Hi there, Carla. Thanks for letting me interview you! Elessar Books currently has 3 pen names under it. Can you talk a little bit about each pen name and what sort of books each one publishes?
Hi, Dalia. Thank you for letting me be part of this amazing project.
Well, Elessar Books is my publishing company and I have big plans for it. My goal is to publish as many authors, writing many different genres, as I can but currently it publishes only my own indie work. As you said it, I write under three pen names:
Liz Gavin – this was my first pen name. I planned to use it for ‘soft’ erotica stories but so far I’ve managed to publish only one trilogy. In the beginning, my second pen name reached much better sales and I kind of abandoned this first one. Liz Gavin’s sales have improved and now I’m planning on publishing more titles under this pen name or maybe merge this pen name and my second one.
S. N. Kunt – this pen name came up as a joke, really. I wanted to write more hardcore stories and thought this name would suit them better than Liz Gavin. As I mentioned earlier, now I’m considering merging the titles I’ve written under this pen name with those I wrote under Liz Gavin. I’m not sure yet. We’ll see.
C. C. MacArthur – this is the pen name under which I plan to write romance novels. I’m still working on my first title - Samhain Fire. I started it as a Halloween story but it has evolved into something bigger. I’ve published a first installment on Halloween and hope to finish it before the end of the year. Currently, the story has over 40k words and I’m nowhere near finishing it. On the other hand, it’s been a great experience because I’m dealing with a long story plot, development of characters, historical setting – it’s been a blast.
C. C. MacArthur's Amazon page states that you like mythology, ancient civilizations and paranormal stories. Do these topics factor into a lot of your work?
Yes, they do. Even my erotica titles had a touch of paranormal in the form of a very kinky ghost featuring in most of them. I’ve always been interested in paranormal stories, History and comparing religions. Although I haven’t taken a course on these subjects, I’ve read many books on different religions and faiths, such as: the Protestant reform, the History of the Catholic church, early Christians, Buddhism, Judaism, the Vedas, Ancient Mythology, you name it. But, by far, my favorite subject has been the Celts and their traditions. I think it’s only natural these topics appear in my writing somehow.
What's something new you've learned about writing erotica or self publishing?
Well, the first time I sat down to write anything I was amazed to discover the words came out in English rather than Portuguese, which is my first language. But I guess that happened because I’ve read much more books in English than in Portuguese and because I have a better command of the English language. Nevertheless, it surprised me.
The second thing I discovered about writing was – it is way more difficult than I thought it would be. I never thought it would be easy but I was surprised to find out how hard it is to put into words all the images that live inside my head. At least, to write them in a way people would understand and be curious about them. I still struggle with some scenes but I know I’m learning and evolving with each new story.
As for self-publishing, I’d say I was really surprised at my reaction to the first ‘refund unit’ I got on the Amazon report. (self-deprecating laughs) I really took it personally. Now, I don’t even remember which title was returned but I felt it like a blow to my stomach. It felt like I was been rejected, not my story. And it stayed with me for some days.
Then, I finally remembered something you said once. I’m sorry I don’t remember if you wrote it on an email or if it’s on the ‘How to self-publish’ book. I guess it’s on the book. You said that once we publish a story it’s literally out of our hands. We cannot control what a person reads into it or how they understand it. The thought gave me reassurance and restored my confidence.
I also found out the importance of promoting your books for free. Every time I offered my titles for free I’ve got really good feedback in the form of spikes on the sales of other titles from the same author. People who read a story and like it will tend to at least look up other titles by the same author and if they seem interesting enough they just might buy them.
It’s a pity Amazon doesn’t allow us to offer a title for free unless it’s an exclusive story and even so we can do it for 5 days only. I made a mistake and set the price of a title on Smashwords for U$ 0.99 instead of U$ 2.99. After a week or so, Amazon ‘corrected’ the price of this title under their ‘Price-match’ policy. That’s how I found out I could offer another title for free on Smashwords (because you are free to do that without any problem). I’ve changed the price of ‘Powerless’ by S. N. Kunt to U$ 0.00 and Amazon just had to follow the example. Now this title is free on their site, too. It has been downloaded almost 1,500 times since they’ve changed the price earlier this week.
What is your favorite thing about writing erotica?
Release. And it’s funny because it’s the same feeling I have when I read it.
I remember my second grade teacher once advised my mother to buy me a diary and encourage me to write on it as often as I could. She did that because I was disturbing her class with my habit of talking to my colleagues once I finished whatever task she had assigned to us. (I tended to finish them before my friends. Yeah, I’m a nerd that way.) Anyway, she told my mom I had a very active imagination and that kind of outlet would do me some good. I managed to write on the diary for a couple of weeks before giving up because, quite frankly, there was nothing that interesting going on in my life back then.
I guess I’m going through a similar phase right now. Since I have nothing that awesome going on in my sex life right now I find it absolutely delightful to write about other people’s sex lives. Do you know what I mean?
A few of the Elessar Books titles have Portuguese translations. Are these selling well for you? Are there any kinks you think are better suited for Portuguese audiences than others?
I managed to translate only two stories so far and I only sold 10 units and 47 people have downloaded them for free. But I remember that selling the first titles in English also took some time so I guess it’s early to say if they are selling well or not.
As for the kinks, I wouldn’t know how to measure them for the same reasons I mentioned above. Sorry! But I can tell you both stories involve BDSM scenes.
Do your erotica reading habits factor into your writing?
Absolutely. They influence me so much that I’ve stopped reading erotica for fear of plagiarizing someone else’s story without even noticing it. I hope this phase ends up soon. (laughs) I’m dying to read your recent work.
Let me give you two concrete examples. I wrote a lot about BDSM and my best-selling stories are about lesbian first times although I’ve never had a D/s relationship and I’m definitely not lesbian. All the information I had to be able to create anything remotely believable in these stories came from the books I’ve read over the years.
Do you have any goals for your writing for the new year?
I do hope to make more time in my crazy schedule to write. It’s important to publish as often as possible but also because I am having such a great time doing this.
My short-term goal is to finish Samhain Fire because it is a very dear story to me and keep writing short erotica stories at the same time.
My long-term plan is to go back to another novel I had started about a fallen angel and finish it. I have already created the main plot and I have a very clear idea of where I’m going to go with that story but when I started writing it I discovered that the mechanics of my plot and the way I chose to tell my story would take longer than I had imagined. Since I had just started writing and was eager to publish something I stopped working on that novel and started writing short erotica tales. They started selling, I got carried away with the idea of selling my stories and as one thing led to another I stopped writing about my beautiful fallen angel. (laughs)
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
There are a few thousand things but I don’t want to kill your readers of sheer boredom so I’ll just wrap it up by thanking you again for giving us, indie authors, a spot on your beautiful blog. You are a very generous person for sharing your space like that with us in such a difficult and competitive market as self-publishing can be.