Handbags, Books...Whatever

Handbags, Books...Whatever (http://www.vickibatman.blogspot.com) is the website of Vicki Batman, sassy writer of sexy and funny fiction. Handbag lover. Avid Jazzerciser. Mah jong player. Yoga practioner. Movie fan. Book devourer. Choc-aholic. Best Mom ever. And adores Handsome.



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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Author Interview: Monica Burns.


Monica Burns wrote her first romance story at age nine and the pseudonym she selected is the one she uses today. She is an award winning author, including RWA's Golden Heart in 2005. Her book Obsession is considered a top notch romance by Romance Reader at Heart. Romantic Times declared Mirage to be their Top Pick, garnering 4.5 stars.

Hi, Monica. Welcome to my blog and thanks for maintaining our email friendship for over two years.

Why don't you tell us about yourself? Why begin writing stories at age nine? How did you get from that little girl writer to one of writing erotica?

Who is your favorite author and why? What inspires you?

36 comments:

Monica Burns said...

Hi Vicki,

Thanks for having me as a guest on your blog. I LOVE answering questions. If you'll recall I have a habit of pontificating. *grin*

Telling everyone about myself would require a biography, and I really hate boring people. Although maybe one day I'll write an expose worthy of even the most infamous of people.

I think perhaps the best way to describe me is that I’m a conundrum. I am a contradiction in terms simply for the fact that I am human. I have a tendency to speak out when I shouldn’t, and I am far too sensitive for sensibility’s sake. I could blame my “open mouth insert foot” abilities on my bipolarism, but that’s not accountability IMHO. In truth, its merely me not using “the good brains God gave you” as my beloved grandmother always pointed out to me. I can be quite self-deprecating so keep that in mind as you read; because poking fun at myself is something I have learned to excel in doing.

So I’ll continue with the questions in the next post.

Monica Burns said...

On to the next question…Why start writing at the age of nine? That’s a simple, although complex, answer. I believed in love everlasting. I wanted that prince on white charger to come and save me from my misery. As a child I was quite miserable. Not because I didn’t have a good life, but if I every use bipolarism as a crux it would be here. Simply because if one doesn’t recognize the enemy, one cannot fit the enemy.

In my naiveté and ignorance of my bipolarism, I believed that if I were whisked away by my sweet prince I would be happy. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. But it didn’t stop me from dreaming and writing deliciously hysterical, awkward romance stories of girls who met their handsome prince and rode off into the sunset. And I mean these stories were so bad they wouldn’t be fit for lining a bird cage if I’d even had a bird. LOL But it was fun telling stories. It took me to a place where I could hide. I didn’t have to be me or to live my own life. It was an escape, and I think writing will always be an escape for me. That makes me quite fortunate. Most people don’t have that kind of refuge from the everyday strain of living. That I do makes me believe I’m a very fortunate person indeed.

Monica Burns said...

How did you get from that little girl writer to one of writing erotica? Ahh, therein lies a most painful tale. One that still has the power to twist my stomach at times or break my heart or terrorize me as a mother with a two daughters. But first, I’d like to clarify one thing. It’s minor really, but it’s important to me. I write erotic romance versus erotica. Erotic romance always always has a happily ever after ending. Erotica does not necessarily have a happy ending. Nuff said on that topic.

So, how did I mature as a writer? I wrote romance off and on for almost thirty years before I finally settled down with the determination to publish. When I made that conscious decision I was writing the passion behind the doors romance. Then I met a couple of writers who taught me how to stretch myself when it came to sex and romance, but it was still difficult for me.

I wasn’t as comfortable writing about sex as some people, but then when one has their illusions destroyed at 19 when I was raped, (http://www.monicaburns.com/ArticlesHealing.htm) it can make it hard to dig deep where all the emotion is. Particularly when one has gotten extremely adept at concealing and burying those emotions. And we all know a writer needs emotions to have fully developed characters.

But word by word, I began to write romance that was sexy and steamy. It wasn’t easy, particularly when I had family members say, “I don’t understand, how you can write that stuff.” And worse, when I was asking myself similar questions. I mean how could I? I was damaged goods, didn’t writing sex simply perpetuate the idea that “I’d asked for it.”

