idea.
For many years I’d had this idea about a young adult series for kids. There would be this boarding school. Only the boarding school would secretly be a training school for spies. And that idea floated around in my head for a long time. I had read somewhere that you can’t actually have a novel until it has characters. And I didn’t have those yet. Details!
Then a couple of years ago my daughter Rachel was in the hospital recovering from a very serious (but not life-threatening) operation. I think there is something transitive and cathartic when you have a child going through something like this. My daughter, Rachel, is the toughest person I know. She deals with all of these health challenges that would cripple most adults. She attacks her months of physical therapy like a Navy Seal. And all of a sudden I had my character. Into my head popped the fictional alter-ego of my daughter. I think that wanting this book to be a gift to her; a permanent monument to her perseverance and indomitable spirit, is what finally got me to stop talking and thinking about it, and actually write it. She gave me a character that, even when life isn’t going her way, and a challenge arises, always sees it through to the end. It’s funny how children are. All the time you think you’re giving things to them and it turns out it’s the other way around.After that moment, it was like a movie screen went on in my head. There were nights that I couldn’t get the words down fast enough. In four months of writing a few hours every night and a lot of revising and rewriting, I had a first draft.
Rachel Buchanan, the heroine of SPY GODDESS is a spoiled, Beverly Hills Princess. (Important disclaimer: That part I made up. My real daughter is not a spoiled Beverly Hills Princess). After some (not too serious) trouble with the law she gets packed off to mysterious Blackthorn Academy in rural Pennsylvania (and hello, is there even like a mall in Pennsylvania?) Once there she meets the headmaster Mr. Kim and quickly learns that there is something freaky about this school. She has to take classes in things like micro-electronics, code theory and criminology. She has to learn martial arts. Her only thought is how soon can she get away from this place?Then one day a couple of FBI agents show up at the school and Mr. Kim goes missing. Soon she’s up to her eyeballs in International Espionage and captured by a whacked out real life Dr. Evil. It’s a story of non-stop action, adventure and snappy dialogue. My favorite kind of book.
Along the way, Rachel undergoes a transformation. She learns that she has tremendous will and abilities that she didn’t even know she had. That she can kick butt and take names. As you read, you soon know that she’s going to come through. And crack wise while she does it.
The other promise I made to myself when I started writing is that I was going to make sure that I wrote a book that was like the ones I loved as I kid. Books full of action, humor, mystery, humor, suspense, humor, intrigue, humor, and especially humor. Life is too short not to laugh.
Having the first book, SPY GODDESS: Live and Let Shop published has been a blast and now that it’s in paperback, I’m really excited. I’ve sold mass-market paperbacks for many years and to have a mass-market paperback out there with my name on it (and my very own teaser chapter for Book 2!) is a thrill. Live and Let Shop received some very good reviews from the school and library media and one reviewer even made some favorable comparisons to Harry Potter. I almost passed out when I read that one! But my favorite comment came from a young reader named Melissa, age 11, who sent me an email that said “Dear Mr. Spradlin: SPY GODDESS: Live and Let Shop wasn’t anywhere near as boring as I thought it was going to be!” How can you not love that?
So now SPY GODDESS: To Hawaii, With Love is making its way to bookstores and online retailers. I think the series is a lot of fun and as the father of a 14 year old daughter I can assure you that it’s all about the girl power! .(Although I think boys will like it too. As I said there is marital arts and stuff blowing up in it!) And I have my fingers crossed that it does well enough for there to be more books, because I sure have the stories. I think anyone age 10 and up will love it. And as far as content, no foul language, no sexual situations just lots of suspense, humor and stuff exploding. So no worries there.
I know that there are lots of readers out there that read both adult and Young Adult novels. There is a trend in the industry now for adult writers to write YA novels. Carl Hiassen is a good example. So I’m curious to know who out there is reading YA and if not, why not? There are a lot of great books being published in that genre right now. I would love to hear your thoughts.
(Editorial note: You can visit Mike's website and learn more about his work at www.michaelspradlin.com.)
Monday, January 23, 2006
MIKE SPRADLIN VISITS SQUAWK RADIO!
