Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The Wednesday Interview

It’s official. Access Denied is released tomorrow on the Cerridwen Press site. Brilliant author Jacqueline Roth is on my blog today to tell us all about Access Denied. It’s a great read so rush right over and snap it up. Judith Rochelle joins us next week with another great book, Always on My Mind from The Lotus Circle.

Access Denied - The Blurb

In Sanctuary the Committee controls everything; food, healthcare, housing, information and even who you are and are not supposed to love. The Committee’s life guides match the single residents for three month compatibility assignments. Everyone gets ten chances to find true love or at least an acceptable partnership. All who know her agree there is something special about Leah Bradley. She has the unique ability to reach out and really connect with the people in her life, but if she’s so special why is she facing her seventh assignment?
From the moment Leah meets James he makes it clear he grants no one access to his life or most especially his heart. Brooding and sad, he carries a darkness inside of him that swallows another part of him every day. What’s worse, he seems to want it this way. Leah slowly loses her hope and her heart. But just when James begins to see Leah the way she truly is, he’s forced to ask himself one question: Does the Committee really have happily-ever-after in mind?

The Interview

1. You have some sizzling sex scenes in your book. How hard is it to write sex and make it convincing?

One of the things my critique group always gets asked is “Did it feel right?” By this I mean did the intimacy feel right. Sex scenes can make or break a story. I’ve read stories that were lovely until the sex scene and the author’s language pulled me right out of the story and I was no longer connected to the characters. I may finish that book, but it is as hard to overcome that as it is to overcome when things just don’t “work” physically with a lover.

Intimacy between characters should feel fluid and natural. I don’t really think of it as writing “sex.” The scenes usually feel like a natural transition for the characters. In Access Denied the physical intimacy has a feel of gentleness, sweetness and hesitancy about it that comes from Leah’s inexperience and James’ deep desire to make sure what happens is special and that she knows how deep the emotions are that he is expressing through the sex, while himself feeling very much shaken by the strength of the connection that develops between them.

Now for Measure of Healing, which will be released in January, it’s a bit different. You have two more edgy characters who have an intense sexual tension that develops and that both fight. The sex between them is more of an undeniable need that simply explodes into something that is primitive and driven by a desire that goes beyond want.

2. Romance and the condom. How hard do you find to slip it in or on when the action is hot between characters?

Fortunately I’ve managed to dodge this bullet to this point, but my time is coming. (No pun intended.) Access Denied is set in a very rigidly controlled society where everything is decided for the characters. The people who live in Sanctuary are chosen as the “saviors” of humanity and are screened carefully. Birth control is managed by the system and there is no chance of sexually transmitted disease. So, no condom is necessary.

The other world I write in is one populated by Were creatures who are not susceptible to human sexually transmitted diseases and where pregnancy is governed by the laws of their animal selves and my characters have openly discussed the consequences. So again, condoms are not needed.

I have to say that writing the condoms in is a fine line to walk. You begin with the idea that as writers of romance or erotica we have a social responsibility to uphold the ideals of safer sex. Still romance and erotica stories are fantasy, an escape from reality that entertains not a “how to” book. It is difficult to maintain the romance while dealing with the real world no matter if we are talking about poverty and war or sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy.

I think how to handle it and how hard it will be depends on the setting and the characters. To paraphrase one my new favorite writers, Anny Cook, getting the condom worked into a scene isn’t as hard to do and maintain the mood as it is to get it out of the scene. There is nothing sexy about the removal. As I said, I’ve avoided it to this point, but I’m expecting it for a Quickie that’s been accepted by Ellora’s Cave. I have a plan in mind that involves lollypops, fairies, leather and latex. Enough said.

3. Do you think romance just happens or do you make your characters work for it?

This is another one of those depends on the characters and setting answers. I think for your secondary characters romance can come easy, love can come easy. But for our main characters there has to be some hurdle to overcome. In Access Denied James has some serious baggage to work through before he can be the romantic hero that Leah deserves. He has to grow and change. Leah too. She has to let go of the barriers she herself keeps throwing up.

