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Caroline and Chris Unity Bowness Talk About What Makes Their Partnership Passionate

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Up until now, all of my PP interviews have been with erotica writers and their partners, But it’s my pleasure today to interview Chris and Caroline Unity Bowness for Passionate Partners, and their story is a little different. Thanks so much for joining me, Caroline and Chris!

Chris: Relationship and Sex Mentor initially studied business for 10 years and helped people run their own businesses. I finally stumbled on my real calling after helping people with relationships and sex and who kept telling me I should go for it….eventually I took the leap and love every minute.

Caroline: Workaholic, business owner, lover of people, best friend, Mum, proof reader ….and sex toy guinea pig.

KD: Chris, we met on Facebook, as I recall. You and Caroline had read The Pet Shop together, which immediately reassured me that you were fabulous people with excellent taste. From that, our discussion blossomed to discussing sex as a celebration and a key to intimacy in relationships. Our discussion was my first clue that I was speaking to one half of a pair of Passionate Partners. It’s an absolute pleasure to have the two of you on A Hopeful Romantic
today to talk about your passionate partnership. Since then, I’ve had you on my site as a guest and we’ve had lots of conversations that have convinced me I was witnessing another one of those passionate partnerships in the promoting and celebration of sexuality through erotica. How did that journey begin, and has it always been a team effort?

Chris: Erotica has always played an important part of our journey and it’s a great tool for opening up communcation on sex and pleasure without that awkwardness of starting it yourself. However, building a relatioship thats unashamed about intimacy, sex and pleasure Caroline has to take the credit for.

Caroline: the shower scene perhaps?

Chris: yes…. 1st date, a shy teen facing the claws of the cougar…

chris bowness 220130424_194251_20130424194830778Caroline: 3 years and you weren’t no teen… But yes you were… how shall I put it?… Naive?

Chris: A night out and ended up staying together for the night not sexually but intimately. Next morning Kim Cattrall here suggests showering together less a baptism of fire more an indecent drowning, and there began the journey of sex and intimacy beginning positively.

Caroline:  My mum always instilled in me that sex is harmless fun… ok you may have to be safer these days… but the act itself has not changed. This is the foundation that has been our passion in promoting real sex and the discussion of such. Oh! We do love the Pet Shop though and often have our own little in jokes referencing them.

KD: Very glad to hear that you enjoyed The Pet Shop together. *smiles like a proud mother*

Chris: I recently guested on a Kay Jaybee’s website and wrote about using Erotica as a great tool in the bedroom.

KD: I understand that the two of you have a unique relationship where child rearing and work is concerned. Could you share a little bit about that with us? What did you find most difficult in your arrangement? What did you find most beneficial?

Chris: We both take an active role in bringing our children up, we both run our own businesses and there are times when one needs to be working and one of us naturally slots in and takes time with the children.

Caroline: At the weekend it’s all about family time. Saturday morning we share a family breakfast were we all sit together and discuss the week. We try to have work take a back seat over the weekend.

KD: Could you both tell us a little bit about your work, and what’s most rewarding about it. (I’m thinking in terms of how you got involved with testing sex toys and how one thing led to another.) And what’s most difficult.

Caroline: We fell into by chance really we noticed a few opportunities arise and then when we decided to take the plunge the magazine we were set to review for shut down. We then found our opportunity when an online store put a call out for reviewers and things kind of grew from there.

Chris: Obviously the upside is a constant abundance of free toys and latest products to test out. However, in recent times we’ve slowed down a little asChris-U-B-300x300 finding time in busy schedules to test and write is a job in itself but we do like to keep our hands in. It also helps me keep up to date with the latest products and names out there so I can recommend them to clients.

KD: What has been the craziest experience you’ve shared in your mutual journey through sex mentoring and the celebration of sex in relationship?

Chris: People know what I do and know Caroline is sex positive too which puts us in the position of the go to people when people have amazing sexual experiences and want to share their story with one of us. We’ve had stories of a woman nearly getting caught giving her boyfriend a blowjob under a bridge whilst they were at a wedding (you know who you are). The stories of unashamed exhilarating one nights stands and a gay man who wanted to share his story of hot sex when his partner came home from work in the early hours and took him by surprise. What’s sad is people want to share these sexual achievements like any other life happy accomplishments but there is a stigma with doing so.

Caroline: One such story being told to me recently involved the discussion of horse tail butt plugs!

KD: Caroline, I don’t know you as well as I do Chris, so tell us a little bit about yourself. Who is Caroline Bowness, and what things matter most to her right now in her journey.

Caroline: My passion is helping others through life as it’s just far too short, family and friends are important to me. I also run my own business which involves helping others so whether it’s people who need my service or people I work along side it’s all about working as a team and making sure everyone is happy.

Chris: She does have a nickname of Hils which is short for Hilary Devey of Dragons Den fame as she is a bit of an idol of Caroline’s.

Caroline: It’s growing on me!

KD: Caroline, what do you consider your most important role in supporting Chris in his mentoring? How do you see yourself sharing in that journey?

Caroline: Kicking him up the arse *joke* Self promotion, he has supported others in business for many years but when it comes to himself he finds it hard but I think it’s because he is to close to what he does to be able to look at it in a business sense.

KD: Chris, what do you think is the most important way Caroline supports and encourages you? What do you see as the most important way you support her?

Chris: Unequivocal and unwavering support, you must know how tough the negative voices can be KD especially in regards to work that’s sex related? Chris-Bowness-Unity-300x212Having someone who is always there no matter what, is special. Furthermore though even though I’m good at putting myself in someone else’s shoes Caroline is very good at giving a deeper insight into female perspective on things.

KD: What’s the hardest part of the Caroline/Chris working partnership?

Caroline: We both work when people need us which can be 1am… Opening a bottle of red and having the phone go or someone need us and having to let go. However, we both know the responsibility and passion each of us has to help others and make their lives better.

KD: What’s the best part?

Caroline: Being able to work with your BFF.

Chris: Bouncing off each other… Being in the unique position to have a great understanding of each others work but being able to be impartial when it comes to offering advice and making decisions.

KD: What’s the best advice the two of you can offer to help couples make their partnerships run smoother?

Chris: Whether you have children or not making your relationship the main priority which is pretty easy in the beginning by taking risks and chances to be together like both taking a sick day. However, over time people loose sight of the importance of putting their relationship first. For us we see it that a happy and close us is a great foundation to build our family on.

Caroline: Open and honest communication is really important… talking without fear. One thing we have built in is a cake date one afternoon a week Chris BownessIMG_20130424_201755at a local cafe where we put time aside for each other and our relationship. Chris once joked we could swap it for a gym date…. Erm no it’s not happening Mr!

KD: Tell us something about the Caroline and Chris Team that might really surprise us.

Caroline: We don’t conform to the traditional relationship set up. Days into meeting each other we had a conversation about the importance of the friends in our lives of the opposite sex. This had caused the breakdown of previous relationships for both of us and we had independently decided that in our next relationships we’d be honest about this.

Chris: We were just lucky we were both each others next relationship and actually that foundation brought us closer. We both have the freedom to love who we want and live how we want whilst having a great relationship together.

KD: Chris, could you tell us a little bit about the difference between a mentor and a therapist.

Chris: Long term support, when and where it’s needed but also prevention not cure to problems. Also here for the good things in relationships like guiding people in exploring pleasure. The real surprise I’ve had is the amount of positive messages I’ve received that all have the same theme a
thirst for open discussion in society about positive and real sex. Many people saying they want to be able to talk but they can’t for many reasons.

KD: What does the future hold for Caroline and Chris? Exciting plans? Adventures? New projects?

Chris: I work in the local community and want to get into it more maybe open an office or have my own space people can come to me. The near future is a website providing an online space people can come to get advice but also share their experiences good or bad help each other through but also positively promote real everyday pleasure and sex. Each weekend I also put together an online magazine rounding up the sex positive news in the
last 7 days which you can find at www.bit.ly/ConsentingAdults I also produce a monthly email packed with tips and advice and it’s proving rather popular. People can sign up at www.bit.ly/BeUnity Then finally there is the exciting monthly column I’ve been invited to do for you, KD, Consenting Adults promoting positive real sex, which starts next week.

KD: I’m very excited about that, Chris, and looking forward to having you onboard.

Caroline: A house by the sea and a puppy, actually it’s all about the puppies!

KD: No doubt the world would be a better place with more puppies … and kittens … strategically placed, of course. Thank you, both, so much for sharing a bit about your passionate partnership with us. It’s been a pleasure to have you here together. And Chris, we’ll be seeing you again soon.

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Suzanne Portnoy Talks About the Re-Release of her Bestselling Memoir, The Butcher, The Baker, The Candlestick Maker

KD: It’s my pleasure to have Suzanne Portnoy over today. Welcome Suzanne! It’s a pleasure to have you on A Hopeful Romantic talking about theSuzanne Noble Portnoybutcher baker bpb re-release of your best-selling erotic memoir, The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker. Could you tell us a bit about what led you to write TBBCM, and your experience of writing it?

SP: It was 2005 and I was sitting at my desk in the PR agency I managed. My boyfriend, an alcoholic, had passed away a year earlier. I was sleeping with a portfolio of about half a dozen men and was very involved in the swinging scene, having decided that I didn’t want a serious relationship of any kind. I remember thinking I’m 44 years old.  If I don’t write down how I came to be this person, I’ll forget it all and nobody will believe me. I started writing the idea down as a series of short stories but, eventually, under the guidance of Adam Nevill at Virgin Books, it became a memoir.

KD: I understand that after the Fifty Shades phenomenon, Random House decided it was time to re-release The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker. I have to ask, how would you compare your memoir to 50SoG, and how do you think readers of 50SoG, newbies to erotica, will respond to TBBCM? Isn’t it a bit like comparing apples and oranges?

SP: Well, 50 Shades is fiction and ‘Butcher, Baker’ is most definitely factual! My 19 year old son told me that I should go out and publicise ‘Butcher, Baker’ simply so people realise that there’s a world of difference between what goes on in real life and in the 50 Shades world of fantasy. Anyone who has been involved in BDSM, even on the fringes, will tell you that.

KD: Suzanne, tells us a little bit about yourself and about your career.

