Sunday, March 16, 2014

Sunday Morning Chat: #Interview with @LA_Cloutier

John Satisfy:  Today we've got an amazingly talented author to welcome to my blog.  I’m excited to sit down with LA Cloutier and help shine the spotlight on her and her BDSM tomes.  Hi there!  Can you please tell me a little about yourself and your writing.

LA Cloutier:   I'm a fun, happy person who loves life and takes everything one day at a time. There is always something good in each day and I try to find and focus on such. As a wife and mother I am proud to have raised one boy and two girls, who are mostly kicked... I mean, moved out of the house and all doing well. Now, most of my days are spent with my laptop, two snoring dogs and one annoying cat. And probably to much coffee. 

I became a published author in 2013, thanks to Blushing Books, who gave me an opportunity to achieve a lifelong dream. That first acceptance letter, however, was only the initial step as we all know. I found out quickly that I have a whole lot to learn about being an author. Thanks to some other very kind and helpful fellow authors I feel like I'm just starting to settle into what hopefully will become a full time career. 

JS:  Since you have a publisher, you’re not technically a completely indie author.  However it sounds like you still have to do a lot of the leg work like us indies.  Am I correct in assuming that your publishing house, Blushing Books, helps to promote your books. 

LA:  Yes, Blushing does help promote my books, but that doesn't mean I don't have to work in conjunction with their efforts. If I write a nice blog post or get a nice review for a new release, Blushing will often share it with their readers.  As a relatively new author I find it challenging to focus on both my writing and learning more about social networking. It comforts me to know as I listen to other authors, that I am not the only one out there that suffers from this problem and eventually as times goes on I will learn to even things out.

JS: So you still have to do a lot of work that you need to do to promote yourself then?  You’re still hitting twitter and facebook, getting your name out there.  I know how hard and frustrating that can be.  Why do you still write?

LA: There are so many reasons why I write, but I'll try to narrow it down to the most important ones. I started writing when I was very young. Somewhere around ten or eleven when I was given my first Diary. Thereafter, I found that daily writing was a great source of therapy, and it still is. Although, getting used to all the different social networks is indeed a challenge, and there have been moments when I've wanted to throw in the towel, I will never stop writing. Writing frees my imagination and feeds my soul it will always be a part of my life. 

JS:  So you’ve always been a writer.  How do you find yourself writing erotica now?

LA:  After working as a machine operator and raising a family, I was laid off my my full time job. 2008 seemed a bleak year for finding new employment. With the extra time I had on my hands I started writing short erotic stories. I stumbled upon the literotica website and nervously shared one of my works. I was pleasantly surprised by those who enjoyed my imagination and I've made some very nice friends there over the years, who have encouraged me to become the published author I am today. I've found that erotica is definitely my genre of choice when it comes to writing stories. I am fascinated with BDSM, domestic discipline, and spanking romance. I find writing about such things unleashes a passionate side of myself that otherwise might never exist. 

JS:  So how what caused you to make the shift from short stories to full length novels?

LA:  In 2010 I challenged myself to try writing a full length novel. This took me quite a while because I found that with the nature of writing erotic material I needed to be alone when I wrote it. Didn't want one of my girls looking over my shoulder in the middle of a sex scene. Any parent knows that kids will never let you live something like that down. A couple of years later those who read the novel, pushed and encouraged me to send it to a publisher, which has brought me to where I am today.

JS:  Well that’s quite the journey.  It’s great that you were able to find so many supportive readers and friends.  That’s something that seems to be a connection with most writers I know.  With all of this success, what areas do you feel like you need to work on and grow as a writer?

LA:  My biggest challenge right now is adjusting my style and learning how to stick to one point of view throughout a chapter. Through the help of fellow authors and critique partners I'm learning to show more than tell with my words. Like most authors, I never expected to write a national best seller with my first publication. I understand that only practice and applying things I learn along the way are going to make me a better writer. I've been told, I have a tendency to become a little wordy at times, so my motto for all the books I write in 2014 is going to be 'less is more'. 

JS:  Less is more certainly can be an important concept to focus on.  But hopefully you'll stay true to the style your fans love.  What would you consider to be the characteristics of your style?

LA:  I will always be true to my style. The characteristics of my style are much like the clothes I wear and the skin in which I live in. It's a part of me, an emanation of my own being. As a positive, boisterous and intellectual individual I would like to say my characters are, in fact, just small representations of myself. 

A villain will come from my devious side that wishes to be bad. For example, in my first publication, Seduction: The Story of M, my aim was to write a BDSM thriller. I wanted the villain and the hero to be one and the same; a character that readers both love and hate. The story starts off with Robert as the nameless villain. He kidnaps the heroine, Misty, and then uses his intellectual side to convince her that even though what he did might have been wrong initially, his intentions were never to bring her harm in a hope that she might actually like him as a person, despite his actions.  Roberts character is actually a reflection of my own personal need to be understood. Misty's character is a reflection of what my own reactions might have been, had I been in her place. 

