Hey guys. Thank you for joining us at the Coffee Time Romance & More. Since you guys liked my first interview and bore my silly mistakes with good humor, I am back again. *winks* Today I bring you the lovely Ms. Leah Braemel.
So let us begin the interview. Ms. Leah, please first help yourself to the yummy sweet and salty goodies in front of you and with your favorite beverage ranging from coffee, tea, and hot chocolate to delicious shakes and smoothies; sit back and make yourself comfortable before I bombard you with questions.
Hmm, I guess cyber-goodies should be safe for my diet, right? *helps herself to a hot chocolate with whipped cream and sprinkles, please*
Firstly, please tell us readers about this red-hot romantic Christmas story.
Ryan Porter is a sculptor—in his studio, he is used to bending iron to his will, and in the bedroom, he’s equally dominant. He is in love with RCMP officer Megan, but she is signed a five year contract to a post in the Canadian arctic while he had to stay and raise his siblings in central Ontario, so they’ve had to settle for a long distance relationship. You can imagine that after being separated for so long, only able to see each other in person, to touch them, to kiss them, a couple of weeks a year, they’ve saved up a lot of lust. Both are tired of being apart, so they have each planned a very special present to give to the other on Christmas Day. After they have made up for lost time in the bedroom. And the kitchen. And in front of the fireplace…
Normally whenever I read a book, the heroine is usually someone with an artistic and safe job and the hero is the one playing with danger OR if the heroine’s profession is dangerous then hero is in some way or another connected to the same profession. (Hope I have not made is too confusing) So my question is: How did you get the idea of making the hero, Ryan, an artist and Megan, the heroine, a Mountie? Their characters and storyline?
Because I like playing around with preconceptions. Seriously.
When I received the invitation from Angela James of Carina to participate in her holiday anthology, I knew I wanted to write a story set in my own backyard. Readers love kick-ass heroines, and since I tend to have an affinity to police and bodyguards, I wanted to make Megan either an O.P.P. (Ontario Provincial Police) officer or a Mountie. As I talk about later in the interview, I know a couple of female police officers, one of whom is a Mountie, and I have a contact in the police detachment where the story is set who is also a woman. So I had lots of inspiration. And since I write erotic romance, the juxtaposition of a woman who is in such control, who is so strong, and yet loving being submissive in the bedroom was intriguing. Megan needed someone who was equally strong who could stand up to her, and give her the comfort and support she needed—living with a strong-willed, confident person requires another strong-willed confident person.
In twisting the stereotypes, I did not want Ryan to also be a cop or fireman. It seemed too stereotypical. The Haliburton region where the story is set is famous for its artistic community. So Ryan became an artist, but since most times artists are considered to be beta characters, I knew I had to twist it up somehow. I could have had some interesting scenes where he painted Megan with bodypaints, but then I remembered that scene in The Return of the King movie where Elrond is repairing Anduril, Aragorn’s sword. There he was, by a roaring forge, wearing a leather apron, beating a hammer against the red hot metal on his anvil, fiery sparks showering to the floor. The scene morphed in my imagination to Ryan standing by his forge, bending metal to the shape he wants, his expression all-dark and brooding, sweat beading on his forehead, sliding down his neck and over his shoulder muscles, over his pecs … Yum.
Anyway, it did not take much of a jump to make Ryan an artist who could also be an alpha in his own right.
As my readers know, I love digging into the background story of any book that I read. The ideas behind it, the inspirations, etc because it makes the story more real and everyone to feel connected to it. Hence, my next question; Are these characters based on actual people you know, a combination of people you have met or completely out of imagination? May be a story or news that inspired you?
My characters are usually amalgamations of people I know, along with lots of imagination. A neighbor is a female Mountie, and another friend’s brother was applying to work for the RCMP –part of their requirements was he had to sign on to serve 5 years in Nunavut if he was accepted. So I took all those elements and molded them together and came up with Meg. Then after I had started writing the story I needed to check a fact and called the Haliburton RCMP – the officer they put me in touch with turned out to be a woman, so I knew I was on the right track.
