As I just posted, this is the first in hopefully 52 (or more...?) Q&As I'll be doing with authors I like on this blog this year, because, you know, why not put my voracious reading to good use? And who better to start with than Megan Hart, who has four novels out now from Harlequin Spice in addition to e-books and novellas and lots more on the way. My fingers are crossed that I can coax her out of Pennsylvania to come read at In The Flesh. Megan rocks for many reasons, including her fabulous writing, which I look forward to reading more of, getting these answers back to me lickety split, and being the first paid advertiser on this blog!
And I forgot to say that...Megan's inspired what I think would be a kick-ass article, if I tried to hire a male escort, a la Tracie Egan's piece I reprinted in Best Sex Writing 2009, just not off Craigslist.
How long have you been writing fiction? How did you get started and what made you specialize in erotic romance?
Hi, Rachel! Thanks so much for having me at Lusty Lady. Wahoo!
I've been writing fiction since I could, which means since I was able to write at all. I can recall writing Star Wars and E.T. fan fiction back in the day, in my little notebooks (which I still have) and then graduated to writing my own stories. By sixth or seventh grade I was writing horror stories and I moved to writing fantasy and science fiction after that. I started writing romance fuhserious in about oh, 1997 or so, because I wanted to make a real hard go at writing novels and I liked reading romance, plus hey, romance covers something like fifty percent of market sales. I've always enjoyed spicier stories as a reader (Johanna Lindsey's Warrior Woman, anyone?) so it seemed natural to try my hand at writing them when I turned to novels. And, frankly, getting stories published in Hustler Busty Beauty and Letters magazine provided quick cash, even if the credits weren't the sort I could showcase "professionally." When erotic romance began picking up popularity, it was a natural place for me to go.
What is your writing process like? Do you have a set schedule?
I have an unset schedule, I guess. I write about four days a week, edit and do promotion other times, but sometimes I switch it up. I don't usually write on the weekends, but I might do a little something here or there, if I have time. I write around my family obligations, but I'm fortunate enough to stay home during the day when they're all at work or school and so I try to get most of my stuff done then.
You had written many e-books prior to signing your first 3-book deal with Harlequin Spice. How did the book deal come about, and how were the two connected?
I'd had an idea for a novel called Dirty -- the basic concept was vague, but I knew I wanted to call it that. Then Harlequin announced their Spice guidelines soon after I started working on it, and I thought it felt right, it felt like a good fit, even though I had no idea what sorts of books they were looking for since none had been published at the time. I wrote Dirty and began a second erotic novel (which would become Broken) while also trying to sell a non-erotic, non-romance fantasy novel that had no magic in it. By the time Dirty sold, I was pretty sure they'd buy a second from me and had it about half-finished, but to be offered a three book contract blew me away.
This may be like asking you to pick a favorite child, but do you have a favorite book you've written?
When I was writing Dirty, with no deadline, no real idea that it would sell, I lived in that world. I loved that world and those characters. I could've written that world and those characters for a long, long time, and actually, I guess I have since Elle and Dan appear in several other works. Dirty will be my favorite for a really long time, for a lot of different reasons.
Let's talk about Stranger. How did you come up with the idea for Grace, especially her job as a funeral director, as well as her desire for sex with strangers over relationships?
Originally I'd had an idea for a woman who hired male escorts. I'm pretty sure the idea came about after a strip show I'd gone to, but really, I'm not exactly sure now where the idea came from. I'll bet on the strip show. Anyway, I had this idea about a woman who hired male escorts instead of dating. But then I had to ask myself...why? Why would she do that? And then I thought, and what sort of job would she have that would allow her that? Since I'd briefly considered becoming a funeral director in high school, one thing led to another. It all sort of fell together after awhile.
Why strangers she hires vs. strangers she randomly picks up?
I suppose strangers you hire are safer -- if you use a service, anyway. Real strangers are a risk. I mean, if you're paying for someone to fuck your brains out and make you come, you'd better get that. Take a stranger to bed you might end up with a two-second Johnny who balks at going down.
