Interview: Elaine Chissick
Elaine Chissick is a Yorkshire-born, cat-loving, romance-writing author who is currently working on her third book. Her first, Willing and Able, is a true story of the adoption process. Her second book, Ties That Bind, is an erotic/romantic fiction. She is currently working on her third book, Ties That Harm. She kindly let me pick her brain about a thing or two!
Erotic fiction is quite controversial genre to write in. What inspired you to start writing within this genre, and what difficulties do you face writing and promoting within this genre?
I began writing around the age of 15. Obviously, back then, anything I wrote was fresh out of my imagination and any sex that was involved, was unwritten, with the story ending at the bedroom door and re-starting the morning after. At that age, being an author was something I was told I couldn’t do and so, I did what a lot of kids did. I put my dreams to one side and followed the work/family path. I went back to writing in 2006-ish when I wrote the true story of how my husband and I adopted two children. I shelved the book when it got rejected by 13 publishers, and carried on with life.
Around 2012, I was given a Kindle e-reader and that’s when I discovered the word of Self-Publishing. I self-published the true life book and it began to sell. That’s when I decided I was going to try writing the fiction which I’d started when I was 15. I only have three of those hand-written stories left, and two of them, made up the bare bones of Ties That Bind, but something was missing. Along with half the plot, there was something else the story needed. I’ve always been a big reader, and around that time, I came across a number of books by a few different authors, in a new genre I’d never read before, and decided to give them a look. That’s when I found out what my stories were missing. Not only the sex part, but my stories brought up more questions than they answered. Why was this person Italian? Why can’t they be teachers? Where does her love of horses come from? Why would her actions piss him off…?
And so, I set to work answering those questions, not only with the help of on-line research, but also just the fact that at 42, (40 when I published Ties That Bind) I was older, and a hell of a lot more worldly wise.
The main problem I see with writing erotica, is that we all have differing opinions of what erotica actually is. There are authors who write sex scenes which include spanking, vibrators, paddles and handcuffs, then there are authors who go further into the BDSM lifestyle, (chop-sticks as nipple clamps). There are authors who go further into it by including rubber animal costumes, group sex and characters leading their submissive around on a collar and leash … And then there are authors like me, who write descriptive sex which – while it may include a lot of hands on touchy feely stuff, sucking, licking, biting and penetration, it does not include any sex toys, restraints, add-ons or punishments, (although, who’s to say what the new characters will get up to in book 2 …) So it does concern me that someone might pick up my book expecting whips and chains, and be quite disappointed not to find any.
And, with no disrespect to any author, I wanted to write a book where the story came before the sex. The sex needs to be part of the story but not the reason why the characters do the things they do, and live the way they live.
Difficulties do include which genre I write in. It’s more than romance, but maybe less than erotica? One thing I do know, is when people ask, “What do you write?” it’s quite fun to answer with, “Good sex!”
Do you think that erotica is more accepted now-a-days? Was there a catalyst for this change or is just something that happened as society has become more relaxed?
I think – and I could be totally wrong here – that society is more accepting of sex for a number of reasons. One of them being that men and women are now more equal than they have ever been. And yes, in some circles, men may still be the dominant character, but for a lot of families (and couples), women either earn their own money or are the main income generator, the breadwinners, to coin an old phrase. And with that, comes the right for those women to make their own decisions on what to buy/do with their earnings.
Authors like E L James and Syliva Day – to name just two – came at just the right time to, ahem, fill a hole in the market for women readers. It’s as if these books gave women permission to say, “Yes, I have sex, I enjoy sex just as much as men do and yes, sometimes I like it with a side of spanking …!”
In just thirty years, we’ve gone from the BBC refusing to play ‘Relax’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, because of suggestive lyrics, to them accepting and playing ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams without batting an eyelid. The only reason for Blurred Lines’ short disappearance from the airwaves, was due to a court battle between Thicke/Pharell and Bridgeport Music/Marvin Gayes’ family with regard to the actual music.
Ties That Bind is quite diverse, set in New York with Italian characters. Why did you choose this setting? Do you have personal ties to New York or Italy?
