Just Erotic Romance Reviews Issue #72
Interview, 2nd April, 2006
Candie Keane, Rebecca Airies and Denise Rossetti: New Voices from Ellora's Cave Publishing
About this time last year JERR had the privilege of holding The Erotic Pen Writing Contest, with the support of Ellora's Cave Publishing, one of the industry's most innovative and award winning publisher's. This was a challenging and fun experience that many of us hadn't taken part in organizing before. It was an eye-opening experience seeing all the submissions coming through from both published authors and aspiring writers. Two of the writers who were noticed and won first and second place have recently had their book published by Ellora's Cave. Candie Keane and Rebecca Airies who released Satisfaction and Primal Fear, consecutively, join us today to discuss about their newfound success and allow readers into their world. Our third author Denise Rossetti, whose release Gift of the Goddess will be out soon, didn't win a placement in the contest but her work was noticed by her publisher. And the rest as they say is history. Remember don't ever give up on your dream. These three ladies certainly didn't.
Can you tell us briefly about yourself for our readers?
Candie: I am a closet "A-type" personality masquerading as a shy introvert, someone presumably happy to stand in the shadows, but who really wants to rule the scene. I won my first writing contest at age 10; so, technically, the JERR contest is my second win. (Just trying to be truthful due to the recent scandals in publishing and in case someone finds The Thanksgiving Cat and exposes it on the net.) I adore and live for my family.
Rebecca: I live in Texas. I'm single and you'll often find me lost in other worlds or confronting the arrogant hero (or heroes) of my current WIP-when the royal-pain-in-the-butt alphas decide they don't want to do what I've planned. Let's see. I'm the middle child, so I've been people-watching my entire life. I see myself as a little shy, restrained, but that's not how others describe me.
Denise: I live in a comfortable, messy old house in the Australian suburbs with my darling husband of more-years-than-I-care-to-remember. And yes, I know how lucky I am. I have one of everything that matters-one husband, one son, one daughter, one dog, one cat and, thank heavens, one cleaning lady. I'm small and noisy and dreadfully uncoordinated. I tend to wave my hands around a lot, which can be unfortunate if the tale I'm telling happens to have explosions in it! I remain an incurable romantic. I love happy endings, heart-pounding adventure and the eventual triumph of good over evil. All hail the guys in the white hats, I say-unless the ones wearing black are more...um... interesting?
What attracted you to writing erotic romance?
Candie: At a rather young age, I found my mother's copy of Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. Yowza. Honestly, it was a lot more compelling than the Shakespeare assignment I had been reading at the time. By 14, I was penning spicy, historical romances in my diary. Erotic romance gives authors the freedom to write, physically and mentally revealing, and openly intense, sexual encounters. Emotion and desire drives novels and raw emotion, like romantic love, is a dish best served naked. Oh yes, these days, my novels go underground in a locked cabinet, just in case.
Rebecca: I read erotic romance before I started writing it. I loved what I read and decided to try writing hot. When I got to my first sex scene, I found it a relief not to have to hold back.
Denise: I love the beauty of language and I love sex sensually and lavishly described- especially if it's hot and sweaty! Besides, the sexual act can be used as a lens to focus on raw emotion. The reader sees the characters naked and not only physically. All the masks are stripped away and the soul is bared, whether the character knows it or not. It's enormously powerful and it absolutely fascinates me. Don't they say the most important erogenous zone is the one the between the ears? Page after page of docking procedure leaves me cold. That's not erotic romance.
Both Candie and Rebecca won The Erotic Pen Writing Contest last year, hosted by JERR with the support of Ellora's Cave. Both were offered publishing contracts that saw the recent release of their winning stories. How did it feel to have your first professional sale? How did it feel when you received the acceptance?
Candie: Validation best describes the rush of feeling upon receiving the good news, especially after questioning my ability and my decision to write for a long time. Even though friends assured me it could be done, there is nothing like the acceptance of one's talent by an objective party.
Rebecca: Like I'd just been handed the world! At first, I couldn't believe it. I read that email about five times before I started to believe what was on the screen. Can you believe I hugged that news to myself a whole minute before I ran to tell someone? I felt like rushing out into the street and shouting it to the world. Somehow, I restrained myself.
Denise, you also entered The Erotic Pen Writing Contest last year, and as a result Ellora's Cave is now publishing your book, Gift of the Goddess. How did it feel to have your first professional sale?
