My author guest this month on “Chatting with the Pros” is a talented romance author of both historical and contemporary romance novels. Her Knights of Silence MC series tells the story of the sometimes violent and brutal world of motorcycle club life with characters who feel very human and vulnerable at times. The series is a tale of love and loyalty, and yes, there’s some tastefully written, but quite erotic sex scenes. (You can see my review of Sainte, the last book in the MC series.) I also had the pleasure of reviewing Ripper, which was one of the most cleverly crafted romances I’ve ever read. To turn a Jack the Ripper tale into an erotic romance takes some talent. Erotic romance author Amy Cecil did with a well crafted hand. I’m so pleased to be able to chat with her today. Please join me in welcoming her.
Kaye: Why do you write in the romance genre? Why not science fiction, or fantasy or mystery?
Amy: I initially chose romance because that is what I have always read. I do not read science fiction and doubt that I could even write in that genre. As I wrote more books, I have intertwined other genres into them such as fantasy, romantic suspense and ever mystery. So even though I started with romance, I’ve always been open to other genres that interest me.
Kaye: What is the most difficult part of writing romance for you? What is the most fun?
Amy: I would have to say the most difficult thing with romance for me is finding a relationship scenario that isn’t over saturated in the market. For all of us romance readers, we are always looking for something fresh. We want that happily ever after, but finding the angst to get to that point can be difficult.
And, the most fun part of romance for me is the banter between the couples. I love to bring snarky attitudes together and have a battle of the wits, so to speak.
Kaye: Your Knights of Silence MC series chronicles a motorcycle club over the course of several years. As you read the series you get better acquainted with each of the members, which have well developed backstories that make the whole of the story seem very real and believable. What drew you to these stories with these characters?
Amy: That’s a great question. And actually pretty funny how the series got to where it is now. When I started, my focus was on Ice and Emma, childhood sweethearts that great apart who found each other again. It was gonna be one book. When I got to about half way through the book, my PA at the time suggested that I release it, even though it has this huge cliffy. So I did, which then created book 2. That was supposed to be the end. But as I was writing these characters and their story lines grew, I realized I had more to say. Never in a million years at the beginning did I think that Honey would be such a pivotal character in the series to warrant he own book. So the draw was Ice and Emma and the continuing development came with each book released from my mind.
Kaye: You recently released the last book in the Knights of Silence MC series, Sainte. Can you talk a little about Sainte’s part of the Story? Why was he chosen for the central focus character in the final book?
Amy: When the series started to lean toward Honey, I realized that male character that I had intended for her was completely wrong for her. She needed a saint, literally to save her from herself. And while Hawk was the most beloved character in the series, he did not have the mental strength to get Honey through. And I just couldn’t let him sit around and watch her with another man. So, Hawk had to die and make room for Sainte. Sainte is a former mafia hit man who knew Ice when he was a kid. He is Emma’s cousin, which she didn’t know about. So he had a reason to stay with the MC from the beginning. When he met Honey, he realizes quickly, she is the woman for him and he decides to stay and leave the mafia world. (Not that it is all that different. LOL). Sainte brings the story full circle, bringing the club the peace it has been wanting for a long time.
Kaye: As I mention in my review of Sainte, your characters are well developed with rich, believable backstories. Where do you draw your characters? How do you create with their stories?
Amy: As noted in questions 3 and 4 above, their stories come to me as I write them. I keep referring back to Honey, but she is a perfect example. When the series started, she was nothing, but the jealous ex-girlfriend. By the time we get to the third book, her story line develops and the reader sees she is the most complex character in the whole series. She’s a recovering coke addict, struggling with her addiction every day. She wants love so bad she can taste it, but is terrified to grab the bull by the horns and take it when it’s offered to her. As the story grows, my characters grow and develop stories of their own.
Kaye: Although the series focuses on the male members, their “old ladies” play important roles as well, offering an abundance of strong, if flawed, female characters. Why do the ladies play such an important role within the framework of your stories?
Amy: Well, you know the old saying, “there is a strong woman behind every man.” I wanted my female characters to be as strong as their male counterparts. Because these women are connected to the MC, they are surrounded by violence. They have to be strong to survive. Emma comes to the MC in ICE a very naïve young woman. By the end, she gives new meaning to the term “old lady” and could definitely have a patch of her own.
