Thanks so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us today, S.A. Why don’t we begin by having you tell us a little bit about your background?
I am 51-year-old author with a checkered past. By trade I am a graphic artist who really loves words.
Many moons ago I owned an indie music magazine called B-Side which did well despite the atrocious editing. Unfortunately I was the editor, yeah, an editor without a professional clue. Still, I had fun, interviewed folks like Alanis Morissette, Tori Amos and Trent (NIN) Reznor. Interviews taught me how to write dialogue.
After that I stumbled into a technical writing / design position which was great until the corporation merged with another and ka-blam, laid off everyone. Other various design gigs followed in the corporate sector until the last one did me a favor and laid me off during the Great Upheaval of 2009. The only thing I miss about working for corporations is the healthcare.
Was there a defining point in your life when you realized that storytelling was what you were meant to do?
I’ve been writing since my high school days but never owned the nerve to submit anything. After 2008’s experience I said, “hey, time to concentrate on my words and push them free.”
How long did take for your first novel to be published?
Too long! No, in reality Canes and Scales suffered only two rejections before Dreamspinner accepted the story. I was pretty lucky; it was only a matter of months.
Your novel Canes and Scales is set in an alternate universe; what intrigues you most about writing in a fantasy setting as opposed to a contemporary?
I’ve always loved reading fantasy. Writing it came easily to me. The world building is challenging but what the hell, there’s nothing better than controlling all the details. No one will read about a location and mutter, “wait a second, Rahalda doesn’t have a street named Kizlane.”
Are Prince Linden and Alasdaire coming back in a sequel any time soon?
Something tells me they aren’t finished telling their story. Linden still has many enemies. Alasdaire is an innocent. I smell trouble.
How much creative input did you have in the cover design for the book?
The poor, patient people at Dreamspinner might say “too much!” As a graphic designer cover art is extremely important to me.
To date, how many books have you written?
Written or finished? I have over 15 books written but not finished. I mean I am up to, emm, say 40,000 words on many novels and need to give them more attention. A few are finished but not edited to my satisfaction. They need polishing before they leave the nest. Yep, due to years spent writing I am a sea of unfinished novels.
How long does it generally take for you to finish a manuscript?
I am a terrible procrastinator, well, not so much procrastinator as easily distracted. I’m like a cat being teased by a laser beam…”ooo, look, there’s another plot bunny needing adoption!” In short, the timeframe varies greatly. I need to become stricter about my own deadline goals.
When did you begin writing in the Male/Male genre? What about the genre interests you the most?
No surprise; I was one of those geeks who sat and scribbled in her notebook all the time. I began writing M/M back in the late Seventies, yep, during my high school days, for my own fun and frolic. I thought I was a total freak for writing such a taboo subject until I found books by Gordon Merrick. Then I was “hell yeah!” To me M/M romance captures a challenge, a special satisfaction not supplied by M/F romance, especially with historical M/M romance. Give me time on a couch and I might reveal more.
Do you typically outline your plots before you begin the writing process, or do you write in a more freestyle fashion?
I attack a story with a general idea and immediately take the first off ramp into the big, bad wilderness. My muse will ponder twenty different endings until the grand reveal whacks me in the brain.
What has been the most difficult topic you’ve ever tackled in your writing?
Anything to do with physical violence is unsettling to me but I forced myself to explore such matters in Canes and Scales. Certain violent chapters in my upcoming novel Temptation of the Incubus really challenged me. My M/M horror novel Needy (which is being examined by a publisher… crossing my fingers!) offered me the greatest challenge of all since the violence occurs between two people in love. There’s a fine line between creating tension and terror and crossing into sadism. It’s tough.
Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have one in particular who stands out among the others as a favorite? If so, who and why?
I have to say my character Armando, from Temptation of the Incubus, a sex, scary dark comedy accepted by Silver Publishing. Although he’s an incubus (who has stolen human form) who has suffered Hell in a terribly real manner, he’s sexy, cheerful and positive about what he is since he’s so confident. He’s the anti-me!
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, do you have any routines or exercises you use to get beyond it?
Yes, it’s pretty common. That’s one reason I like having many WIPs. At least I receive the feeling of moving forward on one story!
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they take away from it?
True love conquers all. I am a cynical, pessimistic person but damn it, I want true love to win.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received with respect to the art of writing? How did it change the way you approach your craft?