SP: I started out in film production and went into PR after the birth of my second son. I’ve been a publicist for over 20 years working with a variety of clients. I never had any dreams of becoming an author. I wrote ‘Butcher, Baker’ for myself as much as for others.

KD: Since The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker is a re-release, how has your life and your world view changed since it was released the first time?

SP: It’s funny you should ask that. When Random House told me they were republishing the book, I had mixed feelings. I was very proud of having written it and happy that it might find a new audience. But my life is very different now. I have had a lovely boyfriend for a couple of years now and we have a very ‘normal’ relationship.  When I look back on some of my sexual experiences, I can see that I was quite lucky that I escaped being raped or even dead on a number of occasions. That’s not to say that I didn’t have a lot of fun too. There are many scenarios that I’ll always remember as being some of the most amazing sexual experiences of my life and I met some fantastic people along the way, many of whom I still keep in touch.

KD: Since The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker is a memoir, was it difficult for you to expose your private life so publically? What was the most challenging part of such a public exposure of your private self? What was the inspiration for doing so?

SP: I was incredibly naïve when I wrote ‘Butcher, Baker.’ I didn’t think of the implications or how it might impact on my life. I remember Adam Nevill telling me that the likelihood of it being a bestseller was very rare; that hundreds of thousands of books are published every year and very few of them sell in big numbers. At the time we were negotiating my very small advance so I can see his rationale for being so negative but, even so, I didn’t think ahead! Like I said, I had a burning desire to tell my story and, being a publicist, a number of media contacts whom I hoped would support me by writing features about the book. I knew that I would do whatever I needed to do to make sure it was successful because that’s my nature.

When ‘Butcher, Baker’ went to number 20 on Amazon, I was delighted. I was still very much involved in the swinging lifestyle so I became a bit of a celebrity in that world. It was all a bit surreal. ITV wanted to do a one-hour documentary on me (that I turned down) and, for a while, I became the ‘go to’ girl for anyone seeking an opinion on sex. It was all great fun and I must admit I enjoyed the attention.

However, as I got older, I came to a point where I had had enough of swinging and, thankfully, that coincided with meeting my partner. Being Suzanne Portnoy was fun but it wasn’t someone I wanted to be forever.

KD: Do you think reader response and attitude toward the author is different with a memoir than it is with fiction? How?

SP: As an older woman, I know that my story resonates with many women who have had children and find themselves in an unhappy marriage. I’ve had many letters over the years from women and men who have been inspired by my story. People have written to me to tell me that they now have a more fulfilling sex life with their partner as a result of reading ‘Butcher, Baker.’ I know I have inspired other women to go out and try swinging. I’m sure that erotic fiction can inspire couples and singles to do the same but I think it’s easier for people to make that leap when they read about someone who has already done so.

KD: In your opinion how have times an attitudes toward sex changed most since The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker was released the first time, and how would you, as a publicist, expect that to change the way the book is received?

SP: As a publicist I can see that 50 Shades has made it much easier for the mainstream media and the public to talk about sex. Certainly more people are reading erotica than ever before. 50 Shades has given a tremendous boost to the genre and the adult industry in general. Whether that particular bubble has burst remains to be seen. I’m not expecting the same kind of reaction to ‘Butcher, Baker’ now as it had back in 2007. I think the market is almost saturated, though I haven’t seen a book similar to ‘Butcher, Baker’ in the charts. Random House have done a great job so far – the book has a fantastic new jacket and I’m confident they are doing all they need to do to make sure it sells.

KD: Why do you think the time is suddenly right for erotic literature and all of a sudden there is such a huge demand?

SP: Being cynical, I think every year there is one genre in publishing that sets the trend. It could be misery memoirs or gothic horror or erotica. I think what has been interesting about 50 Shades is to watch how it transitioned from being on a fan fiction site to an independent publisher and, eventually, being picked up by a major. The world of publishing is changing rapidly. Fifty Shades opened reader’s eyes to the genre and it’s up to the publishing industry to keep pushing out good books and marketing them properly to keep up the demand.

KD: Are there plans for another book? Memoir? Fiction? Other? What exactly does the future hold for Suzanne Portnoy?

SP: I always have my fingers in far too many pies but writing another memoir isn’t on the cards for now. I wrote a play called ‘Looser Women’ with playwright Tim Fountain that went to the Edinburgh Festival a couple of years ago and I still think about reworking it for a regional tour. I’m working on a tech idea that has been growing in my brain for a while (I’m a secret geek) and I want to see how far I can take it. I have a number of clients on the PR side that I juggle too and I’m renovating a flat from the ground up. Maybe when I have a chance to breathe I’ll feel the urge to write another book to complete the trilogy but not just yet.

*****

Find Suzanne Portnoy here:

www.suzanneportnoy.com

Buy The Butcher, the Baker, the candlestick Maker here:

Amazon.co.uk print: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Butcher-Baker-Candlestick-Maker/dp/0352347635/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1365258434&sr=8-2&keywords=suzanne+portnoy

Amazon UK eBook: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Butcher-Baker-Candlestick-Maker-ebook/dp/B00BFTT6S2/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1365258434&sr=8-2

Amazon.com eBook: http://www.amazon.com/Butcher-Baker-Candlestick-Maker-ebook/dp/B00BFTT6S2/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1365260345&sr=1-4

 

Inside the Creative Mind of Willsin Rowe

Lightning_320KD: It’s my pleasure to have cover designer and erotic author Willsin Rowe on my site today to talk about designing book covers.  Welcome, Willsin! I’m so excited to have you here on A Hopeful Romantic, especially since I know you are going to be shedding light on that greatest of all mysteries which plagues both writers and readers. THE BOOK COVER! Could you start by telling us a bit about the multi-talented Willsin Rowe and how you got into book cover design.

