Okay, I get that some of you (especially if you recall my review of Ripping the Bodice) are going huh? Well, just because I thought that the author could have done more with the story doesn't mean that I couldn't see and respect the talent that exists. When an author can make me emotionally invested in characters to the point where I want to know more about them, whether I like the story or not, it's a success in my book. Knowing how to write strong characters is half the battle, and some might argue the hardest part. As I said in my review, interesting premise, I just would have liked to see some of the elements done differently. But enough on that one, so let's move on to the new work.
Inara and I traded emails discussing my feelings about Ripping the Bodice in more detail, and I found myself completely shocked when she agreed to have me review more of her work. Now, I'm not always a big fan of opening with a sex scene, because most of the time they feel gratuitous, but the opening scene in Lavey's latest work, Champagne, caught my attention big time.
I must admit to my surprise that I actually liked this beginning. Here's why - the opening sex scene has a major purpose and goes a bit to set the scene. Lavey seems to have a improved her skills in the use of daydreaming. This one wasn't too long, or too short, but just right to evoke feelings of frustration from the reader - why couldn't she have at least finished the dream? This opening scene (the first paragraph) had me hooked to the point that I wanted to read on.
[Something funny about the cover, from a distance of like 12 inches or so, the guy taking his shirt reminds me of the Travelocity gnome! lol!]
One of the things that I can appreciate is when an author brings in what they like to their stories. She likes wine and she uses that knowledge in her story. Personal knowledge, experience, or even well-done research can strengthen a story and add depth to it's characters.
Within the first four pages of this story, the true talents of this author are evident. This one looks to be a really good treat so stick around after the interview to get a glimpse into the world that is Champagne!
Now, let's get on to the interview:
ME: Do you make resolutions for the New Year? Why or why not? If so, please share one or more of them with us!
INARA: Hmmm...for me, resolutions are on a year by year basis. Some years I think of things I want to do or change, and other years just meld into the one previous. This year I definitely have a resolution and that is to do my best to make each day run on what I call 'taffy time.' This is something that happens when I don't stress over not enough time to accomplish everything I want or need to do. Time seems to stretch out like it's on a taffy pull. One hour seems to last three or four. Days like this are a wonderful gift and I'm determined to manage my stress level by living in the moment. I also have vowed to hang up and put away my clean laundry in less than two weeks after washing it. I have a feeling taffy time will be easier.
ME: Now that the busy holiday time is over, what do you do to recharge?
INARA: Well, this is a toughie for me this year as my dad passed away on Dec. 27th, smack in the middle of the holidays. So recharging my 'batteries' is more than a matter of resting up after the traveling and visiting friends/family this year; it's also just processing the loss of my father, dealing with mortality and trying to get back on track with day to day things, including my writing.
ME: Do you have any holiday memories from 2009 that you would like to share with us?
INARA: My favorite 2009 holiday memory is actually from Saturday night, when my boyfriend and I stayed at my sister's place in Venice Beach, and another friend came over for dinner. We drank amazing wine, got tipsy, played Dad's favorite music (Blood, Sweat and Tears & Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass), sang along loudly, and danced for a couple of hours. Dad would have approved.
ME: What area of the country/world are you from? What are the average temperatures where you are? What type of clothing would most residents be wearing today? What tips do you have for people to “survive” the weather where you are?
INARA: I'm from California, a Southern Cal native. Started in San Diego, then have slowly moved up the coast, first to Los Angeles and then San Francisco. Average temp is around 65-70, I think. I saw everything from shorts and tank tops to sweat pants and layered shirts/jackets today. I have been known to wear shorts, thermal shirt, fleece jacket and knit cap on my beach walks so I can wade in the surf even when it's cold out. I have been told I'm not sane. J As far as tips, California really is the place for people who don't like temperature or weather extremes. At least the coastal regions are. I am a big weather weenie so I love living here.
ME: Do you have any favorite outside hobbies? Can you perform any of these hobbies right now? If not, why not, and is weather a factor?
INARA: My favorite outside hobbies are sword-fighting, surfing, and walking. I can walk in any weather other than then the wind really kicks up (I have been bonked on the head by bits of trees). Today would have been a great day to surf, but we were on the road and I also prefer to surf in Southern California 'cause the currents and conditions are gentler and I'm not that good. Also there are very large great white sharks off the coast here ... and while there hasn't been a recorded attack off of Ocean Beach (the beach near our house), I really don't want to be the first. Also, the one time I did surfed there, the currents were so strong in the white water alone, it was just scary. As far as sword-fighting, I prefer cool weather, no wind, and definitely no rain!
