It’s hard to express how much Tiffany Reisz means to me, both personally and professionally. Let me deal with the latter first.
Professionally, Tiffany is an inspiration. Her stories, her work ethic, her kindness with her fans. She is a rock star and the most down to earth and FUNNY rock star you’ll ever meet. Her characters are so real and wonderful they HAUNT me long after I finish reading about them. And I’m clearly not the only one who thinks so. Her fans of her internationally best-selling Original Sinners series were so ravenous for more once the series ended, she has been self-publishing more of their stories because demand has been so great. Talented doesn’t even begin to describe Tiffany. She’s a natural storyteller who can wring tears and laughter all in the same paragraph.
Personally, Tiffany inspires me to be brave. Brave in writing. Write what I want and how I want and when I want. Throw rules and spreadsheets to the wind! And brave in life. Love who I want, when I want and how I want. (With full consent, of course!)
Tiffany has also been a steady voice in times of professional chaos. For me, she is my go-to person for asking advice about writing, agents, publishing and so much more. Giving doesn’t even begin to describe Tiffany. (Don’t get me wrong. She’s also tough as nails and intimidating as hell. I sort of want to die when I feel like I’ve asked her a stupid question, regardless of her answering the question with all sincerity.)
Alright, I could wax poetic about this lady for days. How about we just get to the interview?
Hey Tiffany! Thank you so much for chatting with me today. I don’t even know where to begin. I feel like I could ask you 1,000,000,000 questions and still never even scratch the surface of all the things I want to say to you and ask you and just listen to you talk! :). But I know you are a very busy woman so I will get right to question number one.
Yes, I’m very busy and important. *sips coffee* *pets cat* *takes nap*
What were you saying?
So my first question is: you are a prolific writer. You have anthologies and novellas, short stories, free stories, contemporary romances and Gothic romances. You write a ton and you write a wide variety of books. What is the secret to your productivity?
They say necessity is the mother of invention, and I kind of believe it. It’s sort of a “if you don’t work, you don’t eat scenario.” My husband, author Andrew Shaffer, and I are both 100% full-time writers. Full-time writers have to write. We have no other income and no spouse with a day job to support us. That’s a scary leap to take and I’m glad I took it. Keeps me working!
One of the things I like best about you is that you treat your writing like a job. You don’t wait for the muse to hit. You get to work. But sometimes, it can be really hard to gain the momentum to sit in a chair and write and keep doing it. What are you doing when those days hit you? When it just feels like the words aren’t coming?
Usually if the words aren’t coming, it means something is wrong in the book and I need to take a couple days to really meditate on it and do some deep dives and soul-searching about the book. Usually a problem on page 200 starts on page 20. I’ve set something up wrong. There’s not enough conflict. I’m not believing what I’m writing so I have to go back and figure out where I took a wrong turn. It’s a great feeling to figure that out. I do that with almost every book over the length of 55,000 words. All the big books required massive rewrites. It’s just part of the process.
You talked extensively about writing craft in interviews you’ve done in the past. So this time I want to talk about character building. You have some of the most amazing characters I’ve ever read. They haunt me even after I’m done reading the book. In fact, I don’t tend to re-read a lot of stories, but I reread yours. Not only are they really entertaining, but they are master classes in writing technique. So you have these amazing characters, and I don’t think that’s by accident. Can you go through how you craft someone as memorable and striking as Søren or Nora or, from your newest release, Picture Perfect Cowboy, Jason Waters and Simone Levine? They are dreams!
I like thinking in terms of dichotomies and contradictions when creating characters. For example, Jason, my cowboy in Picture Perfect Cowboy. I start with—“What do readers expect from a cowboy hero?” and I think about that. Then I think about “What would readers NOT expect from a cowboy hero?” Jason’s also a secret kinky dominant, although he’s never tried it in real life before, only fantasized about it. So I think “What would readers expect from a male dominant?” and then “What would readers NOT expect from a male dominant?”
So you get a classic cowboy type—Jason is quiet and serious like you’d expect from a cowboy. But then you get the contradiction. He’s really quite talkative when he’s comfortable. And he’s playful, tool. Nobody ever says, “Yeah, Steve’s super playful and goofy, but he’s a cowboy so of course he is.” Not your typical cowboy trait. In erotic romance, dominant men tend to be VERY dominant, very alpha, and 100% large and in charge, almost to a cartoonish baboonish degree, sadly. Very unlike the real male dominants I know. I knew a few male dominants who confessed to really struggling with their desires, feeling guilty, feeling ashamed, not knowing how to tell a woman lest they come off looking like a creep or a predator or an abuser. Not the usual male dominant you see in fiction so that’s what Jason is—a very scared, nervous, new baby male dominant. And his teacher is his submissive, Simone, who is out there, proud, happy being kinky, very open about it, very in charge of her sexuality. That’s the fun of writing for me, creating a character who twists and turns your expectations around.
Okay, let’s talk about another part of storytelling: conflict. I remember one time you had mentioned that a story needs conflict. So how do you find that core conflict that is really the spine of a story and can support a 70,000 or 90,000 or even 110,000 word book? What makes really great conflict?
The conflict should begin before the book does. Your main character needs to have a real, serious, pressing issue in their lives and the events of the story exacerbate and address that real problem that’s a sort of “pre-existing condition.” Usually your average romance heroine is already in debt when the book begins, or she’s lonely or she’s out of a job or she’s on the run from a dangerous ex. She doesn’t have a perfect life when things begin and so when the inciting incident occurs—a rich man proposes marriage or an old friend asks her to pretend to be his girlfriend for a week or she meets a sexy bouncer at a club she ducks into while on the run and he offers to protect her in exchange for…who knows?—she’s ready to jump on that train and ride it to the end of the book!
Picture Perfect Cowboy is something like, your forty-third published book. That’s amazing and thank you. And you developed an imprint, the 8th Circle Press. Which is such a shout out to all of your fans because we know exactly what that is, we know exactly what that symbol is, and it’s just so fun and I love it. But what made you decide to self publish? I know in previous interviews a few years ago, it wasn’t really something you were interested in. Did something in particular make you change your mind?
I *think* I’ve published 21 novels that are over 50,000 words. Everything else is a short story or novella so that’s not as impressive as 43 books. But I’m getting there!
I still don’t love self-publishing, and I don’t feel like much of an evangelist for it. I know too many writers who thought that would be their ticket to writing fame and fortune and sold…five to ten copies in a year. So I’m always warning up-and-coming writers to keep their exceptions in line with reality and research the heck out of both self-publishing and traditional publishing before committing to one or the other (both is an option!). The only reason we started self-publishing was because the Original Sinners series ended, but my readers kept wanting more Original Sinners books. And it turned out I wanted to write them. So to keep the series alive, we moved to self-publishing. I’m still traditionally publishing and writing books to be traditionally published. The 8th Circle Press is now basically just an Original Sinners imprint. It’s been fun, but a ton of work. I would never do it if I didn’t have my husband Andrew doing all the hard stuff—formatting and cover design, marketing, etc.
OK let’s talk about your newest book Picture Perfect Cowboy. It’ll be going on sale November 5 and I just loved it! It was so well-done and sexy and funny. Was there anything that surprised you most in writing this book?
I’d never really explored Simone and Søren’s relationship before, their friendship, and that surprised me. He’s very tender toward her, and she clearly adores him. While Mistress Nora is a friend to Simone, Simone sees Søren as more of a mentor so when she had a real heartbreaking problem, she goes to him for help.
It was also a surprising amount of fun to write Jason finding his kinky self and getting comfortable with it. We’re all about kink pride, etc, in the kink community but we do have to acknowledge that people do have to go through a journey to get there sometimes. Not everyone is born going “Rah-rah! I’m kinky! Hooray!” For a lot of people it’s more like, “Oh shit, I’m kinky. This is going to make things complicated.” It’s legitimate, it’s hard to work through, and it’s something a lot of fun to explore as a writer.
One of the things I like a lot about this book is the role-reversal of Jason and the heroine, Simone. Simone teaches Jason a lot during the course of this book, which is an awesome role-reversal because usually, the man is teaching the woman. But to add another layer to it, Simone is a professional submissive and Jason is learning how to be a dominant. So that’s a pretty cool dynamic! And you wrote it so so well. Did it take long to find the balance in a relationship that’s as complex as that one?
Nah. That was the heart of the book and I knew that’s what I wanted to write when I started writing it. The submissive-teacher and the dominant-student. I mean, you have to learn from someone. Simone may be the submissive, but she has more than a decade of kink experience. Jason is a total newbie and she really has to show him the ropes. And then he ties her up with those ropes while she cheers him on.
You also included a short story with my favorite favorite person ever, Søren. How fun is writing those kinds of stories? Because they are a ton of fun to read.
I sat down and wrote that story in two hours. It was a little blast. Anytime you put Søren in a room with someone new, it’s dramatic. Søren just can’t help himself sometimes. He’s got a real mischievous streak to him that comes out in those situations.
Speaking of Soren, youhave a very special treat for your readers. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Check out her holiday shop!
I wouldn’t call it a treat. I wrote another Original Sinners book, a MYSTERY novel! A real live mystery novel. it’s a full-length Original Sinners novel with a mystery plot (a few sex scenes, of course), and it’s called THE PRIEST. It’s the official book 9, I suppose. Takes place about four months after the end of THE QUEEN. It’ll be out late 2019 probably. But don’t quote me on that.