Interview With Author : Patricia Dixon
Patricia Dixon lives in Manchester and is the author of five novels. After a career in Fashion she swapped all things fabric for bricks and mortar, working alongside her husband where she ran his building company and now, with an empty nest, finally has time to write.
The All for Love series is set in the Loire where Patricia has a holiday home, a place to close to her heart and from where she gathers inspiration for her characters and tales of French countryside life.
Patricia has recently completed her sixth novel, Over My Shoulder, a darker, psychological tale told from the viewpoint of a young woman, reliving the past.
Angela Rose : Patricia, I’ve followed your writing since your first book, A Bientot, when you plucked my email address from my Amazon profile and asked me if I would care to review your book. I was immediately taken in by the warmth of your characters and vivid descriptions of the French countryside. Since then, I have read each of your books and have fallen in love with many of the principal characters, Anna and Daniel being the most memorable and feature in each of your books. I feel very privileged to have been a beta reader for A Perfect Summer Wedding, and even more so for being involved with Over My Shoulder from day one. I think you can safely say that I am now a fan and will always look forward to your next book ventures.
I will get on with some questions now as I don’t want this to turn into This Is Your Life! Which there is a risk as I could happily chat and talk about everything and nothing with you.
Anna is the back-bone to each of your books. Do you feel you have a relationship with her, like you have created a person who you can relate to and write about? Is there a little bit of you in Anna?
Patricia Dixon : Yes, I think a lot of how Anna thinks and feels reflects my personality and her relationship with her children bears a close resemblance to the one I have with my son and daughter. As the book evolved I began to know Anna better and although she was broken at the start I wanted her to survive and emerge a stronger person. She did make choices that I wouldn’t have been brave enough to, so in a way I was living another life through my character. That’s the best part about being a writer, you can be anyone you want to be and escape into the mind of someone else for a while. Villains are always the most fun.
Angela : What are your writing routines and where do you do your writing?
Patricia : I am a bit of a clean-freak and like to be organised. I can’t begin writing unless I’ve finished my household chores and the room where I write has to be tidy. I sometimes prepare lunch and dinner before I begin so that I can work straight through without interruption. I actually write most days, even weekends, and aim to begin at around 10 or 11am (laundry willing) and then I am glued to my chair until 7pm. When I’m on a roll I have been known to work until nine. I currently reside in the dining room but I sometimes have a change and work in the kitchen, as long as it is quiet anywhere will do, no music or TV is allowed.
Angela : Do you write an outline/plotline of the book before you start or does it develop organically when pen hits paper?
Patricia : I have never written a book without knowing the plot all the way through, I wouldn’t know where to begin otherwise. I do write lots of notes before I start though. I construct a timeline and research places and events that will feature in the book, I even check flights and ferry crossings for the French series. Once that is in place I just write. I follow the outline in my head and colour it in as I go along which is when it grows organically as new ideas pop up, that’s when the plot sometimes takes a detour. This is the exciting part, when you feel the story unfolding.
Angela : How do you choose names for your characters, are they random popular names of the day or does a name grow as you write?
Patricia : I make a list of ideas for character names and check my old notes in case I have used any before. I have a list for each book as it’s easy to forget. I research baby names for certain eras and I love choosing the French ones, some are very unusual. I have changed names as I go along if I feel they don’t fit, like in Over My Shoulder, Shane started out as Kevin. I also ask other people for ideas when I’m stuck, like the time I allowed my son’s best friend to choose after they pestered the life out of me – he picked Cecil, who ended up as the elderly chap who lived next door to Connie in the Christmas Cottage. I put my foot down with the daft dog names though!
Angela : What kind of books do you like to sit down and read yourself?
Patricia : I like to read books which teach me something new, or broaden my horizons through the telling of the story. I particularly like anything set in World War II, the resistance movement in France fascinates me. I recently read a dystopian novel which was written by an author friend and despite my reservations I really enjoyed it, it made me think and I couldn’t get the ending out of my head. I think my favourites are stories which reflect everyday life, real people, social commentaries on either the times in which we live or tales from the past.
Angela : I, in particular, love darker stories. Those with a chilling revelation and the odd nasty piece of work thrown in. Will you be writing more of the thriller style like Over My Shoulder?
