Author Interview with Elizabeth A. Schechter

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  • Who do you read for fun? How much have they influenced your writing?

Surprisingly, not that much erotica! Or, really, very much romance. I read science-fiction and fantasy when I read fiction, and I read a lot of history when I read non-fiction.

I’m very fussy about my erotica and romance, because I realized early how insipid a lot of it can be. Most romance writing is fluffy–there’s no substance to it. It’s like a steady diet of cotton candy. I don’t want cotton candy. I want steak! So what I write now is the stuff that I want to read.

Now, having said that, I have recently discovered Courtney Milan. Her Brothers Sinister series is wonderful!

  • When did you decide to write erotica?

I fell into it. For about five years, I played a play-by-email role playing game based on the Kushiel books by Jacqueline Carey. This meant writing sex, often and in just about every permutation known to d’Angelines. I didn’t realize that I’d gotten good at it until someone told me that they’d forgotten that they weren’t reading something out of the books.

Shortly after that, there was a call for submissions for a Circlet anthology on Tarot magic. I wrote The Hand You’re Dealt, this fun little BDSM short story that involved the Scene being set by a tarot reading. That was my first sale.

  • Do you find you can get to aspects of characters in erotica that you couldn’t get to with non-erotic fiction?

Not having written any non-erotic fiction, I don’t know if I can answer that. Pretty much everything I’ve written professionally has had some erotic content. The only variation is heat level.

  • Are there particular preconceptions about erotic fiction you like challenging?

Cover for Counsel of the WickedI mess with the Romance Writer’s Association preconceived notions of romance all the time–my pairings are usually not alpha male/helpless female (or alpha female/sensitive male). I write multiples, and same sex couples, and angsty dark relationships that have made contest judges go “THIS ISN’T ROMANCE!!!” or lecture me in their comments about how my novels aren’t what a romance is supposed to be. But it is, by the standards set by the RWA–there’s a central love story that shows relationship growth, and there’s an emotionally satisfying ending.

Preconceptions about erotic fiction, though? I think the Rebel Mage series is the most pushing the envelope I’ve done. It’s almost ridiculous just how subversive Counsel of the Wicked actually is. I didn’t start out to write a book that turned everything on its collective ear. It just happened.

  • Do you have a favorite type of scene you enjoy writing?

Cover for Infernal MachineI love a good BDSM scene. I love the research, and putting things together in ways that make people go “guh!” I love predicament bondage and watching my characters squirm–something that that I had a lot of fun with in Infernal Machine.  I like coming up with new and different ways to play with it, too. I’m going to have to write a BDSM novel for FF next, just so I can really push that envelope and see what comes of it.

  • Is there another FFP author you particularly enjoy?

I like several. Annabeth Leong is great, as are Kailin Morgan, Nicholas Kinsley, and Nobilis Reed, of course. I have a pile of things to read on my tablet, too. Things I haven’t gotten to yet, but look awesome.

  • Some authors prefer to plot everything out ahead of time, some like to start with a character or a situation and see where it leads them. Which kind of writer are you? Outline? Discovery? A little of both?

I write these incredible LONG detailed synopses for EVERYTHING. I call it the “If I get hit by a bus contingency plan.”  I was scarred by a favorite author, who started this AMAZING trilogy, and twenty-mumble years later, we’re still waiting for book three. She just stopped writing them, and occasionally she will pop up on fan boards and ask for details from the first two books. Did she NOT have an outline? I don’t know. But because of that, I make it a habit to go back and reread my work on occasion, and I write these immense detailed outlines.

  • What’s your writing process like? Is there anything you do to prepare yourself to write, or to keep your focus when writing?

I write around my son’s schedule. We homeschool, which makes things interesting. I get up between 6 and 6:30, and get started on my day’s words by going over what I wrote the day before. My son gets up at 7:30, and we have breakfast and get ready for the day. We either get right into schoolwork, or we go to the gym. If we’re not having a field trip, I’ll write while he does his math on the other computer, then I’ll work with him until lunchtime. After lunch, there might be some flavor of appointment or co-op; I try to put those in the afternoon so we can focus on school in the morning. I might get half an hour to an hour of writing time there.. By the time we get home from that, it’s time to get started on dinner. Then, after dinner I get one to two hours of writing time, depending on whose night it is to be parent on duty for bedtime. I’ll write on the weekends, and I always have at least one notebook on me at all times. I always have something going in the back of my head—I’ve usually got at least the bare bones of a scene already planned by the time I get to my computer at night.

So far, this is working pretty well. I set a daily word goal of 750 to 1000 words, and I’ve made it almost every day. The trick is that once I’m sitting down with my computer, I am working. Don’t bother me!

  • Which of your stories was the hardest for you to write?

It hasn’t been published yet, but The Ice Raven. It’s a novella that ties into my first novel, Princes of Air. It answers the questions that a lot of people asked about one of the nine brothers, and I had beta readers cursing my name after it. Princes is being reissued sometime next year, and The Ice Raven will be part of that.

  • What do you do when staring at the screen fails to make words magically appear?

Go wash dishes. Inspiration is water soluble. If I do something mindless, I’ll find the answer. I discovered the missing half of the sequel to House of Sable Locks in spin class. And then immediately had to shelve it to work on books two and three of Rebel Mage.

  • Do you listen to music while you write? If so, do you have specific music for each story?

Usually, yes. Pandora is my friend.  And what kind depends on the scene and the book; Counsel had a lot of electronica and a lot of trance music, and the soundtrack for Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. Haven’s Fall had much the same soundtrack, but with the addition of the Hamilton soundtrack.

Rebel MageRebel Mage series logo started with one of those books that just happens, and I think I had very little conscious control over Counsel of the Wicked at first. The setting is what started it, and the characters really just walked out of my subconscious and took over. Really, it was a “What if? What next?” scenario.

Counsel is set, for the most part, in the Enclaves, which is a very puritanical society that has come about after a long magical war that devastated everything. They reject anything that is different, that is outside their very regimented worldview. People who refuse to conform are done away with; the tagline for the book is “Be a good boy, or you’ll get sent to The School.” Which is, I think, the first line that I wrote when I started this journey.

havensfall_cvrpdfOur main character is Matthias, who never should have been born–his mother defied everyone by not killing her bastard child at birth, and she raised him outside of accepted society. So he’s already different; he’s the Bastard, and he’s never considered a part of the Enclave. It’s very Scarlet Letter, and he goes through Hell. Twice. Barefoot. It’s a very dark book.

Haven’s Fall picks up at a pivot point in Counsel, and focuses on Tam and Linnea, who came into Counsel about halfway through. They’re sent on to safety by Matthias, and they find their promised land of Haven. Once they’re there, though, they find out that they’ve been sold a bill of goods. It’s nothing like they were promised.

There’s a recurring theme in Rebel Mage of truth: who decides what the truth is, and how can you determine the real truth. Basically, we’re following these characters as they dig through the layers of lies as they try to find a place where they’re finally safe. And I wasn’t planning on writing an allegory for the modern political climate of post-truth and Faux News. It just sort of happened.

  • What inspired the series?

I tease my sister about this a lot, but it’s all her fault. She got the flu a couple of years back, badly enough that she was hospitalized, and I went from Orlando to Charlotte, NC in December to help her husband take care of my nieces. Which involved taking them to church on Sunday — three times. Once for Mass, once for rehearsals for the Christmas show for my younger niece, and once for Confirmation classes for my older niece. So that made six times I drove past the Stonewall Jackson School for Boys, which is this creepy ruin just outside Harrisburg. The last time, there was fog coming up, and it just looked like something out of a Guillermo del Toro movie. I Googled it, and discovered the really awful history, which tied into the even worse history of the Florida School for Boys. That was coming to light at about the same time.

And just to add to the fun, the Well-house you learn about in Counsel is based on the gazebo that you can see from the road as you drive past the Stonewall Jackson school — the two-story, solid stone gazebo. I have a picture, but I don’t think I can post it.

  • Writing an erotic romance novel where the main character is asexual must have been a challenge. How did you approach it?

Matthias originally wasn’t asexual. In my early notes, he was homosexual, and very much in love with Balthazar. But the more I wrote, the more I realized that wasn’t right. Then Matthias told me why in the middle of a scene; the words came out my fingers without stopping in my brain first. I reread them and went “Oh. Well, that makes sense now. Why didn’t you just SAY so?!?”

The sheer amount of research from that point on was amazing. Probably the most I’ve ever done for any single character. There are a lot of good resources out there for writers–surprisingly, most of the best ones I found were on Tumblr!

I went to my Sherlock fanfiction community for asexual beta-readers. Sherlock fandom  offers great potential for representation for the ace community, because there’s a strong tendency to read Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock as asexual. I lost four of them when I gave them the trigger warnings, which I was expecting. The ones that stayed told me that I got the character right, which was good. I’m still nervous about it, though. This is so new for me, and I think perhaps the first time someone had written an erotic romance with an ace main character. I know i haven’t found any others, and I have looked. So, if I’m going to break new ground, I want to at least lay a good trail.

Did you start Counsel of the Wicked planning it to be the beginning of a series?

No. I thought it was going to be one book. But then it hit nearly 100K words, and there’s still more story there. So now I’m committing trilogy, and almost done with book three.

  • What was the hardest part of this novel for you?

I don’t want to spoil it, but near the end, when Matthias comes down the mountain for the last time, and the aftermath of that. I wrote it, and I sent it in, and both Lon (the editor) and Dany (the publisher) called me on the scene’s lack of detail and emotional detachment. If I was going to go in, I needed to go all in. I rewrote the scene, and yeah, it’s better. But it was heartbreaking to write.

Cover for Fools Rush In

  • Moving on to some of your other works, who was the inspiration for Fools Rush In?

My favorite character in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess was Bruce Campbell’s character Autolycus, the Prince of Thieves. He is completely the inspiration for Davi, to the point that I was hearing his voice in my head when I wrote the story. (And now everyone else will, too!)

  • In Her Captive, you’re writing a story-within-a-story. Was it hard to keep the different levels of narrative clear?

Cover for Her CaptiveIt wasn’t hard. I wrote the role-play first, then put the real world narrative in around it. Eventually, I plan to write the pirate story that was in my head when I wrote the role-play. I have notes for it, and I’m doing research into the navigation aspects that will be important to the plot, but the entire plot hasn’t gelled yet.

  • What’s next? Do you have anything else in mind for ForbiddenFiction readers?

I’m almost finished with Book 3 of Rebel Mage (as in, I can see the end from here!). I’ve got something that I’m shopping around to the mainstream erotic romance market that’s much tamer (for me, anyway), and that may lead into another series.

After that, maybe that pirate series? Or something else–I’ve got this vampire BDSM thing in my head, and it won’t leave me alone.

  • How long does it take you to finish a first draft?

For a novel, about three to four months, roughly speaking. I try to time it so that I’m writing while my son is in school. Now that we’re homeschooling, we’ll see how this turns out. I try to have a finished draft in December, and another in May.

 

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Haven's Fall by Elizabeth A. Schechter

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