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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Author Interview: Charlotte Boyett-Compo

Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Charlotte Boyett-Compo, author of over seventy published speculative fiction novels, primarily in the sub-genres of sensuous dark fantasy and dark paranormal romance. She was also one of the founding members of Amber Quill Press and has the distinction of having given that publisher its name. She's also the founder of IWOFA (Infinite Worlds of Fantasy Author).

Charlotte's storytelling began at an early age—four or five. She and her grandfather, a feisty Irishman named Lewis Hatcher, would sit on the front porch swing on summer nights and try to outdo one another with ghostly stories. "He'd start one and then tell me to finish it," she told me. "I learned to tell tall tales at his knee and he was my bestest friend until he died when I was six."

When she was eleven, she started writing down those tall tales. Her first "novel" was a western written for Michael Landon in his Little Joe persona from Bonanza. "It filled up an entire spiral bound notebook and was titled Western Flame," Charlotte said. "I had cut out the picture of Little Joe from a magazine to make cover art."

A few years later, she wrote another novel starting her then-current heart throb, Robert Vaughn from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. It was called The Great Giovanni and set in a circus.

She got hooked, however, after co-writing a play titled Did You Say Ghost? with her best friend that was presented at the ninth grade assembly, and the applause washed over her.

"After my youngest son was born, I took a job as entertainment editor for one of gazillionaiare Warren Buffet's Sun newspapers. I wrote my first real novel, The Keeper of the Wind when my boys were in high school. That book was finally published in mass market paperback in 1996."

I asked Charlotte how she distinguished between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography.

"These are my definitions and are certainly open to interpretation," she warned. "Erotica is a story with steamy, explicit sex without that much plot. It is meant to titillate and entertain. Erotic romance has plot and substance. The erotic content is secondary to the tale. Both erotica and erotic romance are for women.

"Porn has nothing redeemable about it that I can see. Porn is for horny men who usually couldn't get a date if they were the last man standing. Porn panders to the lowest common denominator and serves only one purpose: to arouse a man so he can take care of the business at hand."

She sees the biggest public misconception about erotica is the viewpoint many people have of the erotic romance writer. "People think it's nothing but dirty writing filled with vulgar words and explicit sex composed by women who are sexually frustrated." She told me she feels that, ironically, it's the women who have really great sex lives who write the best erotica "because they've got experience upon which to base their fantasies. Contrary to popular belief," she said, "erotic novelists don't sit in a dark room with the shades drawn, foaming at the mouth, masturbating after every scene. Some of us may drool, but we damn sure don't foam!"

She didn't always set out to write erotica, however. "It just happened that I could add steamy sex to my novels and have the readers enjoy it," she told me. "I put a little really hot sex with cups of plot, tablespoons of fleshed-out characters, and sprinkle it with dialogue that's natural to the way real people talk. There are certain words I will not use because I don't like the sound of them. I don't add sex to a scene unless it is called for and I will never wrote a book that is nothing but sex without a strong, intricate plot. That's just a cheap ploy to sell books, and I don't need the money that bad to cheapen the writing."

She went on to say that nothing ruins erotica like stilted, nasty language that's just there without really saying anything. She said, "'Oh, baby, oh baby, oh baby!' to me reads like 'Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy is this boring as hell?' If you're going to invest the time into writing a novel, invest ingenuity, creativity, and a fresh new voice."

Not all of her books are erotic romance. She finds straight romances fairly easy to write. "To make the sex seem a natural part of the story, to blend it in with the plot, and have it compliment the story line takes effort," she explained. "It takes an easy hand and a deft mind looking for the right phrase, the most intriguing way to tell that part of the story where sex is an intricate part. Anyone can string a bunch of dirty words together and have their characters all hot and bothered, but to have your reader delve beyond what is actually happening on the page, to read past the words to see what the real motivations of the characters are, takes skill. It takes finesse. You have to know how to mix the sex with the plot to come up with a smooth concoction."

She knows when she's been successful in this in several ways. "If my husband needs to take a shower or else leaps on me after reading a scene, I know I've done my job," she told me. "If I read it back aloud and it makes me blush, I know I've done it right. If my editor tells me she sweated during the reading, I know I've got a winner. If my best friend tells me she had to rush out to buy new batteries before she could finish the book, I simply smile."

I asked her what her family thinks about her writing.

"My husband reads everything I write and is my staunchest supporter. When the edits came for my first book, we were in the midst of an Iowa blizzard. He sat down with a red pen to go through the book since he has a degree in journalism and said he’d catch what I’d miss. One of my fondest memories will always be of the look on his face when he finished the book and turned to me. He said, 'Baby, this is good. This is really, really good.' I’m not sure what he had expected but he tells friends that I constantly amaze him with my ability to fashion worlds and create believable characters, to keep him enthralled page after page. He tells everyone he meets that his wife is a writer and that he’s damned proud of her. You can’t ask for better support than that," she said. "As for my sons? Well, that’s a different matter. The sex scenes embarrass them so they haven’t read any of my ‘romance’ books but one of my oldest son’s favorite tales is about how he was sitting on a plane with his fellow troops on the way to Korea, reading my first novel. His lieutenant walked past, saw the cover and asked what he was reading. 'My mom’s book, sir,' Pete replied. Nice of her to loan it to you,' the lieutenant smirked. 'Oh, no, sir!' Pete corrected. 'My mom wrote the book, sir.' With an arched brow the lieutenant demanded to be given the book. Pete handed it over saying, 'That’s my mom, Charlotte Boyett-Compo, and if you’ll look inside, sir, you’ll see where she dedicated it to my dad, my brother, and I.' The lieutenant did, indeed, look inside and then handed the book back saying, 'I’d like to read it when you’re finished, Corporeal Compo.' Believe it or not, I got a fan letter from his lieutenant and the last line says: 'You should be very proud of your son because he’s not just a very fine medic, he’s a man unafraid to speak up and say he’s proud of his mom.'"

