I’m delighted to welcome Shandra Miller today with an interview and the blurb from her latest book, Lethal Obsession. Welcome Shandra! 🙂
On to the first question – How did you get started writing in general and with erotica in particular?
I enjoyed reading a great deal as a kid. Without getting into details, I didn’t have the most stable home life growing up, so I stayed away from home as often as I could. I hung out with friends, stayed with an aunt some, but mostly found that I could escape some of the crap going on around me by reading. I guess it’s the same for a lot of kids watching television or playing on their X-box, but I didn’t have anything like that, so reading was it for me. And then I began creating my own stories, my own worlds, inside my head and working out characters and plot lines – though I didn’t realize it at the time. I was just exercising a vivid imagination as a way to escape real life, but somewhere along the way I realized this is exactly what those writers had done in all the novels and stories I was reading. So I gave writing a whirl.
Erotica? I like sex. I like to play and experiment. I like reading about sex. It was just natural, I suppose, that I’d start writing in that genre.
What was the best piece of writing advice you received?
I think the best advice I ever heard was from a bricklayer. We were visiting his house – it was a gorgeous home out in the country, surrounded by nothing but rolling land, no neighbors within sight. Honestly, I had no idea someone who laid brick for a living could do so well and, I suppose this wasn’t very tactful, but I asked him how he could afford such a house and land. He told me he’d always followed one piece of advice from his father: “Go to work. If the weather’s bad, go to work. If you feel bad, go to work. No matter what, go to work.” I wasn’t sure what he meant until we talked a bit, and I learned that brick masons are notorious for not showing up. If it’s a little damp, or cold, or if they feel a little under the weather, they don’t show up. This man always did, and pretty soon he got raises when others didn’t, he became a foreman over guys who had work many more years than him, he picked up extra weekend work away from the job, and eventually started his own small company and only hired other workers who always went to work, so his firm always got contracts.
It occurred to me that writing is a lot like that. You’re a writer, Liv. How many people have told you “I’ve always wanted to write a book,” or “I think it would be neat to be a writer”? Or how many people do you know from writer groups who take time off to “recharge” their batteries, or because they’re struggling with a certain passage? I try not to do that. I just go to work – that means I write every single day. Just write.
Fantastic advice! So what do you think makes good BDSM erotica?
Strong writing and storytelling. The web is filled with BDSM that’s poorly done – bad grammar, poor spelling, repetitive and clichéd writing. To me, that’s a turn-off. Don’t think just because you have a hot scene that it’s good. I say be a good writer first, then worry about genre second.
As for the storytelling, make BDSM part of the story, or background, but not THE story. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got a few short stories floating around that are virtually all about the sex and BDSM, but those are fun little quickies. In general, though, scene after scene of binding and whipping someone eventually gets old. If you’re just trying to shock or excite, that runs its course and becomes old. If you’re going to write a novel, or even a longer piece that’s not quite a novel, I think you build a strong, plot-driven story that incorporates BDSM.
Got to agree with that, Shandra. A good plot makes all the difference. Following on from that question, what advice would you give to anyone who wants to write about BDSM?
In addition to the answer to the last question, I’d say read, read, and read some more in the world of erotica and BDSM. Soon enough you’ll be able to differentiate between the well-written plot-driven stories and the ones that are just so much titillation for titillation’s sake. And, to some degree, a little personal experience might go a long way in understanding what’s happening, or what should be happening, inside your characters.
Where do you get your ideas and your characters from?
Wow. That’s a tough one. Honestly, it’s hard for me to put that into words. Sometimes I don’t really know where they come from, they just do. Sometimes it’s just a snippet of an idea that pops into my head. Other times it’s simply me asking “what if…?” With LETHAL OBSESSION, it’s really the story of a cop who thinks the man she might be falling for might also be a murderer. That’s certainly not an original concept. What I think I did that’s close to original is I set that in the world of BDSM, and I made it so that the cop, in order to express her devotion to this man, would have to place her absolute trust in his hands. She has to make a choice between him and her career. Down one path she could find love, though lose all she had built up to that point, and possibly even lose her life. The other way she could be the dutiful police detective, play by the book, and lose a chance at true love, and lose out on these thrilling new sensations she’s experienced since delving into the world of BDSM. Again, that’s a theme that’s been used elsewhere, but not necessarily in BDSM fiction.
