An ENE Interview with author Monica Burns
Author Bio: An author published by New Concepts Publishing, Monica Burns was twelve when she became hooked on romance. First Barbara Cartland, then Kathleen Woodiwiss followed by Amanda Quick and Sabrina Jeffries fostered her love of historical romance. She penned her first short story at the age of nine when she selected the pseudonym she uses today.
In 2002, she seriously committed herself to writing with a goal of publication. Since then, she’s penned five novels and three novellas. Industry insiders have called her writing, sensual, robust and bursting with sexual tension. Monica invites her readers to visit her website, where she hosts contests, offers a wealth of information and has a chat room for readers to discuss her books. She loves getting email from readers, and responds personally to each email she receives.
Ms. Burns has been writing for more than fourteen years in the retail, environmental, education and technology sectors. Although she has written romantic fiction since the age of nine, she has only been fulfilling her life-long dream on a full-time basis for two years. As a writer in the public and private sectors, Ms. Burns has planned, developed and written major articles, including regional success stories, for Virginia's technology sector. Her articles have appeared in Innovations, a statewide publication for Virginia's Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) as well as the regional business publication Inside Business.
Ms. Burns holds a bachelors of science degree in Mass Communications from Virginia Commonwealth University. A member of the national Romance Writers of America (RWA) organization, she is also a member of the RWA Online Chapter. Her work has also appeared in the Torch, a publication of the international sorority, Beta Sigma Phi.
|A Few Words From Our Author...|
I do wonder if folks reading will understand that many romance writers see erotic romance and erotica as two distinct subgenres. I've pasted in a blurb below about the differences that most romance writers would agree with, but readers might not know about. They might not even care either. LOL.
Erotic romance contains intense sexual scenes between two individuals who are falling in love or are in love. It MUST have a happy ending and love is the ultimate focus of the relationship and the work. This can include different types of sex styles, such as increased "foul" language, acts that aren't usually found in sensual romances such as anal sex, bondage, ménage a trois, interspecies sex, voyeurism, etc. If it's between consenting adults, it advances the character development, and the love and happily ever after are there, then it's erotic romance.
Erotica is where the sex in the story is based on emotion and NOT a relationship. The emotion can be anger, hate, love (and not necessarily love in the sense of a monogamous relationship), greed, etc. Erotica is about the emotion that motivates the instances of sex, not necessarily the relationship, although relationships may or may not evolve in these types of works. Additionally, the work doesn't have to have a happy ending, unlike erotic romance, where a happy ending is essential.
|On to the interview|
|ENE: Why do you write?|
|MB: A lot of people answer this question with the statement that they have too. They can't help not writing. I suppose I'm the same way, but I see as a life-giving source for me. It's like water. I can't live or function normally if I'm not writing. I'm not happy unless I'm creating. For me, it's a passion that I've always lived with, I just never had the confidence to move forward in achieving my dream of publication until about five years ago.|
|ENE: When did you start writing? What did you write?|
|MB: I've been writing since I was 9-years-old. I wrote sweet romance back then, and the last page of all of my romances were finished with The End followed with the words "by Monica Burns." I wasn't clued in too much about sex back but I knew that one day I would be published under that name.|
|ENE: What stimulates your muse?|
|MB: A really good adventure movie, with a kickbutt heroine. Stimulating the muse requires a little bit of body caretaking. When I'm tired, rundown, sick, the muse goes on vacation. She's the smart one, me, I just keep trying to plow my way through the muck. So when she does show up during those times, she chews my ass a new one and then I kick back and relax for a little bit of self-healing. I'll read, watch movies, or sleep. Sleep, that's something I don't get a lot of these days. *grin*|
|ENE: Do you ever get writer's block? How do you deal with it?|
|MB: I'm not sure I really get writer's block. What happens to me is that I get into fights with my characters. They want to go in one direction, and I want them to go in another. So what happens is, my characters clam up. They refuse to talk to me, and I sit at the computer and write words, but they're useless because they'll have to be removed when the characters start again. When I run into these type of situations, I force myself to walk away from the computer and to just sit and think about my characters. I talk to them and ask them why they want to do the things they're telling me to write. We work on getting the story the way they want it told not the way I want to write it.|
|ENE: When did you start writing romance? Erotica?|
|MB: As I said, I started writing romance when I was nine. I've never written any other type of fiction. As for erotica, well, that's a tricky answer. For me there are fine lines between erotica and erotic romance. The lines are blurred continuously. I define erotica as a romance where sex is the driving force that propels a character along their journey. The sex is what the author uses to show how the character has been changed. There may or may not be a happy ending. Erotic romance is where sex is an enhancement to the developing relationship between the main characters, and it absolutely MUST have a happy ending. As for what I write, I'm not really sure. LOL I classify myself as an erotic romance writer, but my current WIP is pushing some real boundaries for me that I could almost classify as erotica, but then a writer is always really close to the tree and can't always see the forest. Basically, all I care about writing is a great story with great sexual tension, great sex and a happy ending. *grin*|