You've heard the rumors and I'm here to tell you they're true. For the next three days, Squawk Radio will be visited by...A Guy! When he's not wearing the traditional guy baseball cap, Mike Spradlin is a bestselling young adult author (Um...not that Mike ISN'T a young adult but that means his books are written for young adults) and a National Account Manager for Harper Collins. But even more importantly, he can quote entire chunks of dialogue from THE PRINCESS BRIDE even when not intoxicated. ("Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!") We hope you'll pop in for the next three days while Mike dons his Yoda ears and shares his wisdom on the writer's life, the fascinating world of marketing romance and the joys and perils of being...A GUY IN A CHICK'S WORLD!
CHRISTINA DODD, THE ORGANIZATIONALLY DISFUNCTIONAL WRITER
(Christina to her imaginary friend — “I have no idea why that is.”)
My new house reflects my lack of order. Six months after moving in, I have books piled everywhere, my office is still in boxes, and the framed pictures are everywhere but on the walls.
(Christina to her imaginary friend — “Hey, I’ve been busy!”)
But in one area I’m surprisingly organized. In March, I’ve been published for fifteen years (OMG) and for each book I have a labeled file folder full of every bit of paraphernalia about that book. Cover flats, bestseller lists, photos of autographings, reviews, press clippings, magazine articles … our own Manuelita kindly mailed me the LA Times crossword puzzle with me as a clue (Friday November 18, 2005, #13 down, Romance novelist Christina). This stuff thrills me, so I keep it sorted and waiting for the day when I pull out each piece and make a chronicle of every last moment of my career.
Now — never before have I done anything as creative a scrapbook. Give me a t-shirt, some fabric paint, and some sequins and I will make … a mess.
(Christina’s imaginary friend — “That’s for sure.”)
But other women make scrapbooks, beautiful scrapbooks, so I know it can be done. More important, I have a friend who is a consultant for Creative Memories (Hi, Donna!). She sells the most wonderful stuff — gorgeous albums, scissors that make fancy cuts, pencils that write on photos and don’t smear, and scrapbook kits for the scrapbook impaired. A kit! I don’t have to be creative, someone else did it for me.
What am I going to do with these scrapbooks? When I’m old and gray, I’m going to chain my grandchildren to my bony knees and make them look at the proof of Grandma’s glory days … until I get bored. (Christina’s imaginary friend — “Like the photo of you grinning like a fool?”) Yeah, that’s right. That’s me with my first, hot-off-the-presses copy of THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS, on the shelves January 31. Yes, the photo is going in THE BAREFOOT PRINCESS folder to wait for the day when I actually sit down and make my scrapbooks.
In what ways are you creative? Do you make scrapbooks? Shadow boxes? Do you document your family tree? Do you actual take a t-shirt, some fabric paint and sequins and make something wonderful? If so — who are you and why are you blogging with me?
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Don't Forget to Join Us Next Week for Our Special Guest Squawker Michael P. Spradlin!
Liz Gives You Music to Carry Around Long After It's Gone
Such is the case with “El Corazon” by Steve Earle, who I sincerely doubt could make a bad album if he tried. Another artist who is hard to categorize, Earle takes elements of country, rock and bluegrass and melds them into a sound all his own, punctuated by gritty, weary vocals that command the listener to, well, listen. And what a treat when the listener does. Lyrically, the album is a collection of poems. Odes. Ballads. Elegies. Poems of love and anger and celebration. They just happen to have really EXcellent music to back them up, music that is as evocative and mood-creating as the words themselves are.
There are so many remarkable songs on “El Corazon” that I could sit here all day writing about them. The strongest on the album, though, in my opinion, is the haunting “Taneytown,” which I often use as an example in writing classes to show writers how to use language to evoke time, place and setting. Without ever mentioning where or when the action in the song takes place (and it’s pretty ugly action; the song is about racism), the listener knows exactly where and when the action is taking place. The reliance of the accompanying music on minor chords only emphasizes the feeling of alienation and the certainty of the tragedy that ultimately occurs. (And it doesn’t hurt to have Emmylou Harris singing backup. On other songs, the Supersuckers and Del McCoury Band show up, among others.)