WR: I first took a stab at writing erotica in late 2005. I entered a contest from a small publisher called Aphrodite Unlaced, and was fortunate enough to win. That publisher folded in early 2008, but I well and truly had “the bug” by then! I managed to turn out a couple of stories that were picked up at Excessica, which was still a pretty new endeavour. At that time, Excessica ran as an “author collective”, meaning any extra skills authors could bring to the table were well appreciated. I’d been working in graphic design and page layout for about 20 years at that time, so I put my hand up to try cover art, and I seemed to have some measure of ability at it. (shown throughout this post are some of Willsin’s favourite covers that he has designed)

KD: A question I know readers and writers all want to know the answer to is who actually chooses the book cover designs? How much input does the writer get if any?

WR: I work both as a “solo artist” and also with a publisher, Novel Concept Publishing. I’ve also made covers for Red Phoenix and for Secret Cravings (in both cases it was for anthologies to which I was contributing a story). For the solo stuff, the author always has final approval since it’s their baby, and I’m in their employ for the duration of the work. I certainly make suggestions and point out difficulties where I see them, but in all cases the author gives the final approval. In the work I do with publishers, the author has a large measure of input, but the editorial team also guide the process (and do a dandy job of it, I must say!)

SoulstoneKD: How much do you have to know about a book before you design the cover? Do you actually read every book?

WR: Oh, no…I’m such a slow reader. I have never been able to allow myself to skip sections, or even to skim, so I read every word. For that reason I couldn’t afford the time to read every book I make a cover for. Essentially, I work from a book blurb if one is available. I do have a form that I send to clients, which covers both tangible and intangible elements. Character descriptions and time period, for instance, as well as mood and feel. From the information within, I often get a clear “story” for a cover. And sometimes authors have a strong and clear vision going into the project. It’s not always a workable vision, of course, because of the inherent limitations of stock imagery. We’ll find, say, the perfect model but not the right pose, or completely unsuitable clothing. Some elements can be worked around, such as hair colour, skin tone, eye colour. I’ve adjusted clothing at times, too. I once added a bra between a pair of naked breasts and the hands that were cupping them!

KD: Where do you get your inspiration for your fabulous cover designs?

WR: Mostly from the words; the descriptions which the authors provide. Words were my first love, after all! I think creatively in words and music far more than in pictures, and then kind of translate the words into imagery. I don’t actually consider myself particularly creative in a visual sense. I can draw very well in pencil on paper, but only if I’m reproducing an image I’m looking at. For example, here’s a drawing I created in 1986 of my favourite band, Big Country.

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I was very strong in Technical Drawing at high school, and have a strong sense of what I call physical correctness. I strive to keep lighting and toning consistent when combining imagery. If the background scene is lit from the left, then any people or objects I cut out and place in there need to be lit from the left, too. I feel I do false shadows very well. And skin tones. I’ve received many compliments for my skin tones, such as on Selena Kitt’s “Taken” and on my own co-written title, “In The Dark”.

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KD: Do you have any contact with the writer during the design process?

WR: A lot of contact. Possibly to an annoying level for the writer! I’ll get them to check out models before I put virtual pen to paper, for example. And we discuss what kind of scenes might work. Covers aren’t always literal, of course. But when they are, they often need to encapsulate large chunks oftime into a single moment.

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KD: Could you talk us through the process? How long does it take from start to finish?

WR: Oh, there’s no one answer to that! My record was something like 9 months! That was at the author’s request, and I wasn’t working constantly on it all the time. There was an enormous gap between finalising the e-book cover and then adapting it to print. Other times, there have been long and complex stories which the author and I have managed to condense to a clear and simple cover in basically a single step. Sommer Marsden is a great one for that kind of cover. She likes them simple, and is far keener on overall feel than intricate details. Selena Kitt also champions feel over fact. That being said, it often happens that a cover which looks simple can have untold intricacies within it. A good example of this would be the Wanderlust cover I made for Sommer Marsden.

We start with the base image:

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It’s a nice image, and a great starting point. The very light sepia tinge is nice, but it wasn’t strong enough to suit the story. So I squeezed in a hint of burnt orange.

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I also added some darkness at the bottom of the image to accommodate the titles. But there’s a problem with this image…she has those pesky shoes in her hand. Thanks to the wonderful trickery of Photoshop and its handy cloning tool, hey presto and they’re gone!

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So I’ve coloured the image, created some workable space for text, and stolen her shoes. The next step is to start introducing the titles.

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We wanted to go for a font which reflected solidity and fragility at the same time. I loved this font instantly, because it has an inherent strength and crispness, much like Helvetica has. But it has all that subtle and wondrous distressing on it…as if it’s been weathered by time. I loved the visual metaphor of that, considering Really, the female lead in the story, comes from money but feels broken and lost. Sommer herself always – and I mean always – likes to keep her name small. She’s all about the story. So I made her name a little weathered, a little wraith-like…and, of course, little.

