Friday, March 6, 2015

Queen of Clubs: Cora VBT

The exotic dancers and employees of the Queen of Clubs walk a fine line, with only wits, beauty, and market savvy to keep them from toppling into the shark pit. Ride shotgun through lapdances, romance, and sexual awakenings. Don't worry, these girls won't ask what your hands are doing under the tip rail.

Cora, an adventurous student, finds herself auditioning for a stripping gig...and it comes with more than the asking price, including a very attractive DJ.

Queen of Clubs contains adult content, and is intended for mature readers. Each Queen of Clubs title is a standalone novella length work.

I prayed the song wouldn't end. Would the next one jar me out of this rhythm? Would I wake up and discover it was a dream, that I was still the awkward college student I had to be the rest of the time? I slid the straps of my bra off my shoulders and undid the catch, but hesitated to let it fall away from me.

I looked toward Kirk and met his eyes. Fuck. He'd been staring, a combination of lust, pride, and approval in the small smile on his face. It reassured me, and against my better judgment, I grinned back.

Katie, thanks so much for stopping by. So, why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Well, there's not a lot to tell. I mainly write contemporary romances or romances with thriller elements. Probably the most distinctive element to my work is that my characters are often from overlooked or marginalized backgrounds. Many of them are strippers, sex workers, sugar babies, dominatrices, or have other issues to overcome like poverty, mental illness, physical disability. I think I've only written a handful of characters who could count as a 'person next door' in the usual sense. I think because of those characters, my work often has dark edges and focuses on moral gray areas.

About me, personally, I'm a full time writer and editor with a house full of plants and pets, and I'm a bit of a shut-in. If I want to live in my pajamas, I darn well can. I read fast, write almost as fast, and always have an art project going. I'm a workaholic in many senses; I always have to be learning new skills or crafts.

How did you get started writing?
I wrote a little as a kid, but lost interest when my sister got obsessed with it. We came from a hyper-competitive family-- the kind that came to blows over card games or placement on the recital program and meted affection out only to the winners. So we, early on, made choices that our hobbies would never overlap, so that we couldn't be used to hurt each other as part of that competition. She stopped learning ballet so I could be the dancer of the family. I stopped drawing so she could be the artist. She refused to take an interest in fashion or makeup, because I was the one who took to those readily. I stopped writing so that she could be the author in the house, and it never really occurred to me to go back to it.

Then, much later, I moved in with a talented man, a novelist. I avoided his work for years, just in case he needed it as a safe space even from me. But eventually, he started feeding me stories to edit and provide developmental feedback on, and we started working together much more closely to help manage his work. I began doing developmental work and copy stuff for handful of writers, helping tighten their stories, and following the industry much more closely.

Eventually, he started discussing wanting to see me try out writing, myself. I tagged along with him for a National Writing Novel Month sprint, ended up with a 35k completed story. And after that, he didn't let me consider stopping. He began brainstorming project ideas with me, and encouraging me to develop and write them.

What was the inspiration for your book?
So, one day, my man-beast and I were getting ready to send him off to work, and talking about future writing projects- specifically the fact that he wanted me to try my hand at romance, since it was a genre I wouldn't feel like I was competing with him in. Somehow or other, the talk turned to film noir, and our shared love of Frank Miller's Sin City, and it ended up with him daring me to build out a giant strip club sandbox, in which the characters all interacted, found their way into each other's stories, but had their own separate and cohesive arcs. He thought that, with my experience in the strip club scene, I might be able to do something more insightful than Miller's damsels in distress, or femme fatales. And he wanted me to play with something that I could write confidently, without the worldbuilding mires you can find when you envision a completely new world.

So I mocked up a few stories for Queen of Clubs, plotted out the first season, and went from there. I write fast and the installments are generally 15-20k, so it has worked up very quickly. I'm working on episodes from season 4 and 5 right now. And it's spawned several spinoffs that'll come out soon. The end of Season One will introduce us to two characters whose series are coming-- Rex Roderick, a private investigator who gets the most scandalous cases and clients, and is very much in line with the film noir stories from our original inspiration, and Anna Rodriguez, a tenacious young woman surviving as a professional thief while she runs away from her past. Season Two will lead us into Honeypot, a serialized erotic thriller spinoff surrounding a dancer-turned-sex worker who falls into dangerous work alongside her day-to-day. Season Three gives us Exposure, basically a Queen of Clubs sister series centered around modeling- particularly freelance nude, artistic, glamor, and erotic models.

Queen of Clubs ended up becoming a much more expansive vision than I could have imagined. But those projects are fun for a change, either the chance to stick with one character for the longer term, or to show different aspects of the boundaries that these characters have built into their lives. An art model has a much different view of her own nudity than an exotic dancer, in many cases, and even though these fields of work can all be lumped in as some sort of sex work, there's a lot of divisions and ideas that differentiate them. The man-beast and I are huge fans of TV writing, the idea of the broad canvas. We see maybe 5-10 feature-length movies a year, but binge-watch TV shows to dissect the plotting. So the expansiveness of Queen of Clubs isn't really a surprise to me.

What’s the one genre you haven’t written in yet that you’d like to?
Anywhere there's a story to tell. I mean, I think I'm better at developing some stories than others; I don't think I would be good at writing, for example, cozy mystery. Mainly, I just wait to see what comes along, and what I need to try. Most recently, it was paranomal/urban fantasy. Soon it might be dystopia. For the most part, though, contemporary is my comfort zone, and I'm pretty happy not leaving it.

Mainly, if I can connect with a cover visual for it, and get deeply enough in the characters' heads to write a sample scene, I can usually build a full plot around it and draft the thing. It's just a question of when or how I'll end up sicced on any particular concept. 

Are there any genres you won’t read or write in? Why?
Not generally, but there's certainly stories that I am less keen to tell, on my own. I read pretty much everything- science fiction, speculative fiction, horror, fantasy, romance- but there's certainly some kinds of stories that it's harder for me to empathize with enough to write convincing characters.

So, what are you working on right now? Have any releases planned, or still writing?
I am always still writing. Always. I wake up muttering about commas. I'll have many, many, releases this year, and will likely be continuing writing the next installments in those series. I have 3-4 finished seasons of Queen of Clubs, and we're only midway through serializing season 1. On top of that, I have maybe four other series I actively work on, some of which tie into a particular point in Queen of Clubs, and are held back until the episodes up til then have been released.

I usually alternate between several projects. So today I might be working on an episode in season 5 of Queen of Clubs, and tomorrow I might be working on the third story in my dark fantasy universe. Honestly, it's really hard to say- I am a workaholic, and it shows in the quantity and breadth I'm working through at any given time.

Alright, now for some totally random, fun questions. Favorite color?
Black. I love almost all colors- I'm an artist, after all- but black is spectacular for its ability to pull extra contrast and vibrancy from the colors around it. To me, black as a color is that person who makes everyone feel stronger, better, more loving, for having spent time around them.

Favorite movie?
Hmm. In general, I'm a Del Toro fan. Pan's Labyrinth, The Devil's Backbone, I just like his touch for horror. Also, I'm a sucker for Sin City. But I've got a massive obsession with Disney musicals and animated movies. And Bruce Willis action movies. And some of the campy and problematic 80s comedies. I don't really attach to movies the same way I do to music, though, so it's hard picking out a favorite movie, but if you asked me to pick out a favorite band or artist, the opinion would be much more forceful.

Book that inspired you to become an author?
Well, I sort of fell into it; I wasn't really inspired to become an author by any books, only by the particular social place it has in my life and my partnership. There's a lot of authors I look up to, though, who tell stories I could never conceive, let alone tell. Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series and Elantris, Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and Mike Carey's spinoff Lucifer series, Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan series.

Alright, you have one superpower. What is it?
Invisibility. I hate interacting with people. That moment in the grocery store when you try to get by someone else's cart, or they try to get by yours... ugh...

You can have dinner with any 3 people, dead, alive, fictitious, etc. Who are they?
Can I name a famous chef to cook the dinner? (Of course.) Anyways, bearing in mind my above-mentioned disdain for socialization, I would be probably serve a girl sandwich with myself in it to Raistlin Majere from the Dragonlance series, James Spader's character from Blacklist, and Mike Carey's Lucifer. You may have the sense that I like the bad boys, the ones that you would totally bang in an alley, even realizing that you were likely to also be found dead in said alley when all was said and done.
Okay, so for humor, let's see how this goes.
-doorbell rings-
Raistlin: Glares through the glass window as the door opens.
Katie: Oh, hi, man. Good to see you. You're looking healthy. -happy smiles-
Raistlin: Foul temptress, tempting me with lies and such that I cannot have because I am JUST TOO BROODING.
Katie: -quivers- No, no, I was being serious.
Katie's inner monologue: Dude, go on, snap again. All you need is a hug. I can totally provide that hug. You know I like the scrawny guys, right?
Raistlin: -glares- I tried to take the evil goddess's place, you know. I don't have to put up with snark from you.
Katie: No, no, no snark intended. Not from me. Why, what is sarcasm? I know no such thing. I just like being nice to you.
Katie's inner monologue: dude, I would totally help you dethrone the dark goddess if you stared at me like that some more.
-doorbell rings-
Katie: Oh, hey, I should get that.
Raistlin: You see me staggering, and you aren't gonna help me to the table or anything? I wanted to snap at you if you did!
-opens door to reveal Lucifer-
Katie: Oh thank god. So happy to see you! Maybe you can play piano for us, lighten the mood. Or, I've got... other... things you can play...
Lucifer: I brought you this super expensive and awesome wine because you know I'm a foodie, girl, but I promise I won't say anything if your sauce is too creamy.
Katie: Oh, hey, thanks. Ima open it right now. -pours everyone a glass and keeps bottle for self. Prepares to drink-
Lucifer: No no no, not like that, girl. It has to aerate. You can't drink it for a half hour or the flavor will be ruined.
Katie's inner monologue: Oh no.... however shall we pass the time?
Raistlin: So, Lucifer, what else do you do, as well as being so awesome and handsome and capable that guys like me never have a chance?
Lucifer: -stares-
Katie: Oh, c'mon, Raist, that's not true. Plenty of girls would-
Raistlin: Don't call me Raist. I hate it even when my brother does it.
Katie: Oh, right, sorry. How is the big guy anyways?
Raistlin: -stares-
Katie: Um, fresh tart anyone? Yummy creamy filling...
Lucifer and Raistlin: -stares-
Katie: No one likes tarts? The center tastes like honey.
Lucifer and Raistlin: -stares, and quirk eyebrows-
Katie: Fu-- That came out wrong. It's a fruit tart, people.
-doorbell rings-
Katie: Oh hi James Spader! So good to see you. I was just getting ready to serve a yummy tart.
James Spader: -raises an eyebrow and tightens under eyes to express amusement-
Katie: -intentionally plays oblivious- And I even grew the strawberries on top! In my garden.
James Spader: -looks to Katie's lips-
Katie: -flushes- So what have you been up to?
James Spader: -stares silently, and lowers chin to indicate disapproval of the question.-
Katie: Oh, for- I'm gonna need more wine for this. Fragsticks. Is it too late for me to change my answer to Mahatma Gandhi, Malala Yousafzai, and Sterling Archer?

Last question: Which of your characters are you most like and how/why?
Honestly, I've written from probably 30 different points of view for different stories, so I think the pool is much larger than a lot of other writers would have to pick from. I don't think I bond the best with specific characters, so much as specific types. I couldn't narrow it down to one character.

I identify a lot with Malia, from Queen of Clubs, because I know what it's like to give up hobbies or careers you truly love due to disability. In similar vein, proud Petaline, who you guys don't get to meet for a few seasons, resonates a lot, because her life living with her health issues very much mirrors my own experience. Even Anjoli, spearheading the Honeypot spinoff... She's lost, often unlikeable, and entirely too used to playing the villain, but behind that there's an idea that she knows why she wants what she wants. And that's a bit compelling, since it's something I think I've experienced at certain points. I've survived abusive relationships, I've struggled through some pretty extreme circumstances, and while a lot of it feels alien to me right now, given the current shape of my life, writing characters like Anjoli just reminds me that if I had to go through those same battles again tomorrow, I could. And if I never have to go through them again, I don't think I'll ever forget the ways those experiences programmed me.

I see a bit more of myself in those types of characters than I do in Cora. Cora has a lot of me at eighteen: fearless by default, determined, and fighting to put together her strongest sense of self against the way those around her want her to be. Maybe even a little youthful hotheadness. But I'm not that woman any more. So while I smile at her struggles, and hope she doesn't get too badly banged up as she finishes growing and realizing herself, I don't actually connect with her the way that I do some of the characters who have already fought to become who they need to be. I'm sure Cora will turn out to be a lovely woman, well worth loving, but her innocence is something that I don't identify with, at all.

I don't think I could write a character like myself. There's not much interesting in reading about someone as antisocial as I am. Maybe a dull litfic character who expresses her isolation and dislike of the world through tossing hula hoops onto the neighbor's chimney or something.

Disclaimer: Dear Neighbor, those are not my hula hoops on your chimney. I can not afford to replace hula hoops thrown onto your chimney.

That’s all from me, thanks so much for taking the time to stop by!

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Author Bio and Links:
Katie de Long lives in the Pacific northwest, realizing her dream of being a crazy cat-lady. As a kid, Katie flagged the fade-to-blacks in every adult book she encountered, and when she began writing, she vowed to use cutaways sparingly. After all, that's when the good stuff happens. And on a kindle, no one asks why there's so many bookmarks in her library.

Buy Cora:

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