At the other end of the spectrum is the much lighter, much more fun “Telephone Road” about a young man who’s just left home for the first time and is discovering the joys of spending his paycheck. Equally upbeat, but more poignant, is “N.Y.C.” about another young man hitchhiking his way across the country and the driver who picks him up and sees in him all the joys of youth he missed himself. And “Here I Am” is a song I’ve tried to adopt as my personal anthem, because it’s a celebration of who we, as individuals are, and accepting the people we have become without offering apologies or experiencing regrets for the things we’ve done and said, since, hey, that’s a big part of what’s made us us.
But for all his social commentary and observation of the human condition, Earle is also a major romantic. In “Somewhere Out There,” the singer has been separated from the woman he loves and is telling the dark night about all his fears and desires and need to be with her again. In “If You Fall,” the singer is warning another man that he better not fall in love, because he’ll never be the same after he does. And he should know, since in "I Still Carry You Around," the singer is obviously still in love with a woman who left him a long time ago.
Oh, don’t get me started on what a great CD this is. Oops. Already did.
“El Corazon” is one of those rare albums where every single song is a gem. You never want to hit the skip button to get to the next selection, because every time a song begins, you think, “Oh, I LOVE this one.” No two are similar. But every one is a delight. And every one will stay with you long after the album is done.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Liz: Revealed at Last! How to End a Book Quickly and Efficiently AND Satisfy Your Readers, Your Editor and Yourself
But before I reveal the secret of how to end your book with little or no stress to yourself, I need to talk about eBay. I have come to the conclusion that eBay exists only to prevent writers from ending their books quickly and efficiently. No doubt the people who started eBay were a bunch of frustrated writers who couldn’t manage to finish their own books, so they launched this mega-giant to interfere with the rest of us who are trying to finish ours. That can be the only reason for the seemingly limitless offerings of Michal Negrin bracelets, Royal Doulton character mugs, and non-copyright-approved “Lost” merchandise.
Now then. Ending your book quickly and efficiently. Let’s talk about that. After I say something about Amazon.com. Because Amazon.com is another thing whose sole purpose for existence is to mess with a writers’ head and prevent the satisfying conclusion of her book. How can anyone be expected to finish a book when one’s Amazon ranking zips up and down so capriciously from hour to hour? And now they’re not just listing a writer’s ranking for TODAY. NOW they’re listing the ranking for YESTERDAY, too, so we can REALLY sweat our numbers. Not that *I* sweat my numbers, mind you, since I’ve grown tremendously as a human being since my career started. I’m just saying this on behalf of other writers, that’s all.
As for ending your book in a way that will satisfy your readers, your editor and yourself, that’s a very important topic, and I’ll definitely address that. But I did first want to mention this on-line quiz I took recently. It said that the movie my family Christmas most resembles is “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Which, okay, it sorta does when you take into consideration all of Charlie Brown’s neuroses and Lucy’s bossiness. We have NO dancing beagles in my family, and it rarely snows at Christmas. And for sure, none of the kids could tell you what pantophobia is.
I know, I’m supposed to discuss ending your book. And I will. Right after I say this quick thing about Sudoku. Sudoku has really been taking a beating lately from people who insist only losers do Sudoku. Well, I’m here to tell you that’s just not true. If it weren’t for Sudoku, there would be more spider solitaire addicts than you can shake a stick at. Trust me. I know.
Right. Ending your book. That’s what this blog is supposed to be about, right? Okay then. Here we go.
Actually, I’m lying. Even after ending more than fifty of them, I have no idea how to end a book quickly and efficiently. Well, I DO, but I don’t think my editor would go for it if I had both my hero and heroine walk in front of a speeding Greyhound driven by Sandra Bullock. Not that that wouldn’t lend itself to some totally righteous pathos. Just a shot in the dark, but it could potentially jeopardize sales.
So I guess the only advice I can give you for ending your book quickly and efficiently is to avoid eBay, Amazon, on-line quizzes and Sudoku while you’re trying to do it. And to end your book in a way that will satisfy your editor, your readers and yourself, you should avoid killing or maiming your characters, and you should keep them mentally sound. And also you should avoid killing or maiming yourself, and you should keep yourself mentally sound. And, okay, maybe you should hide any cutlery in the house, just to be on the safe side.
