First off I want to say thank you to Francesca for interviewing with me. It’s been a real pleasure working with her and I hope to get her back here again! And for all those reading the interview, I’ll have some information posted below how you can win an Amazon Gift Card from Francesca.
E: First off thank you for speaking with me today. You use to be a journalist, correct? What made you go from journalism to writing original stories? Was the shift difficult or would you say that having a journalism background has helped your writing?
FM: I worked in the world of non-fiction for years, and wanted to branch out. My field was entertainment, a natural fit since I grew up in Los Angeles and loved film. After a few years I got tired of spending everyday cramped up in a screening room watching movies I didn’t care for. I interviewed a number of actors and directors and tired of writing “puff pieces.” I always wanted to tell stories and switched to fiction. I found the switch extremely difficult. Although I knew the basic rules of grammar and didn’t make egregious writing errors, journalists and non-fiction writers usually “tell” and don’t show. I’d never dealt with POV, dialogue, sensory description, things I had to learn to write fiction. I read several books on writing fiction, found the work of Sol Stein to be helpful and did a lot of reading. It’s a process that takes a lifetime and I’m still learning. Working with a great beta reader, Kirstin Aragon, and fantastic editors helps too. I also beta read for Cat Winters, a marvelous Young Adult writer who now is authoring adult fiction for William Morrow. I’ve learned a great deal from Cat as she continues her writing journey.
E: I know when I write, I have a routine I go through. What kind of routine do you go through when writing? Any certain rituals that you perform or do you just jump right in? Do you listen to music when you write, and if so what kind?
FM: Before I go to bed at night, I write a list of what I have to do the next day. The next morning, I start off my day with a cup of coffee and breakfast then go directly to my social media: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google +. Social media can be tedious, but it’s necessary for writers to create a footprint on the web in these days. To be honest, I wish I’d paid more attention to blogging and creating web pages. People forget that a number of writers became “instant” best sellers because they were savvy enough to create their own fan base and use it to market their books.
When I finally start writing, I go through my list and try to check off as much as I can. I do listen to music sometimes, classical instrumental, because I find lyrics tend to intrude with my thought process.
E: In December you released The New Orleans Hothouse. What was your inspiration for the story? Any particular reason why you chose to set a story in New Orleans and during the 1950s?
FM: New Orleans had always fascinated me. My mom was from New Orleans and I grew up listening to broken French and eating gumbo. I don’t know if you’ve visited, but it’s a magical place, the closest to being in Europe of any America city.
Years ago when I was quite young, I met an old woman who’d lived in New Orleans in the 1950s. She was an older lesbian who worked as a drug runner, a prostitute, and worked in a sex club. She’d been arrested in raids of gay bars for cross-dressing, wearing jeans. Later, I connected with more people from and still in New Orleans. As sordid as some of the stories were, their lives were fascinating and I marveled that they survived. Some were former drag performers, others had worked as strippers and many were just plain old working-class people. I wrote a movie script set in New Orleans in the 1950s, got it optioned, but it was never filmed. When the rights reverted back to me, I decided to turn it into a novel. Unfortunately, lesbian-themed novels don’t sell particularly well and I couldn’t find a publisher. Instead I used portions of it in different works two of which I’m still working on. I don’t really believe in the saying, “killing your darlings.” If I can’t use them in a manuscript, I keep them in deep freeze for another day.
E: What would you say the hardest part of writing The New Orleans Hothouse was? How did you overcome this challenge?
FM: The process of writing The New Orleans Hothouse was fairly easy. I came up with the story right away, simply had to figure out how many erotica scenes I needed. While I like erotica, I like telling a story too, and the romance was important. I started with the story and one particularly raunchy sex-scene, a darling I purloined from another work. I wrote it from a male P.O.V., something I had reservations about, but I concentrated on the emotion rather than just the sex. My protagonist is a young guy who thinks he has it all, but doesn’t. I started the story in 1950s Las Vegas when it was a little desert town with a few casinos in the 1950s. When the story moves to New Orleans, that’s where the real action starts.
E: You’re currently working on a story for the Just Desserts anthology. Can you tell us a little bit about your contribution for the series? What inspired you for this story?
FM: I’m thrilled to be part of an anthology and hope to become a part of more in the future. Just Desserts is the brainchild of writer, S. Renea Mason Bates. Renea wanted erotic stories set around a specific dessert of our choosing. I’d been thinking about a story based on a young woman I’d met. The girl had the looks of a fashion model and became involved with a very handsome guy who was a dyed-in-the wool Christian. He refused to have sex with her before marriage. She thought she’d die from sexual frustration and tried to end it, but he wouldn’t let her go. Eventually they came to an understanding and he capitulated.