Kaye: Who is your favorite MC Character and why?
Amy: At first, I would have to say Caden/ICE all the way. And don’t get me wrong, I love him because he is the heart of the MC. He’s strong and protective and the kind of guy that when he holds you in his arms you feel safe. But then, Sainte came along. Sainte is everything that Ice is, but Sainte has that snarky personality that I love. He’s not afraid to tell it like it is and if he’s hated for it, he will just smile and walk away. Yes, definitely Sainte.
Kaye: The MC world is often dangerous and violent. As a result, throughout the series several characters have had to die. Is it difficult for you to kill off your darlings? Who was the hardest for you?
Amy: Several minor or past characters have died and frankly, I didn’t even bat an eye. When the realization hit me that I had to kill Hawk, that one was difficult. He was a major player in the story line and very much loved character by my readers. And believe me, I thought of several ways to keep him, but I just couldn’t get it to work with how I wanted the story to go. So he died. It was hard, but it would have been so much harder to kill Ice or Sainte, or even one of the girls.
Kaye: You also write historical romance. Are those stories a bit tamer than you contemporary romances?
Amy: Yes, definitely. My historical romances are Jane Austen FanFic and I think the hard core Jane Austen fans would have heart attacks if I made them as steamy as my contemporary romances.
Kaye: Your erotic scenes are done tastefully and in context for the story, yet you turn up the heat just enough to make them sizzle. How do you know how far to take your sex scenes? How hot is too hot?
Amy: That’s an easy question. I think about what I like to read and go from there. I have read several books where every other page is a sex scene and that is just ridiculous. Many authors think sex is what sells your book, but I disagree. Readers want a story that they can sink their teeth into. They want to relate to their characters and that is really hard to do if they are screwing like bunnies the entire time.
I also believe that you want to leave the reader wanting for more in a particular scene. We all have an imagination and I believe that sometimes it is best to let the readers mind take over and make the sex in the book what they want.
Kaye: You are finished with the Knights of Silence. What is next for Amy Cecil? Is there a new series in the works?
Amy: Currently, I am working on a sequel to On Stranger Prides, which is a Pride and Prejudice variation titled On Familiar Prides. After that, I have a short story I wrote last year in an anthology about a WWI spy that I would like to develop into a full-length novel. As far as the Knights series goes, I definitely plan to expand on it. I currently have one spin-off series published, the Enemy Duet, but I also see others as well as a next generation series. I know for a fact, I can not stay away from my biker boys for very long, so definitely expect more in the future. I’m also working on making all my books available on audio, so that has kept me pretty busy as well.
Kaye: You are an award winning romance author. What do you feel is your biggest writing accomplishment to date?
Amy: Wow, you really save the toughest for last. I always thought that my writing was measured by the number of reviews, or the awards won, or even that pretty “bestseller” orange banner you get from Amazon. And yes, I have lots of reviews, awards and have had a couple orange banners and I am thankful for every one of them. But when I really think about accomplishments in my writing, none of these apply. Sure, they are great and all, but what I am most proud of is my readers. And it’s not just because they read my books, but because of the people and the friendships I have developed with them. I have met some amazing people through this journey and I can say, it’s not the awards, or the reviews or the “bestseller” banners that keep me writing, it’s the readers.
I want to thank Amy for taking the time to share today on Writing to be Read. Romance comes in many different shapes and sizes. In her Knights of Silence MC series, it comes in the form of big, tough bikers and their girls. Her characters are well developed and feel very realistic and relate-able so readers come to care about them, and her sex scenes have just the right amount of heat to make them erotic, but not feel over the top. It has been a pleasure chatting with her here and getting a glimpse into the workings of contemporary erotic romance series. Join us next month, when the theme will be the western genre and my “Chatting with the Pros” author guest will be Cherokee Parks.
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My author guest today is a woman who knows who she is and what she wants out of life, and she goes after it with gusto. She writes sizzling hot erotic romance about love, sex, power and control. In 2019, she received a Stiletto Award in the erotic/BDSM category, from the Contemporary Romance Writers of America for her first novel, Beyond the Masks. She loves life and she loves what she does. It is my pleasure to have her with us today. Please join me in giving a warm welcome to Nicky F. Grant.