For me, ending the book is the hardest part of writing. I slow down A LOT toward the end, and it’s excruciatingly painful to get it all down on paper. What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do? What’s the worst part of your profession? If you could hire someone else to complete one aspect of your job, what would it be? Me, I’m taking resumes for book-ender.
This Tuesday, Squawk Radio is going to bring you something totally different.
And not just any guy. I met Michael Spradlin nine years ago when I started writing for Avon Books. Mike is one of those heroes in the romance industry — a guy who sells romance to bookstores, who stands tall for the industry, who boldly goes where no man has gone before.
And now he has indeed boldly gone … in fact, he’s done it twice.
Mike Spradlin writes young adult novels. The series is SPY GODDESS. Book one (which will be released in paperback on Tuesday) is called LIVE AND LET SHOP, and tells the story of teenager Rachel Buchanan, shipped off to spy school where she learns Tae Kwon Do and how to read code. Before long she’s rescuing her headmaster from an unknown international threat.
Book two, TO HAWAII WITH LOVE, will also be released in hardcover on Tuesday, and is Rachel’s second spy adventure.
Having survived a teenage son and now a teenage daughter, Mike has absorbed how teenagers speak and think — and this week, he’s going to let us in on how he wrote his books, how guys speak and think, and how his end of the publishing business works.
Check it out on Tuesday when Mike Spradlin blogs with Squawk Radio.
But brace yourself. He's a guy.
Friday, January 20, 2006
EMMA HOLLY'S TOP TEN LIST
10. They pay my bills.
Lest you think this answer is too prosaic, let me assure you I know how special it is to earn a living doing something I love.
9. I love seeing my name on them.
No jaded author here! I got an especial kick from COURTING MIDNIGHT, where my name was *huge*. I’m not sure what the cover artist was thinking, but one fan told me she could read my name across the store. Naturally, I liked hearing that.
8. Books make a house look homier than just about anything.
Plus, when fellow book lovers catch sight of your collection, they immediately feel comfortable. (And, really, who would you rather feel comfortable in your home?)
7. A good book takes me away from my troubles.
And, wouldn’t you know it, my books take other people away from theirs!
6. I love finding new authors to glom onto.
Could anything be more delicious than discovering a new “autobuy” and knowing you have more stellar books to look forward to? I can still recall the thrill of my first Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris or, more recently, Rachel Caine. And I get to compound the thrill by sharing my “finds’ with friends.
5. Books come in all shapes, sizes, colors and genres.
If you want to read it, it’s out there, and if it isn’t, chances are it will be soon. Remember when readers had what felt like three paranormal romance authors to choose from, and they were all telling vampire tales? Compared to that, the variety in paranormal romance today boggles the mind!
4. One good book leads to another.
One way this happens is Author A reads Author B and thinks, “Man, what a good book! I’d love to create a story that affects people the way that one affected me.” And off Author A goes to write her little heart out.
But I believe one good book leads to another this way, too. Reader A reads Author B and thinks, “Man, what a good book! I’d love to read another book that fun tomorrow.” And here is where my friends, the story fairies, come in. “Someone wants another book as fun as that one!” they shout, and off the wish goes into the ethers until somewhere, some author with the appropriate skills and interest scratches her head and says, “Hm, what should I write next?” “We’ve got a match!” the fairies chortle, and immediately start working their magic on whoever the author is.
When reader desire for a certain kind of story is especially strong, and only a few authors are ready, willing, and able to do it justice, you end up with wild, runaway bestsellers like DaVinci Code and Harry Potter. I mean, have you heard the story of how J.K. Rowling came up the idea for Harry Potter? The whole thing came to her on a train ride. Definitely fairies involved.
The fairies know that when enough reader desire builds up, the books will come--which should reassure various sub-genre fans. (And if you doubt me, see #5 above!)
3. Books have taught me lessons I didn’t even know I wanted to learn.
I can’t count all the wonderful things I’ve learned from books. Things about the world. Things about myself. Things I later used to write other books. My life is so much richer because books have been a part of it. Let’s face it, books are good!
