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, Emily L. Byrne – Emily L. Byrne’s stories have appeared in Bossier, Spy Games, Forbidden Fruit, First, Summer Love, Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition, Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Vol. 2, First, Witches, Princesses and Women at Arms, Blood in the Rain 3 and The Nobilis Erotica Podcast. Her collections, Knife’s Edge: Kinky Lesbian Erotica and Desire: Sensual Lesbian Erotica, are available from Queen of Swords Press.
Emily is giving away an ARC (Advance Reader’s Copy) eBook of Medusa’s Touch with this post – comment below for a chance to win!
Thanks so much, Emily, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: When did you know you wanted to write, and when did you discover that you were good at it?
Emily L. Byrne: I started writing fiction in my early 30s. I had never written any fiction up until then, apart from a few experiments in elementary school, so it was a pretty new thing. I had written a lot of nonfiction so I also started writing articles for newspapers and magazines around the same time that I began writing short fiction. Determining the good part is harder. First sale? Well, I sold the first short story I ever wrote. First review? First award? Those were pretty magical too. I think that getting to be a good writer is an ongoing process and that hopefully, I’m always learning and improving.
JSC: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
ELB: As Emily L. Byrne, I write erotica and erotic romance, mostly about queer women. Genres include science fiction, contemporary, vampires, historicals and fantasies. I do a similar range, including nonfiction and horror, only with a lot fewer sex scenes as Catherine Lundoff. My style varies a bit based on the genre and the story – I like to play with voices and perspective as well as trying new things to challenge myself as a writer. I’ll happily try writing in any genre that I’m interested in reading.
JSC: Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?
ELB: Oddly enough, yes. When I started writing fiction, I wrote fantasy, miscellaneous queer fiction and a lot of erotica. My first published stories came out before Google existed and since I was temping at the time, no one cared what I wrote. Then I began working in IT and checking people’s backgrounds online became a common practice. Coworkers would bring in books for autographing or post pictures of book covers for anthologies that I had stories in. I recognized that I was headed for an “HR Moment” if they kept bringing in erotica, and, voila!, Emily L. Byrne was born. I’ve always liked the name Emily, L. is for Lundoff and Byrne is an old family name. The original idea was that any of my work that featured graphic sex scenes would come out under Emily while everything else stayed under Catherine. Emily will probably also end up being my romance pseudonym, going forward.
JSC: Do you ever base your characters on real people? If so, what are the pitfalls you’ve run into doing so?
ELB: I try really, really hard not to. Part of that comes from having written so much erotica – people often ask if it’s autobiographical (which gets even more hilarious when you write about vampire sex), no matter how improbable that is. So I would say that I don’t do it consciously, but I think that writers are also observers and that we integrate elements and aspects of the people we meet or see around us. That said, I know of one writer who got sued for making someone in their lives a villain in a story and I’ve certainly heard about plenty of social fallout, so I think it’s a good idea to steer clear of writing your exes or other people in your life into your work unless you’re writing memoir or have their permission.
JSC: What fictional speculative fiction character would you like to spend an evening with, and why?
ELB: This week, I’ll go with Nicholas and Philip from Melissa Scott’s Astreiant novels since they’re fresh in my head from reading her latest Patreon post. Nicholas is a Pointsman (a fantasy beat cop/detective) and his lover, Philip, is the bodyguard to a local criminal overlord. They are a fascinating contrast and Melissa’s stories make them come alive. They sound like they would be very entertaining to spend an evening with!
JSC: What do you do if you get a brilliant idea at a bad time?
ELB: I take notes on my phone or on the little notebooks that I tend to have stashed away in each of my sundry purses or work computer bag. You never know when inspiration will strike, so it’s best to be prepared. If I can’t write something down right away, I try to turn it into something like a mnemonic device, generally keywords, so I remember it when I can write it down later.
JSC: How long have you been writing?
ELB: I started writing fiction way back in 1996 so I’ve been at for 22 years now. I started writing as Emily in 2013. Getting Emily established was somewhat challenging when I first started out. I’d won a couple of awards and had some name recognition in erotica and erotic romance as Catherine, but even with starting Emily off as an open pseudonym, a lot of people didn’t (and don’t) realize that we are, in fact, the same writer.
JSC: If you were stuck on a desert island all alone with only three things, what would they be?
ELB: A desalinization kit, a pocketknife and a fishing pole? But if we’re talking fantasy scenarios in which my water, food and shelter are magically provided for, then a package of notepads, a pencil and a copy of whatever my favorite book of the moment is. As long as I have the means to create my own stories, I can manage.
JSC: Are you a plotter or a pantster?
ELB: Traditionally, I would say that I was a pantser. But really, I do a bunch of planning in my head as I write and do other things, so I would say that I do plot, plan dialogue and think about my characters quite a bit. I just don’t put it all in a written outline or the equivalent, but I think I’m a bit of a blend of both, as I suspect many writers are.
JSC: What inspired you to write this particular story? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
ELB: Well, this particular novel started out as a erotic romance novella that I was asked to write for an anthology, some years back. My wife liked the original story and kept encouraging me to turn it into a novel. I was approached by a mid-sized romance and erotica publisher a couple of years ago. They asked for a proposal, so I wrote a couple of chapters and an outline. They offered me a three book deal and sent me a contract. The contract looked off, so I had a lawyer review it and was advised not to sign. I turned down the deal and the publisher began imploding a few months later (also known as the Saga of How I Didn’t Go Down with Ellora’s Cave). I decided I would finish the novel and see what I could do with it, once it was done so it went from there. Progress was a bit slow due to starting my own small press and putting out four other books in the meantime.
None of which is really about the original inspiration, which I would say was something along the lines of “hey, I haven’t tried anything cyberpunkish yet!” Over time, it’s become more of a romance as well as more of a space opera, which I think are improvements.
And now for Emily’s new book: Medusa’s Touch:
Medusa Pilot TiCara X273 just signed on for more trouble than she ever bargained for. A beautiful corporate rep with a secret, her ailing boss, a covert mission to a hidden destination, an implacable foe with some unexpected allies and a sizzling attraction, seasoned with more than a touch of deceit and betrayal, make for a trip that some of them may not survive. Can TiCara learn to trust the woman she’s falling in love with before it’s too late?
Sherin looked away, her half-closed eyes and the rapid rise and fall of her chest betraying her agitation. Was it desire? Or was TiCara letting the want that burned through blackhole her brain? TiCara studied Sherin for a long moment, waiting for her to look up and meet her stare, to say something that would tell her what might happen next and what, if anything, the rep wanted from her.
But the rep stayed silent and closed her eyes and there was a client waiting and credits to be made and cred was too important to lose. At least for now. TiCara smoothed her features into the sobriety appropriate for an important meeting and gestured toward the door behind Sherin.
Sherin spun away and hit the door’s old-fashioned secur button with a grimace. She ushered TiCara through, still not making eye contact, then trailed after her to stand in front of the now closed door. Her stance shifted subtly into guard mode, a change that TiCara could sense without turning her head. It surprised her, even hurt her a little. Did Sherin truly think that she was a danger to Vahn?
But now she was letting herself get distracted and she recognized that for the danger it was. Shadow trade pilots had bigger worries than chasing the nearest handsome face. She stepped forward, walking slowly with hands clasped before her, through the long white room toward the man she had come to see. Not for the first time, she wondered what the two cloth wall hangings with their depictions of odd creatures and plant life on each side of his desk cost the old man; a good replica of Old Earth embroidered silk was worth more than her entire ship. Originals were more creds than she could imagine.
Ser Trin Vahn, CEO of Vahn Corp, sat behind his big gray desk looking even more like an Old Earth tortoise than he had at their last meeting, only a half cycle ago. Word from the Eyes was that Eternayouth didn’t work for him anymore, that he would die a wizened old man while his seemingly younger rivals outlived him. Or so they all hoped, ghouls that they were.
TiCara was hoping that he outlasted them all, mostly because his credit had always been good. Besides, she liked him better than her other clients, which meant better than not at all. Trusting him was another matter, but then, she was hard pressed to think of any employer she thought she could trust.
She stopped before the desk and gave him the formal United Systems greeting: hand to heart to lips to forehead, followed by a bow. It was more formal than she needed with an established client but she knew it would sweeten up the old man. He was as notorious for formality as for his devotion to the ancient ways that their ancestors had brought to the stars from their home planet. She looked up and he nodded in acknowledgment before he spoke, his voice rasping against her ears, “I have need of your services again, Pilot-Captain TiCara. I apologize for the short notice but this is important.”
It must be. Vahn had never gone straight to business when she’d dealt with him before. Nor had he ever mentioned anything that approached urgency. Urgency was expensive, and they both knew it. Normally, he spoke first of interstellar trade, then asked shrewd questions that tried to make her reveal too much about her own operations. Then and only then would he tell her why he had summoned her.
This time was clearly different. He didn’t mention Sirius Transport, the shipping corp she currently subcontracted for, only her. Which meant this was an independent deal, risky for both of them. Sirius could cut her contract if they found out. They could do nothing to the old man, of course, not directly. But there were other forms of vengeance for interfering with another corp’s contractors while they were under contract: missing licenses, refusals to allow a ship to make port, minor sabotage.
TiCara weighed the risks as she sized up Vahn. Her latest delivery for Sirius had been a success and their rep had let her know that they would like her to make another drop soon, but they had not finalized any details. Sirius might ignore a side job, as long as it was fast and quiet and her ship was available when they were ready.
Vahn gestured for her to sit and a roboserver emerged from a wall panel to place a tea tray with a steaming teapot and small ceramic cups on the desk between them. They each took a cup and sipped. TiCara blinked in pleased surprise: this was greenhouse-grown tea, not the usual imitation made from processed protein. The old man was trying to sweeten her up too.
Emily L. Byrne’s stories have appeared in Bossier, Spy Games, Forbidden Fruit, First, Summer Love, Best Lesbian Erotica 20th Anniversary Edition, Best Lesbian Erotica of the Year Vol. 2, First, Witches, Princesses and Women at Arms, Blood in the Rain 3 and The Nobilis Erotica Podcast. Her collections, Knife’s Edge: Kinky Lesbian Erotica and Desire: Sensual Lesbian Erotica, are available from Queen of Swords Press. She can be found at http://writeremilylbyrne.blogspot.com/ and @emilylbyrne. She also writes less sexy things as Catherine Lundoff.