Kayell Allen joins us to day and she is such a talented author. She seems to world build effortlessly and what a world it is.
Q: You’ve built quite a fan base around your Tarthian Empire. Why do you think it’s been so successful?
Thank you Tina! That’s kind of you to say. My books appeal on several levels and there is something for everyone. Each book can be read alone, although once readers meet the characters and learn they appear in other books, they often pick up one of those to learn more. In addition:
1) they’re hot romances with plenty of good character development, steamy sex, and people who care about one another. They don’t meet and instantly jump into bed, with one exception. Khyff Antonello in For Women Only is being paid to seduce an ambassador, and she walks up to him at a party, gives him the once over and within two minutes she’s asking him why they’re still there. Their first love scene lasts three chapters. He earned the nickname “The Machine” for a reason. Losing his heart was never supposed to be part of the mission.
2) There is a secondary layer to each story. Readers who follow all the books (five at Liquid Silver Books and now the first of a trilogy at Loose Id) know the background characters have ulterior motives; there are secret societies, layers of conspiracies, and hidden backgrounds. Nothing is as it seems, and searching the deeper meanings and covert aspects of the overall series fascinates some readers. It fascinates me to write them, because I have a twenty-year arc of books planned, and we are only in year five in the current book.
3) I recently began a yahoo group only for those who have read all six of the books so far. Those following the background stories, clandestine games, and hinted-at alliances can discuss them without spoiling the stories for more casual readers on my regular group. The new group itself is secret, and unlisted in the Yahoo directory. Membership is only by recommendation or invitation. If you’re one of those readers who’s fascinated by the deeper meanings and workings of these books and have read all of them, email me and I’ll send you a personal invitation. Here are the books to have read (the first five can be found at Liquid Silver Books: At the Mercy of Her Pleasure, For Women Only, and the Tales of the Chosen trilogy: Wulf, Alitus, and Jawk, and the newest book from a new trilogy at Loose Id — Surrender Love. My books page has links to all my books, including two short stories at Shadowfire Press. http://kayelleallen.com/Books.html
As to why it’s been so successful — I think it’s because I keep my promise to my readers: to give them a complex plot that immerses them in an erotic tale and provides plenty of unexpected action, in settings so real they’ll swear they’ve been there.
Q: Do you have a favorite hero in all your books? For any particular reason?
When I first started writing, it was Khyff Antonello. He was a tortured hero and the first two books either featured or were about him. Now, it’s moved to Luc Saint-Cyr. Luc is immortal, powerful, has a financial empire and a staff any real-life executive would give eye-teeth to have; he’s six feet five inches of glorious muscle and chocolate-colored skin, and is the most mysterious, enigmatic man in the Tarthian Empire. He wears solid-black contact lenses that cover every part of his eyes, the reason for which has been revealed (so far) only in Wulf, Tales of the Chosen. It will be revealed again in the next book in my Loose Id trilogy, Surrender Trust, out later this year. But the thing that captures my heart about Luc is that he uses his power, wealth, and influence to help the helpless. He’s spent thousands of years alone, always searching for the ultimate love and faithful heart. I described him this way in the blurb about Surrender Love. “…beneath the myths beats the heart of a man who craves what he has never given and is certain he will always be denied — steadfast, faithful love.”
Q: What’s coming up on your schedule, book-wise, in the next year?
I have several projects in the fire. I’m working hard to finish the Surrender trilogy, plus I’m writing an M/M shape shifter anthology with the prolific and award-winning Kiernan Kelly that we’ll be shopping around to publishers soon. Among other things coming up are personal appearances as a guest at Outlantacon in Atlanta, Georgia the first weekend in May, I’ll be a vendor at Gay Days in Orlando in early June with Kiernan and author Vincent Diamond, and then over the Labor Day weekend I’ll be moderating the first GLBT-writing panel at DragonCon in Atlanta, titled “Exploring the Final Taboo: Authors of same-sex and ménage romance answer reader and writers’ questions about the genre.” Authors include Jolie du Pre, Sascha Illyvich, Morgan Hawke, Ally Blue, and of course, the matchless Kiernan Kelly. She and I take turns being sidekick and leader, and have become good friends over the last three years. This makes the third DragonCon we’ve attended together.
Q: How hard is it to keep sex/love scenes fresh and interesting?
I do a lot of research. Before you start snickering, one detail about my research that I’m not able to experience personally is the sexual aspect of physical relations between two men. I make no attempt to hide the fact that I’m a woman writing Romance between two men, and some would say I “lack the necessary plumbing.” My response to that is, “Hogwash!”
