The Four-Sided Pentacle series is very erotic. What made you decide to explore with your writing, this particular subgenre in romance? In addition, there were some comments regarding THE FLAME AND THE SHADOW and "shadow sex". In my reading experience, I thought Gray's shadow and its sexual involvement was integral to the story, but others have been turned off by it. Did you expect some readers to be repelled by this aspect of the story? And for those particular readers, can you explain why Gray's shadow participated in such a sexual way?
First and foremost, I write to please myself. It’s essential. If I’m not engaged and entertained, it’s unlikely readers will be. I also have a very low tolerance for boredom, so I try to challenge myself in each book by pursuing a theme that interests me. Fantasy is wonderful medium for this because the constraints of the normal world don’t apply. It’s possible to make an abstract concept concrete and work it right through to a conclusion. I relish that.
In THE FLAME AND THE SHADOW, I created Gray, a man with a personality split so severe that it’s manifested in the physical entity of his shadow. This ties in with Jungian concepts of the ‘shadow’ side we all have. I even incorporated a Jiminy Cricket aspect, making Shad the voice of Gray’s conscience.
The idea totally intrigued me. Imagine seeing the ‘shadow’ side of yourself rise up in front of you! I loved writing Shad. He was a real challenge – funny, vulgar, boyish, uninhibited– the deeply buried, instinctive part of Gray.
The hot sex turned out to be an important consequence. I’ve always enjoyed writing about sex, for any number of reasons. It’s not only a turn-on, but the sexual act can be used as a lens to focus on raw emotion. The reader sees the characters naked and not only physically. All the masks are stripped away and the soul is bared, whether the character knows it or not. It’s enormously powerful.
Don’t they say the most important erogenous zone is the one the between the ears? Page after page of docking procedure leaves me cold. If the sex isn’t an integral part of character development, it’s not erotic romance, just gratuitous copulation.
Shad only exists because Gray experienced a trauma so severe, his personality fractured. It was a form of self-defense, essential for his survival. Because he’s actually one part of Gray, Shad is integral to the physical relationship with Cenda. He makes Gray fully present in the act. And because Cenda is a fire witch, Gray can’t survive making love with her unless he accepts Shad’s help. Slowly, he learns to understand and reconcile with the part of himself he has always rejected as dark and wrong.
So I have to say I’m a trifle bemused by the ‘shadow sex’ reaction. I write ménages as well (one woman, two men – GIFT OF THE GODDESS AND TAILSPIN for Ellora’s Cave, http://www.jasminejade.com/pm-5863-236-gift-of-the-goddess.aspx and http://www.jasminejade.com/pm-4947-236-tailspin.aspx and THE FLAME AND THE SHADOW seems different to me only in the sense that it’s actually one woman with two manifestations of the same man. It’s a monogamous relationship. To me, it was truly beautiful, almost sacred, but hey, I said at the start I write to please myself. Readers read to please themselves and everyone has different filters. I’m cool with that.
What's something that not too many people know about you?
Um. Well, I have a strange birthmark on my shoulder blade, shaped like a cross-eyed butterfly. Years ago, when I was teaching, I wore a summer dress one day and the kids asked me about it. I told them I was the lost Princess of Ruritania and it was the Royal Birthmark. One dear little soul believed me for a whole three minutes.
I was really surprised by Cenda's (heroine of THE FLAME AND THE SHADOW) age of forty-one years. Her innocence of course had me viewing her as much younger but it made me curious about your characters and their mortality rate. They're not immortal, but do they live longer then a normal human's expected life time? Does their Magick prolong their life at all? Or is this simply an age that you wanted Cenda to be? If so, why?
That’s a brilliant question! It hasn’t occurred to me to consider mortality, but when I think about it, I guess I’ve assumed a normal life span. As for Cenda’s age, I always knew she was a bit older than most heroines. I wanted her to be a wounded soul and yet not be cynical or jaded. Her life experience has made her vulnerable, but it also gives her the maturity to handle the dramatic transformation of a hitherto ordinary life.
I also believe we’re all about eighteen in our hearts – if that! I’m still surprised every time I catch a glimpse of my middle-aged self in a shop window
Why Magick and not shapeshifters or vampires?
If I’m honest, I have to say I cannot think of a single fresh take on either vampires or shapeshifters (weregerbils anyone?) and as I said in the previous answer, I like to challenge myself with new ideas. I acknowledge that others can do it (Joey W. Hill’s new vampire series, for example), but not me. Even worse, my left brain keeps whispering inconvenient truths like –
This dude is dead. Hullo? D.E.A.D. He doesn’t breathe and OMG, he sucks blood outta people! So do mosquitoes. Erk.
