C.J. Ellisson

Read more about C.J. Ellisson.

Interview By: Tamazon

Date: March 07, 2011

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Vampire Vacation | Red Hot Publishing | Urban Fantasy with erotic elements

Meet Vivian. She's a 580-year-old vampire who exudes sex, has a talent for drama, and is passionate about two things: her human husband, Rafe, and their resort for the undead. Her ability to project physical illusions has created the perfect vacation spot -- a dark, isolated Alaskan hideaway where visitors can have their wildest fantasies come true.

Vivian knows the best performance requires perfect timing, but the powerful vamp is put to the test when she discovers a corpse in a locked guestroom minutes before the next arrivals. Always cool-headed, Rafe hides the body, convinced that he and Vivian can find the culprit without disturbing their guests.

Juggling the increasingly outrageous demands of their customers while tracking a killer isn't easy. Will their poking and prodding give them the answers they need, or will it uncover secrets that Vivian would kill to protect?

Please describe your writing environment.

I write at home-- either in my formal living room turned library, or at my kitchen island. I have a small desk with my laptop hooked to a monitor. My dogs usually camp out nearby and I will occasionally play music if I'm trying to get into the head of one of my characters. Mostly though, I choose to write in silence.

My desk is always cluttered and often quite messy. I never used to have such a disorganized space when I was in an office, but it works and I don't try to over analyze it ;-)

Please tell us your latest news!

My very first erotica novellas both released in February. The response has been great so far and I'm thrilled to be trying a new genre.

Readers need to be warned - these books are not big on plot. The length didn't allow a whole heck of a lot of development (and hey, if I did add more in there wouldn't be as much room for the scorching sex).

Do you have a specific writing style?

Yes. I hadn't realized it could be controversial among my peers until I sought out writing critiques. I write first person present tense. And for all you non-writing folk out there, that means it's told from the "I" point of view and you are reading the action as it unfolds.

Most urban fantasy is told first person past tense, so you know the hero lives to "re-tell" the tale. With mine you never know what is going to happen and the reader experiences the thrill at the same time the character does.

I have written past tense, and third person as well. But the story really comes alive for me in present tense and I love writing it.

Do you see writing as a career?

Yes, absolutely. I never can do anything halfway. I'm in or I'm out. I stopped my full time job due to health reasons and threw myself into this new career 40 hours a week from about the second week in.

Some weeks I work more. It is what it is. Don't get me wrong, I don't write 8 hours a day straight. I self-edit, edit for others, market, social network, write, plot, plan, study craft, research, learn cover design... the list goes on and on.

What main genre do you write in?

Paranormal / Urban Fantasy

Do you plan all your characters out before you start a story or do they develop as you write?

Both. I haven't been a writer all that long and I laughed when I heard the plotter/pantster debate. I thought I was a plotter, after all I have an outline. After meeting some really in depth plotters and some organized pantsters, I found I'm more in the middle.

I know my main characters very well. I don't outline their pasts, but I generally know their motivations when I start. Secondary characters evolve as the the story unfolds in my mind. I always know the book's ending, but with only three to five sentences to guide me for each chapter I find I have a lot of wiggle room to create and let the story flow onto the page.

Who has been your best supporter? How have they been there for you?

My husband. At first he joked "You've got two years to sell your book and then you have to go back to a paying job." But then he saw me practically killing myself to make the deadline and he relented.

He just wanted to see me happy and hoped I make some money at it. While I can't say I'm making enough to pay the mortgage by any means, I have dreams that things will pick up as I get more titles out and reach more readers.

Funny thing, he relented on the deadline, but I never did. It was my burning goal. I'm not like most writers who toil for years at night after they work all day. I wrote more and learned more than I ever thought possible in a very short time frame - all because I worked at it for 8 to 10 hours a day.

My husband is still my biggest supporter and my best friend. He reads all of my work, even the erotica, and helps me with marketing.

Do you like to mix genres?

Yes! I never set out to cross genre boundaries when I wrote my book, but I've had Vampire Vacation described as a funny, paranormal suspense, with a hint of mystery and lots of erotic elements thrown in. My agent called it mainstream, but the big six publishers kept trying to cram it into their cookie cutter boxes and it wouldn't fit.

"A married couple? Break them up and then make them come back together and we'll call it a romance."

"Explicit sex in a mystery? Beef up the dead guy angle and tone down the sex so we can sell it as a mystery."

"Vampires, werewolves, and a hotel in Alaska?"

They loved the premise, but just couldn't figure out how to sell it!

Tell us all about "The Call" or "The Email"!

Kristin called me about two weeks after she got my query. She emailed me for my full MS and told me the time frame I could expect to hear from her. I was floored when the call came earlier and I saw her company name pop up on my caller id.

My heart raced and I babbled like a fool. I think. It's all a bit of a blur now!

How many books do you plan on writing each year?

One to two full length novels, a few erotica novellas, and a dozen or more short stories. I have delays once in a while due to my health, but I don't beat myself up over them.

I get back on track and write. The sequel to my debut novel is due out at the end of June and I'm about halfway done with it. The editing won't take a huge a mount of time, so I'm pretty confident I'll make my deadline.

But then these fun novellas and short stories keep pulling me to the side...

Do you have any animals? Do they influence your writing?

I have two dogs I adore (and I cat who makes me sneeze). The dogs listen better than my kids and they don't talk back. Before I became ill, I was training my dogs to be therapy dogs. I hope to bring them to nursing homes and to visit our soldiers at Walter Reed in DC (we live in northern VA).

The ongoing joke is they are little muscle dogs - Staffordshire Bull Terriers, essentially like smaller pit-bulls -- and look nothing liek a cuddle therapy dog should. I thought it would be a hoot to call them "Hell Hound Therapy Dogs".

The kindest sweetest dogs I've ever owned and I don't think I'll get another breed ever again.

What's your favorite drink?

I have some allergies that limit me in what I can drink, so I've got two favorites I go back and forth between - Red Bridge Gluten Free Beer or a summer drink I altered from a bar version to be more low calorie:

Pink Lemonade

1 can Minute Maid Light Lemonade (5 calories)

1.5 shots of citron vodka

.5 shot of raspberry liquor

1 oz of lime juice

*makes two drinks

Try it over ice or for even less calories, cut it with seltzer. Delish!

Do you have an agent? If so who and please tell us about them.

I do have an agent, she's great. Her name is Kristin Lindstrom and she's a powerhouse of a one woman shop. We've become friends and she's encouraged me with every step I've taken. The industry has changed so much in the past six months that she backed me when I decided to go with a cooperative publishing option with a bunch of other authors.

We hired a bookkeeper, have legal publishing contracts, deadlines, cover artists we hire, professional editors we pay, we each filled out W-9's - the whole she-bang. But the twelve authors involved make all the decisions on their individual books and keep all of the profits after the flat fees to produce their book are paid.

Kristin has been so intrigued by it she's taking the model to her mid-list authors who aren't getting picked up for their next titles. It's an amazing time to be an author with a business background.

Thanks so much for the interview!

C.J. Ellisson