Interview with Emma Holly

SR: How long have you been writing?

Emma: Pretty much since I could hold a crayon - though there was a brief period when I couldn't decide between being Perry Mason or Batman's girlfriend. (I think it musta been the tights.)

SR: What inspired you to start writing?

Emma: I can't remember not wanting to. Even as a kid I had a writer's mind: the way I observed the world around me, the way I tried to make sense of it and turned my observations into prose inside my head. Frankly, I was a *strange* kid, but I feel lucky to have always known what I wanted to be when I grew up.

SR: Why did you choose to write erotica?

Emma: An astrologer would tell you I chose erotica because Scorpio is my rising sign. I was simply destined to be fascinated by sex, death and religion. And who isn't interested in sex? Even when people are uncomfortable with frank expressions of sexuality, they pay attention - if only to shake their fingers and cluck. Sex is a driving force behind human history, as much as love or greed or fear. It's worth writing about because it's so central to our existence.

Also, I discovered I was good at it. Even when I was a struggling unpub, the one thing no one complained about was my sex scenes. Personal obsessions aside, there's nothing like positive reinforcement!

SR: How long had you been writing before you were published?

Emma: About ten years. A long time, yes, but I just didn't know how to quit. It's startling to me now to see some of my dreams finally coming true. I'd gotten so used to having them exist only in my head.

SR: Did you originally intend to write erotica or romance?

Emma: I started writing science fiction, slid into romance and finally published in erotica. That was in 1998, with MENAGE, still many people's favorite of my books.

SR: How did you get started writing for Black Lace?

Emma: I heard about them through an on-line writers group called the Erotica Readers Association. I actually wrote MENAGE with BL's guidelines in mind. Ironically, even though I wrote "to spec", Menage ended up being a rule-breaker for them. They'd never published a first-person novel before, or one so heavily centered on male-male action.

SR: What are the differences in writing for Black Lace, Red Sage, and Berkely?

Emma: Black Lace wants a higher proportion of sex to story than you find in the average romance. Generally, there's more adventuring and less monogamy. Edgier sex doesn't have any trouble flying: D/s, bondage, same-gender couplings. Those elements are not required, but I think readers expect to find them. Anyone who's interested in writing for Black Lace should check out their guidelines at the Erotica Readers Association website. ( Just realize that, as for any publisher, guidelines can be stretched for a story that strikes their fancy.

While Black Lace certainly does not dislike stories with interesting plots and gripping characters, a romance house like Berkley puts a higher priority on them. In a romance, generally speaking, you have more room for story and less room for sex. The level of explicitness I use is similar for all my publishers. Mostly the context varies. Sometimes the content. For instance, I can't at the present moment imagine finding an explicit same-sex coupling in a romance. But five years from now, who knows?

Red Sage (the publisher of the Secrets anthologies), seems to me to be somewhere in between erotica and erotic romance. A little more daring maybe, but still true to the romance formula.

SR: What are the difference in the language that you can use for different publishers?

Emma: Haha. The Brits at Black Lace want better grammar! Honestly, there isn't a definitive answer for this. Each editor will have his or her personal comfort level with plain Anglo Saxon terms, as will each author who writes for them. Most likely, if everything else in a story is strong, an author will not be rejected because she used the "f" word one too many times.

SR: What inspires you? Where do you get your ideas?

Emma: I'm not picky. I'll take my inspiration wherever I can find it. Daydreams, books, movies: anything that sparks a little "what-if" or "gee, I wish such-and-such hadn't been handled *that* way in this story." Contrary to what some very silly but perhaps flattering people believe, I do not personally try out the plot of my books before I write them. I strive for what I call the illusion of pseudo-reality. In other words, I include just enough real stuff to help readers enjoy the fantasy.

SR: Many of your stories contain elements of D/S in them. What attracts you to this?

Emma: I suppose it intrigues me because, overtly or covertly, issues of dominance and submission affect every relationship we have - as individuals, as groups, as countries. How do we develop a balance of power that everyone can live with, and live with well? What makes a good leader or a good follower? By addressing those questions through sexual interplay, hopefully I make them a lot more fun to think about.

SR: Which story is your favorite?

Emma: Honestly, I love them all, even the ones other folks don't love quite so much. I don't think any of my books are perfect, mind you, but however far they fall short of my ambitions for them, each represents a new challenge I tried to meet and sometimes did meet. They are, like the old saw says, all my children.

SR: Could you tell us a little bit about your upcoming novel, BEYOND INNOCENCE?

Emma: I like to call BEYOND INNOCENCE my Victorian "Will & Grace," because the hero's brother - really a secondary hero - is gay. The hero arranges his marriage to the heroine to prevent him from being outed. Then, since this is a romance and not an exercise in futility, the hero falls in love with her himself. It's a story about how hard it can be to take risks (the heroine's dilemma) and how hard it can be to let the people you love take risks (the hero's dilemma). The heroine's dilemma is definitely mine, but since I have a protective older sister, I thought I could understand the hero, too. One reviewer commented that I really seemed to love my characters and that is definitely the case. This was a special book for me and I hope people like it. If they're interested, I've got an excerpt for BEYOND INNOCENCE up on my website.

SR: What is coming up for you besides BEYOND INNOCENCE? What projects are you working on?

Emma: BEYOND SEDUCTION, another Victorian, is tentatively scheduled for May 2002. A vampire novella for an anthology including Christine Feehan, Sabrina Jeffries and Sherilyn Kenyon might or might not come out before that. I recently sold a fun contemporary erotic called PERSONAL ASSETS to the Venus Book Club, which will probably be a featured alternate for Oct/Nov this year. Other than that, I'm researching a full-length medieval vampire story that my editor is interested in but hasn't officially bought. People can cross their fingers if they're so inclined.

Counting the days until BEYOND INNOCENCE comes out? In desperate need of an Emma Holly fix? Be sure to hop over to HeartBeat at Writerspace next month to read a discussion of BEYOND INNOCENCE!

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