Today, I am truly honored to be showcasing the most-fabulous Cecilia Tan and her new release: Slow Seduction. It’s the second book in the series, following Slow Surrender. I was so thrilled to get the chance to interview her. I can’t wait to meet her in person at RT Booklover’s Convention and Authors After Dark this year!
Kerry: Why and when did you start writing and what was the first thing you ever wrote?
Cecilia Tan: My mother lovingly preserved one of my earliest attempts. You know how when you’re a child and adults give you crayons and manila paper to color on? I wouldn’t just draw a picture. I would fold the paper in half, write a title on the front, “Th Nd” on the back (I didn’t know how to spell yet), and then draw/write my story on the inside! I was four years old when I wrote “The Witch and the Bunny.” It was four sentences long. But that’s how early it was that I considered myself a writer. My father used to ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I told him I didn’t have to wait to grow up to be a writer: I already was one. He made a deal with me when I was about 12. Any money I made from writing while I was living in his house, he said he’d match, like a matching donation. It was a win-win deal since if I succeeded, he would be showing his support for my career, and if I didn’t sell anything, well, then it was a lesson in how hard it would be to make it as a writer. By the time I was 16 I was selling columns and articles to magazines like Superteen, bringing in $150-$250 a month. With my dad matching that, I didn’t have to get a part time job flipping burgers or babysitting like my friends. In the 1980s, that was a really good take for a teenager!
Kerry: What genre would you like to try to write in someday, but haven’t yet?
Cecilia Tan: It’s funny: by writing erotic romance, I’ve gotten to dabble in a lot of genres. Paranormal, space opera, cyberpunk, high fantasy, even mystery. I’d like to write a historical but I know I’d get sucked into the research… would I ever finish writing the book? I’d also really like to write a memoir. I figure I’ll get around to that one of these days.
Kerry: What is your biggest pet peeve with your own writing? (for example, in my own drafts, I use the word “just” a hundred zillion times…)
Cecilia Tan: Oh my goodness, I have the “just” bug. In fact, I think it got worse recently. While writing Slow Surrender, I chose to write it in the first person, and Karina uses the word often. But I hadn’t realized how often until the first editorial notes came back and my poor editor had crossed it out hundreds of times. On Slow Seduction I went through before sending it in and searched for “just” purposefully to kill as many as I could. Often it could be replaced with “simply” or “only,” but even more often it could (just) be left out entirely! I’m trying to kick the habit but once you pick it up, it’s difficult to eradicate.
Kerry: Writers get inspiration from many different places and books are often montages of many moments, memories, and brainstorming sessions. Have you ever written a book that grew from one interesting flash of inspiration (or one experience or visual). If so, care to share the details?
Cecilia Tan: Slow Surrender was like that, actually. I had two flashes, almost like I’d peeked into a movie theater at two different points. In the first one, all I saw was Karina pulling the marble out of James’s pocket and putting it in her mouth, which became the big moment in the scene where they meet. And the other one was the reverse-Cinderella, where instead of Karina running from James at the ball, their roles were reversed. What I didn’t know was who these people were and why they were doing what they were doing. I knew I was trying to write a BDSM book: most people mind’s would have gone straight to the dungeon or to handcuffs or a spanking. My mind went somewhere else completely. I wrote the first three chapters in one weekend and submitted them to the publisher with a rough synopsis, but I didn’t know how the Cinderella scene fit in, yet. Once I got the go-ahead to write the whole book (indeed, a whole trilogy), then I had to write for a while before the Cinderella scene came into focus.
Kerry: Slow Seduction is a sequel. Did you have it planned from the outset, or did it grow organically from the story once you started Slow Surrender? I don’t know about you, but I adore series books–I love being immersed in a world and its characters, and feeling like I am home with people I know. Do you feel the same way as a writer?
Cecilia Tan: The best part about how publishers want everything to be a sequel now is exactly that, you get to spend more time with the same characters and have more growth and more twists and turns with them. I had a very rough plan for the trilogy, though, because I knew I had to let it grow organically. You have to have a plan, or the publisher won’t buy the series, but they know that some deviation from the plan could happen. I had to discover a lot as I went along–I had to find out what made Karina and James tick, what their quirks and hangups and dealbreakers were. If I trust my subconscious, though, it always knows what’s happening, even if I don’t! When I wrote the first book in the Magic University series, I had the experience of being wrong about who the culprit was in the mystery. Magic U is sort of like Harry Potter for grownups, and like Harry Potter there’s a different mystery solved in each book. As I was writing the reveal scene for the culprit I suddenly had a flash: what if I made it this other character instead? I went back then to insert clues and foreshadowing that would point to that character… and of course discovered it was all ALREADY IN THERE. Which was why that made sense. I just hadn’t realized it until the moment came! Some people call that being a “pantser.” I call it “writing for discovery.”
Kerry: Finally, what can we expect next from you? And where can readers see you on the road this year? Are you involved in any reader conventions?
