Elizabeth Brooks is a vivacious person with twinkling blue eyes and an anecdote for every occasion. When I learned she was a published “erotic romance” author, I was delighted – and nervous. I read some of her work, and enjoyed it almost as much as I enjoyed talking to her – review to follow soon!
“Started” is such a nebulous verb… Somewhere in a box at home, I have a story I wrote when I was about five years old about a reindeer and a snowman, complete with a construction paper cover and barely recognizable pictures. I wrote about half of a poorly-planned mystery/horror story when I was in middle school called “Bangle Hills Manor,” mostly because I really liked the title and needed a story to go with it. In high school, I wrote an angst-laden short story that thinly disguised myself and my friends in a post-apocalyptic setting and (probably all too clearly) outlined the way I *wished* That Guy would ask me out. I showed it to another friend, who demanded to know What Happens Next. We expanded it into a novella-length story in which the writing was only barely eclipsed in horribleness by the truly glurge-y plot.
I dabbled with poetry for a few years (ah, teenage angst) and eventually came back to prose in college, when I amused myself and friends by writing background stories for my favorite characters in the role-playing games I was playing. These got *slightly* less awful over time, and in my late 20s and early 30s, a dear friend and I collaborated on what, over several years, turned into a 300,000 word novel. (For reference, a small novel is usually around 50,000 words, and the average paperback is probably about 100,000 words or so.) It was never published — it can’t decide if it’s a romance or an adventure story, and thus is currently unmarketable — but it helped me solidify the world in which “Safe Harbor” is set, and it was the first project I’d finished that I thought might actually approach publishable material.
Then I had kids, and that kept me too busy to write much for several more years. So I didn’t get around to writing anything actually suitable for submission until my late 30s. Since then, I’ve managed a novella a year, plus a short story or two here and there. I’m not a fast or prolific writer, but I’m usually pretty pleased with the results.
To be fair, most of my publications aren’t strictly erotica; they’re erotic romances. I think the “romance” tag is important — I’m not just writing about sex, but about the physical expression of love and affection. A lot of erotica is missing that emotional element, and I personally find it much less enjoyable and arousing as a result.
As to the why… I guess I never entirely got over that teenage glurge stage. I love a good romance — I love feeling the power of yearning, and I love that moment when the despair of loneliness is transformed into hope and joy. I include the sex scenes because oftentimes, the characters express themselves more truly (if wordlessly) in the midst of passion than they ever can during any other waking moment. And because — let us be honest — it’s fun.
Every story I write is an easier and more certain way for me to fulfill my jones for a really satisfying romance than actually having to experience it… and less likely to get me in trouble with my husband, as well!
What influenced your decision to work with a publisher that only offers ebooks?
To be fair, Torquere Press offers print books as well, but only for anthologies and novel-length works, which so far I haven’t written. But I can tell you exactly why I chose to submit to them. I follow a ridiculous number of webcomics, and I particularly like the ones that tell good stories with engaging characters. One link or another led me to Friendly Hostility by K. Sandra Fuhr. I devoured all of it, and then sought out the previous comic that had spawned it, Boy Meets Boy, and devoured that, too. I’m still a fervent fan of all her projects, and while Friendly Hostility was active, I was an occasional participant in its LiveJournal community. When Sandra announced that she was publishing a trio of stories with Torquere Press, I jumped on them eagerly. They’re still some of my favorite re-reads, even though they’re now out of print, and until that moment, I hadn’t been aware of any publishers remotely like Torquere. So when I wrote “Of One Mind” and a friend told me that it was good enough to publish, it didn’t take me long to decide to try them first, and I was lucky enough that it was accepted.
(A note for the curious: “torquere” is Latin for “twisted”, and it’s pronounced “tor-CARE-ay”.)
Where do you find your inspiration for your characters?
It varies. The “Of One Mind” characters just materialized in my head when I started playing with the concepts that constructed the world. Jody from “Of Sound Mind” was inspired by a particular photo of the actor Keith Hamilton Cobb. Rafe and Tyver from “Safe Harbor” are reincarnations of a pair of thieves from an RPG I used to play. Everything is grist for the mill, as the saying goes.
Do you have a favorite project out of the ones you’ve worked on so far?
I have to say “Safe Harbor” is my favorite book so far. I think it’s got a stronger story and tighter writing than anything else I’ve done. But the scene between Calis and Jereth in the clothing store in “Of One Mind” is probably my favorite single scene in anything I’ve published.
What can your fans expect to see next?
The next thing I know for certain is coming out is a story called “Assumption of Desire”. Unlike my previous stuff, which was all sci-fi or fantasy, this is a contemporary piece. It was inspired by a young man I met while I was at a GLBT Pride festival in Roanoke, VA this past fall. “Assumption” is currently scheduled for release from Torquere in March.
I also have two short stories out for consideration; both of those are for themed anthologies, one about succubi and one about the military. They’re both a departure from my other work in that they’re heterosexual, and the succubus one is erotic horror instead of romance. I haven’t heard back on either one yet; but watch my blog for news!
Which authors have you found most influential over the course of your own life?
I’m such a voracious reader, it’s hard to narrow it down to a core list. My earliest influence is probably Mercedes Lackey’s “Magic’s Pawn” series — they were the first books I’d read with gay main characters who got to have satisfying and fulfilling relationships, and I was surprised by my own strong response to that emotion. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller’s Liaden books have been a huge influence on my writing style. I’m also a big fan of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series. For erotic influence, I have to admit to A. N. Roquelaure (a.k.a. Anne Rice)’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy. (Yes, I like series.) And finally, I’ve learned an incredible amount about the art of storytelling from the works of Neil Gaiman.
Least Favorite author?
James Joyce. I’m aware that the whole stream-of-consciousness style he pioneered was a thrilling experiment in storytelling, but it makes me crazy because the narrator’s mind jumps in completely different ways than my own, so I always find myself lost for whole pages before I figure out what’s going on again. I still have no idea what the heck happened in “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
I’ve been told that not everything he wrote was like that and that I should give some of his other works a try, but let’s be honest… There are thousands of worthy authors out there and there is no possible way to read *everything* that I could want to read in my life. So outside of a classroom requirement, is there any reason I should re-read an author I’ve tried and didn’t care for when there are so many other options on my plate?
What color are your socks right now?
They’re green, with light blue starfish.
Stay tuned for my take on Safe Harbor, along with a giveaway of a variety of Elizabeth L. Brooks related swag- including a signed print-out of Liz’s e-book, Of Sound Mind. (Can’t wait to see more of Liz’s writing? You can download Of Sound Mind for free on Goodreads, or throw money at Liz here.)