Ever since mankind started telling stories, and especially once they became mass marketed, men have written books that have sex scenes between a man and a woman. Obviously, they haven’t experienced sex from a female’s perspective. They (if they’re good writers) ask women how sex feels, what an orgasm is like, and what pleases her sexually. If a male writer can write acceptable female characters, what is the difference between that and a female writing male characters? Believe me, I do plenty of research, and have — shall we say — “well experienced” beta readers who let me know immediately if I get it wrong. While writing Surrender Love, one of my betas wrote back things like, “You know men don’t really talk to each other like this, don’t you? It’s too girly. Punch it up and take out the emotion. Add physicality. Guys don’t bare their hearts this easily.” Another time it was, “You’re writing this guy like he’s a girl with a dick. Go back and reread the end of the chapter and take a look at how he acts. You have to make him more masculine. Have him stand up for himself and argue back.” I love valid criticism — not the negative “you suck at this” type.
I’m no diva. My goal is to be realistic, make my guys hunks, and when they are at their most vulnerable (as all men are at some point in their lives), to portray him as that without emasculating him. Is it hard? Hoo boy. This is probably where I spend most of my time rewriting. By the time it gets to my editor, all I need are corrections to meet house style, or correct a new way of handling serial commas, for instance. Here’s part of my bio and I think it describes the way I write perfectly. These were various comments taken from readers that I combined into one paragraph and edited for continuity, and I’m really proud to be thought of so highly.
“Kayelle Allen is a multipublished author whose world building skills include a broad sweep of ten-thousand years of future history, a feline language, and trade standard laws for the empire where her books take place. Her writing lures you inside each hero’s head and seduces you with what he feels and thinks. She thrusts you into the hero’s heart and mind, teases and satisfies you with his sexuality and sensual joys, and drags you onto the roller coaster with him when it plunges into the darkness of things-gone-wrong. When you and the hero get off the ride at the end, it’s Kayelle’s hope you’ll be back in line when the next ride starts.”
Q: To date which of your books was the hardest to write and why?
I’d say it’s always the book I’m writing now, whichever one that may be. Each has its moments of panic where I doubt the plot, the character, the point of view (POV), the inclusion of certain aspects, you name it. Sometimes, when I get stuck, I find that I’m writing the scene from the wrong POV. Generally, I look at a scene and decide who has the biggest emotional wallop and go with the story from their viewpoint. I’ve learned, however, that we sometimes learn more about a character by seeing him/her go through a trial from another character’s POV, like a filter.
In Surrender Love, featuring Luc Saint-Cyr and Izzorah “Rah” Ceeow, I had one scene where Rah discovers the “dungeon” that Luc and Wulf had used for sex games. I was going to show Rah’s impressions of the various items (he was a virgin at the time) and let us see how it made him feel to think the man he was learning to love and trust got a kick out of hurting his lovers. Instead, I let Luc’s butler reveal that Rah had been inside the dungeon and was now missing. Luc’s guilt and regret at having ever built the room to accommodate Wulf’s desires tore Luc apart. He was terrified Rah would never trust him again, even though he’d planned to have everything torn out and refurbished as a place for Rah to practice with his band. He believed the way to his younger lover’s heart would not include pain. However, Luc hadn’t yet discovered (and won’t until the next book) that Rah has always secretly desired to be dominated. In Surrender Trust, Rah will learn to put himself into Luc’s experienced and capable hands, and Luc, whose break-up with Wulf over the dungeon and its use, will have to learn to re-trust himself and his own decisions. He must re-learn how to be a master. To do that, there are so many levels to deal with that the book is giving me fits. Honestly, the books that give me the most grief turn out to be the most lauded and the best sellers. Surrender Love has had five star reviews, and I expect Surrender Trust to be no less excellent, thanks to my amazing betas and Heather Hollis, my Loose Id editor.
Q: On average, how long does it take you to write a book?
It took me a year to write one, but only 2-4 months for most of them. I wrote Wulf and Alitus both within five months, but due to a packed release schedule, they were released five months apart.
Q: What influenced you to get e-published? How long did it take for your first book to get published?
I was researching publishers to see where I might fit, spending a lot of time online and at the library. I wrote Sci-Fi and was determined to be published within the next two years. (This was in early 2003.) I quickly discovered that the manuscript acceptance rate for Sci-Fi was only about 2%, not too encouraging. Romance, however, was much higher, and accounted for 38% of all paperback book sales in the US. I wanted a piece of that pie! So I changed my Sci-Fi to Sci-Fi Romance, set the series back in time about twenty years, and started writing in that “story year” in order to create the extensive background I would need for where I wanted the story to end up. In December 2003 I joined an online critique group, submitted chapters and critiqued others, absolutely believing it was only a matter of finding the right publisher and having good contacts. Barbara Karmazin, an amazing erotic author and the supreme specialist on alien sex, was also in that critique group. Bless her, she took me under her wing and introduced me to Liquid Silver. The timeline for being published was fairly short. I sorted through various storylines I’d started in the past, chose one, changed around the characters a bit, and ended up with At the Mercy of Her Pleasure, completed by February. I polished it, submitted it in March, and had a contract in April. It was released in July. So from absolute start when I picked up the notes and decided this one would be a good place to start to the release date was about eight months. I released my second book, For Women Only in December the same year. A note on my personal tribute to Barbara – Luc Saint-Cyr lives in the Nizamrak Building which is Karmazin spelled backward. It’s mentioned in every book.
Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception in erotic romance fiction?
That Erotic Romance books aren’t for “ladies.” Hello? This is the 21st century! I grew up in an era where women were burning bras and fighting for equal pay for equal work. When my own mother was born, women hadn’t been allowed to vote yet. She was two before that law passed. The very phrase “allowed to vote” offended me. Why would I even have to be “allowed” to have the same rights as a man? Why was there ever a thought that we weren’t equal to men? Yet when I married, it was the first year that banks had to stop asking about what type of birth control I used before I could apply for a checking account or credit card, and I no longer had to have my husband’s permission to gain an account. How degrading was that! I joined the Navy the year before, and it was the first year that women didn’t need a parent’s permission to join the service; men weren’t required to ask. Translate those same grievances and multiply them exponentially to blacks in America. I remember the Freedom Marches and riots in Watts. Now we have a black American president. The newest target for prejudice (other than racial profiling) is sexuality. Brokeback Mountain was a perfect example of the intolerance of alternate sexuality. In the end, the brutal slaying of one of the lovers is discussed as if it was a mere accident, and not one his family lifts a finger to right the wrong, even though they are perfectly aware of what happened. They act as if he deserved it simply because he was different. His lover withdraws from life itself, with only a denim jacket as a remembrance of the man he loved. Erotic writing has the power to make alternate sexuality and preferences become less “strange” and more commonplace, opening doors for acceptance. I’m proud to be part of that trend.
Q: What makes your characters so vulnerable yet strong? Can you describe them to us? What do you do when characters stop talking to you when writing?
A vulnerable yet strong character is my favorite type to write. I relate most to them, no matter what their vulnerability or strength. To use the characters in Surrender Love — Luc Saint-Cyr’s strength is his immortality. No matter what happens, he will survive. That is also his greatest vulnerability. He’s doomed to suffer through century upon century of loneliness and loss. With his great heart, he falls in love every lifetime, and his stamina is legendary. He is no longer affected by alcohol, so he can down several bottles of Kelthian whiskey (his favorite) and it has no more effect than tea. That means he can’t even drown his sorrows with a good drunk. Sexually, few humans rarely satisfy him because his metabolism enables a nearly constant erection, so he makes no attempt to be faithful to a human lover — they could be physically injured if he took them until he was sated. In almost every case, a character’s vulnerability is a coin, the reverse of which is their strength. For Rah, the other hero in Surrender Love, his determination not to be dominated in a matriarchal society where once he had been married off he would have zero rights and no freedom drove him to find a clever means of escape off world. That same determination plunged him into a life on the streets once he reached Tarth City. His strength overshadowed his weakness, however, and he used his ability to play drums to find work as a fill-in drummer until he auditioned for a permanent gig with Kumwhatmay. Through it all, he kept three huge secrets, and only his closest cousins knew the truth. When Rah meets Luc, the walls each of them has built around himself start crumbling, and as each chinks away at the mortar holding up the bricks, more and more of their true selves are revealed. But how far are they willing to go? How much are they willing to trust? We’ll discover that in the next book.
To me, nothing’s worse than when characters stop talking to me. What do I do when that happens? I remember what my mother always said. “When in trouble, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” LOL And of course I don’t do that! I suffer for days sometime, weeks even, always with the story on the “back burner” of my mind, simmering away, waiting for the right tenderness of the meat, the infusion of the vegetables in the broth. I edit something else. I rewrite the scene from another POV. I work on the outline, which usually starts a sketchy one page “Part A Boy meets Boy, Part B, Boy loses Boy and Part C Boys get back together.” It’s never that simplistic, because I have conspiracies to develop and political upheaval to plot on my world, so I will often work on perfecting more of the timeline. One time, I spent so much time piddling with a list of the Empress’s Stable (her male harem of men referred to as her Jades) that I wrote out the names, birth years, home planets, hair, eyes, skin tones, species (like a feline Kin or a Satyr-like Tyran, a completely androgynous Chiasmii, or a good old human) what their political background was (were they gifts from visiting “governors?” Did she obtain them herself in some interesting way? Why did she invite him into her harem? In my current books she has about twelve Jades, but I have a list of around one hundred-fifty men that she will add over the next fifteen years, including a few who end up heroes of their own books (such as Khyff). I’d really like to do a book of short stories explaining how she obtained a few of them, and what his sexual expertise is. Like Luc Saint-Cyr, the Empress is an immortal and has the same stamina. She however, was created with a sex drive that’s off the scale and having sex five or six times a day barely takes away the flame of her desire. No wonder she has so many Jades. Each of them has a back-story, family, and personal desires. Not all came to her unwillingly, and she has many whom she protects for various reasons. A few, revealed in a later book, are never involved with her sexually.