2. Books are a great accompaniment to coffee, chocolate, and wine.
Do I really need to explain this?
1. A truly beloved book is like a friend.
Always there when you need it. Always remembered fondly. And when others share your “best beloveds,” you know that, whatever your differences, some part of you is in perfect harmony.
Thanks for stopping by to read my blog. I hope you enjoyed it, and that you’ll spend some time thinking about what *you* love.
Hot of the presses (and I do mean "hot") is Beyond Desire, a two-for-one special edition of Emma Holly's wildly popular historical novels, Beyond Innocence and Beyond Seduction!
Also, be sure to look for Emma Holly's contemporary erotic romance, All U Can Eat, coming from Berkley Trade this May!
And finally, be sure to check out Emma Holly's website
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
EMMA HOLLY ASKS: HERE DO THOSE IDEAS COME FROM?
I love fairies.
Not *those* kind of fairies--though obviously I’m fond of them--I love the kind with wings. The Tinkerbell kind. The kind only little kids are supposed to believe in. And why do I believe? Because I want to. I want to believe the universe is a friendly, infinitely interesting place, full of helpful beings who are happy to do us human favors when we ask . . . as long as we get out of the way and let them.
Yes, I know this sounds eccentric, but over the years my belief in fairies--and beings like them--has led to some wonderful results.
Not only do fairies call elevators for me when I ask, not only do they retrieve missing keys, I believe they help me write.
Once when an interviewer asked me the question most authors have plenty of chances to get tired of--i.e., “Where do you get your ideas?”--I finally opened my mouth and admitted it. “I get them from the story fairies.”
The interviewer laughed.
Now, before I go on, perhaps I should explain my understanding of what fairies are. Fairies can be mischievous, but they never play mean tricks, only kind ones that are intended to make us laugh. Fairies are a branch of the angel kingdom who are a bit closer to us in vibration than the big fellas (and LOTS of people believe in them). They watch over plants and animals--including our pets. They love to play, they’re much more powerful than their size might indicate, and have silly senses of humor. (My theory is that fairies were behind the invention of knock-knock jokes and puns.) Among the many ways they entertain themselves is by telling stories, which makes them ideal friends and companions for authors. Fairies are not afraid of sad stories, either. They’re hooked up to heaven, and they know that everyone, ultimately, has a happy ending.
So here’s how the fairies helped me with BEYOND INNOCENCE, the first of the two Victorian romances that are being reprinted in BEYOND DESIRE.
I was reading another author’s novel and enjoying it very much except for one thing. There was a fairy in the novel (the *other* kind of fairy) and he was a big, bad villain. Now, there is nothing wrong with making a fairy a villain--gay people come in different flavors just like the rest of us--but it seemed to me I’d read a lot of these fairy villains lately, and if they weren’t villains, they were tragic and sad.
“This is not a trend I can go along with,” I thought, at which point the story fairies began whispering in my ear.
“So what are you going to do about it?” they teased.
“Well, I’d write a story where the fairy was a good person. Oh, he’d have strengths and weaknesses, but I’d let the strengths win out so he could have a happy ending--and his own romance!”
At the time, the scenario the fairies’ challenge inspired seemed theoretical, just a game between me and me until I was “ready” to write a big book, but not long after that--days, as I recall--my brand-new agent asked if I had any ideas for a sexy historical romance. She’d been sending a contemporary erotic romance of mine (PERSONAL ASSETS, for those who are curious) all over New York and no one was biting. Back then, everyone wanted historicals, with which I had no experience. Rather than risk seeming like an author my agent would never be able to sell, I told my doubts to shut up and sort of lied through my teeth. “Sure,” I said. “I have a vague idea for a historical I could work on.”
Thus was born Freddie Burbrooke, younger brother to Edward, and would-be husband to Florence Fairleigh. I wrote Freddie even though I’d never written a historical before. I wrote him though I’d never written a book with more plot than sex before. I wrote him not knowing whether I could sell to an American publisher. Most of all, I wrote him as a leap of faith, and he ended up being one of my favorite characters: funny, loving, lost like most of us are about some things, but in the end as brave as any of us could wish to be. He was my first experience in making an editor cry--which, believe me, is a pleasure! He was the inspiration for what I believe is the best opening line I’ve ever written. Oh, Edward and Florence both overcome important obstacles before they get their happily ever after, but--to my mind--Freddie is the true hero of BEYOND INNOCENCE. Freddie is its heart.
