Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, CB. Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I was writing a lot as a teen, but then I began getting serious about my music. It put an end to my writing; apparently I only need one creative outlet at the time.
Then my ears started acting up, and I had to give up playing. It was the best thing ever happening to me, actually, because I got a degree in Comparative Literature and began writing again.
What was your first book and how long did it take to get it published?
My first book was Himiko, but I wrote A Russian Bear alongside it, and Tom and Mischa simply took over until it was finished. I submitted it to Torquere, and they liked it. Reading other people’s horrific tales of publishing, I feel quite lucky to have had it this easy.
When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?
I began writing m/m romance because I loved reading it – but I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted. Bonus info: I can’t stand straight romance; the heroines are just too stereotypical (mind you, this might say more about how many straight romance books I’ve than about the genre itself). M/m allows you to go beyond those pesky gender stereotypes.
How long did it take you to get published? How many books have you written thus far?
I’ve written five plus some short stories. The last I’ve only just submitted.
Do you write full time?
Sadly, no. I have other jobs, too – some of them very exciting, the main one only interesting. I’d love to be able to write more, but with the economy being as it is, I’m just really, really grateful that I can use my skills and my strange educational background.
On a typical writing day, how would you spend your time?
Writing! Which means that I like to devote entire days to writing; I’m not that good at writing a few hours here and there. Which is a bit annoying, because it means that it takes some time to finish a book.
Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?
A combination. I often do a light revision of my last pages to help me remember where I am in the story, but I leave any major editing to the end.
When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?
I have an outline, but planning too much in advance is dangerous for me. I killed off an otherwise great story that way.
What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?
I’m often inspired by scientific facts – the Himiko books where written after I read an article about the real Himiko (a strange object in space). As a matter of fact, scientific notes in the newspaper often triggers my over-active imagination… And then there are all the details: any physical injuries, karate katas, toys…
How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?
Maybe I’m slightly prone to having multiple personalities, but I can almost always see something of myself in my characters. Otherwise, they seem rather lifeless.
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?
It’s difficult to say how long it takes me to write a book, because I often write several stories at the same time. Apart from that, I had four books published in little more than a year. After that, I really needed a break!
Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?
I’ve just gotten rid of one… I really needed to finish editing the sequel to A Russian Bear. I’d gotten great advice from a colleague, and I was really close – I just didn’t feel like writing. On one hand, it really sucked, because I like to be productive. On the other hand, writing is the one thing in my life that’s pure joy, and I’m pretty careful not to ruin it by adding more pressure. So, I try to tell myself that I don’t suffer from “writer’s block”; I just have periods when I don’t write.
When someone reads one of your books for the first time, what do you hope they gain, feel or experience?
I hope they love my characters as much as I do!
Can you share three things you’ve learned about the business of writing since your first publication?
1 A good editor is the most important thing
2 There’s a shitload of technique involved in writing. You don’t really realize that before you sit down and write – not even with a degree in literature
3 Writing the book is sometimes the easiest and least important part. Blurbs, good reviews, and editing are crucial to end up with not only a good story, but a good book.
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?
It normally comes as I’m writing, but with the Himiko books I had it before I even started.
How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?
Oh, God. I have an evil, overactive sense of humor which regularly gets me in trouble. Sarcasm is your friend – except when it isn’t.
What is the most frequently asked CB Conwy question?
To write more about [insert reader’s favorite book or character here]. My first thought is often “Definitely no!”. Then I get to think about it, and next thing you know, there’s a sequel to A Russian Bear.
What are you working on now?
I just finished editing the sequel to A Russian Bear as well as a fluffy little charity sip. Currently I’m working on and off on a futuristic thing about slave boys. I’m also thinking about taking up the story I killed by overthinking it – about slave boys, too. I like slave boys at the moment.
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?
Apart from the hundreds of editing remarks my editor gives me, I haven’t gotten any light bulb advice. Having said that, “How Not To Write a Novel” is great and very entertaining reading for anybody wanting to publish anything.
When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?
I’m really, really bad at promoting. Mostly because I simply haven’t got the time, but I’m also pretty modest. I mean, promoting is almost the same as bragging, right? I really like interacting with readers, though, so I should probably get out there more.
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?
