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Hellion: Aboard this ship, we love our men like we love our rum: strong, fiery, and able to sweep us off our feet. And like our rum, we like these men to be plentiful, but of excellent quality. (Nothing worse than bad rum…and poorly written men.) So it is with great enthusiasm and sincere delight that I welcome back to the ship, the most wonderful critique partner and writer of men who meet all these qualities, Dee S. Knight!
Dee: I see you’ve been hitting the rum this morning, Hells. Flattered as I am….
Hellion: It’s all true! Sin, tell her it’s true….
Sin: Of course, it’s true. Do you think Dee would call a fiction writer a liar? Now come, Dee, and have a seat. I see you shed your saintly sister, Anne, for this trip. How is she doing?
Dee: I'd never call a fiction writer a liar. Not exactly…. Um, Sister Anne is reading up on past Dear Abby columns to see if she can best me in next week's A Little Sisterly Advice answer. No way she can, of course, but hey, gotta give her credit for trying. Thanks for asking, Sin!
Hellion: That’s all nice, but I want to talk about firemen. Your newest book with Liquid Silver Books is called Hearts Afire, and it’s about a fireman named Harm Reynolds. (Great name by the way!) Tell us more about this hunky, sexy guy—what’s he like, who did you base him off of, does he like a woman who cooks, and would he take me out on a date if I baked him some brownies?
Dee: Harm is a sucker for brownies, Hell, but I'm not sure about a date. Beth has him twisted around her grubby little finger now. He has past wife issues, too, you know, so maybe he should bake you brownies as a date bribe! I didn't base him off anyone, sad to say. He's all figment. In fact, with few exceptions I've never based a character off anyone I know. It's not that I don't know interesting people who would make great characters--writers, travelers, musicians, pirates--I just think it's safer and more fun to make people up. A good friend named three characters in her first book after her friends and gave them sketchily similar traits. Surprise, surprise! None of them were happy. That's because we almost never see ourselves as others see us. To me, it's just safer to create characters entirely. Though a couple of the guys I work with--after they found out my heroes were hunks who got beautiful women and lots of sex--have asked me to base characters on them, lol. I guess they hope the story line will rub off.
Hellion: It’s truly tragic that the best men are almost always fiction. Moving on: as hot as you made him, you made his heroine as cold as ice. In fact, she’s called Ice Queen. Do you like to put characters together who are of the opposites attract variety, or did you want to simply find out at what temperature ice melts? *grins* And how quickly did she melt, by the way?
Dee: She melted faster than a Dairy Queen hot fudge sundae in a chocolate-dipped waffle dish on an Atlanta August afternoon. The third time he was with her, he was with her, if you catch my drift. (I know Cap'n Sparrow does, 'cause he has that hungry look in his eye. And who can blame him, with all the Dairy Queen talk??) When I heard the Hearts Afire series had to feature firemen, my first thought was of fire, heat, flames. (What imagination! It's why I get paid the big bucks. Haha. More rum, if you please.) I liked the idea of pitting him against someone who was thought to be the opposite. The fact that he never sees her as cold when everyone else does, is a hint that they're made for each other. I don't always use opposites in characters. Sometimes it's fun for characters to have the same traits. When both the heroine and hero want to be on top, the sparks can be fun.
Hellion: I like to be on top. Jack usually wins the coin toss though. (I think he had a double-headed coin though.) Never mind. Did you do a lot of research about firemen, life in a firehouse, et al, to help with this book? What sorts of interesting things did you find out that you got to use?
Dee: LOL! As you know, we live a mere block from a firehouse. A friend recommended I go up and interview a fireman. I'm too shy (yes, Demure is my middle name) to tell a man I'd like to interview him for an erotic romance. So, no, no personal research. God bless the Internet! The only experience I've ever had with firemen was when our apartment burned when I was 5 or 6, and when the alarm went off over and over in our apartment building in San Francisco. The SF firemen were such hunks I think my tongue hung out. When the alarm went off the second (and third and fourth) time, I raced to the lobby--as did most of the men in the building--just to watch the brigade. And before you ask, I swear I didn't pull the alarm!
Hellion: Sure, you didn’t. Don’t worry, we won’t tell, Dee. You’re well known for writing emotionally touching, yet sexy books. (You frequently get 4 or 5 cup-star-and heart reviews because of this talent.) What advice would you recommend to writers who are trying to do the same?
Dee: Gosh, thanks! I think when I first started writing I told a pretty emotional story but with only marginal understanding of craft. When I found out that you were actually supposed to understand POV and scenes and silly stuff like conflict and motivation, I lost some of the emotion of the story because I was concentrating so hard on the craft. A good friend and wonderful writer, Jasmine Haynes, guided me back when she first read the Burning Bridges proposal years ago. She kept asking, "What is she feeling about this situation?" So, I'd pass along her same advice. When your characters have faced off (or bedded as so many of mine do), don't just describe what they're doing, ask yourself what they're feeling. I keep striving for Jasmine's expertise, but I hope I've found a decent balance between craft and emotion.
