Today we're joined by Megan Mulry, whose next release, Bound to be a Groom, details a complicated relationship among four people, two men and two women. It's set in 1808, and is “a series of erotic escapades.” Megan is here to discuss the eternal question all romance writers, in particular, get asked: Are you your heroines? Thanks, Megan!
I've become preoccupied with this idea of how authors and their books take on a symbiosis—chicken/egg and all that—and I immediately thought of certain writers who seem to “live” the life they write. Obviously, they’re not shapeshifters or riding around Mayfair in curricles, but they have a way of telling a story that transmits who they are IRL (in real life).
Eloisa James is a Shakespeare professor married to an Italian cavaliere and conveys a wit and elegance in her books that she also projects IRL; Victoria Dahl is whip-smart and bold, exuding a hard-won independence also seen in her heroines. Maya Rodale is married to a tech savvy hottie and lives in New York City, and so does the heroine in her new series of contemporary novels. Shannon Stacey enjoys four-wheeling just as much as the Kowalskis. Miranda Neville simply opens her mouth and I am transported to 1815 Hertfordshire.
So, do readers really want to believe the author has “lived” it? On a certain level I know they do: I have received emails and comments from readers who like the “real-feel” of my Unruly Royals books. Readers appreciate that I’ve lived in London, stayed at swanky hotels, and flown on (the very occasional) private jet, because then through my stories *they* can too…I'm their Virgil, I'm a reliable narrator. (Keep in mind, that’s coming from someone who is paid to make things up for a living.)
Now. That’s all well and good when I’m writing “The Glamorous Life,” but when I’m writing kinky erotic four-way ménage? I’m pretty sure no reader wants to picture me actually having sex (STOP! DON’T!). But as a voracious reader of erotica and erotic romance, I’m not gonna lie—I do sometimes hear Jimi Hendrix singing “Are You Experienced?” It seems pretty obvious that issues of sexuality and gender are integral to our stories and, it could be argued, the opportunity to examine those issues is the primary reason many of us write about sex in the first place. I don’t have any answers (what else is new?), so I invited these writers to chime in!
Victoria Dahl: We're always told 'write what you know,' but how many times can I write a female author who lives in the mountains, loves dirty jokes, and isn't a very good housekeeper? (Once, so far.) I publish several stories a year, so for me, writing what you know comes down to characterization. I grew up with strong female role models and complicated family situations, along with a heavy emphasis on self-sufficiency, so those are big influences on my work. And for me, the sexiest man around is always the man who truly likes and respects women, so that's the kind of hero who shows up in my books.
Eloisa James: I find the whole question of whether sex-in-books and sex-in-real life overlap a fascinating one: Isn't sex really a question of fantasy, which means it doesn't matter whether it happens in the flesh or in person? But readers love to know whether a writer is recounting her own experience or not. So, have I made love in a rowboat, on the stairs, under a fir tree in a snow storm, in a field while a goat ate my dress? That's like asking a Harlequin Presents author whether she's made love to a sheik, a French billionaire, and a Greek millionaire in the last year or so. Short answer: no. Long answer: still no. But…I did make love once on a frozen lake, in the midst of a blizzard (before I met my husband, I hasten to add). I did kiss once under a tarp in a rain storm (ditto). I have deeply romantic experiences to draw on, though I keep those with my husband private. I think that's what readers are really asking: do you spin everything from air? And the answer is no. Luckily for me, my life has given me intently romantic memories that I can draw on.
Miranda Neville: Growing up in England gives me a slight edge writing books set in England, but not that much. A lot has changed there in two hundred years, y’know. I have been to a lot of the places I write about (any American with a plane ticket and a rental car can say the same thing) and I know that skunks and raccoons aren’t native to the British Isles without having to look it up. I think my characters, especially my heroes, tend to be more “English” in their attitudes (whatever that means) than those written by most of my American colleagues. This is not necessarily a good thing. Otherwise, like most of us, I draw on my personal experience and transform it to suit my plots. If you think you recognize something from my life, you are probably wrong.
Maya Rodale: I have an ever increasing obsession with blurring the line between real life and fiction. I loved setting my Bad Boy Billionaire books in "my” world of NYC, the tech scene, parties I had attended, bars I go to, apartments I used to live in. Readers seemed to like when I shared pictures of myself at the hush party, or real pictures of the real places. On the other hand, I'm quite private and nothing between Jane and Duke ever happened in my real life. The girls that work with my husband like my books but are put off when he insists he's the model for the hero. Ugh, who wants to read about sex scenes with their boss and his wife, gross! Having said all that, a lot of readers are asking what's real, if it's semi-autobiographical. Long story short, I think readers do like a sneak peek into the author's world, especially if it's fabulous or unusual or a bit personal, and as long as it doesn't take away their enjoyment of the story.
Shannon Stacey: The Kowalski series began, literally, because I wanted to write a book filled with the things I enjoy, like family, four-wheelers, and camping. Initially, I wrote it for myself because I didn't believe anybody else would want to read about mud and marshmallows, but I'm thrilled to have been proven wrong. I think the series mirroring favorite aspects of my life not only lends a feeling of authenticity, but my love for the world I'm writing about comes through to readers.
So what do you think? How much do readers really want to know about authors?
Megan Mulry writes sexy, stylish, romantic fiction. Her first book, A Royal Pain, was an NPR Best Book of 2012 and USA Today bestseller. Before discovering her passion for romance novels, she worked in magazine publishing and finance. After many years in New York, Boston, London, and Chicago, she now lives with her family in Florida.