Cecilia Tan: This whole year is about Slow Seduction and the sequel, Slow Satisfaction, which comes out in August! So I’ll be doing a bunch of conventions. RT Booklovers in New Orleans, Authors After Dark in Charlotte, some BDSM conventions, too, like the Fetish Fair Fleamarket and the Geeky Kink Event. I’m traveling a lot this year. As for what I’m writing next? While I’m on the road pretty much all I can do is keep up my m/m serial, Daron’s Guitar Chronicles. In the fall I’ll decide whether my next book will be M/M, paranormal, BDSM, or what. I’ve been wanting to write a sequel to my M/M high fantasy, The Prince’s Boy, for a while, and maybe another book in the Magic U. universe. I’m going to let things percolate and see what ripens.
Unforgettable passion . . .
Two months have passed since Karina’s painful departure from James, the mysterious lover who awakened her darkest desires, and she’ll do anything-anything-to locate him and win him back. Her search takes her to London, where she finds herself immersed in the world of fine art and forbidden pleasures. And soon, Karina meets another enigmatic man who promises to help her find James … for a price.
Unexpected pleasure . . .
Damon George is rich, gorgeous, and a member of a secret society that caters to the sensual thrills of the wealthy and powerful. Though Karina insists her heart will always belong to James, Damon is determined to have her, body and soul. By the time she finds James, Karina has been “trained” to please another. Will James reject her again … or find her more irresistible than ever?
EXCERPT from SLOW SEDUCTION:
The hotel Damon had picked was near yet another famous place I had read about in books: Charing Cross. When I had first arrived in New York to start grad school, the same sort of thing had happened to me in the city. Broadway, Wall Street, Times Square, Madison Square Garden, these were like mythic place-names I’d heard all my life. Once I got used to being a New Yorker though, they turned into mere addresses again. Here in London that feeling was even stronger, though, everything more historic, more ancient.
The summer sun was setting as I made my way across Trafalgar Square. Tons of people were milling about, including lots of tourists taking photos of a big statue of a guy on a horse. I didn’t attempt to get close to the statue, concentrating on figuring out which of the streets leading away from the park I should take.
The hotel entrance faced the plaza in front of the Charing Cross train station and had various flags flying. I breezed past the main reception desk, and in the hallway beyond it was greeted by the flickering of tiny candles in glass jars all along the marble floor and on every stair of a grand staircase spiraling upward. Damon, I mean, Mr. George, had texted me the room number. I climbed the stairs, the candles making everything seem surreal and magical. On the second floor I found the elevators and up I went.
At the door to the suite I saw a small envelope taped next to the door handle. Please don’t make this another wild-goose chase, I thought, as I peeled it free and opened it. Inside was the room key. Okay, at least it wasn’t instructions to go to some other hotel. I checked inside the envelope to make sure. Wait, there was a note.
Printed in small, neat letters:
If you are willing, unlock the door, come into the room, close it behind you, and strip. Leave your clothes in a pile by the door, along with your overnight bag. Crawl to where you find me. When you demonstrate your willingness, you also demonstrate your trust and your understanding that I will not harm you. If you do not trust me to keep you safe, leave now.
I paused to think about it. Did I trust him not to hurt me? Yes. Did I trust him to keep to the society’s rules? Definitely. But did I trust him beyond that? Not a chance. Damon George had his own agenda, somewhere underneath it all, but that wasn’t really all that relevant to me. I had my own agenda, too, after all.
I’m doing this for you, James.
I slipped the key card into the lock and the door opened. I closed it behind me. Looking around the room I saw it was a spacious parlor done in rich eggplant purple and cream colors, with a sitting area to one side, a small dining table, and then through a wide entrance, the sumptuous bedroom with windows overlooking the plaza.
I could see the back of his head. He was seated in an armchair, looking out the window. His suit jacket and tie were draped over the back of the chair.
I took off my clothes and folded them into a neat pile as instructed. When I had nothing on, I dropped to the velvet-soft purple carpet and crawled over to him. I debated as I went whether I should stop next to the chair or go all the way around to the front.
Hmm. Was I allowed to ask? Or was the instruction sheet a kind of “silent treatment”? Or was it all a test to see how I would interpret its meaning? That seemed like the sort of thing he would do.
I settled on crawling around in front of him and putting my head down on the carpet like it had been at the end of the “interview.”
Seconds ticked by. I figured that was part of the test, too. We’d see which one of us got impatient first.
He did. “Please me,” he said.
I looked up. “Excuse me?”
His expression was stern. “Did you not hear me? I said please me.”
I blinked at him for a few more seconds, trying to think of what to do. “I don’t know you well enough to know what pleases you.”
“Then it is your job to guess and find out,” he said.
CECILIA TAN: About the Author
Cecilia Tan is “simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature,” according to Susie Bright. Tan is the author of many books, including the ground-breaking erotic short story collections Black Feathers (HarperCollins), White Flames (Running Press), and Edge Plays (Circlet Press), and the erotic romances Slow Surrender (Hachette/Forever), Mind Games (Ravenous Romance), The Prince’s Boy (Circlet Press), The Hot Streak, and the Magic University series (Red Silk/Ravenous). Her short stories have appeared in Ms. Magazine, Nerve, Best American Erotica, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and tons of other places. She was nominated for the Lifetime Achievement award by RT Magazine in Erotica in November 2013 (and will find out in May 2014 whether she wins or not). She was inducted into the Saints & Sinners Hall of Fame for GLBT writers in 2010, was a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Leather Association in 2001, and won the inaugural Rose & Bay Awards for crowdfunded fiction in 2010 for Daron’s Guitar Chronicles. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats.