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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PARANORMAL: THE AUNT PETUNIA DILEMMA

by Jess Russell



Ok, you’ve written the book. And the book has actually sold. You feverishly work with your editor polishing and perfecting. The launch date is set (well, as set as it’s ever going to be) Now who will buy your baby?  Hopefully, you will receive a stellar review—Or several. Fingers and toes crossed.— and folks will be ordering your baby up the wazoo.

But who are the sales we initially count on? Friends and family, of course. After all they must. The book’s progress has been documented in your Christmas cards, and they have read about you on Facebook, and even showed interest at cocktail parties and family reunions. But what about Aunt Petunia?  Or Aunt Hattie, for that matter? Or Mrs. Merkin, the postmistress? Or your father, for heaven’s sake?

My book, THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE, is a Regency set in 1810, but it is not a sweet regency. The bedroom door is open. Not wide open, but open enough that my Auntie P. might not be able to think of her niece, Jessica, in quite the same way.  I have a critique partner, Amber Belldene, who is an amazing writer of very steamy vampire stories. She also happens to be an Episcopal priest. How does she handle it? Let’s find out.


Jess: Hello Amber, thanks so much for joining me. First off, congratulations on the release of the final book in your Blood Vine trilogy. Can you tell us a bit about BLOOD REUNITED?

Amber: BLOOD REUNITED is the third book in the Blood Vine series. The series focuses on the Maras family of vampires, who are in exile from their homeland in Croatia, a state which causes them to fall ill to a wasting disease. Hunters know this, and have been driving vampires from their homes for centuries, but at the start of this book, the Hunters’ campaign grows more violent, and only the biologist Bel and the ancient Uta can stop them. The problem is the pair are enemies, fated mates, and rather stubborn about the whole situation. I think the trailer does a good job introduc­ing the conflict between the characters.


Jess: I think, BLOOD REUNITED, is your best yet. Uta is so uta-er-ly delicious! I could go on and on but we have to get back to Aunt P and my dilemma. How did you come to grips with being a writer of sexy vamp stories as well as an Episcopal priest?

Amber: At first I treated it like a dark, dirty secret. But as I got to know so many romance writers who are just like me--moms, profes­sionals, Sunday school teachers, I realized it shouldn’t be a big deal, and that I needed to be a part of making sure it wasn’t a big deal. I’ve become really outspoken about why there is nothing sinful about read­ing or writing sexy books. In fact, I truly believe romance is one of the ways we experience God in our lives, and most romance readers I know report reading sexy books about love is great for their intimate relationships.


Jess: Did you ever wonder how your parishioners would deal with this other side of their spiritual leader?

Amber: I do wonder, and that is why I have a pen name. I don’t need to be in the face of the people I pastor as a writer of racy romance. Some of them know, and their reaction ranges from amusement to indifference. But because I know it would get in the way for some people when they need my listening ear, or my prayers, or my advice, then I want to keep it under wraps for the most part.


Jess: Did you ever consider toning down your books because of your preaching job?

Amber: Honestly, no. I wrote the stories I had to tell, and I believe they have integrity as truly human (or vam­pire stories). And I would much rather write in the explicit style that suits me as a writer, and engage in the conversation with people who might not like it, than to hold back. We need to start having more honest conver­sations about sex as a society, and maybe my dual vocations will spurr some of those on.


Jess: Do you have any stories about how you dealt with an Aunt Petunia?

Amber: It’s funny that you ask about this, because I did just see my dad yesterday for the first time in months and I gave him copies of both my books. It turns out all my aunts already love FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. But even my uncles and male colleagues have read my books. My father-in-law put it down when he felt un­comfortable, and that’s what I hope anyone would do. I will assume people can judge for themselves whether it will affect our relationship or not, and I would never be offended to hear someone put it down for that reason!


Jess: You have twins who must be about three now? A little young to be reading, but you must have thought of what you might say to them about your books when they do start getting curious.

Amber: I sincerely hope to have an honest and open dialog with my kids about sex. From my work, I know that is something hard to achieve, and like a lot of things about being a parent, it’s much easier to plan on before the time arrives. Still, I expect my son will want nothing to do with a sexy book his mom wrote. My daughter may be more curious, if she’s anything like me (and so far, she is). I read romances as a teenager and I don’t think it hurt me, but fleshed out my sexual education, so how DD and I will handle that will probably have ev­erything to do with our relationship--but I hope when and if she reads it, she will talk to me about it so that we can put behaviors and actions in context and talk about good decision making.


Jess: Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me, Amber. I certainly agree that sometimes we tend to be too puritanical about some things while being terribly negligent about others. Finding love is a good thing. Something to be celebrated and cherished whether it comes to a group on Vampires or, in the case of THE DRESSMAK­ER’S DUKE, a rather shy and monkish Duke.

So to the Aunt Petunias of the world, I certainly hope I will not offend you with my writing. Blood Reunited, and The Dressmaker’s Duke, are stories centered around people struggling to find love. As writers we torture them a bit, but that only makes it all the more delicious when they finally get their happily ever after. And besides, you can always just skip over the naughtier bits.  

As a side note, my mother waited weeks on a waitlist at her public library to read 50 SHADES--I believe she said she was #800. ♥



Jess Russell is a member of RWA, as well as the Beau Monde and RWA/NYC. THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE came in first in the Fool for Love Contest, Golden Apple Awards’ Secret Craving Contest, the Indiana Golden Opportunity Contest and the Golden Rose Contest (also winning the Best of the Best). And it fina­led in the Great Beginnings, Emerald City Opener, and the Lone Star Contests. Jess is currently working on two other stories, (working titles), HEART OF GLASS, and MAD FOR THE MARQUESS. THE DRESSMAKER’S DUKE, (The Wild Rose Press) will be available in late Spring.  Please Visit her Web site: http://jessrussellro­mance.com

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