Hellion: Wow, writers really are like therapists, aren’t they? Ironic that my own characters are as reluctant to discuss their feelings as I am with my therapist. *LOL* Throughout many of your stories, your heroines are usually strong, independent career women who have confidence in pretty much every area of their life but romance. Would you say this is a common theme in your stories? If so, what do you hope readers will learn from your heroines?
Dee: Are they?? Gosh, I'm not sure I ever thought of it. You know, the strange thing is, I don't think of myself as being strong and full of confidence. Maybe I write my heroines the way I'd like to be! What I wish for my readers more than anything else is that they spend a few hours engrossed in my characters and plot and be entertained. Mine aren't message books. I like that heroines today usually seek out the alpha male, but not those of romances thirty years ago. Heroines today are hard to satisfy wenches! They want someone equally strong who will encourage them to reach their stars and be happy as individuals as they are as halves of a couple. I guess that's what we all wish for. That's what I try to provide. I'd like my readers to smile and say, "Awwww…" at the end of my books while they're out finding their own romance.
Hellion: This is your fifth book with Silver Books, but your 17th book/story you’ve published, yes? What do you like best about e-publishing?
Dee: Not quite. I have seven novels and novellas, all with Liquid Silver (nine of you count Anne's Burning Bridges with BookStrand). There are two short stories published as standalone books with Whispers Publishing, and I'm in nine anthologies, between Liquid Silver, Samhain and now Siren-BookStrand. I really like e-publishing. When I first started seven years ago, the big name publishers dissed e-pubs as being fly-by-night outfits with bad editors and few talented writers. The insults were deserved in many cases, but it's mostly not the case today. That's why many e-pubbed authors have gone on to be NY pubbed authors and why so many NY publishers are making sure they gain the e-rights to books. People will always want a book to "hold," but that term is changing in context as devices like Kindle increase in usability and decrease in price. I've been very lucky to be involved with honest, business people who recognized the need for good book covers and excellent editing, and maybe that's why I've been pretty happy where I am.
Oh, gosh, your question was what I liked best, lol. I think the shorter length of time you hear back on a submission and the general lack of restrictions placed on authors. With the e-publishers I write for, it's pretty much if you have a good idea, you'll probably be able to write it and have it accepted.
Hellion: Sweet! That is a rarity! Go e-publishing. What project are you working on now?
Dee: Well, the same day Hearts Afire - June (which I share with talented, Colleen Love) was released, another anthology project, Tasty Treats Volume 1 came out from Siren-BookStrand. It contains "The Elixir," my first attempt at a ménage. I had fun working through the challenge of how to handle one woman and two men, so I've started two more. One is intended as a novel and the other (hopefully) will be part of another anthology next fall. The novel is a contemporary western and the shorter story is a futuristic Old West, if that makes sense. Once I get past these two stories, I'd like for Anne to get her rear in gear and finish the first in her series. If you have me back, I'll tell you about it. *grin*
Hellion: Well, of course, we’ll have you back! And if Anne gets her rear in gear, we’ll have her on as well. *grins* We won’t even make her share the limelight with you.
Dee: Gee, thanks. *lol*
Hellion: What else do you have going on?
Dee: Jack (not Cap'n Jack, just Jack, who writes as Francis Drake), and I are also thinking of combining forces and writing a few books collaboratively. In that case, we'll create yet another pen name, lol. Funny, I don't have trouble keeping name and genre separate. Wonder what that says about me? When I write I often have the whole book laid out in my head. I have taken to outlining more (after someone we know and love showed me a good way to go about it, Hellion) and Jack and I brainstorm, often over breakfast at our favorite restaurant. It's a family joint, so we have to watch how detailed our brainstorming gets… Anyway, it keeps life interesting being these different writers and moving my characters around like paper dolls.
Hellion: *LOL* I know the restaurant. That is a great place to brainstorm, I’m sure. They’d definitely keep the coffee coming. I love how you refer to your characters as paper dolls because that’s the last thing your characters feel like. We all wish we had paper dolls as well-rounded as the characters you write. Sin still flinches if I bring out that plotting board, by the way. It’s almost like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with her. I’m glad you could make it work for you though! Well, I think I’ve finally run out of questions. I should let the crew ask some. Would you like more rum? Would you like some croissants and chocolate? A pillow to prop your feet up? Please stay awhile and visit—do you have any questions for us?
Dee: I'd love to slurp some rum and prop up my feet, thanks! Let's see, questions… I know you're too Amish for sex scenes, Hellion, but I also know Sin isn't. But how about some of the rest of you pirates? Does anyone else write erotic romance? If not, why not? If so, please tell me the biggest hurdle you had to overcome. I just jumped into ER because I was too stupid to know I shouldn't. My biggest problem (and based on the fireman book, still is) telling people what I write. Erotic romance aside, do you all have trouble telling people you write romance? Do you find people dismiss your writing as not "literary?
Thanks so much for inviting me aboard! The rum...I mean the questions and company have been great!!!