Where did you grow up? Do you think your upbringing has played any role in influencing your writing?
I was born and raised in Montreal and it’s where I still live. The city celebrates different cultures as well as food, wine, music, art and la joie de vivre (the enjoyment of life as we say in French). It’s a very enriching environment for a writer and stimulates my creativity. Even though my stories are set predominantly in Bordeaux, Rome, Bavaria and Madrid, many important scenes take place in Montreal.
Did you ever dream of becoming an author? How has a B.A., Marketing Communications helped you in your author's journey?
I wrote stories as a child and excelled in any course that involved writing right into adulthood. I hoped one day to become an author, though I had no idea when that would be. My degree landed me corporate and agency positions where I used my writing abilities to meet marketing challenges and achieve business goals. Now as an author I rely on those same skills to promote my own brand.
How hard is it to establish and maintain a career in fiction writing? Why did you choose to write romance?
Fiction writing is something you have to really want to do because are there are dozens of reasons to quit. It requires a fertile imagination, technical skills and a great deal of discipline. I’m self-motivated and driven to do this, and I’m constantly working at honing my craft. Luckily I’m a naturally curious person and enjoy doing a lot of research which is vital to good fiction. The more work you put in, the more effortless the read and the more believable the characters and plot.
I write romance because that is my preferred genre as a reader. And I like my love stories with well executed non-repetitive steamy sex scenes that are central to a well-developed story. So that’s what I aim for in my books. Romance lends itself well to many different kinds of emotions as well as twists and turns, and in my case, even a touch of humor. It’s a great genre for a little escapism and we all need that from time to time.
How was your experience of being the President of the Montreal Chapter of the Business/Professional Advertising Association?
It was a lot to take on especially when many of the members were seasoned professionals and I was at the beginning of my career. But I had mentors and was willing to work hard to make participation in the association satisfying for members with vast experience and those just starting out. It taught me to go after that which scares me and not to give up. I guess that’s why I’m so fond of writing strong independent heroines.
What inspired you to establish Les Vins Aldi? What goals in the wine industry are you still working to achieve?
Establishing an agency to sell and promote fine wines in the province of Quebec allowed me to combine my work experience with my passion for fine wine. It was another one of those scary decisions, so I had to do it, of course. I knew I found my niche when I started working with famous wine producers that I once only read about in wine magazines. Establishing Les Vins Aldi turned out to be the right decision at the right time. I’ll always be grateful to the producers and friends in the industry who believed in me from the beginning.
I had the option of expanding, but that would mean moving in a different direction. It’s just not something I was interested in doing. Instead, I actually streamlined my business so that I could devote more time to writing romance novels featuring all of those fine wines.
Tell us a little about your book covers and how you go about creating them. Do you place a little or a lot of importance on your book covers?
The covers of my four standalone style books in the series were designed at the same time, so there would be a family resemble. When I was writing the first book, there were supporting characters who demanded their own stories, so I knew there would be four books. It made cover design easier. I wanted to convey a romance journey with visuals that were contemporary, upbeat, classy, sophisticated and sexy. It was a collaborative effort with the talented designer I had the privilege of working with. The titles, were borrowed from the wine industry and hint at another meaning, when one reads the text on the back covers.
A professionally designed book cover not only speaks to the quality of the writing and storytelling, but helps the reader to identify the genre. It should have shelf-appeal whether actually on a shelf or as a thumb nail in an online store. And it’s a great way to tie together books that are part of a series. So yes, I do place a great deal of importance on my book covers.
How did you begin writing the Desire & Luxury Wine series? What is the significance of the title?
Selling and promoting upscale Bordeaux wines exposed me to a luxury lifestyle that included châteaux (castles) on prominent estates, five-star venues, glamorous black-tie galas and some fascinating people. A wine agent crossing paths with a billionaire would not be unheard of. An idea started to germinate for my début romance novel which grew rapidly into the Desire & Luxury Wine series. It’s a case of write what you know and original voice. These romance novels are wine-themed and I wanted it to come across. It’s a way to differentiate my novels from other romance books. It’s my unique selling proposition you might say… that’s the marketing person in me (ha ha). But you don’t have to have an affinity for wine to enjoy them. Did I mention the steamy love scenes?
What did you enjoy the most about creating the chemistry between wine agent Ela Zalewski and billionaire Torsten Lucas in "Private Reserve"?
For Ela the most important sex organ is the brain and Torsten is very good at seducing her mentally. When they meet up for a romantic tryst in Rome and re-enact what they have been sexting about, reality proves to be even better than the fantasy. And it’s the unexpected emotional involvement that propels them to a new level of erotic intimacy.
Do you think your knowledge and appreciation of luxury wine made it easier for you to write a wine-themed sexy romance?
Wine and sexy romance go together nicely. Ela, my heroine in the first book, is a wine agent specializing in rare and prestigious wines, so I was able to write her glamorous work life from some of my own experiences. Naturally I left out the more mundane office stuff that takes up a good part of my day. Since I have visited wineries and tasted a good many wines over the span of my career, I was able to infuse certain scenes with wine-related details. Wine plays a bigger role in “Private Reserve” than the other books because of Ela’s career choice, but there is plenty of sexy romance to more than balance out the wine references.
Who was the first reader that reached out to you? What did they say and how did you respond?
Two reached out to me about the same time while still reading “Private Reserve”. One reader told me she was really mad at Torsten at one point (before he redeems himself). I was elated she had such a strong emotional reaction because it meant he was believable. The other reader blamed me for keeping her up until two o’clock in the morning because she couldn’t put the book down. Validation. Can there be a better compliment? I thanked them profusely and went back to the keyboard to write “Maximum Yield” in a state of euphoria.
Who inspired the character of Isla Duncan in "Maximum Yield"? Why did you decide to make her a Montreal-based author?
As a romance author, I thought it would be fun to write a heroine who shared my writing career. It’s a way to let readers in on the writing process and publishing. On the practical side, I was able to draw on my own experience. But what I really reveled in was having the opportunity to dispel misconceptions some people still have about the romance genre, romance writers and those who read romance. Isla Duncan does not mince words when passionately defending the genre and her audience.
Isla is actually my role model. I’d love to have her success… and her extensive wardrobe. I made her a Montreal-based author for authenticity and expediency. We have the same favorite haunts.
What is one of the biggest mistakes you made as a new author and how did you fix it?
Arguing with my editor and resisting the revisions she suggested. After a few days of thinking about it, I realized she was 100% right. I apologized, made the revisions and was very happy I did. “Private Reserve” is a much better book as a result. When “Maximum Yield” came back there were considerably fewer revisions to make (I learned a lot from book 1), but I followed every one of her suggestions without question this time.
Do you prefer writing standalone books or series? What are your plans for the future as a writer?
Committing to a four-book series as a brand new author was ambitious. But because I work so hard on character development and backstories, a few of the supporting characters started to come to life for me. They were just too interesting not to have their own book. So basically, I have a series of standalone-style novels. They are separate stories with some common threads and some characters from previous books show up in supporting roles.
Not having a series where you have to keep the same story going while trying to avoid cliff-hangers was definitely easier for me. I still had to check for consistency and when re-telling something that happened in a previous book, I had to be careful not to make it sound like I copied and pasted.
Once I finish the series, I’m planning on writing a standalone contemporary erotic romance titled “Blind-Sighted”. It won’t be so wine-themed, but it will be faithful to the luxury lifestyle. I have great fun writing yachts, private jets, etc. And I have ideas for subsequent books.
I would love for my books to be picked up for foreign markets; especially those with a French speaking population.
What was the inspiration for “Master Class”? Are you planning to write the next book in the series?
I had already started writing “Master Class” when it occurred to me that the story was like a modern sexy version of the 1964 film “My Fair Lady”, so the inspiration may have been subconscious. In “Master Class” a beautiful unemployed school teacher enters into a contract with a handsome mysterious stranger and becomes the pupil. Her curriculum is not limited to physical pleasure, but it is an important part of her education. In the process she embraces her sensuality and is empowered. Love is not part of their agreement…
I already have a few solid chapters done for “Late Harvest”, the fourth and final novel in the series. It’s going to be hot and romantic.
What are your thoughts on AllAuthor and its services? Do you have any feedback?
AllAuthor services have given a big boost to my brand marketing and the promotion of my books, and at a very reasonable price.
I really appreciate how Mady Joshi and the team create attention-getting tweets that are right for my books, with a call to action, and then tweet them out on a regular basis.
I like the visibility that my profile and my books have on the site (with ratings, deals, samples of pages and buy buttons) and it’s all kept up to date. I like how just participating in the cover contest draws people to my books. Creating Gifs to publicize reviews is as easy as is the quotes option. And the weekly banners allow me to maintain a constant presence on social media by promoting regularly with different eye-catching professional visuals.
The Facebook page is a very effective way for us authors to communicate with AllAuthor and each other. I can see many future benefits.
AllAuthor seems to always be in motion when it comes to making life easier for authors and I love that.
I am absolutely blown away by how this in-depth interview was tailored specifically to me and my books. It was the hardest author interview I have ever done, but oh so rewarding. Thank you Mady and team. Keep up the great work!