But “that stuff” as so many people have a fondness for calling romance had a profound effect on me. I found that writing erotic romance served as a healing touch to my dark psyche. It gave me back a part of myself, because I had the choice to stop writing something if it made me uncomfortable. I could walk away from a WIP if it got to be too much, and I developed the power to change myself and how I viewed myself. It’s an ongoing battle, the healing process, but I’m damned proud of my work. But I’m even more proud of myself for having fought against the stranglehold that one bleak night had over me for so long. I’ve come a long way from that innocent, naïve girl, and while I wish her illusions hadn’t been crushed so brutally, I’m not sure I would be able to write the way I do. So I must embrace my dark side as well as my light. Most writers are like that I think.

Monica Burns said...

This question always, always throws me into such a quandary. How is one to pick from Stephen King, Judith McNaught, Baroness Ocrzy, Charles Dickens, Alexandre Dumas, Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe and dozens of others.

I really can't choose, although I can say that my favorite story of all time is A Tale of Two Cities. It was a required read in high school, and positively DID NOT want to read another bloody classic. Reading the first chapter was due on Monday morning. Sunday night at 8pm or 9pm I sat in bed to muddle through the first chapter. I finished the book after midnight.

It is the one book, short of the Scarlet Pimpernel that has stuck with me for years. I can vividly recall scenes from the book as clear as if I'd read it yesterday (not the dialogue mind you, but the events).

Monica Burns said...

Inspiration is something that I get from watching movies, hearing the lyric of a certain song, reading a book outside the genre.

It's something that I get from all the times when I sat under my grandmother's large oak tree outside her window on a hot summer day listening to Puccini and other Italian operas float out through her bedroom window.

Memories, I think, are my biggest inspiration. Of course the thought of money and fame are excellent inspirational incentives. LOL

Vicki Batman said...

Monica, thanks for explaining the difference between erotic romance and erotica. I thinked the genres have been lumped together. Obviously, I did and I appreciate the clarification.

You've also talked on your blog about the bipolar and rape topics. This is very courageous. I truly appreciate your honesty. Since my husband has had cancer, I've always hoped what we have gone through can somehow be of benefit to others. From your willingness to open up to these areas, that is what I get from you. Thank you.

Must be something magical about age nine. I had an assignment to write a poem and continued to write until age -- we won't go to that. LOL. But suffice it to say a long time. I remember always thinking of a new poem.

Onward with our interview.

Talk about your books. What is the appeal of writing in your particular genre?

What kind of writing turns you off? What stops you from writing?

How have you shocked your readers?

Kara Lennox said...

Monica, thanks so much for sharing, and Vicki, thanks for doing the interview. I admire anyone who can write erotic romance. Writing love scenes is very difficult for me, though I get through them somehow!

Vicki Batman said...

Thanks, Karen, for stopping by. And someday we'll have to have an interview with you!

Nancy said...

Monica, I second Vicki. Thank you for sharing these issues/ events that helped shape you as a writer. And for sharing that the writing has been a boon in your healing!

Light,
Nancy

Vicki Batman said...

Thank you, Nancy, for stopping by. You are the best. And again, Congratulations on the success of La Vida Vampire.

Monica Burns said...

Vicki,

It is easy for readers to lump erotic romance/erotica together because the industry does it all the time. So I don’t blame readers mistaking the two, I just like to point out the differences if I have an opportunity to do so. *grin*

As for being courageous, I’ve never seen myself that way, but thank you for the compliment. I agree that sharing one’s experiences is hopefully of benefit to others. After I posted my experience in the fall of last year, I had many private emails, far too many, from women who shared their own traumas with. Traumas which were far more horrifying than my own terrible experience. It was humbling to receive emails from women who opened up to me with such long, horrific experiences of sexual abuse and domestic violence. It made me realize what I’ve overcome was far less difficult than what others have done. For the one in six who’ve suffered sexual abuse, it’s an ongoing fight to heal.

Monica Burns said...

Kara,

Writing love scenes are some of the hardest scenes I write in a book. I struggle with trying to ensure that what I’m writing isn’t slot A to slot B, that its sensual, that its romantic, that it’s sexy, that it’s hot, that it’s different. Most of that relates to the emotions and to characterization.