I have a book coming out soon about hotel sex called Do Not Disturb, so I found that part of the book especially interesting, not to mention hot, and hotels are perfect for hookups with strangers. Why do you think hotels are good settings for sex scenes?
Hotels don't bring baggage. They're clean (or should be, ew!) and someone cleans them. You can make a mess and leave it behind. The hot water never runs out. There are cable stations you don't get at home. Hotels are made for fantasy.
In Stranger, Grace hires men from a local service in her small town (Annville, PA), Mrs. Smith's Services for Ladies. Was that simply creative license, or are there companies such as this around? What kind of research did you do for the book?
Well, yes, there actually are services available though I believe they cater mostly to gay men (though the website disclaimer shouts LADIES! MEET OUR GUYS!). Annville didn't host a business like that, but Harrisburg had several places offering companion services. So does Philly, which isn't out of the realm of possibility for where the story's located. Also, there are numerous private individuals willing to accept cash for companionship, and again, while most of the male escorts I researched were gay, there were also a large number offering to provide services for women. I did all my research online, reading blogs, perusing websites, emailing with escorts, but in the end, as I always do, I took creative license. Because I wanted this to be real for me, the way it worked for me in order to write about a sexy encounter. It's about creating fantasy.
Why do you think Grace faced so much opposition, from her family, coworkers and lover, to the fact that she had hired men for sex? Do you think it's more acceptable for men to pay for sex?
I don't think anyone wants to know their sister, daughter or friend is paying for sex. Or their brother or son, either!
You and Lauren Dane collaborate on the awesomely named blog Bring Me My Hookah)and have co-authored two upcoming novels for Black Lace, Taking Care of Business and No Reservations. How does that process work and how did you two get started? What are the pros and cons or co-writing?
Haha...brrrrrrrrrrrring me my hoooookah! We got the idea for Taking Care of Business while standing in line at one of the many many parties held at the annual Romantic Times Convention in Texas a couple years ago. It became a giggly game of "What If" and we plotted out the story of two friends who meet their men at a conference. The story snowballed from there. We're working on No Reservations, a sequel, right now, and it's a bit different because we wrote TCOB as two novellas which were then combined. NRis being written simultaneously so we have a good excuse to instant message each other every day. The pros of co-writing is bouncing ideas back and forth -- fortunately we don't really have any cons. Maybe having to split the money, I guess. But then again, we split the work and the promo costs, too!
I've been very impressed with your promotions, from contests on your blogs to bookmarks, postcards, even tea bags imprinted with your book's covers. What is your strategy when it comes to promoting your work? What advice would you have for authors trying to make a name for themselves?
TEA BAGS! HAHA. Wow, those were from a long time ago. I guess I don't have a strategy beyond trying to use your time and money wisely. Figure out your market and who's going to be interested in your work. Look beyond the obvious avenues. Don't be obnoxious, either. Good promotion means people learn your name and what you write, it's not about making everyone want to puke every time you show up. Be courteous online. Don't be a jerk! It's not about promoting one book, it's about making a name for yourself. Make it a good one.
What do you do when you're not writing?
Watch movies! Play the Sims 2. Read. Take long hot showers and think about writing. Play Resident Evil 4 and House of the Dead on the Wii!
Trick question, kindof, because I've already asked you, but I want to make it all formal: Will you come read at my reading series In The Flesh?
Absolutely, I would looooove to! It's just a matter of making the arrangements to get there. Which I need to get on the ball doing!
Thanks so much for having me!
Megan didn't really talk much about Deeper, perhaps cause it's not out til July, but I love the cover so wanted to include it.
About my Q&A series: While most of the authors will be hand-selected, if you'd like me to consider interviewing you, write me at rachelravenous at gmail.com with info about your book(s) and I'll let you know if I'm interested. And as always, I welcome reading suggestions - there will be other genres of authors, hopefully YA, which is my new obsession, and general fiction and non-fiction and such.