Kaye: Can you tell us briefly about your own author’s journey?
Nicky: It happened by accident, actually. I was (and still am) a huge reader of romance. I’d devour an erotic romance book every two days and it got to a point where they became the same. Different character names, but the similar formula. My husband and I were kicking back with a few drinks and came up with a plot idea for Beyond the Masks. One where it focused on a strong CEO heroine and her professional and personal challenges with two alpha men. An angsty, love triangle. It was supposed to be something to tinker with, but I soon found myself swept up in the story. Now, I can’t get enough.
Kaye: Why do you write in the romance genre? What draws you to the power world of your Beyond Surrender Romance series?
Nicky: Erotic romance seems to have a bad rap in the “real world”, unfortunately. And some books with BDSM can come off a little over the top, in my opinion. Fun to read, but unrealistic.
My passion for this genre comes from a deep understanding of the emotional connections to love, sex, and BDSM. My goal is show each reader that there’s a profound connection between these things well beyond floggers and obedience that’s usually present in these books. BDSM exists in my world of Beyond Surrender, but as a “third character” between the heroes and heroines. It’s catalyst to spark their inner desires and understand why it’s okay to feel what they do.
Also, I want my readers to relate to my powerful female characters. I try to lift up women in all capacities and having fun in the bedroom while owning one’s sexual prowess is one of them.
Kaye: What is the biggest challenge to writing romance for you? What is your favorite part?
Nicky: A huge challenge is starting a new book. It takes me time to let go of past characters after I’ve written their Happily Ever After. Also, my confidence wavers with the thought of a new story. What if I don’t do it justice? What if readers don’t understand my twisted brain? It’s nerve-wracking!
On the flip side, my favorite part comes about halfway through writing a new book. It’s the moment where I truly understand the characters, their bond, emotional limits, chemistry, pasts, and futures. This does cause a whole re-write of the first half of the book, but it’s my process and I’m learning to embrace that!
Kaye: Your romance novels are about power “in the boardroom and the bedroom” and they contain erotic sex scenes. How do you know how high to turn up the heat?
Nicky: I’m chuckling at this question, because I’m a touch embarrassed. Man, I love a good “peel the paint of the wall” sexy scene! My scenes are explicit, which I still can’t believe my mother has read. Anyway, I let the characters tell me how high the heat should be. Usually, it’s scorching, but sometimes I may “fade to black”.
As the author, I’m very aware that each love scene must serve a purpose. It must bring the Hero and Heroine closer together or cause a ripple in the love story. Trust me, I’ve had to cut out scenes that lacked in moving the plot forward. It hurts to cut those darlings… but my duty as an erotic romance author, is to help the story along. I hate to admit it, but I get exhausted with my characters falling all over each other. 😉
Kaye: How do you develop a female character who is strong and confident, but still make her feel human?
Nicky: Great question. I take from my own experiences and that of other strong women in my life. I feel fortunate to be a woman with strong views in business, life, and sex. But the true beauty reveals itself when I embrace my own vulnerability.
My heroines are a reflection of that. For example, Shane Vaughn in Beyond the Masks is a female CEO in the music industry. Even though she’s challenged by the men in the field, she’s still vulnerable. She’s open and honest with her past flame, current lover, friends, and family. Somehow, she’s not jaded by keeping up a tough exterior. She’s human with real emotions. I strive to be her in ways, maybe that’s why her story found me. Swoon….
Kaye: In 2019, Beyond The Masks was a finalist for the Contemporary Romance Writers of America‘s Stiletto award in the erotic/BDSM category. Tell us a little about book 1 in the Beyond Surrender series and what receiving such a prestigious award means to you?
Nicky: I was with an author friend when I got the email. There was a shriek, a smile, and tears. Later, I did accept the Stiletto for best erotic romance in New York City. Dreamy, right?
I was incredibly moved to have experienced this among my incredibly talented peers. Especially when I pretty much drop-kicked my entry on the last day to enter! I never thought I stood a chance. That evening put my dreams into reality.
