Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sunday Morning Chat: #Interview with @anna_bayes

John Satisfy:  It's another week and so it's time to sit down with another talented author.  Today I was lucky enough to sit down with Anna Bayes, an amazing author who writes some hot erotica with a taste of BDSM and bisexuality flavoring her works.  Hi Anna, could you please tell me a little bit about yourself and what you write?

Anna Bayes:  Hi John. Sure! I'm an introverted bookworm. At my age, I probably shouldn't, but I still look a bit shy and kind of innocent, but I'm actually a wild number if I warm up to you. I'm bisexual, as in I'm into men mostly, but can be swept off my feet by the right women too. I won't deny that looks play a small part in attracting me, but it is also about the brains, imagination, and a touch of vulnerability: I want a real and fragile human being.

I write erotic romances. Earth-shattering great sex makes me feel alive, and I find it natural to keep writing about it. I'm most intrigued by the dynamic tension between lovers, and so I attempt to convey something of that in my stories. I'm a submissive by nature, so some form of that seeps into my tales, but I try not to deliberately write a story about BDSM just for the sake of that. Elements of that, because that's who I am, flow into the story on their own, but they are never forced.

I love short stories and flash fiction. Multi-layers of meanings condensed into ten pages can have the same impact of a full-length novel. It's about magnifying one moment into a life-story, and I find myself drawn to that kind of power more than writing longer tales. So I think I'll keep with my erotic shorts, short story collections, and maybe, occasionally, a novella if my Muse inspires me so.

JS:  Well, you appear to really know who you are, which is wonderful.  When you talk about the dynamic tension between lovers, what exactly do you mean?

AB:  For me, dynamic tension is the fluidity of power between lovers. For example, if a pair quarrels, there is bitter resentment or fresh anger hanging in the air, but neither of them want to give up on the relationship. How do they resolve that? After a brief separation or "break," they have angry sex to vent the excess energy, or discuss their dispute and reach a new, stronger level of trust and understanding, and then have passionate make-up sex; that is delicious tension, either leading to a breach, or urging them into forming a stronger bond.

Even without dispute, in a loving relationship, who holds the real "power"? An extreme example: it may seem as if the Dominating man (or Dominatrix) holds the upper hand, but the sub actually has real control. Whenever s/he says, "stop," the Dom must stop. Who is the real submissive here? The journey to locate, and then passing boundaries is an acknowledgement and exchange of power. Power is fluid, it never rests only with one party. That fascinates me.

JS:  It sounds like when you write it's from a very emotional state.  Do your current feelings invade the characters that you're creating?

AB:  Yes. I exorcise feelings through stories that I write. I have multiple stories in my Drafts folder, and I may jump from one to the other when something presses me onwards. The only discipline I adhere to is to write something everyday. I don't fix the hours (although usually it is at night, very late - I hardly sleep), or the number of words, or force myself to finish one story before writing another, so my mind and emotions wander free. Sometimes I finish writing a story in one go (relatively anyway), but more often, I write different parts of the ongoing stories according to what feelings drive me strongest that day.

So current feelings definitely find their ways into my characters, although they are scattered in various portions, shared by multiple characters.

JS:  That's a great way to spread it out so it's not as obviously all from the same state of mind.  About how many stories to you currently have started?

AB:  There are six short stories on-going at the same time, one novella slowly forming, and another five or so that began but which I'm not sure how to continue.

JS:  How do you deal with writer's block on those stories that you don't know how to continue?  Do you discuss it with others, or do you just abandon them, or do you finally figure out how to continue the story?

AB:  I trust my intuition and brain. If an idea forms in my head, I know that it will come to completion one day, even if it is not immediately. I just leave them in the Drafts folder, and know that I'll figure out when and how to complete all those stories that sparked in my mind one way or another.

It doesn't help sitting there brooding, or worse yet, getting stressed over works in progress. They are "work", yes, but "art" too. You can't rush them. Writing comes from both the heart and the brain. Sometimes you can't finish the story at the moment for a reason. Life wants you to go out and live a little before knowing what is the logical and emotionally satisfying next-step or conclusion to a creative effort. I am a writer; I trust myself. So far, it works well for me.

JS:  I think that trust in your own abilities is one of the keys to being a writer.  What do you think the most important things to keep in mind for new writers?

AB:  Keep writing. Write because you love, write because you hate, write because you feel. Open your eyes wide to observe life and live fully. Everything you touch, smell, hear and experience will find a way into your writing.

Read as much as you can. It fuels the mind and helps you improve in writing skills.

If you like courses or seminars, take them, but stay true to your own voice, and never blindly follow advice (no matter how professional or well-sounding they are) of other people. You write your own thing.
Sales matter, yes. It is a nice reward, but don't let numbers get you down (or puff you up). Be the writer in you.

Nowadays, writers must learn to sell themselves too. Social media, marketing strategies, etc etc, and it's the same for traditionally published authors or indies alike. It's tougher in a way, but also more fun. Enjoy the process, learn the modern writing world, and keep your priorities straight: writers write. Everything else is secondary.

