Scarlett Parrish lives in the U.K. in the small corner of her flat not currently overrun by books. She can often be found drooling over James Purefoy or searching for the perfect chocolate bar. She believes most fleshpeoples (except James) are evil and much prefers the characters in her head. On the occasions she ventures out, Scarlett is always accompanied by her BONER—Black Omnipresent Notebook of Erotic Romance. One never knows when inspiration will strike. Sometimes she’ll visit the cinema, alone but for the aforementioned characters. Another favourite pastime is listening to 30 Seconds to Mars and thinking about Shannon Leto’s tattoos. A chronic insomniac, she writes most of her dirty books in the middle of the night and loves to keep her e-reader stocked with erotic romance to occupy her down time.
1. How much writing did you do before being published?
They say a writer should write 1,000,000 words before they’re worthy of being published, but I don’t think I did that much. I’d certainly been writing all my life, but it was very hit-and-miss, and irregular. But I signed up to do NaNoWriMo in 2008 with no idea of what I was going to write. On the 1st November I started the book that would become Long Time Coming and got my 50k words in that month. I finished the rest of the book in the following few months and the first draft came in at 148k words. I shaved it down to 85k and sold it to the first publisher I subbed it to. Apparently smut is my genre.
2. What was your path to publication?
I think the above answer outlines most of it. Before that, I’d written what I’d describe as a mash-up between women’s fiction and chick-lit, subbed to a few agents and got nowhere. No wonder; my writing was crap. I broke all the rules — telling instead of showing, and so on. I think the key is reading a lot, and people-watching. You have to be aware of how people act and why they act that way, to be a good writer.
3. What has your experience with NaNoWriMo been like?
2008 was the best one yet, because it was then that I started LTC which ended up as my first published book. 2009’s effort became By the Book which is my bestseller thus far.
I bought the book No Plot? No Problem! in early 2008 on a whim and as it was months away from November, I decided to have my own private NaNo from mid-April to mid-May. I got my 50k words in, and that hunk o’ burnin’ mess eventually became — years later — Dark-Adapted Eyes. After a rewrite, once I realised I was an erotic romance author.
4. Your latest release Dark-Adapted Eyes began life several years ago. What process did the manuscript go through between rough draft and publication?
My own private NaNo, as I’ve said above. I set it aside and after I’d written Long Time Coming, I decided to go back to it. I stretched it up to around 125k, set it aside again, and wrote Plus One. I got distracted by other manuscripts until one day I decided it was far too long. Okay, there are some 125k-books out there, but I knew some of the chapters weren’t necessary and I’d stand a better chance of getting it published if I shaved off a few thousand words. It took reoutlining the book for me to work out which scenes I could afford to lose, and of course I had to paper over the cracks, to the reader wouldn’t see the joins! That process took a month or two.
There were some staff changeovers at one of my publishers, Total-e-Bound, and I decided to see if my new editor there would like DAE. I was wrong — she said she loved it! I heaved a big sigh of relief. Some of the characters in that book aren’t very likeable, but they’re intended as a contrast to the more heroic ones. I hope the readers see that. There is a romance in there, amongst all the violence and the two murders. (Yes, really!)
5. Do you have a philosophy regarding blogging as an author?
I’m a very irregular blogger. I know I should keep up my web presence, but I’m not very disciplined in that regard. My philosophy when I doblog is to not give away too much of my everyday life; it’s called a ‘private’ life for a reason. That said, I’m not scared to give my opinions on various books and authors. Most of the time I talk about my writing process, that sort of thing.
Some bloggers are scared to express even the tiniest opinion, which I think makes for a very bland read. You can be yourself without being offensive, I think. For every reader you lose, you’ll gain another who agrees with you, so it all evens out.
6. Why did you choose to use a pseudonym, and why did you choose Scarlett Parrish?
I chose to use a pseudonym because writing is the one thing I do for me, and without going into too much detail, I have a relative who would come after me begging for money if she knew who I was. I don’t earn nearly as much as people think I do, but I know that would happen. Plus, she would claim credit in the sense of “I always supported her and knew she would make it.” So a pen name it is.
Scarlett because what else could a smut writer call herself? Parrish because it just goes well with the first name. It doesn’t mean anything to me; it’s not a family name, a family maiden name, or anything significant. I just thought ‘Scarlett Parrish’ sounded good.
7. Have you ever met anyone with the surname “Inverness?”
I haven’t. I await that day with excitement.
8. Have you ever been to Inverness? Is it nice?
The furthest North I’ve been is Dyce, a very small town outside of Aberdeen. It’s the next train stop along from Aberdeen, and the end of the line I was travelling on at the time.
