HOW TO LOVE A BLUE DEMON–An Interview with Sherrod Story
This year, I had the privilege of reading an early draft of HOW TO LOVE A BLUE DEMON by Sherrod Story, and I loved, loved, loved it. But of course I couldn’t review it because the draft I read wasn’t the draft readers would ultimately read. So we decided to do an interview instead. And let me tell you, I so enjoyed doing this interview with Sherrod.
So much so that if there are any authors reading this, who would like to get interviewed by me, drop me a line on Facebook or in my gmail account. One requirement tho: I must have reviewed at least one of your books on my site.
But back to the wonderful and amazing, Sherrod Story, whose THE HICK & THE HIPPIE I also loved (gave it an A-). Let’s dig in!
TT: So…a blue demon falls in love with a rock star from a faraway planet. You HAVE to tell us how you came up with that premise.
SS: Sadly, I have no idea. I knew I wanted to write about a rock star; characters always appear to me before story, and I knew she was a bad ass who could play the guitar and was just fabulously talented. I started thinking about album titles, which somehow led me into outer space – I may have been listening to Badu at the time – and wa la, How to Love a Blue Demon. It’s never a straight path with me. *laughs*
SS: It’s funny I never thought of the book as sci-fi. I was thinking, paranormal. The only thing I know about sci-fi is Octavia Butler, and I’ve not yet managed to read one of her books. LOL! [TT dropping in with a PSA: Sherrod, you need to go see about KINDRED and DAWN!!!] And I try not to think about the market. Of course, I’m aware of industry trends, and I keep up with what the publishing world is doing – or trying to do – but I’m very easily swayed by what books are hot right now. So, I try to limit that kind of, I don’t know, influence.
Like, thanks to Fifty Shades of Gray everyone’s writing in first person, and it’s all about virgins, billionaires and playrooms. All of which is great. I’m experimenting with first person – and finding it a challenge – but that’s different from trying to mimic what made someone else a hit. If you allow yourself to be influenced that way you end up forgetting what you want to write about. You lose that whole endless possibility and spontaneous inspiration type hype. Also, for me, trying to replicate someone else’s success doesn’t work. It’s just a poor imitation in the end, you know? ‘Cuz it’s not yours. You can try too hard to be both different or the same.
They say there are no new ideas under the sun, so you gotta stand out via the execution. How you present ideas, how you spin dialogue, how you build worlds, how strong an impression your characters make – that’s what makes you compelling these days.
TT: Your sex scenes are amazing. Engaging, fun, and well, really damn sexy. Do you have any advice for crafting a super-hot sex scene?
SS: Thank you! *laughs* I seriously have to be in the mood to write sex scenes. Music helps. Sometimes hearing a song will spark something in my mind associated with my characters and some kinky business they may get into. Then I’ll hustle to capture whatever it is before I forget.
But anything can be inspiring. A picture of a man, clothed or unclothed, an expression, a phrase, some new tidbit of information, anything. As far as advice for crafting a super hot scene. Hmmm. I guess I’d say avoid repetition – sexual position, descriptors or commentary on body parts, that sort of thing – and think about why you’re writing that sex. Are you establishing intimacy for the first time? Are you stitching up a fight and moving the story along? Is this how the characters communicate best? Is that a problem?
A lot of sex finds its way into my work, but I don’t think it’s gratuitous. It means something, whether it’s the source of a problem or the solution for one. In How to Love a Blue Demon there’s a sex scene where Cass asks Eyoen to show her something kinky from his star/home. He shows her a toy and demonstrates its use, but ultimately the point of that scene isn’t being titillated by the exotic, it’s to never underestimate the power of a good mind fuck. In that instance the possibility of something more or something different is what’s sexy.
TT: Your dialogue is so yummy. I mean, you can really hear the characters. I think you have the best dialogue going in IR right now. So please tell us all your secrets for crafting really rich, authentic dialogue.
SS: *Laughs* Again, thank you. That is a fabulous compliment. Um. *birds are chirping because writer ironically has no pithy dialogue* Okay. I don’t really have a secret per se… *scratches head.* But I do read aloud. I “talk” to my characters all the time. Sometimes I talk as them, which isn’t a problem since I’m usually alone when it happens.
That’s what makes dialogue ring true, when you can actually picture the character and can hear certain things come out of their mouths, in their voices, in their rhythm. You have to know the person in and out, how they’d react in certain situations, whether or not they use slang and why or why not. How will their bodies move? Is it about shoulders and hand gestures, eye rolls and tight jaw lines? Then you have to make it work on the page. That’s where back story comes in handy. Even if you don’t put all of that on the page, you should know your characters history, incidents that shaped who they are and how they behave and interact with others.
I also want my characters to be distinct from each other, and speech is a great tool with which to make that happen. But I wrestle constantly with slang and how to replicate sounds in words that someone will have to read, not hear. I usually take out way more than I leave in.
TT: Can you tell us about what you’re working on next?
SS: Yikes. Um. I can’t make up my mind. I’ve got some bits and pieces on another paranormal brewing. I’m kicking around story lines for a sequel to my YA title, The Best Bite—though the way my thoughts are going I think the next one may graduate to the New Adult designation. But I’ve also got a few contemporary story lines percolating in my brain. I have a serious case of ADD right now, which is not good. *laughs*
TT: What are your top 5 books of 2013 so far?
