Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
Recently I took one of those funny on line quizzes, you know, the ones where you put in seemingly random bits of information about yourself and it predicts your future. Well this one was supposed to tell me how and when I would die. When the answer came up, 65 and from sexual exhaustion, I nearly died right there from laughter. That gives me less than forty years to get myself in gear from a rather stunted beginning.
When at seventeen, I found myself suddenly orphaned in a city where we'd just moved, I couldn't imagine how I could go on. But, I'm convinced life puts the right people in front of you at the times of greatest need. Since there was no money, they assigned a junior funeral director from the mortuary where they brought my mom after the car accident to care for her as a charity case. Even though it meant no profit, she did things up nicely and guided me through the whole process as if Mom was the wealthiest of loved ones.
As it turned out, there was an opening for a receptionist at the funeral home. Since calls had to be answered 24/7, it included a place to stay on the premises. I had nowhere to live, no resources, no source of income, so I jumped at the opportunity.
Working and living in a funeral home took some getting used to, let me tell you. If nothing else, you can just imagine how tough it was on my social life as a senior in high school to ask a date to pick me up at our mortuary. But then again, I was "that new girl" and such an emotional wreck, dating was the furthest thing from my mind.
The family who owned the funeral home "adopted" me into their extended family of raucous brothers and sisters, and innumerable aunts, uncles and cousins. They have a penchant for taking in strays, cats, dogs, and orphans, showering them with love and affection. It was the same for me as they guided my healing.
It took a while for me to struggle through the local university, but eventually I had my degree in the sciences and decided to strike out on my own. Disaster! I was not cut out for the competitive nature of the business world, nor the cut-throat ways of office romance.
I returned to the funeral home, the place I seem to fit in best. So, I work as a funeral assistant, helping the morticians with all aspects of post-mortem care. Many might find this creepy, but I am happy to be of service to the guests and families for whom we care.
My earliest memories of childhood revolve around books. Constantly on the move, and without resources for other forms of entertainment, my mom's first task when we landed in a new town was to get a lending card from the local library. She'd be off to work and I'd be home behind locked doors, wandering through a fantasy world of first picture books and then, gloriously, the playground of written words.
When I learned in school how to add my own words, my own fabulous rides in the make-believe amusement park I'd created in my mind, I was ecstatic. Primitive diaries, then fanciful stories provided a whole new way to dispel the loneliness of our transient life-style. Writing became my salvation through the darkest times.And it still is for me today. I take the "what if" from my imagination and let it waft me like a leaf on the wind to wherever it leads. Hopefully, you'll want to join me in this adventure. For sure, we'll go to some strange places, but in the end I know at least be one thing. It'll be interesting!
If you could be one of your characters - Who would you be? And why?
Paige Connors, the heroine in my WIP called One Last Time, is a sassy, athletic, sexually liberated, free-spirited gal who provides the devil-may-care fun for this story of f-f-m m‚nage. She is a writer whose e-books have just taken off, catching her up to the accomplishments of her partners. She takes the ups and downs of life in stride, always finding the most of situations, great at making lemonade from lemons. Oh, if only I could be like that...but at least I can dance my fingers across the keyboard so we can all enjoy her make-believe together.
What's your favorite genre to read?
I am definitely a fan of the macabre. Edgar Allen Poe and Stephen King are my favorites. I love how they can take the everyday, the routine and make it into a story that makes your heartbeat faster and your skin crawl. I live over top of a funeral home, so you can just imagine what it's like for me to read Pet Sematary on a "dark and stormy night" in the dead of winter with the lights turned low and an organ prelude on the CD. Mwahaha!
Who or what influences you when you write?
I'm constantly influenced by the interplay of emotions I see in the families we care for every day. Courage, venality, broad-mindedness, petty prejudice, humor and pathos are a never-ending tablet unfolding before me in one of the most sentient moments of people's lives, the time surrounding death. From this vivid tapestry, I let the vagaries of my imagination have their play.
What do you do on a typical writing day?