As for the characters? Again, hard to say exactly. I spend a lot of time observing and listening to people, trying to pick up the way they speak, the contractions they use, the rhythm, the accent, and I watch to see what makes them do the things they do. Then I try to incorporate that into characters I make up. None of my characters are based on anyone I know, though some parts of the way my characters might speak or act do come from watching others.
Do you have a writing routine? Do you need absolute quiet to write or background music/noise?
I like to write at the end of the day, after all is done, though when life gets in the way that sometimes pushes me well into the wee hours of the night. I don’t have a television, so I don’t have to worry about that as a distraction. I generally play music when I’m writing, though sometimes, when the weather’s warm I write to the sound of the night (crickets, cicadas, owls, etc.) But noise doesn’t bother me. I can pretty much write anywhere under any circumstances. I worked for six years on the carnie and small-town circus circuit, traveling the South and Mid-Atlantic, and writing there was a bear, but I learned to do it under most any circumstances.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and if so, how do you get over it?
I go back to the brick-layer’s mentality and I just write. No one else gets any kind of “block.” Doctors don’t put off their patients because they have physician block, police don’t take the day off because they’re just not into it today, cabbies don’t turn off their lights because they just aren’t inspired to drive folks around town. Why should writing be any different? Sometimes the words come quick and easy, sometimes agonizingly slow, but the way to deal with writer’s block is simply don’t have it. Write.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m guessing pantser means something akin to flying by the seat of my panties? I might be a little of both, but I tend to do the panties thing. I don’t do outlines. I don’t sketch in a story and then fill in the details. I just sit down and pick up where I left off the next day and write. Sometimes that means my stories end up going a different direction than I intended, sometimes, they don’t end the way I had envisioned.
However, I do work out plotlines all the time. When I’m in the shower, when I’m commuting to and from work, when I go on walks, I often think about my stories, figure out where I want to go, or what I want a character to do. I suppose that’s mental outlining of sorts. So, sometimes when I sit after I’ve done some of that, I have a portion of the story mapped out in my mind. Other times, I just sit down without a clue and go to it.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
Other than writing every day, best advice I can give is to find a writer’s critique group that you can join. Don’t get into a mutual admiration society. Instead, find a group of writers who will tell you the truth. That means if your work is good, they should say so and not try to show off their literary chops by making up inane criticism. At the same time, if what you give them is a piece of shit, then they need to tell you it is – along with suggestions on how to improve and reshape the said pile of dung.
What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
Dreaming. I can write anything I want, make up any world I like, and have my characters do anything I wish. It takes hard work to figure out how to effectively do that, but what other job allows this?
Couldn’t agree more :). What’s next for you?
More writing. I do have a sequel to LETHAL OBSESSION in the works. I’ve also got two little shorts out there – PRIVATE DINING and ROOM SERVICE, that need a third part to wrap up the story arc, so I’ve got to get that done. I have a friend (hey Kelly!) who’s been after me to set some erotica in a magician’s show, and I really need to get that done. And…well, let’s just say I have quite a few irons in the fire.
I hope to have the third installment of the story line started in PRIVATE DINING and ROOM SERVICE sometime before the end of April, and I hope to have one or two magician stories out by then. The sequel to LETHAL OBSESSION I hope to have out by Aug. 1.
And Liv, I want to end this by saying thank you so much for hosting me on your blog. The interview was a lot of fun, and I really appreciate you taking the time to do this.
You’re very welcome – good to have you :). Now after that fabulous interview here is the blurb for Lethal Obsession with those all important buying links: