Sunday, May 20, 2012

Interview with Cross-Genre Author Extraordinaire, Jane Toombs!

Bio: Jane Toombs, her Viking from the past and their calico grandcat, Kinko, live across the road from Lake Superior in Michigan's beautiful Upper Peninsula wilderness. Jane's writing her eightieth-something book , already promised to a publisher, and hopes to reach one hundred. Though she writes in most genres, her favorite is paranormal. Website:

The Interview:

GRACIE: I’m excited to have you here at The G-Spot, Jane! Please tell us a little about yourself (or a lot J) and how and when you got into writing?

JANE:  I’m happy to be here at the G-spot.  I was born in California, but my mother brought me back to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wilderness when I was nine months old. Since I was conceived here, though, that makes me a genuine Yooper.  My father was published as a non-fiction writer and critiqued all my early efforts at fiction, always first telling me what I’d written was good before showing me ways it could be improved.  I’ve always tried to critique other writers in the same way because it worked so well for me.  Spent a year at Michigan State before joining the Cadet Nurse Corps when I was 17 ½.   Did what many nurses do, married a doctor after I got my RN. We had five children before the writing bug came back and bit me permanently.  He was so threatened by my writing that we finally divorced. I was certain I was off men forever, but I met a guy in a writing class and we finally married, adding his two children to my five.   Just after that I sold my first book, Tule Witch, to Avon. He sold his first one, also a gothic like mine shortly after that.  We had the same agent and sold quite a few books before he died.  Then I met—or to be exact, remet—a guy I‘d gone all through school with.  Eventually we got together and have been with each other for going on eighteen years now as Life Partners, spending the last twelve of them back in our old home town. All though this I’ve been writing and he thinks that’s just great. 

GRACIE: With over eighty books published you are, to say the least, a prolific author. How do you account for your output and longevity in such an unpredictable industry as publishing?

JANE: I wrote for the NY pubs for a long time, but had to tailor my Harlequin books to what they felt readers wanted.  Since I tend to add paranormal elements to stories, that was difficult for me, because the rule at that time was no paranormal—so I had to take even the hint out..  Remember these were the days before paranormal found its own niche.  So when electronic books first began I leaped on the bandwagon, while still writing for Harlequin and Kensington.  But finally gave that up, writing just for epubs now.   

GRACIE: Is there any one thing or person in your life that inspired your writing? Any one thing or person that influenced the genres you write in?

JANE:  My father was my main influence, but so were the books I read as a child, mostly E. A. Poe. 

GRACIE: When did you get The Call and what was your first published book?

JANE:  I had recently gone through that divorce and finally remarried when the call came in.  My agent had sold my first gothic, Tule Witch to Avon—actually the first novel I’d ever finished.  There was no one at home but I could hear the thump of a basketball out back and raced out there. Mikel, my stepson, was shooting baskets.  He’d been very reserved toward me but I was so excited I hugged him, shouting in his ear that I’d sold a book!  He stiffened, but finally hugged me back and told me ‘That’s great!”  Selling that book markedly improved our relationship.

GRACIE: What do you know now about writing and the publishing industry that you wish you’d known before you started?

JANE: I learned that just like any enterprise they're out to make a profit and so they want selling authors. This sometimes gives an author problems, because publishers also firmly believe they know what sells books and this may conflict with what the author is writing.

GRACIE: Please, give us a little story behind the story and what inspired your California saga, Golden Chances books.

JANE: I come from a Scottish background and was horrified when I found out that in the old days over there a bastard was not allowed to own land, which meant he couldn’t own a house either.  Many years later living in California, I learned during the gold rush, the US government slowly rid itself of the Californios and acquired  their large ranchos.  Because this sort of reminded me of Scotland’s one-time attitude toward bastards,  I made my protagonist  a Scottish immigrant who was a bastard and would do anything to acquire land. I gave him second sight as well.  Diarmid Burwash lived at the right time and was in the right place to acquire the land he craved. Land he would do anything to own.  But as I wrote the book it became a saga so massive it was too long for even a historical novel.  But then ebooks came along .  Books We Love Ltd. had already made two ebooks from one of my rights-back historicals, splitting it into two parts because it was too long. The Golden Chances saga  was even longer.  We had the bright idea of dividing it into seven novellas and the book actually split up this way almost like magic. Readers seem to like this idea as well.

GRACIE: You write in so many different genres and sub-genres—from romance, to mystery, to fantasy and horror—and under several different pseudonyms, slipping seamlessly from one category of fiction to the next. How do you keep everything straight without succumbing to multiple personality disorder J?

JANE: Well I think all authors are a bit crazy. Why else would we write books that we have no idea will ever sell or readers read?