I often draw from the headlines or from things that I see around me. A friend of mine worked up in Nunavut on a contract with the CBC and blogged about her experiences there. After talking to my other friend about her brother having to sign a contract to serve there for 5 years, I wondered how my heroine would have coped if she’d wanted to be with her family in Ontario but couldn’t so that’s where Meg’s storyline comes from. There’s a reference in I Need You for Christmas to a Nunavut Mountie’s home being shot at which was drawn from the headlines (unfortunately it’s happened a few times—when it’s a small community only a few hundred, it’s hard to keep your home address private from people you’ve arrested.) The dragon Ryan has created is based upon one done by the sculptor I know and still stands at the end of his driveway so his visitors can easily find him. The mill is based upon a real mill a few miles from where my parents used to live, and we’d drive by it quite regularly – it’s not got a home in it like Ryan’s, but there really is a little café in it where they sell some of the most delicious pastries. Mmm, donuts…
Wow.. Wonderful insight about the background.. Those people sound amazing..
When writing an erotic story, is the atmosphere important? For example, do you use mood music, candles, or maybe spending time with better half, etc? Do you need complete quiet to concentrate for the intimate scenes?
I need almost complete quiet to write, love scenes or regular scenes, which my Shih Tzu puppy and cat don’t understand when they’re playing in my office. For love scenes I’ll sometimes listen to a playlist I’ve created to set the mood, but mainly I rely upon my imagination.
While reading the story, I realized this was more than just an erotic story. The characters understood each other and connected on an emotional and spiritual level too (normally I find the emotional connection to be limited). Reading about their first meeting was fun too. So out of the blue a thought came to my mind. How did you first meet your hubby? Was there an instant connection or was it something similar to Megan and Ryan’s first date?
It is really weird that I hadn’t met my hubby before—we’d gone to the same high school at the same time, and had the same circle of friends, but we’d never met until I was on a date with one of his best friends whom we fondly nicknamed Igor. (He was a 6’6” football player, and had a thick beard, like a big Russian bear.) We had been friends forever, but we had hooked up at a dance and Igor had asked me to go with him to a party the next weekend. Unbeknownst to me, he had arranged for us to meet up with his friends who were also going to the party at the house of a former boyfriend of mine. So when my DH walked into the room and we were introduced I assumed he was one of the ex-boyfriend’s friends and initially gave him the cold shoulder. (Yes, I was a witch with a capital B.) I must confess, I don’t remember much about him that night—though I do remember standing outside the house and talking with him while we waiting for the others. So no instant attraction on my side, yet the next time they met, DH told Igor that he liked me and asked him to hook us up. Next thing I knew Igor had convinced me to go out on a date with DH, with Igor “chaperoning” us in case I decided I did not like DH. I guess there was some connection during that date because we ended up ditching the party Igor had taken us to, and after that we were inseparable. We have been married thirty-four years now, and he is still my best friend. (I have done several posts on the subject on my blog and here)
That is awesome.. May you guys always be together and this happy.. True inspirational love story.. *winks*
On your website, I saw that you have a print anthology releasing in January 2013, Private Deceptions (which will be combining the first book, Private Property and third book, Deliberate Deceptions in your Hauberk Protection series). I am curious to know about them. Can you tell us a little about this series? And why is the second book excluded from Private Deceptions? Are the first and third book linked?
The Hauberk series follows members of the Hauberk Protection company – an up-and-coming security and personal protection company whose headquarters are based in Bethesda, Maryland, and run by a former FBI agent named Sam Watson. You are introduced to Sam in the very sexy ménage novella, Private Property, though he is a secondary character. Then in his own story, Personal Protection, his life is threatened and he is forced to accept his own personal protection detail, lead by a spitfire of an agent, Rosalinda Ramos. Sam’s silent partner, Chad Miller, gets his story in book 3, Deliberate Deceptions, when he and Lauren, his ex-wife, are forced into seclusion to avoid a hitman after Lauren. In Book four, Sam’s international manager hooks up with the manager’s personal assistant Sandy even though they’re each looking for different outcomes from the relationship.
