Kathryn Anne Dubois

Interview with Kathryn Anne Dubois

author of "Surrender" in Red Sage's SECRETS VOLUME 7

SR: How did you get started writing?

Kathryn: I’ve always been an avid reader. Nancy Drew as a kid, family sagas in my twenties, suspense in my thirties, then in ’92 one of my teenage daughters left Judith Naught’s “Paradise” lying around. I’ve been an avid romance reader since. (“I’m still in love with Judith’s Matt Farrell. Anyone know his email address?)

Four and a half years ago I postmarked my last graduate paper, concluding ten years of higher education. I have a Masters in Industrial Technology and another 30 graduate credits beyond that in math, science, and working with difficult children.

Upon returning from the post office I grumbled to anyone within ear shot that I would never again write another dry, technical, suffocatingly boring academic paper. My daughter’s boyfriend asked me what I was going to do. I guess he meant besides holding down a full time job, finish raising two of my five children, spend time with my husband, and squeeze in friends, hobbies, etc. I casually replied that I always thought that I’d try my hand at a romance when I retired.

He asked me why I was waiting until then. (brat!)

I reluctantly admitted that it was a good question. So when I went to our Swim club that day to watch - or actually I didn’t watch, I was supposed to be watching, but all writers know how that goes - my two youngest fling themselves off the high-dive, I instead sat in my beach chair surrounded by friends reading novels in this very family oriented place and wrote a scene for what later became my first romance novel. It was, of course, one of the sex scenes. Naturally, my friends were curious, since I usually sat there reading like them. When they asked and I told them, no one was surprised I was “writing a novel.” “You’d be good at that,” were their very supportive replies. It was so much fun and they were so encouraging, that I haven’t stopped writing since.

SR: What else have you written besides SURRENDER? Written and published or just written?

Kathryn: One of my erotic short stories is in the first “Wicked Words,” an anthology published by Virgin Publishing’s, Black Lace line. Another appears in “Wicked Words IV.” Three completed manuscripts of contemporary category, very sexy romances with humorous elements are with my agent, Paige Wheeler. All three employ the primal plot “Marriage of Convenience” in some form. (I love the forced togetherness – allows for immediate conflict and high sexual tension from the get-go).

In one, the couple are forced to work on an island together in Alaska (l lived in Alaska for 17 years). They both have a secret -which I won’t reveal- that keep them emotionally apart (if not sharing the same tent). In another, they are FBI agents undercover as a married couple at a retreat that turns out to be an illegal sex-spa.

Another portrays a fake engagement for the hero’s publicity/image needs in exchange for the heroine gaining back the controlling shares to her own company that the hero just bought from her sister. All stories also explore the clash of class distinctions.

My 4th category is 75% complete. In order to merge their companies and go public, the couple is forced into a temporary marriage in order to by-pass her company’s charter about outside family control. Class distinctions also in this one.

Also with my agent, is another erotic romance novella (contemporary this time) and a single title historical erotic romance set in New Orleans.

So, I have hopes that you’ll see all this in print soon.

SR: Have you always written erotic romance?

Kathryn: Yes, for as long as I’ve been writing which, as I said, is only 4.5 years. In the middle of my first story, I got frustrated with what I knew wouldn’t fly in romance, as far as sex goes - and I write the most sexy stuff in romance - but still I felt hampered. So I wrote a very sexy graphic short story that satisfied my urge to push the envelope in writing, and then happily went back to writing my novel. That short story later got published in the first “Wicked Words.”

SR: How did you end up writing for Red Sage?

Kathryn: I can’t honestly remember. I ordered my first “Secrets” years ago, probably through one of the mail order companies that feature erotica and more spicy romance. I have been reading erotica for about 25 years, back when the “Story of O” and Anais Nin, Xaviera Hollander, Nancy Friday, etc. was all there was, good, but the market was very small. I was always looking for more. In the last 5 years or so, things have changed dramatically. So finding Red Sage was a wonderful discovery for me in my own reading. I love the romantic element mixed in with the arousing sex and an actual story and characters you can fall in love with. After my success selling my short story, I thought I’d try something longer to take out my frustrations on while I continued to write more mainstream romance. I knew Red Sage was novella length, so I submitted, Alexandria worked with me, and I was lucky enough to get it published.

SR: How do your experiences with Red Sage differ from your experiences with other publishers? What is it about Red Sage and SECRETS that pushes the envelope?

Kathryn: The publisher, Alexandra Kendall, is very down to earth, helpful, willing to work with you. Red Sage stresses the emotion, as all romance publishers do, but also encourages the sex, which other publishers have to be careful about, although this is getting less so with the success of Temptation’s Blaze which now has become its own line. So Red Sage is the best of both worlds.

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

Kathryn: 14 months from the day I started writing to get a contract for one of my short stories and two years by the time it came out in print.

SR: What else are you working on? What do you have slotted to be released for readers to scour the bookstores for?

Kathryn: As I mentioned, I hope to have my 4 sensual category romances sold soon and my erotic romance novel and novella that I mentioned as well. Since they are with my agent, I hesitate to mention any publishing houses, but of course if any editors read this, I’d love to hear from you.

I also have a collection of short stories. The stories just come to me continuously. They take me about two hours to write. I’ve come across many collections of erotica on the market today, such as those edited by Susie Bright, but mine don’t fit there. Mine are more female oriented with a romantic edge although very graphic. Right now they are more therapy for me, I don’t want to tailor them to any market. But I also wouldn't mind finding a market for them just the way they are written, too.

Can I say what I especially like to write? I especially enjoy male dominance scenes, some fear and danger mixed in, spanking, bondage, etc. written in a way that is dark enough so as not to take the edge off but not violent or degrading to women in any way. Thea Divine pulls it off wonderfully in her writing as do two Red Sage Authors, Sandy Fraser in her “Beneath Two Moons” and Ann Jacobs in her “The Barbarian.” Not an easy thing to do but very arousing when done well in my opinion. Since I love reading those themes, I also love writing them.

SR: SURRENDER is a delightfully erotic and risqué tale of a hellion who marries a duke who refuses to tolerate her antics. How did you come up with the idea for this story and how did it develop?

Kathryn: I always come up with my ideas the same way. I start with the hero. He just sort of pops into my imagination at the oddest times, like when I’m supposed to be concentrating on my daughter’s soccer game, and he will not leave until I breathe life into him. He is very real to me. Then I imagine the type of heroine that would attract him, whether he is consciously aware of it or even agrees with me or not. Once I can picture them interacting, the story writes itself. I start with a very vague premise and then just start writing, long hand, in a spiral notebook.

The premise for SURRENDER was a dark, strong, hero who seeks a biddable wife to produce him an heir without a lot of fuss. Naturally after picturing that, Johanna popped into mind, the exact opposite, and I knew it would be so much fun to write what happens when they meet. Every twist and turn in the plot was driven by the characters themselves. I never know what is going to happen until I start having them interact and then it just comes.

If I had to write a synopsis before I wrote the story, I’d be too bored to write the story, all the anticipation would be gone. Like a reader, I don’t want to know what’s going to happen, maybe a hint, but I want to be surprised, too, which might sound crazy since I am supposed to be the writer, but I know many writers who operate this way.

Then, of course, I also know of writers that will write a 100 page synopsis for a 200 page book to guide them in their writing and others who make complicated charts and diagrams about the goals, motivation, and conflicts of the characters. I have tried that, but I get myself hopelessly confused and lose all spontaneity.

Besides reading about the craft of writing in general; examining the books of authors I love in order to figure out, from a readers point of view and now with a writer’s eye, why I love them; and attending workshops with my local professional organization, New Jersey Romance Writers, and other chapters, the only preliminary work I do for a story is to interview my characters.

I did this for the first time with the book I’m working on now and it was so much fun. It helped me get to know my hero even more and made me even more anxious – if that is possible – to bring him to life and get him interacting with his antagonist, I mean, heroine. As you can probably figure, my stories are character driven, rather than plot driven. The plot always serves to bring out the relationship or character traits of my hero and heroine, never the reverse.

SR: SECRETS is known for pushing the envelope between erotica and romance - how does SURRENDER push the envelope?

Kathryn: The words alone are graphic. Although romance has come a long way – you can even write “penis” in some romance now, a big change – still a writer is limited. In Secrets, you can use words that conjure a very sexual image, and since all you have in writing is words, this is vital.

Writing “his hard member” and writing “his hard cock” conjure up very different responses even though it’s “only” a word. String together a series of highly erotic words to draw up images and you create a different feel altogether, more highly charged, more energy, more arousing.

You don’t settle down for a nice comfortable read when you pick up SECRETS, you expect to be deliciously aroused and entertained. I don’t think you would take it to the waiting room of the doctor’s office.

In SURRENDER I was allowed to get very sexual in between all the emotion and romance, and even push beyond the more “regular” expressions of sex, touching on the taboo, which actually ceases to be taboo when two consenting adults are highly aroused. And I think it worked.

I don’t want to get too specific now. I want people to read for themselves. An excerpt of Surrender is on www.redsagepub.com for those interested readers.

SR: What do you consider the balance between erotica, romance, and plot to be? Do you prefer to write stories that are character driven or plot driven?

Kathryn: When I read or write erotic romance I expect the arousing scenes to be regularly placed throughout the plot, meaning, there had better not be more than a page or two where the characters are not interacting in a way that is creating sexual tension or having explicit sex.

Just as in romance, you don’t want the plot to overshadow the romance, in erotic romance you don‘t want the romantic plot to overshadow the erotic nature of the story.

The challenge in writing erotica is to make the sex interesting. If it’s just sex with no emotion, underlying conflict, tension, fun, danger, something, then it can be boring, like a clinical description of mating or something.

There has to be more than just the sex. The characters need to be well drawn and the story has to serve the erotic scene or the sex doesn’t make sense.

So, the balance is delicate and difficult to achieve. But if you have good characters, they do it for you because they can’t stay away from each other nor can they keep from getting under each other’s skin.

In answer to the second part of the question, as I mentioned earlier, I prefer character driven stories.

SR: Do you have any other stories planned in future volumes of SECRETS at the moment?

Kathryn: I wish I did. The erotic romance novella I have completed now is contemporary, set in the Congo. A spoiled undergraduate student from NYC goes on an internship to gain the “12 lousy credits” that will finally graduate her so she can gain access to her $2 million trust fund only to be lost in the jungle as a result of trying to “hide” from doing work, and is discovered by the legendary Wildman of the jungle. He has never seen a woman. Later we learn he’s been lost since he was 3 years old. She decides to tame him but the reverse happens.

As I said, it is with my agent. I love concentrating on the writing end of publishing and would like to leave the submitting end to my agent. Currently it takes me 4 months to complete a category and 2 months for a novella, and these are usually written simultaneously along with short stories (two hours), so that is a fair amount of writing. I’d like to keep up that pace, but it sure would be nice to see more of my efforts in print.

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