|ENE: Do you ever have to defend the genre you write in?|
|MB: Well, let's see...the MIL saw one of my covers and asked if I was writing porn. I won't tell you what I really wanted to do at that moment, but let's just say that I'm Italian. *grin* My boss knows I write erotic romance, and he threw me when he mentioned that I wrote raunchy romance. I'm good on the keyboard, but it takes a while for me to think of quick comebacks, so I just let it pass. Those are the only two instances where I've had to "defend" the genre. Not sure what I'd do if someone actually attacked the genre to me personally. I've heard of a lot of writers who've had people say they don't read smut, and the writers then retort that they don't write smut. I think I'd have to respond in that manner as well. I don't write smut. And I have to state my firm belief that when writers use the word in an effort to reclaim it in a positive way, I think it's a useless effort. The word is too ingrained in the public's mind to try and take it back now. So I don't write smut, I write romance with great sex.|
|ENE: Is erotica porn?|
|MB: Absolutely not. I've read "porn." Growing up my Dad had these books in the back of his closet. When moments arose, I'd pull them out and read. There wasn't any story, just acts of sex with a line or two that connected the sex acts. I was about 14-15 at the time. I still remember thinking, well this is stupid, where's the plot. Of course, I was reading Edgar Cayce at the age of 12, so I was pretty advanced literary wise. But no, erotica/erotic romance doesn't even closely resemble porn. These two closely connected subgenres deal with relationships. Sex is an integral part of those relationships, but it's not the sole reason for putting the story on the page. Sex isn't why a romance writer tells the story of her characters. There's plot to a romance, not so in porn.|
|ENE: Who are your favorite authors of fiction?|
|MB: Gosh, I have a lot of favorites...Charles Dickens, Baroness Ocrzy, Alexander Dumas, Edgar Allan Poe, Amanda Quick, Stephen King, J.R. Ward, Christine Feehan, Dan Brown, Victoria Holt, Jane Aiken Hodge are just a few of the authors I have great respect for.|
|ENE: Do you allow others to read your work while it is being written?|
|MB: I have a couple of people who I trust to read my work as it's being written, but mainly it's simply to get feedback on characterization. I ask my friends to tell me if the actions of the character make sense. Other than that, I've opted to not use critique partners anymore.|
|ENE: What advice would you give romance and erotica fiction writers about getting published?|
|MB: Finish the book, know your craft (things like POV, show vs. tell, technical grammar, etc.), make sure that you put emotion into your sex scenes. That's something readers are declaring is missing in so many sex scenes in books. Readers say they want the emotion not Part A fitting into Slot B. I work really heard to make my scenes emotional and intense. I've been told I write a good sex scene, but then that's going to be in the mind of the reader. *grin* Push the envelope too. Don't be afraid to break the rules, but make sure you know what the rules are before you go about breaking them in an appropriate manner.|
|ENE: Here are some questions from our readers: How do you get the idea for your novels|
|MB: I'll get an idea from any number of places. I hear a line on a TV show or movie, and my mind is racing off in another direction from the show. I'll be reading a book and the author will use a word, situation or line that triggers a What if? Question in my head. I run with that idea. Sometimes I even dream them. I'll wake up in the middle of the night with this wonderful scenario for a story. THOSE are the ones I love best. That's my subconscious working overtime.|
|ENE: Are your stories reality-based or strictly from your imagination?|
|MB: Hmmm, well I believe in past lives, and I believe I've lived before. So I would say that deep inside there are a number of "reality-based" scenarios and situations that filter their way through into my work. I'm convinced I lived in ancient Egypt, the middle ages and the 1800s. So when I dream some of my stories, I firmly believe that the memories from those past lives are actually filtering through. So while those situations might be imaginative in some people's minds, they're reality-based in mine.|
|ENE: Why erotica? Does it pay well?|
|MB: romance is definitely hot now, but as for whether it pays well, there are a lot of factors that go into that question other than just writing erotica/erotic romance. You have to write a good story, the more prolific you are, the more opportunity you have for a nice contract. There are some romance writers in the ePublishing field who make a comfortable living. We're talking $50,000 or so a year. However, those writers are not the norm. I made less than 1/10 of that figure in 2006. Writing is a competitive field with more and more people tumbling into the fray every day. So often writers are viewed as making lots of money off their work, but that's not the case for the majority of writers (any genre). Most writers still hold down a full-time job while writing full-time at night and on the weekends. I work a 40-hr day job. I work 50 hours a week on my writing. That gets me about 5-7 hours of sleep a night, and about zero family time. I'm making sacrifices to build my career, but does it pay well? For most of writers, I'd say no.|
|ENE: Does your family know that you write erotica? If so, how do they feel about it?|
|MB: My family knows that I write erotic romance, and some of them are quite happy for me, some roll their eyes, others act as though I'm the spawn from hell. I stay away from those who think I'm the spawn from hell. I don't want to be preached too. LOL|
|ENE: How long does it take you to write a novel? Do you have another planned?|
|MB: Most novels only take me a little longer than three months to write. But the one I'm doing final revisions to now has taken me almost seven months, well maybe six since December is almost a complete time loss with the holidays. Still this book has been really tough to write. It's been like trying to have your foot sutured without any painkillers. Once this book is submitted to my agent...hoping that will happen by mid week...I'll be getting ready to write a paranormal series that I'm cooking up. I can't say to much about it because in this business ideas aren't copyright protected, and it you've got a unique one, you don't want it floating around out there. *grin*|
|ENE: How do you write a novel? Making notes, writing the whole thing and then going back and revising it or chapter by chapter correcting it as you write?|
|MB: Most of the time, I just start writing. I tried writing out a guideline this time, but I didn't follow it that closely. In fact, according to my timeline I should be in one place, but I'm somewhere else entirely different. I do tend to revise as I go along. It helps me identify with my characters better and keeps me abreast of what's come before. I've a mind like a sieve and I have to keep going back to remember where I was to know where I'm going. But it works out well in the end, because I revise as I go and then I've got pretty much a finished product, which is why I still have one chapter to write, but the book will be proofed, revised and ready sometime next week.|
|ENE: Do you use any form of prompt to give you ideas to write? Pictures, other books, software? Do you get turned on writing erotica?|
|MB: Prompts...I use some pictures of people to give me an idea of how to describe my characters. I also listen to music to enhance the writing experience. But neither of those things necessarily provide me with ideas. As for getting turned on...well, do you get turned on reading erotic romance and erotica? *grin* If I don't squirm in my seat during a sex scene, feel my heart thumping during a scary part, or bite back tears during a poignant moment, then I'm not writing the scene well enough for the reader to experience that very sensation. It means I'm not doing my job, and I know I can get those emotions going in people with my books.|
|ENE: How would you characterize your style of writing?|
|MB: Oh lord, LOL I haven't a clue. I thought I wrote dark, edgy, sexy historicals, and I had another author describe my writing as lush, rich and romantic. NOT what I really wanted to hear when I was going for something else. Maybe I need to switch to contemporaries to get that dark, sexy, edge.|
|ENE: Are your characters based a bit on people you have met or come across?|
|MB: Sometimes they are, not the whole person, but a character trait here and a charcter trait there all mixed up to flow into a character I write, yes I'd say that happens a lot. Writers are observers. I love to watch people (when I'm not talking) and see what their tics are, what little mannerisms they have that might be useful in my writing. I don't even have to know the person. Some of my best observations have been of people I didn't even know. Mall watching is lots of fun.|
|ENE: Do you do any research [for your novels]?|
|MB: Absolutely. I have a mini historical library in my office. My husband says we need to buy stock in Amazon and Barnes and Noble since I buy so many books. My children also know who to come to for information on Egypt, late Victorian and Pre-Edwardian eras and a host of other places and time periods. Research is my second passion, and I can often find myself caught up in the research and forgetting that I have a book to write.|
|ENE: How long had you been writing before you got published?|
|MB: When I got serious about my desire to be published in 2002, it took three years before my first contract with New Concepts Publishing.|
|ENE: What influence did your education have in your decision to write erotica?|
|MB: Not much at all. I've had some bad experiences in my life, and I believe that what I write is an expression of love and how sex can be integrated into a relationship in a way that it becomes the ultimate expression of the love the characters feel for each other. I write as I think it could be, but at the same time I've got my feet planted firmly on the ground. I write fantasy for women. I try to give my readers a story they can sigh over, groan over, go oh yes! when they read. I don't write about the routine monotony that is so much a part of most people's lives. I try to take them on an adventure, away from the screaming kids, the spouse that put their dirty dishes in the sink when the dishwasher hasn't been run. I try to help them forget the bills are due, there's a pile of laundry to do or the in-laws are coming for a month long stay.|
|ENE: Do you write under another name?|
|MB: Not at present. Monica Burns is the only name I use for publication.|
|ENE: Do you believe women write better erotica then men? If so, why?|
|MB: Ack! Trick Question! LOL No, seriously, I don't think the gender matters. What matters is the author's ability to suck you in. Get you hooked. There are a couple of big name authors I've read who write extremely well, but their sex scenes are never satisfying. They fall flat for me. But then I can't do romantic suspense or sci-fi very well myself, so it just goes to show that all authors have strengths and weaknesses. I can say that based on my experience, men and women tend to write sex differently. Men are visual creatures while women are cerebral in their approach to romance and sex. We like talking, men like action. It's just part of the way humans act. *smile*|
|ENE: Have you ever done an historical erotica?|
|MB: It's what I write. Not attempted any contemps yet, but I'd like to.|
|ENE: Have you used many publishers?|
|MB: I write for New Concepts Publishing and have a new book coming out in October with Samhain Publishing.|
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