Since then, many stories have come to me in equally magical ways, as the fairies or their counterparts directed a seed of an idea my way. Many times their little hands have tugged me out of plot corners I feared I’d be mired in for good. There were times when I’d be crying in despair over some imagined lack of talent (as more writers do than you might think) and they’d remind me to laugh at myself, or goose a friend to call me out of the blue to go for ice cream, or maybe just toss a book my way that they knew would be the best distraction I could have.
Sometimes the fairies make me giggle over a particularly good way to torment my characters. When they do, I never feel guilty about my amusement. Like the fairies, I know their suffering is temporary. No matter how deep a pit the people I invent dig for themselves, I can get them out. I know their happy ending is guaranteed.
So ask a fairy for a favor today. Have them speed up the elevator or save you a parking spot. They’ll have fun seeing just how well they can delight you, and all you have to do is say thanks!
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
KITTY DISHES IT UP WITH EMMA HOLLY
Anyway, Emma Holly is the anti-that.
I have read a lot of erotic, and my share of porm, and tons of romance from the “Aw, This is so sweet I wanta pour it on my bran flakes in the morning!” to “Where did I put my asbestos glove, ‘cause my fingers are burning from turning the pages!”
Whether writing erotica, historical, or fantasy romance, Emma definitely pens a blistering book. I got a chance to sit down with Emma and share trade secrets. Here are some of hers:
Kitty: Emma, you write some of the hottest books out there regardless of what anyone calls it-- but which came first the erotica or the romance?
Emma: Thank you, Kitty, I like when people don't regard what they're called!To answer your question, though--neither. My first love was fantasy. Fairy tales. The Chronicles of Narnia. That sort of thing. When I tried to write it, however, I didn't get too far saleswise. Ditto for my first attempts at romance. Finally, I hit my stride when I tried my hand at erotica. The books I wrote for black lace were still romantic--and still fantasies, most would say!--but they let me express some of my deepest interests, the biggest one being sex, of course. I suspect it's no accident that erotica was the first genre I was able to sell. I returned to romance and fantasy once I felt ready and got the chance, but I've never left my love for writing really hot stuff behind.
Kitty: What do you mean, “felt ready?”
Emma: Well, you know how it is when you’ve tried something and not succeeded? You wonder if you can ever pull it off. Going back to romance was the biggest challenge, because the market was demanding it be historical and the thought of research scared me. I didn’t realize it wasn’t going to be like schoolwork, but actually fun. The fantasy I jumped back into as soon as my editor let me!
Kitty: You've been published for how long? How many books?
Emma: My first book, Menage, came out in 1997. Let me use my fingers now and I'll tell you how many books. Okay, finished or out so far are 5 erotic novels for black lace, 2 straight Victorians, 3 vampires, 3 erotic romances for Berkley, 1 Demon book, and 5 novellas. So 14 books plus change.
Kitty: You know, if you ever need someone to take a pass through the “change” ...
There are a lot of people out there who would say you are the most successful author at blurring the lines between erotica and "romance." As an expert, I gotta say your erotica is some of the most romantic I’ve read and your historicals push the heat boundaries. What's your take on this? What's the difference, if there is any?
Emma: You’re a doll to say so, Kitty, though I know opinions will differ about who's the best at anything. The stories, at least the ones I'm writing, that I think of as being more erotic tend to have more adventuring. The characters are more likely to have multiple partners or engage in even less mainstream sexual acts. But do I think this defines what erotica is? Do I think other people should adhere to the way I've rather fuzzily defined it for myself? Absolutely not. Labels can be both restricting and judgmental and, for the sake of my own creative freedom, I'd rather not go there. Heck, I change my mind about what's "okay" to put in a book with every one I write. I find it fun to push my own boundaries.
Kitty: You change your mind about what’s okay? How do you decided—okay, how did you decide this last book? Did you "spin the bottle?" I like spinning bottles to make decisions, some of my best stuff came through a simple moral compass with a Coors label.
Emma: Sometimes I make up my mind based on what I’m in the mood to get away with. Sometimes doing justice to the story and the characters demands that I write something readers might not be expecting. My last contemporary erotic, ALL U CAN EAT, has in some ways a classic romance plot. And my current work in progress, THE PRINCE OF ICE, supposedly a more romantic story, already has elements that wouldn’t be out of place in erotica. And don’t ask me what they are, ’cause I’m not spilling!
Kitty: Explain to me the appeal of each for you as a writer.
Emma: That's no more complicated than my being naturally interested in writing both kinds of books. It's in harmony with who I am for sexy romance or romantic erotica to float my boat, and why fight that? Be the snowflake, if you know what I mean.
Kitty: It looks to me like there's just a whole lot more world open to the erotica writer in terms of eras, cultures, fantasy elements. Why do you think that is?
Emma: Oh, I love thinking about this question, because it so wasn't the case not too long ago! When I started writing erotica, if you didn't want to read male or literary sexual fiction, you didn't have many choices. You could get mostly contemporary erotica written in Black Lace's house style, or you could get a few extra-steamy historical romance authors like Robin Schone and Susan Johnson. Great compared to not having those choices, but not exactly a smorgasbord. The problem was--or, truly, the opportunity was--that the publishers who were putting out erotica weren't taking *as many* risks as readers wanted them to. Readers, especially female readers, got a taste of erotic material with a feminine slant and they wanted more variety. Since they were already rebelling a bit against what common wisdom had been saying they wanted, I suspect that led them to want stories that were outside the box in every way. Settings, time periods, all that. This led to the birth of publishers like Ellora's Cave, whom I've gone from being rather skeptical about to really admiring. They are the leading edge these days, and the mainstream publishers are scrambling to catch up with them.
Kitty: Your latest book, Beyond Desire is a special two-for-one reprint of Beyond Innocence and Beyond Seduction . In both those books you adhere pretty closely to the English 19th century standard and both your heroines are looking for titled husbands, so how does Emma Holly keep fresh within those parameters?
Emma: I wrote those books back when common wisdom said American women didn't want to read erotic romance in a contemporary setting because that wasn't "enough of a fantasy." Looking back, I'm glad that Common Wisdom obliged me to try writing historicals. I'm not sure anything else could have so greatly bolstered my confidence in my ability to learn and enjoy new things.That said, my two Beyond books aren't typical Victorian romances. My first heroine, Florence Fairleigh, doesn't start out looking for a title, or even romance. She's hoping for a relatively nice, financially stable middle class fellow who won't let her starve. In Beyond Seduction, Merry Vance just wants to ruin herself so she won't have to marry--which would be a tried-and-true plot, except she means it. She doesn't get a rakish earl to ruin her, she gets a supposedly untitled rakish artist.Keeping it fresh comes pretty naturally when you like to challenge yourself the way I do. I also think finding new authors to love is gold as far as inspiration goes. I'm always myself when I'm writing--I don't know how not to be--but seeing someone else raise the bar is quite exciting!
Kitty: Okay. No more teasing. WHO is raising Emma Holly’s bar, because this person I must read! Come on, Emma! I don’t have a date this weekend—the Good Ship Luvalot left port!
Emma: Well, I can’t guarantee you’ll like them, but I’m really enjoying Lora Leigh’s “Feline Breed” series from Ellora’s Cave. (Men with extra bits!) Before that, Lisa Valdez’s Passion was a standout for me. The books don’t have to be erotic to get me pumped to get back to work, but the hot ones do come to mind first.
Kitty: What's next on the Emma Holly horizon?
Emma: My current project is PRINCE OF ICE, a follow-up to THE DEMON'S DAUGHTER that takes place in a technologically advanced pseudo-sorta China. It's turning out to be one of my odder stories, but since it's uniting all my favorite genres--fantasy, erotica, and romance--I'm having fun with it. The basic idea is one I've been playing around with for many years, but the timing never seemed quite right until now, which is a challenge in itself. You always want to do your own dreams justice! From a reader's perspective, ALL U CAN EAT, an erotic contemporary set in Southern California will be out next--May 2006, to be exact. That story has plenty of adventuring, plus a world-weary cop, a sassy diner owner, an adorable sexual tag-team, and a bit of mystery.