Typical writing day? What's that? I write whenever I can, wherever I am. I have written at the reception desk while I wait to answer the phone or direct visitors to their loved ones's slumber room or visitation suite. On the jump seat of the hearse on the way to an out of town pickup, in the choir loft during services that seemed to go on forever, waiting at the crematory for the ashes to cool, you name it and I've found a niche in which to write. Have laptop, will travel! One thing I try to do is get at least some writing in early every morning. With chronic insomnia, that is the one pretty consistent time of day for me. Since I'm on-call a lot, even that time isn't sacrosanct.
When you have writer's block how do you break free?
When don't I have writers block?
I get an idea in my head, take a direction and resolve to let'er rip. Then I sit looking at that damn white computer screen set in Print Layout, praying what comes off my fingertips and onto the keys will make any sense at all. Cups of tea, coffee if I'm really desperate, walks around my bedroom/study, long runs when things are really bad, and eventually I'm able to take a deep breath and begin slashing away.
Over where it all goes, I rarely feel I have much control. So I constantly struggle to make things come out on the screen with the same clear voice that I hear the tale laid out in my thoughts.
When things really get stuck, I find helping my critique partners with their stories most often gets me going again. My only problem with this is that their stories are so good, I get all wrapped up in them and forget to write my own work! Ultimately though, their craftsmanship and fine example have made my writing better. So when I get really stuck, I go back to my writing roots and look for their inspiration and support.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
I'm so excited. Red Rose Publishing has picked up Just A Job. One of my darkest, most macabre stories, this is definitely not for the faint of heart. Remember how shows on the golden oldies channels like The Twilight Zone and Outer Limits make the unthinkable seem routine? Think Poe and King at their creepiest.
I'm a great fan of vintage flicks. Do you remember the movie about Henry VIII's second wife, Anne of a Thousand Days? GeneviŠve Bujold plays the fated Queen, Richard Burton, her husband, the murderous King. In the final act, they bring Anne forward to the scaffold under the assurance that the headsman is skilled and will take her head without pain. I found the words and attitudes of the participants fascinating, the particulars of dress and style, the confluence of details designed to insure the Queen's death was as tranquil as possible for all concerned. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znlLB5lq_-8
Whenever I got to thinking about that scene, I wondered what it must have been like from the executioner's point of view. How did he deal with not only the pre-deed responsibility and the momentous act itself, but also the inevitable postmortem guilt his profession entailed? To be so proficient at his craft that a nation specially selects him for regicide, such a headsman must have had plenty of preliminary practice. What would it take to get him to that point? He couldn't let himself get emotionally involved. He'd have to develop some detachment. He'd have to approach each assignment as if it were ... just a job.
From there, I began to wonder how a woman would perform such an execution if it were her duty. Of course, she would have the physical characteristics to carry out such a singular moment of applied power. However, I saw her as having more involvement with her victim, taking more care in the preparations, the nuances, the niceties that would make that last hour more bearable. Her inner peace, her self-assurance would transmit a feeling of strength to the condemned, seeing them gracefully through their final moments.
In Just A Job, Michelle is such a woman. In an altered version of contemporary life, my story has birth control supplemented by population control of adults judged by lottery to be supernumerary. Thus, as a Master Executrix, her routine is several beheadings a day. She feels her professional calling to dispatch those so designated with as much care, compassion and expertise as possible.
We follow her on a typical day's appointment for a private, at-home decapitation, the kind of Service only the wealthiest can afford. Michelle provides the doomed Victoria with every possible consideration as she readies her for the block. A family secret drives this post-debutante beauty to her fatal destiny. The two characters dance a mortal minuet to the determined outcome both know is inevitable. For one, it is the ultimate moment of a lifetime. For the other, it's Just A Job.
Please tell us what you have planned next?
My next story, One Last Time, is a f/f/m m‚nage a trios. For my setting in the near future, same sex marriage has become legal, if not routine. However, having more than one spouse is still considered taboo.
Paige Connors, a fabulously successful writer of erotic fiction, smart, sassy, voluptuously beautiful (don't I wish this was autobiographical!), tells us how she and her pair of lovers look to circumvent the hidebound marital laws and find a clever way to legitimize their relationship in wedded bliss. Teammates in a top-notch swimming program and roommates since college, the gorgeous, sleek and svelte Monique, attorney extraordinaire, and Justin, blond Adonis with an entrepreneurial Midas touch, join Paige in a very comfortable, sexually vibrant, long term relationship. The only thing lacking is the permanent commitment they all crave, a wedding band on each of their left ring fingers.
