Kate Pearce interviews Pam Rosenthal
I first met Pam Rosenthal at one of the Romance Writers of America's annual conferences. We were both getting drinks at Starbucks and I saw her name badge and had a complete fan girl moment because I'd loved all her books. She was nice enough to say she knew who I was too, but I was still struck dumb to meet someone whose beautiful literary style of writing I admired so much.
Later, I got to know Pam even better when we collaborated with some other erotic historical romance writers over at the Spiced Tea Party blog. Her posts made me think for days and I also found out that she had an alter ego-Molly Weatherfield who wrote the classic erotic novel Carrie's Story. By that time I was also a Lustie and Molly's name came up frequently as someone whose writing was greatly admired-and I knew her! Pam very kindly consented to her first interview as Molly on Lust Bites and now she's back to share her new erotic historical release "The Edge of Impropriety"
Take it away Pam!
Kate. Why do you write in this particular time period? Is it the politics, the frocks, the repressed emotions?
Pam: All of the above. And Byron, Keats, and Shelley as well. The odd thing is that when I started writing romance, I thought my time period would be the French Revolution. Because that’s where my first romance, The Bookseller’s Daughter, was set. And because Carrie, the heroine of my Molly Weatherfield BDSM erotica, was a lover of French literature and a disciple, in a sense, of the Marquis de Sade. So I thought I’d want to write in the Marquis de Sade’s period – and never, never, in that stodgy old English Regency.
But it turns out that the English Regency wasn’t so stodgy after all, and that it was profoundly influenced by the French Revolution and by its own revolutionary geniuses like Mary Wollstonecraft. And so what I try to write about is the meeting of two worlds – the very proper ton, and the more raffish, interesting world of rebels and reformers that you’d find east of Regent Street.
K. Do you have a writing process? Do you plot or see it as it comes at you?
P. I start out with a beginning and an ending – in romance, these aren’t so far apart; the ending rather recapitulates the beginning, with all the wild desire now satisfied. It’s the middle that makes everyone crazy.
K. How many hours a day do you get to write and do you have a set schedule?
P. I try to write every morning for a few hours. When I’m not promoting a book, that is – promotion being God’s way of teaching us to appreciate the days when we actually get to write. And also (with a good interviewer like you, Kate) an opportunity to sit back and think about what we do, what works, and what doesn’t.
And what I’m thinking these days is that I ought to trust my own daydreams and fantasies more. The point of craft, I’m coming to think, is that when the daydreams and fantasies really get cooking, you’ll have the words, the syntax, and the general fluidity so you can get it while it’s hot.
K. How much research goes into your books? And do you do it all yourself?
P. A fair amount of research. And no, thank heaven, I don’t do it by myself. I have a wonderful research partner in my husband Michael – and I can’t describe it any better than I did in this guest post at the Wet Noodle Posse
K. What do you consider your strengths as a writer, what about your weaknesses?
P. My major strength, I think, is that I seem to be able to write about sex, to put experience that lies on the very edge of consciousness into words, syntax, and verb tense. Part of this strength, I think, is that I’m patient enough (and love the craft enough) to keep at it until I get it right. And part of it is that I probably have a few wires crossed in the erotic and intellectual parts of my central nervous system. So I think that even at my advanced age I’m still drawing on the energy of my own shy, wonky adolescent erotic curiosity and discoveries.
My major weaknesses are: first off, that I sometimes get so enamored of all that complexity and fragmentation that I don’t always move my plots along as quickly as the romance genre wants them to go; and secondly (as readers know, and I am sorry, really), that I’m a ridiculously slow writer. Which is why I think I should do more daydreaming and fantasizing up front and more writing it down (fast! And trusting to my craft!) after I’ve got the fantasies hot and bubbling (see above).
K. Do you fall in love with your heroes?
P. You bet. And my heroines. Gosh, don’t we all fall in love with our heroes and heroines?
K. Do you have a favorite character from all of your books so far? Is there anyone you'd like to keep writing about?
P. Not a favorite, exactly. But someday I’d like to find out what happens to Alec Hervey, David’s son in Almost a Gentleman, who in his sweet, brainy reasonableness is rather modeled on my own son. I haven’t thought of Alec for a while, but when the Library Journal reviewer told me how much she liked the preadolescent niece of my current hero (in The Edge of Impropriety) I found myself rather wanting to introduce this young woman-to-be to Alec – after she grows up, of course. (And hey, can I plug the Library Journal review of Edge?
K. Where do you think your books fall in the erotica/erotic romance spectrum?
P. Well, I know that these things are usually seen as a kind of spectrum from plot-driven erotic romance to episodic erotica. In the world of romance publishing, erotica’s seems to be measured by the number of sexual encounters per thousand words. While to some scholars, it’s erotica if the book is structured around its sexual set-pieces. see Teach Me Tonight.
Neither view works for me. I like to mix it up. And once in a while I get a reader or reviewer who sees it as I do – as in this recent Romantic Times review of Edge, where Kathe Robin says that “Rosenthal’s… always looking for new ways to burn up the pages and keep your mind focused on characters and plot, not just her wonderfully erotic love scenes.” I was thrilled that at least in that sentence Kathe sees it as an and rather than an or kind of thing, just as I do. And I cherish this comment from some long-ago blogger, who said of Phoebe and David in Almost a Gentleman, “even when they're across the room from each other, there's always this feeling that you're walking in on them in the middle of fucking.” I’d add that when they’re fucking I want there to be the feeling that the plot is progressing.
That said, and (at last) to answer your question, I think I write the erotica I want and need. Which changes with time. In the Carrie/SM books, it was about youthful freedom, intellectual honesty, and curiosity. But youth ends in maturity and commitment. And so finding a possible happy ending for Carrie led me to romance, which is about how we love and want to be loved. And it led me to try to write successful, and also erotic, romance novels.
These days I may be going somewhere different; I’m not sure yet.
But again, I wouldn’t be interested in writing (or reading) erotica that wasn’t as smart, as plot- and character-driven, as informed, and as technically adventurous as it can possibly be.
K. Who has influenced you as a writer?
P. Probably the only two books I’ve really entirely comprehended are Little Women and Story of O. So those are probably the deepest influences.
K. What's coming up next for you?
P. More erotica, of course (see above). Hot retellings of some canonical nineteenth century fiction. What I don’t know yet (again see above) is whether the stories will have happy endings or not.
And thanks so much, Kate, for your wonderful questions and the opportunity to answer them.
Pam is offering a copy of "The Edge of Impropriety" to one lucky commenter!
Or buy it here