You guys are in for a rare treat today, because Anna Leigh Keaton is here. She writes very hot, emotionally charged erotic romance, and she writes it faster than probably anyone you've ever met. Seriously. At every RWA meeting she seems to collect at least two silk roses for her new sales. She's got over 40 books published already, and she's here to talk about two more coming out this month, plus some burning questions I've always wanted to know that answers to. Because the woman astounds me.
KC: You are a very prolific and disciplined author, and you write sequentially from Chapter One to The End without skipping around. How the heck do you do that, and how do you keep the words flowing when you sit down to write?
ALK: “Yes” to prolific, “If you say so” to the disciplined. *grin* First off, I am not disciplined unless I have a specific deadline. I write when I need to – this means when the little voices in my head are bugging me so badly I can’t get anything else done. And I write under deadline, though that’s rare because I’m e-published, and they’re pretty lenient unless I’ve turned in a proposal. I do better letting the characters do their thing rather than forcing them. Then it’s not real fun at all.
As for writing Chapter One to The End is pretty much my standard because I don’t plot. If I don’t plot, I can’t really skip around, or it wouldn’t flow. It would be a bunch of individual chapters that I’d have to try to string together with filler. (This was how my very first book turned out, and it was very bad.)
As for keeping everything flowing… Well… Hmm… It’s so true that everyone has their own way of writing, their own way of doing things, and I have a couple of different ones depending on my situation.
When I’m writing alone, and I get an idea for a new book, and I’m in a position to start that book, I go to bed. Yes, you read that right. I go to bed. I lay in the dark and (I hate this word) – plot – the opening. Though, it’s really not plotting, because I write nothing down. In the dark silence, I close my eyes and meet my characters, see what they look like, envision my setting, and figure out what’s going to go wrong to keep my hero and heroine apart until later on in the story. And then I usually let the opening scene play out in my head like a little movie. Then I fall asleep (usually, because that happens when it’s dark and quiet) and when I get up the next morning, I start writing. I know my characters, what they look like, and the setting, but the words they exchange never turn out to be the same as the little mini mind movie I envisioned the night before, so it’s all new and fresh and fun to discover. Once I’m done with that scene, if the next scene has built in my subconscious I can keep going. When I get stuck, I go back to bed and figure it all out.
When I’m working with my co-author, we brainstorm, as she calls it. I think we actually plot. UGH! There’s that word again. This is pulling teeth to me, and I hate it, but she’s a die-hard plotter with charts and graphs and everything. Okay, this comes in very handy with our very long, multi-book series we tend to write, but I’m so glad she is the one who has to keep track, not me. But on the positive side, writing with her is so fast because the book is plotted, and when it’s my turn to write, she tells me what to write, and I do it. There’s little thought needed, really, because I already know the whole story. All it takes is going over what she’s written and then continuing on.
Then there is my short story writing. Those are fun. I come up with an idea – usually while doing the dishes. The kitchen seems to be the “New Idea” area of my house. For the short stories, I simply sit down and let it flow.
Huh. Guess I'm going to start doing more dishes then. What's your writing process like? Besides fast, I mean :)
I write when I’ve got time or when the characters are screaming to get out. And when I write, I tend to just sit down and get it done. I can write a short story in a day, a novella in 2 or 3 days, and I hate writing anything that takes more than a month. I’m an impatient person, so I don’t like long, drawn out processes. I will write 8-10 hours a day until I’m done, setting aside my job, my family, any form of life outside of the world I’m creating. Luckily I have a “day” job I work from home, so putting it to the side whenever my muse hits me is possible.
Of course, the world and life loves to intrude, so I can’t always do what I want. My family seems to think they need to eat, though I’m not sure why! *grin* But when I’m in the groove, I tend to stay there as much as I possibly can so that I can see my final product. Then I go back to taking care of the family and, well, myself.
What advice would you give to authors about how to consistently turn out stories?
Everyone has to find their own process. This is the only way anyone can write comfortably, and in my opinion you have to be comfortable with your process for it to work for you.
As a fan of your work, I'd have to say the thing that sets you apart from most other erotic romance authors is your ability to mine your characters' emotional depths. What do you think is your greatest strength as an author?
Exactly that! My goal in life is to make people cry. Or laugh. But I’m better at making them cry. I started out writing mainstream romance, but found there’s little market for it (at this time) in e-publishing. My mainstream romance was filled with heroes and heroines with serious life problems who had to scrape and fight and struggle to make it to their Happily Ever After. When I started writing erotic romance, I hadn’t read much of it. I frankly didn’t care for most of what I read because it was sex, sex, sex with no heart. So, I decided to do what I hadn’t seen, and it’s working. Sure, my erotic romances are filled with sex, sex, sex – or it wouldn’t be erotic romance, right? But they also contain deep characters that still have to fight and struggle to find their Happily Ever After. And in my humble opinion, that makes a really great book.
What's the secret to building heat between your main characters?
I think that the chemistry between a hero and heroine has to be real, believable, explosive, undeniable, unavoidable, and it has to be a little forbidden in some way. The push-pull of “I want him/her” and “I can’t have him/her”, no matter what is causing the problems they have with coming together. Although, I firmly believe that the problems must be believable to the reader, or the story doesn’t work.
You have two releases this December (What? Only two?). One is Midnight Mine, the latest installment of the fairytale series you're doing for Cobblestone Press and comes out December 13th. What new twists have you given the classic story of Snow White?
Midnight Mine is book 3 in the Once Upon a Time series available at Cobblestone Press. Book 1 is Midnight Hour, an erotic, naughty version of Cinderella. Book 2 is Midnight Moon, a sexy, slightly BDSM shape-shifting take on Beauty and the Beast, and Midnight Mine is a sweet, though very naughty exploration of Snow White.
This series is co-authored with Madison Layle, and we’re having a blast with it!
We’ve built an entire world around Everland, with the Princeton men as our heroes. The stories you’ll recognize from childhood, but these aren’t your kids’ bedtime stories. Hot sex, voodoo witches, black magic spells, and sexier than sin heroes. You can check out the map of Everland, the Princeton family tree, and excerpts from each of the finished books at http://www.onceuponatimeseries.com/
Sylvia White is ready for a change. Growing up as the only girl in a motherless family of seven boys, she filled the role of keeper of the home. Now, in her twenties, she wants more for herself, but how is she to step beyond the overbearing men in her world and make a life for herself?
Richard Princeton has returned to Everland to run the family mine and atone for the ill will he’d held against his parents for so many years. But bad things happen when he meets the woman of his heart and his mother doesn’t approve.
KC: Your other release is a paranormal romance, Falke's Peak, from Carina Press, due out December 20th. It's the first of the Puma Nights series, co-authored with your writing partner, Madison Layle. Tell us about the creation of this series and your call from Carina Press. (It was personally acquired by none other than Angela James, by the way.)
I’ll start with “the call” because being e-pub’d authors, we’ve never had our phone ring about a contract. We get emails. We expected an email from Carina either in acceptance or rejection, so when the phone rang early one morning, it was very, very exciting. Angela James, the executive editor from Carina, is a wonderful woman who answered all of our questions and concerns, and our editor Gina Bernal was very understanding with the fact Madi and I have published so many books under one kind of editing process. She worked with us, and it was all in all a fantastic experience. We so look forward to working with her again.
This series was Madi’s brainchild. She wanted to write a shifter series, and I was tired of reading about werewolves set in the Bayou. So, she picked the shifters; a set of 6 catamount (cougar) shifter brothers, and I picked the location; beautiful Leavenworth, Washington in the Cascade Mountain range.
Falke’s Peak is book 1 in what we hope will be a 4-book series. Axel and Gunnar are the two oldest Falke brothers who, once meeting Dakota, realize they’re ready to settle down with their mate. The fun comes when the brothers have to reveal themselves to her and try to convince her to love not only two men, but two men who spend part of their time as big, furry kitties. *grin*
You can check out the series at http://www.pumanights.com/
Blurb:She couldn’t believe her eyes.
Stressed out ad-exec Dakota wandered into Catamount Outfitters in search of a guide for a wilderness excursion. She didn’t expect to be greeted by not one, but five of the most ruggedly delicious looking men she’d ever seen. Not to mention a live cougar guarding the shop.
The Falke brothers have more than just good looks in their genes.
Eldest brother Axel agrees to guide Dakota on her mountain trek. In cougar form, Axel’s twin, Gunnar, was there as a protection from predators – but he had his eye on the sexy client instead.
Into the wild…
While the rule with clients was “paws-off”, both Axel and Gunnar couldn’t resist Dakota’s seductive Native American beauty and determination. As cold days lead to hot nights in the cabin, Axel and Gunnar wondered if they finally found a woman strong enough to tame them….
Great hook! What else have you got coming up for readers?
I hope to have out a few more short erotic pieces, a couple novellas, and one or two novels at Cobblestone Press. Book 4 in Once Upon a Time will be out next summer: Midnight Deal – our take on Little Red Riding Hood. Also, we’re working on book 2 of the Puma Nights series right now, and hope that will be out sometime in the not too far future at Carina Press.
Anything else you'd like to add/share?
Madi and I have set up a new, combined site where readers can find us. And we’ve even started making a few blog posts. *gasp* http://www.laylekeaton.com/
And then there’s my individual site at http://www.annaleighkeaton.com/ where you can find my backlist, both co-authored and individual, along with excerpts from all of my books.
Thanks so much for this opportunity!
You're welcome, and I'm so glad I could drag you out into the public eye for a short while! And wow, an actual blog? I'm even more impressed.
So for all of you out there that love erotic romance, go read some of Anna Leigh's books and feel free to drop her a line. She's great!