Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Morning Chat: #Interview with @ACJamesauthor

John Satisfy:  Today, I've got a great treat for you.  A.C. James was kind enough to take some time out of her hectic schedule only days before the release of her newest book to have a little chat with me.  If you like fantasies, either BDSM or Fairy Tale based, then you're in luck.  Good Morning, AC.  Could you please tell me a little about yourself and what you write.

A.C. James:  Well for starters… I didn't always want to be a writer or at least I didn't know that until it had been confirmed by so many people in my life who suggested I should start taking myself seriously. I've always been an avid reader. When I was a kid I hid books under my mattress when I was grounded which was often. It gave me something to do that saved me from staring at the same four walls. I never really wrote anything other than ghastly poetry that was akin to what a Vogon might write (if one existed) and short stories when I was younger.

Professionally, I've been known as a jack-of-all-trades and like most who share the ability to be able to jump head first into just about anything, I’m sure we’d all agree it’s really a fancy term for professional bullshitter. I guess I've spent most of my professional time using my aptitude for technology to work in IT positions such as technical support, help desk, web testing, and as a software beta tester which is really a fancy way to say that I got paid to play video games.

As a reader I am drawn to a wide variety of genres including paranormal, urban fantasy, fantasy, science fiction, horror, thrillers, and of course romance. In fact, the first romance that I read was a bodice ripper I snatched from my babysitter’s (Sherry Luv) bookshelf. She liked Elvis too and used to make the most dreadful ice tea—the kind that’s cloyingly sweet.

I still don’t drink ice tea.

JS:  I'll try not to hold your dislike of iced tea against you, but to be fair, it sounds like it's Sweet Tea you really aren't a fan of.  Sounds like you've got some geek cred there, which is awesome.  What was it like doing the software beta testing?

AC:  It was a really exciting time before the dot com explosion. We worked on games such as the first Unreal Tournament. I worked on a printer cleaning software developed by Hewlett Packard. I’m good with Macs too so I often got saddled with educational games on Macs because the guys that I worked with couldn't stand the “kiddie” games and I was a girl so they dumped it on me. My name is in the credits for an old game called Arthur's Reading. Actually, I wrote up a bug for that game where Arthur is holding a bat to swing at a piñata in quite a precarious position and the bat is the same color as his skin. So for a split second it appears that he’s actually holding, well, you know… before he hits the piñata and words spill out for a rhyming game that runs amok. Bored programmers started rhyming inappropriate word pairs like need and weed. We did software testing downstairs and we also did technical support for many of the same games we tested once they were released upstairs. I ended up being the youngest team leader. My team was responsible for tech support on games that used to be produced by Lego. It was fun while it lasted. We used to shoot the heck out of one another in after-hours first person shooter games and occasionally played D&D.

JS:  That does sound like a really fun experience, and I can't believe with a whole team that noticed that Arthur's bug.  Do you think that performing the software testing helped you look at editing your works differently?

AC:  The thing about games, especially RPGs, is that they’re also a vehicle for storytelling. I do think the experience definitely helps when every corner you turn these days you hear the catch phrase transmedia being thrown around. I think regardless of the medium that storytelling is the key. Writing and editing are both important but there needs to be a cohesive and entertaining story. I hire out for editing because I’m comma deficient. One of my favorite quotes by Oscar Wilde goes something like, “I'm exhausted. I spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out.” So true.

JS:  Is editing the hardest part of the writing process for you?

AC:  I used to really cringe at editing but now I like how the story condenses and really starts to take shape. It doesn't make me want to do cartwheels or anything but I don’t find it as overwhelming as I used to. Slogging through my own muck used to really grate on my nerves. I always did it because I’d rather grate on my nerves and not my readers. Something about going through a full length novel and fixing my word spew made me feel like I was wandering a vast forest—lost, confused, and a little dehydrated until I found a way to systematically tackle it. Don’t edit blindly. Or without caffeine.

JS:  And what is your secret strategy?

