An Interview with CJ Ellison

What about your novels most reflects who you are as a writer?
Interesting question! I don’t think I’ve ever had this one before. I’d have to say the one characteristic about my work that reflects on me as a writer is the style in which I prefer to write: first person present tense. It doesn’t appeal to everyone, but most die hard fans of the genre are used to the first person past tense books that have been bestsellers over a decade, so I like to think my preference of present tense isn’t too much of a leap for them.

I’m very much a ‘live in the moment’ kind of person. This style of writing speaks to the adventurer within me and pulls me into the setting of the book with ease. I love to read it when it’s done well and I like to write it in the hopes of pulling the reader into my world as well.

Can you tell us a little about your newest book.
This book called to me from when I wrote the first book in the series. I’d created this all-powerful vampire who had the power to control almost everything around her at all times. A trait readers love and yet one that sets her up to always be the champion in the books. I like strong female leads, and I like books where the heroine is the hero in the end, but what if she isn’t? What if she can’t pull it off all on her own? What happens when she needs rescuing and when could someone that powerful be put in such a position?

Above all, I didn’t want my books to be like all the others in the genre, where at the end of the day the heroine once again saves everyone’s asses, including her own. I wanted to keep the reader guessing, keep them wondering what the next page would bring, and keep them eager to find out.

I think with this latest book I managed to develop the strengths of the other characters enough that many readers will be happy to see it’s not the “Vivian Show” all the time.

I often get readers asking if I “rehearse” my love scenes, or if I enjoy the  up close and personal “research” aspect. Do you get these kinds of questions, and if so, how do you handle them?
I tell the truth (at least as much as I’m willing to share), I love the “research” end of things, and my husband joyously calls himself my “muse”. While I may not have hung from the rafters or been chained to the wall, I can say I’ve done a lot of what I write. I have a great imagination and if I haven’t tried it yet, I’m usually eager to so I can get the feel of what I’m writing. Obviously, I make up the bits about being from a male point of view, but I ask a lot of questions and I have a man who communicates when pressed 😉

I think a reader can tell if the writer has real life experience in the details of a scene they are writing. And while I may write multi-partner or same-sex scenes in my erotica novellas, I can still relate to the sexual act because I’ve got an active sex life, even if my reality never strays to girl on girl action or a three-way. Sex is sex, no mater how you color it.

If you have it and enjoy it, and can write well, then your imagination should be able to supply the rest!

How would you describe the heat level of your books on chilli pepper scale (1-5, 1 being sweet and 5 being on the verge of a whole different box of chocolates?
First and foremost, I did not set out to write a romance. When you consider the couple is already married it doesn’t technically qualify as a romance. That doesn’t stop the romance readers from loving my books, primarily because of the hot sex! On a scale of one to five I’d say my scenes are a five, but I’m also very careful the sex doesn’t overwhelm the plot.

I’ve had a few readers ask why the second and third books didn’t have the same level as eroticism as the first book, which is considered erotica by some readers unaccustomed to the genre (and I still correct them, that no, there is not enough sex for it to be considered erotica!!). Those later books have five male points of view. Vivian is the ancient vampire who feeds off sex as well as blood, so if she’s not the one telling the tale, the sexual aspects of the read will be diluted.

That’s not to say the men aren’t having fun too, because they are. But they are not as intense as she is. Later books will have more of Vivian and a return of her sexuality, but I will always ensure there is a strong story and the sex is balanced.

Are there any tricks of the trade you use to build suspense or raise the level of danger in your stories?
Yes, I’d say it’s pacing and knowing how to keep a reader turning the pages. Never end a chapter at the end of a scene or with the character going to sleep. Your reader will do the same.

First and foremost as writers our job is to make sure the reader never puts the book down. Granted, most of us can’t dedicate an entire day to reading a novel and must read a book in spurts. But if you’re thinking about that book when you’re not reading and eager to get back into the world created, then the author has done their job well.

I often joke that I became a better writer mid-way through the first book, but it’s true. A debut novel isn’t always fit for public consumption. If I could go back and rework the first half I might have amped up the mystery angle better and toned down the sex. When I take the book as a whole, I’m happy with how it came out and realize I need to leave it as is.

The tension amps up in the second half and I learned how to make each chapter end on a note that kept the reader intrigued and racing to complete the book to see how it all turned out. I’ve found I either hook readers on the first book or lose them—no way around that as a writer!

Mystery and suspense  novels often revolve around criminal types like psychotics sociopaths, people left with little or no moral ground to stand on. Does spending so much time mired in darkness and negativity of the genre roll over into your personal life?

Why did you choose this genre?
I choose it because I love to read it. I like more of the urban fantasy take on the genre than the paranormal romance angle. I gravitate toward darker books with an edge, and love when I find a book that includes explicit sex that isn’t gratuitous but builds the characters or story somehow.

It seemed like a natural fit when I started my own story! We’re often told to write what we know.

Many people feel the PNR genre is on the way out. Do you agree? Are there any changes you’d make to stay on the cutting edge of this genre? Will you change genres?
Wow! Really? I must be out of the loop on industry opinions, I hadn’t heard that one. New York is always trying to predict what the next trend is or pontificating over the end of vampires. Reality is, readers decide what is done and overdone, not the industry.

I do write other genres, but my vampires and werewolves sell better than anything else right now. I’ve never been one to write to the market or decide to pen a new series because of what’s hot right now, but I can say that as long as readers enjoy my vampire books I will continue to write them.

What is the most challenging thing for you about writing a series?
Keeping the details straight. Might sound simple, but I’ve had memory issues in the past and it has made writing an intense challenge at times. When my health is bad I will often re-read scenes, chapters, and my entire outline for hours before I can begin writing for the day. Needless to say, that doesn’t always leave a lot of time for writing.

What are you currently working on?
I’ve got several projects in the works right now. First, a reader requested novella on the delectable werewolf, Jonathan. The way it’s evolving, it might be a full length novel! It’s expected release date is late July.

Next a Halloween adventure at the V V Inn. The novella is co-authored by myself and Boone Brux and will incorporate the main character from her new Grim Reality series and the established ones in my own. I’m super excited for this one and can hardly wait to share it with readers!

Big Game
Book Three The VV Inn Series
by C.J. Ellisson

Blurb
In this much-anticipated third installment of the V V Inn series, our sexy couple journeys to Argentina, bringing half their seethe along for the ride. 

Vivian and Rafe venture into the Seat of Darkness, the Tribunal’s base, to uncover who’s plotting them against and why. From a cold, windy island off the southern Argentine coast, to the decadence of Buenos Aires, the group has plenty to keep their attention—seductive twins, deadly games, and a bunch of bloodsucking fiends who hate our much-loved, despotic innkeeper enough to see her dead. 

Asa and Jon stay in Alaska, to manage the famous inn as it opens doors to a new type of guest. Visiting werewolves go on their first exploration of the property, looking for big game—hormones run high and shots ring out across the tundra. Soon, the hunters become the hunted and the peaceful getaway resembles a battleground. 

How many will survive the next five days and will they ever be the same again? 

Warning: This book contains very explicit sex scenes and is not intended for readers under 18.

About the Author:
C.J. Ellisson writes erotica and urban fantasy. Her vampire series, The V V Inn, mixes a heavy dose of erotic elements with suspense, action, a little bit of mystery and some light humor. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband, two children, two dogs, and a fluffy black cat who makes her sneeze.

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