One quick thing, the BEAUTIFUL handmade chainmail bracelet being given away to one lucky blog tour commenter can be seen here: http://freiainguz.weebly.com/power-play-chainmaille.html It’s handmade by the talented Amara Devonte.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Cat Grant and Rachel Haimowitz, can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Cat: I’m a California girl, born and raised. I’ve lived in Northern California, Los Angeles and now I reside in beautiful Monterey.
Rachel: And I’m from the liberal bastion on the other coast, born and raised in Jersey, quite close to the amazing center of art and culture and weirdness that is New York. I suspect being exposed to all that as a child played a big role in me wanting to go into the arts as an adult, and seeing so much diversity and so many people from so many walks of life so comfortable in their own skin definitely contributed to my own comfort with myself, my peculiarities, my kinks and my desires.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
Cat: My first published book was The Arrangement, in 2008. How long did it take to get published? How about my whole life? LOL! Becoming a published author had been my dream ever since I was a teenager.
Rachel: My first book was a far-too-ambitious dystopian wherein America, after a catastrophic war, turns into a theocracy. I started writing it when I was 17, declared it as done as I knew how to make it when I was 25, and am terrified to even peek at it now because I completely lacked the skill to do so much worldbuilding (or much of anything else, really) at that age. So, it never got published, but it holds a very special place in my heart, and I’d love to fix it one day and try. As for my first published book, that was Counterpoint: Song of the Fallen #1, and I was actually fortunate enough to sign a contract for that before it was even finished.
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
Cat: I wrote slash fan fiction for a couple of decades (Kirk/Spock, Mulder/Krycek, Clark/Lex). So when m/m romance became a hot genre in pro-fic, I knew I’d found my home.
Rachel: Heh, I also started in fanfic—X-Files, Buffy, Star Trek Voyager, Stargate Atlantis, and now X-Men First Class (which just turned a year old—happy birthday, you crazy kinky fandom, you!)—where I mostly lurked for about five years, and then cut my slashy teeth. There are so many things to love about this genre that I hardly know where to begin, but two of the biggies are the lack of ossified genre tropes, and the similar lack of ossified gender expectations.
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
Cat: It took about five years from the time I decided to get serious about becoming professionally published to selling my first book. Power Play: Awakening marks my fifteenth published book.
Rachel: I’ve been writing ever since I can remember, and writing seriously with the intent of publication since I was 17. I sent out my first round of agent queries at the age of 21 or so, with that dystopian mess I mentioned earlier. Obviously it got roundly rejected, which was a good lesson for me for sure. My first book was published not quite two years ago, and since then, I’ve put out . . . hmm, Power Play: Awakening marks my fifth novel, and I’ve also done two novellas and two collections of shorts.
Do you write full time?
Cat: I’m trying to make writing a full-time career, but it’s difficult. Like any other new business, you don’t make a whole lot of money your first few years.
Rachel: No, but I’m in publishing full time. Most of my work hours these days are spent on Riptide Publishing, and I don’t have nearly as much time to write as I wish I did. The unfortunate truth is that it’s remarkably difficult to scrape by even a modest living off nothing but your royalties, especially in a genre as small as this one, but I do hope that as my backlist builds and as I connect with more readers, the day may come when I could write full time if I wanted to.
Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?
Cat: I’ve loved telling stories my whole life, and I love reading. So I guess it chose me!
Rachel: I’m with Cat on this one. I really can’t imagine not writing, so I suppose there’s nothing for it but to obey the voices in my head.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
Cat: I’m not much of a morning person, so I usually write in the afternoons and evenings – sometimes until 2 or 3 in the morning.
Rachel: Again, what Cat said. When I get really into something, I can lose track of time and end up on these manic writing jags that run 20 hours. Mostly, though, I’m eking out an hour here and an hour there between the day job.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
Cat: I revise as I go along, but that doesn’t stop me from having to do a couple more passes either before or during the editing process.
Rachel: Curiously enough, I do the same. Every time I sit down to write a new scene, I read the last couple/few before it, and tend to poke at them just a little, then move on. The bulk of my revisions come during the edit process.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
Cat: I plan, but I don’t outline. And then I end up going back and changing everything anyway. LOL!
Rachel: Okay, I’m starting to sound like a parrot here, but yes, I’m the same as Cat on this one too—sort of a hybrid plotter/pantser.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
Cat: It depends. Some books don’t require that much research. But if it’s going to have an impact on the character and/or plot development, I try to do as much of it as I can before I start writing. Otherwise I can do it piecemeal as I go.
Rachel: I do as much as I need to do to shape the overall sense of the world, and then I do a ton of research as I go. I can get lost in it sometimes, though, so I have to be jealous and guard my time.
How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read? Do you write straight through, or do you revise as you go along?
Cat: I can usually bang out a novel-length book in about 4-5 weeks. Then it takes at least that long to edit it.