If Charlotte could entertain a character from a book, she would love to meet Steve Morgan from Sweet Savage Love, which (by the way) is Charlotte's favorite all time book... "warts and all," she said. "I am a woman of the sixties." Steve would look exactly like Adrian Paul during his Highlander heyday. "Of course," she told me, "I would be his Ginny and look like me...poor man. We would share one helluva rousing evening filled with steamy sex, slap and tickle, creamy sex, a bit of bondage, more steamy and creamy sex, a little more slap and tickle, a dark bareback ride across a moonlit field and a naked swim in a lake completely devoid of anything that might bite, sting, or nip, slither or slurp or infect our defenseless body parts. I’d run. He’d catch me, bring me down, roll me over and pinned me helplessly to the soft, clover-strewn ground, his knees spreading my legs wide. I would thrash my head but he would capture my lips and devour them…and me. We’d have some more naughty stuff then I’d fall asleep with my head on his shoulder. The next morning, one of my Reapers…most likely Kamerone Cree…would show up, beat the living hell out of Steve and carry me off, dangling off his broad shoulder to chastise me for daring to betray him." She sighed. "Oh, a girl should be so lucky!"

Charlotte's favorite food depends on her mood. She's originally from Georgia, so sometimes craves a good ol' southern meal like baked ham, collard greens smothered with pepper sauce, fried okra, fresh sliced tomatoes, and cornbread. Comfort food? Hot and sour soup or Brunswick stew. For snacking, give her Bugles and hot chunky salsa with a bottle of Lipton's Raspberry White tea or a big container of frozen strawberries. She eats them like ice cream. Her favorite candy is Mounds and she can eat them by the case, followed closely by Nestle's Crunch. She's also been known to inhale an entire box of chocolate covered cherries at one setting.

However, you will not find her eating snails ("Nothing that crawls and leaves slime behind it should ever find its way into my mouth"), oysters ("They look like somebody's bad cold"), or liver ("Just because it smells good in gravy doesn't mean you should put it in your mouth.")

And, since she is from Georgia, of course she can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi. "I can also tell the difference between Coke, Pepsi, and RC. Coke and RC are for putting salty peanuts into them, not for drinking without embellishment. Cherry Pepsi is the nectar of the gods and should be treated with the reverence it deserves," she stated. "Diet versions of aforementioned drinks...that's what they are called in the south—not pop; not soda; not soda pop...are for sissies. You only live once. Swig down all the calories and sugar you can while you're still able to enjoy them."

On a much more personal note, her husband of 43 years can tie a cherry stem with ease. "When we were dating he would make it a point to look me in the eye as he did it very slowly, one eyebrow crooking up when he finished," she admitted. "He was one of those proverbial bad boys your mama warns you about for thankfully I didn't pay any attention to Mama. She, too, married a bad boy. Personally, I believe they're the best kind. I met him on a blind date when I was seventeen and we married the following year when I turned eighteen. Believe me when I tell you it wasn’t easy remaining a virgin until my wedding night but we somehow managed to make it…many cherry coke stems be damned!"

Her favorite letter is X and she explains why. "It holds a world of meaning. It marks the spot. It crosses out that which does not belong. It lets you know something is going to be very hot when read or viewed. It is eXcellent. It is eXciting. It is eXact. It is eXhilarating. As a writer I can eXpress myself with eXcerpts that will eXtract all manner of emotions from my readers. It is an eXtremely important letter that eXudes eXpection and eXerts eXaltation. And you can’t have seX without it! What’s not to like about Lady X?"

If a movie were to be made of her life, she would want Sandra Bulloch to play the younger her. "She's a southern girl and she's got the quirky personality I had when I was that age," she said. And the now-her? With a large sigh, she said, "A rather befuddled Cher who's gained fifty pounds of sludge."

Finally, I asked Charlotte what one piece of advice she would give a new writer.

"Pay less attention to the well-meaners in your life and more attention to the voice of your inner muse," she told me. "Friends, family, co-workers and neighbors have ruined the dreams of many would-be writers by telling them things ‘for their own good’. On my desk is a motto than I share with every fledging writer who emails me. It says: 'People too weak to follow their own dreams will always find a way to discourage yours.' If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to achieve it. Be patient. Be resilient. Most important of all, don’t toss your dream away because someone tells you it will never come true."

Charlotte shared she will gladly send autographed bookplates to any reader who sends her a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) and she will also include a postcard of that book's cover art. Her mailing address is:

Charlee Compo %WindLegends Ink PO Box 745 Grinnell, IA 50112 You can keep up with Charlotte on her website, http://www.windlegends.com

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