ME: Do you prefer your hot tub inside the house or outside the house? Why?
INARA: Oooh, I'd have to say I'd prefer one of each! I love sitting in a hot tub outside, especially when it's cold out – the contrast between the cold air and hot water is really nice. But I've stayed at places where there's a hot tub inside and you don't have to worry about wearing a bathing suit. A glass of champagne or wine is necessary indoors OR out.
ME: If you could be any character/creature, who/what would it be and why?
INARA: A swashbuckling shapeshifter, specifically a large feline like a tiger or leopard. I love sword-fighting and I'd love to have the grace and strength of an exotic feline.
Now, let’s get to your writing:
ME: Why the erotic romance/erotica genre? What was the draw for you?
INARA: I wrote a short story for my boyfriend as a present, actually the story that CHAMPAGNE is based on. It was fun to write and challenged me. He loved it so much, he was determined to see it published, so I looked into various options with no real luck until my friend and fellow write Cynthia Gentry told me about Ravenous Romance (this was before it officially launched). I sent my story into Holly Schmidt at RR, she bought it, I met with her and Lori Perkins at Romantic Times when it was in San Francisco, and found myself with a seven-book contract. A lot of the ideas I pitched were from stories /characters I'd created in my late teens when my libido and imagination kicked in at the same time – I used to write little vignettes at work when I was bored and spent a lot of time 'writing in my head.' Writing for Ravenous has been great 'cause I'm getting paid to entertain myself!
That being said, I also write in other genres (mystery, horror, non-fiction and screenplays) and each genre has its draw. I do love mysteries...
ME: If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? Please look beyond words like hot, sexy, etc., and delve into the core of your writing to tell us what word or phrase you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story.
INARA: Humorous. No matter what genre I'm writing, there is always a strong vein of humor running through the story and narrative voice. Could I say that any more seriously? J I also think 'sensual' describes my work better than 'sexual.' I've always found myself turned on more from the brain first rather than the body, so I write what appeals to my sense of what's erotic and what's not.
ME: Do the holidays disrupt your writing schedule? If so, how tough is it to get yourself back in writing mode and what have you found that seems to help?
INARA: Gah!!! Which is another way of saying, "Yes, the holidays disrupt my writing schedule." At least they do when travel is involved and/or socializing with friends and family. I need quiet time to gather my thoughts and get into the writing and the only thing that works for me is a few days of decompression, meaning no socializing and lots of quiet time in front of my computer to get back into writing mode.
ME: Do you prefer hot chocolate with marshmallows or a hot toddy? Does that show through in your writing? If so, how?
INARA: Definitely hot chocolate, but with whipped cream, not marshmallows. I love hot toddies, mind you, but my characters tend to either drink/eat chocolate or wine. Or single malt scotch. It shows in my writing through many loving descriptions of food and drink. J Reading my stuff tends to drive people to their fridge or cupboards in search of food and drink. CHAMPAGNE, for instance, is set in and around a champagne house during the harvest and the food/wine is as important to the story as any of the characters. I like to write what I like to read and I do love food and drink. GONE WITH THE WIND will always be my favorite book for all the culinary descriptions. Sigh. I'll never have a seventeen-inch waist again... J
ME: Who decides what characters/creatures you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one pouring the soap in the Jacuzzi?
INARA: My muse and I tend to agree for the most part on what types of characters we write about. She can be a pissy bitch at times if I don't let her have her way with certain plot points or character quirks, but she tends to settle down after a glass of good zinfandel and behave herself. We both like lots of soap in the Jacuzzi, so it works out well.
ME: What creature/character did you have the most fun creating and why?
INARA: That's kind of like asking me if I have a favorite amongst my cats. I really do love all of my characters, even the heinous ones. They're so much fun to write!
ME: If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why? Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
INARA: Well, a lot of my characters are at least loosely based on people I've met or conglomerations of several people, so I have actually more or less 'met' many of them. Including some of the more unlikable ones. I tend to practice literary revenge when someone has pissed me off or treated me/a friend badly. Which doesn't exactly answer your questions... Lemme see. I would love to meet Connor from RIPPING THE BODICE because I like charming, quirky men with good senses of humor and lots of patience. Plus I have a weakness for accents. J I would NOT like to meet Daryl from CHAMPAGNE because he's a selfish yuppie putz and I try to avoid them whenever possible. That being said, I would love to meet any of my characters and find out what they think of me. Would they love their creator or be really angry with me for what I've put them through?
