Sunday, July 01, 2007

A new interview!

Will & I are interviewed this month at Fallen Angel Reviews!

Will Belegon and Alessia Brio Interview

Hello, Will Belegon and Alessia Brio, and welcome to Fallen Angel Reviews. It is really great to have you with us. The readers are eager to learn more about WillAlessia.

Before we start on your book releases, why not tell us a bit about Will and Alessia?
Alessia: Let me tell you a bit about Will (and then he can tell you a bit about me). This could get interesting. You go first, partner. *snicker*

Will: Notice that she contradicts herself there? *grin* What to say about Alessia? Well, there is a lot more to her than meets the eye. Because she can be so very straightforward, you might think it is very quick and easy to get to know her. It's not. But the effort is completely worth the reward. She is very altruistic, yet also quite willing to tell you she is doing something because she wants to do it and that's all there is to it. She is often unaware of how powerful her presence is. People that meet her may have varying emotions about her, but all of them are strong.

Alessia: Notice that he oh-so-tactfully alludes to how stubborn and opinionated I can be. *wink* Will balances my impulsiveness with... inertia. It's highly frustrating at times, but I will admit that there have been more than a few times when his restraint has resulted in a better book, a tighter plot, and a more emotionally satisfying outcome. We balance one another in many ways, and that makes for a powerful partnership.

Will is much better suited for the limelight than I am. In fact, I believe he's in his element amidst a gaggle of adoring fans -- regardless of whether they're adoring his books, his kilt, or his trademark jeans. He is more gifted with metaphor, and I am quite envious of his ability to capture the minutiae of a moment in exquisite detail.

Will: A gaggle? I think Alessia exaggerates. I wish I had a gaggle of fans! A gaggle of "adoring" fans would be even better.

Alessia: Authors of erotic romance are predominantly female. Toss a hunky man in the mix and the readers--also predominantly female--flock to him.

Will: Why do you think I write in this genre? Hey! Did you just call me hunky? What is this, junior high?

I will let you choose which book you would like to discuss with us? You do have an impressive list of titles. Would you like to talk about your most recent?
Will: I'm still quite excited about our most recent release, ArtiFactual. Not only because we found out we're going to print in September, but because the longer work opens doors for us. I think it is our best release yet, but I honestly can say that about everything because I think we grow with every release. For example, we just finished the sequel to Artistically Inclined, and I do consider that to be a very strong and tight story. It may not appeal to all of the same people that ArtiFactual does, especially since Bound For Success is straight contemporary without any hint of urban fantasy or the supernatural like Bruce & Mandy always face. But I think it's a very well crafted story about an innovative couple who intrigue me. It's scheduled for early September release, as well. Of course, I also have my first non-anthology solo release coming up in July. San Francisco Surrender is part of the Phaze Force line of HeatSheets and is also in the Umbra (dark) category.

Alessia: Of course, I encourage readers to check out all of our (and my) work. The project I'm really jazzed about at the moment is the charity anthology I'm editing -- Coming Together: For the Cure. It's got a terrific line up of 20 erotic short stories by some amazing authors. The submissions I had to turn away were terrific, too. It was the toughest decision I've had to make as an editor. Anyway, the e-release is scheduled for mid-August, print for October. All proceeds from its sale will benefit the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. And Phaze just showed its faith in me by announcing a call for submissions for another charity anthology -- Coming Together: With Pride -- which will benefit HIV/AIDS research. As Will said, I am very altruistic. I could happily spend all my time on such endeavors, but they don't pay my bills.

I'm also excited about the series Will & I just started writing. Andrea Spring, our hot-blooded protagonist, is a LOT of fun to write because she's my polar opposite in some ways ... and my mirror image in others. And, no, I'm not gonna tell you which is which. The first title in this series, Double Header, is scheduled for early October release from Phaze.

When did you first think about writing and what prompted you to submit your first manuscript?
Will: I've always thought of myself as a poet; I wrote poetry and songs all the way back in my early high school days. I wrote for the school paper and yearbook, was Sports Editor senior year and thought about a journalism career, but real life intervened. I never tried any fiction until a few years ago, although I must say that my storytelling was honed by various things including role-playing games and an ex-girlfriend who just liked to hear me make stuff up. I told her an entire air-spun tale about an elven prince and princess that is lost forever now, since I never wrote any of it down. It will always remain hers alone, I guess.

Alessia: I first thought about it (and did it) in the fall of 2003. From the get-go, I never allowed my work to stagnate, so I started posting it to Literotica. That's where I met Will where our partnership was born. You can download our very first collaboration, a short story entitled Bleep!, free from our site. To say that writing changed my life would be the understatement of the decade. There is no aspect of my existence that hasn't been enriched by the endeavor.

