Saturday, March 9, 2013

Erin Cawood - Tainted Love - Author Interview


Tell us a bit about your family. 
I live with my boyfriend of 13 years our cat. I’m the second to youngest of seven, four sisters, two brothers and I’ve lost count of the number of nieces and nephews I have. Just when I think there won’t be any more someone surprises me with that announcement. It’s not very often we all get to be together in the same place but when we are its manic. I love it!

What is your favorite quality about yourself? 
That I stand where I am today without regrets. Yes, I’ve made mistakes. Sometimes I’ve made decision which at first I thought were mistakes and later turned out to be the best decisions I’ve ever made. I look back on the things I have done and accept I can’t change them. So instead I learn from them and I keep moving forward.

What is your least favorite quality about yourself? 
I’m a workaholic. It comes with the nature of what I do. A writer is always switched on. You read, its research. You watch TV, its research. You go to the cinema and see a couple making out on back row, its research. You lie on the beach with a magazine in your hand and a cocktail in the other and bam! Novel idea… you’re reaching for your blackberry.

What is your favorite color? 
Purple.

What is your favorite food? 
Pizza or Ice Cream or Cookies proper soft doughy cookies though not the biscuit excuse for cookies.

What’s your favorite place in the entire world? 
How much money and time do I have? Let’s say I’m on lunch then it would be the local bookstore, it’s a little piece of heaven for me. If I’ve a few days to relax then send me to the Greek Island of Corfu, the thought of the place makes me relax. If I’ve a couple of weeks then put me on a plane to Mexico. I adore Mexico. But if I’m at home trying to escape reality as we writers do on a minute by minute basis then of course I love fictionworld. There’s no better place in the entire world than where your imagination can take you. It’s so much fun! Fictionworld is my favourite place in the entire world.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing? 
Yes! I don’t think anyone can say their upbringing hasn’t influenced their writing in some way or another. The very foundations of who you are lie within the experiences you’ve had.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? 
No. I’ve been writing stories and poems longer than I can remember. My source on this is my Mum. But I can tell you the moment I decided I wanted to be an author. I was 14 and I read Danielle Steele’s The Gift. Maribeth’s is a pregnant teen who meets a shattered family and, oh my, at 14 I reached for my abdomen in what I can only assume was a protective maternal instinct as I connected with Maribeth. That was me hooked, lined and officially sunk in the sea of published author dreams. And do you know, today, even with the idea of children shooting me for a very dark cave in the mountains a la the first radio airing of Orson Wells War of the Worlds, I still reach for my abdomen.

When and why did you begin writing? 
My mum tells me I’ve always been writing stories, ever since I was about 5 or 6. I don’t remember. The dream to be a published author began at fourteen after I read Danielle Steele’s The Gift. For four year I wrote for hours and hours on end. I wrote twenty to fifty thousand words per story. I had no idea I was writing novellas. Then life got in the way and it was another eight years before I started writing again and a further five before I took the route to independently publish Tainted Love.

How long have you been writing? 
Forever! But I began taking my writing seriously five years ago. I’ve written six novels in this time, they’re currently at various stages. Tainted Love was the last written and first published.

When did you first know you could be a writer? 
Ooh tough one! Let me think… There’s a difference between ‘wanting to be’ and ‘knowing you can be’… so I guess if I was truly honest, only in the last eighteen months or so. This is an industry where you’re told you’re not good enough before anyone has even seen your work so the dream was always there but the confidence to go for it has only grown recently. When I eventually had the confidence I bypassed traditional publishing all together because it’s not possible for Faith’s story to conform to the norms. It’s too short, for traditional women’s fiction, too long for Harlequin Romance. It has a contemporary first person voice, very much like chic-lit, but its dark tale about domestic abuse. It’s a romance without the obligatory they all lived happily ever after.

What inspires you to write and why? 
Inspiration comes from anywhere. The reason used to be for me, because I love it, I enjoy it, because it’s as good as a pain killer when I’m suffering the effects of a long term medical condition. But more recently I get a kick from having readers. From people, emailing me, writing on my Facebook author page, asking questions, commenting on snippets from what I’m writing, sharing tweets and blog posts. I also study New Media at University so all this online engagement is real high for me.