JS:  How do you find the balance between social media and time to write?  Do you have any tools to help you?

AB:  I log-off from every website and social media app each and every time after using them. Yes it sounds tedious, but when your laptop always shows only a blank Word document, or one of your works in progress, you never get distracted.

I write first. After I am happy with having written something, I open a browser and log in to various social media sites. When I'm done, I log off from all of them. I never was much of an internet addict anyway, so this part of "control" was not too difficult for me.

As for tools, if you mean hiring an assistant for social media stuff, or using automated software, then no, I don't use them. I prefer doing everything myself. Juggling the time to do everything I want to everyday gives a real sense of accomplishment. It's a natural high that I love.

JS:  It's really nice that you give it the personal touch.  How much time do you think you spend on social media?

AB:  If I have a new release, then for a week or so, I'm on Goodreads forums and Facebook groups a lot more, but generally, I'm mostly just on my blog about 1-2 times per week and Twitter everyday. It takes maybe an hour or so per day, so the personal touch isn't too demanding, actually.

JS:  At one point in time you were working with a publisher, but you decided to self publish.  Why did you decide to go that route?

AB:  My first three eBooks were published under Torquere Press. They focused on GLBT erotic romances, so I had good editorial support. I was new (sent out my first story back in November, 2012) and was thrilled to know a publisher accepted my manuscript. I admired my editor, and Torquere's process for marketing and promotion was clear and concise. I followed their instructions and waited for my book to be sold and read. It didn't happen that easily, of course. Just being on their Yahoo mailing group, guest posting on their two blogs and posting excerpts on large Yahoo groups did not help sales much.

So I ventured into social media. I began with Twitter first and found that I liked it. I still prefer Twitter over the others. After I got a hang of it, I moved on to Facebook and Goodreads: different platforms with their own styles and advantages, and you get to know other readers and authors, which was very nice.

With that, gradually, I realized that most of my sales (90% at least) were from Amazon, which was the main purchase link I had promoted on my own on my various social media sites. That means it was mainly my own efforts that sold my books.

JS:  You really were still doing a lot of the marketing work then.  Is that when you thought about becoming an indie author?

AB:  Well, I sat down and thought about that and the whole way my books were handled. Frankly I didn't like the generic book covers the publisher used for short stories like mine, so by self-publishing, I could try designing my own book covers (which was an additional, fun creative outlet and I absolutely love it) and gain control over every detail over when and where I want my books sold. The sales figure showed clearly that I was making my own sales (I don't mean it in an egotistic way, it's just the truth) so, quite amazingly, I believed I really could do it on my own. The first story I published with Torquere Press was Under His Wings. It was a stand-alone short story under the theme of the new year. It marked a pivotal moment in my life. Besides it being the first story I had seriously written in hopes of becoming published, it was also my attempt at exorcizing a powerful but unhealthy relationship I was having with a man at the time.

He "loved" me and another girl but gave precedence to her. I was constantly jealous and felt slighted but still clung onto him because of a stubborn obsession that I had never experienced before. I wrote my honest feelings into a story (changing the man's main lover to another male that I could fantasize about). That helped put a lot of things in perspective. The most obvious thing was that I was a fool to continue in such a blatantly unequal "relationship." I freed myself from it later. Having the book's publishing rights back meant a lot to me. I republished it again this year in January with a new book cover. Seeing Under His Wings on the Amazon site as entirely my own creation truly marked a different phase of my life, both as an author, and as a woman recovering from a bad heartbreak.

As an independent author, it took a while for me to find the perfect editor/proofreader, but once that was done, everything was in place. I love the freedom of being an Indie. I intend to continue likewise.

JS:  Has anything surprised you about being a self-publisher?  Anything easier or more difficult then you expected?

AB:  As I didn't start off self-publishing, but slowly transitioned from having a publisher, learning self-promotion, making connections with readers, reviewers and authors, and then decided to go Indie, I have been able to get a grasp of the essentials (at least for starters). I am sure there are many tricks and ideas to improve, but at least I know how to begin.

It is pretty amazing how you really can just upload your word document and your book cover image and then technology makes it into an eBook within hours. It is super cool. I am glad there is the automated platform of the internet. The ease of self-publishing on various platform was a bit surprising. As long as I followed all the instructions, formatted my word file properly and it was done! I still marvel at how efficient it is.

One extra thing that I especially love: with traditional publishers, unless I were already wildly successful and popular, they would not want to publish a short story collection comprising only work from me, but I prefer writing short tales and have many of them sitting and yawning in my laptop. So I exercised my "rights" as an Indie to put together 15 of my favourite tales and published them as my first short story collection, It Is Time and Other Stories. This was freshly live on February 28th. I'm quite proud of this collection.

JS:  It really is quite amazing that pretty much anyone can really make a go at this.  I get a rush out of self-publishing.

AB:  Yes!  It was exciting realizing that I was doing this by myself. There was a sense of pride and happiness that could almost beat the satisfaction of sex (I did say, "almost"), but after the excitement wore off, there was a tiny voice at the back of my head: a mixture of doubt and fear. Have I really done everything? Have I done too much? Am I just being silly doing this all on my own? What if I'm only doing 1% of what other people are doing? What if there are things obvious to others that I am completely ignorant about? And... sales... some days are better, some days there is just 1 sale no matter how many times I refresh the page, it can get me down a bit.