So why will the books be printed in an unusual order? Samhain only prints books that are over 50,000 words, but book 1, Private Property, was only a novella, so it did not meet the print requirements. But book 2, Personal Protection, is nearly 80,000 words, so it went into print. However, when Personal Protection was going through the pre-printing process, I did not realize I could have asked my editor to bundle the two together. Once I learned it, after Deliberate Deceptions, a category length story, released I asked my editor if there was a way we could get them bundle it together with Private Property. So it’s a little strange to have the series split that way, but it works so the entire series will now be in print.
Book 4 in Hauberk Protection series, Hidden Heat, is also releasing in April 2013. Can you tell us about it?
Hidden Heat is available as an ebook already, and will be releasing as a trade paperback in April 2013.
Troy McPherson is not only Hauberk Protection’s international manager, but he moonlights as an assassin for a secret government organization. While most people think flying from country to country is exciting, it means Troy’s never had a place of his own, and he’s had to keep too many secrets to feel comfortable in a long term relationship. Which is exactly what his boss’s assistant Sandy is looking for – excitement, danger, anything to break out of her rut. While the two begin their fling expecting it not to lead to a long-term relationship, Troy discovers how much he wants one. Though Sandy is sure it’s what she doesn’t.
Is it required to read the first three books to understand this or is it stand alone? A sneak peak would be lovely too. *winks*
I have tried to write each book so they stand alone, but I think it helps if you have read the first three before reading Hidden Heat. Aside from knowing certain recurring characters such as Sam (the owner of Hauberk Protection) and Chad, Hidden Heat starts a few days prior to Deliberate Deceptions ends, and it refers to a couple of incidents that occur in its predecessor. But, as I said earlier, I tried to write each book so the reader can follow what went on even if they hadn’t read the previous books.
A sneak peek? How about peek into Sandy and Troy’s first date?
Less than ten minutes after they’d pulled out of the restaurant’s parking lot, Troy parked the SUV by her apartment building’s front door. The hand he placed on the small of her back as they walked to the building firmed her resolve. It’s not that she’d never considered Troy that way before but now he was really here, touching her, and her body simmered with anticipation.
She waited until the elevator doors closed and then turned to face him. Reminding herself he’d already kissed her once, she curled her fingers around the collar of his coat and tugged him closer. With her stilettos, she was almost his height. All she had to do was tilt her face and press her lips against his. His body went rigid for a moment, then his lips parted and his tongue brushed hers.
Warmth quickly spread from his lips through the rest of her body, caressing and curling around her breasts until they were heavy, her nipples hard, weakening her knees. He slid his hands down her side and around to cup her backside. The heady scent of her arousal wafted between them, her panties dampening as he rocked his erection against her mound.
Intoxicated to be in his arms once again, to be under his control, Sandy lost herself in the kiss until the elevator bounced to a stop and the door slid open.
“This is your floor.” Though he’d broken the kiss, his hands didn’t move from their place on her ass.
“So it is.” Reluctantly, she stepped back and captured his hand before it dropped to his side. She led him down the hall, fumbling one-handed in her purse for her keys, afraid that if she let go of him he’d find an excuse to leave. The key turned in the lock and she pushed the door wide. There were no lights on, and Jazz’s boots weren’t in their usual place on the boot mat. Xander looked up from where he’d curled on the couch then dismissed them as unimportant.
To her disappointment, Troy attempted to extract his hand from hers. “I should go.”
“No,” she whispered. “You should stay.”
Do you outline the story before writing or go with the flow with the characters guiding you?
I obsessively outline the story before I start writing, but I find as soon as I write a half page the characters come up with better ideas, more interesting backstories than anything I’d outlined and all my plans get ditched. Which makes it quite a challenge when I’ve got a contract for a book based upon the outline.
You have written novels and novellas both. Which format is harder and which do you prefer. Why? What format would you advice aspiring writers to go for?