Rachel: It depends how much time I have to spend on it and how insistent the muse is. Aleksandr Voinov and I wrote Break and Enter (a 27,000-word novella) in three days of just nonstop write-eat-write-sleep-write, though it then took ten more really aggressive workdays to self-edit before we felt it ready to submit. Other books I’ve poked at for a year or two before I’ve finished with them.
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
Cat: For me, writer’s block is not knowing what project to write next. Or being stuck because there’s a problem with the manuscript, but I haven’t identified it yet.
Rachel: I don’t really believe it’s a thing, but I think there are a lot of things that can make writing much harder. Low energy, poor sleep, emotional turmoil, unsolved issues with plot or character, not thinking through the arcs ahead of time, a desire to do something or be somewhere else, distractions, etc.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
Cat: I hope they love my characters as much as I do.
Rachel: I hope they enjoy themselves and can lose themselves completely in the experience, maybe get a chance to experience or think or feel something new or intriguing or thought-provoking or just plain fun.
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
Cat: Every book is a new puzzle to solve – and no, it never gets any easier.
A skilled editor can turn an okay manuscript into a great book.
Writing’s not an easy job, but it’s the only one you can do in your pajamas.
Rachel: I think a lot of writers dream about how if they can just make that first sale, it’ll all be smooth sailing from there and they can quit their day job and write full time and live the dream. Except, for 99.9999999% of published authors, it doesn’t work that way. So don’t quit the day job, but do keep the dream. Your time may yet come.
Does the title of a book you’re writing come to you as you’re writing it, or does it come before you even begin the first sentence?
Cat: Depends. Some titles spring into my head perfect and fully-formed. Some are like pulling teeth.
Rachel: Titles are almost always the very last thing I write.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Cat: I have a t-shirt with “I heart irony” on it. Does that answer your question?
Rachel: My humor’s pretty dark and cerebral. I love shows like Family Guy, American Dad, the Simpsons, the Daily Show, the Colbert Report—those things all pretty much never fail to make me laugh.
What is the most frequently asked Cat Grant question?
Cat: When will the Courtland Chronicles be available again?
What are you working on now?
Cat: A short story called Doubtless. It’s the story of one of the secondary characters in Priceless. Then I plan to spend the summer revising the first 3 Courtland books.
Rachel: A Belonging-verse story about a college student whose parents die suddenly and leave him with a mound of debt and custody of his eleven-year-old twin sisters. He has some hard choices to make and some serious struggles ahead to keep his family together.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?
Cat: Don’t follow trends, and don’t try to imitate what other writers are doing. Write what you want to write. Pour all your passion into your work, and readers who like what you do will find you.
Rachel: Write what you love, but if you want to get published, be aware you must please your audience. Which is basically a way of saying “Don’t be self-indulgent.” Just because you’re obsessed with that particular shade of hazel that is your hero’s eyes doesn’t mean your readers will be, so when it comes time to edit, don’t hesitate to cut those two-hundred lovingly-crafted sentences about them that you’ve sprinkled through the manuscript. Or, as one of the best editors I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with used to say, “Nobody cares but you.” I still write what I love, but I do my best to make sure I’m writing things other people care about, too.
Writing is obviously not just how you make your living, but your life-style as well. What do you do to keep the creative “spark” alive – both in your work and out of it?
Cat: I try to read as much as I can – not necessarily other fiction, but definitely non-fiction. I also try to keep abreast of current events. You never know what’s going to jump out at you from the headlines.
Rachel: I am a voracious consumer of all sorts of media, and also a habitual people-watcher. Sometimes the strangest things will spark the muse. I also like to get away, go on long hikes through some very remote places, just get back to nature and recharge the batteries, so to speak. I had three days off a few weeks ago—it was the first time in a year I’d been away from work for more than half a waking day at a clip—and the place I chose to go was on a three-day hike on the Appalachian Trail from High Point State Park. I came back feeling practically like a new person. Also sore
What kind of books do you like to read?
Cat: All kinds! These days I read mostly for research purposes, though. When you write fiction for a living, there isn’t much time to read it for pleasure!
Rachel: I’m obviously a huge fan of the genre, but I read very little for pleasure anymore between research for my writing and acquisitions for Riptide. On the plus side, acquisitions reading is almost always a pleasure, and sometimes quite a remarkable one.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
Cat: In my pre-writing life, I was a bookkeeper. World’s most BORING job!
Rachel: An editor. Which is what I was doing before I started selling my writing and what I’m still doing even now.
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
Rachel: OMG we have the most amazing cover artists at Riptide. The cover for Power Play: Awakening is the best cover I have ever had the pleasure of getting for a book. I can’t think of one negative thing to say about it.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
Cat: Reading (obviously!), watching TV, going to the movies, listening to music. Drooling over the latest Michael Fassbender photos.
Rachel: Um, ditto. I also love hiking/camping, and I love to sing. I spent a lot of time in musical theater in my younger years, and some in my adult years too, but sadly nothing in the past couple years. I’m anxious to get out there and start doing it again, but it’s a big time commitment, so . . .
