Author Christine Elaine Black discusses her creative process

When I heard about Christine Elaine Black’s novel “A Rose for Lancaster” from our mutual acquaintance, author Cara Bristol, I had to read it. Set in the 15th century, the romance between Blanche and Giles takes place after the defeat of King Richard III, who is the hero of my novel “Rings of Passage.” Based on our novels, Christine and I are on opposite sides of the Wars of the Roses! When I read “A Rose for Lancaster,” I was immediately charmed by the story. Blanche is a Yorkist and Giles a Lancastrian. They rise above their political loyalties to be together. In this interview, Christine discusses her writing life and her love of history.

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Christine Elaine Black’s links:

A Rose for Lancaster

“A Rose for Lancaster”

Author Biography
Blog
On Twitter

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Christine Elaine Black interview

Karla: At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there an event, or a comment someone made to you, or an experience that made you think, “Hey, I’d like to write.”

Christine Elaine: I started writing to encourage my daughter’s foray into the storytelling world. I intended to write for her (which I did) but then I enjoyed it so much I kept writing and delved into the romantic historical genre.

Karla: Do you have a very early work that you would like to reinvent or get into shape to share with the world? What is it?

Christine Elaine: I have quite a few projects that are finished but ‘rough,’ and that means finding time to re-read, edit, re-shape and publish. If I had unlimited time I’d likely have it done by now but life in the real world calls to me. It’s a constant give and take to be an author.

Karla: When you write novels, do you use an outline, or are you a pantser (flying by the seat of your pants)?

Christine Elaine: I start with an idea. I love ancient Rome and found it difficult to source a romance book in that time period. The idea for Maximus sprang into my head and I started writing the story without much plotting. The characters took over and the story fell into place. Although I write ‘romance’ which is typically as story dealing with the relationship of a couple central to the plot, I like to add many other characters to embellish the plot. Since trying out the self-publishing market I write slightly outside the romance box to include a few of my favourtie secondary characters. It’s fun!

Karla: What is the MOST important to you? Plot? Character? Setting?

Christine Elaine: A really great story is the most important to me. The characters add to that of course and I love them all, even the mean ones in a strange way, but story is important. The characters need angst and conflict to make us care.

Karla: How scheduled are you when writing?

Christine Elaine: For a number of years I wrote late at night. Parents will understand the reason for that! It was my time to relax and spend in a constructive, creative way. Lately, I’m learning a whole new world of blogging, tweeting and Facebooking and that’s eating away at my writing time.

Karla: Where do you write? Is there certain music you have playing in the background? A favorite room, desk or chair? Are you like J.K. Rowling, and write in a coffee shop?

Christine Elaine: I use the Mac (family room) or the PC (home office) and prefer silence if I can get it. I’ve never written when I’m out and about in the real world. Too many distractions for me.

Karla: Are the stories that you write different from those that you read? For instance, romance versus humor.

Christine Elaine: I’ve read a lot of historical fiction. If I could write like the authors I idolize that would be a dream come true. Let me give you a few examples:

Colleen McCullough’s Roman series (a tour de force)
Jack Whyte’s Camelot series (incredible)
Bernard Cornwell’s Viking series (amazing)
Pauline Gedge’s Egyptian works (mesmerising)
Jo Graham’s Numinous World series (fantastic)

As you can see, I read a list of heavy hitters in the literary world! I couldn’t begin to compare myself to career authors.

Karla: Is your creative process something you sweat over? Or is it something you trust to “kick in” as soon as you get started.

Christine Elaine: I don’t have any issues with the creative process. If I need to take a break from a particular scene, character or book, then I switch to something different or go for a walk. Often I write prolific amounts and edit or switch things around as new and improved ideas come to me. It’s hard to hit the delete key on work but in the end it can be for the best.

Karla: If you have a troublesome plot issue, how do you solve it? Is there a method or a meditation you turn to solve the problem?

Christine Elaine: I sleep on it. Often I go to bed thinking about my characters and imagine them in situations, working through problems or having conversations. I don’t dream about them as some of my fellow writers have said they do, but I run scenarios in my head.

Karla: What advice would you give to new authors who are trying to find their voice and their stride?

Christine Elaine: The best advice I can give is network with other writers and look for feedback from trusted or well-meaning friends (including virtual friends). I posted some work on a few writer sites before publishing and it helped to chat with others in the same boat and exchange views on each other’s work. Ultimately, though it’s a growth process and some find it easier than others.

Karla: I couldn’t agree more! And I want to thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your insights with us. _____________________________________________________

Rings of Passage

Rings of Passage is now in paperback!

In other news… “Rings of Passage” is now available in paperback through Amazon! It would make a great Christmas gift for the bookworm in your life.

Author Cara Bristol discusses the writing life and her new erotic sci-fi romance, “Breeder”

Cara Bristol was one of my earliest writing colleagues. We were eager and fresh-faced journalism grads from different colleges. We ended up at the same suburban newspaper, writing for the society section (typically called the “soc page” in newspaper jargon). We wrote wedding copy and covered women’s clubs, but both of us had bigger dreams. Funnily enough, at that time, none of them had to do with writing novels. And now we’re both doing it.

Cara featured me on her blog the day my novel “Rings of Passage” came out in August, and now I’m interviewing her on mine. What goes around, comes around – and now we have come full circle. Upon the Oct. 15 release of Cara Bristol’s first erotic science fiction novel ,”Breeder,” I asked about her life as a writer, how the creative process manifests when she writes, and some challenges she must face juggling real life commitments and her art.

(see interview below)
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"Breeder"

Read an excerpt below

“Breeder links:
Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Breeder-Cara-Bristol-ebook/dp/B00FX7L5FO/
All Romance eBooks (ARe)
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-breeder-1318747-340.html
Loose ID
http://www.loose-id.com/breeder.html
Author’s website
http://carabristol.com/
Twitter  @CaraBristol
https://twitter.com/CaraBristol
Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/cara.bristol.3
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Cara Bristol interview

Karla: At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer? Was there an event, or a comment someone made to you? Or perhaps an experience that made you think, “Hey, I’d like to write.”

Cara: I’ve always enjoyed writing. The students in high school would complain about having to write term papers, but I secretly enjoyed the assignments. When it came time to choose a college major, I chose journalism because it involved writing. I liked journalism. I love writing fiction.

Karla: What were your earliest written works? (Poems, short stories, songs, essays, novels)

Cara Bristol BiographyCara: Well, the “earliest” is a 30-page mystery I wrote in the fifth grade. Professionally? As a journalism and public relations director, I’ve written numerous newspaper articles, brochures, annual reports, newsletters, press releases. I wrote (and published) my first erotic romance in 2009. I now have 12 erotic romance titles published. Most of them have been released in the last two years.

Karla: What made you to decide to write a novel, in particular?

Cara: I enjoy the freedom and creation of writing fiction. My preferred format is the novella, but I let the work decide the length. I’ve written short stories, novellas and novels.

Karla: Do you have a very early work that you would like to reinvent or get into shape to share with the world? What is it?

Cara: The work I would redo has been published. If I could, I would rewrite Unexpected Consequences, the first book in the Rod and Cane Society domestic discipline erotic romance series. I would make the heroine less naïve—although I really enjoyed that aspect of her personality when I originally wrote it.

Karla: What is the MOST important to you? Plot? Character? Setting?

Cara: Character. But, of course, all three are important because they are so interwoven. Character drives plot, plot creates character and setting affects then both. But I write romance because I find relationship dynamics fascinating. Put the right (clashing) two characters together and the story practically writes itself. For example, in Body Politics. I sent a diehard feminist on a blind date with a Dom who likes to spanks his women. In Breeder, an Alpha Commander falls in love with slave he is forbidden by law to want. Can you see the conflict?

Karla: Do you write genre fiction or literary fiction? Do you think there is a clear delineation between the two styles? And if so, what is that?

Cara: I write genre fiction (romance), in several subgenres: erotic, paranormal, domestic discipline and science fiction. I see literary fiction and genre fiction at two opposite ends of the continuum. One is black, one is white. But in between, it grays and becomes hard to tell them apart. But my fiction is definitely on the genre side.

Karla: How scheduled are you when writing? (9 to 5, when you have an assignment, when the inspiration strikes).

Cara: I am very scheduled about my writing. I work (write and promote) seven days a week. I am usually at the computer by 5:30 a.m. That said, I rely a lot on inspiration. Even when I’m not at my computer, I’m usually thinking about my writing.

Karla: Where do you write? Is there certain music you have playing in the background? A favorite room, desk or chair? Are you like J.K. Rowling, and write in a coffee shop?

Cara: I have a lovely, dedicated home office that is mine, mine, mine. (I used to share an office with my husband). I do not write to music, I find it distracting.

Karla: Are the stories that you write different from those that you read? For instance, romance versus humor.

Cara: No. My time is so limited that I read strategically. First priority is my genres. Second priority is authors I know. Third is everything else.

Karla: Is writing your job or your hobby? If it is a hobby that has turned into a job, are there drawbacks to this?

Cara: Writing is my job. What no one realizes until they get into it is how consuming a writing career becomes. It’s insidious! When I worked in corporate PR, I didn’t work seven days a week, nor did I bring work home. Now I write at home and writing and home life bleed together. Writing/editing occupies about 50 percent of my work time, promotion the other 50 percent.

Karla: Is one successful novel enough, or do you see yourself as a “career” writer?

Cara: If you were only in it for the money, and you hit it out of the ballpark like JK Rowling or EL James have and earned gazillions, perhaps one novel would be enough. But those authors not even good examples because they both wrote series. You can never rest on your laurels because for 99 percent of authors, eventually the sales from any one book drop. And even if I hit megastatus, I would probably continue to write because I love it so much. I am driven to write. If I hit it big, I might not write as much, but I would still write.

Karla: Are you a tortured artist? Is writing therapeutic, cathartic or simply fun?

Cara: Fun. I’m not the least bit tortured.

Karla: Is your creative process something you sweat over? Or is it something you trust to “kick in” as soon as you get started.

Cara: I had one book that I sweated over and if that’s what writing was like for me all or most of the item, I wouldn’t be a writer. I have learned to trust that inspiration will come.

Karla: If you have a troublesome plot issue, how do you solve it? Is there a method or a meditation you turn to solve the problem?

Cara: Often I find that switching POV helps. Other times, it helps to think about the problem when I am in “nonwriting” mode, i.e. away from my desk such as taking a shower or walking. I get a lot of ideas around 3 a.m. too.

Karla: What advice would you give to new authors who are trying to find their voice and their stride?

Cara: Stop trying to find your voice and tell your story.

Karla: How do you blend other parts of your life (family, day job, etc.) with writing? What challenges arise?

Cara: I don’t have another day job, so that’s not an issue, but blending writing with family and other commitments is an issue. I’m still working on that. I know some authors who have day jobs and small children at home and I have no idea how they do it.

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 “Breeder” excerpt

If not for the sneeze, Dak would have exited the musty, dank corridor. But the muffled sound caught his attention. When he squinted into the darkened cell, he spotted a female crouched on a straw mat in the corner. He hadn’t noticed her on his way into the Breeder Containment Facility; the habitation unit had appeared empty.

Dak turned to the BCF director and sighed. “What about her?”

The beta’s already crooked mouth drooped farther in distaste. “My apologies, Commander. You don’t want that one.”

Sival’s disparagement piqued Dak’s interest. The director’s opinion had proven worthless; none of the breeders he’d preselected for inspection had rated close to satisfactory.

“I would like to see her,” Dak insisted.

“Very well, Commander.” Sival saluted and opened the habitation cell with a master entry card. Dak stepped into the small enclosure. The director followed, and the metal gate clanked shut.

The naked female drew into a tighter ball and tucked her face deeper into the crook of her arm. Other breeders had preened as soon as they’d noticed him and his chest-insignia identification. He wasn’t just an alpha. He was the Alpha.

This breeder’s lack of respect and failure to adhere to Protocol by acknowledging his presence struck him as odd. Dak frowned. “Is she mentally deficient?”

Sival tightened his lips. “No, stubborn, ill behaved. She would not befit an Alpha Commander.” He nudged the female’s hip with the toe of his boot. “Rise to your feet.” She did not respond, and he moved to prod her again. Dak forestalled him with a wave and grasped the female’s arm.

“You will stand.” He hauled her upright. She averted her face, so he grabbed her chin and forced her to look at him. Tangled hair the color of black heating stones fell back from an oval face to reveal eyes like the Parseon moon. The glimmer of intelligence that sparked within the violet depths aroused his interest more than anything else he’d seen so far.

Nature had bestowed the Parseon people with an exceptionally strong immune system so that they rarely required medical intervention, but breeders by nature were weak, and so many of the ones he’d seen had seemed dull or ill or both. This one’s skin, when unsmudged by grime and dirt, probably glowed like the pale sands of the Ospian Sea. He supposed, as breeders went, she wasn’t unattractive, although the stench emanating from her was. His beta would throw a fit if he dragged such a creature into their domicile.

“Why is she so filthy?” he asked.

“She refuses to bathe.”

As Dak scrutinized her facial features for shape and symmetry, he noted little imperfection or dysgenics other than her lack of hygiene and her gender. When cleaned up, she would please the eye, but to bear his sons, it mattered more that she be healthy and strong.

He released her face, stepped back, and assessed her from head to toe. He exceeded the height of most males, alphas included, while she stood smaller than the average female.

The top of her head failed to even meet his shoulder. She was thinner than other breeders too, although her chest bore an abundance of fatty breast tissue. In the chill of the cell, her nipples had puckered to hard points. Despite the coolness, he was experiencing a rise in temperature. A dormant lust chose that moment to kindle, causing heat to coil in his abdomen and groin. He could not remember the last time he’d experienced such a spontaneous reaction—if he ever had. With the pads of his fingers, he probed the sides of her neck for swollen areas. The way she trembled under his touch aroused a sliver of sympathy. Breeders lacked courage, and uncertainty frightened them. Not all alphas and their betas treated breeders well. If he chose her, she would be adequately fed and housed. His command consumed his time and energy, which left his beta alone for long stretches. A breeder would relieve Corren of household chores and provide him with a physical outlet as well.

“What is she called?” Dak asked.

“Her sire named her Omra.”

Peace, it meant.

He parted Omra’s lips with his fingers and slipped a digit into her mouth, running it along her upper gum line to check the solidness of her teeth. At a flash in her eyes, he jerked his hand away a centisecond before she snapped her jaws together, so that her incisor only grazed the tip of his finger.

Sival’s face reddened. “Commander, I apologize. I will have her flogged.”

“Unnecessary. I will take care of it.” He unclipped the sudon from his belt.

Finding gold in a conversation

 

Tropico Gold Mine

Inside Tropico Gold Mine, Rosamond, California.

The other day I had the weirdest experience: a newspaper reporter interviewed me. No mistake: he interviewed me, and not the other way ’round.

For years, I was the reporter at the “great suburban newspaper.” And I had interviewed all sorts: old timers, rock stars, museum curators, historians, gold miners, artists and even writers like me, who’d just had their first novel published.

In “News Writing I” at Kent State University’s School of Journalism, the professor tried to teach us how to interview. We were given an assignment to interview each other. Most of us felt intrusive asking questions of someone we barely knew, even if it was as innocuous as, “Where’d you grow up?”

When presented with such a question, the interviewee often replied without elaboration, as if answering a question on an admissions form. The “share all” mindset of the 21st century was still decades away.

Evidently, there was more to this interviewing business than just questions and answers.

I can’t say that class assignment did me much good. Interviewing is a technique I developed over time, as I conducted interview after interview, learning what kinds of questions touched people where they lived, allowing me to draw from them the quotable quotes.

The interviewer has to be a listener. At one time, journalists excelled at listening. I don’t know if that’s still true, in this age of navel-gazing and blogging (irony duly noted).

In the midst of listening, you discern a path through the interviewee’s psyche and follow it, formulating new questions along the way, based on what he says – and not asking everything you had prepared in advance. All this has to be done while scribbling (or typing) frantically (which is why I recommend recording interviews, so you can worry about that later).

Throughout the conversation, the interviewer must hone in on the one thing the interviewee is most passionate about. That thing might not have anything to do with the music she just released, or the tour she is doing, or the exhibit she curated.

It might be totally unrelated – but no less important. Whatever that topic is, the interviewer must shift directions, and push forward into that strange land that had not been mapped via website or biography, nor researched ahead of time.

For it is from that wilderness place the best quotes are mined. The gold of the interview is found in the cache held dearest to the interviewee’s heart.

That is also when it becomes a true conversation between two people, a spontaneous human interaction, a meeting of the minds, memorable for both participants. And when the article based on this interview is written, the authenticity of that miraculous communication shines through.

The young reporter who interviewed me by phone is writing his article for that same college newspaper I wrote for so many years ago.

It was a very educational 20 minutes – for both of us. He had never interviewed an author before, and I had never been interviewed (in “real time,” not via email) as an author before.

The reporter had very well-thought-out questions – about me, about my writing process, about “Rings of Passage” and its main character, Richard III – an unlikely romantic hero.

After all the preparation I had done over the years to interview people –  now that same thing had been done for me. It was not unpleasant. It felt like admiration, in a way. My background as a reporter helped me not to be nervous beforehand. Regardless, it was still a heady experience, exhilarating, yet daunting.

And so unexpected – to be suddenly the person on this side of the phone interview.

To answer the begging question –  yes, the college reporter followed where I inadvertently led, excavating at least one golden topic held close to my heart. I’m sure he could hear the excitement in my voice when we talked about it. I look forward to seeing it in print.

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“Rings of Passage” is a time travel romance set during the reign of Richard III, who is the romantic hero. It is available in e-formats at the following links:

For Kindle:
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EOA6BP0

For Nook (ePub and PDF):
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-ringsofpassage-1271207-143.html