Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Eleni-fest: chatting with Denise Rossetti

Today we have fellow RWA Paranormal member, our lady in red Denise Rossetti as my special guest on Eleni-fest. Denise writes hawwt erotic fantasy romances. Thief of Light, the second book of her Four-Sided Pentacle series is due out next month.

Welcome Denise to Eleni’s Taverna and Eleni-fest!

Congratulations on the upcoming release of Thief of Light! Can you tell us a little about this book?
My pleasure! First of all I should say that although this is the second in the Four-Sided Pentacle series, it can be read as a stand-alone. Here’s bit more about it - 

Some desires are impossible to resist...
In the elegant, subtropical city of Caracole, Erik the Golden is widely known as irresistible; his Voice an instrument of incredible pleasure, the stroke of velvet on bare skin. But the Voice is a curse as much as a blessing, for once Erik used it to steal a soul, and now he must pay.

Prue McGuire is the business manager for the beautiful courtesans of the Garden of Nocturnal Delights. She deals in numbers, not Magick, and when Erik turns his charms in her direction, she sees only vanity, not a golden gift. If Erik cannot use his power to win Prue's heart, how can he truly possess her? How is it she can resist what others can't? He’s baffled, then fascinated. She's either a torment devised by the gods to drive him mad — or Erik's last hope of salvation.

And all the while, a far darker power corrupts the foundations of Caracole - the Necromancer, who feasts on souls. When the Necromancer's hired assassin kidnaps Prue, Erik must harness his air Magick to recover the woman he has come to love more than life itself...

Read the first chapter of Thief of Light here. 
And the first chapter of The Flame and the Shadow here.  

The cover is fantastic with a very hunky blonde man. Is this how you pictured Erik? Do you get much say in the input of the covers of your books? All of them are amazing but I’m particularly partial to Gift of the Goddess (aka The Mr Gorgeous book) and The Flame & the Shadow.
Writers get very little say in their book covers, and I’m no exception. But I’ve been incredibly lucky. I must have been positively saintly in a former life. *grin* I use Mr Gorgeous from Gift of the Goddess as my screensaver to this very day. Not only is he, well, gorgeous, but I’m beyond grateful for that cover. I was a newbie and it gave me the most wonderful start. Put your coffee down first and go to http://www.deniserossetti.com/gift.html Click the cover for a larger version. (You can read the first chapter too.)

As for The Flame and the Shadow and Thief of Light, I was very fortunate. The publisher engaged a well-known cover artist named James Griffin, and I was able to send him the first three chapters of each book. Not only did he actually read my words, he created images of Cenda and Erik almost exactly like the ones I had in my head. Erik has Viking ancestry, way back, as you can probably tell. *smile* What’s more, Jim told me that the cover model is real. Just think, he’s walking around somewhere, stepping over the women who throw themselves at his feet. *sigh*
(EK: LOL!)

Jim’s uncanny. He was also obliging enough to visit my blog for an interview in which he explained his process, step by step, and answered questions.  It’s fascinating stuff. Jim has done so many fantastic covers, including those of Christine Wells. I bet you own at least one! 


Your books should have the label ‘hawwt hawwt hawwt’ on them. You come up with very interesting erotic scenes – I mean you give new meaning to the term ‘me and my shadow’ in The Flame and the Shadow (R rating ). How do you tackle these scenes while at the same time conveying so much about the characters?

I’m always conscious that sex scenes are not a literary “get out of jail” card for shallow characterisation or lazy writing in general. Who cares what cardboard cutout people do to each other? In bed, or out of it. 

I try to make each love scene, each sex scene, pivotal to character development in some way. What’s done and not done, said and not said, it’s all revealing. I’ve always enjoyed writing about sex, for any number of reasons. It’s not only a turn-on, but the sexual act can be used as a lens to focus on raw emotion. The reader sees the characters naked and not only physically. All the masks are stripped away and the soul is bared, whether the character knows it or not. It’s enormously powerful. 

Whether I’m writing a chaste peck on the cheek or a full-on orgy is immaterial, I strive for deep Point of View. I want the reader to experience events in the most vivid way possible - via the character’s emotions as well as their physical senses. What’s going on inside people’s heads are more important than events outside. After all, don’t they say the most important erogenous zone is the one the between the ears? 

Erotic romance is popular with readers because the relationship between the hero and heroine gives the sex meaning, and therefore greater intensity. Page after page of docking procedure leaves me cold. If the sex isn’t an integral part of character development, it’s not erotic romance, just gratuitous copulation. 

You have two more books in the Four-Sided Pentacle series – do you have release dates for these? Are you working on anything else right now? And what’s in the near future for Denise Rossetti?

I’m putting the finishing touches to the proposal for Book #3 right now. The hero is the swordmaster, Walker, an earth shaman who appears in Thief of Light as a secondary character. He’s all dark and brooding and deadly. 

His heroine may well be the most unusual character I’ve ever written. Deprived of touch and affection from babyhood, she has never learned about normal human relationships, so she’s essentially ‘empty’. She cannot interpret facial expressions and body language, has no idea of what empathy means, let alone sympathy, and little understanding of conventional morality. Yet she has a childlike innocence and curiosity that’s extraordinarily endearing. Put her together with the deeply reserved Walker and the sparks are going to fly. I can’t wait to dig in! All being well, it’s slated for release about this time next year.

As for Book #4, I have the basic concept, but I’m waiting for the Muse to come to the party. No doubt she’ll zoom in at the last possible minute. 

The Laced with Desire anthology (Jaci Burton, Jasmine Haynes, Joey W. Hill and myself) will be released in February next year. My novella, Rhio’s Dancer, follows chronologically after Thief of Light, though it can be read as a stand-alone. It’s the story of Rhiomard, the gruff Guard who appears as a secondary character in Rubies and Black Lace (Unlaced anthology) and Thief of Light

I’ve just completed the final page proofs. Here’s a little bit about it – 

Rhio’s a battle-scarred veteran of both love and war, a soldier right down to his bootstraps. But he’s never met a woman as fierce, as fascinating—as dangerous--as Dancer. And she’s up to her pretty neck in political intrigue. She just might kill him before they’re through, but what a glorious way to go!

In between all this, I’m doing a proposal for the next in my Phoenix Rising Series for my long-suffering Ellora’s Cave editor. 

I also have an entire Kaminski Family story in my head kicking and screaming to get out. *sigh* Shame about the day job. 

As always, I write a monthly newsletter. Contests, giveaways, updates – and a very naughty, very silly serial, Rackety Kate and the Pirates. Yo-ho-ho! I like to be funny on occasion and Rackety Kate is my light relief. Readers get to choose what happens next. My newsletter folk are very special to me, like a worldwide family. They hear everything first. Everyone is welcome!
(EK: To subscribe to the newsletter click here.)

Love the aspect of both technology and science in The Flame & the Shadow. How do you tackle world building and research?
I get quite a few compliments on my worldbuilding, which is wonderful for my fragile writer’s ego. So thanks for that! On the other hand, it just, um, happens as I go along, like a movie unrolling in my head. When I go walking with My Beloved and the dog, I often lose track of the conversation. He’ll chuckle and ask, “What world are you on now?” because I sure ain’t on this one, Dorothy!

Um, would you believe I do almost no research? Which is weird, because research is an essential part of my day job. I’m too impatient to get to the good bit, the story. It’s one of the reasons I write fantasy – as long as I’m consistent, I can build a whole universe with nothing but my imagination and a keyboard. 
That said, I do like to dabble and I’ve found some fascinating facts. For example, did you know that in order for a human being to be able to use wings to fly, his or her chest would have to be six feet thick with muscle? It’s plain physics, but when I wrote Tailspin, I simply ignored that inconvenient fact and created two drop-dead gorgeous heroes with magnificent wings and wicked feathery tails. Gotta love fantasy! You can meet them here.

