Monday, January 04, 2010

Quencher - My Interview with Betsy Dornbusch

Let’s start this new year with a bang – pun intended.

When our very own Betsy Dornbusch announced that she had a novella coming out, I was elated for her! I was even more elated when she scheduled a bit of time to answer a few interview questions for the blog (but I’m selfish that way...) You may know her as Sex Scenes At Starbucks, or Betsy, and her newer fans will know her as Ainsley. The new novella is called Quencher, and it just released on January 1st, 2010:

Isn’t it gorgeous?

You can pick up your own copy at Whiskey Creek Press, I just downloaded mine today. Here’s a bit about the book to whet your appetite:

At Quench Dating Services, you can experience a sensual night with a match that looks like the celebrity of your dreams—guaranteed, no fee, no gimmicks.

They only ask that you give blood.

Chere Richardson fantasizes about women. After her boyfriend proposes, she feels compelled to divulge her bisexual tendencies thus shocking him into breakup. Frustrated and lonely, Chere meets with her best friend, Adrianna, who is secretly a vampire. To help Chere realize her desires, Adrianna arranges a date for her through Quench. The date backlashes when scandalous photographs of Chere surface, igniting a firestorm of blackmail, jealousy, and investigations that could expose the truth about Quench. And the vampires behind the dating service will kill, not only a mortal like Chere, but even one of their own, to keep from being discovered.

On to the interview:

Merry - Congratulations on the release of Quencher! It looks fantastic and the cover is gorgeous! Having been a longtime reader of your blog, I was surprised with the genre (in a good way, I always love seeing new facets to writers I know). Was it difficult jumping to a completely new genre? What was the most challenging aspect and what was the most fun?

Betsy - Thank you! We were thrilled with the cover and Whiskey Creek Press has been great. I've had a ton of people emailing me in the past few days and sales have gotten off to a great start, so it's an exciting time.

The erotica/romance genre is a complete departure for me, though I've written stories about vampires before. Getting the sex scenes right was definitely the most challenging part for me, and my partner revised them significantly. They're like fight or horror/suspense scenes. I'm used to creating emotions within my readers, but erotica is about making them leap to a physical reaction. It's really hard to nail down the emotional/physical charge without weighing it with too much choreography (though let's face it, erotica readers like choreography).

I also had to admit to myself that my Midwestern/US upbringing made a mental block. I'm cognizant that there's still a deep bias against erotica in readers and some writers, especially here in the States, just as there's a deep bias against sex in the general public, especially the homosexual variety. I like to think of myself as pretty liberal socially, and this particular novella was a good way to make myself walk the walk. Just deciding to casually market it under my own name was a major decision, though I'm glad I have! Ironically, one of my most serious, controversial stories, a SF called "To Stop a War", just came out in Big Pulp. I keep finding myself directing readers there, lest they think I'm all about frivolous sex as a writer.

The other scenes flowed easily, and while sex is a major component of the plot, it's not the entire story. It helped that my partner and I nailed down the plot pretty well, though I surprised him with a major subplot. That was fun! In the end, though, writing is writing is writing. I applied the same techniques I've learned from writing commercial fiction and it seemed to work well for me.

Merry - Quencher is co-authored - is this your first writing collaboration? Tell us a bit about how the idea came about, and your process working together. Were you long-time writing friends prior to Quencher?

Betsy - Yeah, this is my first collaboration. My partner, E. Cameron Stacy, and I serve on the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers board together. We first started talking about working together the night we met, actually. We were at an open mic night and I read from a forthcoming vampire story. He liked my style and was looking for someone to partner with because of a backlog of projects. I'd been looking to expand my sales goals and erotica is a rapidly growing market, so our mutual needs fit.

The project is part of a three novella series, and he had ideas for all of them. He sent me a synopsis, which together we nailed down into a scene-by-scene plot, though as I said, I added to it during my drafting. I sent him the finished draft and he went through and cleaned stuff up. We talked it through nearly scene by scene. I reread, revised, and that draft sold. The whole thing took maybe three or four months, and that was mostly due to me having to fit in drafting QUENCHER amid other projects.

I think that we're more business partners than friends helps a great deal. We're also both frank people with thick skins, so there isn't any pussyfooting around. You don't get that with everyone.

I'm contracted to draft the last book in the series: QUENCHED, and I'm learning it's important to build a backlist in the genre, so Ainsley isn't finished yet. I'm also plotting a SF novella for that pseudonym. I plan on writing it later in the year when QUENCHED and my SF thriller novel THE SILVER SCAR are finished.

Merry - What would you say are the major differences in working with a partner as opposed to solitary writing?

Betsy - The first thing to go is all sense of "preciousness" about writing. I'm not precious about it anyway, since I'm in a great critique group, I've worked with editors, and I'm somewhat of a brutal editor myself. We had to be up front about what worked and what didn't, and we were on a tight schedule, so there wasn't much time to lick wounds.

Some writers would really hate to write to someone else's idea (though I had a lot of say - it truly was collaboration). I didn't find that to be the case. Plotting is the toughest aspect of writing for me and I'd say it's my partner's strength, so in a sense, collaborating was a relief.

The most difficult part was words or phrases getting changed (often to create a lighter, more genre-specific voice), but I had to let it go. I think my experience in doing interior design and commission painting for clients really helped me to immediately recognize that it's his book, too. I'm very pleased with the final product.

Merry - Without giving too much away, can you give us a little taste of your favorite scene, or tell us a bit about your favorite character from the novella?

Betsy - I've long been a proponent of LGBT rights, and the idea of writing about a woman struggling between her attractions for women and her love for a particular man really appealed to me. I also really like the main character's best friend, Adrianna. She's a newly turned vampires struggling with her own life changes and insecurities. Her subplot echoes Chere's journey, and my favorite scene is when it all comes together for her.

Thanks so much for having me! I hope you enjoy QUENCHER!

Betsy will be stopping in here and there, feel free to ask any questions in the comments section. I’d love to hear from any readers, too, so if you’ve already started on Quencher, let us know what you think.


Demon Hunter said...

Awesome interview, Merry. :-D Sounds like a very interesting book there. :-D Cool plot.

Ainsley said...

Thanks, DH!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Demon Hunter,

Thanks for stopping in - it does sound like a great read, I just picked it up but I can't wait to dig in.

Travis Erwin said...

Great interview. I'll pick this one up asap.

Gary Corby said...

Fascinating stuff. If there's still resistance to erotica, then how come there's so much of it?

Merry Monteleone said...

Hey Travis,

Awesome - let me know how you like it.

Hi Gary,

You know, I think there's probably a huge fanbase for erotica that kind of hides they read it - you know, like everyone gets Playboy for the articles.

And then literary culture can get pretty judgmental - this group thinking that commercial fiction is less impressive than literary, that group saying literary fiction is nothing but navel gazing and loving genre fiction.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say things like, "Oh, you write kids' books... so maybe eventually you'll get good enough to write for adults."

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Hi Travis,
I can't wait to hear what you think!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Hi Gary,

It's believed that's why erotica does so well online. People, well, mostly women, can download the stories and no one's the wiser.

I did have one friend refer to QUENCHER as my "selling out" book. I laughed it off, but I thought "if it sells well, then the jokes on her."

Of course, I'm a huge proponent of ebooks anyway, so I think more is more. :) Thanks for stopping by.