One book took me a solid year of rewrites before I realized I simply could not get the hero and heroine together because they weren’t right for each other. Once I got that through my head, I took apart the usable aspects of the story and actually came up with plots for five different books, including the Tales of the Chosen series. Writer’s block happens for many reasons. Sometimes, it takes putting it away and working on another project for a while so you can clear your mind.
Q: What do you feel is the most important aspect for all new authors to remember when writing or creating their own stories? Any advice for aspiring authors?
The most important aspect for all new authors … I would say take the time to develop your world, whether it’s a contemporary set in your home town, a Regency Romance, a tale set in the highlands of Scotland (oh, yum!), a cowboy story, mystery, faery world, vampire paranormal, or a gay romance. If there are rules your fey must follow, write them down and use them. Your readers will catch you if you say something’s one way in book one and another in book five. Keep notes! I have nearly a full language for the Kin, and I don’t create a word without putting it into my glossary first. That glossary goes with my ms when I submit it to my editor and proofers, and to my embarrassment, they have caught me using the wrong word in my own created language! Don’t assume no one will notice or that they won’t catch it. If readers love your work, they will. I just got an email from a reader who bought Surrender Love, then picked up my other five books and read them, then went back to Surrender Love and read if four more times. If there was a contradiction, do you think she’d find it? You betcha!
My favorite advice for aspiring authors in any genre is “Do not let anyone steal your dream. Not even you.” That means cut the negative self talk immediately. Never use the words “I’m only”. Imagine sending this letter as your query. “I know that you’re busy and will understand if you just set mine aside because I’m a new writer and don’t have the same polish as other writers in your publishing house. A lot of my friends say I have a way with words, so I thought I’d send it to you. I hope if you like it, you’ll let me know, or at least send me a bona fide rejection letter which I will reverently frame.” How interested is this publisher going to be in you after reading this? Yes, this is an extreme example, and not one most of us would be crazy enough to write. But never send a query without someone (think author, not your crafting buddy) read it first for clarity and interest. And for goodness sake – if you can’t take a critique from a friend who cares about you, how in the world will you ever survive reviews? Toughen up. Be friendly, care about others and help them as much as you can. The more you do for others the higher you are lifted yourself. Huge shameless plug here. Come over and join the group I created for authors (published and unpublished), literary agents, editors, author promotion services, publishers, and artists. Marketing for Romance Writers is open to every genre and you don’t have to be a Romance author. If I had it to do over, I’d have called it Marketing for Online Authors. My 20/20 hindsight kicking in. 🙂
Q: Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
I’m in way too many yahoo groups to list them all, so I’ll give you a list of my major hangouts. I frequent all these groups plus a few that are invitation only, such as RomVets, which is for female Romance writers who served in the armed forces. If that describes you, contact me and I’ll put you in touch.
Romance Lives Forever http://groups.yahoo.com/group/romancelivesforever
Romance Lives Forever – MySpace http://myspace.com/romancelivesforever
Romance Lives Forever – Blog http://romancelivesforever.blogspot.com/
Marketing for Romance Writers http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MarketingForRomanceWriters/
Kayelle’s Coffee Corner http://coffeetimeromance.com/board/
Loose Id Community http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LooseId_community/
Liquid Silver Readers http://groups.yahoo.com/group/liquidsilverreaders/
Shadowfire Café http://groups.yahoo.com/group/shadowfire_cafe/
Immortal Heroes http://groups.yahoo.com/group/immortal_heroes/
Whipped Cream 2 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/whippedcream2/
Promo Literary Nymphs http://groups.yahoo.com/group/promo_literarynymphs/
Gay Writers/Readers http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Gaywritersreaders/
Brenda Williamson Romance Party http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BrendaWilliamsonRomanceParty/
Wiki Romance – Kayelle (in process) http://www.romancewiki.com/Kayelle_Allen
Wow! Kayelle is sure busy. Be sure to join me Saturday when we read a SEXcerpt from one of Kayelle’s books. Yummy.