Denise: I don't know if I'll ever get over it! (Hope not.) It was only because The Erotic Pen Writing Contest was there that I dared myself to write down the x-rated stories in my head. Then, because the wonderful Ellora's Cave authors who judged gave my entry good scores, my book landed on an editor's desk in the Cave. And EC editor, Sue-Ellen Gower, picked it right up again after I did a pitch for her at a conference. Every morning I wake with a huge smile on my face. And yes, I do love my husband, but the grin isn't (only) because of him!
What has changed since becoming published? Have your personal and creative demands and expectations of yourself changed at all?
Candie: My daily routine has become more vigorous now that writing isn't just a hobby. I update my website and check e-mail in the morning. There's nothing quite like going to work in mix match pajamas! I devote the day to creating larger than life characters and then dropping them into a boiling cauldron of hot oil just to see if they fry, jump out, or build a new skin. God, I love this job! My expectations of my work have risen greatly, which is not good for a borderline perfectionist. After I rewrite a sentence 27 times, an inner voice reverberates: published is better than perfect! Sometimes I listen to it.
Rebecca: Yes, my attitude has changed. I started looking at writing as a business, not just a hobby. To that end, I'm always looking for ways to improve my craft. I have to admit that some of my expectations have changed. Getting organized and setting writing goals became priorities for me-well, as organized as I can get. When it comes to writing, I'm very much a pantser. Oh, and I'm struggling to break myself of my lurker habit on the loops.
Denise: I've relaxed, in that my confidence has soared. It's hard to express how thrilled I am that people I don't know will enter the worlds I've woven out of my own imagination. It will be so wonderful to have them there with me. Writing's a very solitary activity! But I've loved doing it and I hope they'll love the result. On the other hand, that means I can't rest on my laurels. I have to strive to be better with every book. I've raised the bar, dammit!
Have you found having the support of your family helped in coping with the changes that have occurred?
Rebecca: Oh, yes, my sisters keep me grounded and are so supportive of me, of my writing. They helped me to calm down and relax when I was stressing over a lot of little things that were out of my control. My brother even wanted to buy my book-and he doesn't read romance. Now, that's love.
Denise: My husband has been quietly supportive from the very beginning. He's had more confidence in me than I've had myself, the sweetheart. My critique group and writer friends are my writing family, the only ones who truly understand the neurotic life of a writer. My parents are happy for me because I'm happy, but I don't think my mother will be boasting to the ladies at church any time soon!
Ellora's Cave is an innovative, exciting publisher that encourages creativity. How does it feel to be a part of the Ellora's Cave family?
Candie: To be a part of the Ellora's Cave family feels wonderful. My editor, Ann Leveille, has been very supportive during the publishing process. Every change she suggested was for the betterment of Satisfaction. My current work in progress may push some boundaries so I hope she is as accepting of my next submission! The villain is so very twisted.
Rebecca: It's wonderful! Everyone made me feel very welcome. The other authors are so nice and supportive and my editor has been really great. And advice, the Ellora's Cave authors give some of the best advice I've ever found on writing and the business of being an author.
Denise: It actually gives me a tremendous feeling of security. Ellora's Cave is so well respected in the industry. I also have a real sense of community. Family is a good word for it. I've received fabulous support from fellow EC authors already. And I love the idea that there are no boundaries to creativity, as long as the story's good enough.
Not only have you written stories that are exciting, but your main characters are memorable and dynamic. They're strong and sexy, which many readers of erotic romance enjoy. Was there any person or persons who inspired you?
Candie: Nick is a combination of memorable men, both imagined and real, even the ones who broke my heart. Thanks, guys. Eden and Ashley are the combination of three friends from college. There is always someone who wants what you have and is willing to stab you in the back to get it. Figuratively, not literally, of course. Okay, maybe literally too. Courtland sprang from nowhere, entirely his own man.
Rebecca: Caidi and Raven just sprang to life in my mind one night. No input from me required. They were such opinionated characters and it was impossible for me not to like them. I just tried to be true to that while I was writing their story.
Denise: You're kidding, right? I don't know any beautiful men with huge wings and feathery tails, let alone a sex shaman with inexhaustible stamina and a dragon tattooed on his butt. But please email me if you do! Seriously, I'm shameless about "borrowing" bits of people, a body part here, a personality trait there. But it's always bits, because human beings are so complex it's nigh on impossible to portray them in print. The things I put my characters through would have me in intensive care from the sheer stress, so I guess we could say I live vicariously. I'd love to be as brave and clever as they are.
Will there be any follow up or linked stories to these first releases? And if so are you able to tell us about them?
Candie: No, although I won't rule out writing another novel set in New Orleans.
