Long and Short Reviews welcomes back Mia Downing whose latest release Ripped has just been released.
This book is important for Mia because it deals with Gavin White's issues that stem from being the child of an alcoholic as well as other things. Mentally, he's not in a stable place, and that's why he's pushed his friend, Erik Clarke, away.
"I am also a child of an alcoholic, so the issues and concepts Gavin deals with were ones I didn't necessarily want to write about," she admitted, "but the book kept wanting to go that way, so..There are many things from my life that influenced the story. The concept of safe--having places and people that are safe havens--is still very prevalent in my life. Another interesting point was Erik never knew how bad Gavin's home life was even though they were friends since preschool. I have a friend that I've known since we were ten, and I never told her about what went on in my home. She knew my dad yelled a lot, but that was it. Kids want to be normal, even if their world isn't. I verified that while writing the story. In no way is this story autobiographical, though. "
Each book that Mia writes has a small goal she wants to achieve as a writer. Exceeding Boundaries had a goal of just stringing conflict and making a good stor work. Spy Games: Trained for Seduction was the conflict/motivation goal in a bigger word count with a touch of suspense. Mia wanted to see if she could make a situation where she would feel comfortable to indulge in a ménage is she were the heroine.
"I can honestly say I would jump at the chance to be Kate, because she has two incredible men who love her completely. A ménage with them would be a dream come true," she told me.
The second book in the series, Spy Games: Lethal Limits, will be out in the late fall.
"Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?" I wondered. "If so, what do you do about it?"
"Oh yes, I get writer’s block. I drink tequila shots off the belly of a hot male stripper until I hear the voices that tell me what to do to get the words flowing. Or maybe those voices are the cops speaking… Kidding!! Just kidding. Actually, if I have writer’s block, then I’m going the wrong way in my story, either trying to make the conflict be something it’s not, or there isn’t the motivation build to take the story that direction. In the male/male erotic romance I just completed, I had writer’s block two times. Both times I had sent the hero into the wrong direction. So I backed up, thought about what really needed to happen, and the story sorted itself out."
Mia reads Watership Down every year as a sort of a pilgrimage. She also loved growing up with Anne McCaffery's dragons and, on the other end of the spectrum, the historical romances of Kathleen Woodwiss, Beatrice Small, and Johanna Lindsey.
"I also read Harlequin Presents by the zillion because my grandmother loved them, and I think that’s where I got my love of very alpha heroes. However, I get bored writing them that strong, so I try to vary my heroes so they’re interesting," she said.
"What comes first, the plot or characters?"
"Is that like the chicken and the egg thing? Because I have chickens, and let me tell you, they come first and cost a lot more than a box of eggs. Those eggs don’t arrive every day, either, and usually when you want eggs to bake or to make deviled eggs for a picnic, the danged creatures go on strike. In the case of plot vs. characters, I’m going to say neither comes first—they evolve together. I get a snippet in my mind, sort of like a movie trailer. People doing things, saying things, and it makes me want to find out more. For me, the book plays in my head like a movie, and I just write it all down, what the characters say and do. It’s really cheating, and I think the movies come from something aliens loaded in when they abducted me at some point. Sort of like Alien Red Box, only the player is in my head and the only way I can share is to write it down."
The hardest part of writing for Mia revolves around the fact that, because she writes erotic romance, it's not always something she wants the whole world reading—which is very ironic for a writer.
"I had to tell my 95 year-old grandmother that no, I would not give her my pen name. No, she could not read my book. Yes, I understood she had nine kids, and knew what sex was, and that she read hot books in her time. Ain’t happening, Nana. I ended up writing something she can read in my real name, so she can brag and gloat, and I’ll have to write something else again, soon, because that woman is like a dog with a bone," she told me. "I also do not wish to educate my children in the joys of sex, so I have to be careful about what I write when they are around. It’s really bad enough that sex education in my house consists of Family Guy re-runs. No, I’m not a good mother, but I am wise enough to know that they may wish to claw out their eyes if they read what I write and then equate that to what I may do with their father. Which is laughable, because my husband couldn’t get into half of those positions with his back issues. As an adult kid with parents, I get this. My step-dad wanted to buy one of my books to get pointers, and I informed him he was not doing that stuff to my mother. So I get it. So you can probably guess that I do not home school. Nope. School is wonderful. Summer vacation not so much, because the kids can read, and they try to sneak up on me to read what I’m writing.But I do have parts of my stories that do not involve sex, and I write those. Or I go on the laptop."
Her actual writing space is, admittedly, dusty and cluttered.
"It would be condemned if someone actually lived at the computer (which I do, so don’t tell them, whoever those people are, or they’ll condemn it.) I write in the living room, next to the blaring T.V. with headphones on. It’s in front of an unused door to our addition that’s being built, so I can see in the reflection if people are sneaking up on me. My children like to do that. I have a rubber band gun for such occasions. It’s a six-shooter and I have deadly aim."
Mia doesn't write in linear fashion. She will jump in with the first scene she sees in her head, and then write whatever other scene she sees.
"Sometimes it’s just dialogue, or a scene set up, or something about the character. Usually I know the ending by then, and I’ll write that next. Then I go back and fill in the middle with scenes to connect the beginning to the end," she explained. "This creates problems, because if I write myself into a corner I sometimes can’t beg anyone to read it because it is a mess. I do have one very good friend that is brave enough to dance the mines that I’ve set up. She finds it amusing and interesting, or so she says. The other problem is if, in the middle of the book I learn something big, I have to fix the ending. In Lethal Limits, the heroine revealed something I wasn’t expecting, and I had to rewrite the ending. But I didn’t care, because they were only words and it just meant more time I spent with my characters. I also do not write in chapters. I write in scenes, and then go back and break everything up into nice chapters. Sometimes I have to fiddle to make things work, but I don’t think anyone can tell. I’m good with the spackle that way."
When Mia's not writing, she's a lingerie model in her spare time for a well-known company.
"Actually, I am pretty boring," she said. "I have lupus, which is a systemic disease that affects the immune system. Sunlight aggravates the condition so I am a vampire that doesn’t suck blood or sparkle in the sunlight. I actually started writing again as a way to fill the afternoon, because I needed to rest, but I didn’t want to nap, and the soaps were boring. So I started writing again. I also like horses (we just got one for my daughter) and knitting. I do decorative painting and my sister wants a mural or two in her house, so that’s on the agenda. I love to cook and was a chef at one point, but no one eats the fancy crap I can make. I learned how to shoot the shotgun this spring, and I look forward to knocking down that little caped cutout of a cowboy who I can’t seem to hit to save my soul. I swear he jumps." Finally, I asked, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"Read the genre you want to write, then read what the publisher you are targeting is putting out, so you don’t get rejected for sending them stuff they don’t publish. If they don’t publish what you offer, they’re not going to change their mind because you are awesome. Then take that information and write what YOU want to write, not for the market. The market changes so quickly that when you get your book done and to a publisher, there may be no need. Ten years ago paranormal was dead in the water. Now it’s the hottest thing since sliced cheese.
"Don’t knock starting smaller, but choose a publisher that has been around and has a good reputation. The Wild Rose Press is a small publisher, but they have great covers and work well with their authors. My editor is a goddess who I picture in a black corset and leather, thigh-high boots. She has a big whip and uses it well. "Write, write, write. If your first book is rejected a few times, move on to the next book instead of fixing that one. Sometimes a book can’t be fixed, and I really think your first novels will end up as exercises probably not meant for human consumption. I have two that live in boxes and will stay there, but what they gave me is invaluable. "My last piece of advice: do not go Indie unless you have a private copy editor you wish to pay to make sure your work is good quality and find a good cover artist. So many authors are putting junk up on sites without making sure what they give the reader is quality work. There are also wonderful reads, but it’s hit or miss sometimes, and as a consumer, I become frustrated with the misses. You are too close to your work to see that your hero is being a jerk, or your grammar mistakes are not voice, but are really grammar mistakes. Listen to those around you, listen to your gut, and then make sure your work is the best it can be before you send it out. One star reviews on a book site will not net you new readers and will make you very sad."
About the Author: Mia Downing started creating heroes at age four, but her heroes then rode ponies to rescue the princess, and only kissed her on the cheek. Today, Mia's heroes still rescue princesses, but the price of their toys and the expertise of their seduction leads to a lot more than a peck on the cheek. When Mia isn't busy creating new stories for her readers she fills in as an underwear model for a prestigious lingerie company. She also lives in CT with her family, and enjoys horses and knitting.
Lifeguard/artist Gavin White has been holding the ripped shreds of his life together by the seams. Facing the anniversary of his sister's death, he fights the dark call of dependency and is at the edge of succumbing when his best friend since preschool returns to his life. Handsome geek-turned-hunk, Erik Clarke, wasn't afraid to come out and had been bold enough to kiss Gavin the last time they were together. Damn that kiss. Gavin wants more. So much more, but he was never brave enough to tell Erik his dreams. With his future hanging by a tattered thread, Gavin must trade one temptation for another or risk ripping his life apart.