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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Author Interview: Christine McKay

Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Christine McKay, whose latest release At Earth's Edge by Samhain Publishing. Later this year and early next year, she will have two short stories, "Carnal Magic" and "Loch Dragon's Lady," published by Harlquin Spice Briefs.

Christine lives in Wisconsin with her husband, Keith. They own a herd of Boer goats, a llama, a donkey, a mule, and an assortment of dogs, cats, and rabbits. Christine also has a motorcycle and an ATV, so if she's not writing, she's in constant motion—when the weather is nice. During the winter, however, they receive a large amount of snow. That's when Christine likes to crochet, cook, make soap, plan her summer garden, read, and cross-stitch.

"How do you distinguish between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography?" I wondered.

"Pornography, for me, is sexual content written for shock value only. There is no connection between hero and heroine. It also is the type of work that falls into many of the publishers' no-no lists: bestiality, golden showers, underage sex, nonconsensual sex, etc. And not so surprising, it's also generally of poor literary merit."

She continued, "I'll use Playboy and Penthouse as examples. Playboy pictures remind me of artwork. They're airbrushed, make-up is tastefully applied, and as a whole, they are flattering to their subject. They are the vanilla "porn" of the porn world. Then you get to Penthouse. Not always so flattering to their subjects. Not always the nicest positions. Gentlemen chosen for their assets rather than their looks. There's my example of erotica compared to porn.

"Erotica is still art. It may not have a happily ever after like I demand in my erotic romance, but it darn well better be well-crafted and a sensual feast. I think porn skips all those elements and goes right to trying to get a person's rocks off."

Some readers fail to distinguish this difference and Christine feels erotic writers and publishers have brought some of the scorn down upon themselves with the plethora of poorly done cover art.

"Don't get me wrong," she said. "I love a well-done cover with half-dressed folks. Going back to the Playboy-Penthouse analogy, though, I think for every cover that falls under the 'art' category, there's another thirty with crude figures, crass positions, and ridiculous props."

She also admits that, in many cases, in the rush to get erotica to the market, editing has been tossed by the wayside. "So person picks up a book, reads spelling mistakes, punctuation errors, and what not, and makes a blanket assumption that all erotica is of little literary merit," Christine told me.

Christine joked that she knows her own writing is good if she has to stop and fan herself while she's writing, but then told me that for a story to be good it has to have a concrete beginning, middle, and end.

"I've read so many short stories that end just as the characters are ramping up their discovery of one another," she explained. "That's not suspense. That's just frustrating and a cop-out. I like to create a story with heroine who is comfortable enough with herself to allow herself to submit in the bedroom (if that's the swing of the story). In my mind, an erotic story is just like any other story. The plot has to immediately capture my interest. My characters need to be engaging. And the pacing has to be fast-enough to keep me turning the pages."

Christine told me she would love to go back in time and whack her seventeen-year-old self in the head. "There was a reason the high school girls loved the stories I wrote back then," she told me. "And the comments from the nice editor at Tor or Doubleday or whoever that wrote on my first (of many) rejections 'fairly well written, but we don't take erotica' should have been a tip-off. Alas, I wasn't smart enough to start my own trend."

She writes what she likes to read, what captures her attention and furthers her plot. "In some cases, it's erotica. In many others, it rides the line," she said. "What is tame to Ellora's Cave readers garners a high heat rating at Carnal Passions. To each his own. I read books from all genres. My writing reflects that eclectic approach. Fantasy, contemporary, paranormal, sexy - it's all fair game."

To Christine, it's hard to write good sex scenes: straight or kinky, twosomes or threesomes, and a lot of her writing, as she said, rides the fine line of erotic.

"The Last Queen has light bondage play and a nice food sex scene," she said. "But would I call it erotica? Eh, maybe if taken out of the context of the entire story. Uncharted Lands is a pure sexual fantasy. I had fun writing it and the characters just brought it out of me. A Taste of Summer Magic has one lady and two men. That was difficult because adding a woman to a committed m/m relationship without dissing what the men already had made me walk a fine line."

"If you could entertain a character from a book, who would it be and what would the evening be like?" I asked.

"Ooh. This one presents a lot of possibilities. I'm not sure I'd ultimately want a vampire in my bedroom but any of the fellows from Christine Feehan's Dark Hunter novels are welcome to stop in to visit."

However, if she had to pick one character that sticks in her head it would be Cristof from Dru Pagliassotti's Clockwork Heart.

"He's more of an awkward anti-hero, the kind of man who-when he finally does commit-commits for life," she said. "Though I'm sure the sex wouldn't be anything like a vampire in the room, the intellectual stimulus would be mind- blowing. Then again, Cristof is a clockmaker and thus, very good with his hands...hmm, I see a new story in the making."

She believes that whipped cream and chocolate syrup have their place for eating off another's tummy, but something else that ranks right up there is fresh made-from-scratch-still-warm pudding. "Due to its texture, it has to be eaten off the tummy," she warned. "It slides off the other parts.

"Pasta, however, has endless possibilities, particularly angel's hair, spaghetti noodles, or bird's nest. For a real treat, try making homemade pasta - you can cut the pasta to any size or shape you desire. Cook it so it's a little sticky yet. Pasta + penis = a living Mr. Potato Head doll."

None of that makes her favorite foods list, though, which varies by stress level. She claimed, "Chocolate, but not any kind. High quality dark chocolate. Though in a pinch, a can of chocolate frosting and a spoon will do the trick.

"I also love coffee. LOVE IT. Love the smell, the texture. Everything about coffee delights me (except eating chocolate covered coffee beans, ick)."

On the other hand, one food she absolutely cannot bring herself to eat is canned cranberry sauce. "You know, the kind that retains the can shape long after it's left its container," she said. "Reminds me too much of blood clots and afterbirth. Just thinking about it makes me want to dry heave."

Finally, I asked Christine, "If you could give a new writer one piece of advice, what would it be?"

"Read. Read everything you get your hands on, obviously from the genre you want to be in, but also in other genres. I think Stephen King is the one who said: 'So we read to experience the mediocre and the outright rotten; such experience helps us to recognize those things when they begin to creep into our own work, and to steer clear of them. We also read in order to measure ourselves against the good and the great, to get a sense of all that can be done.'”

You can keep up with Christine on her website, http://www.christinemckay.com

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