What genre are you most comfortable writing? 
Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction, which in today’s market is a really broad spectrum, but I can’t really narrow it any further. Tainted Love, and the subsequent Valentina Secrets Series, balances a lot of chic-lit elements with a darker edgier domestic abuse theme. But I’m also working on a paranormal romance series and another contemporary/women’s fiction series as well as plans for comedies.

What inspired you to write your first book? 
Tainted Love: the Faith McKenzie Story came from a back story, of a back story in fact. I’d finished writing what is now the 5th book in Valentina Secrets, and made reference to a woman in an abusive relationship whose story is known worldwide, Faith McKenzie. There was also a prominent secondary character, previously in an abusive relationship was remarrying. I was fascinated by how she’d made her way through the process of survival, recovery and then learning to trust another to love them. And so set about writing her story, knowing the best conflict in this romance would be if the new guy was Faith McKenzie’s brother. Somewhere along the way Faith herself came along and stole the show.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began? 
Harlequin Romance and Danielle Steele. I had so many Silhouette Special Edition and Intrigue I had to give them away. I’d never, not in a million years, give away my Danielle Steele. She’s my hero and I have over 50. My intention is to one day own them all, preferably in hard back.

Who or what influenced your writing over the years? 
Marian Keyes, (http://www.mariankeyes.com) I discovered chic-lit with Marian Keyes Angels and it completely transformed the way I write. I love how she tackles some really tough subjects in a fresh uplifting voice. I have even been brought to the brink of tears reading Marian Keyes.
Patti Larsen (http://www.pattilarsen.com) changed the way I think about first person and broadened my horizons beyond romance. I love her young adult and paranormal novels and now I’ll consider reading anything that grabs my attention because you just don’t know what you’re missing through genre discrimination.
Jojo Moyes (http://www.jojomoyes.com) showed me it is possible to put your reader through the emotional wringer and still write mind blowing out of this world book. I found the courage to write Tainted Love after reading Me Before You.

What made you want to be a writer? 
http://www.jojomoyes.com/

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
I’d say it has to be author anxiety, especially when I send the latest completed one out to my editor. I’m a writer, a student and I have a part time job. Sitting here wondering if people liked my work has got to be the most frustrating and counterproductive waste of my time. All it accomplishes is playing on Facebook all day.

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? 
Tainted Love: the Faith McKenzie Story has taught me so much. It’s changed the fabric of who I am. Faith is skilfully manipulated and controlled by her husband. You see it through her eyes, you see how much he hurts her when he’s angry and how easily she accepts the excuses when he apologises. As her suffering increases she can’t see that her marriage is in crisis. The abuse is slow and progressive, he wears her down until he takes everything, even her dignity. There was so much I didn’t know about Domestic Abuse. It’s a subject that is kept in the dark. You don’t realise how many people are affected or how prevalent it actually is in society because we don’t talk about it. So now, I talk about it, raise awareness of Domestic Abuse, give part of my royalties from the Valentina Secrets Series to charities supporting people affected by Domestic Abuse.

Do you intend to make writing a career? 
I do. There are ten books in the Valentina Secrets Series and I’m considering breaking away from this series a little later in the year depending on the demands of my university course. The great thing about e-books is when your team have all given the go ahead and you’ve agreed the book is ready, you just put it up online and it stays there.

Have you developed a specific writing style? 
http://www.jojomoyes.com/

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? 
Not for a while. This is going to sound a little odd but I generally get writers block when I’ve taken a wrong turn. It’s like my character has done a diva-ish three finger snap, said ‘Oh no you didn’t!’ and marched off in a huff.
I can usually pick out the problem fairly quickly these days, but I’m always aware of the fact I was brought to the original outcome in the first instance. Why? I never leave anything on the cutting room floor.
If it’s its the kind of writer’s block us writers have nightmares about and wake up in cold sweats. You know, where the mind draws a blank, all creativity has been abandoned by the muse, and the pages may stay empty for years and may never be able to write another word ever again kind of writers block. Then I take a pen and a notepad and I go find a quiet little corner and I ask my characters who wants to come out and play? Tell me what you want to do today. No plans… no rules… no technical requirements… just me, a pen, and paper. I free write.
Can you share a little of your current work with us? 
“Are you kidding?” Ashleigh gives my brother’s shoulder a gentle shove. “I love Luca. She’s an awesome present Sean. Best one I ever had.”
Jeez, they might as well be making out in front of us. This is where life seems unfair to me. Ashleigh and Sean have the gall to carry out their affair right in front of their better halves. Yet I feel guilty whenever an uninvited finger traverse the inside of my bare thigh, but is there any wonder Ashleigh’s boyfriend has made a move on three separate occasions tonight?
I can’t even fantasize about him without feeling the need to berate myself but surely what’s good enough for them is good enough for us? And I know he’s good. No… actually he’s out of this world and his touch set my stomach on fire.
To be honest Mr. Wayne Wandering-Hands Swift is the perfect specimen of the male human race and we’ve already done our fair share of things we shouldn’t have a couple of weekends back … yes I know … but I suck at being a decent human being… My only crowning glory, I’ve won the title of world’s worst friend. Would it help if I told you I’ve never ever done anything like this before? Ever!
And I guess I wouldn’t have done this if he wasn’t so… so… charming, yes that’s the word. Wayne Swift could tame rabid lion and get it to purr like a kitten.
I so badly want to tell Ashleigh. The guilt is eating me up inside. But Wayne was supposed to be at work when it happened. So I can’t tell her that the reason her boyfriend was AWOL when her stepdad died in a car accident was because he was in bed with me. Do you see what I mean about sucking as a decent human being?
It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever given into a temptation like this. I’ve never taken what I wanted and not thought about the consequences or anyone else and look what happened? I know the cosmos didn’t kill her stepfather because I slept with her boyfriend those things had already happened in Los Angeles and we were in New York but she needed him to get on the next flight and to be by her side and he didn’t and he wasn’t why? Because he was with me.
Like I said I’m the worst friend in the world. And what makes me even worse is now… I can’t stop thinking about how much I’d like to have more drunken meaningless sex with my friend’s guy. I mean it’s not like Ashleigh wants Wayne anyway. She has my brother!
Bad Girl, Julia! You cannot have Wayne Swift. He’s Ashleigh’s. So just settle a few inches further away from your flat mate’s man’s wondering hands and put your purse between you like a barrier.

How did you come up with the title? 
It was original going to be a series of novella; Keeping Faith, Seeking Faith, Saving Faith. I didn’t intentionally chose the name Faith for my female lead character but the name seemed to fit with the characteristics of who the female lead was all the way back in the early days when Faith’s story was just a back story. When it became a whole novel, these parts are the now the three separate stages in Faith’s life; denying, accepting, healing. It was always going to be called the Faith McKenzie Story but Tainted Love seemed to fit Calvin and Faith’s love story.

Can you tell us about your main character? 
Faith story begins in the late 70’s with a budding romance between Faith and Calvin, who’s a doctor at the hospital where she’s training to be a nurse and ten years her senior. She’s smart, she’s occasionally witty, and she has this enormous heart and desire to protect her family. She has no idea of her own strength or capabilities because Calvin exploits her one weakness; her naiveté. By the time the abuse reaches its pivotal moment Faith and Calvin have been married for twenty plus years. They’ve raised Faith’s younger brother, they have two children in college and two more in preschool, and they have a state wide psychiatry empire. They have a lavish lifestyle, respected pillars in the community, and they’re least likely people you’d expect to be in an abusive relationship. Faith tells her story through letters and emails she sends to her brother. It’s the first time she’s spoken out about what actually happens when Calvin is angry.

How did you develop your plot and characters? 
It’s really difficult to answer this one because there was no systematic approach to Tainted Love’s plot or its characters and I guess that’s because Faith’s story started formulating some nine months before I wrote it. The characters in the other Valentina Secrets books developed Faith’s story as they developed their own. Going in I knew Faith had two children, that she was married to Calvin for twenty years and a few other details. Everything else developed over the two weeks it took to write it. I’m very much a character driven writer. I love drama and there’s certainly plenty of that but with Tainted Love I let Faith tell her story her way.

Who designed the cover? 
Stephanie Mooney. http://mooneydesigns.net/
She did a really amazing job because I really didn’t know what I was looking for. I wanted white roses because Calvin always buys Faith white roses. I also wanted a purple ribbon because a purple ribbon is used to raise awareness of domestic abuse. I wanted something that would say something’s not quite right in the world of marital bliss but still appeal to a romance audience.

Who is your publisher? 
I published Tainted Love independently because it doesn’t fit too many of the criterions required by tradition publishing. It’s too long for Harlequin Romance, too short for mainstream publishing. Its women’s fiction with a chic-lit quality and feels like you’re having a chat with your best friend. It’s a romance without a happy ending. I like to break the rules in favour of making the story I’m telling the best it can be. I’m also fan of bringing my readers my story as soon as possible. I wrote Tainted Love in June 2012 and I have a fantastic editing team and a brilliant cover designer and thanks to their efforts I published in it the following October.

