1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How does your day go? What keeps you writing?
An interesting question because I’ve been reflecting lately about my career as a writer. I attended my first Romance Writers of America National Conference in 2001, in New Orleans. I was a bright-eyed aspiring writer who ran from workshop to workshop, busily absorbing knowledge and ideas, and feeling intimidated as hell. All the same, I was determined to get published, and my goal was to make a living (albeit a modest one!) as a writer. After many years of trying this and trying that, I’d found my passion, and I hoped it could become my “day job.”
In 2005 (Reno), I attended RWA National again, this time having just made my first sale, Champagne Rules, one of the launch books for Kensington’s new Aphrodisia line, scheduled for February 2006. I set a five-year plan: in five years from that first publication, I wanted to be making a living as a writer.
In 2011, ten years after that first conference, I attended RWA National again, this time in NYC. I had 18 sales under my belt. I had lunch scheduled with my Kensington editors and my agent, and tea scheduled with my Berkley editors and my agent—and I signed books at the literacy fair and the Kensington and Berkley give-away events. Yes, I still attended some workshops, but I also presented one. In many ways, it was my ten-year-old dream come true.
Except, this year I had to face the cold hard truth that I was not making a living as a writer, and might never do so. So, I’m back to a part-time day job. You asked how my day goes. Well, it depends on the day. Some days, I’m up at the crack of dawn, spending an hour or two doing email and other business-related stuff, then I head off to the day job for 8 hours, then I either go to critique group or book club or come home and do more admin, promo, etc. etc. Other days, I get up at the crack of dawn and write, with even more pressure to make those deadlines because I have so much less writing time.
It’s hard. I had a dream and I busted my butt trying to make it come true. It didn’t, so I’ve gone through a process of grieving and one of adjustment. Yes, I’m definitely still writing because it’s still my passion. It’s a large part of my identity. Even if I never sell another book to a publisher, I’ll still be writing. The characters and stories in my head aren’t going to go away, and I’m compelled to write them down—and it’s lovely to now have the option of self-publishing on the internet. I don’t want to keep my stories to myself. I love sharing them, and absolutely love hearing from readers who’ve found pleasure, distraction, and even insights from my books.
2. What brought you to writing erotica? What do you love about it?
I don’t actually write erotica. To me, erotica is about a woman’s sexual journey. And yes, that’s an element in my books, but in my stories that sexual journey is always in the context of a romance. So, I write erotic romance (for Berkley Heat) and spicy romance (for Kensington Brava).
When I first started writing, romance novels were usually about a romantic relationship that developed relatively slowly, with the sex being a natural progression in that development. But that’s not always how it happens in real life. Sometimes, a couple connects immediately (call it lust, call it chemistry, call it pheromones), and they land in bed before they really get to know each other. And then what? Likely, they didn’t intend a serious relationship, and so they could just walk away. But what if they can’t? What if there’s a special connection that makes them want to see more of each other, to get to know each other, to maybe risk taking that initial fling into territory that’s emotionally dangerous? I think that’s a fascinating journey, and I love traveling it with my characters.
For me, the characters’ journey is one of sexual discovery, but it’s also much more than that. I’m a character-driven author. I love taking characters who have flaws and vulnerabilities and challenging them to dig deep inside themselves, face their fears, and have the courage to change and grow. To have the guts to do that, a person needs strong motivation. Falling for your lover—the person you’d intended to only be a fling; a person who doesn’t fit neatly into the emotionally safe life you’ve constructed for yourself—can be a wonderful motivator.
3. What are you working on now?
As with most writers, several things at the same time. I’m promoting my July release, Heat Waves (Berkley Heat; pen name Susan Lyons), which is set around a destination wedding in Greece. It’s my third destination wedding book, following Sex on the Beach (Belize) and Sex on the Slopes (Whistler). I’ve always figured that weddings in exotic locations must be very romantic and sexy for not just the bride and groom, but some of the guests.
In Heat Waves, widowed wedding planner Gwen Austin is in charge of her first destination wedding, and sex is the last thing on her mind—until Santos Michaelides helps her rediscover herself as a single, sensual woman. But then Gwen finds out that there’s more to the charismatic cruise director than meets the eye…
When Kendra Kirk meets up again with Flynn Kavanagh, the sexy IT consultant she’d unsuccessfully prosecuted, sparks of all kinds fly. But her newfound ability to put her life ahead of her career will be pushed to the breaking point when she learns the truth about Flynn…
The two novellas intertwine, and take place during the same time period. In fact, Santos is an undercover investigator—and he’s investigating Flynn!