Rebecca: There will be other stories set in the worlds of Primal Quest. Quite a few of them are bubbling around in my mind. I'm working on getting the next book set in those worlds ready for Nick, my editor, to see. Although the book is still untitled, the hero, Zaden Arcinian, is one of the secondary characters in Primal Quest. He was very insistent on having his own book.
Denise: I adore a series, especially a fantasy series, and I had so much fun with Anje, Brin and Trey in Gift of the Goddess that I'm currently writing a second book about the Ten Nations of Phoenix. It has the working title of Tailspin. Readers will find excerpts from both books on my website. In Tailspin, we find out more about Miriliel the Burnished, the scholar who compiled the Great Encyclopedia that features in Gift of the Goddess. When Mirry and his friend, Jan, encounter a little brown circus girl and tangle with a deathless demon- well, let's just say the feathers fly! As I love to glimpse much loved characters in later books, readers will "catch up" briefly with Anje, Brin and Trey in Tailspin. And just quietly, I have a whole set of characters for a third story already jostling for room in my head.
So far Ms. Keane and Ms. Airies have garnered wonderful reviews. How do you feel about such positive praise from readers?
Candie: Thrilled and Terrified. Thrilled that someone actually likes what I write, that the sometimes painful attempt at better-than-average sentences or sexy-provocative dialogue is worth it. Terrified in my attempt to do a better job next time.
Rebecca: Major ego boost! I'm still at the point that I have to blink every time I see the title of my book in a review. When I write, I want to take the readers into the worlds my characters have shown me. Every time I read a good review or a letter from a reader, it gives me such a thrill. It's a "Yes, I did it!" moment.
Ms. Rossetti's book is due to be released soon. Her work has been praised by her peers, and with Ellora's Cave decision to publish her work, this shows a promising writing career ahead for this writer. How do you feel about such positive validation from your peers?
Denise: Validation is priceless. When judges who are already published said things like - "I WILL pay to read the rest of this! I loved it!! I loved the characters and Brin is to die for!!" I finally began to believe in my own work.
Have you started exploring other stories since having your first books published? Can you tell our readers a little about this?
Candie: I have two wonderful stories dueling for priority at the moment. One is that paranormal historical with a suspenseful twist that I wrote about in my article in JERR #70. It is much darker than my previous novel. The murder scene was.well... murder to write. Now I completely understand why many novels have the murders occur before the timeline of the book. They are far from easy to orchestrate convincingly. The villain finally got it right though and he thinks it works. Unfortunately, due to the complicated storyline, a few good characters may be sacrificed early. Ooooh, he's so good at what he does.
Rebecca: Oh, yes, I've had another book accepted by Ellora's Cave. Second Chance is a futuristic and my first ménage story. Laci, a female bounty hunter tracks a criminal to an isolated world, but wakes up in the hands of two men who seem eerily similar to the men who haunt her dreams. She must face the past and the dangers in the present as she discovers the truth about herself and her connection to the two men. I also have several other WIP's in various stages of completion.
Denise: Apart from what I've said above, about follow up stories, I'm looking for a home for a fantasy trilogy, steamy rather than erotic. Though I do have an idea for a decidedly naughty story about a banshee.and what makes her howl.
Do you have a favorite genre for writing and reading, and what are they?
Candie: I am immediately drawn to historical, vampire, contemporary, and romantic suspense. But, if it's well written and the characters are intriguing, any genre can make excellent reading. As you can see, suspense is my forte. I may dabble in other genres, but one of the characters is sure to have juicy secret they are willing to kill to keep. Unique, sexy villains and creative murder methods are what keep me up at night and my fingers flying over the keyboard.
Rebecca: I'll read just about anything, but I do love futuristic and paranormals. As for writing, I've been fascinated with futuristic, fantasy and paranormal for years and just lately I've been mixing that with a bit of ménage.
Denise: I prefer to write fantasy, but I'll read pretty well anything. I enjoy romantic suspense and thrillers and historicals and romantic comedies, even young adult. What's not to love? Though sadly, I suspect I'm the wrong generation for chick-lit.
Do you plan to explore other genres with upcoming books?
Candie: Yes. I look forward to the challenge of a cross genre book. Both paranormal and historical romances require a great deal of research. After all, the more convincing the world an author creates, the more fascinating the novel. I hope I get it right.
Rebecca: It's still very much in the planning stages, but I want to do a contemporary. I'll admit it will probably have a paranormal twist to it, but basing a story in today's world isn't something I've done before.
