R.G. Emanuelle

I recently had an opportunity to bump into R.G. Emanuelle on Facebook one evening. During our exchange, I asked her for an interview and she graciously accepted. I’m not really paying attention to what I’m doing all the time lately, due to the move we’re undertaking. So I’m afraid I got carried away with the questions. She pushed on and answered every one of them like a champion. I hope you enjoy reading her responses as much as I did.

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AJ: Okay, R.G., some warm up questions first:

Favorite color

Depends on what we’re talking about. If we’re talking clothes, then it’s black. Half my wardrobe is black. I also like purple, wine/burgundy, and green.

If we’re talking about a color in general, I guess black doesn’t count, so I’d say purple.

Flowers? Purple, as long as that’s a natural color for them. Don’t give me purple spray-painted daisies. That sucks.

Purple foods are good, too. Eggplant, purple cauliflower, purple potatoes, and such. I don’t want purple fish or chicken, though. That’s nasty. So I guess the answer is purple.

Dogs or cats

I love both. I’m an animal lover. I adore dogs, but the only pets I’ve ever owned have been cats. The Devil’s spawn, to be accurate. But I’ve loved them one and all, just the same.

Do you have pets, AJ? Are they evil?

Yes, I have two cats, Toby and Foster. However you are deluding yourself if you think you own cats. What’s the saying, “Dogs have masters, cats have staff? As to evil? No, not really, although Toby can upon occasion pluck my last nerve. He’s full of mischief.

You’re right. We are here to do cats’ bidding. They keep telling me and when I don’t listen, they punish me. They also make it clear when they don’t like my writing, as I’ve found puke on my handwritten pages on many occasions.

Oh no. The worst critique of all! Do you have a favorite saying?

I don’t have a favorite saying, but I do keep a quote from Thomas Edison on my desk that I always hope will get me through moments of “failure”:  “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

What an odd question. Which makes me think that you have a favorite saying.

Um, I have several actually, but faced with a disappointment, probably #1 response is, “Something better will come along.” I’m also fond of “From your lips to God’s ears.” And last but certainly not least, “It is what it is.”

Describe yourself in a single sentence?

You’re kidding, right? I barely know myself.

I think I’m a funny, eager, ambitious person who is kind, but can sometimes be offensive with her brand of sarcasm.

Does anyone ever answer this question like, “I’m a horrible, demented cheat who abuses everyone I come into contact with”?

No, never. Apparently I only interview nice people, like you! 

I see I’ve convinced you that I’m a nice person. I’m also a good actor.

Nah, I’m a nice person. Sometimes. Mostly.

Do you have any fears/phobias?

I have a fear of heights. I also have a fear of getting up in front of people. That kind of poses a problem when you’re a writer who does readings and panels and such. It’s been a little hairy for me.

I bet. I’m sure there must be some folks who exude the confidence to stand in front of crowds of people and not be nervous. I’m not one of them either.  Are you a Country Mouse or City Mouse?

Well, I was born and raised in the city, so I’m definitely a city mouse. But I love the country. I’ve seen quite a bit of it in the last few years and it’s possible that I might be able to get used to it. When you grow up with noise, complete silence takes some getting used to.

Tell us a bit about your book(s).

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My first one was Twice Bitten, which is a historical vampire novel, set in Edwardian New York City. The main vampire character, Fiona, goes through life hating being a vampire. She’s lonely and is looking for The One—someone she can spend eternity with—but she doesn’t want that person to resent her the way she resents the person who turned her. When she sets her sights on one woman in particular, Rose, she devises a plot to get her to become a vampire willingly. The plot gets complicated when she finds out that Rose loves Ursula, and Fiona finds a way to involve Ursula in Rose’s transformation. It becomes a battle for Rose’s soul as well as Ursula’s. Does it go according to plan? It’s really about longing and loneliness, the things that people do out of desperation, and what they tell themselves to justify their actions.

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Add Spice to Taste is a novella about Giovanna “Jo” Rossini, who teaches cooking classes at The New York Culinary Institute. Though she enjoys it, she’s struggling to make ends meet and trying figure out how to get her life back on track. Her dream of owning her own café was broken when the business failed, and her heart was shattered with the end of her long-term relationship. Then, a Moroccan cooking class reveals a few surprises when Jo finds herself attracted to Julianna, one of her students. Despite her internal attempts to deny it, she soon discovers that the attraction is mutual. Even more surprisingly, she must also fend off the unwanted advances of another student—and deal with her own weaknesses and past mistakes. Jo struggles to find the courage to allow Julianna past her self-imposed boundaries and allow herself to love again.

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Thus far, I’ve co-edited three anthologies. The first one was Skulls & Crossbones: Tales of Women Pirates. I did that with Andi Marquette and we had so much fun doing that one that we said we would do another one. It took four years, but we finally got it together and did another one, which ended up being All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Romance & Erotica. I’m so proud of that anthology and I guess we did an okay job with it because it wound up becoming a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award, as well as a Goldie. Shortly after that, I worked with Astrid Ohletz on Unwrap These Presents, which did actually win a Goldie at this past GCLS in New Orleans. I’m proud to have worked on that one, too, because all proceeds go to the Ali Forney Center in New York City and the Albert Kennedy Trust in the U.K., both of which provide housing to homeless LGBTI youth.

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I’ve had short stories in a bunch of great anthologies, too. The ones that are about to be published shortly are Tales of the Grimoire (Fall 2015), Through the Hourglass (Fall 2015), and Best Lesbian Erotica 2016 (Spring 2016).

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Congratulations on the awards. What made you decide to become a writer?

Thank you! After I saw Dorothy Allison at GCLS in New Orleans proclaim that she writes to survive, it’s been difficult to articulate why I became a writer in any other way. I mean, those words say it so succinctly. But just to put my own personal spin on it, I’d have to say that writing was (and is)—

1) My safe world where no one could hurt me or tell me what to do,

2) A way for me to express myself without fear of mockery or condemnation, a revelation I had and blogged about at my blog site, and

3) A way to make myself into all the things I wish I could be. I imbue my characters with the qualities I wish I had.

Plus, I was just always driven to words. Who’s to say why? Some people love sports, or music, or movies. I love the written word.

Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate, or write longhand?

I do a combination computer and longhand. I prefer longhand because I find that my creativity just doesn’t flow as well when I type on a computer. Sometimes I just sit there and stare at the screen and nothing happens. However, transcribing what I’ve written in longhand to a digital file is excruciating, so I try to do what I can on the computer. To compromise, I write the easier scenes/chapters on the computer and the more difficult ones longhand.

Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors.

I love to read. I always have, ever since I was a child. But these days, reading for pleasure is a luxury. I’m sure you’ve heard other writer/editors say the same thing. If I’m not writing/reading my own work, I’m reading other writers’ stuff for whatever project I’m currently working on. But I always have a book and/or magazine that I’m in the middle of—it’s just that it takes me forever to get through it.

Fave authors? I like a lot of different authors in a lot of different genres. But I am a big Sarah Waters fan.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?

I prefer physical paper books. There’s something about the feel and smell of a book that can’t be matched by ebooks. Having said that, I’m not opposed to ebooks, and I have some on my computer. They’re on my computer because I actually don’t own an ebook reader. Not because I don’t want one but because money’s tight and I’ve had other financial priorities. One of these days, I’ll get one. But I’ll keep buying print books.

What book/s are you reading at present?

I just started From Scratch: The Uncensored History of the Food Network. I love food-related books. Anyone who knows anything about me is probably rolling her eyes right about now.

Tell us about your book cover/s and how they came to be. (I understand you do your own.)

Well, with Twice Bitten, I went on a hunt for the right photo, which I found and sent to Regal Crest, and they used it within their own design. It was the closest thing I could find the photo I really wanted, which was a still-shot from the movie Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer. It was perfect, but copyrighted.

For Add Spice to Taste, since it’s a “culinary romance,” I had the idea of doing something with candy hearts, and it was a matter of doing it the right way. I wanted something bright and colorful, something that would be eye-catching but that conveyed emotional turmoil. I took 92 shots and finally chose the one you see on the cover.

For All You Can Eat, Andi and I hired a designer ourselves, someone who we knew would be able to express our vision. We went back and forth with her until we got all the details right, from the image to the font to the colors. She did a great job. We also found the art for Skulls & Crossbones.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

Absolutely. It’s the first thing people see of your book. It is a visual representation of what the book is going to offer, a hint of what the reader can expect. I’m sure many sales have been made or broken based on covers. To be honest, there have been times when I’ve been so turned off by a cover that I refused to buy it on that basis alone. If you can’t take the time and effort to do a good cover, you won’t get my money. Of course, this is not always the author’s fault, as many authors are not given much (if any) say in the creation of the cover (if they’re publishing traditionally). This is unfortunate.

How do you market your books, and do you have any advice for other authors on marketing?

My biggest strategy is to take every opportunity to connect with readers, whether it’s interviews, readings, appearances, or other events. Obviously, not everyone can do all those things, but my advice is to do whatever you can. Look for events at local places near you so that you won’t have to travel far or take time off from work. If you can’t get to events/appearances in person for whatever reason, there are online opportunities. There are several places where you can do recorded interviews or readings, written interviews, or live Q&As.

Look for unusual opportunities as well. When Andi and I did Skulls & Crossbones, we hired a candle artist to design a candle based on the theme of the book. It was a great-looking candle with a skull and crossbones and had the scents of cloves and cinnamon. She sold it on her site and kept all profits but she marketed the book in conjunction with it. Then she went on to design a cologne based on the theme. It was a cool concept.

And something so basic as social media is often overlooked. Make sure you have an online presence. There are many options—choose the ones that work best for you. Facebook and Twitter, I think, are musts. Beyond that, there’s Pinterest, Instagram, FourSquare, Reddit, and many more. Finally, I think blogging keeps you connected to readers.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

I love cooking, music, and walking. I love travelling, but money and work limitations make that difficult for me. I travel in my mind a lot. LOL

When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Oh, you had to go and ask that. I started writing in grade school and had some stuff published in the school journals. I knew then that this was what I wanted to do.

Technically, I wrote my first book in college. But being my first book, it wasn’t very good and it is safely tucked away in a box in my closet. My second book, which wound up being my first published novel, took about 20 years to write. I finished it in 2010.

Is anything in your book(s) based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

A little of both. Obviously, if I’m writing paranormal stories, it’s going to be mostly imagination. But I’ve definitely included my personal experiences here and there throughout my stories. And, no, I’m not saying whether that includes the erotica stories.

What project are you working on now? Will you have a new book coming out soon?

I’m working on several projects right now. Andi and I are putting together Order Up, the follow-up anthology to All You Can Eat. Since AYCE was a Lambda finalist, our publisher decided we should probably do another one. :-)

As I mentioned, I have a few stories coming out soon, so I’m looking forward to seeing those final products.

What I’m really excited about is that I’ve just signed a contract for a novella series. This just happened this past week, so I can’t reveal too much about it. But I will say that it’s about modern-day vampires. It’s got some mystery, some intrigue, some romance, some vampire hunting. It’s urban fantasy with some historical aspects to it. But there’s a twist to it that I think makes the main character different from other vampire characters.

What is the toughest criticism you've had as an author and the best compliment?

The worst was probably from a writing teacher in college who said that I wasn’t very good at it. I think the only reason why that didn’t totally devastate me was because she really sucked as a teacher, so I took her comment with a grain of salt. Still, it was a criticism from a teacher and that’s the kind of thing that stays with you. Obviously, I didn’t let it stop me.

The best compliment I’ve gotten came recently when someone told me that I’m a big influence on their writing. That felt really good. Of course, in my head, I thought, “Why?” But it’s a good feeling to know that someone respects what you do enough to be influenced by you.

How do you choose the names of your characters?

Sometimes a name just jumps out at me. But sometimes, when I’m struggling to find just the right name, I go to baby name sites. I make a list of all the names I like, then pick one. Sometimes I pick a particular letter and search the names under that.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why?

I know that this is a controversial subject, and I see both sides of it. Some authors feel that their books are their work and they should be fairly compensated for it, the way any other person would be paid for her work. And I agree with that. I think that writers are extremely underpaid and undervalued. But I do think that giving away books on occasion is a good marketing strategy. It builds good will among readers and it might give a taste of your work to someone who might otherwise not have taken a chance on you.

What is the strangest job you’ve ever had?

I was a Christmas elf at Macy’s. Yes, the one on 34th Street in Manhattan, and trust me, it was no miracle. I lasted exactly 3 days. It was really quite a bizarre experience. I could divulge the secret of how Santa Claus sees so many kids in the course of a day, but I won’t.

If you could go back to an earlier age in your life, knowing what you know now, what age would it be, and what would you do differently with your life?

I would go back to college and make firmer decisions about the direction of my life. I would get involved more with groups, organizations, and my community. I led a very sheltered life and I think it delayed my growth as an adult. Also, I would not have taken the job I took right out of college. I would have held out for something that I really wanted. That’s where I went wrong, I think. But if I did that, I wouldn’t have met the people in my writers’ group, and I might not be writing lesfic right now. Hmmm.

How much of your own life/friends/self goes into your characters?

My characters do usually have a bit of me in them. But I build on that and make them more than me. Like I said, I imbue them with the qualities and characteristics that I wish I had. I occasionally base other characters on people I know.

Do you have any pet peeves?

Many. Many. I hate public spitting. I hate that sound of shoes squeaking against the floor on the train. I hate it when people litter.

I like to know other people’s pet peeves. It fascinates me to see what things set people off because it makes me wonder what happened in that person’s life or what it is about her/his personality that makes them dislike that particular thing. So tell me yours, AJ.

I hate unfairness. Somehow I got the impression life should be fair. It was a gross injustice that I grew up thinking that, and it has been the source of many of my major disappointments.

Yes, unfairness is a big one with me, too. I think it’s a Libra thing—we are the scales and justice is a big thing to us. When I see unjust things, it drives me crazy. Especially when it involves me.

What advice would you give an aspiring author who has a book ready to be published?

Make sure that it’s in the best possible shape in can be in. Get it looked at by an editor before you submit it, and have it beta read by at least a couple of people. Take their comments seriously. Once you get the green light from your publisher, start marketing it immediately. Get your name out there and let people know that you have this book coming out. Start building your audience right away.

What is your favorite part of being an author?

Creating those worlds and characters and putting them out there for everyone to read. It’s a bit scary, but there’s a reward, a self-satisfaction that comes from it. It’s kind of like an actor stepping out onto the stage—it may be terrifying to get out in from of all those people, but exciting and satisfying at the same time.

Is there a question I didn’t ask you wish I had?

God, no.

Sorry…I didn’t realize I’d asked so many.

No, it’s okay. It’s just that questions that seem simple on the surface can actually be difficult or complicated. Especially with me—there are 2 sides to every story and nothing is black and white (a Libra thing again). I mean, just look at what I did with the very first question: What is your favorite color? There is no one answer.

You did a great job.

Thanks! And thank you for talking to me.

It’s been my pleasure. Check out R.G’s website and books here:

 

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© JEN 2014