SS: Tough one. I read what catches my eye, not necessarily what came out this year. But I can point to Sylvia Day’s Crossfire series. The last one came out this year, and I adore Gideon Cross. I love Lynda Chance, she released Josh and Hannah this year. I really enjoyed Real by Katy Evans. The hero was a mess, but the way he treated the heroine? I had perpetual awwww face reading that one. I also discovered Pepper Pace. She’s not as polished, but man can she carry you through a story. Beast is a favorite. I also like Kristen Proby. I love to read about families of characters, and she’s created a fabulous group of well-heeled hunks that I enjoy reading as they flounder about on the end of cupid’s arrow.
TT: What music do you listen to in order to get your imagination going?
SS: R&B for sure. Usher, Miguel, Jill Scott, Fantasia, Justin Timberlake. I like old school too. Donny Hathaway, Aretha, early Mariah Carey.
TT: You have a day job. Any advice for day job/writing job balance?
SS: There’s no one magic formula. You just have to make it happen. Literally, by any means necessary. Carve out the time, and be as consistent and devoted about your writing as you are about your moneymaker. That’s the only way to eventually flip the script, I think. It’s hard tho. Really hard. Keep your foundation solid for sure. If I don’t sleep enough, exercise enough, keep my house reasonably clean, keep everybody straight on the day job, I will find a billion and one excuses not to write in the evening, easy, and not writing for me makes me feel like shit.
TT: You, like me, decided to come out the gate as an indie author. Can you tell us about your journey and why you made the decision to indie publish?
SS: I actually tried to go the conventional route. I just didn’t get any play. I wasn’t consistent with it either, the whole submit, query, mail in chapters, thing, which didn’t help. A few years before I published I’d actually stepped away from it to focus on my professional writing career. But I never stopped writing completely, and then times changed.
The Internet boomed, and Amazon Kindle kicked off, and I watched. I saw the potential, and then I said, fuck it. I gotta take a shot. Lemme pull up my big girl drawls and see what goes down. It would be silly not to. They make it so easy. After I got that first book up, Fiona Love, I saw okay, cool. I have what it takes to sell some books. It’s all up to me now. This is the way the world’s going, and this way I’m in control. I don’t have to wait on someone else’s timetable, and I don’t have to write on prescription. The boundaries are looser, and I’ve found that I need that. When I can do what I want, I usually end up with a better story.
Plus, *laughs* I write all kinds of stories, and that’s cool. Pre e-book boom it might have meant career suicide for an author to change their usual to explore different sub-genres. Now everybody’s got a little bit of ADD, and we find it perfectly acceptable to enjoy different types of books from the same author.
TT: What’s your favorite thing about being an indie writer?
SS: The freedom. I saw this article recently titled “15 Questions That Will Define Your Book Market.” Maybe I should be concerned about those questions, but I don’t have to be. And that really, really works for me. I can just focus on creating the stories that I like and would want to read, presenting them to my audience, and seeing what pops. Not having to fit neatly into little squares is the truth. Seriously. Just thinking about the freedom I have to write what I want frees my creative juices like French fries satisfy hunger. I still want to write and have paper books with my name on the spine – hopefully one day soon. I still want to write for Harlequin. I grew up reading ‘em, and it would be a serious achievement. But the fact that I can be read without having to adhere to a specific set of guidelines satisfies a little of the bad ass in me.
TT: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten re: making a career out of writing?
SS: I hate to admit it, but I don’t think I’ve really gotten any. Most of my early writing career was brief, horrible conversations where I’d tell someone what I wanted to do, and they’d either look bored, uncaring or start immediately throwing salt on the dream. Like, you can’t do that, and isn’t that hard, and this that and the third. It’s like, I know all that. But I wanna try anyway, okay? There are worse things I could be putting into the world than sexy stories about people falling in love.
Now I don’t usually tell someone about my books unless I see they already have an interest. It saves me being irritated by random negativity. I’ve been my own motivator really. Although I do find the random support you get from your online community a blessing. Sometimes all it takes is a stranger to drop a compliment in your online ear/tank, and you can hop on those words and ride around for days.
TT: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve given about anything?
SS: I always tell my assistant at my day job to play the game, and to play to win. Basically, that means understand your environment. Who are the major players in your particular game? How do they make money? How do they behave? How do they interact with you? What do they like? Can you appropriate any of that and make it your own?
No man or woman is an island. You need other people. But, you also have to be yourself. Be your absolute best self. Cultivate self-awareness. Not self-absorption, but self-awareness. Like, this makes me feel good, this doesn’t, so I’m gonna forgo this and play up that.
Being yourself can be tricky though. Sometimes you can go too far out and lose your objective trying to assert your individuality. For instance, take clothes and being well-dressed. My mom has always had great style. I wanted to rebel against her, so, no Ellen Tracy or Dana Buchman; I went for tie dye and plaid. At first, I didn’t understand that to be well-dressed isn’t a one stop shop. As I write this I’m wearing a houndstooth dress and a cardigan with knee high boots jacked on silver buckles and zippers. Elegant the way my mom wants? Hell no. Jazzy and cute the way I like, absolutely. I’m comfortable and appropriate for my job, and I’ve collected quite a few compliments today.
Advice is cool. People will always try to guide you, and most anyone can teach you something. Sometimes you should listen. Sometimes you shouldn’t. But there’s usually something there, even if you have to sift through some bullshit to get to the golden fleece.
TT: Thanks so much for doing this interview, Sherrod! And everyone else, do yourself a favor and pick up HOW TO LOVE A BLUE DEMON. It’s a book-shaped bowl of delicious, sexy, good-time sci-fi.