The gods say when they want to punish us, they give us what we most desire. Will that be the case for this sexually adventurous trio? With the twists and turns of a Coney Island roller coaster, Paige lets us in on the secret circumstances threatening to tear them apart. Will their love survive, or will it be One Last Time?
In 5 years, where do you see yourself? -In general and in you're writing career
Wow! I'm not sure where I will be five hours from now, much less five years. I'm really not at all good at long term planning.
Still, the reality is I'll probably remain working at the funeral home. I find I have a certain gift at connecting with those who grieve. Maybe it's from my own emotional work through sorrow, or perhaps it's just a talent meant for me to use effectively.
My writing will still be part-time, captured in snippets between work and sleep, and in the occasional blessed long stretches of too-infrequent vacations. I see an endless stream of possible stories to explore. I also know I'll always have the struggle to translate the fine tuned thoughts in my head, the perfect tale, into just as finely crafted words on the page, or computer screen if you will.
So my guess is that I'll be pretty much like us all, still struggling along with goals in mind, but not nearly as much accomplished as I would like.
Now if the question was to be where would I like to see myself in five years, that would lead to some very interesting places.
I'd still work in the funeral home. I feel that is my calling. However, it would be on a very, very part-time basis. No more night call, no more early morning dispersal services, no more late evening preps or out of town transfers for me, oh no. A nice easy schedule assisting with the ten o'clock funerals and the afternoon visitations, no weekends thank you very much, would suit me just fine.
My full-time job would be writing. Up in the morning to see the dawn on the back deck of my brand new cabin nestled in the woods, a mug of strong, flavored coffee in my hand and my laptop opened before me, now that would be my idea of heaven.
Damn, another mega-contract to look over and sign. Will the taxes on my fabulous advances never cease? The story I am writing flows from my fingers like water down a babbling brook.
The phone rings, another pesky call from my collaborating screenwriter who keeps trying to gut the heart out of my latest best seller for a few extra seats in the multi-plex theaters. Cindy is moaning how exhausted she is from playing all the sex encounters I wrote into the novel with her specifically in mind. Brad moans because Cindy is moaning about a headache. Can't those people on the coast get anything right on the set without me?
See what you've done? Now you have me off fantasizing again. Perhaps that's not all bad though. You never know in what directions such simple questions can lead a writer!
Who is your perfect hero? And why?
I could give the pat answer.
She is five-ten, blue-eyed, blond hair beyond shoulder length, breasts large and taut with upturned nipples rip for sucking, flat, muscular tummy with a tiny "outty" bellybutton, fluffy haired muff unable to hold in the dripping juices of her cravings, long legs ripe for entwining whatever she desires. Smart, sassy, wildly successful, she is equally comfortable in the boardroom and the bedroom. Her lips say take me now, take me hard, take me soft, but for gawd's sake take me quick.
He is tall, dark and handsome, a total clich‚. Sinewy rather than muscle bound, he has scars on one bicep and across his upper chest attesting to a life lived hard and on the edge. His eyes dance with delight. His hands have a grip to make a linebacker wince, but soft enough to cradle a breast like a delicate flower. Abdomen rippled like a washboard, he sucks his muscles in as his prodigious cock engorges.
Intelligent enough, but just enough, he is devoted to providing comfort and pleasure. And as long as his dick continues to perform such functions, he'll do.
But, my characters never give such simple profiles. In their strengths and beauties, my heroines and heroes are enticing, but it's their flaws that are really interesting. I may start them off in a given direction, but like untrained thoroughbreds, they soon take their head, leading me and the reader where they will. My job is to faithfully record where they go, not get in the way too much and bring my readers along for the wild ride.
What do you do for inspiration?
Now you might find this strange and I don't want you to turned off. When it is late at night, I sometimes wander down to the slumber rooms and visit with our guests. I sit quietly and see them lying there so still, the period already placed at the end of the last sentence of their lives.
What must that old woman, wrinkled and worn, have been like when she was a wild teenager, a carefree young woman, an ardent lover? What was it like for her the first time, the last time, the best time? Did she revel in her sexuality or was it a burden to be borne like a pelvic millstone? When she thought of him (or her), did her fingers slide down to bring dreams into action focus?
