Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Sha Renee, author of Forbidden Kisses, which is part of the Story of A Kiss anthology.
IDI – First, let me thank you for taking the time out to chat with me. I hear your short story, Forbidden Kisses was recently released.
SR – It was. It released on February 1st as part of the Story of a Kiss Anthology, which features 13 short stories by 13 different authors. Each of the stories focuses on an unforgettable kiss, although some of the stories feature more than kissing. Within 48 hours of release, Story of a Kiss hit Amazon’s top ten lists in two separate categories.
The story I contributed is entitled Forbidden Kisses. In it, Layla, who is an enlisted member of the Navy, meets the perfect guy while she is on leave. After several fun-filled days and passionate nights, she discovers that Ethan is also in the Navy and he’s an officer. According to military regulations personal relationships between officers and enlisted members is prohibited. In order to avoid disciplinary action and protect both of their careers, they need to put an end to their relationship. Unfortunately, they’ve already fallen in love.
IDI – New releases are always exciting. What works for you? Give us a rundown of your ‘writing process’ from beginning to finished product.
SR – My story ideas almost always come to me completed from beginning to end. By the time I begin writing, I know the course the story is going to take and how it will turn out. So the first thing I do is write an outline: girl meets boy, boy gets into fight with girl’s father, girl has to choose between two men she loves, etc. Once I have the full outline written out, I can fill it in later with character names, dialogue, city names and the gist of the action which takes place within the story. But this doesn’t always happen if I sit at my laptop and will myself to fill in the outline of my story. My scenes come to me while I’m going about my daily life -driving, showering, working – so I end up scrambling to write down information before I lose it.
IDI – What is the hardest or most frustrating aspect of writing: ideas, getting started, writer’s block, re-writing?
SR – Ideas coming to me faster than I can get them written down is both a blessing and a curse. Scenes and sometimes entire stories will unfold in my mind from beginning to end while I’m driving or while I’m assisting my boss in a dental procedure. I don’t always have a way to make notes and my memory is not great, so I often miss out on good information. Sometimes I am able to jot down a few notes, though. When this happens, and it’s a new story rather than a scene of a current story, I absolutely cannot rest until the entire outline is written beginning to end. Then I can leisurely fill in the body of the story with dialogue and action.
IDI – There are magazines and blogs full of what’s new and what’s hot in the publishing industry. Do you keep up with the latest news, advice, trends and such? What are your thoughts?
SR – As far as advice and tips for writing, publishing or building a social platform – definitely. If I come across information that pertains to me and can help improve my writing, then I’m willing to try it. As far as trends, no. I won’t use a certain software, website, or style or technique just because it’s popular at the moment or it’s what everyone is using or doing. I don’t allow myself to be swayed by the latest trends because it may be something that doesn’t work for my writing style, my lifestyle or my budget.
IDI – Do you have a blog and if so, what types of posts would a visitor find on it?
SR – I do: http://sharenee.com/
Right now my blog has random topics about life and about writing. I have info about my published work, my works-in-progress and since I love taking pictures of nature scenes, I also have a page where I’ve uploaded some of my photos. In the near future however, I plan to have blog posts that feature military personnel and veterans. I’d like to know how they feel about their service, adjusting to civilian life and for those who are authors, I’d love to post about their work.
IDI – How much time/effort do you give to social media as a means of self-promotion?
SR – I love connecting with people via social media. In fact, I have very few ‘tangible’ friends. Except for a very small handful, my friends are online. Making connections via social media is great for promoting my work and I try to share and post information regularly to keep my peers up to date with my projects. The downside though, (and this is huge for me) is the higher the number of people I “meet” online, the less I’m able to connect personally with each of them. If two thousand tweets come through my feed in a day, and I have a 15 minute break to look at it, there’s no way I’m going to see everyone’s posts. So there are people I follow who I never re-tweet or even get to see what they’re up to. I’m also a firm believer in “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” I try to ‘like’, ‘share’ and ‘re-tweet’ because we all need support. We need to help promote each other – whether it’s an author with a new book being released, a musician trying to get his music heard, or just someone hoping to draw people to their blog.
IDI – Online cafés or writers groups (aside from social networking). Do you belong to any and if so, help or harm?
