Monday, December 8, 2008

December Guest-Victoria Janssen

Lord Craven and the LIT ladies, want to welcome to the Lust in Time manor, our very special guest, author, Victoria Janssen.

I'm hoping we can talk her into some steamy (though admittedly the PG-13 stuff) excerpts this week! Feel free to ask Victoria questions about her work and her new book! Later in the week, I think Victoria has some special fun in store!



Here is the gorgeous cover of her new book THE DUCHESS, HER MAID, THE GROOM, & THEIR LOVER"

Amanda: Victoria, have you always written erotic fiction?

Victoria: I didn't start out with the goal of writing for Spice, or even for Harlequin. When I first start writing, around twenty years ago, I thought of myself as a science fiction/fantasy author. I'd always assumed I would be a novelist, but wasn't quite sure how to go about it, and spent a great deal of time writing and rewriting the first half of various novels. It wasn't until I discovered I had a talent for sexy scenes that I considered writing erotica at all.

I started out in erotica with short stories, using a hastily-chosen pseudonym, Elspeth Potter. I sent my first story, "Water Music," off to an anthology edited by Mary Anne Mohanraj called Aqua Erotica. Alas, the story did not sell. Later, when I saw the anthology, I realized why; my story was considerably smuttier and less literary than what was chosen.

So, first rejection in hand, I went to erotica writer and editor Cecilia Tan (whom I knew already) and asked her where I should send the story. Cecilia suggested Best Lesbian Erotica, edited by Tristan Taormino. I can't remember when I mailed the submission, but it was probably the winter of 1999. In the summer of 2000, I received an acceptance for "Water Music," which was incredibly exciting and validating. Also it paid money!

"Ducal Service" was another of the earliest stories I'd written, and one of my favorites; it had eventually sold to an e-anthology, but nowhere else, and a long time had passed since that sale.


Amanda: So you're basically writing "fantasy" at this point but with an erotic twist, what did you do next?


Victoria: Cecilia Tan was co-editing an anthology about older women with younger men, which fit the story's plot. I realized I'd never submitted a story to her before, so I sent it off, in the hopes that the fantasy setting would be unique enough for a sale. She bought it, and soon after I had an enquiry from her co-editor, Lori Perkins: would I be interested in shopping a novel proposal, based on the short story? I said, sure. We exchanged a few emails, Lori agreed with me that Emma Holly's erotic novels would be good models, and I went off to write another couple of chapters and an outline.

A side note here. Lori was Cecilia's agent, and I had once been briefly introduced to her, but it had been so many years before that I'd completely forgotten even her name. Even though I had now been reminded she was an agent, it took several hours for me to put the pieces together. I was riding the bus home that evening before I began to wonder if having an agent shop a proposal for me meant that I had an agent. It doesn't often work that way, but in my case, it did. I had completed a novel at this point; it didn't sell, but it did establish that I could write an entire novel; otherwise, selling on proposal would have been much more difficult.

After I sent Lori the proposal, then came the hurry up and wait stage that is common to publishing. I continued to work on short stories, and occasionally would add material to the Ducal Service manuscript, to have a head start if the proposal should sell. Publisher one turned the proposal down--too much sex. Publisher two passed, I think for the same reason.


Amanda: This sounds like a familiar story, but you persevered, obviously!

Victoria: In May 2007, thirteen months after Lori first started shopping the proposal, I heard from an assistant at Mira Books, who was interested in seeing the full manuscript. I let Lori know, and she called Susan Pezzack Swinwood, editor of the Spice imprint. By this point, I had seven additional chapters, roughly half of the manuscript, and feverishly began writing more. I forwarded those to Susan, and based on those chapters, she went to Acquisitions. By early September, the book was sold, along with an untitled second book. The completed manuscript was due the end of October, for publication the following December.

Much gleeful bouncing and squealing ensued. I'd achieved a lifelong dream. Then I had to buckle down to work!


Amanda: Wow! Congratulations! So you ended up changing the name of the book to what it is now? How did you come up with that very intriguing title (though it may seem obvious) Do you enjoy writing erotic historical? What do you have coming next?

18 comments:

Victoria Janssen said...

So you ended up changing the name of the book to what it is now? How did you come up with that very intriguing title (though it may seem obvious).

I actually suggested The Duchess and the Stableboy when Ducal Service was deemed too confusing. The marketing department came up with the idea of parodying The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, so I had to work with that and find something that worked in the same rhythm. At that point, Maxime (their lover) had sex scenes with all 3 of the pov characters, so it made sense. Some scenes were later cut for pacing reasons.

Do you enjoy writing erotic historical? What do you have coming next?

I love using historical settings. My next book for Spice, now in revisions, is set during the early days of World War One. It's a bit more serious than the duchess book, but I still tried to make it fun in a pulp adventure novel sort of way.

Jeannie Lin said...

I love the story behind "The Duchess..." Definitely a great title that promises all sorts of adventures.

Amanda McIntyre said...

WWI stories are very popular right now, what inspired this next story?

Amanda

Victoria Janssen said...

Definitely a great title that promises all sorts of adventures.

I really love the cover Harlequin did to go with it--it's far more gorgeous than I ever expected.

WWI stories are very popular right now, what inspired this next story?

I was actually working on a completely different book set in WWI, with werewolves, when the duchess sold, but I realized that other book was too grim for Spice. The pulp idea came about when I tried to lighten up the story a little.

Amanda McIntyre said...

For those readers who may not know much about this new line at Harlequin, how would you describe your experience in writing for Spice? If you had to describe to an aspiring writer, what Spice embraces, what would you say?

Amanda

Victoria Janssen said...

For those readers who may not know much about this new line at Harlequin, how would you describe your experience in writing for Spice? If you had to describe to an aspiring writer, what Spice embraces, what would you say?

It's been great so far; Susan Swinwood worked on my first book, and Lara Hyde is working on the second one with me. Both are excellent editors.

I think they are looking for novels that are more erotica than romance, though of course the proportions vary from title to title in the line. And it's clear to me that they are trying a range of genres: contemporary, historical, paranormal, suspense, Western, etc.. For that reason, I'm not sure how one would target the line specifically, except to try something they haven't already published.

flchen1 said...

Hi, Victoria! So glad to learn about your writing and your books! I've read only a few titles from the Spice line, and they're definitely much more erotic--it sounds like a good fit for your style :) Have you also tried some of the other publishers who do publish sexier writing?

Who are some of your favorite authors/books? What's made it onto your keeper shelf?

Congrats on your success!

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Hi Victoria, welcome!!!

I'm especially intrigued by the eunich involvmemnt in the Duchess. How did you research that?

Genella deGrey said...

Hello Victoria!
Wow, what an intriguing cover! Beautiful!

Congrats - your success story is very inspirational to me and other writers who like to put a spin on the genres. :)

Will you be signing at RT this year?

:)
G.

Victoria Janssen said...

Have you also tried some of the other publishers who do publish sexier writing?

Not yet--since writing is not my full-time job, I don't have time to write more than one novel a year, so I'm not doing a lot of proposals. A couple of other publishers did turn the duchess proposal down before it was bought by Spice, as it was not suitable for their lines. I've sold a lot of short stories to various markets over the last few years, and that was my main publishing experience before this sale. There's a list here: http://www.victoriajanssen.com/eppubs.html

Who are some of your favorite authors/books? What's made it onto your keeper shelf?

I tend to prefer historical romances. My favorite authors are Laura Kinsale and Carla Kelly. So far as erotica goes, Emma Holly is far and away my favorite. I've also enjoyed erotic novels by Portia DaCosta and Kate Pearce. I've got a page of my favorite historicals here: http://www.victoriajanssen.com/favorites.html

Victoria Janssen said...

I'm especially intrigued by the eunich involvement in the Duchess. How did you research that?

I checked into the range of what was physically possible using both contemporary and historical sources, but I wasn't terribly concerned with being medically accurate so far as the story went. I was mainly concerned with what their lives would be like, and their position in society. I wanted them to be characters in their own right.

Victoria Janssen said...

Will you be signing at RT this year?

I probably will not be able to attend RT--RWA is in DC next year, and it's much cheaper and easier for me to get there! But I'd like to go to an RT one of these years.

Charlotte Featherstone said...

Victoria,
What about the traditional HEA, are you a fan of them? Do you like to write them in your story, or a modified HEA?
What do you think readers are ultimately looking for?

Victoria Janssen said...

What about the traditional HEA, are you a fan of them? Do you like to write them in your story, or a modified HEA?

I prefer a happy ending, both for reading and writing. However, in short fiction I am more likely to take chances with less happy stories.

What do you think readers are ultimately looking for?

It depends. Sometimes we want a story to sweep us away. Sometimes we want a story to admire like an intricate painting. Sometimes we want gut-wrenching emotion. It's a good thing there's more than one book in the world.

Kristina Cook said...

The book sounds absolutely fascinating, Victoria (and what a to-die-for cover!). I can't wait to read it! And thank you so much for joining us this week here at LIT--it's such a pleasure to have you with us!

Caffey said...

Hi Victoria, its great to meet you (And great to be saying hi to you Amanda, Charlotte and Kristi! I love both historical and fantasy romance among other genres, and so look forward to those in Spice which I've had the joy to read a couple of the Briefs and western historicals that I found so far there in print (as well as the single titles in contemporaries) There's something special about historicals and going into the story away from now, just been a favorite read of mine since I first discovered historicals again a few years ago. I'm a few months behind sadly in the recent SPICE print releases but I must change that soon! I'm so thrilled about THE DUCHESS AND THE STABLEBOY (I couldn't resist, I love that title too!) You mentioned too about writing fantasy. Do you have any plans for writing fantasy under the Spice line?

Too, do you have a site too, to watch for your future books?

Victoria Janssen said...

(and what a to-die-for cover!).

I am incredibly happy with the cover. I sent fan letters to the photographer and art director!

Victoria Janssen said...

You mentioned too about writing fantasy. Do you have any plans for writing fantasy under the Spice line?

In many ways, the Duchess novel is fantasy--it's set in a world that seems historical, but is really fantasy. My second novel for Spice, The Moonlight Mistress, is in a historical setting (World War One), but has werewolves for a fantasy element.

do you have a site too, to watch for your future books?

My website is www.victoriajanssen.com