Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today: Adriana Kraft is the pen name for a married pair of retired professors writing erotic romance and erotic romantic suspense together. We like to think we’ve broken the mold for staid, fusty academics, and we hope lots of former profs are enjoying life as much as we are.
Having lived in many states across the Midwest, we now make our home in southern Arizona, where we enjoy hiking, golf, and travel, especially to the many Arizona Native American historical sites.
Together we have published more than fifty romance novels and novellas to outstanding reviews. Whether readers open our romantic suspense or our erotic romance, they can expect characters they care about, hot sex scenes, and a compelling story.
Thanks so much, Adriana, for joining me!
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Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/author/adrianakraft
JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
Adriana Kraft: Yes. The main reason is that “Adriana Kraft” is two people – myself and my husband. We wanted to publish under one name rather than two, and when we started this writing venture, there weren’t many male names in the romantic fiction world. We felt a feminine name would provide a better marketing platform. I’ve always loved the name Adriana and would have given that name to a daughter, if I’d had one. We selected Kraft not for the famous cheese we both grew up on, but for the play on words, since writing is a craft. The only awkwardness this creates is that I often use the plural pronoun “we” without having explained there are two of us, but since I’m the one who writes our promotions, “I” can say this.
JSC: What was your first published work? Tell me a little about it.
AK Colors of the Night was our first book, released at a now failed e-pub in 2006 and then with our current publisher, Extasy Books, a couple years later. The book started out over twenty years ago as an erotic short story – what if a stunning immortal love goddess materializes out of the northern lights in front of a mid-30s couple on a camping trip in Minnesota’s Northwoods lake country to try to salvage their troubled marriage? The opening scene of that story (now chapter one) is one of my favorites, with its shimmering imagery and the arousal both characters experience as the voluptuous goddess engages with them. So to speak…
The short story was accepted in an anthology I’ve long lost track of, but we retained our rights to it. As it turned out, once we’d written the goddess Aria, we both fell in love with her and knew she had to have a longer story. In Colors of the Night, the lessons she gave the couple by the lakeshore wore off when they got home, so Aria had to move in with them and share some more of herself. It should surprise no one that Aria is a bisexual goddess, marvelously equipped to join both halves of a troubled marriage like the one in the book.
JSC: Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
AK: I’ll kill two birds with one stone answering this, since you asked elsewhere about the most valuable advice we’ve had from an editor. The very first book we penned together was a romantic suspense, featuring one man, one woman, a crime, a black moment, and of course a happy ending. Why? We’d co-authored academic publications, we both loved reading romance, and we thought writing them would be fun and easy to do.
“Fun” is of course tempered with “hard work,” but I’ll say yes, it’s proven to be fun. “Easy?” Not. But when we sent out query letters with a synopsis and first chapter to major houses and agents (in the days before eBooks), we received a helpful response in a rejection letter. The editor said that we “wrote sexual tension well.” I’m sure she has no idea what she unleashed, but in addition to continuing romantic suspense releases, we focused more and more on explicit erotic romance and have never looked back.
JSC: Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
AK: Absolutely we read them. A good review, of course, is always welcome, especially if it offers details and not just general praise that could apply to any book. It’s hard to describe the feeling of knowing that another person not only loved what we wrote, but understood it and appreciated its nuances, and then took the trouble to share it in a review. Deeply affirming.
Bad reviews? Sometimes they contain useful information about something we’d want to do differently next time. I have a pet peeve – when we’ve written a short story, often within a word limit responding to a call for submissions, I’m not a fan of being docked because the book was too short. I suppose if the reviewer thought something should be developed more fully, that might be a useful comment, but short stories are always a balance between brevity and sufficient detail.
My other pet peeve? A reader who disagrees with our open approach to sexuality – a reader who engages in slut shaming. In our explicit erotic romance, we write women who are in charge of their bodies and their sexuality. If such a woman chooses to have sex with more than one partner, that’s her privilege, and we celebrate that privilege. Readers who are offended by that should probably follow a different author.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured in your book? If so, discuss them.
AK: Yes, two of them. Bisexuals in general are underrepresented in the romantic fiction world, perhaps on the assumption that women (the bulk of romance readers) won’t want to read about them. But there’s no telling how many bisexual women readers may be out there; it’s one of the hardest LGBTQ cohorts to gather data on, partly because so many remain closeted. Bisexual women often feel marginalized within the queer community; neither straight nor lesbian, they don’t belong in either world and are sometimes challenged by others at either end of the orientation spectrum who don’t believe there’s such a thing as bi. Our heroine, Claire Johnson, is openly bisexual and proud of it. Our story takes place in 2006, so by now she might say pansexual.
The second way? Ageism. The most common trope in the romantic fiction world is a young man and woman who meet, fall in love, have a horrific conflict, and somehow resolve it so they can marry and have children. But in addition to not being limited to one man and one woman, the experience of romantic love (and hot sex) isn’t limited to the young and fertile. Our heroine is 59 when this story opens. She champions the cause of staying sexually active; she’s built a career on it, at the Center for Sexuality and Sex Practices where she works, and now she’s committed to produce a video series on sex and aging.
JSC: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
AK: Throughout this three-book series, we’re exploring the nuances of lust, love, and sex in a setting where, among other job responsibilities (research, marketing, community education), all our main characters also spend time having sex on camera to demonstrate techniques and promote a healthy attitude toward a range of sexual expression. Baby boomers ourselves, we also take pride in featuring older characters in many of our novels. I especially wanted to showcase a strong, vibrant and healthy bisexual older woman as she continues to navigate the challenges and opportunities of her job in the Center she helped to found decades earlier. I suppose you could say we’re on a mission—research increasingly shows adults can and often do remain sexually active later in life. We seek to provide erotic scenes featuring characters they can identify with and perhaps find inspiration from – and yes, I think we succeeded.
JSC: Let’s talk to one of your characters for a minute – What’s your core motivation in this book?
I’ll let Claire Johnson answer that question:
When the story starts? To help the Center create polished, tasteful professional videos on sex and aging. I’ve never been able to separate my personal goals from those of the Center – it’s my raison d’être, the main motivating force in my life. The Center and I exist to help others of all ages, from all walks of life, safely discover and enjoy the many gifts of sexual pleasure in their lives.
What I do not want to do is make those videos with Max Wilson. I agreed to give it a try, but it’s never going to work. I’ve successfully maneuvered to keep my distance from him the entire time he’s been volunteering at the Center, over a decade now. There’s too much history we’ve never talked about – history I don’t even want to let you in on.
Oh, and just in case you’re curious, I’m not looking for a relationship – Phoebe was the love of my life. We had an open relationship. Neither one of us had expected faithfulness from the other – that was our agreement. But I didn’t expect we’d ever part. Eight years ago she left the Center – and me – abruptly and cut off all contact. I didn’t even find out she had cancer until I read her death notice four years later, just in time to at least attend her funeral. A very private person. Those of us who loved her had to accept what she was willing to give.
JSC: What qualities do you and your characters share? How much are you like them, or how different are they from you?
AK: I think we’d find it hard to write a hero or heroine who didn’t share our basic values – or at least, who didn’t come to share them by the end of the story. Our core value? Love is love. We value openness, diversity, acceptance, and non-judgmentalism. Personalities? Hopefully we write a range and create characters often vastly different from ourselves. I, for example, would never be accused of being an Ice Queen like Claire. But I will say that we don’t write what might be called heavy duty alpha males – our heroes are all tender and sensitive, but still fully capable of many alpha qualities when the situation calls for it. Do our characters do things we’d never do? Absolutely. We can push them beyond our own boundaries and enjoy the ride at no personal risk.
JSC: Do you believe in love at first sight?
AK: I always love to answer this question – in fact, a while back I wrote a blog post suggesting that our first meeting qualified as a Meet Cute. While working on my graduate degree at a Midwest university, I was hired as an instructor in an experimental program. I have a vivid memory of the faculty gathering that autumn, where new hires were introduced. A handsome bald man with a mischievous smile and soft brown eyes was introduced as a new professor – and his assignment was to the same program. My former roommate can corroborate that when I came home that evening, I excitedly told her about him. What was even better was that she worked in the same field, her colleagues had already connected with him for some consulting, and the next week she brought me his resume.
It’s remotely possible that what actually occurred that day qualified for lust at first sight rather than love, but the spark was definitely there, even though it was a full nine months until our first date… And in case I didn’t make it clear, he is now my husband and my co-conspirator in writing erotic romance.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
AK: Our next release, Embracing Passion, is coming out on August 18 and is the third and final book in our Passion series. It explores the dynamics of a committed FFM threesome when one of the women starts to have feelings for a new man. It’s also the story of that man’s struggle with a restrictive and judgmental upbringing when he starts to fall for our heroine. Who Rose is, what she believes, and what she does for a living challenge his world view and cause stumbling blocks throughout their story.
And what we’re working on? We first started setting stories in the swing lifestyle because it was inherently erotic – it gave us a medium for three-way and four-way erotic scenes. As we learned more about it, we discovered that for participants, swinging heats up their relationship and their own intimacy, making their bonds stronger and their sex together more exciting. It’s also a world in which bisexual women find freedom and acceptance. We’re working on an update for the characters in our Swinging Games Series. They’d just turned fifty at the beginning of the series, but now they’re retired, have met some health challenges, and are enjoying the lifestyle from a different perspective.
And now for Adriana’s latest book: Ripening Passion:
Claire Johnson’s dedication to sex—the cornerstone of her career—led her to help found the Center for Sexuality and Sex Practices. Now in her fifties, she knows the Center must keep pace with the rapidly growing Baby Boomer market, so she agrees to go back on camera for a series on sex and aging. But work with her nemesis?
Former English Professor Max Wilson has championed the cause of the Center ever since his now deceased wife sought the Center’s help to rekindle the nearly extinguished sexual flames of their relationship. He loves working on camera and welcomes the challenge to perform with the svelte but icy temptress.
Sparks fly immediately on and off camera. The jury is out on whether either Max or Claire can transform those sparks into a fire of sexual desire for their viewers—let alone for each other.
Claire smiled sadly. “Some days Melissa reminds me more and more of her aunt. So glib. So daring. So adventurous. And so completely convinced she knows what’s best for others.”
“Phoebe was all of that.” Max drew in a deep breath, then let it out slowly. “So, did Phoebe approve of you volunteering to be Agnes’s coach?”
Claire sat up straight and gave him a strange stare. “My, you are getting bolder with age. How many years have you wanted to ask that question?”
He shrugged. “Are you going to answer?”
“Why not?” Claire rubbed her arm. “No, Phoebe did not approve. And I didn’t volunteer.”
Max scowled, then turned his head to the side.
“Not really,” Claire insisted. “Your wife could be very insistent.”
He nodded. “I’ll give you that much.”
Claire exhaled and sighed. “You must know that Agnes believed the Center was the last resort for saving your marriage.”
He grunted noncommittally. “Did that mean you had to take her on as lover?”
“Agnes didn’t know what to do—she’d struggled with empty nest issues too long. You and she had drifted apart.” She hesitated. “The bedroom, apparently, had never been at the center of your life together.”
“I wish I knew half of what I know now when we first met. She was a delightful woman.”
“Agnes was a fifty-year-old woman when she came to the Center, but she was determined. Innocent, but very committed to saving her marriage. She assumed if she could bring excitement to you and purpose to her life, then you both had a chance.”
“And she found that in your arms?”
“Of course not.” Claire pursed her lips. “You must know that’s not true. Through her work here at the Center, she found her passion. She found a purpose beyond her family—even beyond herself. Is that so bad?”