GRACIE: Good point! Of all the stories you’ve written, which is your favorite and why?

JANE: Under The Shadow, the first book of my MOONRUNNER TRILOGY.  The character of Sergei and what happened to him utterly fascinated me.  The fact that for years he didn’t know who he was--or worse, what he was--and yet managed to stay alive made me marvel. 

GRACIE: I know this is like asking a mother which is her favorite child, and you do have so many to chose from, but which of your characters is your favorite and why?

JANE: Again, that would be Sergei.  He was an extremely complex character who was really tortured by what he was.

GRACIE: What about your characters makes them unique?

JANE: What they reveal to me as I write about them.  I don’t know everything abut a character when I first begin a book.  I have a general conception, yes, but as I keep writing I learn more and more about him or her as I go on.  They often surprise me.

GRACIE: What is your favorite aspect of the writing process? Your least favorite?

JANE: Writing a synopsis is easy and I enjoy doing them.  But writing the story itself is much harder, especially when I find I have to repeatedly depart in places from the synopsis., which often occurs.   

GRACIE: Are you a pantser or do you outline?

JANE:  I simply set down and wrote my first two gothics, which both sold.  The third gothic did not. Revision didn’t help.  I was still struggling with it when my agent called and asked if I wanted to do a partial--three chapters and a synopsis for a packager who need a Sagittarius gothic for his Zodiac Series.   I asked what a synopsis was.  He told me   Write the story in a very short form?  I thought I could do that, so I said yes.   So I wrote my first synopsis and the three chapters. Not long after he called and said the packager was going to contract on the partial.  Up until then I thought you had to write an entire book to make a sale.   So this synopsis stuff sounded really good to me.  I sold several more books on partials and began to realize how helpful the synopsis was in writing the rest of the book.  So I became  a dedicated plotter. Only my first two books were pantser-written.  At some point I took that third never-sold book and tried to write a synopsis from it.  What I discovered was it wandered all over the place.  A coherent synopsis solved that problem and the book sold.  Now I never attempt a book without first doing a synopsis.

GRACIE: If you weren’t a writer, what other profession would you have chosen to pursue?

JANE:  Actually For a long time as a nurse and busy mother, I didn’t write.  But finally the characters in my head forced me into writing about them in my meager spare time.

GRACIE: Who are some of your favorite authors and why? Name some of your favorite books and why they’re your favorites.

JANE: At the moment my two favorite characters are Lee Child’s Reacher and James Connally’s Harry Bosch.  Reacher and Bosch are nothing alike except for being the best at what they do.  This appeals to me, plus the brilliance of the two writers in keeping these characters always interesting is certainly a part of it. 

GRACIE: What are you working on now and what should readers be looking forward to from you in the future?

JANE: I’m fascinated with paranormal so most of my current books have paranormal added to suspense romance.  In 2009 I made a New Year’s resolution that I was not allowed to create any more series until I finished the first book in every series I’d ever outlined and thought still viable.  The count came to ten.  Okay, I started off with the Darkness Of Dragons Trilogy.  The first book sold immediately and then the epub wanted the other two as fast as I could write them.  I hadn’t foreseen this, so that slowed me down.  Currently I‘m up to the fourth and last book, Stranger On The Shore of  my Dangerous Darkness Series, have written the first book of The Dagon House Trilogy, Taken In.   Also a publisher has taken my Raffin Family Series, but I haven’t yet finished the first book.  And the reason I haven’t yet finished it is because I’m busy writing Uncanny, the third book in my Underworld Series.   I also have yet to finish the last book, Forever, of my Temple Of Time Series.  Yikes--I’ll never finish them all…

GRACIE: Do you have a website and/or how can readers contact you?

JANE: Buy links for all my books are available there.  Most are also on Amazon.

GRACIE: Where and how can readers purchase and/or read samples of your work?

JANE:  Amazon often has one or another of my ebooks free.  My website has excerpts of all my recent books.

GRACIE: What advice do you have for beginning writers?

JANE: Believe in yourself and finish everything you begin to write.  Every time you finish a work, you learn something about writing.  Find a good critique group or partner.   Never be crushed by someone trashing your work--that person is not interested in helping you.   Whoever that person is, he or she is a bad critic.  A good critic can find something to like in almost anyone’s writing, and will try to  point out ways to improve it. 

GRACIE: Anything else about yourself or your writing you’d like to share with your readers?

JANE: Writing is hard work and takes dedication.  All good writers know better than to believe a best seller can be dashed off in a couple of weeks.  Or even months. Work hard to finish everything you write no matter how long it takes you. 

GRACIE: Jane, thanks so much for taking time from your busy schedule to share yourself and your work with us at The G-Spot and giving us a little insight into your writing and the writing process! We’ll let you get back to writing those wonderful books you write! All the best!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Fifty Shades of Grey Phenomenon and the Erotic Romance Genre

I’ve been an avid reader of romance most of my life. I’ve been published by electronic and independent, small publishers in the romance genre since 1998 and in the erotic romance genre since 2006. In all that time, I’ve seen fads come and go, and e- and small-press publishers open and fold almost in the same breath. After all these decades, the one thing that has remained constant in popular fiction is the romance genre. It has gone through many incarnations and phases, to be sure, from the bodice rippers of the seventies to the current craze sweeping the globe in the form of this little tome, you might have heard of…Fifty Shades of Grey.

I have to admit I was skeptical and looking at all the hype fueling the popularity of this book with a jaundiced eye. How much different or better could it be than the hundreds of erotic romance titles I had read and written in the last ten years? Did it really deserve all the hype? I admit I was curious, but had firmly refused to fall into the propaganda. It was just the point. I figured the phenomenon was just big publishing’s attempt to capitalize on the latest literary trend of the day and the book was just their flavor of the month. Of course there could be no merit to all the hype! I realized I was being just as disdainful and judgmental of this book as others had been toward the genre I had been reading, writing and loving for decades. Shame on me. Still, I would not budge from my stance and the only thing that made me cave and purchase the trilogy was a discussion I had had with an agent who was interested in seeing my work. During the course of our phone conversation, he asked if I had read Fifty Shades of Grey and when I told him I had not, he said, “Read it.” Okay. Needless to say, I went into the first book with a gigantic chip on my shoulder and telling myself I was reading it strictly for research purposes. I needed to know what was hot in the market and what my competition was writing after all.

A strange thing happened to me on the way to finishing Fifty Shades of Grey, however. After I got over my initial pessimism and delved deeper into the book, I realized that I was enjoying it. The characters were engaging and had depth, the story was compelling and suspenseful and, most importantly, Anastasia and Christian had chemistry—in and out of the bedroom. All the elements of a good romance, a solid story—maintaining sexual heat and tension between the heroine and hero, and an entertaining, enlightening and relevant narrative—were present. However, what was it that took James’ book over the top, out of the grassroots movement of the niche erotic romance market and into the mainstream? What was making first-time erotic romance readers pick up the trilogy in droves, people who would have never considered reading romance, much less an erotic romance? I couldn’t put my finger on any one thing except the BDSM ingredient of the book.

And here is where I took issue. 

As is the case in the hundreds of romances I’ve read over the years, there are a lot of things going on in Fifty Shades of Grey, lots more things than heaving bosoms, throbbing members or kinky sex. Purple prose aside, BDSM is just one element, the vehicle that drives to light other heavier social issues and universal themes like domestic abuse, sexual awakening, and self-acceptance, just to name a few.

Yet, mainstream readers and the media are focusing on the kinky sex and BDSM elements as the end-all and be-all of the book.  

Take for instance Ellen DeGeneres’ recent video spoofing the popular novel here: I’m a huge fan of Ellen and enjoy her show whenever I can catch it. Admittedly, her Fifty Shades of Grey parody was, of course, hilarious. I even shared it on my Facebook page. After the laughter died down, however, I realized how much the video feeds into the public’s perception of the “prurient” romance genre and appeals to the lowest common denominator—the sex—rather than focusing on the other merits of the book like characterization and story and how each focuses on the way human beings relate to each other and express and experience love, joy and pain.

Granted kinky sex and BDSM are essential parts of the story, as is the romance itself. If one took away either element, there would be no Fifty Shades of Grey. But someone not familiar with the erotic romance genre might come away with the idea that kinky sex and BDSM are ALL the book—and erotic romance—is about and this just isn’t the case. The kinky sex and BDSM elements make the book controversial and ripe for criticism and satire—which is a negative and a positive for a genre that already suffers from numerous misconceptions (i.e., “romance books are dirty and all about sex” and “romance is just porn for women”).

Now into the second book, Fifty Shades Darker, I’m no longer skeptical of the success of the trilogy. It’s a solid piece of fiction and an arousing, humorous, revealing read. James was in the right place at the right time when she got her trilogy published, but more importantly she was able to parlay her obvious passion for a genre into literary success with her trendy novels. I admire that in a writer, in particular, and applaud the success of Fifty Shades, in general because really, anything that gets people talking about and reading books can’t be bad, especially when it opens up a dialogue about the diversity and viability of the much-maligned erotic romance genre.

Having said all this, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some other authors and titles in the erotic romance genre that deserve recognition <g>.

