My friend Scarlett has a new book out this week. It's a good 'un, with non-sparkly sexy vampires. I decided to do my bit to promote it and Scarlett consented to answer some questions.
Why not? :D I’ve always been fascinated by them. I was allowed to stay up late to watch Hammer Horror films as a kid and loved Christopher Lee. Still do. Vampires are the perfect combination of sex and danger. I can well understand why they’re so popular.
Having read ‘A Little Death’, I have to say, I thought the way you made vampires fit into everyday life really worked. How did you make that happen?
This story’s been through so many incarnations it’s not funny. One problem I had was convincing the heroine (who wasn’t, at that point, even called Mallory) that Cian Ambrose was a vampire. In early versions, he was the first one to appear – Jonathan Cutler didn’t even exist back then – and they weren’t accepted into society. They were secretive and hidden away.
I didn’t want to have him say, “By the way, I’m undead,” and have the heroine shrug and say, “Okay.” I mean, in real life if someone said that to you, you’d have them carted off by the men in white coats.
One day I started playing around with the idea of solving that problem by simply having vampires as already accepted by society. A “solve the problem by ignoring it,” philosophy. And damn if it didn’t work. There’s some world-building and background, but I tried to write those sections without drawing attention to them, just have Mallory speaking about vampires’ existence the way you or I would about trees or cars or dogs. A Little Death is set in the here and now, in a world exactly like ours apart from the existence of the undead.
One thing I really love about your writing is your knack of picking out the most prosaic of details. It’s the sort of thing that makes me think ‘Yeah, I’ve been there.’ What kind of little things do you look for to make a story feel so ‘real’ for readers?
*preens* That’s a compliment I’ll remember for a long time!
It’s not something I concentrate on. It’s not entirely conscious. Maybe it comes from being deep in the point of view of my main characters. Part of it could be my aversion to telling-not-showing. I don’t want to tell the readers my character is scared, lonely, horny, excited, whatever. I ask myself, “How would I show this? What would their body language be? How would other people react?”
And if I were in a given situation, to what would I pay attention? A ticking clock, the whoosh of traffic, my heart thudding, the churning in my stomach? Even those aren’t good enough. I want to describe someone’s stomach churning in a new way, unique to them. And yet, it has to make the reader sit up and go, “Yes – I know that feeling!” Each writer has their own unique voice, and I use mine to attempt to describe universal feelings.
Also: we have five senses. I like to play to them all. I once heard it said that smell more readily transports us back into the past than any other sense. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know, but it’s a reminder that it, taste, touch, hearing and sight all work together, so we should use them all in our writing.
What made you decide to write erotic novels?
Being unable to think of anything else to write. :D My first erotic romance, Long Time Coming, was written on a wing, a prayer and the thought, “Oh sod it, might as well try.” It was incredibly freeing and so much fun to write.
And, as arrogant as it may seem, I was offended by so much erotica out there. A lot of it is porn by another name, or…dare I say it…rapey and skincrawly. (Yes, those are real words. I say so.) I set out to write the kind of erotic romance I’d want to read and luckily, other people seem to enjoy them too.
Writing erotica is no excuse to skimp on character development or to think you can get away with fast-forwarding the declarations of love. Too often it’s “Let’s fuck. I love you. Happily ever after,” which I find completely unrealistic. I don’t buy the “It’s fantasy,” excuse. No, it’s not fantasy. It’s fiction. And as such, it must have the ring of truth. Your reader has to be able to suspend disbelief, not completely divorce him- or herself from plausibility.
How do you think you’ve changed as a writer since your first book was published?
I use fewer ellipses.
But seriously, I like to think I’ve cut down on my bad habits. Ellipses, em-dashes, starting off sentences with ‘so’ and ‘well’. All of the above are matters of editing and polishing. When it comes to the bigger picture – plot and story and character, I like to think I’m taking a few more risks. Writing from a male point of view, writing a purely M/M novel, branching out into paranormal. Okay, so my books thus far are all erotica, but I’m dabbling in various sub-genres.
I find what goes on between my characters’ ear far more interesting than what goes on between their legs. These days, I try to concentrate on that. They still have a hell of a lot of sex, but I hope the reader understands why.
Where do you see yourself, as a writer in ten years time?
Underneath James Purefoy, after giving my Booker acceptance speech.
Oh, you wanted a serious answer? Agented, traditionally print-published, and earning enough money to not have to worry any more.
Also, I’d like to be having a lot more sex.
What do you like best about writing?
The freedom. I can keep my own hours, stay in mypyjamas all day, work anywhere, use anything as inspiration…
What’s the worst thing?
All of the above means I suffer from a lack of self-discipline. I feel like I ought to keep set hours or have a daily word count goal, but…the freedom to do whatever I want all day means I dick around with chores or emailing or reading and I have that voice nagging in the back of my head, telling me I should write more.
What’s your favorite snack?
Pringles or chocolate or angel cake or jaffa cakes or Rice Krispies. Or all of the above.
Boxers or jockey shorts?
Shorts, I think. Something snug, but not speedo-tight. Show me the goods, not every pube and ball-wrinkle.
What ‘Everest’ of writing would you like to tackle one day?
Winning the Booker prize for an erotic literary novel.
But seriously, Purefoy wins every time. God damn, that man is hot. I mean, have you seen him in Vanity Fair? Tight britches, carrying a riding crop, narrow sideburns emphasizing his cheekbones… RAWR!
Seeing dead people is all very well...unless one of them wants to kill you.
To Mallory Sharpe, vampires are a fact of life. They exist, walk the streets and for the most part mind their own business. As a second-year university student, she doesn't pay the undead much attention until she meets Jonathan Cutler. He has needs, and blood is only one. The other, Mallory is more than willing to help him with. After all, he has but one rule, to never spend more than one night with a woman. He won't get attached, or consciously put anyone's life in danger.
Another vampire, Cian Ambrose, isn't so troubled by conscience. Mallory's fair game, a weapon to taunt Jonathan with. In fact, it might be fun to make her his grail, or living blood donor, and Cian Ambrose doesn't take kindly to the word no. He hasn't heard it often in his one hundred and fifty years and it usually results in the other person ending up dead.
So with Mallory's tolerance for undead guys running very low, Jonathan has to re-gain her trust, stop Cian killing her, oh...and for God's sake, not fall in love.
Scarlett Parrish lives in the U.K. in the small corner of her flat not currently overrun by books. She can often be found drooling over James Purefoy or searching for the perfect chocolate bar. She believes most fleshpeoples (except James) are evil and much prefers the characters in her head. On the occasions she ventures out, Scarlett is always accompanied by her BONER—Black Omnipresent Notebook of Erotic Romance. One never knows when inspiration will strike. Sometimes she’ll visit the cinema, alone but for the aforementioned characters. Another favourite pastime is listening to 30 Seconds to Mars and thinking about Shannon Leto’s tattoos. A chronic insomniac, she writes most of her dirty books in the middle of the night and loves to keep her e-reader stocked with erotic romance to occupy her down time.