BLURB for CHAMPAGNE
"Well-written with Ms. LaVey's usual flair for humor, sex and fun, Champagne is a wild ride through France. Ms. LaVey has a way with words and humor; she never fails to leave a smile on my face." --Bookwenches (4 stars)
"Champagne by Inara LaVey is a witty, fun, informational and erotic adventure through France's wine country. I look forward to reading more work from this talented author." --Dark Divas (4 "delightful divas")
Jeanette Wilson is an American girl on the trip of a lifetime to the wine regions of France. Unfortunately, she's trapped with her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Daryl, a self-absorbed, self-aggrandizing, self-styled wine expert bent on swirling, sniffing, sipping, swishing, chewing, swallowing and occasionally spitting his way through the wineries. Between his endless lectures and insufferable putdowns, her insignificant other is quickly turning her dream vacation into a nightmare.
But things change for Jeanette once they come to the zenith of their French road trip, the Champagne house of Chateau Roux-Dubois. Their hosts, Amaury and Marie-Elise Roux-Dubois, turn out to be both charming and attractive, and go out of their way to extend a warm welcome to her. And they make it very clear that it is she, not Daryl, who is their special guest, particularly when the striking Marie-Elise takes Jeanette down to the wine cellar for a very personal tour, followed by an unusual French lesson from Amaury.
When she and Daryl are invited to stay and participate in the harvest festival, Jeanette finds herself caught up in a ménage a trois with the Roux-Dubois, both intent on teaching her many things...and not just about wine.
"Miss Wilson! Are you enjoying yourself?"
I groaned inwardly as I recognized the hearty Ms. Buxton's voice. My groan turned into a grin when I saw her costume: she was totally decked out as the Evil Queen from Snow White, except showing far more cleavage than either Disney or the Brothers Grimm ever imagined. Her red and black corset was a thing of amazing engineering, nipping her waist into nothing while emphasizing wide hips, broad shoulders and a vast expanse of breasts. She looked a bit like a drag queen.
At a loss for words, I gave a little finger wave and nodded in answer to her question.
"You don’t seem to be. In fact, you look positively gloomy!"
"Do I?" I shrugged and took a sip of champagne.
Claire plunked herself down next to me on the bench in a rustle of black taffeta and a squeak of leather. I scooted over to avoid being sliced open by what looked to be a disturbingly sharp-edged collar on her cape.
"Is that metal?"
"Oh, no!" Claire smiled happily at the question. "Aluminum. No edge. Looks wicked though, doesn’t it?"
"It does indeed," I agreed. "Is Daryl dressed as one of the Seven Dwarfs or the studly woodsman?"
"Ooh, naughty!" Claire tapped my hand with the edge of the hand mirror she held. Its handle was black latex, undeniably a dildo. Who's the fairest of them all? "Neither one. He's Prince Charming."
That was a matter of opinion, but I kept said opinion to myself. "But Prince Charming ends up with Snow White."
"Not in this story." Claire's smile broadened and all I could think of was 'My, what big teeth you have!' even if it was the wrong fairy tale. "You don't mind, do you?"
I didn't bother pretending I didn't know what she was talking about. "I'm not Snow White. Why should I?"
Claire tilted her head to one side and studied me. "You're either a very good actress or an even better sport."
I shrugged. "Does it matter?" I drank more champagne, hoping she'd go away. She didn't.
Instead Claire pondered my question. "No, I suppose it doesn't."
I sighed, feeling bored, lonely and annoyed all at the same time. "Then pardon my bluntness, but what do you want?"
Claire looked surprised, then shrugged. "You looked unhappy. I suppose I wanted to see if you were going to, I don't know, perhaps cause a scene or something."
I laughed. I couldn't help it. The woman was honest to a fault. A gale force of fresh air. "You're safe. If I do cause a scene, it won't have anything to do with Daryl."
"Jolly good!" Claire gave me a friendly smile. "You did look sad, though."
"Just thoughtful," I said.
Claire shook her head. "It's a party, my dear. Not a place to be thoughtful. Buck up and have fun!" With that, she got up and left in a swirl of black leather and taffeta.
Just for fun, here's some images of Inara's cats:
Caught by the sun! Bring treats to me now! Better than a Snuggie!