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Then I added a graphic element to help indicate movement, travel, direction…all that stuff! I went for arrows to suggest compass points and motion, and I weathered them to keep with the theme.

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Then there was the all-important tag line. Again, following the theme of weathered and wraith-like. Plus the break in the middle where I split the level just adds to the feel of displacement. But while the titles are nice and weathered, the image is still quite clean and crisp. Best we do something about that! And this is what we did…

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This image of old textured paper was the answer. I took that and overlaid it on the image, which resulted in this:

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Finished, right? Well, almost… The only issue to address now is the fact that the young woman just doesn’t quite leap out at us the way she should. And we got around that by adding darkness to the trees. Like so:

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So there you have it! The story of a relatively simple cover. If memory serves, that took about three days from go to whoa. Of course, part of that was the fact that I’m in Australia and Sommer’s in the USA. Time zone issues obviously mean that there are plenty of waking hours for me that are sleeping hours for her…and vice versa. In total I think it was about four hours work.

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KD: How has the fact that you are also a fiction writer affected your work asa cover designer? How has the fact you’re a cover designer affected your writing?

WR: Being a writer allows me to see “the other side”. I believe I tread quite gently with cover art, and that I listen quite well (for a man!) And it truly helps me to create visual metaphors, and to see a story in a static image. As for how designing affects writing? Well, one way is that being a cover artist means I have less time for writing. That’s not a major factor, though, since I don’t have an Evil Day Job any more. And the positive effect of cover creation is that it pokes parts of my brain which writing doesn’t, and it creates mental links which might otherwise not be there. Like the old “pat your head and rub your tummy” exercise. It makes my brain more flexible, and open to unusual ideas. (Plus I get to scan stock sites for hot chicks and call it “work”!)

KD: Tell us a little bit about Willsin Rowe, the writer. What are you working on now?

Submission Therapy_320WR: I’m in the early stages of breaking in a new pen name for some stories which just don’t suit Willsin Rowe. I’ve been co-writing with a friend in the US, Katie Salidas, for nigh on a year. We have a three-part series called “Consummate Therapy”, which has taken the idea of Billionaire BDSM and given it a small but interesting twist – we have a female billionaire who needs to learn the art of submission! (By the way, book one in the series, “Submission Therapy” is FREE!)

We also have a series of ménage stories we’re currently working on. Katie also writes a lot of vampire fiction, both erotic and urban fantasy and she’s inspired me to take the plunge in that field as well. So I’m also putting the finishing touches to my first ever vampire erotica. Well, it’s more an erotic romance, truly.

KD: And what is Willsin Rowe, the cover designer working on now?

WR: Oh, I generally have anything from 4-10 covers going at any one time. I recently finished a set of nine Selena Kitt covers, for her upcoming Modern Wicked Fairy Tales. I’ve also done a stack of covers for Jason Halstead, whose work rolls easily between sci-fi, fantasy, thriller and adventure. Jason’s the best kind of problem client, too…he packs an enormous amount of action into each story, so it becomes quite difficult to narrow down exactly what we’ll put on his cover! That’s a nice problem for a cover designer. And currently I’m putting all the little finishing touches on a cover for a relatively new Aussie author, Lotta Bangs. She’s written so many stories, though, that she actually has two artists creating covers for her! While her covers often look reasonably simple, they actually push me pretty hard.

Lost Girls Half Size NewerKD: What’s the best part about being a cover designer? The worst?

WR: It’s a bit soppy, I suppose, but the best part is the networking. I’ve met so many folk through cover art and I strongly doubt I’d have met most of them otherwise. It’s made me some friends, given me contacts and allowed me to expand my global empire! The worst part…well, it’s something that happens only on odd occasions. It’s when a cover just refuses to come together. Sometimes I come up with a concept that I’m sure will work, but I just can’t find imagery to suit it. Other times, it’s almost the opposite: I’ll have the right woman, the right man, the right background…and they just don’t fit together. Making a cover that ends up completely wrong actually takes just as much time as getting it right!

KD: What does Willsin Rowe do for entertainment when not designing covers or writing hot fiction?

WR: My main entertainment pursuit is actually the third string to my bow. I play bass in a swampy blues/rock/folk/country band called The Medicine Show. I use another alias for that project, though: Burnin’ Log Dawkins. I also design most of our posters and CD artwork, and I created a few music videos for us as well. We had a couple of songs on iTunes in 2011-12, but circumstances with our distributor changed and we felt the need to step back from all of that. We’re in the process of building ourselves up in a new direction, including a travelling show that harks back to the old days of Vaudeville.

KD: What are some of your favourite covers you’ve created?

WR: There are so many! I’m closing in on 250 covers created. But for various reasons (sometimes simplicity, sometimes complexity, sometimes just the “secret cover artists’ business” that makes intricacy look simple), these are an assortment of my favourites. (also see above)

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About Willsin Rowe

Willsin Rowe falls in love with a scent, a playful expression or an act of casual intimacy more easily than with physical beauty. When confronted by any combination of those elements he is a lost cause. He has done many things over and over, done even more things only once, and half-done more things than he cares to admit. He loves to sing and doesn’t let his voice get in the way. He is intelligent but not sensible. He is passionate but fearful. He is not scruffy enough or stylish enough to be cool.

Blog: http://willsinrowe.blogspot.com.au/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/willsin.rowe

 

 

 

Smut By The Sea:Scarborough is THE Place to be this June

sbts-buttonKD: The event everyone is talking about this summer is Smut By the Sea, which will be held June 22nd in lovely Scarborough. Today, I’m talking with the two lovely people responsible for this exciting event, Victoria Blisse and Kevin Mitnik. Welcome, Lovelies! So good to have you!

Could you tell us what inspired the idea for the Smut by the Sea event? How did it all come about?

V&K: We’ve had many holidays in Scarborough and we love it there, so we wanted to have a good excuse for another holiday in Scarborough! That wasn’t the only motivation though, attending readings down south made us think about having such events up North so that people who couldn’t readily reach the capital could enjoy some erotic fun too!

So we talked about it between ourselves, just as a pie in the sky idea really, but then we mentioned it to other author friends who thought it was a great idea, so suddenly Smut by the Sea was born. We got Scarborough Library on board to host, we picked a date (The 22nd June) and went for it.

KD: Which came first, the SBTS anthologies or the event? Were they always planned together?

V&K:  We think the ideas evolved together, we always planned a Smut by the Sea anthology to go with the event but the other Smut anthologies spun off from there, we weren’t expecting to do those, but the smut idea just caught on and now we can’t stop thinking of smutty ideas!

KD: Why Scarborough? I hear the two of you have a special place in your heart for it. Do tell!SBTS1

V&K: I (Victoria) have been to Scarborough every year of my life for a holiday since I was four. I love the place, it’s my second home. When I got together with Kev, I introduced him to Scarborough and was overjoyed when he loved it just as much too.  We now go every year for a family holiday and Kev and I try to get there for an adults only break at some point too.

So when we thought of ideas for an event up north, our minds automatically turned to Scarborough, we love it so much and want other people to find out how brilliant it is too.

KD: Tell us a bit about how the two of you work together to plan such a huge event. Who does what? Is there a specific division of labour? How has Team Blisse come through  when one person working alone might not have?

V&K: Kev is the tech guy and I am the talk girl. Kev is brilliant with everything computer, he designs the websites, smut covers and advertising images and he does it all very well indeed.

I am gobby, by this I mean I can talk, email and chat up just about anyone. So I do all the social side of things. I email companies about becoming sponsors, I chat to readers and authors who’d maybe be interested in coming because Kev’s not as comfortable with that as I am.

I wouldn’t have been able to do this on my own because I don’t have tech skills and Kev couldn’t have done it because he’s a little bit shy sbtsmed(1)(awww) and together we both try and work the money side of things out. This isn’t fun and neither of us are particularly big fans of maths.

How we’ve actually managed to pull it all together? God alone knows, but apparently we have!

KD: And the rest of us are very glad you have! Tell us a bit about what we can expect at Smut By the Sea.

V&K: There will be readings from authors such as Janine Ashbless, KD Grace (do you know her at all?) Jenna Bright, Lucy Felthouse, Lexie Bay, Slave Nano, Ruby Kiddell, Jacqueline Brocker and many more.

There’s also going to be a marketplace where you’ll be able to buy some smutty things and fudge. Mmmm, fudge.

In the evening we’re having a big Smut by the Sea Launch party with readings from some of the authors, sparkling wine, cakes and treats and a burlesque performance from Moorita Encantada.

And the best bit? You’ll get to chat to lots of authors and readers and people who love erotica, how brilliant is that?

KD: That is totally brilliant! I can’t wait! What has been the most exciting thing about preparing for SBTS?

V&K: Every time an author or a company decides they want to join in we have a little mini Blisse party, it makes us very happy indeed. In fact, the same thing happens every time we sell a ticket. It’s party central at the Blisse house right now!

KD: That sounds fab! Always good to have reasons to party! What has been the most difficult thing?

V&K: Working with Kev. *OUCH* I was only joking.

Kev’s serious answer: The fact that this is the first event, we have nothing to go on, no figures to give out, no real idea of what to expect. It’s all very new and that is a little bit scary.

KD: I’ve never known the two of you not to be scheming and planning something new and exciting, so go on then, tell us what does the future have in store for the Blisses?

SBTSblissebunniesV&K: Well, there’s more smut on the horizon with Smut by the Sea Volume 2 being in production as we speak and there’s a call out for Submissions for Smut in the City:Sapphic Special http://sexyreads.co.uk/smut-in-the-city-sapphic-edition/

And there’s also a big Blisse Kiss event coming up called Blisse Bunnies. Lots of fun excerpts and blogs about New Beginnings, and a big booklovers prize. http://blissebunnies.co.uk from the 1st April.

And then there’s Blissemas http://blissemas.co.uk  on the horizon and Smutmas http://smutmas.co.uk  too, and a Blissemas Party and…well, lots and lots. We’ve always got something brewing at Blisse HQ!

KD: Wow! Sounds like a very busy year at Blisse HQ indeed! And now, details please! Tell us what people need to do to get their tickets and plan to join the fun.

V&K: All the information you need is at http://smutbythesea.co.uk

The daytime event is totally free (how cool is that?) but if you want in on the Smutacular evening book launch you need a ticket and you can pick one up here: http://smutbythesea.eventbrite.co.uk/

Just a tenner and you’ll get refreshments, entertainment AND a goodie bag!

KD: Wow! That sounds like a great deal to me! I can hardly wait! And thanks for being my guests! I’ll see you both in Scarborough 22nd June!

V&K: Thanks for having us, to visit KD.

SBTS Scarborough long beach

 

 

 

 

Someone Once Told Me: Mario Cacciottolo Wants to Know

One of the highlights of Eroticon 2013 was meeting Mario Cacciottolo and learning all about his amazing Someone Once Told Me project. Within minutes of meeting him, I was completely intrigued. Mario’s work is fun, quirky, moving, sometimes chilling, and I’m very excited that he consented to be interviewed for a Hopeful Romantic. Welcome Mario!

KD: First of all, welcome to a Hopeful Romantic, Mario! It’s a pleasure to have you here. Could you start off by telling my readers a little about the Someone Once Told Me project and what inspired it?

MC: I’m very interested in storytelling – always have been. About six years ago I picked up a camera and decided I wanted to get into portrait MarioTaofeeq Adeyemi This Onephotography in particular. Then, one day, I had a thought – how about I use one to do the other? As in, use my camera as a way of getting people’s story out of them, in a very specific way?

Someone Once Told Me (SOTM) sees me ask people to hold up a sketchbook on which they’ve written something memorable that someone once told them. It can be anything, so long as it came from someone else.

I take a picture of them doing so and there’s a new image that goes up on my website every day, with all the previous ones available in a gallery. The subject also explains the story behind why that phrase was said, who said it to them and what their reaction was to hearing those words. The story is written alongside their image – I often use audio to capture people’s stories also.

I’ve had a new image up every day since 8 Sept 2007 and from early June will be travelling for a year around the world, taking many such images, using social media to help me drum up new subjects.

I’m looking for all sorts of people to photograph, all around the world, from different backgrounds and nationalities. The one thing I’ll be asking them is – what’s the most memorable thing you’ve ever been told?

KD: As a writer, I’m always trying to convey an image with my words so that people ‘get the picture.’ Do you find that as a photographer who works with images, is the opposite true? Are you always trying to convey a story?

MC: It’s best if you can do that, for sure. I believe that the most powerful form of photography is one that has a narrative attached, even one that’s implied – if you see an image and your brain starts fizzing, wondering what’s going on with those you can see frozen in time, then that is the best use of photography. I am being quite blunt in getting people to write down a phrase in my photos, leaving only a certain amount to the imagination, but there is room for the viewer to wonder just what it’s all about, before they can read the blurb beneath and find out the story around that person’s choice of quote.

SOTM is quite simple, but it’s powerful and interesting, and the best ideas are the simple ones.

KD: Mario, you do a new picture and a new story every day for your website. How hard is it to keep that up? What do you find the most MarioRachel Wood This Onechallenging?

MC: Well, I’ve had to be quite obsessive about it. I’ve never missed having a new photo up every day for what will be six years in September – so that’s more than 2,000 consecutive days now.

I upload seven images every Friday, and they go live automatically each morning in the UK. I just ask, ask, ask people to pose, all the time. I’ve had a few hundred SOTMs sent in to me, which can be done through the site, and I am just always on the lookout. I went to a party the other day, and while everyone else was enjoying a drink and some banter, I never stopped the whole time – asking people, taking photos, looking for new locations in a small flat, recording their stories, talking to the subjects afterwards. By the time I finished, it was time to go home. I’ve done that on more occasions than I can remember.

I’ve taken 5 hour train journeys to visit students on freezing piers, travelled to businesses and charities to photograph their staff on my days off, hung around in the rain at tube stations to get individual shots, and asked all my friends and their friends to take part. I’ve just never stopped asking. When I split with one of my ex-girlfriends, saying I didn’t have much spare time, she said: “It’s nice to know I’m not as important as a website.”

KD: What do you find most rewarding about the Someone Once Told Me project?

MC: Getting personal stories from people when I don’t know them at all. Sometimes I get them very quickly, too. That’s a huge compliment to SOTM and I’m so thrilled that many people like my little idea so much that that they reveal something personal, sometimes painful, about themselves – to someone they don’t know at all.

I’ve had sons tell me what their father said upon their deathbed, and what ex-husbands have told their (tearful) wives. I’ve had a young woman say how much it hurts when their sister calls them fat, and a man from Tasmania talk about what happened during a threesome he was having once.

I also had a student reveal that he was once beaten up by a group of men who then told him: “Oh my God, we got the wrong guy” before giving him a lift home as an apology. He told me that story within 30 seconds of us meeting for the first time – his astonished friends had no idea this had ever happened.

KD: I’m dying to hear all about your upcoming world tour! 23 countries and 1,000 people! And I hear that people everywhere can get involved. Tell us all about it!

MC: I’ve always wanted to travel the world. Even as a boy, growing up on the tiny island of Malta, I used to spread maps on the wall and look at them, wondering what they were like in real life. Years later, when I was fully into the SOTM idea, I knew I couldn’t just end it one day, quietly. While lots of people have submitted photographs to me, I wanted to reach out to them by visiting as many countries as I could, approaching all sorts of people, getting them to tell a story from their lives. So now that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

MarioNick Astaire This OneI’m travelling through Europe, over to Cairo, then South Africa, Dubai, Japan, China and will spend a few months in South Asia, hitting countries such as Thailand, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Then I’ll go to the Philippines and Australia, before flying up to the US and doing a tour there for a couple of months. I’ll return to the UK in May 2014.

I’m looking for as many people as possible to take part in the SOTM world tour. I need people to meet and photograph, places to stay for a few days, people with media connections so I can drum up publicity, volunteers to help translate a sheet of paper that I’ll carry around, explaining just what it is I’m doing.

The initial announcement can be found here SOTM Tour I’ve since tweaked the itinerary, so the more recent updates on my blog, which runs alongside SOTM, will have the latest destinations.

And of course, if you’re not going to be near my travels but want to take part in SOTM, either as a subject or a photographer, you can easily submit a photo through the Your SOTM page on the site. It always buzzes me out for the day whenever someone sends a photo in to me, and shares a story of theirs.

KD: Can you tell us about the Sketchpad sponsorships?

MC: I have used many sketchbooks since SOTM began, turning more than 1,500 pages myself as I’ve taken photographs for the site. I’m now aiming to take 1,000 people’s images, which will mean at least that same number of sketchbook pages will feature on the site in future.

I’m offering people the opportunity to sponsor the sketchbooks that I’ll use. People can do individual months, or blocks of months. I’ve never put my sketchbooks up for sponsorship before, so it’s an exciting opportunity for all concerned.

KD: Can you tell us about the SOTM app from which, I believe all profits from the downloads go to the Operation Smile charity.

MC: I paid for the app myself and decided to give all the profits from it to Operation Smile, which operates on children with cleft palates. I think they do great work and if you point a camera at someone, you often tell them to smile. It must be terrible not to be able to smile properly.

The app, which is for the iPhone, allows the user to take a photo and place a digital scrap of paper over that image. You can then type out the subject’s SOTM message and story then email the whole thing to me, all from your phone. And you’ll do your bit for charity by downloading the app, too.

KD: What was the most shocking thing anyone ever wrote on your sketchpad?

MC: I’ve had one girl admit she was subject to an attempted rape by someone in charge of her school overseas trip, whom she then had to sit next to on the flight home.

I checked that she was ok for me to use the story and image – neither of which identify her – and the image went up.

Another, very powerful shot, tells the story of how a man broke up with a young woman, using words I’ve heard myself, as a lot of people have, I think. It’s quite a raw, emotive image and I can’t look at it for too long.

The saddest story is from a young woman who I met through Twitter and had a coffee with in Camden, London one day. We took her photo MarioEmilie Stammers This Onenext to the freezing lock and I thought nothing more of it. A few weeks later her friend emailed me to say she’d killed herself. I checked with her father about using her image, and it went up on the site, as did his email reply to me. Very, very tragic.

KD: Mario, you have a way of setting people at ease and making them feel like they’ve always known you. Have any of your impromptu conversations and photo sessions led to lasting friendships?

MC: That’s very kind of you! I was lucky enough to be raised in Malta, which is a very warm, friendly place and that’s never left me. Also, I love what I do and I love getting stories from people – that, above all, drives SOTM for me. So when I get to talk to people I want to – have to – win them over so that they will feel comfortable sharing something personal with me. I want them to feel like they can trust me with their story, and that I’ll take good care of it. People often say “oh, my story isn’t very good” but quite often it is really interesting. People just worry about coming up with something seriously profound, or hysterically funny, but so long as they’re honest, that’s what’s most important.

I have made friends, good friends and even got lucky once or twice over the years that I’ve done SOTM, so it’s been a wonderful, life-enriching experience for me. And now I’m going to take it around the world.

KD: We are all shaped by the things that someone once told us. The words we hear impact on us, whether we want them to or not, and it’s undeniable that they have a power.

Mario, this is from your website, and as a lover of words, I was very much struck by it. Words do definitely have power, so I have to ask you, what did someone once tell you that you would write on your sketch pad if I were taking a photo, and what’s the story behind it?

MC: I don’t know when SOTM will end, but if/when it does, the last ever image will be mine.

Until that time, I’m compiling a shortlist – I do have a current number one quote, but I’m keeping that a secret. Whatever I finally choose as my own SOTM, I’ll have it tattooed on me.

I can tell you that a Lebanese man I once interviewed for work – I’m a journalist – told me: “I used to sniff cocaine with Osama bin Laden in a nightclub toilet in London.”

Also, I once asked a female colleague how she was, and she replied: “I’ve left my husband and I’ve got a stalker.”

And a woman I spoke to said she once had a job cold-calling people. She asked if she could speak to a particular woman but her husband replied: “No you bloody well can’t. She’s run off with a black man.”

KD: Thanks so much for stopping by, Mario! It’s been a real pleasure chatting with you. Best of luck on your world tour! I can’t wait to see the piccies!

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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