Special Feature: Interview with
Author/Editor Betsy Dornbusch
As a long time reader/stalker of Betsy's (aka SexScenes@Starbucks & more recently, the pseudonym Ainsley) writing talents, it has been my pleasure to partake in interviewing her regarding her latest novella QUENCHER, an erotic tale of a woman searching her soul for the right path to her own personal joy, with a side o' vampires thrown in for good measure.
This story intrigued me thoroughly, not only for the erotica factor, but also in regard to the main character's (Chere) question of sexuality, something I believe many people struggle with today. Chere has fallen head over heels with Blake, who she believes could be the love of her life, but yet, that ever pressing question of 'what if' scratches like an itch she just can't satisfy. She can't help but wonder what it would be like to feel the lips of another woman brush her own.
As someone who has wrestled with this exact dilemma, I was very compelled by the authors' collaborative ability to convey the middle ground in which Chere stood: her love and devotion for the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with versus one possible scintillating night in the embrace of another woman.
I can't help but wonder, what with the authors' aptitude to portray so accurately many of the emotions I myself (and I imagine many others) have come to terms with, if perhaps the question of your own sexuality was ever an aspect that you have struggled with in your own life/relationships?
Right to it then! Ahem. Well, I wish I had some sordid tabloid tale for you, but I'm lucky in love, as one of my best friends likes to point out to me when I'm feeling sorry for myself. My husband and I have been happily married for nearly 19 years, and we met in our teens. We're about as boring as you please, with a son and a daughter and even a dog. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I'm still wildly in love with my husband.
Then how difficult was it to orchestrate the many complex emotions Chere wrestled with?
We examined a pivotal time in Chere's life. That made the portrayal of growth and change easier, actually. Her emotions are more blunt because there's no subtlety about her dilemma. Right off I decided she was a strong character, a woman who is not about to be cowed by societal demands, which of course comes back to haunt her almost immediately. The struggle between self and society is definitely something I've faced, so I identified with the dangers and fear. I think her divisive sexual attractions made a great vehicle to explore that more universal conflict.
However, there are A LOT of emotions in the book. There were a few moments when I felt myself withdrawing into simple showing, like when she catches Blake with another woman or when the significance of the blackmailing hits her. I privately call those power moments, when events take control of the character and they simply react. I tend to avoid a great deal of internal narrative anyway, and to me, power moments are all about reaction instead of thought. I like to bare a character's soul through their actions and let readers interpret it through their filters, rather than only mine. Tough to strike that balance. But I like Chere and that eased our path together. She's strong and she goes after what she wants, despite her fears and immediate repercussions. Who can't admire that?
How hard was it to push past some of those limits we as authors have a tendency to put on ourselves when it comes to opening up to our readership so candidly?
I took this contract as a challenge on a lot of levels, but mostly to put my writing to the test. I've been absorbed in a futuristic thriller for nearly two years, and I was feeling a little stale. When I used to paint on commission, I found I worked well when clients set specifications. My creativity tends to thrive within boundaries. Similarly, QUENCHER is set in an established world. A lot of work was done for me. I could concentrate on story and character rather than plot and world, and my creativity benefited.
I'd say the erotica component gave me the most grief in terms of putting myself out there, and that was an ugly surprise. On a purely writing level, finding the balance between emotion and choreography was one of the tougher things I've done. I'm a veteran action-scene writer, but I found myself almost locking up over the scenes, forcing me to admit I've got some of the usual American trepidation about sex in fiction. My writing partner helped a great deal with those scenes in the revision process.
On a personal level and career level I thought long and hard about casually marketing QUENCHER under my own name, despite the pseudonym. As a longtime ePublisher, I'm a proponent of both eBooks and of giving readers what they want. Loads of readers buy erotica, so I have a lot of respect for the genre. As a working writer, I'm never going to argue with a reader's pocketbook.
But of course, some people don't approve of blatant sex in fiction, or they think it's a sloppy genre or whatever. I put my best writing foot forward, and I've been thrilled by the support of my readers,colleagues, and friends. As for my online relationships and reputation, well, nothing's secret on the Internet for long anyway.
Was there any particular messages you had hoped for your readers to come away with in writing this particular story?
I've long been a proponent of gay rights. My mantra is "you love who you love." I think my feelings of responsibility to that community caused the subplot with Adrianna to develop as deeply as it did.
So in that same vein, the main thing about the book that appeals to me is Chere's search for true, regret-less love over sexual gratification. The gender of her lover didn't matter so much as her finding happiness with the person she chose. That holds for real people, too. I write a lot of grey endings, in which not everything always works out for the best. I like to read stories like that, too. But we can't discount the continued popularity of the "happy ending." I think that's what draws so many readers to romance in the first place.
And lastly, are we, your loyal readership, going to be sanctified by the grace of a sequel for Quencher? Please say yes? Pretty please with vampires on top?
We have a third installment of the trilogy planned for later this year. It's called QUENCHED, and it's a darker story than the other two. I'm really excited about the plot. That's all I can say for now. For now, if you enjoy the world, take a look at the first book QUENCH, too. It's a fun read.