Kaye: What techniques do you use to draw your readers into the story and immerse them in it?
Nicky: Not sure if I have any specific techniques…but I’m attracted to angst, secrets, suspense, and alpha men. So, my stories have elements of these throughout. The one thing I keep on top of mind is, if I’m not enthralled in the story then my readers won’t be.
Kaye: What is the best piece of advice you ever received?
Nicky: Wow, there has been so much! The romance community is incredible when it comes to helping others. If I were to pass along any wisdom to a new author, I would tell them to find their voice. Don’t compare yourself to every other author on the market and don’t get wrapped up in, “I should be doing what they’re doing!”
Writing is a personal journey. All the voices in our heads (yes, there are voices) are rare and unique. If you write without fear, the muse will find you. And your characters will tell you their story when we listen.
Kaye: What is your favorite part of the story, beginning, middle or end? Why?
Nicky: I love the middle! This is where all the “fun and games” happen! The sexy times are heating up, the characters are falling in lust, and a “romp in the sheets” make for a happy writer. But the middle is where things really start rolling. Secrets are revealed, the antagonist works their evil, and the characters doubt themselves. Also makes for a happy writer…I’m a bit of a sadist when it comes to causing them misery, just to fall in love. It’s a tough job. 😉
Kaye: What is your favorite time of day to write? Why?
Nicky: First thing in the morning. My brain is fresh. Also, anything I’d been working through (tough plot points, etc) have a way of working themselves out as I sleep. I can spring out of bed with a hot cup of joe and tap out some words for an hour or two. It’s a strange meditation for me.
Kaye: What is next for Nicky F. Grant? Are you working on anything now?
Nicky: I have two books lined up this year. Hers to Protect, a part of the Girl Power Romance Collection and Dirty Talker, a book for Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward’s Cocky Hero Club series!
Link to Hers to Protect: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/50656136-hers-to-protect
Link for Dirty Talker: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/51008222-dirty-talker
Also, Beyond the Masks is coming to audiobook late February/early March! More on that at www.nickyfgrant.com. Readers can also sign up for my VIP newsletter with all the upcoming news on my website.
I want to thank Nicky F. Grant for sharing with us here on Writing to be Read. I love how enthusiastic she is about what she writes. It’s been a fun interview, Nicky, and I really enjoyed having you as my guest. Readers can learn more about Nicky and her books on her Amazon Author page, or at her website, above.
Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribe to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.
Robbie Cheadle is a very creative mother, author and fondant artist, who thinks outside the box to find inventive solutions for life’s difficulties. I first met Robbie through Sonoran Dawn’s Dead Man’s Party Halloween book event, where I did a reading of her short horror story, The Willow Tree, via audio recording for the event. During her takeover, Robbie posted images of her delectable creations to promote her Sir Chocolate book series for children, which she wrote with her son, Michael. She uses these image of her baked creations as cover art and to illustrate the book series. I thought this was incredibly innovative, and I immediately wanted to know more about this woman, and it didn’t take long to decide that I wanted to add her to the WtbR team.
Robbie is my Christmas gift this year, as I’ve been searching for a children’s author to join the Writing to be Read team. So, starting in January, Robbie will be popping in the second Wednesday of each month with her new blog series on writing for children, Growing Bookworms. I can’t wait to see what she has to share with us, so let’s learn more about her.
Kaye: Your Sir Chocolate covers are photos of your own delectable desert creations, which is very creative. Which came first – the baking or the writing?
Robbie: I started with baking and fondant art quite a long time before we wrote the books, but pairing the two was an idea that only came later. I used to write poetry and descriptive passages as a tween and teenager. Emily of New Moon by LM Montgomery was my favourite book when I was a tween. Emily is a poetess in the book and her father is a writer. The book inspired me to write down my thoughts and feelings.
Kaye: Would you share the story of your own publishing journey? How did the published works of Robbie Cheadle come to be?
Robbie: I never planned to become a published author when I first started writing the Sir Chocolate stories. My son, Michael, aged 6 years old at the time was having difficulties with learning to read and write. He was diagnosed with an auditory processing problem which made these activities difficult for him. He had the loveliest story ideas about a little man made of chocolate who lived in a land where you could eat anything, even the sand, trees and houses. In order to encourage him to write, I made up rhyming verse stories using his ideas. Together we wrote them down in handmade books.
