Thank you so much for inviting me to join you today on Romancing the Book. It’s an honor to be here.
I was planning to interview one of the Masters for my time at Romancing the Book, but—typical Doms—they refused to keep their language and innuendos at a PG level. (Why am I not surprised?)
So, since I’ve been getting email questions about writing, I thought I’d talk about a writerly sort of subject—the theme of a book. (Doesn’t that make you cringe with memories of book reports?)
And yet, now that I’m the one writing the books, I’ve found the odd concept quite useful. My interest began when an evil editor asked me, “What’s your book about?” Unfortunately, she didn’t want to know about the easily spieled-off plot. Nooo, she wanted the bones, the blood, the underlying basis for the whole thing.
I totally didn’t get it. (And trust me, it hurts to look like an idiot in front of an editor.)
Then one day, I read a Guy Gavriel Kay novel and got that joyous swishing noise indicating an idea was filtering down through the rocks in my head. Kay had constructed his plot, characters, and scenes around a simple question: What does a man leave behind when he’s dead? There was no right or wrong answer. Every character has his own ideas. But the beauty of the design left me stunned…and wanting to try the technique myself.
Of course, since I write erotic romance, my themes tend to be a tad different. I started simple. In Hour of the Lion, my question was: What is a person’s duty to herself, to her loved one, or to her country? The heroine was a Marine and a black ops agent, who learns of an hidden society of shifters when she saves a boy. She promises to keep the boy’s secret, but what if the creatures pose a danger to the country she is sworn to protect?
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A grunt. “No, that’s not good. Your buddy’s name is…?”
“I’d rather not say, sir. I don’t want to betray a confidence.”
Silence. She knew what he was thinking. Duty to your country outweighed any other loyalty, including what you owed to your friends. But she’d made a promise to Lachlan. Unless the shifters were dangerous, she wouldn’t put them in Wells’ sights.
~ from Hour of the Lion
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Of course, with BDSM erotic romance, the questions can get even grittier. For example, in Breaking Free, my theme was: What constitutes abuse? As with any alternative lifestyle, BDSM can attract unstable personalities—abusers—as well as honorable people. So when does a flogging cross from a fun kink into something else?
~ ~ ~
As the Dom turned the sub to face them, Nolan leaned forward. There were ugly, knotted scars on her right shin. The round shiny marks on her breasts suggested cigarette burns.
All the marks were white, so nothing had occurred within the last few months. Nolan’s gaze traveled up her body to her restrained arms. More scars. “How bad are her hands?” he asked Z, his gut twisting.
“About what you’d expect from the rest. Old fractures, old burns. Puncture wounds in her palms.”
Some bastard had played crucifixion games? “Hell, Z, have you killed the guy or are you saving him for me?”
~ from Masters of the Shadowlands 3: Breaking Free
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Slowly but surely, I’ve learned that having a theme can (sometimes) keep me from wandering astray, as well as stimulate new ideas for scenes and subplots. In To Command and Collar, I planned to look at slavery from different angles. Of course, there were the obvious contrasts—involuntary slavery as opposed to consensual Master/slave relationships. But aren’t there other forms of servitude?
~ ~ ~
Her mother had been a slave as much as any woman with a collar around her neck. How strange that a housewife could have fewer rights than a submissive. And Mom had been much, much less cherished.
~ from Masters of the Shadowlands 6: To Command and Collar
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While writing a book, sometimes I discover that what I thought I was writing about has morphed into something else. My newest book, coming out May 28th, was supposed to be about trust. (Gotta say, it sucks when a theme fades away right there on the computer screen). Well, it turned out the book was about accepting yourself. And thank heavens, the title came easily after figuring that out—This Is Who I Am
~ ~ ~
“Why are you here, girl?”
“I-I…” Her chin firmed. “I’m trying to decide if being…different…has a place in my life.”
“Different.” Pissed him off the way she saw being unique as being wrong. “Are you talking about being a masochist? Or being a singer? Or a submissive? Or smarter than most? Or maybe being talented at basketry?”
Her spine straightened. “It’s not a joke.”
“I’m not joking.” He curved his hand firmly around her nape as he’d done with Uzuri. Linda instinctively tried to take a step back. When his grip tightened, halting her, he enjoyed the hell out of the way she shivered.
Then he watched as she didn’t move, yet silently, internally fought his control.
And he watched as she surrendered. To him.
~ from Masters of the Shadowlands 7: This Is Who I Am
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There you have it. If you’re a writer, see if using a theme can work for you. And if you’re a reader, see if you can figure out what the down-deep question was that the author was asking.
About Cherise Sinclair
Having to wear glasses in elementary school can scar a person for life. Dubbed a nerd at an early age, Cherise Sinclair has been trying to live up to the stereotype ever since. And what better way than being an author?
Known for writing deeply emotional stories, Cherise is the author of fifteen erotic romance novels, most with a BDSM theme. (Please do not mention the phrase mommy porn in her presence.) Her awards extend from a National Leather Award to a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice nomination to a Goodreads BDSM group award for best author of the year. Called an “ascendant erotica queen” by Rolling Stone Magazine, Cherise spends her days writing, supervised by a sadistic calico cat.
You can find Cherise in the following places: