Interview with Opal Carew

Jen: Please help me welcome Opal Carew back to Book Talk. Opal, will you please share a short bio with us?

Opal: I write erotic romance for St. Martin’s Press. In May 2006 (on my wedding anniversary), I signed with my agent and within a week, she had sold Twin Fantasies to St. Martin’s Press as part of a three-book deal! Now I’m writing three books a year for St. Martin’s. Before that, I wrote for New Concepts Publishing and Loose Id under the name Elizabeth Batten-Carew. I wrote everything from short stories to full-length novellas and in several difference subgenres of romance. I earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Waterloo, and spent 15 years as a software analyst before turning to my passions as a writer. I live in Ontario, Canada with my husband and two teenage sons. My oldest won an award for creative writing when he graduated from high school last year and has just completed his first year of university. My youngest son shares his love of fascinating and edgy stories with his dad and me by recommending somewhat obscure anime that we watch together.

Jen: Tell us about Secret Ties and where it’s available.
Opal: For the past two years, I’ve taken part in an adult show called Sexapalooza in Ottawa. There’s a bar at one end of the big convention center, a stage in the center where they have entertainment and demonstrations (like showing how to use a bondage bed), and lots of booths throughout selling sex toys, lingerie, sexy accessories, etc. I have a booth there where I meet readers and autograph books. There are also seminars and I give a talk on women’s sexual fantasies.

The first time I attended the show, I thought it would be fun to write a story where a shy heroine, Summer, attended such a show (at the insistence of her friend, who is an erotica author). Her friend introduces her to Max, a man who is a master of bondage and submission and helped her with research on her latest book. Summer is wildly attracted to him, especially the idea of being dominated by him, and decides to pursue a weekend fling, then return home with no one the wiser… especially her two close male friends, with whom she would love to start a romantic relationship!

Secret Ties begins exactly this way and when Summer returns home to her small town, things heat up with her two friends, Shane and Ryan… then Max shows up.

The book was a ton of fun to write. Max shows Summer just how sexy it can be to be dominated, and she introduces this to her relationship with Shane and Ryan seducing them into dominating her. In the end, she explores the other side by taking the lead. If you’ve ever wanted to know a little more about BDSM and what’s so sexy about it (love those handcuffs!), this is the book for you.

Secret Ties is available in most bookstores (and if it’s not there, you can order it), and on-line (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Chapters in Canada, etc.) If you go to my website (www.OpalCaraew.com) I have buy links for all my books.

Here’s the blurb for Secret Ties:

How far would you go to reach the ultimate pleasure?

Max Delaney is a master of bondage and submission… and Summer Anderson’s most decadent dream come true. From the moment she meets him, she yearns for him to dominate her—body and soul. As Max initiates her into his world of scorching BDSM sex, he shows Summer what’s possible when she abandons her inhibitions and loses herself in pure sensation. Soon Summer wonders if she can surrender to her wickedest desire yet: to share herself with three men at once. But once she’s lived out her most forbidden fantasy, can she go back to her ordinary life? And will she ever want to?

Jen: At what age did you discover writing and when were you first published? Tell us your call story.
Opal: Unlike many authors I know, I didn’t start writing as a child. It wasn’t until I’d left my computer programming job to stay home with children that I even thought about writing, then I took courses and joined writing groups and, generally, loved the process of learning something new! My first story was actually published in 1994, less than a year after I started writing. It was a fantasy novelette published with a small, and short-lived publisher, called Cogswell Publishing in their Notable Novelette’s line. They contracted me for several more stories, but only one made it to print before they closed.

I enjoyed writing in many genres, but my main love was romance. I targeted Harlequin and Silhouette since I loved their Temptation (that was before Blaze!) and Desire lines. Those were the hottest lines, but I still had to hold back the sensuality. The response letters I received from editors were quite encouraging, and I even went to revision with one editor at Silhouette for their Yours Truly line, but she left the publisher and things stopped there. After taking five years off from writing because of family concerns, I returned to find eBooks just starting to take off. I sent one of my novellas to New Concepts Publishing and within a week they sent me a contract. I went on to publish over ten stories with them and one with Loose Id.

