There was a long hiatus in the Author Spotlight Thursdays but now we’re finally back on track. My next guest after the break is a special friend of mine but that is not the reason she is here. R.B. O’Brien is a lot more than an erotic romance author. Her writing, characters, and style feel alive on the e-reader screen /and hopefully someday the paper/. She is emotional, passionate and creative, a dancer, thinker, Shakespeare and arts lover. And as you can tell from her interview R.B. is refreshingly honest about herself, her work and characters. Today you’d get a chance to spend some time with her, get to know her mind and her books of the Thorne, Natalie’s Edge and Imogen series.
Lilah: Ms. O’Brien is back with more exquisite pain, angst and pleasure for her two leading characters, William and Rose. Hello, R.B., and thank you for sparing some of your busy time. What was it like to go back to the dark world of Thorne for the sequel?
R.B.: It was great but intense to try to go back into a character’s mind, a mind that is filled with self-loathing and a mind that is male. It is fun to try to psychoanalyze why a character acts and feels the way he/she does, and doing it as a different gender lends itself to many challenges. My desire to delve into the male psyche comes from many years of being drawn to men that seem to have a darker side. But there is also light in them, and it is that duality and intensity that makes me feel alive. Thorne is very much that man as is my first male protagonist, Michael, from the Natalie’s Edge series. Each man, while plagued with a dark past and demons, has this glorious light within them, fighting noble causes. I picture them as true anti-heroes, like the likes of Batman, the Dark Knight.
Lilah: Thorne: Rose’s Dark Contract was your first venture in self-publishing. How does it compare with the traditional path? Tell us more about your experience.
R.B.: I have liked it very much but it does not come without its set of learning curves and frustrations. Extasy Books, my publisher, did everything for me, from editing to formatting to covers. What they don’t do, beyond their website, is any real promotion to speak of. That still falls into my hands and THAT is the hardest part of all of this. I guess I had different expectations from them but I don’t want to turn this interview into a gripe fest. Honestly, though, I have found much more support in my writing group, The Wicked Pens Writers, and I prefer self-publishing and its autonomy. I can set my own pricing now, I can reload when I find an error, I can run flash sales, and I have creative license all around.
Lilah: What should your fans expect of Rose’s Dark Secret? Will there be a third part?
R.B.: Yes. Thorne: Rose’s Dark Secret ends but doesn’t end. 😉 There will be a third and I hope to have it published no later than September of 2016. There is much revealed about Thorne’s past in the first two books, but there is still so much more to be told!
Lilah: Some defined Thorne’s first instalment and your leading male as “too dark” and to others it wasn’t “dark enough”. What is your position on the level of “darkness” in contemporary romance and erotica?
R.B.: I enjoy darker. I like darker in the sense of emotional turmoil. Everything I write is based off of emotional tug of war, the mental psychology of sex and sexual tension. But I don’t enjoy complete darkness or anything that crosses lines for me personally. I don’t write about harsh punishments or intense physical BDSM. It’s not my thing. At. All. If it does not titillate me, and I want my erotica to not only titillate my readers but to titillate me, why would I do it? I am much more interested in psychological and mental and emotional punishments. I could go on for hours on this topic. But in a nutshell: Why write something that doesn’t personally turn me on?
I like flawed characters. I like depth of character. I like to see redemption and dynamic characterization when all is said and done. And there will always be an element of consent for me. Always. And romance. Always. Love. Always. And some semblance of happy ending. Always. So those who said not dark enough? They want me to take them places that I do not want to and will not go.
For those who said that the male protagonist is too dark or that Thorne (or even Michael from Natalie’s Edge) is borderline abusive, what can I say to that? They are flawed, round characters, based off real-life relationships and people. They are not made to be fantastical, perfect men or stock characters. How boring to me! And for some, including myself, these types of stories are turn-ons. Watching a strong-willed, alpha man come to terms with his past and his flaws as he discovers love is the story I love to tell but also the story I love to read.
And for those who do not understand the psyche of a slight emotional masochist, there is really not much I can do about that. But for those who do understand it, who can identify with that need, that desire, that ache? They get it. That is my audience. And the too dark/not dark enough becomes just right. I got into an argument with someone about one of my stories once and how its depiction is “abuse” and not “BDSM-worthy” as a category. I can’t stand when someone tells me what should or should not turn me on sexually. If both parties understand it, consent exists, and that is all that matters. Truth be told? I was struggling to find erotic works that spoke to my personal fetishes. So guess what? I decided to write them myself.
I wrote a blog post here about just how to categorize my books! http://rbobrien.weebly.com/blog-posts/just-how-the-fk-do-i-categorize-my-writing
Lilah: What is your writing method? How does one day of writing go for you?
R.B.: I have answered this before so I don’t want to bore your readers—quickly—I’m an all-in kind of gal. I need to immerse for hours at a time. My best work comes when I can focus every day on that one project and finish it. It is very hard if I have to put a novel down and come back to it. When I can really go there, that is exactly what I do. I put myself right there, and don’t come out until a scene or a chapter is fully complete. I think Stephen King described it beautifully in this quote: “I’ve always wondered who I am when I write, because once I’m doing it, I’m not in the room with myself.”
Lilah: Do you make any research before you start a writing project?
R.B.: The Natalie’s Edge series was mostly based in Boston and came from my life experiences regarding relationships and dancing. The places in and around my state were all based on my life. But I did need to do some research on the environment, green energy polices, and organic foods and the lifestyle. After that research, I changed a lot of my eating habits. I had already stopped eating red meat and pork years ago, but the research I did, especially regarding GMOs, really opened my eyes to becoming more vigilant about what I put into my body.
The Thorne series required researching laws in North Carolina regarding the death penalty and manslaughter, researching the tobacco industry and various companies, and trying to get the flavour of that part of my country. Let me tell you this—the more I learned, the more I despised everything tobacco-related. Reading about their ad campaigns to purposely target lower-income African Americans steamed me. It disgusts me truly. And having recently lost my mom because of her penchant for smoking makes me identify and love Thorne even more for his life’s dedication to sticking it to the “tobacco guys.” It is his intrinsic good that draws me to his darkness. I love that duality in my male characters. It’s sexy as hell to me.
Lilah: Do you have any stories in development? What are your current writing projects?
R.B.: Thorne 3–unnamed as of yet. I am also publishing a series, Imogen, in installments on Amazon, a series that was extremely popular on literotica.com under a different name. I have another that I published there, but I’m not sure it will see the light of day. It takes emotional sadism to an extreme at times, and many people may not quite understand it. It is the series I told you about earlier, which caused me to get into an argument with some of the BDSM community. Time will tell! I will say, it has gotten me the most “fan “mail to date, out of anything I’ve ever written. It certainly fired people up—some incredibly positive and some incredibly negative. It is another told in the male POV and he is a mental sadist to an extreme—no sugar-coating or censorship in this one.
Lilah: Thank you for your time… and last, what was the most fun about writing those books?
R.B.: The people I’ve been able to meet has truly been the most fun out of all of this. It’s so nice to be allowed creativity and to meet like-minded people who really get it and get me. And I’m not sure “fun” is the right word, but it has been cleansing to write for me. I have found release and a calm in the safety of exorcising some of my own demons through writing. Though fiction, I am a part of everything I write. For the first time in my life, I am closer to acceptance.
Now, if the interview with that delightful lady has inspired you to read some of her work go to Amazon to pick your pleasure. Here is the fine selection you can make your choice from.
THE THORNE SERIES
Blurb: Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven…the primrose path—Shakespeare
William Thorne is a powerful man with dark needs and a troubled past who doesn’t have the time nor the desire for romantic relationships or notions.
Through meticulous planning and iron-clad contracts, Thorne has managed to maintain a modicum of balance, control, and happiness by employing personal assistants to aid him in all aspects of his professional and personal life.
Sex with no strings attached. Obedience without questions. An arrangement of mutual benefit. No mess. No love. No expectations. Nothing beyond a signed contract.
But when Thorne meets recent music grad, Victoria Rose, the shy and beautiful down-on-her-luck waitress, obsession replaces his carefully constructed thinking. He becomes so fixated on having her, without a full understanding of who she is, that he rushes her contract, making mistake after mistake before the ink even dries. His once neat and controlled existence becomes blurred and smudged.
Can the mistakes he makes be erased from Rose’s dark contract? Or will the damage leave an indelible mark that nobody could have seen coming?
Blurb: “You will always be a monster – there is no turning back from it. But what kind of monster you become is entirely up to you.” ― Julie Kagawa, The Eternity Cure
The angsty story of the beautiful and submissive Rose and the dominant and sadistic Thorne continues in this second installment as William Thorne convinces himself to move on from this seemingly doomed relationship. He fights his urge to be with Rose at every turn and is determined to put her behind him in search of a new personal assistant to fulfill his every salacious need.
Obsessed with confessing the secrets of his own marred past, William desperately grasps for the balance that once kept him grounded. He yearns for the controlled way of life that satisfied him professionally, personally, and sexually long before the arrival of Rose.
But when an unforeseeable event occurs, everything William Thorne has vowed to do is again thrown into disharmony. Rose and William teeter precariously to amend their dark secrets. Will they continue to stumble and fall or can the light of love show them both happiness?
THE NATALIE’S EDGE SERIES
Blurb: He didn’t think he was capable of love; she thought she had everything she ever needed. But when former ballet dancer and entrepreneur Natalie Smith and environmentalist Michael Black meet, they are thrust into a headlong relationship that may devastate them both.
Falling almost too fast for this enigmatic, controlling man, Natalie is both excited and terrified by the fine line Michael walks between his dark and light side, as he introduces her to a world of games, bondage, and punishments. And to her surprise, she likes her submission. She likes the control he wields. And he cannot have it any other way. He likes to bring Natalie to the edge, and she likes the edge he brings her to. Pleasure has never felt so good.
But can Michael fully let go of his trust issues and fall in love? Or will his past leave Natalie on the edge of pain?
Blurb: As Shakespeare wrote, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” and the love between Michael L. Black and Natalie Smith is no exception.
Having fallen deeply in love with one another, Michael and Natalie’s passionate and, at times, tumultuous relationship continues to teeter on the edge of happiness as they explore their deepest and sometimes darkest desires of games, bondage, and sex. Michael’s dominant tendencies thrive as Natalie craves to submit her body and mind to him, bringing her to sometimes excruciating pleasure. Love never felt so right.
But their relationship will be tested. Truths are hidden. Secrets are revealed. And when Michael’s insecurities inflame his penchant for control and punishment, all the trust and love they have worked so hard to build dismantles itself within one split second. Will they forgive and trust one another again? Or will the betrayal leave them on the edge of devastation?
Blurb: The road to love for Michael and Natalie has been a treacherous one. Lies and secrets have kept them apart and in darkness. But out of the darkness shines a light on understanding, self-discovery, and forgiveness. Natalie’s sexual awakening teeters on the edge of completion as she and Michael come to fully embrace and understand the bond they truly share.
But their undeniable bond will not come without more tests. Nothing is easy. And nothing seems to be working in their favor. When a secret is revealed that even Michael doesn’t know existed, it seems fate is out of their hands. All of the peace and self-acceptance they have worked so hard towards leaves them right back to the edge of darkness again. Can they find redemption together, or are they doomed to live a life apart forever?
Redemption has been nominated as best book in the BDSM Advanced category at the Golden Flogger Competition organized by BDSM Writers CON.
THE IMOGEN SERIES
Blurb: This dark romance series follows the story of innocent Imogen, who is captured and taken prisoner by the enemy on her wedding night as their war spoils.
Imogen is chosen by a high-ranking official, Erik, to serve him in every way. Controlling and compassionate at once, Erik warns her that in order to remain as safe as possible, he must learn her, her body, and instruct her on how to obey him, for her own good.
But Imogen struggles to understand her new and confusing feelings, and Erik’s enigmatic warnings of her fate leave her afraid and vulnerable. With a knock on the door after the loss of her innocence, Imogen ponders just what her ominous future holds…
“Captured” is the first installment in the Imogen series.
Blurb: Imogen: Controlled continues the story of Imogen, the innocent virgin taken by her enemy as their war spoils.
After being left alone as her captor, Erik, is called away on business demanded by his superior, Imogen must begin to accept her current state as a slave and all its implications.
As her fate begins to overwhelm her, Erik wastes no time in beginning the training process of Imogen to control her sexual reactions and desires. His warnings of ominous consequences if she does not obey linger unrevealed, and both Imogen and Erik fight to remain in control of themselves.
Can Imogen learn what Erik is trying to teach her? Is Erik strong enough to train her properly? Or is Imogen’s safety about to be taken out of Erik’s hands?
Blurb: The story of Imogen’s enslavement continues as the realization of her predicament becomes more real even as it becomes more surreal. Her new world is confused with emotions that blanket the spectrum from fear to curiosity to arousal. She is beyond CONFLICTED against the rising tide of her feelings for Erik.
Erik’s presence is requested at the main compound where Imogen must witness, first-hand, the fate of the other slaves. She watches on with both fascination and even jealousy as Erik’s role and true nature reveal themselves when asked to restrain and punish another prisoner at the behest of her master. It is clear that Imogen is not the only one CONFLICTED.
Can Erik’s training keep Imogen safe from the hands of the cruel leader Malachi? Will Stephen’s foreboding threats come to fruition, his rank taking Imogen away from the safety of Erik’s strong protection?
CONFLICTED is the third installment in the IMOGEN series, a tale about a maiden taken away as a prisoner from the bed of her husband on their wedding night.
I recommend all of those books and guarantee you won’t regret them. I wish the best to R.B. O’Brien and remain in expectation of more of her dark, gorgeous tales of passion.