As a romance reader I want this, too. I want to walk that journey with the characters because it is one way in which you do want the real world to be mirrored in your story. You want to know that at the end of the day there can be a happy ending no matter what pitfalls may have tripped you up.

Romance doesn’t come easy. It is something we have to work for and remember every day to make a priority in our relationships. It goes beyond just the romance between a man and woman, between partners, it is a part of every relationship we have with the people we love and cherish in our lives. Romance isn’t synonymous with sex. It is that feeling when we know the other person does love and care for us, that we are special to them. It is the feeling we want our spouses, children, siblings and parents to have in regard to our relationship with them.

That doesn’t happen by itself. There is no romance fairy to come and sprinkle magic fairy dust on us. I think taking that path with the characters makes us feel for them and cheer for them even more.

4. What is it about your hero that makes him irresistible to women?

One of the things about James Edwards that makes me smile when I think of him is how many times I heard the women in my critique group say, “I’m in love with James.” It made me feel better because the truth is I fell in love with him a bit myself. When I write, it’s driven by the character. Access Denied came from a dream I had where I was sitting in this dark grey underground office filling out form after form that asked me all these personal and not so personal questions. There were mountains of forms because they were going to use my answers to decide my life; what job I would have, where I would live, who I was going to have to marry, and on and on. A few days later a character was born in my head and I started taking dictation. He demanded I tell his story.

James is in his mid thirties, born in Glasgow, Scotland and had suffered enough tragedy in his life to turn anyone bitter and hard before the natural disaster that led to the formation of the “perfect” society at Sanctuary. He has a gift for music and is a skilled nurturer, having spent his life before Sanctuary in the medical profession. He is intelligent, sexy and that careless sort of scruffy that can tug at your heart like nothing else can.

What makes James irresistible is the contradiction that he is. He’s dark and brooding, but has a sharp and clever wit. He’s cynical while desperately trying to deny the fact that he is truly a romantic at heart. He is nearly paralyzed by his pain, but he has a sense of family and a capacity for love and devotion to that family that goes beyond what we would imagine. He keeps himself isolated and apart, but he gives his whole self and his whole heart to the person who is lucky enough to win it. He is hard and cold, but he has an undeniable thread of tenderness and gentleness. While writing James I had the desire to cuddle him close, soothe his brow and assure him everything was alright combined with the urge to slap him.

I think he walks a line between being the bad boy, the one who is absolutely wrong for us, yet deep down he is the romantic hero who just needs the right woman to help him find that in himself again.

5. Do you think readers want to escape or do they want to identify with a character?

Both. I think we want to get a break from a world that can seem all too often as if it doesn’t have enough happy endings but the best way for us to do that is to get caught up in the life of someone we can identify with. Activating schema is an educational term for that very special thing readers do when they make the connections between themselves and their lives and the stories and characters they are reading about. If we can’t do that I think the story lacks a bit of satisfaction for us.

I think most women can identify with Access Denied’s heroine, Leah Bradley. Like Leah, many women give of themselves again and again and again over the years. They nurture and care for others very often sacrificing their own needs. We’ve all had those times when we felt that we just weren’t good enough, when it was pointless to keep trying. What’s more, we’ve told ourselves at sometime in our lives that we’ve given up on love. That Leah goes through these emotions to still find the strength to see everything she thinks she knows about herself turned on its head as she tries one more time to make that special connection with someone, is something I think most people can connect with.

We’ve all felt the disappointment and loss that James has experienced only, I hope, not to this degree. James, at his core, is very devoted to the idea of family. The guys around me who have read this story have been able to connect with him and his pain. One said that after a particularly emotional scene he had to put down the book and just go stand and watch his children play for a while.

6. What do you think is the most important thing to remember when writing romance?

I write romance? I’m only half kidding. I’ve been a reader of romance since I was first old enough to make my way through my grandmother and great grandmother’s dime store romances when I was in middle school. Coming from a less than ideal family life I loved the affirmation in the books that happy-ever-after could happen and that love really was out there. When I started writing Access Denied I didn’t think to myself, “I’m writing a romance.” I didn’t think about genre at all. When my dearest darling said to me, “Cool, my wife writes romances” I stopped and blinked. I’d never considered that one of my stories could be categorized with the ones I had loved and sought escape from in my own childhood.

Which I guess answers the question in a round-about way. Romance should always be an affirmation of the characters. It doesn’t always have to have the storybook ending. Some of the most hauntingly beautiful love stories of our time have ended with tragedy. Despite that the one thing they did was to showcase the passion and love that two people can share. The characters can be flawed (at least I hope they can) but in the end they must be fully redeemed and there has to be an enduring sense of hope.

7. What are you working on now?

For myself, I’m working on the next story in a series that begins with Measure of Healing in January. It’s set in a world I created several years ago where Gifted Humans and Were creatures exist in a very tenuous truce. Millennia ago shape-shifters came to our world from another dimension trying to escape the war, violence and horrors of their world. They sought to stay isolated on a small island they raised in the ocean, an island the humans later came to call Atlantis. When a natural disaster intervened they discovered their bodies could not stay in phase with this new world without the power source that had been destroyed. The choices were to return to the world they’d left, die or tie themselves to one of the species that populated their new home. Those they had been fleeing in their home dimension came to our world and gave gifts of magic to the humans and taught them to fear and hate the shifters that are now known as Weres.

The current story in that world follows a blood wolf, a descendent of the shifters as she faces her fears about the Gifted humans. A curse wolf, a Gifted human who has been bitten by a Wolf and is now what humans call a werewolf, has entered her life seeking her help. Both must decide if they can overcome years of indoctrination to claim the passion that is rising between them.

I have an alter ego as well, Elyssa Edwards. Elyssa has three titles with Ellora’s Cave that will be coming out next year, Seeing Me, Mating Stone and Lovers’ Stone. The last two will be featured in the Jewels of the Nile series. They are the first installments in what I hope will be a trilogy. The final book is in the works and explores the struggle of an incubus to find the one thing he shouldn’t want, someone to love.

***Click on the Cover and buy the book***

Last week's brillant author - Ashlyn Chase and Demolishing Mr Perfect

I am sure you checked out Anny’s contribution on to the blog saga. Not what I expected but then Anny is sweetly deceptive. And on the subject of the unexpected, what will the ever perky Kelly bring us on Thursday on We have seen no plagues of locust of tidal waves….hmmm

By the way...check out Hitting the blogspot. It's new today and they are giving away prizes...
Go ahead: Live with abandon. Be outrageous at any age. What are you saving your best self for?


Cindy Spencer Pape said...

Very nice, Jae! Lots of really intersting world-building going on in that head of yours.

anny cook said...

Excellent! I love new worlds. This sounds like a good one to review!

Molly Daniels said...

This sounds like a very good one! Good job, AJ:)

Kelly Kirch said...

Great interview. Not surprised as you always do a great job and it's hard to mess up Jae.

Plagues and tidal waves? GREAT IDEA!

Llewellyn McEllis said...

That Jacqueline Roth is a refreshing voice with a sense of style that blows the mind! Don't blink because you don't want to miss a single move not that she's on fire.

Brilliant interview. Thanks for sharing it.

JacquƩline_Roth said...

You know, one of the things I find funny is how when I say things like this interview to writers they nod and say, "Yeah." They get it. Try to explain character and world creation to people who don't write and they look at you like you forgot to take your medication. Okay, so maybe I did.

Thanks Llew. Love ya kiddo. the great thing about Llew-Llew is that I don't have to pay her to say such things. You all might want to make note of her name, because she's a brilliant writer you will be hearing from.