I’ve never been to New York, and I’ve never been to Italy – both are on my bucket list! I’ve always had a love of the United States, I’m not sure why. When I started to look at the characters in Ties That Bind, I knew the Male MC had to be American. Originally, he was going to be called Nick, and he was either going to be a teacher or an actor, but the more I thought about the overall plot, the more I realised that both those professions wouldn’t work. I needed a profession in which he would have a reason to be known, but also a profession which would allow him to have a private life and possibly sidestep into something else. That’s when I came up with his job as the Chief Assistant District Attorney of New York, and changed his name to Gabriel. It ties in with his family, gives him a reason to be morally courageous without being a goody-goody, and lets him have a career that means he’s financially sound but not a billionaire. (or even a millionaire).
Alexandra, was originally called Sasha. She was going to be either a teacher or an artist, with a love of horses. She was always going to be Italian, mainly because of the possible connection to the Mafia – although that slightly changed in Ties That Bind. That connection is still there, as too, is the reason the family finds themselves living in America. I also needed a connection between certain characters, which needed to be un-seen by everyone but the reader, and keeping Alexandra’s family Italian, gave me that option. It also gave me the chance to throw in a couple of her little idiosyncrasies, like the way she speaks Italian whenever she’s in an emotional state, good or bad.
I have friends who live in Canada, New York and Indiana. And I have two friends who are Italian, one lives in America and one lives in England. But apart from that, I have no physical ties to anywhere but here in the UK.
Setting your book in a place you’ve never been must be difficult and it makes your writing even more impressive! What sort of research did you need to do before you sat down to write?
I research as I write. I sort of, let my imagination run riot, and then pause along the way to check certain things. Google street view is fabulous! I’ve walked around Central Park so many times, virtually! I’ve passed by Gabriel’s apartment and stared up at his window. I’ve stood outside Le Bernardin and I’ve seen the checked booth curtains in the Breslin. (A friend of mine actually went to NYC last year and had her picture taken right there, under the green and brass canopy of 901 Lexington Avenue’s entrance.) I’ve even been just a card number away from booking a flight from JFK to Naples … all because of researching with Google! These days, there’s no excuse not to research. Yes, you can go too far – this is fiction, after all – but for me, that’s what makes the story (and the characters) believable. Because it could happen.
Tell us a bit about your next book! Does it carry on from where Ties That Bind ends?
Yes, it does, with a gap of about two years. Ties That Harm is the continuation of Alexandra and Gabriel’s lives. There are more characters to look forward to, and they all have their own stories to tell. But the main focus, is how these new (and some old) character’s lives have an impact on Alex and Gabe.
Food plays quite a large role in your work and you are clearly passionate about cooking! What’s your favourite meal and who would you like to share it with?
I’ve always loved playing with food. I knew food would play a big part in Alexandra’s life too, and many things she cooks in the book, I’ve cooked in real life, to the point that I am considering writing a cook book called ‘Alexandra’s Kitchen’. Alex and I don’t share much, except a love of cooking, Gabriel, and the music of James Oldrini!
I love chicken parmesan, I love pasta made with my original recipe tomato sauce, topped with cheese. And I really love Italian Apple Cake, Oh, and homemade pancetta and pecorino ravioli, and stuffed paccheri, and spaghettio’s on toast and … and … do I have to choose? LOL!
So, my favourite, probably the spaghettio’s on toast, and who would I like to share it with …? Hmmm. I’d love to share a meal with a particular actor who I’ve admired for at least, 25 years. Failing that, I’ll happily carry on cooking and sharing meals and sweet treats with my friends and family, who so far, have enjoyed what I’ve cooked or baked for them.
Facebook or Twitter: Facebook
Sweet or savoury: Both
E-books or physical books: Both
Tea or coffee: Latte
Home or abroad: Home
Reading or writing: Writing
Famous or rich: Oooooo! Famous
Cats or dogs: Cats
Kissing or spanking: hahaha both!
Alex or Gabriel (Elaine’s main characters): Gabriel
Thanks so much for this opportunity to chat about my characters and my books, feel free to ask me anything else!
If you’d like to check out Elaine’s work (and seriously, you should), here is her website, her Facebook page, her Twitter profile, and her Amazon author page from which you can buy her books. I’m sorry, I’m not giving you her address so that you can pop round for a private reading or a secret spanking!
Interview originally published here.