What was that middle-aged man, the guy who keeled over into his morning coffee, like before he lost his hair and donned his love-handled belly? Bluff or caring, blow-hard or sensitive lover? The widow seemed genuinely distraught. When she initially took him inside her, opened herself up to him, were his thoughts on love for her or on the dreamed for twitch his dick finally gave him, or perhaps some hodge-podge of both?
How about that poor young woman lying there so unexpectedly? If only she had worn her seat belt or, better, taken the keys from her drunk boyfriend, also laid out in the next room down the hall. Had she known the joys of her sexuality or was it something she had yet to explore and now never would? But for a single foolish moment, what would she be doing tonight, tomorrow, next year, next life?
I think of the reactions of the families and friends, torn at death through the most momentous moment in their loved ones' lives. The intertwine of emotions and memories drives forth the characters and possibilities upon which fiction thrives ... or at least mine does.
Is there a genre of book you would like to write but haven't yet?
Someday, I'm going to write an erotic historical fiction novel. I think the confines of history both in terms of setting as well as outcome, provides a real challenge. I think it would be fun to look at the intimate lives of the people behind the dry facts in a textbook. Yes, Napoleon may have fought at Waterloo, but I want to know what he was doing the night before!
What type of book have you always wanted to write?
A best-seller! Oh my, how I dream and hope and pray for a best-seller.
Seriously though, I want to write books that people read and are sad to see the last page approaching. You know the one I mean, the one you "read" as a Books on Tape selection in the car on the commute home. You pull in the driveway and sit for twenty minutes listening because you can't bear for it to end, yet can't turn the key to stop the tape until it does.
I want to write the book that has my first-time readers scrambling to my website, http://www.freewebs.com/sandystorm/ , to find out what other titles they can buy.
What kind of research do you do for your books? Do you enjoy the research process?
I love doing research. I learn as much as I can about a time and place, a process or procedure so I get my readers so deep into the story they can see and hear, taste and smell, feel as if they are right there with me and my characters in the heat of the action,
For example, my "boredom book," the WIP I keep going back to whenever my current project lags, is set in Chicago during Prohibition. Going to the Net to find out details of neighborhoods, saloons, elevated train lines and brothels, all brought the city and the time alive. Clarisse, my main character, is a moll tight roping her way through the dangers of gangland intrigues and treacheries.
So I had to learn about the Mob and how it operated, who the people were and how they acted. There was the whole subculture of lesbian women in immigrant populations to explore. And, as always, there was the thread of how they cared for the dead back then that somehow always makes its way into so much of my work. Hey, the most in-depth research you can ever do comes from the things you experience in every day life.
Do deadlines help or hinder your muse?
I hate deadlines. I tried it once so far as part of an anthology with my crit buddies. They did great, producing Behind the Masque
(http://www.cobblestone-press.com/catalog/books/masque.htm), a set of wonderful reads by an ever so talented group of authors and my dear friends.
I felt really badly when I couldn't produce in time to join this great endeavor, the proceeds of which go to breast cancer research. My story kept expanding until finally, at the deadline, I still had so much more to say I just couldn't finish. With their encouragement, someday I hope Her New Beginning will make it as a stand alone piece.
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
I still remember the day, time and circumstances. Four in the morning, late autumn, insomnia to beat the band and I think I'm finally ready to hit the Enter button and send my first story, my baby, The Date, out into the cold, cruel world of publication.
I had worked the story to death as a newbie to The Critique Team, one of my two beloved crit groups, Erotic Romance Corner being the other. I'm sure my fellow critters were so sick of seeing ever more polished rewrites they were ready to toss me out of our tight knit little sorority. But no, with the patience of Job, they stuck with me. One day, a wonderful mentor in the group wrote me an e-mail that basically said, "Send the damn thing off already!"
The e-mail to Silk's Vault sat on my screen all composed, The Date's manuscript attached. I must have stared at the "Send" button for an hour. I made a cup of tea, paced the floor, decided to put off sending it until morning. I was halfway up the steps to bed when I turned around, flew back to my writing space, powered up the computer again, found my index finger over the Enter button, closed my eyes and the next thing you know I felt the click of the key strike the pad. I opened my eyes to see the Sent message. I took a deep breath, stood up and walked back up the stairs to bed. Slept right through the alarm later that morning!
What would you like to tell your readers?
If you want a well-written story that touches sensibilities, feelings and fears buried way down deep, if you're not afraid to explore areas you inherently think are off limits, if you are looking for erotica and can find it in the creepy places of macabre horror, then maybe I'm the writer for you.
Faint-of-heart, squeamish, afraid to look into dark places, easily shocked or offended? Then my work is probably not for you.
If after picking up that first Stephen King novel, you couldn't put it down, then I'm right up your alley. Poe's Pit and the Pendulum or Premature Burial gave you the willies and brought out the silk hankie? Then don't try The Date. That book and its author aren't for you.
But, I know you are the adventurous type, a reader willing to try new genres, to go new places, I promise you a writing style that is quick, sophisticated, filled with unexpected twists and turns that will keep your mind engaged and a sexuality that will keep other parts of you body likewise enthralled.
What is the best and worst advice you have ever received?
Best advice I ever got? Write like you mean it.
Worst? What makes you think you'll ever write anything worth publishing?
Thank goodness, I listened to the former and told the latter to go fuck herself.
Do you outline your books or just start writing?
Yes and no. How's that for an ambiguous answer?
Before I sit down to actually write a story, I find I've already outlined the whole tale in my head. I've got the basics of the plot, beginning to end, all lined up, I can see my characters, hear their voices, feel their souls. Even their dialogue, their banter, their inner thoughts have all passed muster in my brain.
Then I sit down to write and it all comes out totally different! Where I thought a book should go turns out to be dull and boring. This other twist, this other turn, brings the work down another pathway entirely and that usually turns out to be much more interesting.
My characters, they are totally unruly. I try and make them behave, to do what I want, I really do. They absolutely and invariably refuse. I swear if I were to try and write about a sedate eighty-year-old grandma, she'd still be an elderly woman, but would rebel like a contentious teenager. In The Date, for example, I started out with Mrs. Moran as this sweet, loveable, vulnerable young woman, and before I got beyond the first page, she turned into this wanton little vixen with a mind of her own and desires I just couldn't control.
I'm afraid if I actually wrote down an outline, I'd probably feel constrained to stick by it. I could probably turn my workout quicker and I'd use the Delete key less, but I think I'd lose half the fun and so, ultimately, would you.
Do you belong to a critique group? If so, how does this help or hinder you?
The best thing I ever did for my writing was to ask a Yahoo writers' group for help with a manuscript. A wonderfully patient writer, Sidney Alfredo, took me under her wing and guided me to The Critique Team. Fifteen percent passive voice, "that" all over the place, flowery language that went nowhere, more Comments in the right margin than story to the left, this marvelous group of authors put up with all my amateurish mistakes. They encouraged me when I doubted myself, and that was all the time. In cyberspace, they hugged me when I was down and celebrated with me when I read those magic words, "... would like to offer you a contract."
In addition, I also belong to Erotic Romance Corner, another very supportive crit group. I find that after hashing through several rewrites of a story, people inevitably get tired of reading the same tale over and over. Having two groups to alternate new versions between can be very helpful and much less boring for those offering critiques.
Helpful? I wouldn't dream of writing a story past an edited draft without them. My crit partners are truly The Best!
What was your first published work and when was it published?
What was your first published work and when was it published?
My first, and, up to now, only published work is The Date from Silk's Vault Publishing. It came out in February, 2007.
What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
I'm a simple gal. No MySpace, no blog, no message board, no group. Too much searching through various sites makes my head dizzy and takes too much time away from writing.
I want to talk with folks one-on-one, up close and personal. My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. I respond best to my readers if they say something like "Hi, Sandy" and mention a book title in the subject line. Then I can pick them out of the maddening stack of e-mails I get every day and earmark them for immediate response.
Then my website is http://www.freewebs.com/sandystorm/ . Oh my, but there will be some delicious tidbits to add to my site from my recent reviews and upcoming stories. How can readers find out more about you and your books?
Silks Vault has my book on its site (click now to view)
Thank you for this opportunity!
Interviewed by Tammie King