I submitted my first work for professional publication in April 2005. That would be fine flickering hungers. While I was working on the manuscript for the first volume of Coming Together, a multi-author anthology, it occurred to me that I could pull all of my short stories together in the same fashion. Initially, I simply planned to self-publish a single copy as a gift for someone special, but once I got eighteen months' worth of poetry and prose wrapped up in one pretty file, I figured I didn't have anything to lose by submitting it to a publisher. I didn't tell anyone, though, 'cause I didn't want anyone to know if it was rejected. Two months later, I had a contract. That book recently won an EPPIE Award for Best Erotica and is now in print.

Will: My first submission was not my decision. Alessia wanted to do a sequel to her Shiver HeatSheet, Erotique, but the story she had in mind really needed a male perspective. She asked me to do it, and I agreed. That story became Switch. Once it was finished, she informed me she was submitting it. Given the choice between facing rejection and disappointing someone I care about, I chose the former.

Alessia: Smart man.

Will: After that, everything I submitted was co-written with Alessia until this past winter when I worked up the courage to submit Mixed Blessings and San Francisco Surrender to Phaze. Having joint work published did nothing to lessen my nerves about solo submission. I agonized over them despite the assurances of my partner that I would be fine. She was right.

What does the future hold for Will and Alessia in upcoming projects?
Will: Alessia brought up our next new direction earlier, talking about Andrea Spring. She's a strong female protagonist and very definitely a rule breaker. She is proving to be a lot of fun to write, although I can easily imagine her rebelling against us. On the solo side, I've been submitting more poetry lately and have had some picked up by Clean Sheets and Oysters & Chocolate. I also still have a half completed novel to finish, one which is mostly plotted out but keeps getting pushed back by other projects. We have two books already mapped for Andi, and we will be returning to the adventures of our couples. Bruce and Mandy from ArtiFactual have more exotic travels in their future. Kevin & Cyndi from Artistically Inclined have unfinished business, not only with each other but also because we still need to cage a few plot bunnies that got loose to nibble on our toes.

Alessia: A string of NY Times bestsellers, movie deals, and a cozy retirement. What else? I don't need a gaggle...

Will: Movies! Someday. Someday I want to write a movie. Of course, the kind of movie I want to write and direct really doesn't exist. I want to do a full budget romance that doesn't fade away when the couple starts kissing. A truly adult romantic film. I think the market may be there, but it's a hard one to peg and it's fractured. Despite recent movement in publishing, in the more action-oriented visual mediums (TV & film), eroticism and romance are still considered separate goals.

What do you find are the elements of a good story?
Alessia: First and foremost: engaging characters. Then, they must experience unusual or challenging circumstances. I think flipping those priorities has the potential to result in a flat read if the author is not a master storyteller. The world an author builds might indeed have enough of a "personality" to be considered a character in & of itself, especially with paranormal elements, but without intriguing inhabitants, it's just not worth reading about.

Will: Like she said, characters. You'll read good characters with a bad plot but the best plot fails without at least a decent protagonist. If you can achieve a minimum "investment" in your characters, then plot alone can carry you farther. But you have to have a reason for the audience to care about your plot and that only happens when they care about to whom everything is happening.

Alessia: I believe we just said the same thing. Imagine that!

Will : Imagine. Seriously, you asked me to write with you at least partially because you knew I shared that priority, so it's no surprise...

When you are not composing what kind of books do you like to read?
Will: Erotica, Fantasy & Science Fiction. Most of my to-be-read pile consists of authors I've met, though. That is not constrained by my most favored genres. Because of meeting certain writers, I've read more mysteries and thrillers in the last six months than ever before, for example.

Alessia: When I look back at the series I've re-re-re-read, they're all heavy with socio-political themes: Herbert's Dune, McCaffrey's Pern, Asimov's Foundation, Tolkien's Middle Earth, Heinlein's Long family, Anthony's Space Tyrant. See a pattern? I think it's the advocate in me, always looking at broad social mores & the forces that challenge them. Interesting, though, because each of these series seems to have begun with my secondary priority -- the world/circumstances in which the characters interact. They're not flat, though, because the authors ARE skilled storytellers and the ensemble casts are certainly memorable. I can say the same for the television/movie series that have managed to hold my attention: Star Trek, Babylon 5, FarScape, Star Wars, Firefly ...

What is the hardest part of writing and the easiest for you?
Will: The hardest part is getting started on a consistent basis and then stopping. When I get on a roll I could easily go all night, but my day job is still very much a necessity. I hate breaking off a good night to go to bed. Sometimes it is really difficult to get the words to start coming and so I hate having to stop their progress. The easiest part is that time in the middle, when the dialogue is audible and the crack of a pistol or squeal of the tires on the road sound as real as any Hollywood sound effect.

Alessia: The hardest part is actually typing the words. I've never been able to write in draft mode. My first effort is damned close to final copy. It makes for a slow process if I'm not disciplined... well, even if I am disciplined. I'm just not the type to crank out more than 1,000 words a day. The easiest part is planning & plotting.

Have you experienced writer's block? If so, how did you work through it?
Will: I'm hoping that it's like a pit stop in a NASCAR race, and that after each pause I'll take off and build back up to speed on the track. So far, I always have. Also, to carry on that analogy, I think things happen in that downtime that give you fuel to keep writing and that without the down time you would run out of gas. As far as working through it, the only thing I know to do is shift focus until I hit upon something that's speaking to me. Once I do that the momentum seems to carry over to other work.

Alessia: I think, as a writer of erotic fiction, that the best cure for writer's block is more research. Lots. More. Research. I do agree with Will about shifting focus, though. When one set of characters isn't speaking to me, I shift to others. When they're all being quiet, I turn to other pursuits. I have a budding career as a cover artist that gives me a great deal of creative fulfillment -- not quite as much as writing, but it's nice to have a fall back position.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?
Will: Well, it's not the money. Not that I don't want the money, or that I downplay the rush that goes along with knowing people are willing to invest something they have a limited amount of in my words. I take the need to be worthy of that investment very seriously. But at this time, it is more about the sense of accomplishment. First it was the goal of getting people to like my writing, then of getting published... now it's about increasing my readership. Because I do want to put myself in a place where writing is my job. Some people say they want to avoid that, but not me. I'll gladly take the pressure of deadlines and expectations to be able to write for a living. Besides, increased readership also increases the likelihood of my other creative craving... feedback. I still love the feedback, just like I did at the beginning. Recently I had a person whose opinion I respect tell me how she was reading a climatic scene in Mixed Blessings (from Phaze Fantasies II) and she found herself making the moves she imagined the character would be making, physically reacting to the scene. That has to be one of my greatest moments as a writer, knowing I was able to communicate it that intensely.

Alessia: Again, research. That, and the rush of touching people with my words, of evoking an emotional response and making an impression. Then there's the creative fulfillment. I'm happiest when my creative energies are engaged and the results are appreciated. That's true of any of my endeavors, whether professional or personal.

Again, I agree with Will about the responsibility of being a worthy investment of a reader's hard-earned cash -- not only from an artistic perspective but from a fiscal one as well. Writing is an art, but publishing is a business. I plan to earn a living with my art, so I can't lose sight of that fact.

Do you do most of the promoting of your books?
Will: I'm blessed to have the wonderful staff at Phaze and a wonderful co-writer, because promo can be very challenging for me. Mostly due to time, or rather the lack of it. I mean, I work a full time job (and, believe me, the next week I only put in 40 hours will be the first), I have two kids with homework & Little League, etc., and in addition to writing fiction I also write two non-fiction columns under another name. When I have the chance, I put in the time I can. I do have the edge on marketing education, and I feel like I have good instincts, but I'm very happy I have Alessia to share the burden. When I do have my chances, I try to take full advantage.

Alessia: Unlike Will, I don't punch a time clock. Or perhaps more accurately, I never punch out. I'm "merely" a work-from-home mom... and we all know that means I have tons of free time with which to fart around online and pimp our work. *rolls eyes* I won't regale you with a laundry list of my time constraints, but it's fair to say my days are quite full. I don't have Will's eau de schmooze, unfortunately. I am able to do what I do because I'm extremely organized, efficient, and skilled with time management.

However, I think promo is a challenge for all authors. Part of that is not knowing where our time, money, and energy are paying off. All we have to go by are website hit counters and aggregate sales numbers. We're all searching for that magic promo formula. Most of the online efforts are, I fear, just authors talking to one another. Sure, authors are also readers -- but not in the numbers we need in order to earn a living through book sales.

Phaze is fortunate to have a wonderful promo goddess, Crystal. How she juggles our stable of 100+ authors, sending out ARCs for review, chat schedules, setting up interviews, posting reviews, in addition to writing herself & working a full-time job is a mystery to me... but I'd love to have some of her promo mojo.

Do you have any encouraging words for up and coming writers?
Will: Keep working and please... Show somebody your work. Best friend, significant other, anybody! There are so many people out there who fill notebooks and never show another soul. I was one of them. I just got to the point where I knew some of my stuff was better than what I was reading. But just as important is the need to seek out honest opinion and real reaction. "That's great!" and "This sucks!" have one key thing in common. They are worthless when it comes to helping you improve. Find someone who can and will tell you what they like, what they hate and, if possible, why for both.