It’s the toughest type of scene to write because you want the reader to be caught up in the moment without feeling like, oh lord, here’s another sex scene, or oh I read this in her last book or well I read a similar scene in Author A’s book two years ago. There’s the need to be different all while trying to ensure that you cover all the other points.

Sometimes the scene is easy, I get caught up in the moment and it comes easily. Other times I just have to leave it. In my most recent work Dangerous, from Samhain, I wrote a pivotal sex scene from two points of view. Samhain has specific guidelines about more than X number of POV switches in a scene.

This particular scene was a long one (I think it’s around 8 or more pages), and I had to keep the scene in the heroine’s POV even though the hero had a great deal to lose. That has to be the toughest love scene I’ve ever rewritten. To get across the hero’s need to control his internal feelings from the heroine’s POV wasn’t easy. I think I succeeded, and my editor was pleased with it. Characterization is the key to erotic romance, which is something I struggle with constantly as I'm more of a plot-driven writer. But I am learning. *grin*

Monica Burns said...

Nancy, I’m glad my words resonated with you. When I came forth with my story, I was terrified. I was certain people would judge me, and I still feel that way when the topic comes up. That’s part of the stigma of rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence. The survivor thinks it’s their fault and society over the years has perpetuated that thinking.

Things are changing about that now, and I hope it continues to change. Another tough thing for survivors to do is to keep saying their survivors of the trauma, not victims. A victim is still trapped by the hole their abuser put them in, and that’s a terribly hard hole to drag oneself out of. I still call myself a victim from time to time, but I immediately remind myself that I’m not, I’m a survivor. A survivor is someone who has crawled out of the hole, but we’re always standing on the rim, ready to fall back into that hole.

Writing for me has helped me put a little distance between me and that rim. It’s always helped my relationship with my husband. I’m better able to look as sex as something that’s natural, not unclean. I can celebrate sex in my discussions with other women. But then I fall back. As I said in my first post, I’m a conundrum.

Monica Burns said...

Vickie,

I admire people who can write poetry. It means they understand metaphors and symbology better than me. I took a poetry writing class and poetry lit class in college. I didn’t do so well, no matter how hard I tried! LOL
On to the questions du jour!

Monica Burns said...

Talk About your Books…..Up until the recent proposal that my agent just submitted to NY, all of my work has been historical erotic romance. Dangerous, my latest release with Samhain, is my first full-length novel that’s a paranormal. Both Dangerous and Mirage are reflections of my personal passions and fascination with Egypt and the paranormal.

My other published works are straight-forward historical erotic romance with the exception of one novella where the ghost was a minor character in relationship to the actual story.

My current proposal though is an urban fantasy, which I can’t expand on too much other than it’s a blend of my love of historicals, my love of things paranormal and my love of archeology. Well that and hot Italians! LOL My agent is very excited about it, and I’m trying to keep my hopes corralled so as not to see them dashed against that glass ceiling so many writers hit when it comes to NY.

Monica Burns said...

What is the appeal of writing in your particular genre?

Historical romance has been my passion since I picked up my first Barbara Cartland book and then later Jane Aiken Hodge and Victoria Holt. I adore history, and it was a natural segueway for me to write it.

I love feeling pretty, even though I’ve never felt pretty (a natural occurrence given the past), and reading about women in long flowing gowns and gentlemen in fine dress holds such an appeal to me. Even though I’m WELL AWARE that things in the past were far from the idyllic manner in which I present them in my works. Chamber pots, diseases, polluted drinking water, the stench of the city streets, etc. Not pleasant attributes of the past.

Vicki Batman said...

Let's talk about your interest in archeology and how did that transfer into writing erotic historical romances.

Monica Burns said...

What kind of writing turns you off?

I’ve only read a few books that completely turned me off. Some erotica can read like straight porn, but I truly believe that’s because the writer didn’t understand characterization.

That’s what separates erotica from porn. Erotica that’s well done doesn’t need a HEA, but if the characters don’t grow then it turns me off and I won’t pick up the author again.

I don’t read too much erotica, primarily because it’s hard to know what writer will give me the characterization I want. I do know that Portia daCosta, Megan Hart and Kate Pearce write what many people believe to be erotica.

I do know that it takes a great opening for me to get into a book now days. I can read vampires, shapeshifters, lords and ladies, nerds, contemps, whatever, but if I don’t get past the first 50 pages without falling asleep (literally) then I know the book hasn’t captured my imagination.

I always give the book more time if I fall asleep, simply because one never knows if it’s because I was really tired or just bored. *grin*

Monica Burns said...

What stops me from writing?

Getting stuck on a plot point. I completed a book a year ago that my agent didn’t care for. She said the first 75 pages just dragged along (she was right) So I delved into something different. Now I want to go back and revised the book, but it’s an exotic setting, and I’m limited as to how I can get the H/H together without completely rewriting the book. So I’ve been brainstorming for the past two weeks with NO answers in sight. It’s frustrating.

Another slam into the wall type of issue is when I’m trying to come up with something different to break into NY. It takes more than just the right editor at the right time, it takes the right property, and the right property HAS to be different.

Then there’s the waiting for an answer on a property that’s out for review by editors. It’s hard to put that out of my mind and move on. I’ve gotten better at it though.

Vicki Batman said...

I always give a book a chance and finish it which if its a really bad book, then hopefully, I learned something from it.

On the other hand, I read primarily before going to bed and naturally fall asleep which has nothing to do with the book being bad or not. I'm just sleepy!

Monica Burns said...

How have you shocked your readers?

Hmmm, I don’t think I have. Perhaps they might be shocked by my openness about my past, but the response there was positive, except for one comment. At least no one has written to me at being shocked by something I’ve written. However, they might be shocked with my new series, primarily because it’s a big departure for me from my current historicals. BUT, if I do it well, I’m hoping my readers will follow because in my mind if you write it well, they will come.

These have all been great questions, Vickie. I hope I’m not boring everyone with my detailed answers. I did say that I tend to pontificate! LOL

Vicki Batman said...

Do you have humor in your stories?

How do you get your ideas?

What is your writing day like?

Vicki Batman said...

Thanks for the compliment! I like having chats and no, you aren't boring. You are interesting.

Monica Burns said...

Do you have humor in your stories?

I think I have some humor. Not anything that has people laughing until they’ve tears streaming down their cheeks. But I hope there are moments when readers laugh out loud over something one of my characters says or when one of them does something amusing.



How do you get your ideas?

Sometimes I’ll watch a movie or read a book that has me going, I would have done this differently. I’ll also twist the idea so that it’s different from the original image I envisioned while watching a movie or reading a book.

Then there will be real life events that I witness or read about it, and I’ll start thinking what if questions. Not all of them lead anywhere, but sometimes I get some good nuggets. I write them down in what I call my story idea file. Then when I need inspiration, I’ll visit that file and think about more What if questions.

Monica Burns said...

What is your writing day like?

Since I work a day job, my writing day is divided. I write one-hour at lunch and then when I get home I do exercise, have dinner with the family then head to my office for emails, marketing and other obligations. Then I focus on writing for the last two to three hours of the evening. Typically I write between 9pm and 12:30am. That’s when I’m working on a current book.

I’ve been busy promoting Dangerous for the past month, so I’m about to get back into the swing of things here in the next few days. Regardless of whether I write much at night. My daily writing at lunch is always constant.

The weekends are spent in my office most of the day. I do break for family things, but I’m selective about what I do with my girls and the DH. Writing is a business for me, and when you’re working two jobs, there are sacrifices. I’m fortunate enough to have a family that supports me in my career transition. At least I’m working to make it a transition. LOL

Monica Burns said...

I always give a book a chance and finish it which if its a really bad book, then hopefully, I learned something from it.

This is an excellent way to look at it. I wish I had the time to finish books that move a little slow for me.

The books I put down aren't because they're badly written, they just didn't suck me in to the point that I couldn't put the book down. Judith McNaught's Kingdom of Dreams is a good example of that type of book for me. I just reread it a month ago, and it sucked me in until I couldn't put it down. Passion by Lisa Valdez is another book that just pulled me in until I had to finish it.

Time is such a premium to me, which is why I wind up having to put some books down. I remember when I could devour books like mad, five to ten a week and STILL have a life. LOL Now days, I'm lucky if I get a page or two read here and there. I've got books in all three bathrooms, the living room (for waiting on the kids), the kitchen because I can read while waiting on dinner and the car for reading when we travel.

If I could live on just two hours of sleep a day, I think I'd be able to actually finish a book in one sitting! LOL

But you're absolutely correct. There's something to learn from any book.

Gail said...

Thanks Monica for sharing so much of yourself. I love your books and I can't wait for the next one. I think that you've acheived your goal of giving us, the readers a solid romance that isn't repeated over and over. I have a stack of to be read books, but I may be re-reading Dangerous and Mirage before my pile receeds:-)

Vicki Batman said...

Thanks, Gail, for stopping by. Obviously, you're a big Monica fan.

Vicki Batman said...

To wind up our interview with Monica, I have a few interesting questions to share, ones I always ask.

What does your family think of you the author?

Fill in this blank: Your ideal fictional hero would think you gorgeous if you ............

What do you think about cake?

Monica Burns said...

Gail, Thank you so much for your kind words. There’s nothing a writer loves more than to hear a reader express how much they enjoy the writer’s work. And to hear someone say they’re going back to reread two of my books is an even bigger compliment and treat for me!! Thank you!

Monica Burns said...

Let's talk about your interest in archeology and how did that transfer into writing erotic historical romances.

I’m not sure which of these came first actually. I’ve always been a HUGE Egyptology fan. Growing up my grandmother (who truly was my first and best teacher ever!!) had all these books on the area, since it interested her too.

I’d read and ask questions. We didn’t have much in the way of long discussions, because she’d make me go research the answers in the other books she had. She taught me how to research and that has been an incredible source of joy and pleasure for me.

They say write what you know, and I knew enough about Egypt that I wanted to use it as a setting. I hope to do the same eventually for Ancient Rome and Italy, because it’s an interest and because I’m half Italian.

Monica Burns said...

What does your family think of you the author?


One of my sisters is very supportive, another sister…well lets just say she’s not impressed with my choice of writing, and I’m not really sure what my brother thinks.

My husband just wants me to be happy and he doesn’t care what I write.

My girls have always been my biggest supporters and they like to help out with my marketing things. Stuffing envelopes, folding brochures, etc. They think it’s cool. *grin*

And I have a nephew in college who thinks it TOTALLY cool that his aunt is an author. He wants to be a film director, and we’ve talked about partnering in about ten years on a couple of ideas. I think THAT would be awesome!!

So it's really a mixed bag, little to no support to big time support. Everyone has differing opinions, which is fine, because I'm not writing for them, I'm writing for me and my readers. Their approval isn't critical to me, although it would be nice. *smile*

Monica Burns said...

What do you think about cake?

Well, I’m not a huge lover of sweets (I know! *gasp*). However there is this one cake that I love. Sam’s Club (a warehouse store) has this to-die-for Double Fudge cake that is so rich and decadent that I can’t let the DH bring it into the house. I wind up devouring the cake in about two days all by my self. I’m such a glutton when I see it. I eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner with big talk glasses of milk.

The only other kind of cake I adore is something called Butter Scrumptious cake. It’s a recipe I got from my mother and it’s this light yellow cake with a butter/brown sugar topping that just melts in your mouth!

Monica Burns said...

Fill in this blank: Your ideal fictional hero would think you gorgeous if you ............

Ok I saved this for last, because I’ve NO real idea how to answer! LOL However, after giving it considerable thought, I think my ideal fictional hero would think me gorgeous whether I was caught in a thunder storm and my bad hair day actually looked good! OR if I was dressed like royalty and descending down a flight of stairs at a grand ball. IOWs, he’d find me gorgeous no matter what the setting because all he’d see would be the woman he loved. He see the beauty within, not what was on the outside.*smile*

Vicki Batman said...

Thank you, Monica, for the fantastic interview. I hope you will post the name of your books and where they can be purchased.

As always, I am humbled by those who choose to blog with me. Thank you.

Next up is Jeffery McClanahan who writes under that name and as part of Dixie Cash on May 4-6.

Monica Burns said...

Thanks for having me Vicki, and I hope we'll see each other in San Fran in July.

My books can be purchased at New Concepts Publishing in eBook or print format

http://www.newconceptspublishing.com/monicaburns.htm

Or at Samhain Publishing

http://samhainpublishing.com/authors/monica-burns

Monica

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