HR: If I didn’t get you at least a little excited about what I write then I’m not doing my job very well. *wicked evil grin*
RLM: Hee! Hee! Anyway, I’m interested to know what drew you to write erotic romances? And even more eager to know why you focus on polyamorous relationships? Where does that come from?
HR: As a reader, the romances I enjoyed most were those where the love scenes didn’t fade to black, where the author communicated not just the romance but also the heat and passion between the lovers. That’s the heart of erotic romance: all the elements of traditional romances, with the bedroom door left wide open, from the first tingle of arousal to the last shaky sigh of satisfaction.
Although I came across many good books, I was dissatisfied with the lack of heroines I could identify with, and then I read Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon. The heroine was plus-sized, just like me, and that touched my heart. I wanted more books featuring lush heroines but at the time that was the only one I could find. I decided I could sit around whining about it, or I could try my hand at crafting a story of my own. I took that chance and it turned into a long-running series featuring voluptuous heroines and the men who love them.
My knowledge of multiples in relationships was limited mostly to the occasional controversy that made it onto the evening news, until one day I happened upon Colter’s Woman, written by Maya Banks. Holy Mackerel! One woman, and the three men who protected her, met her needs, and shared her heart and her bed. It was the ultimate fantasy—at least to me! What really grabbed me about the story was that the men were focused on her without sacrificing any of their alpha-hotness.
I looked for other ménages with only limited success. Ménage wasn’t necessarily difficult to find but at the time it was mostly erotica, which lacks the romantic element I craved. This is where I learned the major difference between erotica and erotic romance, and I found my niche in erotic romance. I wanted to hold up a mirror for my readers so they could see themselves in my stories. I wrote a love story featuring a voluptuous heroine whose shoes readers would feel comfortable stepping into, and then wrote her more than one hero to fall in love with. That’s how Divine Grace was born in 2010.
RLM: What research into polyamorous relationships have you done/do you conduct for your books?
HR: The Divine Creek Ranch Collection is mostly M/F/M and M/F/M/M ménage, so the rules and research for erotic scenes are essentially the same as for a traditional M/F romance where only one woman (F) and one man (M) are involved. In my particular imprint, anal sex and anal play are also included, as well as the double penetrations scenes, with the woman in the center of all the groupings. The majority of the time I spend in research, besides verifying basic facts about professions, medical issues, and logistics, is spent in the development of believable characters. I want to know everything about them, what motivates them, and what makes them act as they do.
RLM: What drew you to write in general? What age were you when you decided this was the career for you?
HR: I’ve been writing stories since I was a little girl. My first attempt was a paranormal story set in a cemetery, which my mother proudly saved for me. I still have it. I wrote my first erotic romance novel as a teenager but unfortunately I was so embarrassed by the fledgling attempt that I later threw it away. I regret that choice today. As for the ménage aspect of my stories, my first crush in elementary school was on twin boys, so I probably should’ve seen that one coming. The urge to write a full length erotic romance novel came in 2008, at the age of 43. By that point I’d been telling myself and others for decades that I had a book inside me, and it was time to get the thing out of me. That single book turned into a series with 20+ full length and epic length erotic romances in five years.
RLM: What, in your opinion, are the key elements to writing a believable romance?
HR: Communicating emotion and sensory experiences between relatable characters in such a way that readers lose themselves in the story is vital for writing a “believable” story that allows readers to suspend their disbelief. This requires knowing the character extremely well. Without emotional depth and a heart connection between the characters, all I’m doing is describing moving body parts. That’s the major difference between erotica and erotic romance. Yes, erotica can have romance but the point of erotica is to get to the heat quickly with little fanfare. The hookup is the goal with little or no lasting connection beyond. In erotic romance, if you lifted the sexual content from my novels, there’s still a well-developed story with a happily-ever-after resolution that stands on its own.
RLM: Why do you think romance is, and has always been, such a popular genre?
HR: The real world is a cruel place and relationships are hard. Crossing paths with the person who is perfect for us is a crapshoot at best. Romance novels provide an escape and give a birds-eye view of what it could look like. Certain discontented individuals think romance novels elevate women’s standards for the men in their lives, as if that’s a bad thing. I wish more women would raise their standards for the behavior they will tolerate from men. But conversely, women also need to believe in the men in their lives and show them that they can be heroes. Because I can’t hook up perfect couples one at a time (as much as I’d like to), I write fantasies for them to enjoy, either with the man they love, or until they find the man they will love.
RLM: Describe your daily writing practice.
HR: LOL, you asked that as if you were assuming I have a routine or something. I’m a stay-at-home mom as well as a published author, so I fit writing in around my life. Being in a creative field and working from home makes that much easier. I do my best to write and spend time online interacting with readers every day. Because I generally try to release one book per quarter, I am nearly always in a state of either writing a book, preparing a book to submit, editing a book, or promoting a newly released book, or any combination of the above. Being really flexible about my hours and when I sleep makes this possible. Depending on what needs to be done—and how fast—I might be up early at 4:00 a.m. writing, or it may mean I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. Luckily for me, I’m married to a wonderful man who understands. He lets me do what I need to do but also knows when to intervene.
RLM: You’re currently working on Lumberjack Weekend. Have you run into any difficulties with the story?
HR: Yes, Lumberjack Weekend is in the works now. The only difficulty I’m having with it is finding the time to work on it. During the holidays, in between spending time with my family and building a new house, I had final edits and online promo to handle for my latest book, Absentminded Angel, which released the week before Christmas.
Switching gears and going back and forth between books, and characters, is difficult because I invest a lot of energy to get inside their personas. Going there emotionally is what makes the difference in my stories but it’s also mentally and emotionally taxing and I need time in between to regroup.
Lumberjack Weekend is set in a hedonistic fantasy-fulfillment-oriented weekend but tells the story of three relatively well-developed characters from Divine. I relished the opportunity to take them into a setting where anything could happen, and will happen, if their good friend and resident Dominant has anything to say about it.
RLM: Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? If so, what is it? If not, what subject do you think has been mishandled by other writers and how do you think you would handle it?
HR: I want to tread carefully when answering this question because there are all kinds of books, authors, and readers, who all have differing ideas about what makes a good romance novel.
My number one pet peeve is cheating heroes. For me, there is no quicker way to kill my interest in a hero than to portray him having sex with another woman once he meets his heroine. It doesn’t matter to me whether they break up and get back together again over the course of the story. Once they meet, she is it. A woman never forgets how painful it is to discover she’s been cheated on. Why chance resurrecting that feeling in a reader by creating a male character that she bonds with and then allow him to cheat on the woman who was meant for him? That is not romantic, and it’s not something I would ever write.
There are some pretty common no-nos that I won’t touch, such as incest, pedophilia, rape, bodily function play, necrophilia, and adultery.
It’s my job to know what my readers want in a story, and to give it to them. While I may change things up to keep stories fresh and exciting, there are certain elements I won’t stray from, such as writing happily-ever-afters, creating committed relationships that overcome the odds in the story and last.
RLM: Where do you see your career heading five years into the future?
HR: The Divine Creek Ranch Collection is a long running series, and I’ve promised readers I’ll keep writing new books for it in the future. I know there are still plenty of stories to tell.
I have always been open to the possibility of writing an additional series or two. Whether those are ménages or not depends on future trends and what readers want.
I write what I enjoy reading so I anticipate that I’ll still be writing erotic romances featuring luscious, curvy heroines.
Trends may come and go in the future but readers can expect that I’ll continue writing what they love to read, and that I’ll keep spending time online with them on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog, the Divine Tease.