After a couple of years publishing ebooks, I knew I needed to start concentrating on getting published with a NY publishing house, but I had to find time to write a book and go through the submission process, while keeping the momentum of my ebook career. I planned out a series of five novellas, drafted them and wrote the first one, Celestial Soulmates: THE KING AND I, which I sent to my editor at NCP. My idea was that the novellas could come out about six months apart, giving me time to concentrate on submitting to agents and NY editors. NCP contracted the first one and I finished the second. Before I finished revising it, Emily Sylvan Kim at Prospect Agency contacted me to offer representation—on my 24th wedding anniversary! That very day she had my book, Twin Fantasies, on Rose Hilliard’s desk at St. Martin’s Press. Rose read it that day and loved it… but it had to go by the senior editor. The next day, Emily called and told me the senior editor loved it so much, she missed her subway stop! Then, she told me they had to run the idea through marketing. At this point, I was sure it would all fall through because I’d had another NY editor tell me the story was too niche market. I was off to the Romantic Times convention the following week and on the first day of the conference, Emily called me with the offer of a three-book deal. The next couple of days were a whirlwind, since I had submitted the book to another publisher and I had to wait while Emily negotiated between the two of them. St. Martin’s won out and now I write three books a year for them!

Jen: Are there any other writers, published or not, in your family?
Opal: My dad wrote technical articles for magazines and was the managing editor for a commercial magazine at one point. He always said he wanted to write a novel when he retired, but he never did. My oldest son, Matt, won a bursary from a local newspaper for creative writing when he graduated from high school last year. I was surprised because he hadn’t taken an English course, but apparently, his teachers were so impressed with his essay writing (in courses like Politics, Philosophy, History, and Religion) that they’d submitted those instead of a story.

Jen: How do you approach your writing? Do you plot or go with the flow?
Opal: When I began writing, I wrote short stories, so I just jumped in and let it unfold as I went along. After I’d written a number of novels, I decided planning would make the whole process go more efficiently. Now I usually produce a loose outline that includes the major scenes and plot points I need to include. On occasion, I will do a more detailed plan where I write a very short first draft (10-20 pages), then work from that.

Jen: Do you have any “must haves” with you while you’re writing?
Opal: The only real “must have” is my laptop. I don’t find a desktop computer conducive to writing. Other than that, I always have a glass of ice water by my side, and usually my MP3 player. I always try (but usually fail) to have a candle so I can meditate before I write. It does wonders for my writing, but I find it really difficult to remember to do it!

Jen: What kind of research did you do for this book?
Opal: Well… I went to the Sexapalooza show in Ottawa. It was quite an experience. That gave me the inspiration for the beginning setting of the book, and many of the events that happened! The bondage sheets demo was amusing and fun, but I didn’t really use any of the ideas in this book. I’ve filed them away for my next book, though. (By next book, I mean three books after Secret Ties!) You might want to take a look at my website for some of the pictures (with captions) I took of the demo (at www.OpalCarew.com/events#bondage_sheets).

For the BDSM aspect, I searched the Internet, read several books, and talked to a couple of people who live the lifestyle! I found out a lot about furniture for dungeons, some intriguing bondage outfits, and learned more about the unsavory side of bondage than I’d ever wanted to know. (Don’t worry, that didn’t make it into the book!) The main thing I was struck by was how loving and respectful the Dominant/submissive relationship can be!

Jen: What’s the most challenging aspect of writing? Easiest?
Opal: The most challenging aspect of writing, for me, is actually sitting down to it, especially at the beginning of the book. The easiest (and most fun!) is writing the love scenes!

Jen: What’s the most rewarding aspect?
Opal: The second most rewarding aspect is when the book is finished and everything came together, the characters grew through their challenges, and a satisfying ending has been reached. The MOST rewarding aspect is receiving letter/emails from readers who tell me how much they enjoyed my books, especially the ones where they tell me how the books have helped add a spark to their relationship!

Jen: What did you do to celebrate the sale of your first book?
Opal: I was in Daytona Beach at the RT conference with my husband, so I bought some fun jewelry. One piece was a pin: a martini glass in rhinestones with a red stone as a cherry. I pinned it to my name badge and wore it during the convention. When we got back home, we took our teenage sons out to for a special family dinner.

Jen: Is there a genre that you’d like to write? Is there a genre you’ll probably stay away from and why?
Opal: I love writing fantasy romance set in today’s world, and futuristic romance. I stay away from historical. I’ve never been a history buff, so they would not ring true. (I do admire those who do it, though.)