Writing novellas is tough for me—I like to delve into all the little issues, explore characters in a deeper depth than I can in a novella. But one thing I love about digital books is you’re not tied to having to pad a story out to 80K if the story only needs 50K to be told, not do you have to chop out lots to make it fit into a novella length. My advice for aspiring writers is to write the story they want to write, but have an eye on who they want to submit it to. If it’s a story you want to be published by a New York publisher, then it needs to be full-length. If it’s for a digital first line such as Carina or Samhain, then don’t worry about whether it’s a novella or novel, write the story that needs to be told.
Since the start of your writing career, What piece of writing advice did you get that meant the most to you and how you wrote?
I think the best piece of advice came from fellow Toronto Romance Writer, Margaret Moore (and I’ve heard it from others since.) “When an author stands at the front of a room or runs an online class and says ‘this is how to write XXX’ what they’re saying is ‘this is what works for them.’ It may not work for you. Feel free to listen to that lecturer and take the parts that work for you, and discard the parts that don’t.”
When I first started writing with an eye to publishing I enrolled in over a dozen writing-craft courses within six months. But then I found that when I wrote a line or a paragraph, I’d think, “Oh but Joe said I needed to…” and deleted the line and rewrite it the way the first instructor told me to, only to think, “Oh but Jane said I should…” then I’d delete the line again and rewrite it the way the second instructor told me to. Lather, rinse, repeat. Obviously I didn’t make much headway and my word count plummeted. Once I remembered Margaret’s advice, I focused about getting the words on the page first. Then it can all be fixed in editing. Which leads to a second excellent piece of advice, which comes from Nora Roberts herself: “I can fix a bad page. I can’t fix a blank page.”
Time for some naughty questions *wicked grin*
How far are you willing to go for research? Would you for instance, cook certain foods, go on police ride, try BDSM, or even certain drugs to make your books more realistic?
Since I write about law enforcement people for my Hauberk series, I figured I needed some hands-on experience, so last year I attended a writers’ course that took place in an actual police academy in North Carolina. I did a fire arms training simulation and had to decide whether to shoot potential threats, I talked (and listened) to DEA and FBI agents and various police officers, including a fascinating NY undercover police officer who gave me a great slant on one of my characters from the Hauberk series and why he comes off as more laid back then the other uber-alpha characters. (They have to blend in!) As for the BDSM? I’m not telling. :D
Do any of your fantasies or personal experience get put into your story?
Oh lots of personal experiences find their way into my stories. Some that I’ll admit to, and others that I won’t, LOL. But yes, there are some personal experiences that made it into I Need You for Christmas. For instance, there’s a scene where Ryan and Megan are discussing their first Christmas together and Meg reminds Ryan about how when they’d gone out to cut down their first tree, Ryan had gotten his car stuck in a ditch – that happened to my hubby when we were getting a tree for the Christmas I’d moved into my first apartment.
Why erotic stories? What is the draw to them for you that compels you to write them and what do you think is the biggest misconception in erotic romance fiction?
I like the bedroom door wide open rather than closed in the books I read. So it was only natural that I’d write romances with the door wide open too. I think the biggest misconception about them is that it’s “just sex”, that the scenes are gratuitous. For me, and I would hope for the reader, those scenes should be even more revealing about the hero and the heroine, the hopes, their dreams, their fears. You should need to read them to get even deeper inside that character’s head and learn more about what drives them or holds them back. They should help the reader see the connection between the two characters deepen, because making love to someone is such an intimate moment. Holding back something from your partner at that point in time, or not holding back, is a huge revelation about the character, either their conflict or their triumph in whatever is part of their story.
Is there a question you wish readers or interviewers would ask but never have?
Wow, this question is tough. How about “Can I be your assistant/publicist?” Especially if they follow that up with, “I’ll work for free.” ;)
Any last comments, advice or message for all your readers out there and us, here at Coffee Time Romance and More?
Just that I hope that they enjoy my books, and that I love to hear from my readers—comments, questions, anything. Those emails keep me returning to my laptop, writing more stories. They can contact me via the contact page on my website or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you so much for taking time out to spend time with us here at Coffee Time Romance & More and giving us more insight to your books, writing and personal life. I hope you will join us again. Best of luck and success to you. Readers I hope you also enjoyed as much as I did. Thank you for your time. See you next time with another great new author.