Kitty: Yum. Need a proofreader?
Emma: Funnily enough . . . no. Thanks for being such a great interviewer, Kitty. I enjoyed it!
Lisa says "Just do it"
So after several days of suffering with allergies, pouring medicine down my throat and sprawling on the sofa moaning about my sinuses, I went back to exercise today. Have I mentioned how much I dislike exercise? Have I mentioned that running on a treadmill like a hamster on its wheel never gives me the endorphin rush I’ve been told is supposed to happen? “Runner’s high”, they call it, thereby implying that a good hard workout will result in something similar to an orgasm or a shot of cocaine.
I’m still waiting for those endorphins. But I’ll tell you something--I’ve worked out two or three times a week for several months. I'm not even consistent about it. But I feel better, more energetic, my body is more toned, and I can eat dessert without beating myself up about it afterward. For years I avoided working out because I’m basically an all or nothing person. I figured if I wasn’t going to spend an hour and a half in the gym five days a week, it wasn’t worth doing anything. Remember those Jane Fonda workouts in the eighties, which left you half-dead and you felt depressed afterward because you knew no matter what you did you would never have a body like Jane’s?
My point is this : even a little exercise now and then--a fifteen minute walk, a bike ride through the neighborhood, ten sit-ups in the morning--makes a difference. After all these years I’ve finally realized how important it is to carve out this time in your schedule. It will never be convenient, of course. But we devote so much effort to looking after the health of our children and husbands and parents . . . I'm reminding you, dear friends, to take care of yourselves too.
If you have any tips for fitting exercise into our daily routines, some form of exercise that you love, or health tips that work well for you, please share! I found from a recent bone density test that I need more calcium in my diet. The doctor told me every woman should take calcium tablets, no matter what your age, so I’m passing it on to you. Stay healthy, girlfriends!
Kitty Asks the Pointed Questions...
WHO DID VIRGINIA MADSEN PISS OFF?
Like you guys, I snored through most of the Golden Globes last night ("I wish I could quit you!") in order to ogle the fashionista. So this morning I'm going through the various reviews of the Best and Worst Dressed Stars and I find People Magazine's contributions. Some they got right, some they got real real wrong. So wrong. Evidence?
Here is Charlze Theron. Yeah yeah, she's beautiful. Yeah, yeah, she's talented. Yeah, yeah she's got a great figure. So what? We're not talking about those things here. We are talking about THE DRESS. Can you guess Best or Worst? I think she looks like she made her dress out of party favors left over from a Mortician's Ball. People says she was one of the Best Dressed there.
Price? I'm guessing Randy the People Fashion Reviewer got promised a role as a gay iron ore miner in Charlze next social docudrama.
Here's adorable Reese Witherspoon. Yes, she is adorable. Yes, she did deserve the win for Walk the Line. Who cares?! It's the DRESS, I'm talking about, people! And People think this thing is just the Best?
In spite of the fact that everyone has got to suspect that little Reese raided the Walk the Line wardrobe department for this terrifying homage to June Cleaver-as-Nefertiti? What's with the breast-plate lame atop the "let's get frisky in the kitchen while the casserole bakes" skirt?
Price: Maybe a casserole made of gold for the Reviewer who included her in the best list?
KEEP 'EM COMING.
People didn't get everything wrong. I mean, even they didn't have the brass to tag Pamela Anderson's outfit anything but Worse. But then I don't see My Gal Pam putting out (cash) to make some list. Because clearly the woman DOES NOT CARE.
There's no other explanation for why she'd wear a baby sling to an awards ceremony. Unless she had a baby in it and judging by sight alone, she just may have.
Okay. She was Worse and she got called on it. You go, girl!
TERESA ADDS AN ADDENDUM TO KITTY'S FASHION BLOG
I adore Drew but she desperately needed a foundation garment to support her...um..."Golden Globes!"