Patricia : While I loved the feeling of liberation that writing Over My Shoulder gave me, being able to express thoughts and actions freely without worrying too much about using certain words, I think I’ve got the subject matter out of my system and won’t be returning to it. There are too many other aspects of love and life to explore so I’m moving on. That’s not to say that I won’t include the nasty characters or the ones you love to hate, they exist in all walks of life as do family dramas and issues of all kinds, I want to write about those.
Angela : Your “French” books have lovely covers with a similar theme running through. How and where do you choose a cover?
Patricia : Thank you, I love my covers and particularly wanted them to hang together as a collection and appeal to the eye when they are viewed by a reader. I have made a wonderful friend in Debbie from The Cover Collection who produces them for me. An author can choose from a selection of pre-made covers or have a bespoke design created, the price varies from £50 up to £250 for a complete ebook and print cover service. I have been lucky enough to spot the perfect match from the pre-made selection and I more or less know straight away when I see it. The Christmas Cottage cover is the image I had in my head and I couldn’t believe my luck when I found it, the scene on the front totally sums up the feel of the book.
Angela : You’ve got six self-published books out now so that means you’re rich, loads of dosh coming in, right? I know part of the answer to this but could you just let some of us readers know how much the author gets for an e-book priced at, for example, 99p and £1.99.
Patricia : I wish! This is purely from the viewpoint of an independent author who does all the marketing and publicity work themselves without the advantages of a publisher or agent. Once the writing is finished the manuscript has to be edited which can cost anything between £300 – £1000, maybe more depending on the word count. Then add on the cost of your cover design. As there are millions of titles available on Amazon you have to be realistic where pricing is concerned and unless you are a big name, unlikely to sell many books for more than £2.99. My books are priced between 99p and £1.99 and on the former I make 29p and the latter £1.11 per copy, so to recoup the initial outlay I have to sell lots of books before I make a profit. I’ll let you do the maths.
Angela : And what about a printed paperback – how much does it cost you to have one printed and what proportion of that is paid to the author?
Patricia : This is slightly more depressing because the paperback books are print on demand whereas a traditionally published author has a large print run of thousands which reduces the costs. This is why the paperbacks on Amazon are expensive so while the customer pays say £8.99, I only get 99p
Angela : Each of your books are ‘self-published’ via Amazon. Have you considered or submitted to the traditional publishing houses or is self-publishing your choice?
Patricia : Yes, I have done both but it is a process I dread. I liken it to applying for a job and no matter how much effort you put into your CV, research the company, write and rewrite your pitch or try to convince them of your qualifications, for myself and many other authors it leads to a rejection letter. And the waiting is excruciating – once you’ve submitted your book you are in limbo for three months or more, checking the post, dreading the post, telling yourself it doesn’t matter if you get a rejection letter when you know deep down it does. It’s just so hard to stand out amongst the tens of thousands of manuscripts which are sent to publishers each year and then, fit into their future list, or maybe have your precious book land on the desk of someone who loves it. I’m convinced it’s also a case of luck, being the right person at the right time. That said, last year I did land myself a publishing deal for Over My Shoulder and once the jubilation and relief wore off, came a period of great deliberation. In the end I decided to decline the offer, the terms weren’t for me and whilst it would’ve been lovely and rather enjoyable to announce I’d bagged myself a ‘traditional’ publisher, I went with my instinct and remained independent. Time will tell if it was the right choice but to date, I’m very pleased with the reaction to Over My Shoulder and for the fabulous support I’ve received from friends, fans and so many people associated with the book world.
Angela : I know you’ve got a few writing projects on the go. Can you give us a sneak preview to any future books?
Patricia : I am halfway through a contemporary romance story which is set in Manchester and France. The book is partially inspired by the songs of Kirsty MacColl, my lead character’s favourite singer. There are also references to the 90’s music scene in Manchester and in particular Oasis who are the idols of Adam, the secondary lead. I might have a little competition to see how many titles readers can spot within the book. As I’ve had lots of requests from fans asking for another book about France, this is also partially set in the Loire and tells of a very different kind of love between two people, one that is misunderstood. It might be a bit of a weepy in parts but I’m really enjoying writing it, bringing up modern day issues that examine family bonds, brotherly love and naturally, I have invented a great character you will love to hate. And after that I’m going to write a murder mystery!
