Author Interview; J. Lea. Lopez
September 15, 2012 24 Comments
When I decided to jump into the erotica genre, my biggest fear was getting all those naughty scenes done right. After all, if it doesn’t make you tingle it won’t make anyone else tingle. The first person I turned to was a writer friend from Agent Query Connect (AQC), J. Lea. Lopez. She was my naughty scene guru and instructed me on how to make my work better. I am proud to bring you this interview with her.
So let’s begin…
Though I’ve lived in a lot of different places, I grew up in Easton, a small town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Every now and then a hint of that Eastern Shore twang sneaks into my voice, but not too often. I still consider myself a Maryland girl even though I’ve been living in Pennsylvania for five years now (currently just outside Pittsburgh). In fact, I get little pangs in my heart every time my friends from home post pictures of the Chesapeake Bay or bushels of crabs on Facebook.
As for my genre, I write women’s fiction and erotica. My stories tend to be character-driven and often feature young women in their twenties.
2. With all the risks and uncertainty around publishing, what was it that drew you to a career in writing?
When I first decided to seek traditional publication, I had no idea what risks or uncertainty there was. All I knew was it was a long shot! Of course, since I first made that decision over five years ago, I first had to go through a lot of growing and learning and realizing I wasn’t anywhere near ready when I thought I was. And now that I really am ready, the face of publishing is remarkably different. Still, here I am, hoping to be published traditionally while learning all I can about self-publishing and anticipating doing a little of that as well. I’ve always loved to write. I love exploring the drama of relationships and human connectedness. If I can do it well enough to get paid for it, that would make me immensely happy. If my novels are never picked up traditionally, and if I self-publish and flop fantastically, I think I would still write. Probably not as much, as I would have to devote more time to doing something that actually pays the bills, but as long as I have stories in my head, I’ll write them down.
3. With the ease of self-publishing, what is it about Traditional Publishing that still draws you to it?
One word: staff. The hardcore self pub evangelists will probably laugh at me for that, especially in terms of marketing. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “Debut authors get no marketing support. You’ll be doing it all yourself anyway,” I would be rich. And I’m not naive about the fact that I’ll still have to participate in marketing if I’m traditionally published. I don’t think I know any traditionally published debut authors (and I’m proud to say I know several) whose publishers brought nothing to the table in terms of marketing support. But really, it goes beyond just marketing. Having a traditional publisher means not having to worry about finding my OWN staff to do things for me.
I can hire a comprehensive editor, or a copyeditor before self publishing. I can create my own book cover or hire someone to do it for me. I can find every last possible ebook seller and make my books available with them. I can also go with CreateSpace or another POD publisher if I want paper books. And then I can hire someone to help me with publicity if necessary. The joy of going the traditional route is that, even though it takes forever (something I think traditional publishing can and should improve) there are people taking care of all of that stuff I just mentioned, on at least some level. I don’t have to worry about finding the editor, an agent already knows a bunch. I don’t have to agonize over cover art. There are people for that. The publisher will handle distribution for e- and print books. There will be a publicist or some sort of marketing team to take at least a little bit of the weight off my shoulders. Not to mention the fact that I’ll actually be able to get my book into brick and mortar stores. Sure, it may be for a few short weeks or months, but that’s longer than I’d have any hope of getting it there on my own.
Lastly, and this ties in with the next question, there’s still an aspect of legitimacy to traditional publishing. Self publishing is absolutely legit, don’t get me wrong. I WILL be doing it in the future, it’s just a matter of what and when. But with my erotica in particular, I would love to take it the traditional route for all the reasons I mentioned above, and also for that gatekeeper stamp of approval. I want the publishing industry as well as the public to acknowledge intelligent, well-written erotic works as something of value that actually exists!
4. Do you think, with the incredibly popular FS of G, that erotica will become more mainstream?
Fifty Shades is really a double-edged sword, I think. On the one hand, it is bringing erotica into mainstream popular culture. Erotica was already a thriving genre, anyway. There were plenty of kinky erotic romances before FSoG, many of them better written. But now it’s somewhat more acceptable to discuss it in everyday life – even if it’s to degrade it as “mommy porn” or to pick apart what people loved or hated about it. People are talking about it. So that’s good. But I feel there’s a potential downside as well. With “mommy porn” the latest catchphrase being applied to anything with explicit sex lately, some readers may be turned off of books they might otherwise love. Some people might say “Mommy porn! Like Fifty Shades? Great, I want to read it!” but many others will say “Mommy porn? Like Fifty Shades? No way in hell am I reading that.” FSoG has become such a beacon… so synonymous with erotica and erotic romance in the popular consciousness that I’m afraid smart, savvy readers who might genuinely like my brand of erotica (or that of many other talented erotica writers) will never pick it up because of the perception of all erotica being like FSoG. I guess time will tell, but those are my fears.
5. Have you ever thought about giving up? If you did, what changed your mind?
Hmm… I don’t think I’ve ever thought about giving up as in totally throwing in the towel and never writing again. It’s just never crossed my mind. I did have a period of a couple years where I didn’t really write anything. I was busy moving after college and adjusting to responsible adult life. (So boring!) But then one day I decided I couldn’t ignore this idea that had been rattling around in my brain, and I started writing it down.