I’ve also done some reading about Near Death Experiences (NDEs) for the Four-Sided Pentacle series. What’s fascinating is the consistency of the reports – the sensation of hovering near the ceiling, the bright tunnel, the presence of another loving Being. I also keep one of those “work out your best colours” books handy, so I can dress my characters in the right colours. I only know what suits me!
(EK: red, definitely. Check out Denise's hawt red shoes!)

Overall, my resources are pretty simple. People are good. I’ll ask anyone almost anything. Information books written for kids are excellent because they have simple explanations and clear illustrations. Naturally, I’m a great believer in libraries. And, of course, the Internet.

You’re a wife, mum, work part-time, and are a writer. You also have a very bubbly personality – do you think you will ever stop your part-time work? How do you fit it all in? Do you have a set routine?

Oh, how I wish I actually had a routine – any routine! *sigh* I often say I'm the Queen of Procrastination ruling over the Land of Clutter. I’ve given up trying to tidy my desk before I begin. I’d never get anything written.

When I have a writing day, I fluff around until lunchtime at least, doing emails, surfing and stuff. I don't even know what it is that I do, except waste time. I usually start writing after lunch. I have a study and from the desk I look straight out the window in the canopy of a big old Poinciana tree, but I often take the laptop into the bedroom. I sit on the bed with one of those tray table things over my legs. The dog lies on the floor and the cat lies on me. Everyone's happy.

Funnily enough, despite the fact that I'm so careless with physical objects, I'm a very slow, very deliberate writer. I don't often get carried away and have words simply flow out of my fingers. I have to dig for every single one, which means I need to concentrate. I have a timer on the computer and I turn it for 45 minutes. When it goes off, I'm allowed to check my email. (Did I say I need a 12 step program?) It's amazing how little I can write in that time. Around 5pm I have this incredible desire to doze off, but the cat comes and head-butts me until I fix his dinner. The dog just grumbles. So I yawn and go on. By 8pm, I'm firing on all cylinders and if I'm on a roll, sometimes I go 'til after midnight.
On work days, I get up and go to work. I work and then I come home again. Not very interesting. Our kids are pretty well grown-up. My Beloved cooks the evening meal. I do the clean-up. And no, he’s mine. 

I often think about giving up my day job, but it provides a lovely balance for me. As you pointed out so tactfully, Eleni, I’m an extroverted person – or did you just mean LOUD? Heh heh. I’m not sure how I’d cope with writing on a full-time basis. It’s such a solitary activity and I definitely need people. I’d wither up and die on a desert island, no matter how many books I took with me.
(EK: LOL! No bubbly/extroverted is different to loud, believe me!)

What do you love about being a writer?  

So many things! The wonderful friends I’ve made for a start. Romance writers are a real community, supportive, generous – and oh-so-talkative! I love it! 

Dorothy Parker said she hated writing, but loved having written. Me too. There are times I actually enjoy re-reading my own work, especially after the passage of time. Occasionally, I’m even impressed. I like that I get to play god(ess) in my own world. If I want to throw someone off a cliff, so be it. Whoosh! Scream! Kind of goes to my head, you know?

I truly adore receiving fanmail. It never ceases to thrill me that a complete stranger should take the time out their busy day to tell me I made them sigh or cry or jump their husband’s bones. It’s even better if I’ve helped them forget their troubles for a while.

And while I’ll never make a fortune out of it, it’s been delightful to have enough money to travel last year to the US and Canada and to buy shiny things. I have a bowerbird’s fascination for jewellery and geeky gadgets.

What was it like winning the Passionate Plume Award for Tailspin?  And then another win with Strongman in the following year?!

For those who don’t know, the Passionate Plume Awards are sponsored by Passionate Ink, the RWA chapter for erotic romance writers. I was thrilled to bits to even be a finalist with Tailspin. As you can imagine, the competition is very keen. I was even more delighted to be at RWA Nationals in San Francisco when my name was called. The prize is a tiny silver ink pot and quill, which I wear on my charm bracelet.

When Strongman was announced as a finalist I was astonished. Not only was my second year, but Strongman is a male/male romance and the Passionate Plume contest is an open field. When it won the fantasy category, I was absolutely floored. I think this is a first. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be at the award ceremony, but I’m waiting impatiently for my second silver charm!

What is the reality of being a published author – for those of us still pre-published? 

Honestly? It can be pretty stressful at times. I don’t deal well with uninformed criticism or deadlines and find it difficult to be creative under pressure. Publishing is big business. There’s very little about it that is actually under a writer’s direct control. I do recognize that and try not to fret. 

I make an effort to concentrate on what I am able to do – which is to write the best books I possibly can. I write first and foremost for my most committed reader – myself. Because not everyone will like what I do. I relish every single fanmail I receive, reply graciously and keep them in a special ‘gloat’ file.

Reviews, good, bad and indifferent, have very little influence on how well you sell. I celebrate the good ones and forget the rest. Promotion is demanding too, and I wish I were better at it. Hence this interview! LOL 


How long does it take you to write one of your books?

Nine months, give or take, for a full length novel - just like having a baby. Heh heh. I’m sure I should be able to write faster, but the Muse and I need time to mull.

I’ve heard you say you have love for words and I believe this love is seen through the poetic language in your books. How important is it to you to use the right word?

Incredibly, crucially, essentially, unbelievably important. 
That important enough? LOL

Seriously, it’s worth devoting time to your choice of words, especially verbs. Verbs are the most powerful weapons in your arsenal. For example, consider all the different ways a human can move from Point A to Point B using their legs. Yes, of course, they can walk, but they can also trudge, saunter, stalk, trot, hurtle, slither and so on ad infinitum. Think of the unconscious associations you make with the verb slither. Having Joe slither up to Mary is nothing like having him trudge to her side.

I also fall in love with certain words, not that they’re necessarily suitable for a romance. ;-) I’m particularly fond of discombobulate and transmogrify at the moment. 


Love the monthly story on your blog/newsletter....and giving the readers a poll to vote in which directions the story goes. How did this all come about? How hard is it to do once a month?

Do you know you’re the first person to ask that? Yes, it is difficult because it’s a monthly deadline and I loathe deadlines. I know it’s only for fun and I don’t edit or overthink it, but I don’t want anything I write to be rubbish so I have to concentrate. I haven’t missed a newsletter yet, but I’m often late. (I’m up to Number 41 – wow!) In another way though, writing Rackety Kate is relaxing because I have no clue which way the story will go which relieves me of the necessity to plot. Pantser’s paradise! *grin* I can be funny if I feel like it as well. In fact, I make myself the butt of my own jokes which amuses me no end. 

It started because there was a lead-up time of five months to the publication of Gift of the Goddess, but I’d been told it would be much shorter so I in great excitement, I launched a newsletter. Hmm. And having launched the boat I couldn’t scuttle it straightaway, now could I? So I started the story and the monthly vote. Like Choose Your Own Adventure, but with a very naughty twist! 
Older chapters go up on my website and those pages are among the most popular so it certainly attracts readers. The jury is still out on the Return on Investment though.

Everyone is welcome, remember! 

Thanks Denise for joining us at the fest! Denise has kindly offered a copy of a title from her backlist as a give away. 

For your  chance to win, comment below.  You must be 18 and over to enter. Comments will be open until 2nd November.

Comments for the prize has now closed. Congratulations Mitz!

Good luck and thanks Denise for your generosity!

Remember to check out Denise’s website, her books, her blog, and newsgroup

Denise can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

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