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The Many Faces of Moorita Part 2

Moorita 6I’d like to welcome back the fabulous Moorita Encantada. For those of you who missed Part I of this interview, Moorita is not only a fabulous performer with an amazing creative mind, but she’s also my  co-conspiritor for the play, The Eye of The Beholder.

Moorita is a versatile cabaret and variety performer, and an unforgettable stage persona. Her acts combine a professional touch of a trained theatre performer and musician with an outstanding originality and unrestrained creative expression.

Wild, unpredictable and ever surprising, she has already brought a breath of fresh air to cabaret stages in London and beyond. Her work has been applauded at UK’s best cabaret nights and venues such as Madame Jojo’s, Proud Cabaret, Volupté and The Wet Spot Leeds, as well as internationally. But the fulfilment of her bigger artistic vision is only about to happen..

KD: Moorita, as I told you when we began this project, it’s all new to me. I’ve never written for theatre of any kind. I’m a Moorita 8novelist, but fundamentally a story teller is a story teller, and a story told through the medium of performance as well as words is even more powerful. What do you think it takes to translate a story from the written word to a stage performance? What’s most important?

Moorita: From a perspective of a theatre performer I would say that precision, conciseness of the story line and integrity of characters is key. Both need to stir different emotions in the audience, they need to demand to be followed with attention. At the same time – maybe even more so in performance than literary works – the audience needs to be challenged in order to stay engaged. Art within a performance is so delicate and intangible, it’s what happens between the actor and the viewer within a certain time frame, and once it happened, then and there, it’s irretrievable. This means the performance is incredibly prone to a variety of things that might go wrong. Strong, integral story and well sketched characters are the spine of performance, the precious certainty in the middle of all the variables that holds it all together.

KD: As most people know by now, the story we’ve chosen to tell is the story of Medusa and Perseus, from Greek mythology, but with a very wicked, very exciting twist of our own. Could you tell us what attracted you to this particular story, other than me saying please, please, please can we do it!

Moorita: I’m very fond of mythology myself, after all, this – together with holy texts of different religions – is what our culture is built on. What’s amazing about the Bible, Quran, I Ching and Greek mythology is different layers of meanings waiting to be uncovered by a keen reader. What can be particularly satisfying is digging deeper into characters and stories that have a commonly accepted stereotype. One of such stories is the story of Perseus and Medusa, a mythical monster which ends up the way monsters are supposed to end up – dying a death that supports a “good” cause.

On second glance though, there seems to be more to Medusa, there is some controversy and a tragic story behind her becoming a monster (she was raped by Poseidon in Athena’s temple and consequently “punished” by the goddess). Yet another look, and a fascinating character emerges – together with a whole lot of questions about what the real story behind the myth might be, or how the well-known story could be told differently. After I read your short story Stones from the anthology, Seducing the Myth, edited by Lucy Felthouse, I was hooked on the idea. I knew this would work incredibly well on stage.

KD: Moorita, my vision of the play was, for a long time, just to get it written down and give you something to work with. Oh yes, I was nervous about it! But now that it’s on paper, now that you’ve actually performed one fabulous scene from it to rave reviews, I might add, what is your vision for the road ahead?

  Moorita 4Moorita: Apart from being a mad creative genius 😉 I also have a pragmatic side, fully aware of what it takes to make complex, unproven things happen, and I’m very results oriented. My experience of creating great acts suggests that after a glorious moment of getting a key creative insight, there always comes a “reality test” when things start to feel a little awkward and you are no longer dead sure you are a mad genius. Only truly good ideas (coupled with big enough balls) can stand that test and get implemented with success.

After my performance at Sh! I’m convinced that the play, once on stage, will not only take burlesque to a new level, but, quite simply, will also be a box office success. I now have a clear vision of next steps: break the script into separate scenes that can be performed on their own, find fabulous performers to fill in the gaps between the words with their charisma, and let each of these acts defend itself in front of a real audience.

KD: Wow! I get goosebumps just thinking about it! Moorita, I happen to know for a fact that you’ll be giving another taste of Medusa, and The Eye of the Beholder in Scarborough for the fabulous Smut by the Sea event on the 22nd of June. Can you tell us a little bit about that and maybe tease us a bit with what you have in mind?

Moorita12Moorita: Oh I can definitely tease about Smut or indeed anything else for longer than you’d be able to take it 😉 My ambition for the 22nd of June is to perform, for the first time, a scene between two characters from the play. Without revealing all (just yet!) expect a serious sparkle between them and, quite possibly, some stunning Shibari bondage.

KD:  Oooh! Sounds fabulous! I can hardly wait! So, Moorita, my partner in crime and my friend, it’s been an exciting ride so far, and now, where do we go from here?

Moorita: Heh, I suppose it’s high time to get serious about taking over the world with our artistic vision! 😉 And, as Garbage put it in a song, “the world is not enough, but it is just the perfect place to start my love”.

KD: Thank you so much for your time, Moorita. I’m most definitely looking forward to the next chapter of world domination Moorita & KD style! And if any of you lovely readers are in the Scarborough area on the 22nd of June and have a hankering for some Smut by the Sea with a sexy helping of burlesque and theatre Moorita style, come join us!

 

The Many Faces of Moorita Part 1

An interview with Moorita Encantada

Moorita 9I can’t tell you how excited I am to be interviewing my multi-talented friend, Moorita Encantada. Moorita is not only a fabulous performer with an amazing creative mind, but she’s also my  co-conspiritor for the play, The Eye of The Beholder.

Moorita is a versatile cabaret and variety performer, and an unforgettable stage persona. Her acts combine a professional touch of a trained theatre performer and musician with an outstanding originality and unrestrained creative expression.

Wild, unpredictable and ever surprising, she has already brought a breath of fresh air to cabaret stages in London and beyond. Her work has been applauded at UK’s best cabaret nights and venues such as Madame Jojo’s, Proud Cabaret, Volupté and The Wet Spot Leeds, as well as internationally. But the fulfilment of her bigger artistic vision is only about to happen..

KD: Welcome, Moorita! Seeing you prefrom as Medusa at the Double Whammy launch party at Sh! a couple of weeks ago reminded me just how many faces Moorita Encantada wears, and I would love to know, as I’m sure the readers would, how did you get involved in burlesque, and why burlesque specifically?

Moorita: Close to two years ago now I went through a moment of a creative low. I was doing well at work but I was still imagequite disappointed with myself on the whole. I felt like the best part of me was dying, and if I wasn’t going to do something about it soon enough, it might be gone forever. I remember walking past Cafe de Paris in Piccadilly Circus and deciding I was going to find out how to become a showgirl. One thing led to anther, I enrolled on a burlesque course, created my first act, then another and started performing in London and beyond. The rest is history.

Moorita 11At first burlesque was an just a liberating adventure, but soon enough I understood it offered a unique opportunity for boundless artistic expression. Fully embraced burlesque equals classical theatre minus all social taboos. On top of this, even though I don’t see myself as a feminist, I enjoy the feministic taint of burlesque. Socially, we are presented with many conflicting ideas of who and how we should be as women. Performance art, and burlesque in particular, allows us to redefine, in an as radical a way as we please, what femininity means to every single one of us.

KD: I’m over the moon that you chose me to collaborate with on this wonderful project of ours, the burlesque play, The Eye of the Beholder, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d love to know what inspired the idea of a burlesque play, which as far as I know is very unique.

Moorita: I’ve always firmly believed that there is more to burlesque than vintage bras and fake jewels, I saw it as theatre and cabaret’s bastard child, with enormous potential. Seeing Howard Wilmot’s “Burlexe” (not quite a “burlesque play” but so much more towards the medium of the theatre than anything else on the scene) was to me the proof that burlesque audience is ready for a different quality of experience.

Moorita 10Even though our project is quite unique, there are several outstanding performers on the scene whose acts focus on the dramatic and story driven side of burlesque, such as Audacity Chutzpah or Shirley Windmill. Others I admire have a clear identity (or “edge”) and share my belief that the boundaries of burlesque can be stretched as far as one pleases: Miss Jones, Vivacity Bliss, Lolo Brow, Rubyyy Jones, Miss Cairo Mascara, etc. These performers, and others, contributed to my deep conviction that burlesque is an incredibly powerful performance art, the potential of which is really quite unexplored.

Finally, and most importantly, your skill as a writer, and your hugely empowering energy KD – as well as your pursuit of deeper meaning of erotica – convinced me that this partnership is a unique opportunity to create something outstanding.

KD:  Wow! Thanks, Moorita. *Smiling ear to ear* You made my day!  I’ve watched a good bit of burlesque, and I’d have to say your performances are not what I think most people would consider conventional burlesque. Forgive me if that statement is a bit of an oxymoron, but your performances tend to be both gritty and funny as well as amazingly beautiful, even moving. Can you tell us a bit about your approach to burlesque?

moorita 13Moorita: The funny thing is that even though I have an appreciation of classical burlesque – pinup, cheesecake, retro sirens, vintage lingerie and loads of rhinestones – and love watching it performed well, I’d never do it myself. I guess that because of my theatrical and musical training, most of the time I simply don’t find it challenging enough (and it’s at an intersection of outstanding creativity and a healthy challenge that really interesting things tend to happen).

In short, my acts are like Marmite – you will love them or hate them. I’m fully into risqué, intellectually provocative entertainment blurring the boundaries of artistic genres.

I’ve been told it’s my stage presence, energy, original, wacky ideas and good singing voice that make my acts demand an audience’s attention.

I think I’m a relatively talented comedienne (though I know many people who would outshine me!) and I usually seek a deeper meaning through story based performance. Even a simple burlesque act would usually be inspired by an insight, or a snapshot of a little fragment of reality, appropriately zoomed in and cropped.

KD: I know how exciting I’ve found this collaboration of ours to be, and how full of surprises, but I’d like to hear how you feel about it and what surprised you most, what excited you most, what’s been the most difficult?

Moorita: Wow, that’s quite a lot to think about!

Moorita 7In terms of surprise, I’m still bewildered that we actually made it happen. As they say, ideas are worthless and execution is everything. When we first started talking about the project, the idea in itself seemed amazing but it would have amounted to nothing if you hadn’t had lots of creative energy and found time to write it, and I hadn’t done pretty much the same to stage the “Medusa’s liar” scene.  Now that we’ve managed to execute on the idea, I’m proud and impatient to see it come together  wholly.

I was really excited while in the process of brainstorming the story and the staging of it when we first started. I adore that creative high, particularly if it happens between two people on the same wavelength, artistically speaking. I was  even more excited on the 20.04 though, while performing at Sh! It’s amazing to see a more or less abstract idea come into flesh in an interaction with real audience. I felt the energy flowing between all of us, it was one of those rare moments I felt totally aligned, doing the right thing, at the right place and in the right time. I’m sure you’ll understand what I’m talking about when I say it felt like getting a little wink from the Universe, as if to say “good work girl!”.

As is generally the case with ambitious projects people undertake, the most difficult were moments of self-doubt. Before the play was even written I hadMoorita 3 at least two established promoters wish me luck and say that in their opinion a “burlesque play” would never work. Consequently, once the first draft of the script was ready, I was impressed but at the same time overwhelmed by the thought of what an incredible challenge it was to get it all on stage! I could picture beautifully written scenes and well constructed characters in my head and I fully realised what talent, effort, and logistical challenge it was to make it all happen in the real world.. It was scary.

Now that I got my proof that the audience will love “The Eye of the Beholder”, I just want to move on with the rest of the play. I’m still aware of how much work it will take to complete the project, only now I actually look forward to getting it done! I guess I learnt that little internal critic insisting that “it can’t work” is the only enemy that really matters.

KD: Wow! Thanks so much for sharing your journey and your insites, Moorita. And thanks for sharing the adventure with me. It’s been a wild ride, and I venture to say, it’s just beginning.

Join us next Saturday for Part 2 of The Many Faces of Moorita, and more about The Eye of the Beholder.

 

 

 

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

passionatepartners

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.

Chris-Bowness-Newsletter-logoUnity.1

 

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

 

 

 
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The Romance Reviews

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