JS:  It sounds like you really identify with all your characters, and they are an extension of your subconsciousness.  Where do you find inspiration for your plots?

LA:  My inspiration comes from a lot of sources. Sometimes it might be something simple like a picture and my imagination starts turning it into more. Other times I might be inspired by past conversation, or something I've read on a blog. The inspiration for The Story of L came from a conversation I had with a friend about the difference between a submissive and a submissive slave. The inspiration for Seduction: The Story of M started off being a personal fantasy that just developed into more. I had a lot of fun writing that book, I would have to say the plot for that one developed along the way. 

The inspiration for my current work in progress came from question that just randomly popped into my head. What if vampires were real? This is my first attempt at paranormal erotica, but so far it's been a lot of fun.

JS:  A few of your books are the Story of "L" and the Story of "M".  Why are the characters just referred to by a letter?

LA: The Story of M was not the first title of this book. Shortly after publication it was brought to my attention that a certain word in the title --abduction-- was not permissible with amazon. My publisher suggested we change the title to The Story of M as a way of making a brand for myself. Originally this book was titled 'Abduction, Seduction and the making of a slave'. Misty is the name of her heroine and isn't refereed to as M, as with the "L" trilogy.

As for The Story of L  I used only an initial for the heroine because I was writing about a woman's journey into BDSM and submissive slavery. Book one opens with L making a decision to sign a contract that clearly states she will be giving up all her constitutional rights if she wishes to become Trey's proffered pledge into the society. A society that would teach her obedience, poise, dignity, and grace as she was being trained to become the pleasure slave her Master wants. Because of her position as a slave, I thought it would be more alluring to only give her an initial in the first book. 

JS:  Ah, the Amazon censorship problem.  They love the fact that we erotica writers sell sexy books that lots of people want to read and they can make money.  Yet, heavens to Betsy if anyone actually found erotica on their site by accident.  Has their censorship effected your work in other ways?

LA:  I could rant and complain all day about censorship, but I won't. I will just say yes, it greatly affected my book/s. The last book of L - Redemption was also rendered with amazons adult label, which is actually kind of funny because neither the title, cover, or content of the book should have raised any flags with amazon. 

Here's what happens to a book in amazon's adult label pile... Nothing! Your book will not be seen by anyone who does not already know it's there. It will not be offered with other books like it and it will not show up in a search unless you use the exact name and title. So basically it's invisible to anyone who doesn't have prior knowledge of the books existence.  I compare it to running an add in your local newspaper and then forgetting to add your phone number. The difference there is, the newspaper will tell you that you forgot to list your number. Amazon does not. There is no way of knowing your book is labeled 'adult' unless you use a site like Novel Rank and check for yourself. Censorship=hardship for a book.

JS:  It is kind of unfair policy that Amazon has.  They really are the giant in the room, and you kind of have to use them to sell your books, but then they do have a few policies that really hurt the little guys.  I especially dislike how they can let someone buy a book and then later return it.  It turns it into a library.  Do you have a lot of control over your book or does blushing books make a lot of the decisions?

LA:  As far as the publishing end of things, Blushing takes care of most of the editing, all of the formatting and the cover art. As the publisher they decide where the books get listed for sale. That I don't have any control over. 

Yes, I do have to agree with you about amazon and their return policy. I think if someone reads over 50% of a book they should not be allowed to return it. What gets me even more upset is when someone says they returned a book because they didn't like the genre. It always makes me wonder why they bought in the first place. 

JS:  Yes, that really is odd, but then again, Amazon doesn't really care if they sell or not, and customer satisfaction is so important to them.  At least we agree on leaving people satisfied.    Have you ever been surprised in a good way by something someone wrote in a review?

LA:  Most definitely. In fact I'll share something short that P.R Trust recently had to say about my first publication:  "I kept reading, hoping she would refuse. Stockholm syndrome. Drugged with Valium, copious amounts of alcohol, hunger , the shock of fear. Of course. Why the four stars? The author had me hooked. This is a well written, horrifying book."

What surprised me was the last two words this reviewer left me. Although I had intended for the story to be dark, a thriller. Horrifying was not a word I ever expected to see from a reviewer. I was elated that P.R Trust thought of it as such. I was utterly thrilled to see 'the author had me hooked'. Reviews like that one inspire me to keep writing. 

JS:  It's really nice when people see more in your works then you were expecting them to find, and with such high praise as well.  Has one of your books received less attention from readers than you were expecting?