But all in all, I enjoy the experience. It is mostly about writing and then seeing how I can learn to pimp my stories to the world. This is special. I do not intend to quit, not in a long time.

JS:  That’s wonderful news since you have a really great voice in the erotica community.  Not including writing or sex, what are you passionate about?

AB:  You are so sweet, I'm very flattered, John. I love to read, I guess all writers do, and I kick ass at badminton (even if I say so myself). My first love was music. I studied that in university before moving on to linguistics. I still enjoy making music, but mostly as an accompanist or with friends as leisure, and not the concert performances in my younger years. Intensive training took up all of my time during those days, it was too stressful. I'm greedy, I prefer to sample more than one thing in life. I also love animals, especially cats. I volunteer at a vet's once per week for the opportunity to be with animal-lovers and help the fluffy creatures.

JS:  I'm noticing a lot of authors who are/were musicians in their younger years.  What instruments do you play?  Personally I'm really good at playing the Mp3 Player, but as for actual instruments, I'll leave playing them to those with the ability and drive.  Do you think there's a relationship between playing music and writing?

AB:  I played the pipe organ and the piano, but mostly just the piano now.

I guess it's natural that a creative person has more than one outlet. Writing and music, or perhaps dance, sketching and painting, photography or acting. Every form of self-expression can be related, because they are different modes of magnifying and celebrating raw emotions.

To "create" is to make something out of a limited set of smaller things, e.g. there are only 26 letters in the alphabet and only a certain number of words that are commonly used in the English language but there are infinite ways of telling a story. Similarly, charcoal on paper can only have a certain number of shades in-between white and black but they turn into endless portraits that mesmerize, and so on. I think it is beautiful how there are so many ways of expressing something.

JS:  I actually built pipe organs for a few years so I really appreciate the talent it takes to juggle all the sounds at once.  I can see why you'd move to the piano since it is easier to have access to an instrument.  Have you ever intentionally put boundaries on your work in order to foster creativity?

AB:  Occasionally I might look for writing prompts just for fun, but I seldom use or make up rules or constraints to spark creativity. I understand your concept. Sometimes amazing things happen when you force yourself to use restraints. The same "hindrances" become a source of inspiration. But I don't make use of that much. I talk to myself a lot (aloud or silently), and lots of little ideas whoosh by quite frequently. I like to grab them and then talk myself into finding sense in what it is supposed to be. I like my lunatic monologues; it sounds nutty but it calms me, gives me confidence and helps me build logic in my stories.

I most often try to finish a story within 500 words. I just prefer it that way. Only when a story has more that wants to be told that I allow it to grow longer. That's why it might actually be easier for me to have short story collections put together than to have stand-alone "short" stories of 2,000 words and up. But when those "longer" short stories form themselves, it is especially thrilling. They are gifts that manifest and unwrap themselves.

JS:  It's great when a story takes off and has a life of it's own.  Has anyone ever caught you doing one of your "lunatic monologues"?

AB:  It's possible that more people have witnessed my monologues because I'm usually so happily talking and giggling to myself that I forget where I am. My parents have seen me do it, one or two close friends might have stayed on as friends despite concrete proof that I'm crazy, but I "hope" I have not done that out loud in public...

JS:  Well it's a good to hear your friends stuck by you.  If my readers want to keep up with your mutterings, crazy, sexy or otherwise, where can they find you on social media?

AB:  I’m mostly on my blog and on Twitter, but you can also keep up with me on, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google +.  If you’re after my books, please check out my Amazon and Smashwords author pages.

JS:  Is there anything we didn't get a chance to talk about that you wanted to mention?

AB:  I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to you, John. This was fun, and definitely more in-depth than standard interview questions. Thank you for hosting me, and for putting in so much time and effort into this! A big hug and sweet kisses to you!

JS:  My pleasure, Anna.  I'm glad you took the time to do this, and I think we all found a lot out.  I suggest anyone who's interested in Anna's works to check out her blog and book links.  And if anyone wants to relive the holidays, they should get Sexy Holiday Bites (Amazon, Smashwords) for free!  There are stories by Anna & me along with quite a few other authors.  Hope everyone has a great week!

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  1. Fascinating interview, and, if I might say so, you and I have a lot in common. Congrats on your success, and I hope you continue on your journey.

    1. So glad you found the interview entertaining!

  2. (*waves*) Hi, Ms. Pierce. Nice meeting you here. :-)

  3. Thank you for hosting me today, John!

    1. Thanks for spending the time and letting me interview you. It was so much fun!

  4. Anna, what a great interview. I know you are a wonderful writer (I think I've published around 12 of your erotic flash fiction stories), but I did not really appreciate what a great student of life and writing that you are. And from what I can tell you're still young. That's meant to be a compliment.

    1. It is always great to find out more about these authors we think we know. I've loved getting to host all of them and learn amazing tidbits.