Angela : A ‘just for fun’ question – If you could spend an evening at a dinner party with anyone you want, who would it be and why? (I’ll be there as well, of course!)
Patricia : I can’t choose between these three, The Dalai Lama because he his so wise and has a lovely smiley face and I’d like some of his karmic vibes to influence me. Or Bob Geldof, because I loved him when I was a teenager, he is outspoken and a bit of a rebel which I’m always attracted to and I’d just like to meet one of my idols in the flesh. If either of the other two are busy I’d settle for Peter Kay because he makes me laugh and I just love his down to earth observations on people and life. I’ll let you choose!!
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Interview With Author : Emmanuelle de Maupassant
Emmanuelle de Maupassant writes our darker motivations, the unsettling, and the erotic.
Authors inspiring her writing include Margaret Atwood and Donna Tartt, Angela Carter, Sarah Waters, Michel Faber, Fay Weldon, A.S Byatt and Jeanette Winterson.
Angela Rose : Your name, which I presume is a pen-name, is unusual. Why did you pick ‘Emmanuelle de Maupassant’ and what is the meaning behind it?
Emmanuelle : Yes, absolutely a pseudonym. Like most writers in my genre, I need to protect family members from unwanted scrutiny. I chose this particular pen-name to convey a cocktail of the literary and the sexual. It also rather tickled me, as my grandfather was Emmanuel: he was Jewish, from Ukraine, and came to London in the 1930s. I like to think that he’d have been outwardly horrified, but inwardly pleased.
AR : How did you start writing erotica?
Em : I’d written for some time, mostly travel/cultural articles and guides (such as for Dorling Kindersley, and small pieces for journals and newspapers). About ten years ago, I began researching Slavonic superstitions and customs (living at the time in one of the former Soviet states) and became drawn to creating my own folk tales based on those findings (these I later released as my ‘Cautionary Tales’). Each story pulled strongly towards sexual elements: some bawdy, some far darker. At the time, I didn’t recognise these as ‘erotic fiction’ and I had no intended audience. However, in writing them, I began to realise how far sexual motivation fascinated me.
I then began playing with the idea of a novella set in the Victorian age, exploring themes of sexual constraint and desire for freedom, and the hypocrisy of the age. It was hugely enjoyable to write. Having read a great many 19th century novels, it appealed to me to write ‘my own’ featuring a whole lot of raunch!
AR : Are you a natural writer of erotica or did you have to learn it?
Em : I’ve not received any formal training in creative writing, although I have a joint degree in English Literature and Classical Studies (which included reading of Greek and Roman plays, poetry, and epic and historical narrative). There’s plenty of sexual motivation in Greek and Roman literature! (and in much of the English literary canon too).
I believe that we change a little every day, through our interactions, and have endless capacity to reinvent, and to view the world (and our own self) in new ways. To open our mind is to learn.
As for formal classes, I’d love to take part in Rachel Kramer Bussel’s LitReactor workshop, which is very well regarded. I’m also determined to join Lidia Yuknavitch’s Corporeal Writing.
AR : How do you write a good sex scene?
Em : What’s ‘good’ sex to one person may not be to another, since taste in erotic fiction is a matter of personal preference. Not everyone, for instance, enjoys reading about the power-play of domination and submission, or about sexual sadism-masochism. I tend to read (and write) to gain some insight into why characters are engaging in a certain way, or I want to follow them on a journey of self-revelation. Writing style (or voice) is also very important to me; I’m engaged by originality, and by the brutal, poetic power of prose.
In my own writing of ‘sex’, recurring themes include exhibitionism and ‘crossing lines’, usually in the context of a desire to break free of constraint. I also find it interesting to examine hypocrisy. The Victorian setting (e.g. of my Noire series) lends itself well.
I’d consider a scene ‘successful’ if it jolted the reader into some new awareness of themselves, or of some aspect of their social environment. However, the erotic can pack a punch in many ways: intellectual, emotional and visceral.
