Interview – Tiffany Reisz
How do you describe a book written by Tiffany Reisz? Hmmm…. well, I’d say extremely amazing, wickedly funny, outrageous, flirtatious and sexy. How do you describe Tiffany herself? Extremely amazing, wickedly funny, outrageous, flirtatious and sexy. I don’t even know where to start with expressing my love for Ms. Reisz. She’s personable and friendly to her fans – downright flirty with them too. (This coming from a girl who was invited to meet her at Starbucks, as long as I wore high heeled boots. Which I will do.) Her Twitter feed is entertainment unto itself. And she’s not afraid to talk about sex. All types of sex. (And that’s just on her blog. We haven’t yet tackled her books yet. But we will.)
All in all, Tiffany is one of my favorite new people. She has two cats and shares a love of Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes with me. She’s prolific in her writing. She has two series, a dozen and then some short stories, a sexy rom-com, two essays, and a graphic novel. She’s inspiring and definitely makes me up my own game.
Now about that series… Tiffany has penned one of the best series I’ve ever read. It’s called The Original Sinners and it features a gutsy, green-eyed dominatrix named Nora Sutherland (as played in Tiffany’s head by Rachel Weisz), a sadistic Catholic priest named Soren Stearns (as played in Tiffany’s head by Nicolaj Coster-Waldau), and one of the sexiest, naughtiest men in all of New York, Kingsley Edge (as played in Tiffany’s head by Gaspard Ulliel). These stories are sexy, no doubt, but they’re also funny. I think it was the humor in them that made me such a fan. Or maybe it was the gorgeous lyricism of the writing. And then, let’s not forget that Tiffany’s sinners are so exceptionally crafted that I find myself wanting to know EVERYTHING about them. I scavenge Tiffany’s work and blog and past interviews for any sort of information about them – especially Kingsley, my favorite. In fact, Tiffany’s books are so much fun to read that, after multiple viewings, I can still open her book at page one, read the entire thing, and still be swept off my feet.
I devoured her four book series in two days. I’ve never experienced such a back ache before due to non-movement (but it was appropriate, I think, considering).The minute I reached The End in The Mistress, I got online and emailed Ms. Reisz, practically begging her to let me interview her. (Appropriate, too.) And she, bless her, said yes.
So today I am interviewing the incredible Tiffany Reisz, and because, in my excitement, i sent her a humongous list of questions, I’ve decided to break up the interview and post the various sections over the next three days. Enjoy!
PART ONE: WRITING QUESTIONS
1. Thanks for chatting with me today Tiffany! I’m a huge fan of yours. I couldn’t even say which book of yours is my favorite. They’re all my favorite, including the many short and free stories you offer at your fabulous website. The books are sexy, sensual, funny, heartbreaking, thrilling and romantic. Brutal…but romantic. 🙂 But one of the things I absolute love most about your writing is how lyrical it is. For instance, this exchange between the heroine and a certain gentleman:
“If you come back to me,” he said, making a rare concession, “will you run or crawl?”
Nora had pressed her whole body into him at that moment. Resting her head on his strong shoulder, she watched as a tear forged a river down his long and muscled back.
Powerful powerful stuff! And there’s so many more amazing quotes and hysterical one-liners all throughout your entire series! It’s a treasure trove of incredible writing. Where did this voice come from? I know in an interview you said either none or all of you goes into a story. So is this your tone? Did it take a while to harvest this rhythm of narrative? Your books are just so readable!
The only way to find your writing voice is by writing. You write and you write and you write until you get too tired to sound like someone else (Faulkner, Hemingway, Austen, whoever it is you worship as a writer). It’s like being in a relationship. You’re on your best behavior in the beginning acting like the perfect version of yourself, which isn’t yourself at all. But after a few months or a few years, the real you comes out. That’s how writing voice works. It’s there under your fake perfect trying-to-sound-like-Jane-Austen voice. Mine came from me and it is the pure distillation of the things I love about literature—lyricism, poetry, sucker punches when a sentence or an image catches you off guard.
2. I feel like your books are such an amalgam of so many things, though I suppose you could call it erotica, psychological horror, romantic thriller, literary fiction. How would you classify your books? Do you like putting labels on the work? I know when you query a story, it’s ever so important to classify its genre. 🙂
For the sake of marketing, we call the books “Erotic Romance” although it’s something of a misnomer. They are erotic, they are romantic, but they aren’t romances and I worry people come to them with expectations that won’t be met. Example, in The King (out December 2014) the love story is between Kingsley and his dream club that he’s trying to create. It’s a prequel story so he hasn’t met his beloved Juliette yet and when the book begins, he already has a girlfriend (sort of – she’d argue with that classification). So if someone picked this book up looking for a love story between two people, they wouldn’t find it. In this case the book is erotica (sort of), mystery (sort of), and comedy (sort of).
