By Lisabet Sarai
This past January I published my most recent novel, The Gazillionaire and the Virgin. The creative seeds for this genre-busting BDSM erotic romance were planted right here at the Grip, in a conversation involving Annabeth Leong and our frequent guest Fiona McGier (who is responsible for the title). The book takes the currently fashionable tropes of the billionaire alpha-male Dom and the too-innocent-to-believe virginal submissive and turns them on their heads.
In my book, the heroine is the billionaire. Rachel’s an MIT graduate, founder and CEO of an enormously successful high tech company, bossy as hell in her career, but secretly a sexual submissive who tries to satisfy her needs through anonymous encounters at kink clubs. The hero is the virgin—and the dominant. Theo’s a brilliant computer scientist, but shy, neurotic and socially maladjusted. He has a wealth of knowledge about BDSM from Internet research, but zero practical experience.
As you might guess, I had great fun with these characters. I took every opportunity to shred the stereotypes made so popular by the Trilogy-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named. Although I realized that I might turn some romance fans off, I was writing for people out there who were like me—people who’d appreciate a fresh take on a tired plot. I was deeply gratified to discover that my readers seemed to love the book. I can’t say anything yet about sales, since the publisher pays royalties on a quarterly basis, but G&V has received more positive reviews than anything else I’ve ever written, including praise from bloggers active in the BDSM lifestyle.
I hardly wrote anything other than promo material for the first months after the release. When the flurry of marketing died down a bit, though, I started to consider what to write next.
And found myself paralyzed.
Let me explain that due to the demands of my real world work, I have very little time for writing these days. I try to set Sundays aside to let Lisabet come out and play. Even then, I often find my time consumed by writing blog posts or by other marketing activities. I can write 2-4K per day when I’m in the groove, but it took me nine months to write G&;V, which is about 62K words. So a decision to commit myself to a new novel means that (if I stick with my plans), I’m pretty much letting go of other ideas for at least half a year.
My notebook is full of story concepts I’ve put on the back burner. I want to write a steampunk series about a guild of engineers who construct custom sex toys. I literally dreamed a tragic sci fi romance about a genetically engineered male sex bot programmed to “die” after five years in order to prevent him from becoming too powerful or self-aware. He falls in love with a human woman and tries to escape his fate. There’s the BDSM romance featuring the quadriplegic Dom I’ve talked about previously here at the Grip. I’d love to write more lesbian fiction. For instance, I have an outline for a book about a female journalist in Bangkok and the bar girl she thinks she’s rescuing. Then there are possibilities of sequels to my earlier books. Although I generally don’t write series (or at least, haven’t), some of the worlds I’ve created have been nagging at my imagination, urging me to make a return visit.
When I looked at the (relative) success of G&V, though, I began thinking about a second book that smashed stereotypes. For instance, how about a ménage entitled The Werewolf and the Vampire, that wreaks havoc with the tropes from the Twilight Saga (and its imitators)? I even had a couple of relevant characters from a short story, who wanted more space to expand. My mind began to churn with all the possible ways I might twist the accepted standards for the vampire/werewolf genre.
I might finally have hit on a brand—books that break the genre rules.
That set me thinking about the style of W&V. Should it parallel G&V, first person present, alternating characters with each chapter? Wouldn’t that be tough with three main characters? The story I wanted to use as a starting point was third person, but if I was trying for some sort of consistent branding, did I have to change that...?
All at once, I saw the paradox. If I began a series of books predicated on the notion of upending tropes, the strategy would almost immediately lose its impact. I’d no longer be generating surprise and delight by violating readers’ expectations.
Once again, I was stuck. You know how it is. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Mired in indecision, I didn’t write anything, except a story for an anthology, for a couple of months. I was disgusted with myself.
Just do it. Do something!
So, finally, I sat down to work on W&V. But I decided to treat it as a standalone novel, not some kind of follow-up to G&V. It’s a very different story, with different characters. I know if I try to force it into some preconceived mold, I’ll snuff the life out of it.
Thus far I’ve written about 6K. It’s Sunday, so after I post this to the blog, I hope to write more.
Hey, it’s a start. And hopefully, those other ideas will keep.