Denise: I wouldn't mind trying romantic comedy. I've written it before and actually managed to be funny. In any case, there's often a thread of humor in my fantasies, even when my poor characters are in desperate straits. On the other hand, I have a full-blown idea for a series of dark urban paranormals. So many characters, so little time.
Do you do other activities outside of writing to cope with the demands of the profession? What is it?
Candie: Yes. Laundry; or I bake cookies.
Rebecca: Sailing the Caribbean on my yacht. No, really I'm just a normal person. Usually, writing is very relaxing to me. When I'm frustrated or blocked, I sometimes garden or spend time with family and friends. I also read and play videogames when I need some distance.
Denise: I drink. Good Australian wine and lots of it. Oh, and I walk regularly with a friend and go to the gym and also to my day job. Got to get your priorities right.
Now for the fun questions
What sound or noise do you love?
Candie: My daughter's laughter. My husband's chuckle. My dog's sneeze (Really. There is a book that suggests a dog's sneeze is the closest thing they have to a laugh. Strangely, my collie mix does sneeze at moments that would be appropriate for laughter.)
Rebecca: The sound of any falling water-waterfall, rain or fountain. It's just so soothing.
Denise: An operatic baritone like Bryn Terfel reduces me to a puddle. Gotta love a man who can sing! Then there's that chirrup of greeting cats offer to a beloved human. So sweet.
What sound or noise do you hate?
Candie: An airplane taking off. To me it is quite possibly one of the loneliest sounds in the world. Of course, my feeling could be due to a strong association, airplanes = leaving someone or someplace. But aren't most feelings attributed to the senses due to association?
Rebecca: Car alarms-not even nails across a blackboard make me as tense as a blaring car alarm.
Denise: Angry shouting-and it's worse if the combatants are drunk.
What is your favorite cuss word?
Candie: If it is a disaster that you can see coming, I prefer shit, because you can work your way to a slow-motion climax. For instance, if you spill bleach on your new grey wool pants, "Shhhhhhhiiiiiiiiit!" works nicely. For a more immediate disaster nothing quite beats the crude expletive, fuck. For instance, when you hit the black 2007 Mercedes CLS behind you while parallel parking and the male driver is still in the car, a sharp "Fuck!" is priceless. (I still swear it was just a tap.) Fuck is fabulously appropriate during other moments as well.
Rebecca: Damn it for the most part, but there's also salaud, a French cuss word that comes to mind when someone really ticks me off.
Denise: Aussies aren't known for being mealy-mouthed, so I'm afraid I let rip with all the usual obscenities, but my favorite cussword is "Pox!" You can say it in almost any company and it has a lovely virulent edge to it. Muttering "pox-rotted trollop" at some idiot (don't care about gender) always relieves my feelings. Very eighteenth century.
If Heaven exists, what will God's first words to you be when you arrive at the Gate?
Candie: I hope he'll say, "What took you so long?"
Rebecca: Welcome home.sticking to your convictions and doing your best are all I ever wanted from you.
Denise: I hope She'll say something like - "Not bad for a first try, little one. Want another go?"
But wait - there's more!
JERR gave me a 4 Star review for this website! Given that I built it with My Own Fair Hands, I'm stoked. *wg* Here's what reviewer Kirra Pierce had to say -
Denise Rossetti's site opens with a welcome mix of colors that are pleasing and easy on the eye. The color contrast and font of the type made reading very easy. The home page downloaded quickly without many graphics. There was one very nice silhouette cut-out of a dragon that I really liked and it was carried over in her other pages as a unifying theme. Her page title clearly announces "Erotica by Denise Rossetti" so it's clear what this site contains. It also has a don't enter if you're under 18 warning which I think is always a good feature for sites with more adult oriented material. The site menu is easy to find and (yea!) all the links work properly. One area of the website, Miriliel's Encyclopedia, is still being developed, but a cute note about it appears when you click on that link.
The book area offers a couple of extensive excerpts from Ms. Rossetti's upcoming works and will give the potential reader a feel for her writing style (I certainly wanted more after this taste) and she also offers a couple PG type free stories which were also enjoyable. Other areas of interest were her links to other authors and a couple of sites with information about romance writing.
Overall, Ms. Rossetti's web site presents a nicely uncluttered, but whimsical view that is a pleasure to visit. I enjoyed discovering a bit about this writer who is new to me and will visit her pages again to learn more about her upcoming works.
Just Erotic Romance Reviews
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The Amorous Adventures of Alice
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© 2006 Denise Rossetti
Rose graphic courtesy of Corbis