Why did you choose to write this particular book? 
I didn’t choose to write it. In fact, I tried to run away from writing this book. I am not, have never been, in an abusive relationship and I didn’t think I knew anyone well enough, to write a book about someone in an abusive relationship. I didn’t think I could put my head or myself in Faith’s shoes, regardless of how much research I did. Faith gave me no choice. I was writing a particular scene in Behind Closed Doors when Darryl remembered something in Faith’s journal. The excerpt from Faith’s journal was so powerful I had goose bumps. I knew I couldn’t ignore it any longer.

What was the hardest part about writing this book? 
What came after I sent Tainted Love out into the world was people began telling me how they could identify with Faith and their past relationship experiences. This was something I was not prepared for because I created Faith’s world, her marriage, her abuse, everything. And you know, when they say 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime. They’re not kidding. It’s horrifically true, regardless of class, colour, sexual orientation, country of residence, religion or other excuses domestic abuse happens everywhere. And I really had to come to terms with a clash between the world where I live and the world I’d created in my head because all of a sudden they’d become one and the same. That was tough.

Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it? 
That I can get so emotionally involved with my characters that I even though I know what’s coming I still make myself cry. Not shed a couple of tears drops but sob my heart out to the point where I can’t see time and time again. The ripple effects of Faith’s story continue throughout Valentina Secrets and I can’t wait to get started on her children’s stories because I’m so invested in them too.

How do you promote this book? 
At my blog, Beyond My Writing Space (http://www.erin-cawood.blogspot.co.uk ) I have a blog regular feature called ‘Ask Faith’ every Thursday. Faith answer reader’s question every Thursday, with the aim of raising awareness of domestic abuse and to get people talking more about it. I also share any reviews on my Facebook author page (http://www.facebook.com/authorerincawood ) and twitter (http://www.twitter.com/erincawood ) and I write guest post for other blogs and I’m available for interviews.

Will you write others in this same genre? 
Yes, there are ten books in the Valentina Secrets Series.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 
I didn’t set out with the intention of message. But if readers could take anything away from Faith’s story, I’d like it to be understanding of the complexities between the abuser and the abused. Faith doesn’t know she’s in an abusive relationship, she denies it when people try to tell her. Calvin is a master at manipulation and control and he wears her self confidence down until its thread bare. She believes that he treats her this way and it’s her fault. And when she does realise, it’s not easy for her to make the decision to leave. This is the man she loves, the father of her children, and her means of support. I hope readers take away that by leaving, it doesn’t mean the door is closed and it’s over. Faith’s healing is also big part of Tainted Love.

How much of the book is realistic? 
I’ve had women who have been in abusive relationships tell me Tainted Love could be about them. I’ve been told Faith is voice for many women who are unable to speak up themselves. I accept these comments as the highest compliments I could receive as they speak to the reality of Faith’s story.

Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot? 
I researched into survivor stories, read a lot about abusive relationships, but Faith’s story is fiction.

How important do you think villains are in a story? 
The term villain makes me think comic bookish heroes and villains but every book needs some kind of villain; the antagonist to the protagonist.

What are your goals as a writer? 
I used to dream of world domination. International best sellers, movie rights, the lot! But I found that I was only focused on one book and getting it into those bright lights. New Year (2011/12) I had a fundamental shift in my thought processes and I became focused on writing for my readers. On top of working 20+ hours a week and studying a full time degree I wrote three novels, published one and outlined so many I’ll be writing for the next ten years. So my goals are: to write, to publish, to make enough sales to publish my next book, and to talk with my readers. I love to talk with my readers!

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)? 
I love to travel! The invention of the internet makes travelling less necessary. But… oh my, I have books set in New York, LA, Florida, Cincinnati, Paris, London, here in my home of Yorkshire, there’s one due to be set in Australia, one where the lead character travels around the world. Yes please!