When I queried THE SIREN, I classified it as “erotic women’s fiction.” You can argue with that as well, but my thought is that in M/F romance, the writer wants the reader to fall in love with the hero the way the heroine falls in love with him. With women’s fiction, you want your reader to fall in love with the heroine. In The Original Sinners, Nora’s the main heroine and I want readers to care more about her personal happiness and her adventures than who she ends up with in the very final book. And many readers went into The Mistress saying jus that—“I don’t care if it’s Søren or Wesley as long as she’s happy and alive.”
When I’m asked about the Original Sinners, I call them a “Catholic kinky soap opera.” It’s an ongoing series with multiple storylines, multiple plot lines, and couples coming together and breaking up and finding new lovers. It spans decades and genres. Ergo….soap opera.
3. Speaking of queries….your query, which was featured on Writers Digest, was amazing! Can you tell us about crating such a concise, evocative query? Any do you have any tips for writers on how to do the same?
My agent Sara Megibow says to write your query like it’s the back cover copy of your book. That’s the best advice I’ve heard. You’re trying to sell your book to your agent the same why you’d want it sold to your readers. That’s what I attempted to do with my query for THE SIREN. What you need to do is go to the bookstore and to the shelves where your book will be if published. Read the back covers of ten or twenty bestsellers in your genre and ten to twenty books that no one’s heard of and no one’s buying. See what speaks to you, makes you want to buy the book, and write your query letter in that style. Write it like a movie trailer, like you’re trying to make the reader desperate to read the book.
4. You’re extremely open and honest with not only your writing but your fans too. Which is great! But with your writing, do you ever type something and think no, it’s just a little too much? I love how you say the series is called the Original Sinners, not the Original Saints. 🙂 But I’m curious if you ever find a topic that’s just maybe a hair too much. (Though I’m trying to rack my brain for a topic you haven’t covered! You’re very thorough with your sins in the Original Sinners books.)
I’ve never pulled back in terms of content. I wanted to show Kingsley and Søren relationship they had as teenagers in all its erotic glory even though it was a BDSM male/male love affair between underage teenage boys at a Catholic boarding school. Not the sort of thing that get published every day (although I’d read the HELL out of that genre). I follow the rule of write what I want to read. I don’t want to read about sweet dumb girls. I want to read about complicated smart women. I don’t want to read about men who have nothing interesting about them other than a big cock so I write heroes who are complicated, dangerous, and sort of weird.
I’m trying to think if I’ve censored myself. Sometimes I pull back here and there but only because I don’t want to get into melodrama. Yes, you can have a BDSM session that leaves the person covered neck to toe in cuts or bruises, but you can also have a really laid back and groovy D/s sex scenes without pain involved. I love writing the pain but I have to remind myself that’s only one aspect of BDSM.
5. You’re represented by the fabulous Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency. On more than one occasion, she really sings your praises. And I can see why. 🙂 Can you tell me what it’s like being repped by Sara, and for any writers out there looking for some insider tips, what they can do to increase their chances of getting repped by her?
Here’s a fun and scary fact about Sara Megibow—she loves finding new authors and breaking them out. So if you’re already published and already a success, chances are slim she’ll rep you. One writer friend of mine was heartbroken because she’d thought having a successful self-published book would work in her favor with Sara. The one thing that’ll get any agent’s attention is simply….write an amazing book. Write a book no one else has written or write a story in a way no one has written it before.
6. You write. A lot! And you’re proud of it! It reminds me of an interview with Lady Gaga and the interviewer was so shocked with how much she actually sang and Gaga basically said, surprise on her face, “Well of course. I’m a singer. I sing.” My question is how do you do so darn much of it! You have short stories, deleted scenes, full novels, two series, and much more! Where does the productivity come from?
Writing is my job. No one is shocked that someone works at a bank 40-50 hours a week so why should it be a surprise that I write 40-50 hours a week? Writing is the only thing I’m disciplined about. My house is a mess, I have to be dragged to the gym, I hate cooking, I let laundry go for weeks on end, but every single day I sit down and do something to further my writing career—write, edit, outline, read a writing craft book, something. I get paid to this so I take it seriously. You all pay me money to do this so I take it seriously. The books I sell pay people’s salaries at my publisher so I take it seriously. In other words, I take it seriously.
*Stop back tomorrow for Part Two, where we discuss her unholy trinity.