I’d always wanted to write about sexual frustration and the way some religions interfere with a very natural human desire. I decided to set the story in New Orleans, the home of some of the most delicious confections on earth. I’d thought about pralines or bread puddings, but remembered I’d sampled the best banana pudding in New Orleans. I decided to combine that lovely dessert with a reluctant romance and that’s when my story, “The Sweetness In the Pudding” was born.
E: Can you tell our readers how you got involved with the anthology? Were you approached or were there steps you took to participating in the series?
FM: I’m always looking for other writers to get involved and found the group on Facebook. Renea was in the middle of creating the anthology and most of the writers had already started writing or finished the first drafts. I had some reluctance at first because writers have to work on deadlines. Renea had a very generous writing schedule and I got involved. She set up the deadlines, had critiques groups and although many of us were at different points in our writing careers, we somehow worked it out.
I love working on short stories, but it’s often hard to get them published. Anthologies seem to be the way to go, and I hope to be involved with more in the future.
E: Are there any other projects you’re currently working on that you want to share with your fans? Any new releases or future endeavors that we can look forward to?
FM: I have several projects. I wrote Gothic Young Adult manuscript under a different name and am currently polishing two. One had been close to getting published, but I lost my old agent when she couldn’t sell it and had to start from scratch. I also have another manuscript set during the Depression. It was Young Adult and although many liked it, it never made the cut with editors at publishing houses. I’m transforming it to a New Adult novel with some darker elements and sexual tension. I temporarily shelved another New Orleans manuscript which I plan to start working on again in June. It’s quite dark, involves the police raids in Quarter bars and required a lot of research on my part. Eventually, I hope to turn “The Sweetness In the Pudding” into a novel too. I have so many ideas, but they take time.
E: Lastly, do you have any pearls of wisdom you’d like to share with our readers? Any advice for aspiring writers who are trying to break into the market?
FM: It’s important that writers establish a footprint on social media. We have to get our name out in the zeitgeist and social media is one way to do it. Get involved with other writers, review their work, and don’t be afraid to let them review your work. Develop a thick skin and be open to criticism because it’s the only way you grow as a writer. I’ve found that so many authors don’t grow and keep writing the same book over and over. Listen to the pros, and above all, read as much as you can. Reading good writers will make you a better writer.
THE NEW ORLEANS HOTHOUSE
The New Orleans Hothouse proves nice Jewish boys can be very naughty indeed
The button-down world of Mad Men meets the decadence of the French Quarter
Danny Rothstein, a young casino owner, leaves his home in Las Vegas for the noir splendor of 1950s’ New Orleans. Danny, a product of the button-down fifties, assumes he knows everything about women. Little does he know that he will soon enter a world of strip bars and clandestine sex clubs. His life comes apart when he meets Yvette Delacroix, a nineteen-year-old cigarette girl who has sampled life on the wild side. After a scorching encounter in a sex club, the two embark on a torrid romance that challenges everything Danny believes about female sexuality and love. At the end of Danny’s passionate journey, he learns bad girls can be very good indeed.
The New Orleans Hothouse is an explicit glimpse at the carnal underworld of New Orleans told in the first person from a male point of view. The clash between a powerful protagonist and liberated heroine are some of the provocative elements in this torrid erotic romance set in the New Orleans and the fictional universe of the Rue St. Marc.
YOU CAN BUY NEW ORLEANS HOTHOUSE AND JUST DESSERTS HERE!
ABOUT LEE RENE (FRANCESCA MILLER)
Lee Rene is the nom de plume of a Los Angeles based writer who worked for years as an entertainment journalist and movie reviewer in print, on-line and radio. She is a student of American history and cinema with an interest in silent movies, Pre-Code Hollywood, and classic films. She co-authored a biography of Sarah Bernhardt, The Diva and Doctor God, and also co-wrote two articles published by The Lancet and a well-received article for the prestigious British publication, History Today. In addition to erotic romance, Lee writes Young Adult thrillers under a different name. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, (SCBWI) and the International Press Academy.
Lee’s interest in Pre-code Hollywood and the contributions of Jews to American culture propelled her to write her erotic romance, The New Orleans Hothouse, published by Loose Id. The New Orleans Hothouse details the erotic adventures of its protagonist, Danny Rothstein, and a beauty he meets in New Orleans in the button-down 1950s. Lee creates Jewish protagonists and anti-heroes who defy the usual neurotic nebbish stereotypes. She is also one of the contributors to the erotic anthology, Just Desserts, which will be available from Secret Hunger Publishing on June 22nd from Amazon.
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Francesca Miller is giving away an Amazon Gift Card. Leave a comment below, including your e-mail address to enter the giveaway. The winner will be selected randomly via random.org. The giveaway will run for two days. On Saturday the winner will be contacted by Francesca.