July 13, 2015

Talking Shop: The Girls That Started It All

This whole thing started with a vampire who refused to be a hero.

Have I been wrong?
Have I been wise
To shut
My eyes and play along?
~Natalie Merchant

Readers of Lotus Petals might be surprised to know Rhiannon Donovan was the beginning of everything for me.

Rhiannon used to be the villain of another vampire's story (which may or may not come into play in her next book, but you'll have to wait for Satin and Steel to find out more!).  Many, many, many moons before that she was supposed to be a supporting player, a quirky princess sidekick who stepped in at just the right time to save the hero. Unfortunately for me, Rhiannon decided she wanted to kill the hero instead. 

Thus, Rhiannon Donovan went from a plucky duckling of a vampire pal to a ruthless, unforgiving demon. I guess she really, really hated the frilly courtly dresses I tried to put her in.

Of course, those who have already read Lotus Petals will know Rhiannon obviously evolved past that stage in her development as well, and became someone far more complex. She wasn't cut out to be the sidekick, no, never. But she wasn't an irredeemable monster, either (that honor definitely goes to Sölva, her Viking bodyguard). Throughout many stories I realized there was some gem in Rhiannon's character that set her apart from the true villains...something that made for a deeper story. Something that might, eventually, save her.

That gem, of course, was Aijyn. 

These two were the beginning of it all. They had a story to tell, and I believed it was a good one. It took me a long time to find out how to tell it in just the right way...and then, after I finally had it down in its entirety, had fallen in love with them all over again, I faced a huge problem.

Lotus Petals broke the cardinal rules of the romance genre. It failed to meet most publisher's guidelines right out of the gate, and those that didn't outright reject it before I could hit Send on my email submission still didn't want to take the chance on a story like mine.

I can't say which rule it breaks because that gets spoilery. Suffice to say, though, that Rhiannon and Aijyn sat for many, many years on the shelf, a faint gleam in my eye while I searched for a place that would give them their shot.

In the meantime, though, writing Lotus Petals—delving into a world not just of intrigue and adventure but of real, passionate, unflinching erotic love—sparked something in me. I considered myself a writer of horror and supernatural fantasy, but not erotica. And yet, as I penned the sensual moments of Rhiannon awakening a new and wonderful lust in sweet Aijyn, I discovered I really, really liked it.

This is what I mean when I say Rhiannon Donovan (and Aijyn, of course) became the beginning of it all. Their love became my love: a love of passion and eroticism. While I waited for the day they might come out of their shady, rules-breaking corner, I created Foreplay and Fangs, a collection of erotic stories I considered experimental. They made me eager to explore not only sexy stories of romance, but downright dirty stories of greedy and even sometimes dark and dangerous sexuality. I discovered a delight in exploring indulgences, and in writing fairy-tale scenes of making love. I wanted to write as a gay male (he shows up in Rhi's next story, too), and to write of a polyamorous trio (Finn and his Ladies from Goblin Fires). I fell in love with Sadira, a character divulging the deepest, most carnal and most beautiful aspects of sexual slavery and submission to me. She's become the focus of my newest series project, Lady in Chains.

Part of coming into the world of erotica was coming into the world of societal sexual awareness. Learning about writing erotica also taught me more about LGBT and gender issues. I discovered aspects of lifestyles I'd never understood before, and what I learn excites me. The people—authors and educators, practitioners, bloggers, podcasters—I've run into, talked to, or followed, they excite me, too. It's not just about erotic fiction for me anymore: I feel lucky to have learned so much about the realities of our sexuality, identities, and emotions, from that little spark of curiosity.

It's funny now, to see Lotus Petals becoming a reality too. Rhiannon and Aijyn started me on this path, and now, with the book re-released and with a sequel on the way—that's kind of like a Holy Grail to me!—it feels like I've finally grown to deserve them, and their story, for real.

This all started with a vampire who refused to be who I expected her to be. Her story, of course, followed that example. Her lover, the timid courtesan, broke the mold and challenged demons. Nothing about Lotus Petals wanted to follow the rules.

The best thing Rhiannon ever taught me was damnit...let's break some rules.

13 Fun Facts about Lotus Petals

Have you read Lotus Petals? This story of a reluctant vampire bride and the courtesan she falls in love with has been re-released, and it's been pulling in great reviews on Amazon, and Goodreads!
Whether you've read the book or are thinking of picking it up, here are 13 fun "insider" facts I think you'll really enjoy.

1.     Vampires are the "Fourth Blood" of demons. The other Bloods are: Exsul (incubi and succubi), Werewolves, Shadiil (shadow-walkers), and Coven-Kin (witches and warlocks). Want to see which of the Five Demons Blood you would be?
2.     The numerical order of the races denotes the order in which they were created by the Drogh Lord. This makes vampires the second-youngest race.
3.     Rhiannon, like all my main characters, is left-handed. This is an homage to my brother.
4.     Over the course of writing Lotus Petals, I watched Memoirs of a Geisha 23 times, and listened to the audiobook twice. This was so I could keep an audible "feel" for dialect and speech as I wrote Aijyn, Nagisa and Gohachiro. Also, because I love Memoirs of a Geisha.
5.     Aijyn's name is Japanese for "lover". Sölva's name is Norse for "sun warrior". Rhiannon's name is derived from the Celtic for "great queen".
6.     Aijyn was originally written as a kin-born vampire. I changed her to a human when I realized she was too "watered down" as a vampire and there wasn't enough conflict as to her fate.
7.     Sölva is probably the most unforgivable and irredeemable character I've ever written. She's a character designed to make you cringe. I love to know readers despise her.
8.   #7 makes me a little sad, though, as I've always imagined the perfect actress to play Sölva would be Lucy Lawless, and I absolutely love Lucy Lawless.
9.     Helena Donovan—Rhiannon's dam—was strongly inspired by Countess Carmilla from Vampire Hunter D, and bears a very strong resemblance to her.
10.                        In Rhiannon's stories, as in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, vampires do not change after they become immortal. This is directly inspired by the scene in Interview with a Vampire when Claudia tries to cut her hair, and it grows back immediately. Rhiannon's own hair fiasco in Lotus Petals is a direct reference to this scene.
11.                        The reason Rhiannon's guild tattoo doesn't disappear like any other scar or wound is because it is alchemically treated with, among other things, trace amounts of silver. The presence of silver prevents the immortal's supernatural restoration from simply wiping the tattoo away. It's actually an unhealing wound.
12.                        Yes, it is worth noting that Rhiannon's body becomes animated in the throes of intense emotional sensation. No, it does not mean true love will bring her to life.
13.                        Even I don't know who Rhiannon's father is. If I had to guess I'd say he's some sort of vampire pool boy.

1 comment:

  1. My Lady Brantwijn...

    Never ever give up doing what you do BEST...spinning such lush worlds and inviting us into them. Reading this part of your journey brought tears to my eyes and although I've said it before, it bears repeating....You are a true artist, friend and INSPIRATION to all who think a bit 'outside' the box. Much love to you!


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