AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: RACHEL HAIMOWITZ
Rachel Haimowitz has stopped by to chat about her latest venture (and venture it is) with Heidi Belleau, a lengthy serial story…
What is your most current work out?
On October 1, Riptide Publishing released the first episode in a long serial story—we think it’ll be about 300,000 words, all told, or like three fat novels—called The Flesh Cartel, about an underground sex slavery ring and two orphaned brothers who get caught up in the wrong end of it. Kind of like The Marketplace, except nobody goes by choice. It’s very exciting to me for a number of reasons, one being that it was my first time co-writing with the brilliantly talented Heidi Belleau, and another being that it’s the first serial I’ve ever done and also the first serial that Riptide has ever done.
But most especially, the format really gives us the freedom to branch out and explore the world, and lets us play with genre conventions a bit. Because it really is not even remotely a romance when it starts out—it’s more a psychosexual thriller, dark erotic horror—but by the end of the series (which, even releasing a novella a month, looks to be well over a year away), romance is very much in the air for both of our heroes, and they do get their happy endings—not only the start of love, but also of healing, which both of them desperately need after coming off a huge, life-altering trauma. But rather than be constrained by the length of a single book and needing to get to the happy ending in sixty- or seventy-thousand words, we get to really spread out, tell a very complete and complex story, and get to that happy ending the equivalent of three or four books later.
Tell us a little about The Flesh Cartel, what inspired you to write The Flesh Cartel?
Heidi and I had been bouncing around ideas like this for a long time, not necessarily as something to write but just as an exercise in fantasy. Then along comes Sarah Frantz, formerly of Dear Author fame and currently a brilliant editor at Riptide Publishing, who pops into one of our chats one day and says, Hey, you should write this. It was something she wanted to read. And it was something Heidi and I would’ve loved to read too. And then we asked around and it turned out it was something a lot of people wanted to read. What we discovered—and honestly, what we’d realized for a long time while pursuing our own personal reading tastes—is that there really isn’t very much out there in the way of dark erotic thriller/horror stories, at least not in the gay romance sphere, and especially not with eventual happy endings. And most of what is out there sadly isn’t done with very much care. There are a couple of incredibly popular het authors who write capture and forced BDSM stories that really take the time to explore the psychology of the characters and do their research and offer up an experience that does more than titillate—that wrenches your heart out and stomps it into little pieces and then, hopefully, puts it back together again at the end. And that’s what we wanted to do. But with men J
When you start writing, do you already have the story plotted out or do you let the characters dictate what will happen?
We plotted this story very carefully. We know what’s going to happen from start to finish in varying degrees of detail, with fairly precise outlines in our heads for the first two books’ worth of material. There’s still room for discovery, of course, but most of that happens on the scene level, within the framework of where we know we need the characters to begin and end in that particular chapter.
What inspired you to write in your genre? Is this the genre you started writing in or have you morphed to this one?
I’m a bit of a genre hopper and tend not to stick to any one thing for very long. So far, all of my published work is M/M, but I don’t really consider that a genre; it’s more a label needed for book buyers and sellers to make educated choices. Within the M/M umbrella, I’ve written high fantasy, cyberpunk, alternate universe (I do love spec-fic), horror, thrillers, and contemporary BDSM. Lately I’ve been writing a lot of kink—I’m an actual BDSM lifestyler, so there’s no shortage of inspiration there—including my last two releases, Power Play: Resistance and Power Play: Awakening, co-written with Cat Grant and released with Riptide Publishing. It’s been very exciting to see how readers have responded to those, and I suspect that has a lot to do with why I’m still in a kink headspace and why I’ve gone on to do The Flesh Cartel (which, I must stress, is not BDSM, though it is definitely kinky).
Do you have a favorite character you have written?
Oh man, tough question . . . aren’t moms supposed to love all their children equally? But I guess if I had to pick, I’d probably say Ayden from Counterpoint: Song of the Fallen #1 and Crescendo: Song of the Fallen #2. Counterpoint was my first published novel, so for that reason it definitely holds a special place in my heart. But I also have a thing for mouthy, no-nonsense, hyper-competent heroes with a deep respect for nature and a love of art and music. Ayden is all of that, plus cute as hell besides (he’s the topless one on the cover art). And he always has the strength to say all the things to people I would invariably chicken out and keep to myself.
Do you draw inspiration for your characters from real life? Any fun stories you could share?
I’m sure I do, but it’s rarely a conscious process. A writer’s brain is like a magpie; it flies around collecting shiny things and bringing them back to its nest. Then when the time comes to tell a story, you find yourself sorting through this enormous pile of shinies to find exactly what you need, and it might’ve been sitting there for twenty years already, or you might’ve just collected it yesterday from the guy riding next to you on the subway.
What do you find the hardest part of writing?
Actually writing. I know that might sound sort of facetious, but I’m really serious about that. I often joke that I love everything about being a writer—thinking about writing, talking about writing, having written—except writing. It’s hard!
Name one thing that your readers would be surprised to know about you.
I don’t actually keep hot men chained up in my basement J
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Nah. I don’t think pleasure is a thing to feel guilty about, as long as you pursue it safely and in a way that doesn’t harm others or the environment.
What TV Show are you addicted to?
True Blood, although I’m really not happy with this season. The Walking Dead (OMG HURRY UP AND COME BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK!). Lost Girl. Spartacus, but again I wasn’t so thrilled about this season. American Horror Story. Downton Abbey. Kinda getting into Grimm but it may just be because the lead is cute. I tend to like shows with big arching stories and more than a touch of darkness. And I’m just shallow enough to watch something for a hot lead if it’s not too awful J
What do you need before you start writing? Anything that is just a must have or the creative juice don’t flow?
Nope. Well, except a computer. I don’t think I could write on paper.
Does music influence your writing? If so, do any of your stories have a theme song?
Not at all, really. I see other authors talking about music in their stories and making playlists and stuff all the time, and it’s maybe weird that I don’t think that way because I’m actually a very musical person (I spent much of my childhood and a good chunk of my adulthood too performing in musical theater). But I need total silence when I write. If music were on, I’d just end up singing along and getting distracted.
If your story was optioned for a movie, who would play your characters?
I’ve been obsessed for going on two years now (which is a really, really long time for me—like I said, magpie brain) with Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, so, hopefully them J
What author causes you to “go fan girl”/ squeal over/anticipate upcoming books?
When they were still alive, I’d drop pretty much everything to read a new Douglas Adams or Kurt Vonnegut book. And I might’ve actually killed for the chance to read a new Dark Tower book early when Stephen King was still rolling those out.
Do you have a favorite movie you have seen in the last few months and/or an all time favorite?
Two of my all-time favorites are American Psycho and Memento. And on a purely fangirl-squee level, I have watched X-Men: First Class a potentially unhealthy number of times.
What are you currently working on, and what else is in the wings?
I’ll be working on The Flesh Cartel for a good long while because it’s so many books’ worth of material. Right now, it’s looking like there will be four “seasons”—basically, four complete books in the overall series. The first season started on October 1 and runs until November 5. As of the time of writing this interview, we’re finishing up Season 2 now, which will begin on January 7 and end on probably April 1 or May 6 (a new episode releases the first Monday of every month, and each episode is 15,000 to 20,000 words long; we’re not sure yet how long Season 2 will end up being). So as not to keep readers on the edges of their seats too long, I suspect Heidi and I will write Seasons 3 and 4 right after we finish Season 2. And once that’s over, who knows . . . I have a couple of partially written stories hanging around, one in the world of Anchored: Belonging and one with the main characters from Master Class and Sublime. I may pick one of those up and finish it, or I might wander off in a totally different direction. Only the magpie knows
If you could co-write with another author who would it be?
I’ve actually been very fortunate to co-write with several authors I admire: The Flesh Cartel with Heidi Belleau, the Power Play series with Cat Grant, and Break and Enter with Aleksandr Voinov. It’s always an amazing experience, and I look forward to doing more of it in future.
Do you prefer the love at first sight approach or a steady growth throughout?
My characters tend to go through steady growth. In Counterpoint: Song of the Fallen, for instance, they were actually hated enemies at the start. It took them almost 300 pages to sleep together for the first time!
Where can readers find you?
Goodreads page: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4110966
Sadly neglected blog: http://rachel-haimowitz.blogspot.com/
Author page at Riptide: http://www.riptidepublishing.com/authors/rachel-haimowitz
And for the silly side – What is your favorite type of chocolate?
Tough call. I’m a big white chocolate fan, but I also love milk chocolate with caramel or toffee. So, um, all of it, I guess?