Jen: Do you have a favorite character or one that you identify most with?
Opal: I really don’t. With every book, I identify with my heroine and I totally love the hero (or heroes)! In Secret Ties, I do have a soft spot for Shane, though. He is a little more laid back than the other two men. He used to be a cop, but didn’t like the strict rules, so he gave it up and started his own security company. I like that he recognized he was unhappy and changed the course of his life. That takes courage and I admire a person who honors their own needs. He is also very protective of Summer without being domineering, which I think is very sexy. Also, the man owns handcuffs!

Jen: Do you feel as if the characters live with you as you write? Do they haunt your dreams?
Opal: Not really. I have so many things going on all the time and I’m usually working on three books at once (writing one, planning one, revising/copy editing one) that I must strictly keep them in their place!

Jen: What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
Opal: Let me start by saying, I love writing erotic romance and it is a great deal of fun, but there is a very serious and rewarding side to it, too. Before my first book ever hit the shelves, I hoped that my books would have a positive impact on my readers, especially those who have suppressed their sexual energy to some degree. It is very rewarding to me when readers tell me how my books have helped them rediscover their sexual self. Here is an excerpt from a reader’s letter to show you what I mean:

“I’m writing to thank you. Trish Wall had suggested your books to those of us that attended the Great Love, Great Sex workshop.

I’m a new reader of this genre of writing. You have quite the talent! Your book Twin Fantasies, woke up desires that had been dormant for years! Your writing, and the energy behind the words, enabled me to reconnect with my self. To be able to reignite that spark within is a wonderful thing. Your writing played a key role!

With appreciation and gratitude…”

Jen: Who are some of your favorite authors and books? What are you reading now?
Opal: I avoid reading in my genre, so my work remains fresh, and with writing three books a year, I actually have very little time for reading so I limit it to research and non-fiction, which tends to be books about writing.

I do have a to-be-read pile of my friends’ books, which includes: Deadly Secrets by Leeann Burke, Soldier For Love by Brenda Gayle, Mastering the Marquess by Vanessa Kelly, Raven by Allison van Diepen, and COWBOY SANDWICH by Reece Butler. Also, Maggie Jagger is an author to watch with her witty voice and exceptional writing!

Jen: What’s next for you?
Opal: After Secret Ties, my next book is FORBIDDEN HEAT, which follows a woman who has secretly fantasized about being with two men she knew in college. Even if she’d been confident enough to suggest it then, which she hadn’t, it was an impossible dream because… Trey and Jake were a couple! As the book opens at a wedding over ten years later, she meets the men again, only to find they are now just friends… and they both now date women. This is her chance to live out her fantasy, but as things progress between them, she realizes that Trey and Jake should be together and she decides to be the catalyst to bring them back together again.

FORBIDDEN HEAT is wildly sexy, fun and the most emotional of my books so far. It will be out in January or February 2010.

The book after that, which is my current writing project, will be my second book that deals with Tantra and Kama Sutra (like Blush), but this time with a Tantra master and a woman who believes everything about Tantra—especially the idea of sacred sex—is total nonsense. This book will be out in Spring 2010.

Jen: Where can you be found on the web?
Opal: My website is www.OpalCarew.com, but I can also be found at www.BestRomanceAuthors.com and www.BestEroticRomanceAuthors.com. I’m on MySpace and Facebook and Twitter. (I love Twitter! Please come follow me!)

I’m on the St. Martin’s Press website, the Loose Id website (under my alternate name, Elizabeth Batten-Carew) and will soon be under Red Sage Publishing and Sinful Moments Press.

Also, I was named the Fresh Face of Erotic Fiction for 2009. You can read about it at:

http://www.hbfenn.com/freshfaces/Index.aspx

Jen: Is there anything you’d like to ask our readers?
Opal: Yes, I’d love to know what their favorite themes are in erotic romance. For instance, in Secret Ties I explore various aspects of BDSM (Dominance and submission, bondage, etc.); in Blush, and in the book I’m currently working on, I explore Tantra; and all my books have the characters explore sexual fantasies. Are there any favorite sexual fantasies your readers like to see explored in erotic romance books? What other themes are interesting?

One more thing, I’d like to mention that I’m giving away a free ebook to anyone who buys Secret Ties (from a real bookstore) from June 27th to July 5th. Details are on my website, at www.OpalCarew.com/promo.

Jen: Opal is giving away a download of ebook BEYOND THE CLOUDS (written as Elizabeth Batten-Carew) to one lucky commenter. To enter, you first must leave a comment either answering Opal’s question or asking one of her. Then you must either leave your email address in your post or send a message to admin.bookblog@gmail.com to complete your entry. The winner will be chosen on Sunday, June 28 around 5 pm Pacific.