Friday, January 25, 2013

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Today is my day to showcase the To Serve Is Divine blog tour. I have been chomping at the bit while trying to contain my excitement because the lovely and brave R.E Hargrave agreed to do my typically nosy interview. But before we get to that, let's take a look at the synopsis of the story...

Catherine O’Chancey is a reserved, demure, and graceful submissive. All traits she trained hard to enhance when she discovered the world of dominance and submission in college. In an attempt to start fresh after the unexpected death of her last Dom, Catherine moves to Dallas, TX to escape the shroud of darkness he left behind in her life. She has tried to fight the need that resides deep within her to submit, but finally has to admit she can’t for it is not a choice, but part of who she truly is. After months of mental preparation, she ventures back into the lifestyle by attending a coveted open-night event at Dungeons and Dreams, an exclusive BDSM club.

Is it fate or coincidence that Catherine garners the attention of one of the club’s board members who happens to be on the hunt for the perfect sub – a partner who enjoys receiving pain and pleasure as much as he enjoys doling it out?

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Jayden Masterson is many things: a firm Dom, a shrewd businessman, and a gentleman. What he isn't  is someone who partakes in relationships outside of contractual ones with his multiple, un-collared, regular submissives. While he likes rough sex, he is not an animal, and can find pleasure only if it is consensual. What his harem is missing is a pain slut; could there be one in his future?

Upon meeting Catherine, Jayden feels an instantaneous spark inside him that has him wanting to know not just her body, but her mind. He wants to unravel her mysteries and discover her secrets. Through pain can they find the pleasure they seek? Can part-time pain lovers find full-time fulfillment when it’s not in their contract?

I'm an embarrassingly ridiculous fan of R.E Hargrave. My stalking antenna is on full alert for this author. And yes, she is also a fanfic writer, which is where I initially discovered her jaw dropping stories. And her loveliness, as I refer to her, still posts fanfic which I think is fantastic. R.E Hargrave is amazingly talented and her stories are highly addictive. I have been stalking following her forever and am so happy to be part of the tour. Now I know the story TSID very well and loved it when it originally posted. I even have the PDF which the author offered to everyone before she pulled the story. I also know reviewers who have read the ARC and loved it even knowing it was once a fanfic.

One review that really summed it all up was done by Italian Brat's Obsessions and it is well worth the time to check out, Jennifer had a lot of great things to say about the story.

Regardless of any preconceived notions of p2p, which the author addresses directly in the interview, R.E Hargrave is a talented story teller, extremely funny, down to earth, and is always nice to her fans.

Even to the stalkers fans like me. 

So enough of my gushing and babbling, lets get up close and personal, with a bit of nosiness thrown in for fun  with R.E Hargrave...

What kind of environment do you like to write in? Where and when do you write? How do you find time to write? 

I'm going to bulk answer for these three questions! Preferably I like my environment quiet, though with three kids that's not always possible. The majority of my writing gets done during the day while they're off at school as I'm fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom. I am very fond of Enigma and that's what is typically playing as background when I get 'in the zone.' Currently my 'where' is the dining room table on my laptop. However, just because real life inevitably has to take the driver's seat doesn't mean that the thoughts and ideas stop for the day, so I'll find myself fleshing the stuff out in my head as I cook and run errands until I crawl into bed with my notebook and a pen. Yes – an old-fashioned paper and pen approach. At that point I'll just write what I can and when the structured sentences stop flowing, then I'll bullet point the rest of my ideas to be fleshed out the next time I get to the laptop.

When writing: outline or as it comes to you? 

This is kind of a continuation of the previous question. No, I never formally outline. What I will do is get an idea, maybe envision a scene or two and then spend some time thinking about it. If it sticks with me, then I'll open a fresh document and jot down some notes before I turn to Google to find my “characters” – images that match the closest to what I'm envisioning and to those I'll add profile notes; things like physical descriptions or skills. Not only does that solidify the characters in my mind, it makes a great cheat sheet when you need to refer back at any point in the writing process. Also, I recently discovered Pinterest, and I have to admit it's a great tool for building storyboards for inspiration. Leading into your next question...

How do you find inspiration when the ideas just won't flow? How do you get over writer's block? 