AC:  I’m not so sure that it’s really a secret but I edit in stages. Macro to micro. Big picture issues like character and then plot. I’ll do a pass just for dialogue which I personally think is the pass that counts the most. Then I’ll read aloud for awkward sentences, look for missing words, or other issues that won’t be caught by Word. I don’t really get into copy/line edit issues too much, unless I catch something that I know is glaringly wrong, because that’s what I have Alexis for. She keeps me from pulling my hair out.

JS:  Alexis is your proofreader?  Do you hire her or is she a friend?

AC:  I use Alexis Arendt at Word Vagabond. She's absolutely wonderful. I love working with her. Actually, I can't sing her praises enough!  She does any number of things from beta reading to content edits with story issues that I may have missed. Sometimes it's just a matter of copy/line editing and proofreading. It all depends on what that particular story needs. Example... At the moment I'm revisiting Eternal Ever After for a major overhaul. I intend to use the current print copies of this book as an extended edition with deleted scenes and an alternate ending in a future giveaway. I'm revisiting it because the story is a little too heavy on plot and I feel that the pacing would be better if I trimmed it down. Except she wants to cut one scene that I'm kind of partial to. So I'm actually using one of my beta readers as a tie breaker since we disagree. I probably won't use anyone else because we have a really honest relationship. She's not afraid to say, "Hey, this is broken. Fix it." She's always good about squeezing in side projects that I'm working on, even when I haven't scheduled in advance. Alexis is really reliable.

JS:  Finding a relationship with an editor/proofreader like that is wonderful.  A good editor is almost as important as a good writer.  Eternal Ever After is currently out, so what are you doing to change it?

AC:  Eternal Ever After is a Gothic Cinderella re-telling with vampires and BDSM. That is the core of the story and it’s all about the romantic relationship between Holly and Arie. That hasn't changed… The ending will be different. I don’t like spoilers so I’m not going to give any but it will be a shorter book and have an unexpected twist. The new edition and book two will be out at the same time. And I’ll be doing a special giveaway to go along with both new releases. For now readers can get a sneak peek at Fallen Ever After (Book #2). Fallen Ever After will offer more information about Holly’s past which readers have been asking for.

JS:  This seems like a fun twist on both paranormal and fairy tale erotica.  Do all your books play in those spaces?

AC:  I love folklore, fairy tales, mythology, and classic literature. So it definitely influences what I write. At Thanksgiving I discovered that my dad had actually been reading my paranormal erotica anthology out loud to his wife, my step-mom. He’s really proud of me for writing romance and writing erotica. I wish I could say that everyone in my life felt that way but it was amazing, yes, a bit mortifying yet still unbelievably amazing to have my dad introduce me as an erotica writer. I think I excused myself to get more cranberry sauce and my face was probably just as red but his support means everything to me. There’s an idea that’s been swirling around in my head about doing an erotic paranormal version of classic Shakespeare. I’ll probably write it sometime this fall or after I've released at least three books in the Ever After series.

JS:  Well that could be very fun take on the Bard.  Do you find you take direct inspiration for other writers often?

AC:  I read a wide variety of genres and I imagine that what I read or absorb through other forms of writing, like screenwriting, probably influences my stylistic choices. Most stories aren't completely original and you'll always find reoccurring archetypes and themes. The art of writing is in the arrangement. My grandmother used to read me Grimm's fairy-tales. Although, my fairy-tale retelling tends to be a bit more fractured, the Brothers Grimm stories were dark and twisty and told morals within the story that I find absolutely fascinating. It's these types of stories that draw me toward turning them into works of erotica. Not exactly an original or new idea... I mean, honestly, Ann Rice writing as A.N. Roquelaure? But these are the stories I grew-up with, the stories I love, and you should always write what you love. If you don't love it, then why write it?

JS:  That is certainly true, especially if you can put your own stamp on things.  What do you see as your stamp?