That idea became the first novel I ever thought about trying to publish, and it’s that novel that I have considered walking completely away from once or twice. But I never did. I let it sit for a while and worked on other things, but I was still always thinking about it. It took a lot of hard work and heartache, but I finally whipped it into a shape I could be proud of. I sent only a handful of queries, then wondered if certain things about it made it unlikely (or less likely) to be picked up in the traditional way. So I thought I’d self publish. After spending lots of time learning and thinking about that end of things, I decided I wanted to focus more on erotica and I knew I couldn’t possibly devote the time and energy to publishing and marketing that first novel while diving into my next project head-first. So I said this is it, I really have to put this novel aside and leave it alone. So I did.
Or… I tried. I still had the novel out with a couple beta readers when I made the decision, and the feedback I received from them (both agented/published and unagented writers) was just so darn nice! And encouraging! I’m still flattered and almost embarrassed at the praise and encouragement of “get this out there!” coming from my friends. Which is why I’m still dabbling with queries and contests for it. I’m not pushing it, and there’s no deadline or real sense of urgency with it this time (which is kind of nice) but when I see an opportunity to get it out there, I’m taking it.
So I guess you could say I can’t give up, even when I try my darnedest!
6. What books (if any) have influenced you over the years?
Eek! This is where I look like the illiterate writer, right? Or the overly confident newbie? It isn’t that I don’t read (though I haven’t as much recently as I would like to) or that I haven’t liked anything I’ve read. But I don’t think I’d go so far as to say any of them really influenced me in either writing or life. People influence me. Books… not so much. Gosh, that sounds bad, doesn’t it? *blush* Especially since I hope my words as a writer will have some sort of effect on people. If no one is influenced by what I write, that’s okay. I just want them to enjoy it.
That said (and now that I’ve had some more time to mull it over as I wrote that other stuff) I think maybe I have been influenced by Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series. It isn’t similar to anything I write, other than including some really hot sex. I write realistic, mainstream stuff, not urban fantasy with vampires and lycanthropes and necromancers. But I read several of the later books in the series a while ago and was impressed with the way she wove sex into the plot in ways that were exciting and yet relevant, titillating and yet thoughtful. That’s something I hope to achieve as well, and something I wish was present in more fiction.
7. Speaking of sex, what is it about erotica that influences you to write in this genre? And how is it different from your Fiction writing?
Sex is fun. Whether you’re having it or reading about characters having it, there’s an inherent – ahem – pleasurability about it. I think I just made up a word. Anyway, there’s also a lot of emotion and depth surrounding sex. Sex is practically its own form of communication. If you stop and think about how much (usually) non-verbal communication has to take place for two people to successfully engage in sex, it’s pretty impressive. Holy crap I’m having an epiphany even as I write this.
Sex = dialogue.
If anyone’s ever heard me talk about how I write dialogue and what I think makes good dialogue, they’ve heard me say that dialogue is more than just the words that are said. It’s also the words that aren’t said, the intent behind the words, and how the characters understand (or misunderstand) what’s being said. People don’t always mean what they say or say what they mean. It’s exactly the same thing with the emotional and psychological aspects of sex in fiction. There is so much to be communicated in the kisses and gentle touches, the way a hand grips her hair with more force than expected, the way an otherwise alpha male might soften in his mannerisms… Sex in fiction is not just about the physical act and achieving orgasm. It’s about what is communicated and what isn’t, who finishes or doesn’t (and maybe why), how other issues are worked through using sex, how characters understand and misunderstand each others unspoken messages and intentions in bed.
As for how it’s different than my other fiction writing? It isn’t. Except maybe being even more diligent about word choice to avoid any unfortunate euphemisms. 😉 Other than that, I think erotica should be just as rich, complex, emotionally satisfying, interesting, and relevant as any other type of fiction.
8. What does your family think of your writing?
Dad: When do I get to read some of your writing?
Hubby: When are you getting a six-figure deal?
Everyone else is sort of indifferent, which is fine by me. A lot of them do know I write erotica (dad doesn’t haha!) but it isn’t something that comes up in a lot of conversation.
9. As a reader, what are some things that attract you to a story?
I love emotional complexity. Relationships intrigue me. I also love a little bit of snark or quirky humor. It’s all about attitude
10. What advice would you give to a new author?
Never stop learning. Just as being an observer in life can give you great insight to use in your writing, being observant as a writer – to industry news and developments, the successful practices of those around you, how your favorite writers sculpt language, etc. – is always beneficial. There is always something to be learned. If you don’t think there is, chances are you can re -learn something by reading your favorite authors and books over again. Something to inspire and remind you why you love the written word.
Now here are 5 For Fun!
1. If you could be any breed of dog, what would it be?
Dachshund, because mine is so darn cute!
2. Is there one food/beverage that you can’t live without?
I don’t know about “can’t live without”… but I really really love mojitos.
3. Bungee jumping: exhilarating hobby or death wish?
Exhilarating hobby… for someone else!
4. What is your favourite movie?
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory! I love Gene Wilder in that movie.
5. Question from Sithboy; If you were a Jedi, what colour would your lightsabre be; green, blue, yellow, red, or purple?
Um… green! Or red. Green. I have a hard time deciding between those two colors of anything. Probably green, though. [Green is a good colour; Red means you’re a Sith. – Darke]
If you would like to know more about J. Lea Lopez or her work, please click the links below.
Erotic short story “The Reluctant Exhibitionist” (NSFW) http://www.oystersandchocolate.com/Stories/2016/TheReluctantExhibitionist.aspx
J. Lea can also be found at the following pages: