Here’s an author interview with Melissa Graves. Take it away, Melissa…
How did you start writing erotica?
My first experience writing erotica actually involved role-playing fantasy characters in chat rooms on the Internet back in 1999. I found others who were interested in very specific kinds of role-play, mostly to do with vampires and shapeshifter characters. Once I found a small group of people that I felt comfortable with, I took the role-play to smaller forums, where we co-wrote live erotica together. Funnily enough, most of that role-play had to do with vampire sex, and the blood drinking that comes with it—the vampire-related sex in Bleeding Heart is very much the grown up product of those beginnings.
What erotic authors do you enjoy reading?
There are tons of erotic authors out there that have inspired me—most just happen to be authors of fan fiction instead of published works! But one of my earliest influences in terms of published erotica was definitely Anne Rice. Her vampire and witch novels are excellent, and among my favorites, but some of her earliest work was simple erotica—some with BDSM themes, some with fantasy themes, some with both—that I fell in love with from the first page, such as Exit to Eden and her Sleeping Beauty series, and lately her Wolf Gift series. She has such a mastery over blending kink with emotion, and she knows just how to push limits.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Fantasy genre work, mostly. Queer fiction is making huge strides into a lot of heterosexually dominated spheres, but has not penetrated as deeply into the fantasy genre. Where are all the books about queer warlocks, vampires, shapeshifters, and werewolves? Where are the queer characters who fall in love in the middle of a zombie apocolypse or on another planet or with a cyborg? I like to take the tropes that are popular in fantasy and sci-fi books and apply them to new kinds of characters and new kinds of romance.
Do you have any unusual writing rituals?
I can never just be writing. I am severely twitchy and need to have at least a few things going on at once or I just can’t write with any focus. If I don’t have at least 2-3 social media websites and Netflix and a game running on my computer along with my word processing program being open, I’ll inevitably end up wandering away from the computer to torture my cats with the laser pointer or bake a cake. The only thing I don’t need to have is the television on in the background—that’s the one thing that drives me nuts!
Where’s your favourite place to write?
Wherever my brain is at the time. I always find this question funny to answer, because I have no many writer friends who could go on for pages about the places they prefer to write—their couch, their garden, the park, on a city sidewalk—and all of that is completely valid, but for me it’s my mental state that defines my writing mood. I can fall into a trance in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner and write whole scenes in my head—the louder my relatives are, the better. As long as there are fictional places and characters running around inside of my head, I have a place to write.
Who is your favourite character from one of your stories and why?
Kyle in Bleeding Heart is really dear to me, because I feel like we’re kindred spirits in a lot of ways. He’s a scrappy young kid who lost his support system early, but who managed to get by on his own merits—he never soared and he never managed to escape getting hurt, but he was strong, and when push came to shove, he escaped. He’s never quite perfect and never quite mature, but he has a desperate desire to better himself, and when he finds the right people, places, and things that he needs to realize that desire, he lets them in and he treats them right. He makes mistakes, but he recognizes them. He doesn’t really understand the world, but he marches through it anyway. He’s willing to learn on the go, and willing to give his heart to someone, even though no one has ever really taken care of it.
Do your nearest and dearest know what you do, and if so, what was their reaction when they found out?
I have always been very honest and open about my creative endeavors with my friends and family. Loving fantasy/sci-fi and erotica and kink is such a huge part of what I am—my hobbies, my social circles, and my friends are all in some way connected to these topics. When I was 18, living at home and going to college, I was published in a fanzine and going to conventions related to that fandom and I just sat my parents down and said, look, I write gay erotica, this is what I do, it’s what I’m good at. They never quite got it, but they never protested, and as the years have gone by they have come around. I’ve almost never had a negative reaction to my announcement that I write erotica, mostly because I feel like when you state something as a solid fact about yourself without showing any shame or hesitation, people find it very hard to argue with it. And if they don’t stick around—all the better! No one needs people in their lives who can’t at the very least accept what they are passionate about.
What was your ideal career when you were a child?
Oh gosh. For the longest time, I wanted to be a wildlife photographer. And then when I got older I wanted to be an anthropologist—I even got a Bachelor’s Degree in the field. And then I realized the only time I ever felt right, like I was doing the thing I was good at, was when I wrote erotic stories. I never looked back after that.
How do you get yourself in the mood to write?
I have to be in a fairly good mood. No matter what I’m writing, if I’m really unhappy or stressed or pissed off, I don’t have the presence of mind to step into another world—I’m too caught up in mine. So if I’m going to write, or feel like writing, I try to just clear my head, think calm, positive thoughts, and not allow too many distractions in. Some things are no no’s—if my husband is home and being noisy, or the television is on in the background, and I have no way of escaping, it kills the mood. On the other hand if I have the right music for the tone of what I’m writing, and I’m happy and able to let those characters talk to me, it’s definitely the right time.
What’s the best writing tip you’ve ever been given?
Keep writing. It takes years, sometimes, to develop even the one writing niche or skill or genre that you’re the best at. You will never stop improving, and the more you accept that, and the more you continue writing with that in mind, you can become literally unstoppable. And it doesn’t matter if anyone notices or praises you, or even notices you enough to criticize you—just keep writing. If it brings you joy, and you give it the focus it deserves, it will eventually bring others joy, too.
If you get writer’s block, how do you get around it?
This is probably an unpopular opinion, but when I hit a true block, I absolutely have to just stop writing for a period of time. The more I force it, the slower it comes, and the worse it gets. I step away from the document, from the computer, and just let my mind wander. I think about the characters and the world they are in, where they are and where I want them to be, and try to let the solution organically occur to me. Once I give them room to breathe, they usually tell me how to get them there.
If you could bring one of your characters to life, which one would it be and why?
Brian from Bleeding Heart. He is such a positive force. He is a tireless guy who never stops caring, never sees the worst in a person or a situation, and always has a solution or a kind word ready. He wants to make an impact on the world, he has so many plans, and he doesn’t compromise doing things the right way. The world definitely needs more Brians!
What’s your favourite genre within erotica and why?
It’s a toss up in between BDSM and fantasy (why can’t we have both?!), and I guess there’s a theme there—erotica where boundaries are shifted or pushed, where things beyond the “norm” are possible and even expected. If I had to choose between them I’d say definitely fantasy—endless possibilities, endless creative freedom, and even the most out there notions can entertain and surprise and attract readers. One of my most favorite things to do in the fantasy genre is to make something outrageous both believable and relatable. I get comments from readers all the time saying “I had no idea this would work for me, but it so did!”, and there’s really nothing better than that.
What are you working on at the moment?
For people out there who have fallen in love with Brian and Kyle, and are intrigued by the world that they are being initiated into, you’ll be happy to know that Bleeding Heart is not the end of the story. They both have roles to play in the conflicts to come between vampires and humans, and it remains to be seen if they’re ready for that—either as individuals or a couple. Elisa and Clara are certainly going to keep them on their toes and challenge all the skills that they possess. So stay tuned—there’s more to come!
What’s the biggest writing challenge you’ve ever taken on? Did you succeed?
My first copy-edit process. I went into it completely inexperienced with very little idea of what to expect. I have no background in writing, no formal education, not even an AP English course under my belt, and I was scared out of my mind. I expected full pages of red pen and frowny faces. Just getting to that point was nerve-wracking, and I struggled. It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable experiences I’ve ever had—my copy-editors were on point, intelligent, and the best at what they do, and they turned the process into an educational joy ride. I learned so much, I laughed a lot, and I enjoyed every pass. They took what I had and helped me give it a shine that I could have never achieved on my own. Definite success.
What’s your biggest writing achievement? Why?
Being published for the first time. It seemed like something out of a dream, to see it go from a rough manuscript to a physical book with an ISBN number that I could hold in my hands. For too many years I let that little voice that told me getting published was for people who were more experienced, more verbose, more well-connected than I was hold me back, and forging ahead through the process and making it to that finish line (the first of many, I hope!) was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. I have a feeling that it will always be special, but this first novel will forever hold a unique place in my heart.
“I know,” Kyle says apologetically. “I can’t help it.” He swallows. “I mean, it only happens when I—when—I get excited. Sorry. Just, missed you.”
“You—you can.” Heat pounds in Brian’s cheeks.
Kyle goes still, panting against his skin. “W-what?”
“You can, if you want,” Brian repeats. His body is aching all of the sudden, for something new, for something more, for something that they haven’t done yet. He can feel it, simply at the idea—it has been since they started kissing, of course, but now it’s fully awake and invested in the proceedings—against the front of his jeans. “You can.”
“Have you ever—”
“No,” Brian answers. It’s impossible to think clearly with Kyle holding him against the door, with Kyle’s head bent over his neck like that. He’s so hard that his jeans are starting to hurt; the angle at which he’s risen against them is uncomfortable, but he can’t move. “Please.” The anticipation is like ants beneath his skin, crawling and crawling and crawling. “Please.”
Kyle kisses the half-numbed skin just inches off of Brian’s neck. His fangs are fully distended now and Brian can feel them, smooth and hard as they brush his skin.
The need to feel the pain that he knows he’ll feel, to feel opened, to feel his blood run past Kyle’s eager lips is sudden and new. Kyle can and will drink from his body; Brian can let him do that, this is a thing that they can do together, and it is as exciting as it is frightening.
“You can,” he repeats. He feels dizzy. “I want you to. Want to take care of you, please. Do it.” His hands are shaking so hard that he can’t even maintain a grip on Kyle’s waist, but it doesn’t matter; Kyle is supporting him.
“God,” Kyle breathes, shaking, his lips damp as they pass over Brian’s shoulder again and again. “Ever since you—that night with the wine glass, I—god, I’ve dreamed of your blood so many times.”
“Please,” Brian hisses, arousal pounding through his body. “Do it. Do it.”
While the public struggles to live side-by-side with vampires, medical student Brian Preston has dedicated himself to their care and study by working in a government-run clinic that monitors and feeds the resident vampire population. He has learned to expect the unexpected in his job, but his life takes a surprise turn late one night when a young, struggling vampire named Kyle stumbles into his clinic and his heart.
As they draw closer, can Brian come to grips with loving the elusive vampire, and can Kyle find the strength to share the secret that can separate them forever?
Bleeding Heart is the story of love, blood, political intrigue and the secrets that can spell the difference between life and death.
Interlude Press: http://store.interludepress.com/products/bleeding-heart-1
A veteran writer of fan fiction known as MissBeizy to her online readers, Melissa Graves’ stories have thousands of followers. At age 13, she wrote her first work of fan-based fiction, and by age 16, had met her future husband in an online vampire fiction chat room. A fan of science fiction/fantasy, she has a degree in anthropology and a passion for good chocolate, amateur erotica and fan worlds that celebrate diversity. She is mother to two cats.
Follow Melissa Graves and learn more about her work at http://msmelissagraves.com/
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