Charlotte Stein aka The Mighty Viper is a writer of erotica and erotic romance, with a book currently out from Mischief called Power Play!
1. What is femdom? Do I have to tell my mother she’s not allowed to read this interview? Exposure to naughtiness tends to disturb her…
Definitely not allowed to read this interview, then! Femdom is basically sexy female domination of some lucky dude. There might be spankings and leather belts involved. Disturbance absolutely imminent.
2. Did you set out to write a specific level of steam, or did the story lead you to the steam level it needed?
With Power Play, it was a bit of both. I knew I had to achieve a certain heat level to satisfy my editor at Mischief – he likes the erotic content high! But sometimes, when a hero is as sexy as Ben is to me…it just comes naturally. The more often a big hunk who looks like Armie Hammer can be naked, the better.
3. What is the theme of Harper Collins’/Avon’s new erotic line, Mischief?
I think the aim is to simply produce high quality erotica that doesn’t have you turning pages wondering where the sexy bits are, but isn’t just purely a lot of random rubbish bonking. Or at least, that’s what I try to write, and that’s what I know a lot of the writers publishing with the line achieve. Janine Ashbless, Justine Elyot, Kristina Wright, Madelynne Ellis…they all wrote novels and stories for Black Lace that I used to absolutely adore and that spoke to me as a woman looking for more than just wham bang erotica. And they’re all writing for Mischief.
4. Do you ever get confused between talking about works out on submission and works that are about submission? 😛
LOL cheeky monkey! Oh the times I’ve used the word sub in a tweet and wondered if people were narrowing their eyes at me!
Because I respect the editor of Mischief a massive amount – he was the editor for Black Lace for a long time, and Black Lace was a hugely influential imprint for me. And also because it’s Harper Collins. I’m only tiny! That stuff is a huge deal, for someone like me. I’m used to struggling to get anywhere in this biz, or getting excited about some tiny ranking I’ve got on some ebook selling site. I’m not used to getting a big opportunity like this one.
6.What was your path to publication?
Astronomical highs, massive lows. The first story I ever subbed – to Black Lace – was accepted. Then the editor actually asked me to write my own collection of shorts – something that I thought was completely unheard of. I never expected it, and I was right not to! After that book came out, Black Lace closed. And then followed about a year of huge self-doubt and not getting anywhere. I had other massive chances – getting my first contract with Ellora’s Cave, for example – but at first my books didn’t go across well at all. They’re starting to get a little bit more of a positive response, but I still daily doubt whether I can even write in a manner people enjoy, because of those early experiences.
7. Who is that in your profile picture?
Dorothy, from Return to Oz!
8. Are you a big Oz fan? Which Oz adaptations do you like best?
As you can see from the above answer, yes. Yes I am. The idea of escaping to other world has always held a huge appeal to me – go figure! And it’s Return To Oz. It had a much darker tone, and a real feel of – yeah, Oz is better than this hell she’s living. As opposed to the brightly coloured original where she mysteriously wants to return to Kansas.
As a kid, I absolutely adored what I saw as the total truthiness of Return To Oz. Return To Oz is real. Wizard of Oz is a fantasy forced on little girls who dare to want more.
9. How did you get the moniker The Mighty Viper?
When I first started to doodle around on the internet, I felt absolutely small and terrified. The opposite of mighty, basically. The opposite of a viper. I felt like a tiny flea on the back of salivating behemoth. So it’s just me being silly and ironic, really – and even moreso, now!
10. How much writing did you do before being published?
I wrote for eighteen years before even daring to sub anything. I’ve been writing since I was about eleven or twelve, and since that time I’ve pretty much written every day. I went to a terrible, terrible school, and spent most of my teacher-less science and maths classes writing pages and pages. At university, before we became friends, people told me they thought I was taking loads and loads of session notes. They liked me a lot more when they realised I was just writing bonkathons starring men who looked like Billy Zane and Nicholas Lea, unsurprisingly.
11. Do you have any “Stories relegated to the back of a dark drawer, never to see the light of day?”
LOL hundreds of them. Thousands. I have around three boxes in the attic of stuff I wrote as a kid. A massive filing cabinet filled with things I wrote as a teenager. Folders and folders on the computer that I wrote as an adult. It all reads terribly, now. I start really, really hating my own writing about two years after I’ve written it.
12. What is your editing/rewrite process?
I do it as I go along, usually, which can be mind-numbing and completely not conducive to actually producing words. And then I do one last read through at the end – or two, depending on how I’m feeling. I tend to rewrite as I go along, too, sometimes bashing out a section and then scrapping it the next day.
13. Have there ever been any changes suggested to you that you were reluctant to make?
No. Nothing big I can think of, at any rate. Sometimes a comma here or there – but I am a firm, firm believer in doing what your editor wants. They don’t hate you. They’re not trying to destroy your masterpiece. They want the same thing you want: a successful book. And though I’m sure there are editors out there who are completely mad and not acting in a book’s best interests cos they don’t actually get the book itself, they are rare. Situations like those are rare.
I’ve had…about five or six editors, now. And none of them have ever steered me wrong. In particular my editor at Ellora’s Cave, Grace Bradley, always knows what will irk readers no end. And she’s always right. I’m grateful to her for all the calamities she’s saved me from.
14. What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
Hmmm…I dunno! Can I say summat basic, like Word? How did people live, before Word? I imagine it like the dark ages, with people bashing on stone tablets with rocks, while sitting in mud. Even though I actually lived in that era, too, and there was definitely no bashing.
15. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
The pen! I just got a box of ten Pilot gel pens for five quid from Amazon – amazing value! Whenever I feel like cheating on my laptop, those babies will see me right.
16. What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
My own self-doubt. I could say Governor of Poker or episodes of The Office, but I’m only doing those two things because of self-doubt.
17. What social media do you use? Do you use them solely for promotion, or do you have fun?
Twitter. And I use it mainly for fun, and gasping about some amazing thing that happened to me that probably isn’t amazing at all. It’s just me being that tiny flea again, agog that one person actually read a book of mine.
As for promotion…it’s never a good idea to flood your twitter timeline/facebook page with things you want to sell. It just annoys people and besides – where’s the fun in that? No, I want to talk to people. I want to rant and ogle hot dudes and chat away with like-minded people. I don’t want to always be blabbing about my books. I don’t even like all the gasping I do that much, TBH.
18. Many writers go through a stage when they hate what they’re writing. Do you ever feel this way?
I wish I didn’t. I used to actually really enjoy re-reading my own stuff, because I was writing stories that I wanted to read. But as time goes on it gets harder and harder to even look at my own writing. I’m trying, though. I’m trying to get to a place where I don’t hate it constantly, all of the time.
19. What are you working on now?
Three novellas for Ellora’s Cave – a bisexual menage, a tale of an alien warrior and the frightened woman he kidnaps, with maybe a bit of my own spin, and a story for a group project. A novella and a novel for Mischief – one about voyeurism and the other about being addicted to someone. And a buttload of proposals for my agent!
In other words: too much.
20. Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
My feelings on this matter have always been thus: if you don’t want Han to have shot first, don’t cast Harrison Ford in the first place. Cast Michael York. Michael York wouldn’t shoot first, because he’s a slice of toast dipped in milk. Harrison Ford – and by extension, Han Solo – on the other hand, is a haunch of dinosaur dipped in a volcano. And the fact that George Lucas felt he had to dilute that is just a sad reflection of a man who got old and probably fell in love with Michael York. Or Hayden Christensen. Which is basically the same thing in different decades.
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I didn’t know about the new line, Mischief. It was great reading about Charlotte and her publishing journey.
I’m also distracted by self-doubt.
Have a wonderful weekend.