I try to keep writing fun. I have a pretty hectic work life, mostly because I really like what I do (and I’m really bad at saying no). I regularly push myself too far (scary moments like not being able to remember my own phone number stand out), and that’s poison to creativity.
What kind of books do you like to read?
I read a lot of m/m (and by a lot, I really mean a lot). Apart from that, I’m a book critic, which means that I don’t get to choose what I read. When I’m finally reading something not work-related, I often go for either great storytelling or lots of angst and hurt/comfort.
If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
Well, I already do a lot of different stuff, so it would probably be something with communication. I’m pretty happy that I’m not in the music business anymore, but photography would be fun.
Where did you get the idea for the stories you write?
When it comes to the covers of your books, what do you like or dislike about them?
Well, the cover of a book is part of the product. Yes, product. That means it isn’t your story anymore; it’s a product which your publisher is doing their best to sell. That means that you don’t necessarily get to choose your cover (although I’ve been lucky enough to have a say in most of my covers).
Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
Reading and traveling. I love going to new places.
Any special projects coming out soon we should watch for?
The sequel to A Russian Bear. If my publisher likes it, of course. (Look for update below first excerpt!)
New writers are always trying to glean advice from those with more experience. What suggestions do you have for new writers?
1 Write. You need 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert on anything; a good part of those hours should be spent actually writing.
2 Get an editor. And by an editor I don’t mean a proofreader or your best friend who’s an English teacher. Writing is a craft and a great editor is the fastest way to learn it.
What future projects do you have in the works?
I just finished the sequel to A Russian Bear. (The title is: Happily Ever After and will be released Sept. 12th!!) And then there are slave boys. Oh, yeah, lots of slave boys.
Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?
Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from one of more of your stories with us?
The first scene of A Russian Bear. Don’t worry, Mischa isn’t as much of a jerk as he seems here:
It wasn’t like he was in the habit of finding his subs in bars; Mischa really preferred to hunt at the club. There, the rules were straightforward. Doms were Doms and subs were for flogging, fucking, and bossing around. This was a nice, upscale hotel bar, and the only sub they’d ever heard about was probably the sandwich. He missed his leathers, too; far easier to look his part as a badass Dom in those.
He impatiently looked around to see if he could spot the boy. He tried half-heartedly to remember the name — Tim something? That was another annoying thing; Mischa normally didn’t bother with names. In his opinion, “boy” worked just fine. He never had more than one scene with a sub, and he had far more important things to do during that time than learning their names. Making them scream, mainly.
Toby had described this particular boy to Mischa, but “dark-haired, slender, sexy” fit a lot of guys. Toby might have said a few other things, too, but Mischa always concentrated on the important part — the kinks.
However, Toby’s description did fit a young guy sitting at a table in the corner. It had been a long time since Mischa had had a scene with anyone, and perhaps that was why the attractive, dark-haired man caught his eye as soon as he turned toward the corner. Or perhaps it was the young man’s age; he was easily thirty years younger than the tired salesmen and conference participants in the bar.
Mischa watched him blatantly flirting with an older man who didn’t seem the least bit responsive to the young guy’s efforts. The chubby guy didn’t exactly look the part of a master, but if there was one thing Mischa had learned during his years as a Dom, it was that they came in all shapes and sizes. Mischa frowned; if this was his date, it wasn’t very smooth to hit on someone else when the boy really had a date with Mischa.
The guy looked up and caught his eyes. Oh. Definitely interest there.
The chubby man said something and got up. Dark-haired and sexy tried to hold him back, but the man just smiled apologetically and started to leave, going to the bar to pay their bill.
The boy looked after him with a despondent look on his face, and his eyes caught Mischa’s again.
Mischa smiled. He was almost certain that this was his boy. His focus never wavered as he crossed the floor until he was standing next to the young man “Hi.”
The boy hesitated, then he smiled. “Hello.”
“Are you Tim?” Mischa really hoped that he had got the name right.
“Tom.” The young man looked confused.
“Oh, sorry. I’m Mischa. Would you like a drink?” Again, not something he normally wasted his time with when he interviewed subs, but Toby had told him to go gently on this one.
“He’s not used to the scene yet,” Toby had said, “but his old Dom is a friend of mine and wants to make sure he’s feeling at home in Boston.”