I have always enjoyed fondant art and sometimes Michael would come and sit with me and make his own version of what I was making. We started making illustrations for the books by taking photographs of our creations. My nieces and nephews enjoyed the Sir Chocolate stories, so I tried them out with my Sunday school class of children. One of my friends at the Church suggested I send the stories and pictures to a friend of hers who is a publisher in the UK. Anne liked the stories and gave us a contract for the Sir Chocolate series of books.
Kaye: You talk about fondant art. I, for one had never heard of this. Could you explain briefly what fondant art is?
Robbie: Fondant is also called sugar dough and is an elastic type of icing, almost like modelling clay. This is the substance that cake bakers use to make figurines, flowers and other edible artworks for cakes. The items in the picture I emailed you are all made of fondant.
Kaye: You’re the co-author, along with your son Michael of the Sir Chocolate book series for young readers. How did that partnership come about?
Robbie: Between the ages of 6 and about 9 years old, Michael and I continued to make up Sir Chocolate rhyming verse stories from time to time. We would be doing something like visiting an ice cream shop and an idea would come to us. We would then chat about the idea and develop it into a story. Michael has delightful ideas like the chocolate snow and the ice-cream rainbow fairies who feature in Sir Chocolate and the Ice-cream Rainbow Fairies’ story and cookbook which will come out in 2020.
Kaye: What’s the one thing you hope your son takes away from this venture?
Robbie: I always hoped that Michael would become a proficient reader and learn to enjoy books and reading. It is not easy for a child who struggles to learn to read to develop a love of reading. I am very happy to say that this has happened. Michael now reads on his own for about 30 minutes a day. We often read together with me reading my book of the day and him reading his current story. Lately, these are all Rick Riordan books.
Kaye: What ages are the Sir Chocolate series aimed at?
Robbie: The Sir Chocolate books are aimed at young children, aged 3 to 9 years old. They are lovely for beginner readers as they are comprised of rhyming verse.
Kaye: Each book in the Sir Chocolate series features a story and a cookbook. That’s an interesting combination. Would you like to tell us a little more about why you chose to pair the two?
Robbie: Sir Chocolate is a little man made of sweets and sugar. All the characters in the books are made of edible products as well as all the houses, trees, flowers and even the rivers and the rocks. As all the illustrations are made of cake, biscuits and sweets, it seemed natural to provide the recipes to make some of the goodies in the book and make the books into a series of first cookbooks as well as a story.
Kaye: You also write supernatural and horror for adult audiences, and you had two stories published in the recently released horror anthology, Dark Visions. (See my review of Dark Visions here.) Another interesting combination: horror and children’s stories. Is there a story behind how you ended up writing in those two genres?
Robbie: I entered a short story for children in one of Dan Alatorre’s writing competitions and it won an Honourable Mention. I really liked the critique on my story that I received from Dan so when another competition cropped up a few months later I decided to enter. The topic for that one was horror so I thought I would give it a go. That was when I wrote The Willow Tree. Dan again provided an excellent critique in respect of the story. I entered The Haunting of William into his most recent horror competition in June 2018. That was how I came to write darker stories. I discovered that I enjoyed writing this genre and now I am writing a supernatural/horror YA book. I have just exceeded 50,000 words.
Kaye: I can think of many differences in writing horror and in writing for children, but are there also ways in which they are alike?
Robbie: The Sir Chocolate stories all have a villain ranging from the trolls in Book 1 to the candy stripped Roc in book 5. All stories generally have a heroic character and a bad character so there is a common thread between the two genres. The difference is that in the Sir Chocolate books the “baddie” is generally redeemed and becomes a contributing member of Chocolate Land. In my current book, the evil characters are not redeemed.
Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a horror story you’ve ever had?
Robbie: I have just written a horror story about cockroaches which infest a working microwave oven and gain unnatural powers as a result of the microwaves they are subjected to. I think that is about the most unusual story I have written to date but I have only been writing for just over two years and I only started writing horror this year.