9. How do you keep busy when you’re not doing writerly-things?
I read a lot. A stupendous amount. I have around 1,000 print books and 650 ebooks so I’m never short of reading material. I socialise occasionally but I’m very much a homebody. I work my way through DVD box sets; at the moment it’s the Stephen Fry/Hugh Laurie comedy from the early 90s, Jeeves and Wooster. It might sound like a boring way to pass the time but I’m a loner by nature and like my own company. When I socialise, I prefer it to be in small groups; no more than three or four people.
10. Most writers have to produce a completed book before they get a contract. How do you manage to do this the other way around?
Firstly, you have to prove you can deliver a complete manuscript by doing so a few times. After I’d published By the Book, I started to be approached by editors at other publishers asking if I’d consider writing for them. I was flattered by an approach by Total-e-Bound, and wrote them a couple of books.
I’ve recently sold a M/M novella which I haven’t completed yet to Musa. How did I manage it? I shot a few emails back and forth with my editor there and one day said, “Oh, I have this idea for rejigging an idea I had months back. It’ll be M/M, and this could happen, then that.” My editor, Liz, jumped on the idea, and demanded — yes, demanded! — I send her a vague outline/synopsis. The one I sent her was very rough, but I sold the book on the strength of it.
So that would be my advice: write and publish a few complete novels, build a reputation, and you might be able to start selling books on the strength of a synopsis alone. It puts the pressure on, what with deadlines, but I take it as a huge compliment, that people trust me to deliver.
11. Of all the books you have out now, which is your favorite?
Definitely By the Book. It’s been accused of not being a romance, but it is. I say so, my publisher says so, and my readers say so. Of the three main characters, two start a relationship with the third’s permission. It’s a kind of ambiguous ending, which I like. I don’t like to spoonfeed the reader. I like to leave them some thinking to do.
And Daniel Cross is definitely my most popular character. He gets more fanmail than I do! Not kidding.
12. I haven’t seen Benedict Cumberbatch in the news lately… is he tied up in your basement?
You may think so, but I couldn’t possibly comment. *innocent face*
13. What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
My laptop, even if it is very slow. My netbook is more portable, being 75% the size, but I like writing at home, so I’d say my laptop.
14. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
Good old pen and paper. I collect pretty notebooks; there’s a shop in town which sells them for a pound, and my problem is deciding which one to use. I’m a sucker for a pretty notebook.
Sometimes I’ll splash out on a Moleskine. They’re the King of Notebooks.
15. What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
Benedict Cumberbatch, who’s currently tied up in my– uh…nothing. I mean nothing. Nothing to see here, madam. Move along.
16. What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?
I think I pretty much have it — a laptop in my office. I live alone, so have no disturbances apart from one noisy neighbour who likes to play the same songs over and over. If only it were legal to kill him, then I’d be set.
17. Do you have any of the proverbial “stories in the back of the drawer that will never see the light of day?”
I’ve recycled some earlier manuscripts which were rubbish, to put it mildly. The first vampire novel I wrote, at the age of eighteen, became A Little Death. Another, Rain, is currently on its way to becoming a BDSM-lite novel. So I’d have to say no, none of my earlier works are completely deleted. I’ll recycle them now I have the mad skillz to do so.
18. Would you ever consider putting out a book that had no sex in it?
Yep. I would. At the same time, I wouldn’t ban sex from a book if it needed to be there. I’m definitely all for going the agent/traditional publishing route in the future. I see no reason why sex shouldn’t feature if it needs to, but at the same time, I’m not opposed to a sex-free book, by any means.
19. Does your publisher change the cussing in your books so that it is appropriate for the country in which the book is being sold? Do most of your characters curse UK style, American, or something else?
They try to, but I put my foot down. If a publisher says, “American readers wouldn’t understand this,” I counter with “A British person wouldn’t say this.” You have to find a compromise. Usually it involves me saying, “In context, the reader should understand what the character is referring to.”
In one book, I have a character referring to another’s ‘bangs’, which I now regret allowing to be changed. A Brit would never say that; we call it a ‘fringe’. But, at the time I just wanted my edits dealt with and let it pass. I don’t think I would, nowadays.
Interestingly, in one story, Burn (published by Musa), I invited my editor to insert American swear words when it came to the main character, whose nickname was Texas. He’s American, I’m not, but I wanted him to sound authentic.
But I won’t let an editor put American words in a British mouth.
20. Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
I have absolutely no idea what that means, so I shall now go hide in a cave, where the un-cool people go. Every so often I’ll throw out a completed smutty manuscript and hope that goes some way toward atoning for the fact I’ve never watched a Star Wars movie all the way through.
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