Monday, October 29, 2012

Interview with Author of Dark Erotica and GLBT Shanna Germain


Shanna Germain is many things…

First and foremost, she is a leximaven of the highest order, exploring her love of the written word through a multitude of formats and styles. Shanna (pronounced like ‘Shaun’ with a sigh of pleasure at the end) also claims the titles of (in no particular order): girl, gamer geek, wanderluster, flower picker, tire kicker, knife licker, she-devil, vorpal blonde and Schrödinger’s brat.

With a whole lot of writing years under her belt (or her collar, depending on the day), Shanna’s poems, essays, short stories, novellas, articles and more have found homes in hundreds of magazines, newspapers, books and websites.

An Associate Fellow at the Attic Institute in Portland, OR, she has taught classes in writing, publishing, media and photography at a wide variety of places. She’s even garnered an award here and there, including a Pushcart nomination, the Rauxa Prize for Erotic Poetry and the C. Hamilton Bailey Poetry Fellowship. She keeps her ego in a tiny glass jar and feeds it drops of sea water and baby crickets so it will never outgrow its cage.

Raised in upstate New York, Shanna spent her quarter-life crisis years in Portland, Oregon. Her writing travels have taken her to places like Amsterdam, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Italy and Nicaragua. After a year-long jaunt on a wild island off the coast of Scotland, she has returned to the rain-washed streets of Portland, which she considers her forever home.

I am so pleased to welcome Author Shanna Germain to Risqué Reviews and would like to thank her for taking time to do this interview.
Shall we begin?
Q. When you sit down to write, what do you draw on as your muse to create those vivid scenes you put together? (Let me make it clear I’m not asking how you know about what you write, just how you bring it to life).

Ooh, I don’t know about a muse – if I have a muse, she’s a cranky bitch who mostly eats all the cookies. Mostly I try to really sink into my characters in terms of what they’re desiring, what they’re feeling, tasting and touching. Sensory details of the body and the experience are really important to me, so I spend a lot of time focusing in on small details that my characters find particularly intriguing or arousing.

Q. You write such psychologically charged stories that are driven by some gritty and graphic sexual scenes. How far do you take your characters sexually with such stories that include multifaceted lifestyles that go outside "the comfort zones of society’s idea of preconceived ideals of right and wrong", such as BDSM, Ménage and GLBT?

In stories, I try to provide each character with the opportunity to get what they need, both physically and emotionally. In real life, I think that our cultural idea of sexuality is so narrow, and most people cannot get their needs met with sex in such tight confines. When creating stories, you can move beyond that, giving characters the opportunities to ask for the sexual experience that they crave. I take my characters as far as they will let me – and that’s usually pretty far!

Q. What is the biggest misconception about GLBT fiction you think most people have?

The biggest misconception, I think, is a marketing one. And that’s the idea that male-male fiction is written for and by gay men. It’s been my experience that most gay fiction is written by women (often under a pen name and often by a woman who identifies as straight) and most gay fiction is read by women.

Q. When writing a story that contains graphic, sometimes turbulent sexual scenes, is there ever a time when it is too soon for the characters in a book to have sex?

Oh yes. Often, in fact. In my opinion, a sex scene has to do a lot of work – show character, move the story forward, and entertain the ready. If a sex scene isn’t going to change the character in some way, then it’s not the appropriate time.

Q. Can there ever be too much sex in a story?

Again, definitely! You need a good balance of plot, character development and sex.

Q. Would you say you write Erotica or Erotic Romance?

I wrote both, for different markets. I also write Romantica and straight-up romance, as well as lit and genre fiction with sex in it.

Q. How do you cope emotionally with reviewers who seemed to have missed the point of your story completely?

Ha. That’s a great question. A reviewer who misses the point of the story is actually much easier to deal with than a reviewer who’s outright nasty. But the hardest ones for me are the ones where the reviewer is actually a smart reader, and who points out a place I screwed up. Those are the most difficult, because I know it means I’ve made a mistake and someone realized it!

I handle that stuff emotionally by trying to keep distance and perspective. I can’t appeal to every reader, and everyone who enters an erotic reading experience does so with different needs and expectations. I write in a lot of different voices and styles, and about a lot of different sexualities, so my hope is that if they struggled with one story, they’ll find their foothold in another.

Q. How do you know when writing a scene that it has produced the desired or intended result, sexually and otherwise?

This is something that’s taken me a long time to learn, and it’s a really a feeling, more than anything else. It’s a sensation I get in my body and my brain that says to me, "Yes, you’ve nailed this." The only thing I can equate it to is an orgasm. Before you have one, you wonder, "This feels really good. Is this an orgasm?" But once you have one, you just KNOW. Nailing a scene is like this for me. 

I also continue to rely on my first readers to let me know if I nailed something,
or if it needs more work, just in case my internal sensor is off.

Q. How do you get into the head of your characters when writing an m/m sex scene?

The same way I get into any character’s head – every character is unique in their wants and needs, just as every living person is unique. Sexual orientation, gender, race – it’s all important stuff, but in truth it doesn’t matter to me as a writer.

I’m not writing a “gay male.” I’m writing this young guy named Adam who’s lusting after a hunky barista, an older man named Stan and Stan breaks Adam’s heart every morning when he gets his order wrong.

 If I can’t get inside someone’s head, I can’t write them. But characters come from me, right, so I’m not going to make up someone that I can’t dissect down to their every last dirty desire. 
Q. What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer?
Coffee. Time alone. Support from other writers. Remembering that when you read someone else’s book, you’re reading their feature film – you never get to see their blooper reel.

Q. Do you believe a good life is attainable? Or is it something that is out of our control ,i.e. subject to luck etc.

I do believe that a good life is attainable, yes. But in order for that to be true, I believe that your definition of "good life" has to include the concept of hard work. For me, a good life means: time to do what a love and do it as well as I can; quality relationships with people I love and respect and who give that back to me; and enough of what I need to ensure I have the opportunities to do what I want (money, etc.).
My philosophy is that if I show up and do the work, I can have everything I want. So far, it’s mostly proved to be true!

Q. Before recognizing writing was your calling what other avenues did you try?

Just about everything – I stacked hay and rode horses. I worked in a greenhouse and a pizza place and a coffee shop. I waited tables and served drinks. I was a firefighter and paramedic. Then, I did a lot of jobs that were writing focused, but weren’t about fiction; I was a reporter for a while and a magazine editor. I learned a lot about writing fiction in those jobs.


Q. What do you consider your biggest failure?

I wish I was a better writer, that I could learn faster. And even in saying that, I realize that probably my biggest failure is that I drive myself too hard, ask too much of myself. I find it really hard to say that someone is good enough.

Q. Do you enjoy giving interviews?

Absoultely. I always learn something about myself – as a fiction writer, I rarely turn the lens on myself, so to speak, so this is a chance to discover more about myself as a person and a writer.

Before I bring to a close my interview with Author Shanna Germain, I always like to end with a question "Just for Fun". And these are the questions I chose for you, Shanna...

Q. Do you ever write naked?

Often! Although I’m partial to my big, fuzzy Cookie Monster-colored robe or a thick soft blanket. Right now, I’m on the couch, wrapped in a blanket in front of the fireplace. I have my MacBook Air, an iced soy mocha, an a little music by Grizzly Bear. This is a very typical writing set-up for me.  


Ok, so it's not Iced but it's chocolate. Which is made from Cocoa as is Mocha. And come looks so cool!!

Q. While writing, do you take drugs, smoke marijuana or drink alcohol to beef up your creative imagination?

No, I have a crazy-ass imagination as it is! If anything, I sometimes try to keep it in check (I also write fantasy, speculative fiction and roleplaying games, so my super-creative stuff often ends up there). I do drink a fair amount of coffee, though.   

And that brings me to the end of my interview with Author, Shanna Germain.

Thank you again Shanna, for this opportunity to interview you. I hope you had fun.

Thanks for having me!

Best, s.

And I want to say thank you to those that stopped by. Hope you enjoyed yourselves too!!

Shanna and I would love to hear if you enjoyed this interview. So please don’t be shy, leave a comment and say Hi!!

Be sure to visit Shanna’s website to learn more about her and her work,

Signing off,








Jo said...

Great interview, thanks!

Barbara Mazzuca said...

HI Jo, Thank you! And thanks too for taking the time to stop by and tell us!!