SR – I love being a member of Scribophile. I’ve met wonderful people, I read some awesome stories and I love the fact that it’s a community where the “I scratch your back, you scratch mine” comes into play. But we don’t help each other (by critiquing work and answering questions) only to get help in return, we help each other because we genuinely want to see our peers grow and succeed. Since I write Erotic Romance, this is the one place I know I can ask questions about relationships and sex – very direct, detailed questions, and not be judged.
IDI – Can you tell us three interesting things about you that you’re sure we don’t already know?
SR – The first is that I absolutely love my job. I work as a dental assistant, for a wonderful boss, in a nice office, in great location, with the best hours. HOWEVER, if someone said to me, “Pick a job. Any job and it’s yours.” Without a doubt, I would be a driver in a car commercial. You know, the ones that have three or four cars doing synchronized driving, zig zag, down the hill, around the bend, high speed. Yeah.
The second is that I feel somewhat uncomfortable when people thank me for my military service. After I enlisted, I traveled, I made friends, fell in love, got married, had a baby, even had ‘mandatory fun’. I didn’t see combat. I never set foot on a ship. I don’t feel like I did anything significant in support of my country. Of course, in my head I know military service is a team effort. As for standing security watch, accounting for tools to ensure no foreign items end up on the flight line, washing aircraft, etc. I know these were significant to the overall mission, but I still wish I’d done more. So when people say, “Thank you for your service,” it takes a lot for me not to say, “I really didn’t do anything.”
Lastly, I used to feel guilty about what I write and about letting people know what I write -especially people I go to Church with. My characters engage in sex outside of marriage, which clashes with my Christian beliefs. There is a lot of judgement, whether it’s expressed or not, when an author reveals that they write Erotic Romance or Erotica. I’ve even been accused of leading people to sin by what I write. I disagree with this completely. First, because my work is for adults who should be able to read the warnings and decide whether or not reading about sex is going to make them have sex. If they feel weak in this area, they shouldn’t read erotic material or watch anything in which the characters have sex. Second, I don’t think (and this is my opinion because I don’t know everything about everything) that people – no matter what their religious beliefs – should refrain from writing murder mysteries, because it will cause people to commit murder. I don’t believe authors shouldn’t write stories about kidnapping because someone might not be able to control their urge to kidnap. I’m not encouraging anyone to mimic the actions of my characters, whether they’re having sex, singing karaoke or drinking coffee. And if authors who write about murder and bank robberies are not judged by the actions of the characters they write about, then I will continue to write what I like.
IDI – Define a great book.
SR – One that evokes strong emotion in me especially early in the story. I recently read a story in which I felt deep sympathy for the MMC right from the first chapter, possibly even the first scene.
A great book makes me think about the characters and their situations even after I’ve closed the book and I’m engaged in other activity. And a great book is one that I never want to end. When I see that I’m nearing the last chapter, I tend to read more slowly, savoring those last few scenes. So I guess I’d say a great book is like great sex. It evokes emotion, we want it to last, taking measures to delay the culmination and we think about it and even talk about it long after it’s over.
IDI – Who is your favorite of the characters you’ve written?
SR – Ethan from Forbidden Kisses. Besides the fact that I’ve made him physically attractive – with dimples, dark hair, thick eyebrows, over deep-set eyes which are the color faded blue jeans. He’s got a good sense of humor. He’s playful and fun loving. He’s got a good heart, caring for his best friend’s widow as well as his girlfriend’s mother. He’s romantic and loves intensely. One of his great qualities – something Layla really loves about him, is his take-charge attitude. If there were a hurricane, a fire or any type of disaster or urgent situation, he’d be the one who immediately steps up and makes decisions. He’d give everyone directions, let them know what they should be doing. He’s a leader and he leads with confident authority. But from those who fall under his authority – including Layla, he requires compliance without any question.
IDI – What does success as an author mean to you?
SR – Of course a shit-load of money from my writing would be great, but I’d consider myself successful when I hear that people know and enjoy my work. When readers – who are not friends or family – excitedly discuss my characters or a particular scene in my story (and like it) then I’ll consider myself successful.
IDI – Thank you so much, that was great.
If you’d like to learn more about Sha and her work, here are a few links that you’ll find interesting.
My Blog: http://sharenee.com/
My E-mail: ShaRinay@yahoo.com
Story of a Kiss Teaser: http://bit.ly/1ZKHVY7
Order my first short story: http://amzn.to/1KDs7KA
Order Story of a Kiss: http://amzn.to/1VjrlIg