Kaye: In addition to writing children’s stories and cookbooks, and adult horror, you write poetry. And you have a poetry collection out with Kim Blades, Open a New Door. What type of poetry can we expect to find in this collection? How did that collaboration come about?
Robbie: Kim Blades and I are both South African poets. Our collection is about life in South Africa and is divided into four sections entitled God bless Africa, God bless my family and friends, God bless me and God bless corporates and work. Each section is divided into poems about the good, the bad and the ugly of our experiences in each of these areas of our lives.
Kaye: What is the most important quality in a poem for you?
Robbie: I like poems that are simply written and have a strong message. I try to write my poems along those lines. I don’t believe a lot of “highbrow” language is necessary in a poem for it to be an emotional and evocative piece of writing.
Kaye: You have another collaboration with Elsie Haney Eaton, While the Bombs Fell. It’s about life during World War II, which is quite different from the Sir Chocolate stories. What age audience is this book aimed at? Would you like to talk a little about it?
Robbie: Elsie Hancy Eaton is my mother and While the Bombs Fell is a fictionalized account of her early years growing up during WWII in a rural town in England. It features the deprivation caused by bombing and rationing and the other hardships experienced, but it also provides a lot of insight into the small pleasures people enjoyed during the war in the way of a Christmas pudding, the ingredients for which were literally saved up for most of the year, swimming in favourite spots along the river Waverney and learning to knit. The reason this account is fictionalized and not an autobiography is my mother was aged 4 to 7 years during the war and so she can’t remember all the fine details. I supplemented her memories with a lot of my own research.
Kaye: What is the biggest challenge of writing for children?
Robbie: Marketing the books. Indie authors and writers with small publishers find it more difficult to get their books into stores and in front of the eyes of children. Children generally don’t use social Medias and, therefore, we are marketing to the parents and not to the actual child. Impulse buys are fewer as a result. I try to visit schools and Sunday Schools, but my time for these events are limited due to my work requirements.
Kaye: What other activities do you find time for when you’re not baking or writing?
Robbie: I am a qualified chartered accountant with a full time job and two sons. Any recreational time I have that isn’t spent with my family is used for writing, baking and blogging. I have two blogs, one for my children’s books, light poetry, baking and fondant art called robbiespiration.wordpress.com and one for my adult writing and darker poems called robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com.
Thank you so much Robbie for chatting with me here today. It’s been a pleasure, and I’m thrilled to have you on board. I look forward to your Growing Bookworms blog series. I have no doubt that you have some interesting things to share with us.
Welcoming Robbie to the Writing to be Read team is my Christmas present this year, and adding her blog series will be a great way to start out the New Year, too. You can learn more about Robbie and her writing and art one her blogs or click on the links below:
Sir Chocolate book series: https://www.facebook.com/SirChocolateBooks/
Bake & Write: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/author/robbie-cheadle/
Or look her up on social media:
I hope all my readers will help me welcome this creative children’s author to the Writing to be Read team and be sure to catch the first segment of her Growing Bookworms series on January 9th.
Want to be sure you don’t miss any of Robbie’s Growing Bookworms segments? Subscribe to Writing to be Read for e-mail notifications whenever new content is posted or follow WtbR on WordPress.
Most erotic stories get categorized as romance, for obvious reasons, and many erotic stories read like a romance with erotic scenes tossed in here and there to spice things up. Or the opposite, so much erotica it’s hard to find the story line, it seems everyone in the tale is having random sex for the sake of having sex, and there doesn’t seem to be much point to the tale.
Neither can be said for DARE, by James Crow. A tale where I found that the sex scenes carried the story. At times the flashbacks out weighed the present scenes and multiple sexual encounters play out for us simultaneously, but they are all relevant to the main story line. But reader beware, DARE goes beyond the erotic and into the realm of very twisted kink, and is definitely aimed at very mature audiences. To be honest, I found the subject matter a little shocking, but the matter-of-fact British tone that discusses atrocities as if they were run of the mill, everyday occurances may have something to do with the shock factor.
I’m not sure how I feel about this story, but it is an interesting approach to story telling, with a surprise twist at the end, so I give DARE four quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.