If I get jammed up on the words actually coming out, I have been known to spend on afternoon on Google and Pinterest. Searching out places, items, outfits, et cetera for points coming up in the story is a great way to rekindle the excitement for what you're working on, and fantastic for helping with the words. In my time as a fanfic beta, I would often tell my writer's to pretend they were describing a picture to a blind person. You're not going to paint much of a picture by saying: “The girl was in a white sun dress.” But if you tried something like: “Against her tanned skin, the white cotton of her simple sun dress stood out, allowing her azure eyes to glow in the fading light. The breeze picked up, carrying the salty odor of the distant waves with it even as it lifted her crimson tresses and tossed them about her exposed shoulders.”  A bit of difference, yeah?

The next best way to get over writer's block? Write. Simple as. Suffice it to say, I have several projects started from when one set of characters wants to be stubborn. Consider it the author's version of “A watched pot never boils.” If the story doesn't want to cooperate, then fine, I assure you that you've got another tale inside you that is willing.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start writing? 

Besides all the tips above? Humor aside, don't be afraid and don't doubt yourself. We all start somewhere and the best thing to do is to open that word doc or grab a notebook and just start getting your ideas down. That first draft won't be pretty. It'll be full of grammatical errors, your tenses will slip, your point-of-views will shift – you'll even have some sections that you read back later and go: “What the hell was I trying to say?” A good editing team will help you sort all of that out when the time comes. Now, that being said, you will have to address all of these to the best of your ability prior to submitting to a publishing house if you want them to take you seriously, but you should already be planning on going over your manuscript multiple times before you ever hit that step.

Know that if you are serious about writing, you will have to work. You will have to be open to criticism from your peers – and I highly suggest you enlist at least two people to pre-read – they'll spot things you've missed, and if they question something, then chances are general readers will too. Trust me, it's much easier to tweak and fix your plot line before it goes to print.

There will be hours upon hours spent from that first word being written until that golden moment arrives when you can say, “I'm published.” Rest assured that every tear, headache, and moment of “What am I doing?” will be worth it.

How do you handle negative reviews/blog postings? 

*Knock on wood* I haven't had to deal with that yet, but I've got friends who have, and what I always tell them is they can't let one sour grape ruin the whole bunch. Pick it off, throw it away, and go on with your day.

If you could say one thing to your readers (fans) what would that be? 

This all because of my readers. When I first started posting fanfic, I didn't tell a soul. I just put up the first chapter and then hid. Gradually readers found the story and reviews began trickling in, drawing me out of my corner. It was their insightful reviews and questions challenging my stories that pushed me to be more thorough in the telling of my tales, and honestly shaped me into the writer I am now. Am I perfect? Not by a long shot, but I'm definitely better, and it's down to the readers. Readers who have become friends on line. Readers who by their own admission have become my 'fans' though I'm really uncomfortable with that term. I'm just tickled that so many people have found enjoyment in my storytelling, and that makes it all worth it.

An obvious question, does sex sell? 

Really? I'm going to plead the 5th on that one as The Divine Trilogy will be listed as erotica.

Some commentators have speculated that readers are free to read in public without the giveaway of a lurid cover, or that they will have less embarrassment taking the book to the cashier. Do you think there is anything in that? 

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Without a doubt, I do. It was this concept that was first and foremost in my mind when I started thinking about what I wanted my covers to look like. I wanted something elegant and tasteful that merely suggested there might be more to the book than the first impression, but that anyone sitting at their kid's social function, riding the bus, or even waiting at a doctor's office wouldn't feel ashamed or dirty to pull out and read. I think that was accomplished. All three covers have been designed to carry a theme and are symbolic of the plot line – but you'll have to read To Serve Is Divine to figure out the cover elements!

Who was your favorite character to write? Why? 

Catherine – because she's independent and beautiful, but not self-absorbed. At no point does she think she's better than anyone else, nor does she ever blame her obstacles on anyone else. Watching her come into her own and find her inner strength through my chosen words has been amazing. *Wipes tear* I'm so proud of her.

Which do you think is more important in your book, plot or characterization? Can you have one without the other? 

A good story is going to have a nice balance of both. You might have a fantastic story line  but if you can't bring dimension and life to the characters who are “living” the story, how can a reader relate or get into it? Likewise, maybe you've created these amazing characters, fleshed them out down to the odd-shaped mole on their ass cheek, but all you've got for a story is a trip through the grocery store, and the big drama is whether to get the name brand or the store brand products. Who wants to read that?

What gave you the idea for The Divine Trilogy? 

Some people know, and even more won't realize right away, that To Serve Is Divine was a Twilight fan fiction first. In fact, it was the first thing I ever wrote and shared in any public setting. In addition to the main story, I also wrote four outtakes at various times. The fan fiction began after my main characters, Catherine O'Chancey and Jayden Masterson, had already been together as Master and submissive for a year. When I put feelers out amongst some of my readers as to how they would feel about me pulling TSID for publishing, I was met with nothing but support and encouragement. Knowing that from the first outtake to the end of the epilogue actually covers about four years, and that there had always been interest in that missing first year, I made the decision that it would be best to break the overhaul up into three distinct stories. So, book 1 gets my original title and will cover that first year that everyone has always wondered about. Book 2, A Divine Life, will be  familiar to those that read the fanfic, but leaps and bounds better as I've certainly grown as a writer in the two years I've spent writing fan fiction (I have over 30 stories under my belt now). Lastly, book 3, Surreal, will include a mix of new material and overhauled material as it will pick up pre-fanfic epilogue.

This is a good point to go ahead and move to your next question. . .

The dreaded P2P controversy, you know I have to ask, any thoughts why so many are vehemently opposed? 

There are many theories, the one I hold to is that many people feel like the story was written with pre-existing characters, personalities, and setting therefore publishing a fanfic is like riding the coattails of someone else's hard work. Also, they feel that an author is being greedy to take away something that was available at no cost, and ask readers to now pay for it.

Being that the Divine Trilogy is a partial “pull to publish,” allow me to address both of these points. As indicated in my earlier answer about advice to new writers, preparing a book for publishing is a lot of work, or it should be. Pulling a fanfic and simply changing your character's names is NOT enough. If you're going to ask people to spend their hard-earned money on you, then you better damn well be willing to produce something worthy of their dollars.

In my case I have changed names, physical descriptions, character personalities  location where the story takes place, and even went through the effort of changing it from first person to third person. But that's not all. By the time I have the entire trilogy written, I will have at least doubled, if not tripled, the original word count – meaning I have fully claimed the story as mine and developed it as such. Readers who know the original fanfic will recognize parts, but there will be plenty of new material to make them squirm. *Winks*

And for the love of whatever is holy to you, getting the material edited is crucial. Fanfic forums are a lot more forgiving to comma abuse, bad spelling, and pronoun confusion because they do realize that it is free entertainment, but if you want someone to buy your book, please make sure that it is a smooth, engaging read for them.

How long does it take you to come up with the ideas for a story? 

I have to giggle at this question because most of us that write are familiar with the term “plot bunny.” These evil little things can come out of nowhere, usually when you don't want them to, and will nibble on your frontal lobe until you feed them.

One material thing you can't live without in your life? 

That would have to be carbonated soda – when my tummy acts up, that's the only thing that works.

If stranded on a deserted island, what book boyfriend would you want with you?

Easy. Jamie Frasier from Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. He's rugged, kind, and very useful in a tight situation. He'd also be quite easy on the eyes.

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**And for those who don't know who Jamie Frasier is, I thought I'd offer a little visual, well my personal favorite visual of him. Really love him too and obviously we are on the same page when it comes to the book boyfriends!

Photobucket R.E. Hargrave is a fledgling author who has always been a lover of books and now looks forward to the chance to give something back to the literary community. She lives on the outskirts of Dallas, TX with her husband and three children.

{ 4 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. You are definitely up there as one of my favorite stalkers, erm, readers! hehe... as always, it is an absolute delight to stop by your blog... thanks for hosting me, darlin'!

  2. She is the best entertaining my nosiness!!

  3. Awesome interview!! And. . . uhmmm . . . when you're done with Jamie, can we share? Next to Mr. Rochester, he is my favorite book boyfriend, too!