What happens to the excess flesh when a human turns into a wolf (or whatever) and vice versa? Where does it go? Oh, and the clothes? Must be hell on the wardrobe.
That said, I confess to a bit of dragon-shifting in GIFT OF THE GODDESS (http://www.jasminejade.com/pm-5863-236-gift-of-the-goddess.aspx), but it’s more inside the character’s heads than anything.
Magick gives me the scope to whatever I damn well want the way I want it. I have my own take on a vampire in TAILSPIN (Ellora’s Cave - http://www.jasminejade.com/pm-4947-236-tailspin.aspx). Belladonna is a soul-sucking demon who has captured one of my gorgeous winged and tailed heroes. She has evil designs on his body. (Who wouldn’t?) I’m also considering the concept of someone who can communicate telepathically with animals. Sounds like fun!
So far, I’ve written about a sex shaman with a dragon tattooed around his hips, a race called the Aetherii who have magnificent wings and wicked feathery tails, a banshee in search of a job, an ex-football-playing demon with inconvenient horns and a tail, a circus acrobat, a girl who is part dragon and a corset possessed by an evil spirit. It’s all at http://www.deniserossetti.com/books.html
On reflection, I sound like I belong in a ward for the terminally delusional.
One aspect that I really loved about your books is that while the stories take place in a separate world(s), the worldbuilding isn't overwhelming. Actually, it's rather subtle and revealed more through language and circumstance. I'm envisioning the worlds as separate planets. Is that what they are? If so, are they close or in a unit like our Solar System, or are they far apart like separate galaxies?
You’re exactly right, VFG. The worlds are separate planets. Think about the kind of universe Joss Whedon created in Firefly/Serenity and you’ve got the overall concept.
I get quite a few compliments on my worldbuilding, which is wonderful for my fragile writer’s ego. Thanks! On the other hand, it just, um, happens as I go along, like a movie unrolling in my head. When I go walking with My Beloved and the dog, I often lose track of the conversation. He’ll chuckle and ask, “What world are you on now?” because I sure ain’t on this one, Dorothy!
Was it difficult to develop a language(s) unique to your Four-Sided Pentacle universe? What languages did you use for inspiration?
Would you believe English? To my everlasting shame, it’s the only language I speak. I love opera, so I’m familiar with operatic Italian and I love the cadence of it. One day I’ll go to classes…
I can’t imagine developing a true language like Tolkien did with Elvish. Of course, he was a linguist and I’m…not.
On the other hand, I do try to provide the reader with a frame of reference for new words. There’s nothing more irritating than being hit with a slew of weird terms in chapter one. I use familiar vocabulary in new combinations, so that the reader has a subtext to fall back on. For example, a corpsebird is basically a vulture; mothermeknot is a contraceptive herb. If a child toddles by carrying a furrybear, you can bet it’s like a teddy. It’s much the same with names. Cenda comes from incendiary; Gray is the Duke of Ombra, which means shadow in Latin.
What has been the most defining moment in your writing career?
You asked for ‘defining’ as opposed to ‘exciting’. I’m going to sound like such a twit, but I had a revelation fairly early on that made a huge difference to the way I view the craft. I’ve always loved the beauty of language, vivid word pictures, striking metaphors. I’d be irritated by mediocre writers who still hit the top of bestseller lists, again and again. Duh! I was so involved in the craft of words on the page – wordsmithing - it took me ages to realize that it’s the story that really matters. Forget the golden prose – no story, no connection!
I was so impressed with this discovery I wrote an article about it - http://www.deniserossetti.com/campfire.htmlIf you’re a writer, there’s a sort of sliding scale to check where you come on the continuum between pure wordsmith and pure storyteller.
How do you develop your characters? I've heard of some authors launching from a certain stereotype, to others claiming that their characters come to them fully formed. Your characters are also extremely tortured not only in their past but on their journey to Happily Ever After. Do you ever feel guilty?
I’m what other writers call a ‘pantser’ – as opposed to a plotter. I do always know what happens in the end, it’s how we get there that’s a bit misty. It’s the same with characters – I have an idea of the essential personality traits, but I get to know them as I go along. Sometimes I have to go back and rework, but that’s the price pantsers pay for spontaneity. I’d love to be able to portray the full complexity of a real person on the page, but I think it’s actually impossible. We humans are such complicated, contradictory creatures. Any intelligent reader would simply throw the book at the wall if I tried.
