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Saturday, March 26, 2011
Author Interview: Kayden McLeod
Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Kayden McLeod, author of the Cornwall Coven series, the Jericho Coven series, and the soon-to-be-released Foxworth Covenseries, all paranormal erotic romance set in a world where things aren't quite the way they seem.
I asked Kayden how she distinguished between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography.
"To me, it’s a matter of the percentage-- detailed sex to plot/character development that remains separate from the sexual relationship.
Pornography is a narrative where the plot is completely dependent on sex. It would be the epitome of in-the-moment fantasy without strings, straight to the heart of the matter, and saturated with constant need. There is little to no emotional development.
"However, erotica, to me, can have the same amount of sexual intercourse as pornography, but it still has a story to back it up that isn’t entirely reliant on the physical relationship. This type of flavour can possess romantic elements, or even more of a tale to add depth to the pure animal magnetism from pornography.
"While I have written a bit of everything, I find that erotic romance is set apart from both pornography and erotica. It is a romance novel with a fluid, in-depth relationship of two people who care about each other. The loves scenes are hotter, more described than the more mainstream romance. And unlike the first two, you watch their relationship grow in more ways than just the physical. It follows the 'romance formula' of boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, conflict and resolution, that pornography and erotica don’t typically follow (but sometimes they do)."
If Kayden can go through the last draft of her work and feel what she wrote, she considers the book a good one.
"I tend to write 'by feel' a lot," she explained. "If something seems to be missing, even though everything I’d planned is there, I keep working at it until all of the aspects in the sex, tension, conflict, can be read through fluidly."
A lot of people seem to think that writing erotica is easy to do, Kayden told me, but it's definitely not.
"I have little to no problems with horror, science fiction or fight scenes. It’s all a matter of thinking it through, visualizing it happening around me, to convey it the best I can," she said. "But with sex, there is so much happening, all of the time. There has to be a balance between details and getting your point across without dragging it on. And that’s not the same as a long sex scene. It’s a matter of keeping track of what’s where and making sure the reader is flowing along with it. You don’t all of sudden have a hand somewhere it wasn’t possible to be, without explanation of how it got from one movement to the next. Keeping it fresh and original is a challenge, especially after writing a few books. Trying to come up with new ideas I haven’t used or read somewhere can take time."
Kayden always starts out knowing very little about a book she's going to write and she doesn't see any reason to change.
"Even if I attempt to plot out a book, all it accomplishes is me doing a 180 as the story and characters all develop and change, even into the fourth or fifth draft," she told me.
What works before for her is, after knowing her main character and what his/her requirements are, starting with her ideal key factor: the type of environment she wants for her characters—whether the Rocky Mountains, a tropical island, or the middle of downtown Vancouver.
Once she has the basics for the scenes and the setting, she looks up everything she can. She reads about the surroundings: the plant life, tourism websites, the history. When something interests her, she focuses on it—no matter how small the detail. This, in turn, leads her to avenues she'd never before considered which enables the characters to grow as they, as well, get to know their habitat.
She will also create certain conflicts or situations just so she can use a specific area, myth, or historical fact that intrigued her.
"The internet is my main source of information," she shared. "Whether I use real-estate sites to figure out exactly what type of houses are in any particular area, their value (which can reflect my character’s realistic livelihood compared to his land wealth), or contacting tourism sites in countries I’ve never been to, who mail me large packages of local information the moment I say I’m writing a book about the area. Google Maps with satellite view is a godsend for me. I can pull up anywhere I want to research and actually see it. I can zoom until it’s like I’m standing there with a 360 view."
She also locates a city's stats when she is able to—information like the percentage of rain they got in year X, or how much crime, the size of their police force, etc.
"You’d be amazed what you can find when you Google a city’s name. When I am researching history for small things (I don’t normally write much historically focused novels, as I just want the layout)," she said, "I typically start with wiki to come up with more avenues of research; times and events to research more on other sites. I want to know what they eat, the furniture they used, the clothes and materials they wore and used during whatever era or country they were born/lived in."
When Kayden started writing, her genre was paranormal romance with mild, infrequent sex because she was uncomfortable writing sex scenes.
"The ideas were there, but putting it to paper, while knowing other people would read what I wrote, prevented me from attempting it," she confessed.
After a while, she found herself creating more profoundly comprehensive sex scenes.
"Actually, what made me take the final leap into erotic romance was knowing sex sells," she told me frankly. "I knew I was capable of achieving this; it was only a matter of working at it. In the beginning, I never thought I would be as at ease as I am now, but then again, I am not where I want to be yet. There are things that I haven’t gotten cozy enough with. Anal sex, for one, seems to still give me pause. I’ve written about it at a bare minimum, to the point that I’ve had editors request to clarify it more, so the reader knows beyond doubt that is what’s happening. There is no reason for my discomfort, I’m just not used to it, yet."
I asked Kayden, "If you had to pierce a body part, what would you pierce and why? What about body piercing is sexy?"
"Another tongue ring. I had one a few years back, and loved it. Unfortunately, I’d grind my teeth when I’m sleeping and when I was working, I absently played with it. I wore one with plastic ball-bearings, so I didn’t damage my teeth. One night when I was half asleep, I bit one of the bearings in half, and it was the only one I had. By the time I got to buy another, the piercing had already closed enough that I couldn’t put it back in. I’d always wanted another one. As for piercings, for me, it’s the same as tattoos. For reasons I can’t really explain, short of the blatant show of individuality, I find it attractive and alluring. Though I am not terribly big on a great deal with facial piercings—one or two is fine, but any more than that bothers me."
From a very recent experience, she told me she learned that assortment is truly key when it comes to eating food off another person.
"Chocolate body paint, a variety of cheesecake and Cool Whip give you a bit of…everything, no matter where you decide to eat it off of," she assured me with a smile.
However, she can't bring herself to eat meat with fat or gristle in or on it.
"The thought turns my stomach," she said. "I am a borderline vegetarian, who eats meat most of the time for nutritional purposes. It’s too easy to turn me off of it if prepared the wrong way. When I’m cooking, I will slice every bit of it I can find."
Finally, I asked Kayden what advice she would give to writers who want to write erotica.
"Always 'experience' what you’re writing. If I don’t visualize/fantasize every scene, placing myself in the lead’s shoes, it wouldn’t have the same impact. Think about the five senses. What does he/she feel like, what do things taste like, look like? How does the scene/atmosphere/situation impact your lead(s)? Does their past reflect who they are today, how?
"Other things to consider is write what you know, and then build on it. What turns you on about your ideal sexual partner? When starting out, what experiences have you had that you enjoyed the most? The whole term 'write what you love' can play into this a lot.
"Close your eyes and visualize it, think of every little detail imaginable. If it doesn’t make you hot while you’re writing, go back over it when you’re done and see what you can add to it. If you don’t flow with the scene, chances are, the reader won’t either."
You can keep up with Kayden on her blog, http://kaydenmcleod.blogspot.com/