Sunday, October 14, 2012

Interview with Skhye Moncrief

 Sensual Romantica, for your inner needy girl


Skhye Moncrief began writing her thesis in bio-archaeology, but she never finished. Why? Because she decided she liked writing about muscled men in fur, leather, or denim, and not about their bones. So she took her BS in geology and used that to evolve stories with non-human characters and have them mingle with human characters. Some by accident others not, either way the outcome is always turbulent. Some come from the deepest parts of universe, to find that connection to earth. Some are already here. The equation isn’t what matters. The stories are. And Moncrief’s imagination is as vast and colorful as the expanding universe itself. Bringing with it new tales of discovering each time…






Hello Skhye, I am delighted to have you join us today.


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?

My muse… My muse… I think the best way to look at a muse is the amount of creative fodder you have stored away in your muse. I have quite a bit in mine from studying anthropology. However, that creative fodder is always drawn into my mind’s eye. I picture each scene and how the characters actually act/think/feel. If you don’t go that route, your scenes are flat. And that’s it, unless you’re asking about the junk food that inspires me! My brain uses it like psychedelic drugs. And, God help you all who read my books…It’s candy-corn season! Candy corn can really crank up my brain’s creativity, resulting in things like cyborgs with penises that have three settings (fear not--all the settings are good) and other crazed cyborgs trying to kill them off. (Wouldn’t you when competing with males who can please ALL women with the 3 settings… *bad thought*) Um, the whole story is really quite serious in FERAL FALLOUT. It is!





 
Q. You write such expressively-charged stories that are driven by some extraordinary sexual preferences. How far do you take your characters sexually when the story includes multifaceted lifestyles that go outside of societies’ "comfort zones of preconceived ideals of right and wrong"?

I don’t see the situations I put the characters is as a reflection of my extraordinary sexual preferences. After all, I’ve never had sex with a werewolf or shifter and certainly not an extraterrestrial or cyborg. However, I use all that anthropology I studied to pull something that works into my story worlds because I have to rationalize everything. To me, something is only taboo if it’s defined as wrong by a culture. So, what you do with those extreme cases to make them work in your story world should make it both understandable for the reader and acceptable to the reader. This is why I say my stories push the envelope with the taboo, but aren’t truly erotica. They are Romantica because every choice a character makes is supported with an explanation that is paralleled with 100% romantic growth. My stories do read like really hot mainstream craziness.


Skhye skipped the degree. Yet in spite of this, still lead her directly to # 2 


 
Craziness: speculative fiction (My stories combine so many sub-genres that I can’t market them with a traditional NY publisher.)

So, I’m going to explain more of this aspect of my writing while answering the next question…

Q. You have 3 sub-genres that you write about paranormal, fantasy, and sci-fi romance. If you had to give what your main genre style of writing is, would it be exotic romance?

OH, I LIKE EXOTIC ROMANCE. CAN YOU PLEASE HAVE THAT SUB-GENRE CARVED INTO STONE? Since you and I have discussed genres and tried to place my stories into a pigeonhole, I say we need a new pigeonhole! So many reviewers have issues with what I write because of their expectations. They just don’t know what they’re getting into with my stories. I remember when my first Feral novel went to New Concepts Publishing…(warning: LOL moment) I had one of those moments of terror because it was being labeled erotica. I knew I didn’t write erotica. Let me explain…

I love love love reading Kaitlyn O’Connor’s books (even though she gave the one I know she read of mine a 3/5) and knew I could write for NCP. But that first Feral book is nothing like what I write now. I read it and cringe every time. However, the only edits I received for FERAL FASCINATIONS came with 2 major issues. Mind you, NCP doesn’t do edits (one crazy point someone shafted me on with one of my Indie releases—saying I should have sent it to NCP so it would have been edited. *rolls eyes*). Well, NCP works with authors on books that can be tweaked for publication or so they stated on their website at the time I worked on those edits. Grant it, the Indie industry is killing small presses, and I always wondered if NCP would have passed me over if they had more submissions at the time…But I was fortunate enough to land a contract with a publisher who had a large readership and catered to "craziness" of spec-romance/erotica. I didn’t beetch.


 


So, I opened my edits thinking all was well. Picture an author with a face frozen in a scream. You know, like that Scandinavian author’s masterpiece The Scream. I, unfortunately, get plenty of sunlight to counter depression! Until, edits. Seriously, the document had two problems:

1. My novel had two types of things that required italics. The editor wanted me to remove the internalization that I had italicized (switch it to normal) and leave the telepathic conversations (mindspeak) in italics. There were 1800+ lines of internal thought. *picture The Scream* But this lead to an evolution in my writing style—one reviewers either love or hate (multiple POVS that look like 1st person but are really still 3rd person just the immediate present tense thoughts that should have been italicized aren’t any longer. Whoever argues, note all the actual action in the book is in 3rd person, just like 3rd person limited omniscient deep POV).


       Artist  Edvard Munch
2. The editor said: more explicit sex; explicit sex makes more money. Um, I thought I wrote explicit sex. I didn’t read erotica at the time either. So, me and my naïve self simply doubled the number of sex scenes.



I tweaked the tweaks. THANK GOD FOR FIND & REPLACE. And returned the manuscript 2 days later. Well, after I doubled the sex scenes. Then, I panicked. I knew that book wasn’t erotica. Deep down inside, it wasn’t! I decided to investigate. So, I bought the top 15 erotica titles in futuristic and paranormal romance (because the Feral series is both) at a few sites and began conjuring the sun up over yonder hill. Oh dear God. I was blind but could finally see…People who think a little sexual tension is erotica need to experience my epiphany. They are extremely sheltered. Me, well, I fell hard into the trench on the other side of the hill that hid the HOT sun from the sheltered folks. It’s kind of dusty down there from all the stampeding women running back and forth to purchase the latest releases from their favorite erotica authors. But nobody’s beetching about dusting on yonder side of the hill.

So, I learned the difference between explicit sex scenes and erotica. I find reviewers expect m/m in my m/f/m/m/m/m stories, or they want anal sex, or something BDSM…Okay, I really just write traditional sex scenes with a little twist of something different. After all, that’s what all those big NY editors were saying they wanted all those years I attend the Romance Writers of America conferences and listened to those panels speak about market trends! Geesh. Just a tweak! I just tweaked things, right? *snort* No, I crossed all my sub-genre wires and had a blow out! In the end, fried and frazzled, I don’t think I write what anyone truly wants to read when out searching for something to cuddle up with in bed. Hmmm, I write what the candy corn can spark when I’m sitting there and start flipping through the mental file cabinet to come up with something new. I can only thank all of those professors for my self-induced insanity because anthropology gave me loads of examples to draw from. The market with my new publisher drove the demand. I merely attempted to cough up stories that would finally work for readers. I work really hard to write unique realistic characters to avoid the one thing that drives me nuts in a story.

 

The sexuality of the Amazons: Passion and Warfare The Amazons were not known to be favorably disposed towards the institution of marriage. Nevertheless, they did engage in sexual activities to justify the continuity of their race, whether with men of neighboring clans, prisoners-of-war or random men they would meet.
 
 
 


My biggest pet peeve is reading a novel with 2 or more POVS and all of the characters sound absolutely identical. I prefer to write characters with personalities that bring the story to life—just like the fleshed-out explicit sex scenes. Each character has a different cultural background even if that’s only one is spiritual recluse, another is a biker, and the third is a veterinarian. You see each has a different perspective on life and each followed a different path to that point where they wound up in my story. They can’t possibly sound or think the same way! Well, unless all three facets are of the same person. *rolls eyes* That said, they’ll each have a different perspective when it comes to the big naughty scenes. And those perspectives combined with romantic growth make the story real. Not…
 
 
I don’t write he stuck his thing in her (wherever). She cried out. He (insert action verb). She (insert different action verb). No, that’s writing golf narration. Who wants to listen to some man whispering what’s going on during a game of chess? My characters’ thoughts spell out the name of the game (their goals, motivations, and conflict) that many authors just dump in telling forms (i.e. golf narration) onto the page. Telling pump and grind is just erotica. And rape is sex unsupported by one side of the equation. Sex is mental. It must be supported by thought on all sides of the sexual equation, or I’m not writing romance (i.e. hot or warm). So, my writing is all about making things work for the reader, regardless of which genres I combine.
   
By the way, my creative writing teacher (an actual college course not continuing education) argued with me that my two samples I distributed in class weren’t from the same story because one was sci-fi and the other was fantasy. I begged to differ that they were merely 2 different cultures—each chapter set in a different POV reflecting a different culture. Trust me, you can’t write a scene in the average Australian Aboriginee’s mind and make it sci-fi and then jump into a native New Yorker’s POV and make it shamanistic. You won’t be in character with either. Well, unless that shamanistic New Yorker had a whole lot of training. There are many anthropologists in New York who could pull it off! ;P

 

 

 

Q. Your ability to draw the reader into turbulent and sometimes disturbing moments is touched also by your aptitude to bring in humor at the most needed times. Are these planned or just your own wicked sense of irony coming through?


 

I’m the world’s biggest pessimist so I struggle with trying to make the moment not so dismal for the reader. It could be that my inner pessimist is perceived as a "wicked sense of irony"? Although, I must admit I had no idea I had a sense of humor or a sense of irony! I’ll chalk that up to the inner pessimist never thinking anything I wrote is good enough!


 

 


 

 
Seeing through the eyes of a pessimist

 





 
Q. Is your fan base primary women?

Yes. Why in the world would men think the heroes I write were written for them? *thinking, thinking*
 


Q. How about men? Are you experiencing men coming "out of closet", to coin a phrase, in regards to reading your work?

I’ve had a few ask me about my series. I hadn’t realized that I didn’t note the order in which I wrote the books anywhere. Some men were asking about the order of my books in my Time Guardian and Werescape series. Seriously, I was stunned. I had no idea a man would want to read them. But I have seen older male retirees, at the Barnes & Noble where I used to write, sitting reading romantic suspense every week.


 



Q. Do you, like many other writers, secretly harbor dreams of writing a NYT Best Seller? Or do you have another dream that signifies the top of the game to you?

Yes. I don’t think a writer would be normal who never wanted to score a NYT Bestseller at least once for self-validation. But that dream is such a long shot with the way Indie publishing has changed the industry now. I don’t bother with submissions anymore. It’s a waste of time and energy. It’s better to just focus on writing.




Q. Who sees your manuscripts first?

Beta readers. My husband doesn’t read my work either.
 


Q. What makes a romance novel a great love story and how would you define "romance"?

A great romance novel with a great love story must have romantic growth (all the gradual steps to make the romance logical). If a romance novel doesn’t have the romantic growth, I’m left wondering why something happened—how they grew to love each other. Creative writers call that formulaic. But it’s logical. If you’re writing a romance, you have to show two people growing together to make the happily ever after believable, or you’re just writing erotica.



 

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.

That, my friend, is defined by the individual—relative. If a character gets what he/she is looking for by THE END, that character isn’t fantasizing about it at the end of the book and has a happier outlook on life, right? But there are so many other aspects of life still affecting the one the character dealt with in story. So, in the end, attaining a good life is still up in the air. Or my inner pessimist is talking!

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?

NOT IF THE AUTHOR HAS SUPPORTED THE SCENE WITH SUFFICIENT BACK STORY, i.e. goals, motivations, and conflict.

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

Yes. I call the "superfluous sex" glorified sex scenes (erotica). I know whenever I’m writing a sex scene that doesn’t need to be there because it’s boring and the story can move forward without it. And you can usually spot this type of sex scene. It takes place two pages after the last one and serves no purpose. All scenes in a story must have a solid reason for existing. Deb Dixon, the author of Goal, Motivation, & Conflict, explained this nicely. If a story does not have at 3 reasons (any combination of the 3: goal, motivation, conflict—including a combination of 3 of any one like 3 goals revealed), the scene isn’t strong enough to send to her big NY editor. And there’s the rub.

 


 

Q. What sort of ending do you prefer? Angry? Sappy? Full of joy?



I prefer a story to end when I’ve finished tying up the loose goals, motivations, and conflicts. However, readers prefer I write a happily ever after scene too. Those little sweet scenes don’t come to me easily. What do you call my type of ending a story? I’ve been told I shouldn’t write romance since I don’t like writing that last little extra scene. Oh well. And I have little respect for stories with the hero calling the heroine sweetheart, honey, etc. That’s too sappy and Dr.-Quinn-Medicine-Woman for me. So, you tell me what kind of endings I write! ;P

Ummm, what he said...?
"Listen, Smile, Agree,and then do whatever the fuck you were gonna do anyway."
-Robert Downery Jr.



Q. You have many series, Time Guardians Series, Werescape Series, and Feral Series. Do they all have to be read in order or can some be read as standalones?

Not the Time Guardians because time travel sets that up—the reader is supposed to question which came first in the end like the chicken and the egg and is able to read the books in any order. Now, the Werescape & Feral series can be read out of order, but the first 2 Feral books work best in that sequence.

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

I have to deal with the 5 stages of grief like everyone. The stages come quickly though. And then, I deal with the emotional aspect of stitching up my baby and injecting it with penicillin—ignoring the remarks.


 


Seriously, I just explained to another author that giving away free books is like shooting yourself in the foot. I subscribed to a free-book thread at Kindle for half a year and came to that conclusion. Why? It’s because no author giving away free books can make those people happy. They live to butcher something—and butcher they do. It’s like one of those zombie mob scenes when they’re after some unaffected creature. They pull it to the ground and disembowel it while it screams.


 
 
I’ve received some really awesome reviews (not many reviews altogether though) and most say great things. For some reason—the behavioral scientist in me can’t seem to touch the answer about those people who dislike my work stopping by to leave a review claiming they enjoyed all the other books in a series except…the freebie. Well, you get my drift. I just don’t understand how a reader can hate a book so much and then take the time to leave a negative review after reading the first 3, liking them so much to buy the others, but never leaving a good review for any of them.???




Oh the life of the author and what we contemplate! I’ve found negative reviews that touch on the positive are the ones that help me grow as an author. I appreciate all of that feedback. A good strong review supports the bad points of a story with good comments. ;P And then I’m not hung up psychoanalyzing the statements too long because a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!


*Before I bring to a close my interview with Author Skhye Moncrief, I always like to end with a question just for fun. And since we’re getting close to Halloween, I choose this question for you, Skhye

Q. You suddenly realize you live in a haunted house. Do you:

a) Run screaming for the door?


b) Bravely go to a church, load up on holy water and try to get rid of the ghost?


c) Set up ghost hunting equipment to capture phenomenon?

d) Call in the "Ghost Adventures" crew so that you can ogle the lead guy Zac’s amazingly stiff hair when you’re not ogling his….physical attributes?


e) Deny you have a ghost and just let it scare the bejesus out of your visitors?


I’m all C, Barb!!! Of course, I’ll need some D to help me operate the C equipment. And if that means bringing in supplies with B, I don’t have a problem. Because I don’t want my attempts at C resulting in my needing an exorcism. But the scientist isn’t likely to fall for that superstition easily which is why I said I’m all C… (Are you confused? You shouldn’t have given someone letters to work with! *evil cackle* Let me see if I can write this up in a more digestible form for you.)

C (D + B) = Barb’s insanity



So…

C(D) + B for Barb’s exorcism= a good laugh because I accidentally wrote orgasm for exorcism.





Bwa ha haaaaaaa! Thanks for raking me over the HOT coals, Barb! I had marshmallows so all was well!




Oh No...Not Stay Puft Marshmallow Man!!
And that brings me to the end of my interview with Author, Skhye Moncrief.

Thank you again Skhye, for this opportunityto interview you. I hope you had fun.

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

Skhye 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 Skhye’s website to learn more about her exciting series and upcoming releases, http://www.skhyemoncrief.com/


Signing off,

Barb~
 





6 comments:

Skhye Moncrief said...

LOL, Barb. Where'd you find those graphics? You have been a very busy girl. No wonder you don't have time to read now that you do interviews! ;P

Seriously, thanks for the laugh. And thank you for taking the time to come up with such interesting questions that are as good as "What position of sex do you prefer?" and "Where's the most interesting place you've ever had sex?" I mean really, wouldn't you be struggling over actually disclosing that info online?" ;P

Barbara Mazzuca said...

I must admit when I'm looking for the "right" picture it does get a bit time consuming. But it's worth it.

I'm glad you enjoy yourself as well as the finishing touches as well. As far as answering those other questions...

I can tell you this, at 55 there aren't to many position I haven't tried. Most interesting? In my parents living room, on the couch (snort. Never looked at that couch without smiling after that I can tell you...yes they were home. Asleep, but home. Hows that?

Hugs~

Skhye Moncrief said...

PRETTY INTERESTING. I'm only 10 years behind you, but I can claim that one too--the couch with the parents in the house. LOL

I've heard about military folk doing it in the dumpster when they can't get leave. LMAO The smell!!!

Barbara Mazzuca said...

Hey when you need it and privacy is tight...but I agree ewwww.

Sky Purington said...

Sorry I'm a few days late. Great interview ladies!!! And those graphics... love them! :-)

Barbara Mazzuca said...

Hi Sky Thanks and Thanks...LOL. Thanks for stopping by. Big Hugs!!