What books have most influenced your life? 
Baby Come Back by Erica Spindler was the first romance novel I ever read. So I guess that’s had a big impact on my life. After I read Danielle Steele‘s The Gift I decided I wanted to be a published author. I seemed to miss the chic-lit uprising in the late 90’s and discovered it through Marian Keyes’s Angels. It was at a time when I’d lost the ability to write because the style I used before no longer seemed realistic to me. I guess my welcome to the real world (adult life) kind of knocked my romantic world out of kink. Angels completely changed my writing style. And finally, Family Magic by YA paranormal author Patti Larsen. Prior to reading Family Magic I detested first person but I devoured it in one sitting and impatiently wait for each of the series. This book taught me to see past my literary discriminations I will now read almost anything in any voice as long as it grabs my attention.

Have you ever considered anyone as a mentor? 
I consider my dear friend Patti Larsen a mentor. We meet when she agreed to guest post on my blog and then the friendship continued when I reviewed one of her books. She’s helped me find the courage to take the plunge into publishing. She’s shown me the way forward, answers any questions I have, and I know I wouldn’t have published without her.

Who is your favorite author and why? 
My all-time-favouritist-who-will-never-back-knocked-off-the-number-one-spot-author is … Danielle Steele. I wouldn’t be a writer today if I hadn’t read The Gift by Danielle Steele. I don’t think I’ve ever read a bad novel by Danielle Steele.

Can we expect any more books from you in the future? 
Yes, this year you can expect the release of Behind Closed Doors (Valentina SecretsBook 2) and Whispers Behind the Curtain (Valentina Secrets Book 3) there may even be another release towards the end of the year depending on the demands of my university course.

Have you started another book yet? 
Behind Closed Doors, the second book in the Valentina Secrets Series, is currently with in the first stages of editing and I’ve already begun the third, Whispers Behind the Curtain.

Where do you see yourself in five years? 
If I have my way I’ll be writing novels and publishing through the publishing imprint of the company I intend to set up when I finish university. I plan on freelancing in web design and programming, specialising in websites for authors.

What are your current writing projects now? 
Valentina Secrets is my main focus. Behind Closed Doors, the second book in the Valentina Secrets Series, is in the first stages of editing and I’ve already begun the third, Whispers Behind the Curtain. I hope to bring something from one of the other women’s fiction or contemporary romance projects I have in progress soon but my New Year’s resolution in 2012 was to focus on one project at a time, especially when my time is so limited.

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? 
I’m currently reading Eden Baylee. After reading E L James and Sylvia Day I really didn’t think erotica was for me. Baylee is less in your face with it all. The novellas I’ve read so far have all had intriguing characters, with interesting backgrounds, who enjoy sex.

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out? 
If I when back in time to when I was starting out what would I tell myself… to get a decent smartphone! You can write, voice record, receive email, tweet, update Facebook, take pictures, listen to music, blog, and literally never be out of the loop as you’re trying to build an author platform ever again… depending on signal and battery life, of course. Scrivener. For me, this is like the best outlining tool ever! It’s supposed to be novel writing software and I probably don’t use it correctly because you can’t beat MS Word. But if you do use Scrivener correctly it will export into the correct file format with table of contents.

What contributes to making a writer successful? 
Practice; you have to continue developing and growing as a writer regardless of successful you are. Perseverance; it takes a lot of self belief to continue pushing forward when you feel like you not getting anywhere. Never give up. Professionalism; remember at the end of the day everything you do and say can be seen by people who will make or break you; your readers and your peers. One of the hardest things to get your head around is you are your books, your brand. You have to present yourself the way you want people to see your books, your brand.

Do you have any advice for writers? 
I’m an advocate for listening to the character and not the genre. There is nothing more annoying than reading a book, a really great book, that has a really rubbish ending just to conform to genre stereotyping. Don’t afraid to break the rules to make the story better.

What do you do to unwind and relax? 
I write. I’m at my most relaxed when I’m writing.

If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be?
There will always be people who want to stand in your way and want to tell you that you can’t do it. No one else can prove them wrong. Only you can make your dreams come true.

When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have? 
What am I doing?! Am I crazy?!
So maybe when my life flashes before my eyes and before I reach the next phase in wherever… I hope Tainted Love makes a difference to at least one person. Valentina Secrets raises money and awareness to help people affected by domestic abuse. I hope I bring joy to a lot of people through my writing. I hope I live my life the way I want and by the end I still have all my loved ones around me and I am happy.

Buy Now @ Amazon and Amazon UK
Genre – Women’s Fiction / Contemporary Romance
Rating – PG13
More details about the author and the book
Connect with Erin Cawood on Facebook and Twitter and GoodReads

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