Continuing the fun with my guest bloggers, I’ve invited author Lex Valentine here to talk about her latest release and be interviewed along the same lines as Claire Russett last week! I’m finding it fascinating to read different authors’ answers to the same or similar questions–it really gives us a take on what makes them tick!
Here’s what Lex had to say:
Hello! Welcome to my blog, Lex! Thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions! First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?
There’s not a lot to tell about me. I’m a crazed middle aged woman who’s been writing paranormal stuff since her teens. That morphed into romance in my twenties and erotica in my thirties. In my forties I got hooked on paranormal romance and began writing my own erotic paranormal romance in an online story with twelve other writers. An author saw snippets on my blog and bugged me to submit something to a publisher. I did and here I am!
I love writing in my paranormal world, the Five Dark Realms. I guess paranormal is my first love. Lately though, I’ve been really immersed in my contemporary series, Out in the NFL. It’s been an idea that is far- fetched currently so it seems as if it’s a paranormal series sometimes!
Tell us a little about your latest release.
My latest novel is Scrambling which is a contemporary MM romance. It’s the first of the Out in the NFL series. It’s the story of two guys who grew up playing football together. They each discover they are gay and it sets off fears within them. They’re like little boys with the fear that there’s a monster under their bed. No matter how irrational their fears are to the reader, they are very real to the characters. They are in love with each other but each is afraid to tell the other because they fear the loss of their friendship, something that matters more to them than anything in the world. So they hide their love for years. The two become the first two openly gay players in the NFL and while that presents a number of problems for them, it’s still nothing like the pink elephant in the room of their relationship.
My other release is a short story, a BDSM story with the characters from Hot Water, a married paranormal couple (she’s a dragon shifter and he’s a vampire.) Colin Cuffed is about one evening of sensory deprivation and violet wand play that spice up a couple’s marriage.
How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?
As I said above, I’ve been writing all my life.
What gave you the courage to submit your first story to a publisher?
Who gave me the courage is the correct question! Jennifer Leeland. She bugged me and bugged me about the stuff I posted on my blog until I finally sent something to a publisher.
What is the most difficult thing for you personally as a writer? What’s the best thing?
The most difficult thing is finding time to write. I work a full time job, plus I have a part time job doing covers, book trailers and more for my graphics company Winterheart Design. The best thing is when I finish something, it comes out, and people buy it and read it and like it. I really enjoy it when they like it and say so on Amazon and in reviews.
I see you write M/M fiction. Would you characterize your stories as M/M romance, erotica, or something in between?
Always romance. I don’t write anything that doesn’t have a HEA. However, I’ve been known to write pretty steamy sex scenes that some people feel is erotica. I don’t. It’s erotic, but not erotica. That HEA negates the title of erotica.
What draws you to the M/M genre? Have you written in other genres?
I’ll write anything. I do gay steampunk for free on the Lords of Aether website along with 6 other MM authors. I write contemporary, paranormal, sci fi, historical…I write MM, MF, and MMF. I even have a ménage a quatre scene in Common Ground that includes MM and FF. I have 75K words written in an erotic Regency romance that’s languishing in my files and 5K of a sci fi rom. I love MM because the dynamic is different. Men react to men differently than men react to women. And women react very differently than men. I don’t think I could take just any MF book and turn it into a MM. Not a novel anyway. It’s doable with a short story, but you can’t do it in a full length novel because men just don’t react the same way women do even when it comes to love and romance.
“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?
Well, the Tales of the Darkworld series is populated with characters that work in the funeral industry like I do…LOL Actually, I think it refers more to emotions than to physical things like the industry you work in. If you know and understand love, it qualifies you to write love stories. You can do research on pretty much everything else, but you can’t make emotions real when you’ve not really experienced them. Even writing MM can be researched. Just watch men have sex to learn the mechanics. Talk to gay men. But you can’t express their emotions if they’re in love in your book and you’ve never been in love.
Are you a panster or a plotter? Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?
I fall midway between the two. I have an outline. It’s usually loose. I have key points and scenes that must occur in the story and sometimes must occur at specific points in the story. In between those key points, I let the characters drive the story. It’s like going on a road trip where you have several landmarks you want to stop at. In between those road marks whoever is driving might make side trips to wherever they want or need to go.
What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?
One I’d never ever be able to take unless I made 6 figures a year or won lotto…a couple of months on a mega yacht cruising the Mediterranean with my hubs and my cats, having all the cooking and cleaning done for me by the staff while writing all the stuff I want to finish but don’t have time for.
Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?
It’s probably Weylyn Randall. He’s a secondary character who pops up in different books of mine. He does star in two short stories, Encounters: Weylyn’s Gift where he meets his mate and In the Light which is in the Dreamspinner anthology Wishing on a Blue Star, a tribute book for the late author Patrick Michael.
Weylyn is my favorite because he’s everything I adore in a man. He’s a self proclaimed horn dog. He’s all about pleasure. He screws men and woman. He has no decided preference. He’s open and honest about his feelings and desires. He’s strong and capable and he has a lot of heart. He’s also pretty deep beneath his hedonistic exterior. And he looks like Ian Somerhalder.
Do you have a character that broke your heart? Do you have further plans for this character?
Emily Carrington Delrey broke my heart. She was so broken and in so much pain she tried to commit suicide in front of her mate. I cried buckets writing her story Ride the Lightning. She’s popped up a time or two in the other Tales book as a secondary character and she gets a moment of glory killing the man who enslaved her in Breathe Me In. I do have an Encounters short story coming called Blood Lust. It’s a story that takes place on Emily and Vahid’s honeymoon.
Of the stories you’ve written, which one do you like the most? Which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?