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
Cat: Last month I had a new novella out from Riptide, entitled “Priceless.” It’s from their new rent boy collection. And of course, the first book in the Power Play series, Power Play: Resistance, came out last April.
Rachel: Honestly, Power Play: Awakening may be the last book from me for the year. I’m hoping to get the Belonging-verse story I’m doing now wrapped by the end of the summer, but writing time’s been very short
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
Cat: Pretty much the same advice other writers gave me – be true to yourself. Find your own voice. Don’t imitate other writers or follow trends.
Rachel: Learn your craft. You might be writing the greatest story ever told, but if you can’t construct a sentence, nobody will stick around long enough to realize how amazing your story is. Study hard, read craft books, get betaed by people who are markedly better than you, ask your editor a million questions, and never, ever get complacent.
What future projects do you have in the works?
Cat: The Courtland Chronicles will be reissued, but the timeframe’s not set in stone.
Rachel: Just the Belonging-verse story for me. At some point in the upcoming year, I hope to write the Break and Enter sequel with Aleks Voinov, and I have about 10,000 words of a new Nicky/Devon novella that I’d like to finish too. But for the moment, after 185,000 words of Power Play, I think I’m all kinked out :-p
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
Cat: Sure! Here’s a list of my most frequent hideouts:
Rachel: I’m at:
Twitter (I’m very active here): http://twitter.com/#!/RachelHaimowitz
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?
Here’s a steamy little excerpt from Power Play: Awakening:
Brandon’s eyes seemed to take up half his face as he took in the contraption—a black box about a foot square, a long cord, a telescoping pole with a sparkly purple cock on the end.
Brandon did his best imitation of an owl as Jonathan circled round him and placed the fucking machine on the floor right behind the spreader bar. He lubed up the cock, lined it up with Brandon’s hole, and adjusted the pole height until the dildo was buried all the way inside him. He angled it to hit Brandon’s prostate and plugged it in.
A startled gasp as the machine began to do its thing. The cock slid slow and steady from Brandon’s body until just the tip remained inside, then rocked back up inside him at the same pace. Jonathan dialed up the speed—not too much, not yet, but not a torturous tease, either—and Brandon’s head fell back on a moan, fingers tightening into fists around the suspension cuffs. Jonathan spat into his hand and circled back round to Brandon’s front, grabbed his cock and gave it a few firm pumps. Brandon’s chest heaved, and his hips thrust forward into Jonathan’s hand in time with the thrusting of the dildo. If he remembered he had a punishment coming, not a hint of it showed on his face.
Not a hint of embarrassment either, and though it’d been Jonathan’s intention to erase such self-consciousness all along, he’d not dared to hope that Brandon would take such a big step forward so quickly. To be fucked by a machine while tied hand and foot and not so much as blush about it? To let himself get lost so quickly and so thoroughly in the pleasure . . . It was almost a pity Jonathan would have to break the spell with pain. But that too was part of the plan—that perhaps, in this way, Brandon might mix the two successfully. Might get lost and stay lost. Find subspace again.
Still lost in his pleasure, Brandon didn’t even seem to notice when Jonathan stepped away to the toy rack, scanned it for the perfect implement. Ah, there it was—a ten-inch leather strap, not too soft, not too heavy, not too wide. He plucked it off the rack, tested it against his palm with a satisfying slap. Brandon’s shoulders jerked at the sound, eyes flying open, shaking off the pleasure haze in a fit of nerves.
He’d be jerking even harder in a minute or so. Jonathan circled back to where Brandon hung in his bonds, reached out for his cock and began stroking him again. “Focus on this,” he said softly, “Keep your mind on the pleasure. That dildo in your ass, my hand on your cock.”
Another stroke, and then a snap of the strap on the underside of Brandon’s bound balls, hard enough to make him bark a loud, “Fuck!”
A bit early to be heedless of the swear jar. “Language, Brandon; that’s a dollar,” he said, then turned his attention back to the matter at hand.
Brandon’s cock had deflated—not all the way, not with that rawhide cord around the base—but enough to disappoint Jonathan a little. “Breathe,” he whispered, brushing a kiss across Brandon’s heaving chest, stroking him back to hardness. “You can do this. You’re strong, Brandon. It doesn’t have to hurt.”
Brandon coughed out a laugh at that, like Jonathan had just told him the most un-funny joke in the world.
Jonathan twisted his hand round the crown of Brandon’s cock—hard again, rock hard—and said, “I mean it.” Leaned in, flicked his tongue across a nipple. “The pain can make this better. Take it, use it. Feel my hand on you, that cock fucking you. When you reach sixteen, I’ll take the cording off; I’ll let you come. Would you like that?”
He hit Brandon’s balls again before the man could answer. Just as hard as last time, and Brandon still shouted like Jonathan had tasered him, but this time, remarkably, his cock didn’t wither in Jonathan’s hand.