If you’re a first-time erotic romance reader who has fallen under the Fifty Shades spell, and would like to be brave and broaden your erotic romance horizons, you might want to give some of my favorite authors, titles/series and e-publishers a try. A lot of these lists will overlap, as many e- and indie published authors write outside the box and often cross genres. However, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed by any of them:

If you’re into Anthologies:

Games in the Dark – A Dreamspinner Press Anthology

The Anthologies from Zane: Chocolate Flava; Chocolate Flava II; Caramel Flava; and Caramel Flava II (includes Leap of Faith by Gracie C. McKeever <g>)

If you’re into BDSM:

Morgan Ashbury

Joey W. Hill’s Nature of Desire and Vampire Queen series

Gracie C. McKeever/Gigi Moore

Cooper McKenzie

Bridget Midway’s Corporate Desires series

Benjamin Russell

Katrina Strauss’s The Eldritch series and Blue Ruin series

If you’re into Contemporary

Morgan Ashbury

Destiny Blaine

Jami Davenport 

Roslyn Hardy Holcomb

Gracie C. McKeever http://www.graciecmckeever

Cooper McKenzie

E.R. Pierce

Lara Santiago

Katrina Strauss’s

If you’re into Cowboys/Westerns:

Destiny Blaine

Cara Covington

Wendi Darlin

Stacey Espino

Elle Saint James

Gracie C. McKeever/Gigi Moore

Bonnie Parker

Jenny Penn

If you’re into Futuristics, Paranormal, Shifters, Scifi, Time Travel, Urban Fantasy, and/or Vampires:

Melodee Aaron’s Ike Payne Adventure books

Morgan Ashbury

D. Renee Bagby

Michael Barnette’s Immortal Heroes series

Laura Baumbach's Details series and Out There series

Destiny Blaine

Charlotte Boyett-Compo

Tymber Dalton

Keta Diablo

Kate Douglas

Stacey Espino

Daisy Harris

Joey W. Hill’s Nature of Desire and Vampire Queen series

Roslyn Hardy Holcomb

Delilah Hunt

Samantha Lucas

Gracie C. McKeever/Gigi Moore

Rae Monet

Jenny Penn

E.R. Pierce

Michelle M. Pillow

Dahlia Rose

Benjamin Russell

Lara Santiago’s The Wives Tales

Katrina Strauss

If you’re into GLBT and/or Man Love:

Michael Barnette

Laura Baumbach's Rough Series

Ally Blue

Joyee Flynn

Daisy Harris

Gracie C. McKeever/Gigi Moore

Tere Michaels

Rick R. Reed

Katrina Strauss’s The Eldritch series and Blue Ruin series

If you’re into Historical:

Sharon Cullars

Roslyn Hardy Holcomb
Emma Wildes

If you’re into Interracial/Multicultural:

D. Renee Bagby

Sharon Cullars

Roslyn Hardy Holcomb

Bridget Midway

Gracie C. McKeever/Gigi Moore

Dahlia Rose

If you’re into Men in Uniform:

Tere Michaels

Tonya Ramagos

Lara Santiago

If you’re into Ménage: Siren Publishing has very popular imprints devoted to this area of erotic romance, Ménage Amour and Ménage Everlasting (I have several titles/series in these lines myself, under the nom de plume, Gigi Moore)

If you’re into Sports:

Destiny Blaine

Jami Davenport

If you’re into Suspense:

Tymber Dalton

Gracie C. McKeever

Lara Santiago

Marquete Williams

Other Erotic and Sensual Romance Publishers and Imprints:

Amber Quill Press – Amber Heat

Amira Press

Beautiful Trouble Publishing

Black Velvet Seductions

Changeling Press

Dreamspinner Press

Ellora’s Cave

Evernight Publishing

eXstasy Books

Liquid Silver Books

Loose ID

MLR Books

Phaze Books

Red Rose Publishing

Resplendence Publishing

Samhain Publishing

Secret Cravings Publishing

Shadow Fire Press

Silver Publishing

Tease Publishing, LLC

Torquere Books


Whiskey Creek Press - Torrid

These lists are in no way complete where erotic and sensual romance is concerned, just a sampling of what the genre has to offer and what I personally have read or with which I am acquainted. I extend apologies in advance to any and all the other excellent, award-winning erotic romance authors and titles out there that I have missed.
Be aware that tastes and tolerance levels vary, even among diehard erotic romance fans, and know there are heat ratings (from Sweet to Sextreme) and story lines that should appeal to all manner of erotic romance readers’ tastes.

So go forth, explore, find your inner goddess, Dom or sub annnnnnnd…Happy Reading!