Hi everyone! I’m so pleased to bring you a conversation with the lovely R. Phoenix, AKA Raissa. These are such enjoyable interviews. I don’t know about you guys, but I love getting to peek into the minds and imaginations of different authors. None of us are the same, but we all share certain similarities. It’s a wonderful business—I absolutely wouldn’t trade it—but it carries with it a certain portion of angst, that’s for sure. So, to lighten things up and keep this fun, I want to start with the positive. Tell us, Raissa—
What is the greatest joy your writing has brought you?
This is probably going to sound cheesy as hell, but it’s true, so I’m going to say it anyway. The absolute best thing about writing is that I have met the most amazing people in my life. Readers, other authors, bloggers… There are so many amazing people who are brought together by books and writing in general. The catharsis of writing is important, but so too is the feeling of belonging you get when someone connects with something in your books – or you. I talk to people who have never read my books, and I still feel so fortunate to have them.
I met my closest friends because of writing, and they’ve been there for me. We weren’t author and reader, or author and author; we were friends, are friends. That means so much more to me than any sales. I mean, obviously I want to sell books so I can write more books, but if I had to choose between the profit and the people, my introverted, shy as fuck, socially awkward self would choose the people.
Then there’s Elias Ivers. Elias is a witch in my Fate of the Fallen series, and the strength of people’s reactions to him have been both validating and baffling. Meredith over at Diverse Reader wrote in her review that if she had a glass of water and he was on fire, she’d drink the water, which to date is probably still my favorite. Others consider him their book boyfriend, and I have this group of amazing people who have playful “arguments” over whether he should die or not. The strength of people’s reactions… I never imagined people would feel that deeply over someone I created.
So yeah, the best part of writing has been connecting with people, even temporarily, for better and sometimes for worse.
And you know, its almost impossible to predict how your characters or story will turn out, and I often wonder if I’m doing it or them justice. Sometimes I read a review that is almost scary in how spot on the reader got everything I was trying to do while another reader just doesn’t get it at all. The process of bringing somebody to life is pure alchemy sometimes. Often, when my characters first appear in my imagination, they are no more real than a stick drawing, and it is unfailingly fascinating to me how they slowly grow and take on flesh and blood reality—and start telling me what we’re going to do! I started outlining when I began to publish as a business, but my characters can and still do take over the plot. What about you? Are you a pantser or a plotter?
I am somewhere in between! I have to have an idea of what’s happening and where it’s going, or I freeze up. I don’t always even go in that direction; some of my characters have given my plotting a big old nope and gone way out into left field. I just need the comfort of knowing that I have somewhere to go with it. Though I love that I got to write different styles of books across my series, I’d have picked one and stuck with it if I’d pre-plotted the entire thing.
Okay, maybe I’m lying just a little. I really do enjoy getting to play around with romance and erotica and horror and a little bit of adventure, and redirecting the focus based on the book and the characters. There are six – well, technically seven – POV characters across the six books, and each one likes to tell their story differently.
Now that I’m doing collaborations with Morgan Noel and Shaw Montgomery (M. A. Innes), I’m having to do more solid plotting so we can make sure we’re on target. It doesn’t always work, and sometimes we find ourselves having to pause and redirect the characters or even adjust the plot. For the most part, though, there’s a tentative idea of where it’s going and how it’s going to get there.
When Morgan and I were writing U3 (Untamed, Unhinged, and Unchanged), it was our first real collaboration with the intention of publishing. We’d written together before, but not like this. The plot ended up changing part of the way through, and we were dreading edits because it was such a large shift. It ended up not being that bad, but our incubus’ story didn’t go exactly how we thought it would at first. Some of the plans we had were thrown out because they’d require too much development, and the damn thing ended up being over 110k words as it was. I don’t have a final word count yet, but we’re almost done edits and it’s around 120k. It was daunting when it came time to start edits as it was, and when Morgan put a publication date of January 30th on it, I may have squeaked a little. But it’s almost done and on target!
Ironically, Spoiled, which we wrote after, was less than half the length and published at the end of December. No, I haven’t stalled. At all. And like a true pantser, I have gotten way off topic.
LOL. No worries! Off topic is fun. I love when my boys start making their own decisions in a story about how they feel and what they think. I love writing scenes I didn’t necessarily plan but are important to the character. There’s something so organic about a story when the character injects himself into it. I have a plan, of course, but I love when I’m not forcing anything anymore. Especially sex scenes! Anybody who writes sex knows the challenge of being true to reality but creative and romantic, or what have you, at the same time. If you write erotic/explicit scenes, what is the most difficult part of that process for you?
The most difficult part for me is keeping things fresh. I started out writing more explicit scenes, but as time has gone on, I’ve found it harder (*snerk* Yes, I’m a mature adult) to do. I admire erotica authors who can make sure that every scene is unique and interesting. When it comes down to it, there are only so many ways you can say “insert part A into slot B or C” without it getting repetitive. You have to think beyond that and come up with plausible situations without introducing too much realism. People will cringe if they see anal sex without lube, but at the same time, we don’t really need to hear about the wet spot on the bed, either. My co-author, Morgan Noel, and I have had that chat more than once because there’s that balance you have to strike.
THEN, after all of that, it has to survive editing. By the time you’ve done the third read-through to look for the word “slammed” (nope, not speaking from personal experience), you may not even think the scene is sexy anymore. Maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time selling something as “hot” after I’ve edited the hell out of a sex scene. There’s just something mood-killing about making sure the characters actually took their shoes off and that you don’t mention scars where you had smooth skin in Chapter Three.
Actually, I find any kind of editing to be mood-killing, lol. Seriously, though, I like a lot of it. I enjoy being with my characters, but it can be a long process. I write plot heavy books and love action, peril, angst, hurt/comfort, all the things that keep a story moving, but after editing a couple times, I feel like I’ve memorized the damn thing. Which reminds me of Fahrenheit 451. If you’ve ever read the book or seen the movie, you probably remember the scene at the end of the story where everybody is memorizing a book to save for the future. I used to wonder what book I’d memorize. After practically doing that with my own, though, the bloom is definitely off that rose, let me tell you, but if it ever came down to it, and you had to memorize one book to save for posterity, which one would it be and why that one?
Yes, go ahead and groan; Raissa’s going to talk about that book again. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, which is the second book of the epic fantasy series, The Stormlight Archive. Never mind that it’d be hard to memorize, considering it’s 1,088 pages long – or to put that in perspective, has a 48-hour-long audiobook. But hey, let’s say alternate universe me had a better memory than real me.
This book was life-changing for me. It helped me get through one of the darkest times of my life, and I even have a tattoo of a quote from my favorite scene. The storytelling and characterization and world building are astoundingly good, and they’d serve as an example of what good writing can do. It affects me on such an emotional level that I get chills just thinking about it.
One of the main themes, “Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination,” is one I remind myself of often. Seeing the characters face ordeals that challenge them is inspiring for me. I’ve cried reading these books. I’ve laughed my ass off. I’ve had moments where I’ve just read and reread the same line or lines over and over as I tried to absorb them.
There’s this scene where two of the characters are stuck down in these chasms in a horrible situation, and there’s basically the equivalent of a peasant and a noble. The peasant is ruminating that the noble can never understand what true pain is, only to discover that she has – that she’d been broken. I want to share this snippet with you:
“He saw it in her eyes. The anguish, the frustration. The terrible nothing that clawed inside and sought to smother her. She knew. It was there, inside. She had been broken.
Then she smiled. Oh, storms. She smiled anyway.
It was the single most beautiful thing he’d seen in his entire life.”
My newest tattoo, the one I got to commemorate my one-year anniversary of life-changing events, is “she smiled anyway” in Gallifreyan. In nerd-speak, that’s the language of the Time Lords in Doctor Who. The language is written with circles and lines and dots, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Anyway, that’s why it’d be the one I’d memorize, because it reminds me that the struggles are worth every moment – and you can still go on and live your life even if you’ve been broken. Okay, I could ramble about this book forever. Ahem.
Okay, so you’re a fan. You’re five-starring that book all over the place, lol. Which brings me to my next question—I love to ask this because I think writers have a love/hate relationship with reviews. A good one can shoot you to the stars, but a bad one… Yikes. Not every writer reads their reviews, so my question for you—Are you a masochist? Ha, ha. In other words, do you read your reviews?
Ironically, I’m really only masochistic enough to visit the realm of the evilest demons – er, Goodreads, when I’m feeling… particularly masochistic already. I don’t want to wreck a perfectly good mood by going there. I’m more likely to see Amazon reviews, both because people link me to them or because I’m always tweaking things – or if I’m looking for quotes from reviews to use (and thank you so much to those who leave them).
You spend hours and hours of your life on this book, putting your heart and soul into it and entrusting it to others, and yeah, it can be hard to hear that someone hated it. It’s easy to get obsessed with the numbers and the content, but it really is true: you can’t please everyone. Just trying will drive you insane. (At least, that’s my excuse.) I struggled with my fifth book, Temper, because I was writing what I thought I had to write rather than the story in my head. I’ve since changed that; I went through and re-edited my entire series before sending them to Juno for the French translations (which have just started coming out as of January 18th, woo!).
There have been valid points in critical reviews, and I don’t automatically dismiss the ones that aren’t the most flattering. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go of those words, even if you don’t believe them or if the reader doesn’t get out of it what you meant them to – or they went in with certain expectations that weren’t met. For instance, some people have had problems with my book, Too Close, because it wasn’t singularly dark the whole way through. It involves domestic violence, but I felt it needed the levity of Skylar’s puns to balance it out.
One of the absolute hardest things about publishing is internalizing the fact that no, you cannot please everyone. If you’re feeling bad about reviews, go look at the negative reviews on your favorite books. How does someone even 1* Words of Radiance, okay? (Someone actually did it just to be the one who did – but the book has 0% 1 star reviews for a reason.)
Ahem. So tl;dr: I appreciate reviews, so much, and I’m grateful to everyone who leaves them. Sure, I’d love it if I only got 4* and 5* ratings, but that’s unrealistic. Not everyone likes the same content – or certain books wouldn’t have been turned into insanely popular movies, just saying. I do try to read them every once in a while, but I’ve learned I still have thin skin and I don’t want to have to read Sanderson’s few 1* reviews every day.
Thanks for reading! <3
Thank you, Raissa! It was a blast talking to you. And for everybody reading this, I hope you had a good time, too. Please keep scrolling, though, because I have a blurb and excerpt from Spoiled for you, as well as links so you can grab the book for yourselves and check out all the places Raissa likes to hang out. Thanks for stopping by!
Authors: R. Phoenix & Morgan Noel.
The capture of an arms dealer’s spoiled lover should’ve been a win for the humans struggling to survive their harsh lives in the slums. Powerless and outnumbered, it seems like only a matter of time before Romulus betrays the Butcher. But when Kieran realizes their prisoner is none other than his stepbrother, he has to face the harsh truths he’s been avoiding for too long. Torn between loyalty for his new family of humans and the witch he has more than brotherly feelings for, Kieran must make a decision that could leave him with nothing.
Spoiled is a completely standalone work in the Fate of the Fallen/Status Quo universe. These characters do not appear in the FotF/SQ books, and there are no spoilers for the series.
Note to Readers of the FotF Series: Though this book is dark romance, it does not have the same “feel” as Bought, the (dark erotica) first book of the Fate of the Fallen series. It most closely resembles Ravel in tone and content.
“I don’t want to die,” Romulus said in a quiet, strained, and timid voice.
Kieran had meant it when he’d said he didn’t want his brother to die either, but before he could say or do anything, there was a rattle at the door of the bathroom — which he’d evidently locked behind him in a lapse of judgement. In retrospect, maybe it had been because he had good judgment.
His head snapped up regardless. A little panicked, he made a shushing gesture at Romulus.
“Kier? Everything all right?” Wren’s voice sounded through the door.
No. No, everything was not all right. It wasn’t even close. He wanted to scream — fuck, he wanted to break down right then and there — but he couldn’t do anything but what he’d done every single day for years.
“Yeah.” His voice cracked slightly, and he knew he needed to add something to explain the ruckus. But if he said Romulus had been doing something wrong, he’d get punished for it. If he didn’t… Kieran added, pulling open the door enough to let him meet her eyes as he said truthfully, “Just trying to get the witch to understand.”
Wren snorted. “Right.” She cast a disdainful glance in Romulus’s general direction, though Kieran knew she couldn’t get a good glimpse of his stepbrother.
“You’re wasting your breath,” she informed him.
Kieran grunted. The less he said, the better.
“Well, keep it down,” Wren said, running her fingers through her hair. She turned, and for a moment, Kieran got his hopes up, only to have them dashed as she glanced back at him. “Oh, and Kier?”
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Someone had heard something. She knew.
He braced himself. “Yeah?”
“I told you to clean him up, not let him pretend he’s at a spa. Get him out of the fucking tub.”
Kieran’s heart raced wildly in his chest, but he nodded as stoically as he could manage. “On it.”
Wren stepped closer to him, laughing. It was strange, and the words that went with her laughter were even odder. “Yeah. I’m sure you’d like to be on it.” She leered at him, and he felt…
Uncomfortably aroused at the sudden mental images blossoming in his mind, but sick.
“I’m not—” he protested.
“Mm,” she replied with a knowing smirk, patting his arm. “Hurry the fuck up. I need a shower.”
Kieran slowly closed the door behind her, leaning heavily against it for a moment before he could bring himself to look back at Romulus. His cheeks were red again, and he couldn’t believe he’d had thoughts like that when his little brother was crying.
Or had been crying. It seemed like he’d pulled himself together. He was even doing as he was told and cleaning his wrists. Or scrubbing at them, rather, and a little too hard for Kieran’s liking.
When he saw the water tinge pink with fresh blood, Kieran crossed over to him, grabbing Romulus’s arm and taking the washcloth from him. “Hey,” he said, his voice barely more than a whisper. He was still spooked, but at the same time, the sight of the discolored water was worse than Wren’s not-so-surprise appearance. “Here. Let me do that. Okay?”
Like they were kids again, and Romulus had just scraped his knee.
R. Phoenix (code name: Raissa) has an unhealthy fascination with contrasts: light and dark, humor and pain, heroes and villains, order and chaos. She believes love can corrupt, power can redeem and that the best of intentions can cast shadows while the worst can create light. She agrees with those who say that the truth is best told through fiction — even though fiction has to make sense while reality can be utterly baffling.
She loves chatting with readers, though she often awkwardly rambles. No matter how much she tries to keep her bad and often perverted sense of humor in check, it seems to escape at the most inconvenient moments. (Thanks, universe.) Feel free to friend Raissa on Facebook and chat or send her an email!
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/r.phoenix
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/raissaphoenix/
Fluent in sarcasm and double entendre, devourer of cookies and champion pizza consumer. Pantser who doesn’t play by the rules. The Kraken has been released, so long and thanks for all the fish!