I don’t find the mundane gripping and I don’t think readers do either. I need intense drama, life and death stakes, worlds trembling on the brink of dissolution. I hated what happened to Cenda’s daughter; I hated giving Gray such a dreadful boyhood. In fact, I had to take breaks from Gray’s chapters and tell myself he was only a paper person, not real. Not that it made any difference! But fracturing his character in that crucible of suffering was crucial to the man he became. Incidentally, I could have made his parents the ‘bad guys’, but that seemed like a cop-out, so they finished up doing what most parents do – the best they could.
High stakes drama doesn’t come out of happy placid places. The darker the night, the brighter the dawn , as they say. Bad things happen in Real Life too, so excruciatingly awful we can hardly bear to think about them. Likewise, Real Life is full of Happy Ever Afters. All you need do is look around you. I’m lucky enough to have one. I hope you are too.
My work for Ellora’s Cave and Avon – the PHOENIX RISING series and the KAMINSKI FAMILY series are lighter. There’s still plenty of hot romance and adventure and bad guys though! In fact, the KAMINSKI FAMILY stories are funny. (I hope.) There are excerpts of everything I’ve written on my website. Go have a look around. http://www.deniserossetti.com/
What are you writing right now? When is the next release in your Four-Sided Pentacle series?
The LACED WITH DESIRE anthology (Jaci Burton, Jasmine Haynes, Joey W. Hill and me) will be released in February next year. My novella follows THIEF OF LIGHT, though it can be read as a stand-alone. It’s the story of Rhiomard, the gruff Guard who appears as a secondary character in RUBIES AND BLACK LACE and THIEF OF LIGHT. I’ve just completed the final page proofs and I’m actually reasonably satisfied this time. Here’s a short blurb –
Rhio’s a battle-scarred veteran of both love and war, a soldier right down to his bootstraps. But he’s never met a woman as fierce, as fascinating—as dangerous--as Dancer. And she’s up to her pretty neck in political intrigue. She just might kill him before they’re through, but what a glorious way to go!
I’m putting the finishing touches to the proposal for Book #3 in the FOUR-SIDED PENTACLE series. The hero is the swordmaster, Walker, an earth shaman who appears in THIEF OF LIGHT as a secondary character. He’s all dark and brooding and cold. Deadly. His heroine may well be the most unusual character I’ve ever written. Deprived of touch and affection from babyhood, she has never learned about normal human relationships, so she’s essentially ‘empty’. She cannot interpret facial expressions and body language, has no idea of what empathy means, let alone sympathy, and little understanding of conventional morality. Yet she has a childlike innocence and curiosity that’s extraordinarily endearing. Put her together with the deeply reserved Walker and sparks are going to fly. I can’t wait to dig in! All being well, it’s slated for release about this time next year.
In between all this, I’m doing a proposal for the next in my PHOENIX RISING series for my long-suffering Ellora’s Cave editor. I also have an entire KAMINSKI FAMILY story in my head screaming to get out. *sigh* Shame about the day job.
As always, I write a monthly newsletter. Contests, giveaways, updates – and a very naughty, very silly serial, RACKETY KATE AND THE PIRATES. Yo-ho-ho! I like to be funny on occasion and Rackety Kate is my light relief. Readers get to choose what happens next. My newsletter folk are very special to me, like a worldwide family. They hear everything first. Everyone is welcome! http://groups.yahoo.com/subscribe/deniserossetti
Me and my blogger friends have a love for what we affectionately call "Hussy Reading Material". Do you have any romance authors that you prefer when or if you're in need of erotic romance reading material?
I enjoy the sensuality and lyricism of Emma Holly. I also love Joey W. Hill – which is hardly surprising given that Joey is a critique partner and good friend. I like a well-written male/male romance too, Josh Lanyon in particular.
Denise is giving away...
In the elegant, subtropical city of Caracole, Erik the Golden is widely known as irresistible; his Voice an instrument of incredible pleasure, the stroke of velvet on bare skin. But the Voice is a curse as much as a blessing, for once Erik used it to steal a soul, and now he must pay.
Pruella Takimori McGuire is the business manager for the beautiful courtesans of the Garden of Nocturnal Delights. She deals in numbers, not Magick, and when Erik turns his charms in her direction, she sees only vanity, not a golden gift. If Erik cannot use his power to win Prue's heart, how can he truly possess her? How is it she can resist what others can't? She's either a torment devised by the gods to drive him mad — or Erik's last hope of salvation.
And all the while, a far darker power corrupts the foundations of Caracole - the Necromancer, who feasts on souls. When the Necromancer's hired assassin kidnaps Prue, Erik must harness his air Magick to recover the woman he has come to love more than life itself...