AC:  Hmm, let's see, my own stamp. I think that my writing is quirky which definitely fits with my personality. It can be dark. I tend to blend genres like historical romance, romantic suspense, horror, and paranormal all into one while building characters and their relationships through eroticism. I write what I would want to read and hope it resonates with readers. When I first got into writing I wasn't writing for an audience. I just wrote what I loved. Buried it in a notebook, stuffed it in my nightstand. I think about my readers, but I pretend that I'm just a reader and I still write what I love. I think that new writers worry too much about voice or style when really that's just a way of saying this is who I am, this is what I write. I don't worry about putting my stamp on it. I worry about telling the story.

 My stamp, or voice, or style or whatever we're calling it will develop and change naturally over the course of my writing career. Inevitably, I'll read more books that will influence me on both a conscious and subconscious level. You know, like when you asked me whether other writers shape what I write. Everything shapes what we write. It's the sum of our personal experiences, living life, loving, hating, death, birth, our fears, our environment or external influences like screen writing, other authors. All of it. Absolutely everything can be woven into our stories to breathe life into them, make them ring with authenticity. When characters feel like they could walk right off a page or the plot makes you feel like you’re right there with the character—that’s how you put your stamp on it.

JS:  That's certainly is the holy grail of writing, characters that are that alive.  Has there been a moment in your writing when you really felt like you knew you had something particularly fantastic on your hands?

AC:  I love this idea I have brewing about shifters, New York, and Shakespeare. I've even written the Ever After series to write it after at least the third book in the series. I'm always multitasking between writing and editing but I don't like writing multiple books at the same time. It feels a like cheating.
legend to go with it and the first scene. But I refuse to give it more writing time at the moment. I might be ready to take a break from the

JS:  Why does it feel like cheating?

AC:  I think when you hear stories about the elusive muse and that you should write when the muse strikes that it’s a total load of crap. It’s that mystical image of the writing life that people who aren't writing often form. Then there’s the notion that we’re all a bunch of loony, raving alcoholics.  Okay, that might be partly true.

Stories don’t just come to you. They do and they don’t. The more that you write, the more ideas form, and you jot them down in a notepad or stick them in a word document for future use. Some ideas are great. You can flesh them out and expand on them. Others are better as short stories. And some are simply these half cooked noodles without enough stuffing to make a casserole dish.

But when I write a character, when I write a story—I become immersed in it. I feel like I’m cheating on the characters, on the story, and not giving them the attention they need to really develop into a living, breathing, multi-layered tale if I start flitting off to write the next idea that pops in my head.

JS:  You certainly have a point there, although I know that sometimes leaving an idea to just "stew" can work out into their favor as well.  But everyone has their own writing style.  It sounds like you're very into your characters.  How much do you mold the story and how much input do the characters have?

AC:  I didn't always outline or plot. I always had a general idea of how the story started and where it ended. Usually that changes along the way. Eternal Ever After ended up being 70% different in the final draft than the first. I never outline short stories. And it's interesting because one of my favorite stories is Chained from Cursed Ever After. It has a very Ray Bradbury feel to it that it twists at the end. I loved writing it because one of the main characters, the senator, had no idea what was really happening. Fun things can happen when writing scenes with blindfolds. These days I try to be more efficient with my writing. I do outline now but the story still has a way of taking turns I didn't expect.

JS:  Hopefully you can get me an excerpt of "Chained" that I can put after the interview.  Personally, I think it's the little twists and turns a story takes is what makes it so fun, both for the reader as well as the writer.  What is your favorite part about writing?

AC:  That's a good one, what's my favorite thing about writing? Let's see. The release, putting my words out there... there's nothing better to see it released into the world. Well almost nothing better.

JS:  If people would like to catch up with you on social media, where can they find you?

AC:  I always tell readers if they want to know about my next release to join my mailing list. Often I'll offer special giveaways, extras, and advance reading copies in exchange for an honest review only to my newsletter subscribers. I only send a newsletter once a month and only if I have something to share. Of course, there's always my website. Usually, I can be found chatting with readers on Facebook or Twitter.  Of course, if they are looking to buy my works, I've got both Amazon and Smashwords store fronts.

