About a year ago I was looking for a good erotic novel and I found a book called The Toy by Claire Thompson. I was hooked from the very first page, and from there it just got better and better. Even the ending was perfect which is where I find that many erotic stories can be disappointing. I have since re-read The Toy several times, and I think it will be a long time before I grow bored of my favorite paragraphs. Sometimes I just read them quickly before going to sleep, to give me nice dreams…
After reading The Toy, I bought several other of Claire’s novels and I am currently greatly enjoying, Golden Angel. I recently contacted Claire and she very generously agreed to let me interview her. Please feel free to leave comments!
Charlotte Gatto: How do people react when you tell them that you write erotica?
Claire Thomson: I have to be very careful who I tell, since I live in a small town and work for a school district. A funny story associated with this is about my kids. They were very young when I first started doing this, and I didn’t want to confuse or upset them by giving them TMI about what Mommy was doing on the computer all the time… So when they did occasionally ask, I said I was editing manuscripts for romance novels. Years passed and nothing more was said. I was somewhat surprised at their lack of curiosity, but passed it off to kids not being interested in their boring old parents.
Well, when my son was 17 and my daughter 14, and I was beginning to achieve a modicum of recognition and success, I decided to tell them. I was driving them to school that morning and I said, “Do you ever wonder about what I do all the time on the computer?”
My son blushed and my daughter laughed and I suddenly realized—they knew! My daughter, said, “Mom, we know!” and my son added, “We’ve known for years!” I was now the one now blushing, and I said, “How do you know?” My son says, “Oh, when I was like 12, you had left something open on a computer and I saw it and followed the link to your website. “How come you never said anything?” I asked, stunned. “We figured if you didn’t bring it up, you didn’t want to talk about it, so we respected your privacy.” I was impressed with this, but couldn’t resist asking, “So what do you think?” My daughter immediately said, “I think it’s awesome!” My son was less certain, embarrassed his mother was writing this stuff, but still fairly supportive. He shrugged and said, “It’s okay.” Now years later, with both of them at ridiculously expensive colleges (Green Mountain College and NYU), and my royalty income allowing me to foot the bill (along with student loans), their support is wholehearted, haha.
CG: Yes, that must help them to see your career in a positive light! When you are working on a book, at what point do you know the ending? What makes you decide whether it will be a romantic or vengeful ending?
CT: When I first start a book, I write an outline of the whole story, and a description of each character. Sometimes the storyline will veer wildly away from the original intent, but romances remain romances, and the abduction, non-consensuals stay that way, though sometimes the heroine will find love, along with escape, at the end.
CG: It’s true that a happy ending can be very satisfying. You have written BDSM stories that were romantic and others that were more hard-core. Many of your recent books focus on in the interaction between men. What inspires you to write one type of story rather than another?
CT: I like to try new things. I started my career with a BDSM romance (Sarah’s Awakening) and then shifted into some pretty hardcore non-con stuff (Obsession, Slave Jade, Frog, The Toy), and then began to move back to erotic romance (Slave Castle, etc, at EllorasCave). Then I did a series of three vampire novels (the True Kin series), and then tried my hand at my first m/m novel (Golden Boy), mainly at the encouragement of my then-editor. It was fun and challenging to try to put my head into the mindset of a gay man, especially a man who isn’t in touch with his feelings, and moves slowly and painfully through his sexual awakening. The response was so overwhelmingly positive from readers that I focused on m/m for quite a while, but then got the hankerin’ to go back to my roots (m/f BDSM romance) and so I’ve been kind of switching back and forth, throwing in a few non-cons along the way (Golden Angel, and most recently I’m working on a new one titled Slave Island).
CG: I will definitely be looking out for that one! Do you usually work on one book at a time, or do you have several on the go at once?
Claire Thompson: Always and only one at a time. I’m a very linear person. I can multitask like mad in my day job and daily life, but when it comes to my novels, one at a time works for me. That said, I do usually start getting new ideas about the next novel when I’m about 2/3 of the way through the current one. Sometimes it’s a struggle to stay focused on what I’m doing and not leap on to the next project, but as an indie author, it’s essential that I stay disciplined and get my work out on a regular basis.
CG: Do you ever use real life experiences as inspiration for your novels?
CT: All the time. I draw on everything in my life, not only the romance and the experience with D/s and BDSM, but childhood traumas and joys that deeply affected me, failed relationships, being a parent, and everything in between.
CG: And do you ever base the characters in your stories on people you know or have met?
CT: Yes, in a loose kind of way. One thing that gives me a secret kick is naming the bad guys and jerks in my novels after people at work I don’t like. That makes me laugh when I read them. I don’t imagine anyone at my job reads my stuff, but you never know! What is life without risk? Haha.
CG: Oh, definitely! And that must add an extra bit of fun as you’re writing! How do you usually write your books? Chronologically from start to finish, writing the major scenes first then adding the details, or another way?
CT: I write from start to finish, details and all. That said, I usually have to write each chapter a minimum of three times, especially the first three, which is where I find myself struggling to get the right tone and voice for the novel.
CG: Do you have a favorite place to write?
CT: Well, in my head, my favorite place is my dream cottage by the sea, with the window open and the gauzy lemon-colored curtains gently wafting in the sea breeze, and the lull of the waves just outside my veranda. It’s gonna be a few years before that dream is realized, however, so right now, my office is my bed, with my laptop on a little table beside it, and a wireless keyboard in my lap.
CW: I hope your books will be as raunchy even when you are writing from your dream cottage! It looks like ebooks are becoming more and more popular and although I have bought a few, when I really love a book I want to own the paperback. Do you find that you sell more paperback or digital books?
CT: I sell way more in ebooks. But I too love to hold a book in my hands, and as an indie author, I take every single one of my books to print at same time they are released digitally.
CW: Excellent! What is the strangest email or letter that you have received from a fan?
CT: I don’t really get strange emails. I almost never ever get hate mail, thank goodness. I mostly get wonderful emails from my readers. I got an email from an 80-year-old pastor who said I was telling his story in Handyman and how much that meant to him. I get emails from young gay men from places like Honduras and Indonesia who say they aren’t free to express their homosexuality and have to remain deeply closeted, and tell me my books mean so much to them. And my favorites are from young women who, like me when I was younger, tell me they were conflicted and confused by their own submissive and masochistic leanings and desires, but reading my books helped them to understand it was okay, and not sick or twisted, and some have even said my books gave them the courage to venture out in real life and find pleasure and acceptance with their own sexuality. How cool is that?
CG: That is very cool indeed and must be extremely gratifying! Is there any part of being an author that you really don’t enjoy?
CT: Rewrites! I hate when I realize, oh damn, that isn’t what I was going for, that isn’t what I want, or my beta reader will say, “uh, Claire, this SUCKS!” (They are usually more diplomatic) and I have to go back again and figure out how and why it sucks and fix the darn thing, when I would rather be moving on to chapter three! But I will do it, because it’s part of the process, an essential part, and without an editor to breathe down my neck, I have to make sure I’m producing the very best work I can.
CG: From the first word to the finished manuscript, how long do you typically spend writing a book?
CT: About four months. I am prolific and type very fast. Just think what I could do if I wrote fulltime! (A dream I hope to realize when I retire in 2015 and move to my cottage by the sea…!)
CG: That’s impressive! Thank you so much for your time, Claire, and for answering my questions. I wish you the very best of luck with your writing and in finding your dream cottage by the sea! Is there anything you would like to add?
CT: Thanks! This was really fun. I usually am so busy writing, I don’t take the time to think through the process like this. These fun questions helped me to do that. And anyone reading this should know, I answer all emails, and I have a newsletter that goes out about once a month with new release information, contests, etc. If you would like to join it, just drop me an email and let me know! My social network info is included below.