LA:  I still feel very new to the writing club so to speak, so I'm not sure what I was actually expecting when I first became a published author. Realistically, I was not expecting every reader to leave a review, nor was I expecting everyone who has ever read one of my titles to love my books. What I was hoping for, is that those who do share their views about my stories would tell me honestly what they liked or didn't like. I find this the most useful tool in evaluating myself as an author. 

Naturally, as an author, I love readers attention. I am truly humbled by anyone who takes the time to read one of my stories. I would have to say at this point, my titles haven't been out there long enough to determine if one receives more attention than another. For me, I tend not to place expectations on my readers, but rather upon myself. I expect myself to continually grow as an author. I expect that each new story I write will give me a sense of satisfaction that I have grown and gotten better. 

JS:  I think most authors thrive when they are being pushed and challenged, so I can relate to you wanting to grow as an author.  Can you give me an example of something you did in a later book that you don't think you we ready to write about in an earlier one?

LA:  Submission. In "M"-- Misty's story I wanted her character to go from zero knowledge about submission to an understanding of why she wanted and needed a dominant man in her life to guide her. More than one reviewer mentioned that although they enjoyed the story they did not find it plausible for the 3 day time frame in which the story progressed. It wasn't something they could realistically relate to. 

With 'L' I tried to reflect on a woman's curiosity about the discovery of her submissive nature and then develop it as her understanding of BDSM, more specifically, her own need of dominance and submission grew. In Odyssey (book 1) a reviewer said "I didn't feel the love." Now even though that might sound like an unfavorable thing to say, I smiled. Why? Because in Odyssey- although L thought she found love with Trey Murkle she did not, which is exactly what I wanted to portray. When she boldly stepped into the lifestyle Trey wanted for her, I wanted to express her submissive desires more so than the love ties she thought she was developing. Thus the name Odyssey

As the story progressed in Enlightenment I tried to artfully sway the reader into seeing L's own enlightening discovery of what her submission really meant to her. I wanted to convey that just because you think you want something or have something does not necessarily make it so. She needed to come to a better understanding of what motivated her submissive desires in the first place. And by doing so, she started to realize that perhaps Trey was not nurturing her submissiveness, but rather his own selfishness. 

As her journey came to an end in Redemption this is where I wanted the love to flow between a Dom and sub. This is where I wanted to show readers that although L's journey started off with little more than a woman's desire to please and give in to her submissive nature, it turned out to be a life changing discovery. By experiencing the difference between a man who's only interest was for himself and one who truly cared about her personal development, she was able to better identify with the deeper needs within herself and earnestly decipher why she chose to explore submission in the first place. 

I feel that while writing The Story of L, I gained a deeper understanding of where the desire for submission comes from and that with a partner who earnestly cares, just how far reaching and satisfying that submission can become. 

JS:  That sounds like a wonderful journey of growth, both for you as a writer, and for your characters.  If my readers would like to keep up with you how can they do that?

LA:  Thanks John, it's been a very fun journey so far and I'm compelled to continue. For those that wish to keep up with me... Some sort of Viagra supplement perhaps?

Just kidding!  I’d recommend following me on Twitter & Facebook and of course for them to read my blog to get a taste of my works.  I’m also active on Goodreads and Triberr so you can always interact with me there.  And I’d be remiss not to mention my Blushingbooks and Amazon pages.

JS:  Wow you're the first person that needed supplements to keep up with.  Just remember guys, if you find you're hard for longer then four hours when reading Ms. Cloutier's books, you need to take a break...  Is there anything else you'd like my readers to know?

LA:  I'd like to tell them, Thank You! I truly appreciate them taking the time to stop by your blog today and read more about me. I'd love to hear from them. I always love hearing from readers even if it's just to say hi.

JS:  Well thank you LA for stopping by and having this little chat with me.  Hearing how things are a little different when you're dealing with a publishing house was fascinating.  And besides, it's always great to get a chance to showcase such a supportive author.  I hope that my readers take you up on your offer and say hello to you.

LA:  Thank you for having me on your blog, John. It has been both an honor and a pleasure. I look forward to more of your steamy erotica as well. I loved your short story (Icing the Cookies) in Holiday Bites. It was a perfect free collection of short, tantalizing teases that brought me warmth (in more ways than one) during the busy holiday season.

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  1. John, the post looks great, thank you.
    It was a lot of fun working with you to put all of this together.

    1. It really was a fantastic interview, so thank you again.

  2. Great interview and questions. I was fascinated by how you named your books. I had no idea that "Abduction" was on the bad word list at Amazon. Geez. What if a books isn't erotic? What if it was mystery? What if Sue Grafton had written A is for Abduction instead of A is for Alibi? Would her book have fallen into the adult abyss?

    This is one reason how having a knowledgeable publisher can prevent one's books from being thrown into the Amazon dungeon.

    1. It's really amazing how Amazon's filters work. I always find out so much through these interviews. So glad you did as well.