Award-winning author Cecilia Tan visited ABSW back in December and gave a wonderful talk about the state of the publishing industry for erotica and erotic romance. She’s been actively publishing erotic stories for over 20 years and is the owner of science fiction erotica publishing house, Circlet Press. We’re happy to now shine our Author Spotlight on her with this great interview!
Thank you, again, for visiting our store and your talk, Cecilia, as well as letting us interview you. For those who missed the talk or are less familiar with your work, can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing?
I started writing when I was a child, but when I got out of college in 1989, the first story I wrote that felt fully formed was an erotic science fiction story called “Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords.” That put me right at the intersection of romance, BDSM, erotica, and sf/fantasy and that’s pretty much where I still am today, twenty years and over a dozen novels, 100+ short stories, and a pile of awards nominations later.
How would you describe what you write? What can readers expect from your latest publications?
The fun of living in a post-50-Shades world is now I can incorporate more BDSM into my romances. TAKING THE LEAD is coming out officially in January so you should see it hitting stores soon. In it I get to combine two of my favorite things: BDSM and rock stars! I’ve wanted to write a “bad boy” romance for a while now and with this one I finally get my chance. I have a rock star hero who has very kinky tastes and I have a Hollywood heiress who catches his eye. Sparks fly, hijinks ensue!
While folks are waiting for that one, though, I’m so happy my Magic University books are finally all in matching paperbacks. The series is kind of an erotic take on Harry Potter (it’s about the secret magical departments at Harvard, including sex magic, of course…) and back in 2010 it was supposed to be published in paperback by Red Wheel Weiser, but after the first two books appeared, they folded their fiction imprint. So now all the books are finally available in beautiful editions!
What kind of research went into writing Magic University? What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?
Because Magic University is set in the “real” world, I was constantly going down the rabbit hole of researching real-world spiritual and magical traditions, from Greek myths to Zoroastrian prophecies to Bible stories. The Old Testament is constantly mentioning magicians, for example: it was my job to tease out which of these stories would turn out to be “true” from the point of view of my magical society and which were “just” myths. I probably read five or six different books about Tarot just because I enjoyed reading about Tarot cards so much.
I especially had fun compiling lists of real and mythical people who were witches or wizards. Of course you had people like Circe or Merlin, but in my system poetry was a kind of magic. So Shakespeare and Shelley and Blake were all wizards, as far as I’m concerned, and especially the Harvard-educated like T.S. Eliot and New England poets like Emerson and Robert Frost.
What was the inspiration for TAKING THE LEAD? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?
My editor in New York wanted more BDSM romance after the awards that my book SLOW SURRENDER won, but we didn’t want to do another book that was in the 50-Shades vein of “he’s a billionaire, she’s not.” So my brain just went to: what if SHE is the billionaire? Our heroine has the money and prestige this time, so what kind of hero is going to really turn her world upside down? I immediately thought a kinky rock star “bad boy” would do it, and boy, does he. Once I knew who Ricki and Axel were, the book just spooled out like a dream. The plot took a couple of twists and turns but fortunately my editor liked the turns that it took. I won’t give away the story but suffice to say our couple gets themselves into some very emotional and erotic situations.
How important has the New England setting been to your writing?
With the Magic University series it was really important. Not only are the books set at Harvard, so I got to incorporate a lot of cool Harvard and Cambridge city history, I got to use a lot of settings right in my own neighborhood. And the weather. Our crazy New England weather ends up playing an important part in the books, from thunderstorms to snow to hurricanes. (As well as beautiful autumn days… it’s not all bad!)
What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?
My writing space looks like: wherever I am at the moment. I’ve trained myself away from the idea that you “need” to have a certain kind of environment for top productivity. TAKING THE LEAD was written on planes, on trains, in buses, at airport gates, in hotel lobbies, in my parents’ living room in the middle of the night, in an Epcot cafeteria at Disney (not kidding), in coffee shops, and in every room in my house including the bathroom. If I had to have the right music, the right snacks, the right time of day, etc. I’d never get anything written. That said, I do like to have a nice pot (or Thermos) of tea beside me, whether I’m at home or in a coffee shop or on a plane!
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
All over the place! My mainstream books of course are in bookstores, while the indie and small press books can be requested or mail ordered, and the ebooks and online serials can only be found online. My publishers include Hachette, Tor Books, Riverdale Avenue Books, and Circlet Press, among others, so it’s not a simple answer. 🙂 There’s a great online tool for finding independent bookstores near you who might have the work of an author: check out the new search function of IndieBound:
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
I send a monthly newsletter in email that catches everyone up on all my writing and exciting travel and news that anyone can sign up to be on here: http://bit.ly/ctannews
And then there’s always social media…
Personal Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cecilia.tan