A few years ago I took a smut writing class that really helped with writing erotic encounters. The teacher advised us never to be technical during sex. Ditch the anatomy class. Cock not penis. Quite enlightening.
Will you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
Everything’s a competition about who markets the best. Definitely a squeaky wheel mentality out there. Second, you need to make your own wheel squeak louder. Third: refuse the grease and keep squeaking.
If you were to offer a word of advice to a new author just starting out, what would it be?
Do not give up! I see frustrated writers declaring they plan to quit writing since all they receive are rejections. I was advised to start with short stories and work up. What bullshit. Over the past few years I have submitted at least thirty short stories and finally have two in publication and another to come in June. Those thirty stories were submitted to more than one editor so the rejection number is high. After a while rejection notices roll away like molting feathers. You simply move on. Believe in your words. If a story keeps being rejected, put it aside and revisit it with a fresh eye. But keep writing!
Do you generally have the titles of your work planned before you begin writing, or does that occur later on in the writing process?
I slap a working title on the story but that never is the final. Titles are real pains in the ass for me.
What is the question you’re most frequently asked by your fans?
“When is the next book coming out?” What a great question.
What is your most memorable fan experience?
I don’t have many but I do like reading comments like, “I’ll read S.A.’s next book no matter what the subject!” Worry not, everyone, more of the same emotional punch in drastically different clothing is coming.
How much of yourself, your life experiences, and the people you know manifest themselves into your characters?
I have one het novel which might never be released since I based it on unusual people I know. I do not like using people I know in stories. I do use experiences from traveling or knowing certain professions. Certain of my own characteristics do creep into characters, sometimes to the point where I feel, “haven’t I met you before?”
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase awareness of your work?
Blogging, joining various online groups, making sure I attend publisher’s days at certain blogs, Facebook, Goodreads, and I know the meager effort is still not enough.
When you have the chance to sit down and enjoy some quiet reading time, what sorts of books are you most likely to pick up? Who are your favorite authors?
Well-written speculative fiction, along with horror, romance, thrillers and satire. Peter Straub, Caitlin R. Keirnen, Elizabeth Hand, Terry Pratchett, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, Robert McCammon, Neil Gaiman and James Lear come to mind as favorite authors. I used to love reading Laurell K. Hamilton until she decided dull, 100 page-long sex scenes were more important than plot.
If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
Someone with a healthier bank account. Har-de-har-har. No, really, although I am no longer in the corporate sector, and thank God for that change, I still dabble in my graphic design. I’d be an artist.
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing? Do you have any hobbies?
Gardening, hiking, cooking, reading (gee, really?), training my house bunnies to perform stupid pet tricks, and travel.
Do you have any new projects in the works you’d like to share with your fans?
To Save A Shining Soul</strong. will be released via Dreamspinner on May 25.
My short story “Added Benefits” is in the recently released The Handsome Prince anthology (Cleis Press).
Temptation of the Incubus will be released via Silver Publishing on October 22nd.
Divine Devine’s Love Song will be released at the end of 2011 via Dreamspinner.
Now some questions just for fun 🙂
What’s your favorite dessert?
Key Lime Pie. Awwwwesome!
If time travel were possible, what time period(s) would you most like to visit? Why?
I’m a huge fan of knights, castles and bravery. A quick tour of medieval Britain appeals to me but something tells me the stench would make me pass out.
If you had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with one famous person, either past or present, who would you choose and why?
Elizabeth the 1st. She overcame turmoil and hatred to become one of the greatest female monarchs ever. I’d like to listen to her advice.
If we were to look around the desk where you sit to write, what would we find there?
Action figures (my favorite action figure still life features Aragorn and Legolas hugging on a Barbie-scale horse), carved Zuni fetishes, flowers, toys, stacks of papers, pens, Post-it note pads, and a wine glass.
What’s your favorite movie?
Lawrence of Arabia.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Moronic drivers yapping or texting on cell phones. Idiots hurtling along in a few thousands of deadly metal never thrill me.
How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
I am easily amused by the common place but the twisted really gets me going. I’m the person in the theater laughing at an inappropriate time.
Who are your favorite actors, both male and female?
I can’t say I have one favorite of each. Males: Peter O’Toole, Ralph Fiennes, Viggo Mortensen and while Orlando Bloom’s acting isn’t the best, he’s sure cute. Females: Uma Thurman, Greta Garbo, Bette Davis, and the wildly sexy Michelle Pfeiffer.
Do you have an all time favorite fiction character?
Damn, I admire people who can proudly pick one. This might sound weird but the character DEATH from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is amazing.
Do you have a favorite quote?
Pretty much anything from Oscar Wilde.
Who’s on your iPod/MP3 player?
I’m trying to think of the brief way to describe the range. Arcade Fire, Doves, Blur, Franz Ferdinand, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Tori Amos, Genesis (pre Phil Collins vocals) Yes, Duran Duran, Rolling Stones, Lush, Ryuichi Sakamoto and on and on.
Without getting up to look, what’s under your bed?
Boxes of old Melody Maker magazines from the Eighties, shoes, probably a few lost socks and a pound of dust.
Do you speak more than one language? If so, which one(s)?
I have a hard enough time not mangling English. I’m trying to learn bunny but it’s not working.
Of all the modern conveniences, which one would you most likely say you couldn’t live without?
I hate to say car over computer but it’s true.
Thanks again for spending some time with us, S.A. Will you tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
Thanks for this chance to chat! Here’s a few links; I confess my website is still dragging along. I fully blame the designer: me!
And we’d love if you’d share a favorite excerpt from Canes and Scales with us.
I needed to work quickly. If I captured this powerful Prince’s essence, possible freedom awaited me! How glorious. If I bound mighty Linden to me, then I’d flee this wretched life. Careful, slow, I needed to act in strict rhythm. I remembered Mother’s simple spell to compel a human. Semen and blood. Her own ritual allowed her to escape from her dying empire. Too bad the effect did not last and, even worse, poor Mother selected an unfaithful human scum not worth her precious love. She should have never trusted him, never. I hated how his blood flowed in my veins. Hated it. If some clever scientist created a way to banish Father’s molecular structure from my flesh, I would risk all for the solution.
No, bleak memories needed to vanish from my mind. Concentrating on immediate seduction mattered above all. In truth being this Prince’s lover suited me. Prince Linden acted noble and compassionate. He looked old enough to know wisdom, yet not old enough to want to devour, conquer, or punish my youth. He spoke to me kindly; indeed, he allowed me to act rudely toward him without inflicting punishment. He let me sit with him and share his meal. The man who could rule the country treated this Halfling slave with gentle compassion. Today I understood why everyone spoke of Linden in reverent tones.
I wanted him. I needed Linden. The Prince offered me a dazzling opportunity to be free. Aside from the wretched King, only he could demand removal of the vile Torvine Catch from my frightened body. Imagine, he might own the ability to remove it; I had heard gossip Linden possessed special Serpent powers equal to his older brother’s. My heart knew I needed this man descended from the monsters who destroyed my race.
I slowly licked his thick cock. My handsome Prince tasted so dominant. My fingers danced over his firm flesh. There, kneading sensitive areas excited him. My fingers slid down to massage his soft bollocks. His pleased gasp told me I traveled the correct path for him. Dare I travel deeper? Why not? My fingers carefully massaged around his puckered opening, teased—there, another sharp gasp followed. His hands caressed my hair. I pleased him! Exhilarating to know this Prince would not beat me for failure. He possessed enough pure virility to enhance our experience together.
My own pleasure at enjoying a man’s willing body captivated my emotions. When I felt the Prince tremble and tense in desire, I easily caught his potent flow in my throat. Yes, I performed part of the ritual. Now to carefully collect his blood to complete my bid toward freedom. I needed a mere drop. My own passion flooded free. Careful, there, my pointer fingernail lightly lanced into his quivering thigh. My glance told me I struck deeply enough to draw blood. His body jerked back from me. No, wait! Stay. I licked up and there, rich coppery essence met my seeking tongue. My lips nursed the tiny wound in gentle soothing. Good, my Prince appeared mollified. I sank back on my knees and shook back my hair. I made sure I smiled like the consuming sun, but I wondered why no magic flared between us? Did I perform the incorrect spell? “Forgive me for pricking you, my Prince.”
Prince Linden smiled at me in mocking dismissal. “Ah, so one of your canes pricked me, eh? Please, young one, if I let such a little scratch bother me I’d endure an unhappy time in battle. As you can see my tough old hide suffers from numerous direct hits. ” He patted the colorful scars carved into his flesh.