So now Mischa’s job was to make the young man feel at home, and he had every intention of doing so. His playroom could be downright cozy, in his opinion.
The boy hesitated, still looking a little insecure. Then he seemed to make up his mind. “Okay, but only a mineral water. I have papers to grade tomorrow.”
Mischa nodded approvingly and got two mineral waters — he never drank before a scene and didn’t want his sub to, either — and went back to the table in the corner.
“Are you a teacher?
“Yes. Well, a TA, so I’m the lucky owner of a bunch of opinionated undergrads with opinionated midterm papers.”
“That sounds — challenging.” Mischa smiled, drinking from his glass.
Tom shrugged. “It’s a nice way to make a little extra, though, and it sharpens my skills.”
For a moment, Mischa hesitated. Could this be the wrong guy? This boy wasn’t exactly getting straight to the point. Then Tom leaned in, smiling conspiratorially. “Of course, I like to sharpen my skills here as well.” He winked.
Mischa laughed. “Well, it’s always good to be… diverse.” He liked Tom; the boy was a nice contrast to the slutty subs Mischa met sometimes. Okay, all the time, then. And he liked the boy’s straightforwardness, too.
“So, what do you do for a living?” Tom inquired.
The boy really wasn’t getting to the point. “I own my own business.” Mischa decided to push things along a bit; even though small talk was nice, he by far preferred to spend his night in the playroom.
“So, tell me what you like. I can string you up and whip you ’til you scream, or you can get down on your knees and suck me off with your hands tied behind your back. I will fuck you, though.”
He saw the incomprehension on Tom’s face change to shocked surprise and knew that he had fucked up. Big time.
UPDATE: From CB’s website:
Or, you know, Tom and Mischa’s got a date. With you:).
In other words, I got a date for Happily Ever After, the sequel to A Russian Bear: September 12. I just sent back the first rounds of edits a couple of days ago, and I really hope that you’ll like it.
I really enjoyed writing Happily Ever After because it’s a little darker than A Russian Bear – and just as kinky. To be honest, even though I love reading angst, I think I’m rubbish at writing it. I just want my guys to be happy. Alas, they’re not happy in this book – at least not until they figure out how to get themselves out of the emotional mess they’ve ended up in after the assault on Tom. Luckily, with those two involved, that means one kinky scene after another. I must admit that I was blushing repeatedly while writing it…
I’ve tried not to make the book too “sequelly”. In other words, you should be able to read it without having read A Russian Bear first. It does begin right after A Russian Bear stopped, though – only minutes after, as a matter of fact. Here’s the first excerpt:
They were going to be okay. Tom sighed and pushed his head closer, resting it in the crook of Mischa’s neck. Mischa had been about to get up, but now Tom’s lover sat down next to him on the spanking bench in the quiet playroom, putting both arms around Tom and hugging him securely.
Tom took a deep breath, and then another, the air feeling as if it was somehow cleansing him. He could feel Mischa’s hand caress his shoulder, and he relished the touch, relished the simple fact that touching felt good again. It had been so fucking long.
He had tried telling himself over and over these last months that it had only been an assault. An unfortunate meeting, only a few minutes of close contact with some homophobic asshole who didn’t like the look of Tom’s face or something like that.
It was just that the consequences had stretched far beyond those few minutes. Tom had been messed up when the man had left him in that alley, bleeding and unconscious. It had taken weeks, months even, before his broken bones had mended and the bruises had paled and taken that horrible deep pain with them. The pain that kept him from what he needed most: being touched and comforted by Mischa.
Unfortunately, those hadn’t been the only after-effects. Somewhere along the way, Tom had completely lost faith in himself, in his ability to be touched. To be loved. He shuddered and pushed closer.
“Shh, you’re okay.” Mischa cuddled him, gently stroking his hair.
The knowledge that Mischa was right, that he was finally going to be all right, almost took his breath away for a moment. The relief made his throat tighten up, and he chuckled ruefully.
“What?” Mischa pulled back far enough to look questioningly at Tom’s face. The dark eyes were soft.
“Nothing,” Tom shook his head. His voice came out slightly strangled. “I’m just…” He cleared his throat. “I’m just happy.”