If they are MM readers, I think Kissing Joan Collins is a good place to start with my MM works. It’s light and amusing and it features a guy in drag. If they are paranormal and MF fans they should read the Tales of the Darkworld series which starts with Shifting Winds. My favorite book of everything I’ve written is one that isn’t out yet nor even finished. I’m working on a sequel to Scrambling. Out of the Pocket is just an amazing story to me. I love the characters and I feel so badly for them having to be in the closet. I’m just totally in love with the story and the heroes.
What are the three most important things in your life—the things you can’t do without?
If you discount the basic things like food, a roof over my head and my job which buys the food and pays the mortgage…My family (my hubs, my daughter and my babies), my writing and a computer with internet. LOL
If you could have one super power or magical element from popular science fiction movies or literature, what would it be and why?
Anything that would take away my health issues and make it so I could walk without pain and breathe without coughing.
Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full time writer at some point in the future?
I would love to be a full time writer. I’m fairly midlist and a lot of people don’t know who I am. It would be unrealistic for me to think I could actually BE a full time writer. If my career hasn’t taken off in four years, it probably won’t. But it’s a nice dream to have even if it isn’t exactly a goal.
What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be a published author?
Don’t sell yourself short. Aim high. Submit to the top publishers whether those are the Big 6 traditional publishers or the Big 5 in digital publishing. If they reject you make sure you know why. Then work on that. Don’t be in such a rush to be published that you turn around and sub the work to a lesser known pub, one known to take things the more stringent pubs won’t take. Don’t be that desperate. You can irrevocably damage your career by taking a contract with a pub that puts out your work with substandard editing and cover art. Especially, if your work wasn’t good enough for one of the bigger pubs. If it wasn’t good enough for them and you don’t fix the problem, if you don’t work on your craft, you risk being labeled as a substandard author. That can derail any plans you have for doing well in the industry.
Most authors admit to feeling uncomfortable with the degree of self-promotion necessary to be successful. Are there some aspects of social media and self-promotion that make you more comfortable than others? Are there some you avoid like the plague?
You know, I was doing social media stuff long before authors took it up, long before I was an author. It has its place and it can work for people. What I avoid like the plague is spending all my time on Twitter and Facebook and blog hops and Yahoo chats. I can’t spend all my time there and still work my day job or write books. I resent the fact that to sell books I have to spend all my time on social media and guest blogs and spend all my money going to conventions. I’m not uncomfortable self-promoting, but I’m uncomfortable with the amount of time I’m expected to spend on it if I want people to read my books. Too many readers these days think that if an author isn’t in every blog hop or on every review site or on Facebook and Twitter half the day or that if they don’t constantly have contests and give away tons of swag, that their book must not be very good. It’s depressing.
How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?
I make up a lot of shit. LOL And I also base a lot of stuff on real people and real experiences I’ve had. It depends on the book. Some have more of my real life in them than others.
Research: love it or hate it? Mostly, I love it. I sort of have a librarian’s brain. LOL
Editing: love it or hate it? I love it. It means my book is coming out soon!
How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?
It’s the first thing people see and I think both should always be the best they can be. I do cover art and when I read the author’s blurb to get a sense of the story and come away thinking “How can this person be an author? They can’t even write a grammatically correct blurb that tells the reader what the story is about!” I wonder how they got a contract in the first place. As a reader, if I see a blurb that is crappy I figure the book might be too and I often pass them by. If I see a crappy cover, it gives me pause, but then I read the blurb to see if the story is interesting and the author just got stuck with a bad cover. Self-pubbed authors with crappy covers I bypass completely. If they have full control over what goes on the cover and CHOOSE to put out something ugly, I just walk on by. There’s kind of no excuse for that in my opinion.
Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?
Not really. The “professional” review sites have never really given me bad reviews. The stuff on Goodreads and Amazon is all so subjective as to be ridiculous in many cases. Giving a book one star because you didn’t like the job the heroine had? Or because it was a genre you don’t like? Or because it had an element in it you don’t read? Geez. That’s just ridiculous and I ignore that stuff. I see a lot of poor reviews on Goodreads that show me the reader didn’t understand what they read and I see a lot of snarky ones by people who just like to be mean. And any review where the reviewer cannot get the characters’ names right are complete and utter garbage. If you’re going to do a review you should be conscientious enough to get the names of the characters correct.
Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, do you find what you listen to influences the story at all?
Sometimes on both. Usually, everything I write has a theme song, a song that plays in my head the whole time I’m writing. I try to use that song for the trailer when the time comes. I have a list on my website of each book’s theme song.
Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?
Both. Some characters I adore and can’t let go of which of course leads to more books with them in it.
Is there anything you wish that I’d asked you, but didn’t?
Well, you didn’t ask what was weird or memorable about me (they asked that at GRL.) And that would be that I work for a 100+ year old cemetery, have a birthday on Halloween, and write vampires who own a cemetery. That’s weird and memorable!
Lex Valentine writes across genres from contemporary to urban fantasy in M/M, M/F and M/M/F. Lex lives in a canyon in Orange County, California with her long haired tattooed husband Rott, her college age daughter Nikki and bunch of cats with strange names that she collectively calls “babies.” She works for a 100+ year old cemetery, loves loud rock and alternative music, builds her own computers, and has a propensity for having very weird vivid dreams about Nikki Sixx although he’s never naked in them to her great disappointment. Lex loves to hear from her readers. Her door is always open at firstname.lastname@example.org or on her author Facebook page.
Thanks for joining us today, Lex! I’m sorry to hear of your battles with chronic pain and other health issues–I can sympathize. I also *completely* agree with you regarding time spent on Facebook and Twitter versus actual writing–I’ve posted a few times on that very subject in the past, and yet I often find I conveniently forget this fact when the story is sticky and I’m procrastinating working on it! I loved getting to know you a bit better, as I’m sure everyone else here will as well!