I have an excerpt, behind-the-scenes notes, a discussion guide, and a recipe for my drink creation, the Heat Wave, on my website. I also have booklets with excerpts from all three books; just contact me via my website.
Other than that, I’m busy with copy-edits and page proofs for my fourth Wild Ride to Love book from Brava, Yours, Unexpectedly (pen name Susan Fox), which will come out in December. Wild Ride to Love is a “planes, trains, automobiles, and a cruise ship” series in which three older sisters travel home to Vancouver, BC, for their baby sister’s wedding and find sexy romances along the way. Yours, Unexpectedly is baby sister Merilee’s story. Let’s just say that her honeymoon cruise doesn’t work out exactly the way she’d expected!
In October, last year’s Brava Christmas anthology, The Naughty List (with novellas by Donna Kauffman, Cynthia Eden, and me as Susan Fox) is being reissued.
My work-in-progress is Body Heat (a Susan Fox Brava), an attraction-of-opposites story. Buttoned-up accountant Maura Mahoney falls for the hot guy on the Harley, Jesse Blue. And vice versa. They each think the other is way out of their league, and engage in steamy fantasies while they try to figure out how to work together as she supervises his community service.
And my mind is playing with ideas for my next book, Dirty Girls Book Club from Heat (under a new pen name, Savanna Fox). Don’t you wish your book club read sexy books? LOL.
Is that enough? It’s certainly enough to keep my brain and my muse busy!
4. What is your—or your character’s—favorite erotic book? Sexy movie? Sex toy?
For erotic book, I’ll answer from the perspective of Georgia Malone, the heroine of Dirty Girls Book Club. The premise of DGBC is that the club decides to occasionally put aside the weighty, intellectual books and read something sexy. At first I thought I’d have them read classic erotica, then I thought maybe they’d read existing contemporary books, but I ended up thinking it would be more fun—and challenging—as a writer, to create their book myself. So they’ll be reading The Sexual Education of Lady Emma Whitehead, and I’ll have to write snippets of it to intersperse throughout the book. Georgia will undergo her own sexual education at the “hands” of Woody (Woodrow) Hanrahan, Canada’s most popular hockey star, in a journey that in some ways parallels and in some ways differs from the book the club is reading.
For sexy movie, I’ll answer for myself. I love The Big Easy. There’s so much smoldering sexuality between Anne Osborn and Remy McSwain (Ellen Barkin and Dennis Quaid). It’s also one of my favorite story lines: a woman who’s repressed and doesn’t see herself as sensual or sexual gets awakened by a bad boy (it’s similar to my story line in Body Heat and also in Dirty Girls Book Club—I did say I love it!). I do like equality in my romances, so I love that while Remy awakens Anne’s femininity and sexuality, she awakens his more serious, honorable side.
For sex toys, I’ll mention Kendra Kirk in Heat Waves, who couldn’t go to Greece without a sexy toy, but was horrified at the thought of Customs pulling something embarrassing out of her bag. So she chose a lipstick-sized vibrator. And when she slips it into the pocket of her secret lover, Flynn Kavanagh, one night, you can just imagine his reaction. Oh, and I’ll also mention heroine Merilee Fallon in Yours, Unexpectedly, who would definitely vote for Ben Wa vaginal balls!
5. What’s the one thing you’ve always wanted to do? The top thing on your personal bucket list?
Always? I haven’t had any “always” things—they change with age. But for a long time, it was to go to Greece. Then I did, and it was wonderful. So wonderful that I went again. And then I wanted to write a book set in Greece, and I’ve done that too, with Heat Waves. I also have a Mary Stewart-style romantic suspense novel that I worked on when I was on Crete, and I really, really want to get that published too.
Right now—and this is really boring—the top thing on my personal bucket list is to slow down enough to smell the roses. I’m having a little trouble finding the right balance in my life!
6. What’s your personal romantic (or erotic) fantasy?
A tropical night, a flimsy silk skirt drifting in the breeze, bare feet on damp sand, chilled champagne, and the hottest, sweetest guy imaginable. Enough said?
My website: http://www.susanlyons.ca