Alessia: I just answered this question earlier this week, so I'm gonna cheat and paste my answer here, too:
Proofread your shower shoes... erm, work. In the words of Crash Davis: "Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You'll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you'll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back and the press'll think you're colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you are a slob." Don't expect an editor to punctuate your work or catch your homonymic errors. Have some respect for yourself and for your publisher/editor.

Besides this website, do you have any other blogs or MySpace that you would like to share?

Will: Um, I think my partner's got this one...

Alessia: Yeah *cough* just a few:

Sites: Artistically Inclined, LLP | Coming Together

MySpace profiles: Alessia | Will | Coming Together | Artistically Inclined, LLP

Blogs: Alessia | Will

Yahoo!Groups: Will | Alessia

There are also the random profiles on Ning, Bebo, Xanga, TagWorld, Yahoo!360, LiveJournal, etc. We're going for the web domination thing. Every time you turn around, one of us will be in your face -- either Will's denim clad-crotch or my "sensual, succulent, satisfying" dripping-with-eroticism, chocolate-covered cherry. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

Just for Fun: What is your favorite candy? A place you would love to visit?
Will: Sour exterior, sweet interior. I love sour candy and gummis. When it comes to chocolate, I like it dark. I also like the various Mexican candies that have some heat to them.

For a place, my first choice would be Scotland. Family and all that. After that, what interests me is history. Especially the pre-medieval periods. So I would say Rome, Jerusalem, Greece, Egypt, Macchu Picchu. The so-called ancient world, but not just limited to the "the west." India, China, Japan. It all fascinates me.

Alessia: Dark chocolate? Blech! And "heat" in candy? Um, pass. Right now, I'm stuck on these yummy vanilla caramels by Judy's Candy, but I also love the chocolate-covered raisins from The South Bend Chocolate Company. Anything from Sarris Candies is delicious, too. (All sugar-free, of course, because I'm a devout low carber. Some might say a zealot. *shrug* It works for me on so many levels.) I put all those links in there just in case someone wants to buy me treats. *grin* Ain't I sneaky?

As for a place I'd love to visit... That depends on the company. I'm quite content to hike alone in my mountains or snooze under a tree on a Jamaican beach, but if sharing my time with an adventurous companion, I want to explore places of mutual interest. I'd like to visit Easter Island with Will since we wrote about it in Amichu, one of the four novellas that comprise ArtiFactual. Mayan ruins. Egyptian pyramids. Stonehenge. The Alps. Gorky Park on ice skates. Glacier National on mountain bikes. The list is virtually endless with the right company.

Are you more of a night person or a day person? A beach person or someone who loves to be at a ski-lodge?
Will: Totally a night person. I'm allergic to mornings. Luckily, there's treatment available in the form of coffee. I do most of my best writing in the wee hours, and I've always felt like noon was just about the right time to be getting out of bed. I only get up earlier because I have no choice.

I'd have to say the ski lodge. I love skiing, although I started late and have been away for awhile what with raising a family and the costs involved. In college, I skied a lot. Mind you, I'm not hanging around the lodge. I want to be out on the slopes. I love being at the top, looking out from that great height with the air crisp in my lungs. I also love pushing myself to get better. I always felt a day of skiing where I didn't wipe-out much was wasted. Unless it was the company, of course. There are things to be said for a casual cruise with the right company. I do really adore the beach at night, though. I'm pale, and I burn in the day, so I avoid the reflection of the water and the lack of cover. But at night? With the moon reflected on the water and the line of white foam appearing in the blackness in time with the sound of the surf? I love that.

Alessia: I have the most creative energy in the mornings, but I'm certainly capable of closing down the party... again, with the right company. If I'm not stimulated by the people or the place (or if I'm feeling like a warthog), I'd rather seek a quiet space by myself or tender time with a considerate partner.

Never been skiing, although I have decorated a lodge or two in my day. Although I'm not fair-skinned like Will, I do prefer the beach at night more than during the heat of the day. I think it has more to do with the meat market atmosphere of most beaches during the day. It's the same reason I don't much care for clubs.

Will and Alessia, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to spend with us today. We look forward to reading your excellent books.
Will: It was great to be asked. And anyone who does read, please don't hesitate to share your thoughts! Feedback is always desirable.

Alessia: Thanks, Linda! A pleasure, as always.

Interviewed by: Linda L.

1 comment:

IM Cupnjava said...

That's a WONDERFUL interview!! ^_^