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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Author Interview: Maggi Sherwin


Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Maggi Sherwin whose first erotic romance Pure Silk was recently published by Total-e-Bound. I asked her to tell us a little about her book.

"It recounts the efforts of dedicated animal cop Greg Hudson to turn his friends-with-benefits relationship with commitment shy film-maker Ellie Tobin into something more permanent."

Ultimately, for Maggi, erotic romance is about love and a good story. "I don’t think I can write sex scenes between people who don’t care about each other," she explained. "My characters might get themselves into a bind so to speak, but in a sexually playful way. For them it’s about sensuality, about enhancing each other’s pleasure."

In addition to having a good story, however, it also has to turn Maggi on.

"I like a powerful emotional connection between the lead characters," she said. "I am very much an Everywoman. If I like something, then I would like to think that other women will like it too. If I am writing a sex scene and I start to cringe then I know it’s wrong, at least for me. And I like to keep things light. If my characters have a sense of humour it keeps the sex playful."

Maggi once earned her living as an historical researcher and writer, so –not unnaturally—when she started writing with the serious intent of becoming published, she chose historical romance. However, she recently switched to writing contemporary fiction.

"I had never realized there was an erotic romance genre," Maggi said. "And then I read a Harlequin ‘Blaze’. I was amazed. I had always thought of Mills and Boon as publishers of sweet romance. And when I joined the Romantic Novelists Association I discovered that it was a huge genre, largely published as e-books. Moreover, there was an expanding market for new writers. Recently I was fortunate enough to have a year off work and it gave me the time I needed to try out other romance genres. I had a go at suspense and contemporary erotic, and bingo, in the latter I managed to win my Michelin star, aka a contract!

"The switch has been liberating," she told me. "Why? Historical research is time consuming and the intriguing facts a writer uncovers can seduce them away from the fiction the research is supposed to support. With contemporary I can be immediate and colloquial with language. I can use what I see around me, locations and settings I’m already familiar with."

Maggi has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland and taken some fabulous international holidays, so she plundered her memory and photo collection for ideas and settings.

"In Pure Silk, Ellie is British but she is working in Texas and that is where the story is set," she said. "However, there is no cross-pond connection in my second contemporary story, a full-length novel, set in the south west of England this time - Cornwall. One early morning some eight years ago, I was at Porthleven harbour when I saw some youths surfing just off the breakwater. The seed of the story which has become Falconer’s Masquerade (yet to be published), was sown at that moment. But then writers never throw away ideas. They hoard them like condiments in the kitchen cupboard. It will sit there on the shelf until you realise it is the perfect ingredient for a dish you are concocting."

Maggi told me that one good thing about choosing to write erotic romance is that the length of the story can be as flexible as the heroine.

"It may be that you only need 15,000 words to say what you want to say, but there will still be a market for it," she explained. "A short story or novella stands as much change of being published as a longer novel, so you can try things out without devoting a year to one work. And it’s great training in economical story telling. You have to get your characters together. There can be no pussy-footing around, no padding. To carry on the cooking metaphor, leave out the pastry and concentrate on the filling!"

With all the cooking metaphors, I couldn’t help asking, "What's your favorite food?"

"Am I supposed to say something sexy? Well, the truth is that I am dangerously fond (diet-wise that is) of toad-in-the-hole, which is sausages cooked in a Yorkshire pudding batter mix. It reminds me of my mum. To make the batter rise you need to pour it into really hot dripping. I’ve tried healthy alternatives like one-cal spray and olive oil, but they don’t give the same delicious result. On the sweet front, I find the crystalline fudge known as Scotch Tablet irresistible."

If Maggi could be anything she wanted, she would choose to be the actress Felicia Farr in the 1956 Western The Last Wagon, playing opposite Richard Widmark.

"He was Comanche Todd, a resilient and enormously attractive man," she explained. "There is a scene between them which, without an item of clothing being shed, is truly, truly sexy."

She's never known anyone who could tie a cherry stem with their tongue, but does have a unique talent of her own.

"I am good at sucking the innards out of a Crunchie," she admitted. "A Crunchie is a thick bar of honeycomb covered in chocolate. When I was a child I used to compete with my friends so to see how much honeycomb I could extract without the outer chocolate shell collapsing. A lot of heavy tonguing was involved."

"What food do you consider best for eating off another's tummy?" I wondered.

"It's odd you should ask that, because in the erotic novel I've just finished, there is a rather sexy coming together of abdomen and warm caramel!"

Finally, I asked, "If someone were to play you in a movie, what actor would it be and why?"

"Rachel Weisz, because she’s the spitting image of me. Sort of. Ok, not at all, but I can dream can’t I? Which only proves that it isn’t historical, erotic or contemporary romance I should be writing, but fantasy."

You can keep up with Maggi on her blog, http://maggisherwin.blogspot.com,

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