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 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?
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
you ever wonder how your parishioners would deal with this other side of their
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.
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.
you have any stories about how you dealt with an Aunt Petunia?
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!
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.
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
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. ♥
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