JS:  That sounds not only super easy but also completely worth it.  Is there anything we didn't get to that you'd like my readers to know?

AC:  Book two in the Ever After Series is coming out soon. It's an erotic paranormal romance with mobster faeries plus BDSM and vampires. What could be better?

JS:  Well that looks like a wonderful treat to read.  Wow, AC, thank you so much for this fantastic interview.  You really opened up and it was great getting to know you better,  I recommend to my readers to check out your books and subscribe to your mailing list.  And of course good luck with your new release.

AC:  Thanks for having me on the blog today, John. Take Care!

An Excerpt from “Chained” in Cursed Ever After:

“Did you like that, John? How did that feel?”

“Yes, my mistress. It felt hot, my mistress.”

The door to the suite clicked as the key card granted access to Eleanor, who entered. She wore a long gray skirt and a sheer cream colored blouse—the top two buttons undone. Eleanor had him followed by a private investigator and found out about her husband’s kinky fantasies and transgressions three years ago. But instead of confronting him she had come to me instead. Eventually, she planned on telling him, but for now this was her game, one that she had devised. And I highly approved.

“Who’s there?” asked John when he heard the clicking sound of the keycard accessing the hotel room door.
I laughed and grinned at Eleanor, who smirked back at me. “You always ask that and I always tell you the same thing—that it’s only your wife.” But he never believed me. He always told me afterwards that my “assistant” had the most amazing mouth, thinking that when I told him that it was Eleanor, that it was all part of his fantasy and our scene.

Taking the restraints down from the top support of the mirrored iron canopy bed, I released his arms from the shackles and reattached them lower on the posts.

“Turn around.”

He obeyed my command wordlessly. I reattached the shackles to his wrists, forcing him to bend over the footboard. I slid a pillow under his stomach to relieve the pressure from iron rung beneath him. Slapping his ass, a resounding smack echoed through the suite. Eleanor placed her lips on his quivering ass to kiss the sting away. Then Eleanor grabbed the candle from the dresser. With a wicked smile, she held the candle over his ass and let a small drop fall across his sensitive skin.

John gasped loudly. “Yellow.”

Eleanor moved the candle a little higher, toward the base of his spine, tilting it until another drop fell across his skin. He didn’t flinch this time. Eleanor drizzled more wax that splashed onto his ass, making little patterns across the shapely curve. She held it closer and sometimes further away, to vary the sensations. John winced sharply but didn’t use his safe word. I released the nipple clamps simultaneously and John cried out from the surge of blood rushing back to the restricted areas.

“Red. Fucking red!”

We both gave him a moment to recover as his labored breathing slowly returned to normal. Eleanor stepped between his shackled legs spread wide as he bent over the footboard. Reaching around him, she grasped his cock and began to move her hand up and down its length. He pushed his ass back against her, and she gave it a slap.

“Did I tell you that you could move?” I asked.

“No, my mistress.”

In my suitcase were vibrators. I picked out a medium sized one and the lube. I drizzled a bit into his crack and handed the vibrator to Eleanor. She slipped the vibe into his ass while he wriggled a bit to allow her to push it inside before switching it on.

“You’re such a slut, such a hedonist. Do you like that? Is that what you wanted?”

He groaned. “Yes, my mistress.”

She slid the vibrator in and out as pre-cum glistened on the tip of his cock. I put my hand over Eleanor’s and took control of the vibrator. She pulled her hand out from under mine. Positioning herself between her husband and the footboard, she brushed up against him as she lowered herself to the floor.  She licked the salty wetness from the head of his cock before taking him in her mouth. Hollowing her cheeks, she took him to the root and he pulled against the chains.

“Good god, Eleanor,” he moaned.

I laughed. If only he knew how true his fantasy really was.

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