Sexual arousal is a powerful element in our human condition: a primary ingredient in the cocktail. It’s fascinating to look at how far a writer can access the mind of the reader in this respect. What can words alone achieve? When readers contact me to say how much they enjoy the erotic content of my books, I do feel a sense of achievement. However, I’ve had just as many people message me to say that they’ve engaged with a story in other ways. Exploration of the sexual is a ‘way in’ to understanding other parts of our nature.
AR : Which erotic authors do you enjoy reading?
Em : The wonderful thing about fiction is that it allows us to explore our inner world, our imagination. We can ‘act out’ various scenarios; we can try on other personas, walk in other shoes. It’s an incredible medium, as a writer and as a reader, for learning more about yourself within a ‘safe’ space. There are no rules in fiction.
When I’m reading other authors, whether categorised as ‘erotic’ or otherwise, I’m looking for originality: in concept or style. I want to be surprised, to be shown something new, or for something familiar to be presented in a way I’d not considered before. I want to experience an aspect of our humanity in a new light. At the moment, my favourite authors, those who open up avenues of thought for me in this way, include Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson, Fay Weldon and AS Byatt. I adore Michel Faber’s ‘Crimson Petal and the White’, Donna Tartt’s ‘Secret History’, Josephine Hart’s ‘Damage’ and Patricia Duncker’s ‘Hallucinating Foucault’.
Much of the writing I enjoy explores ‘the erotic’ – in a manner raw or sensual – but without being explicit, and is marketed as literary fiction. It delves into our sexual psyche, our sexual motivations, into the realm we rarely express openly, for fear of judgement. Sexual motivators are evident in a great deal of narrative, entwined with other themes; erotic fiction explores them with greater focus.
Among more ‘traditionally’ labeled authors of erotic fiction, I have huge admiration for Jonathan Kemp. His ‘Twenty-six’ is a triumph of originality: in form and use of language. For those new to the genre and wishing to experiment with reading short stories, I recommend visiting the websites of Remittance Girl, Malin James and Adrea Kore. Their writing is not only innovative and insightful but beautifully crafted. They use prose artfully.
I’m continually discovering talented authors within the erotic fiction genre. For those wishing to dip their toe in the water, I suggest visiting the Kiss Me Quick’s Erotica Podcast, for audio versions of stories.
AR : What’s the difference between erotic fiction and porn and do you think readers get them mixed up?
Em : Most readers currently associate erotic fiction with steamy-romance. However, the traditional definition of ‘exploring the erotic’ wades into far more transgressive territory: the defiant questioning of cultural norms and expectations, and a dissection of not only pleasure but of the painful consequences of our actions.
Bataille described a place of ‘discontinuity’, where our sense of self becomes ‘disrupted’, such as through extreme pleasure, pain or mental anguish. Josephine Hart’s ‘Damage’ provides a good example of this. We all have our inner limits (those we place upon ourselves: our self-imposed lines in the sand). Erotic fiction has the potential to push us towards these limits, to dare us to look beyond them, at what discomforts us. It invites us to consider moral ambiguities, and to dig deeper into our motivations, as we watch fictional characters struggle with their own inner sanctions.
Fiction is a safe place within which we can reflect and explore, particularly that which we find unsettling to speak of in ‘real’ life. It thereby provides us with valuable opportunities to better understand our own self and our environment.
Fiction explores our thinking as well as our actions, and erotic fiction does just the same, while placing the focus on sexual desire (meanwhile, steamy-romance places the primary focus on love).
Porn looks more purely at physical sensation, without particularly examining motivation or consequences; its main purpose is to elicit sexual arousal.
In my view, anyone able to fully engage a reader’s attention (be that on a physical, emotional or intellectual level) is demonstrating significant writing skill, regardless of genre labels. There’s too much ‘snobbery’ in the literary world over what constitutes a worthy read.
AR : The Gentlemen’s Club is the first in the Noire series, how many will there be and when can we expect the second volume to be published?
Em : I’ve been writing Volume Two (‘Italian Sonata’) over the past 12 months. The first in the series has received a far amount of acclaim, including being featured among Stylist Magazine’s recommended ‘sexy’ reads. So many readers have messaged me asking for the sequel; I’m aware of how many people are waiting for what comes next and feel that ‘Italian Sonata’ needs to not only live up to those expectations but to surpass them. I’m now feeling confident that I can meet that goal. The sequel will be available early in 2017.
Meanwhile, I’ve another release to announce: ‘Highland Pursuits’, set in 1920s Scotland. It’s a wonderful romp, and will be available for order early in the new year.
* Visit her website for articles on sexuality, writing craft and recommended reads.
* Follow her on Facebook
* Amazon author profile
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Interview With Author : B A Paris
B A Paris is the internationally bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, her debut novel. She was brought up in England and moved to France where she spent some years working in Finance before re-training as a teacher and setting up a language school with her husband. They still live in France and have five daughters.
Angela Rose : First of all, congratulations on the launch of your debut novel Behind Closed Doors. It became an overnight sensation here in the UK being much talked about across social media, and received a vast number of four and five star reviews in the first few hours after publication. I read Behind Closed Doors two months before it was released, before any hype reached my ears, and I instantly knew it would be a biggie for 2016.
B A Paris : Thank you, I hoped that people would take the story of Grace’s desperate plight to their hearts but I never expected the response to be so overwhelmingly positive.
AR : Which books/authors have influenced your writing?
BAP : I devoured books when I was young – the first book I ever read was The Mountain of Adventure by Enid Blyton when I was ill in bed with chicken-pox and after that I couldn’t stop reading. I ploughed through every book that she had written and then went on to CS Lewis, Agatha Christie, Jane Austen (I had to read Pride and Prejudice for school and then went on to read the others) and Leon Uris. So I suppose that each of these very different authors influenced my writing in some way.
AR : I felt that the story flowed very well and very quickly. Was the writing of it the same or did you experience writer’s block or wonder where the story was going?
BAP : No, I never experienced writer’s block, the story – despite its grimness – was surprisingly easy to write, probably because the characters seemed to write it for me. This was especially true of Jack; sometimes, when I read over what I had written the day before, I didn’t know where it had come from and often didn’t remember writing it at all!
AR : What inspired you to write this particular story and how much of the book reflects your life experiences?
BAP : I have always been fascinated by what goes on behind closed doors and I once knew a couple who appeared to have a perfect marriage – but then I began to wonder if it wasn’t as perfect as it seemed. It gave me the idea for a story and Behind Closed Doors was born. Although it doesn’t reflect my life experiences – thank goodness! – the story is basically about control and I think there are always times when we don’t feel that we have control of our lives, when we are stifled by the demands of others – children, family, colleagues.
AR : The characters Grace and Jack had a very real feel to them and when I was reading the book, I really was Grace. Does it feel creepy that you’ve created these very real characters or do you just see them as a figment of your imagination?
BAP : I feel proud of having created Grace and Millie but I’m very surprised – and a little appalled – that I could create someone as horrible as Jack. I really didn’t set out to make him as evil as he is, he just seemed to take over. I hope that nobody like him actually exists; unfortunately, they probably do.
AR : Do you know a real Jack and is he based on an actual person?
BAP : Gosh, no! But, as I said above, there are very evil people out there, you only have to read the newspapers to know that people just as abhorrent as Jack do exist.
AR : Was there ever an alternative ending to the one you finally gave us?
BAP : No, I couldn’t have had it ending any other way. I didn’t actually know how it would happen but it came about quite naturally, as the story progressed. And the last scene wrote itself – it was an amazing experience when it all came together at the end.
AR : It’s an understatement to say there was a little bit of hype around Behind Closed Doors and it has attracted some critical reviews as well as favourable ones. How do you handle the negative feedback?
BAP : It’s always good to read what people think of your book, whether it is good or bad. Some of the negative reviews aren’t helpful because they offer no constructive criticism so I prefer to concentrate on those that do. What is important is that my book provokes a reaction in the reader, and it is certainly doing that!
AR : If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
BAP : Michael Fassbender for Jack, Emma Stone for Grace and Natalia Goleniowska for Millie.
Find B A Paris on Facebook.
Amazon Author Profile.