"New Worlds Are Our Oyster."
Sierra Dafoe is the author of over twenty erotic romance novellas and currently publishes with Ellora's Cave and Changeling Press. She was nominated for three 2006 CAPA Awards, and won Best New Author in the 2006 Love Romances Cafe Reader's Poll, as well as Best Fantasy of 2006 for Dragon's Heir.
An Interview with Sierra Dafoe
PNR: Can you tell us a little about how you started writing; was it something you have always wanted to do?
Sierra D.: It was simply something I'd always done. The first story I can remember writing was in second grade, and I've written in one form or another all my life -- stories, songs, plays, poems, essays, novellas, screenplays… However, it wasn't until about six years ago that it occurred to me maybe I should be writing for a living. Okay, so maybe sometimes I'm not too quick on the uptake…
PNR: Are you able to write as much as you would like? Could you tell us about your writing schedule? What do you enjoy doing when not writing?
Sierra D.: I've been lucky enough to be able to write full-time for the past year -- which doesn't, unfortunately, always mean I get to write as much as I like! I really can't complain, though -- my son is all grown, and my husband is very supportive. So on average I get to spend about five hours a day writing, usually in the late morning and afternoon, now -- it used to always be at night. Every once in a while, though, when a story's really cooking, I'll still stay up to the wee hours and write straight through.
I've always enjoyed reading -- in fact, if you told me I could only do one or the other, I'd probably opt for reading over writing. I'm pretty omnivorous -- I love romance in all its many forms, fantasy, historical fiction, sci-fi, horror, suspense… you name it! I also love living in northern New Hampshire -- it's an absolutely beautiful place, and I spend a lot of time taking my puppy for walks, enjoying the quiet, thinking up new stories… And every once in a while, just vegging out in front of the TV with a good movie is wonderful!
PNR: Who or what has been your biggest influence as a writer? Who has been your biggest support?
Sierra D.: Strangely enough for an erotic romance writer -- Stephen King. Seriously. If I have an influence, he's it. Not in content, obviously, but in terms of writing style and character development he really is a master. Some of his novellas -- The Body, for example, and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, both of which became outstanding movies -- are in my opinion simply some of the best writing around.
Angela Knight has been another huge influence, especially as a working author. She's a ferociously good writer, and on top of it she's just an incredibly generous and gracious person. She really is my personal role model for how to do it right -- not just the writing, but the career and the attitude and everything.
In terms of support, I have to give huge amounts of credit to my wonderful and quietly long-suffering husband. He's not much of a reader, actually, but it didn't matter -- when he saw how badly I wanted this, he gave me the room and the time to do it. And my two bestest girlfriends, Melanie and Cindy, who have been two of the hugest blessings of my life, and have always encouraged me in everything I do.
The third group of people I really have to thank are my readers -- I have been just incredibly blessed to have readers who are very vocal and encouraging, and they're always very much in my mind when I sit down to write. Love you guys!
PNR: What are the greatest challenges to you as an author?
Sierra D.: Believing in myself, I think. I'm a compulsive rewriter -- not in itself necessarily a bad thing! But there's a point where rewriting becomes a delaying tactic, and where I'm doing it because I'm scared the story's not good enough, or I'm not good enough, or… Anyway, that's the point at which I'm learning to kick in my heels and get the darn thing done!
PNR: What do you feel are the essential elements of a great story?
Sierra D.: Character. Character character character. I would say, "character and stakes" but even what's at stake in a story really comes back to character.
For me, as a reader, it doesn't matter how brilliant the plot twists are, if they're happening to people I don't care about, then what's the point? Who cares? If you can make me care about a character, I will follow the story through hell and back to find out what happens to them -- and, well, as a writer, that's one more thing I consider part of a great story. Taking your characters (and your readers) through hell and back -- because that's when the payoff really is fun, isn't it? I mean, where's the thrill in a happily ever after when nobody was all that unhappy before?
PNR: You made your writing debut in 2006 with Devarian Exile, and have been burning the midnight oil at your keyboard having 18 releases to date. You have received numerous honors, awards and a great deal of reader admiration for your writing. How does it feel to have such positive recognition for your work?
Sierra D.: Incredible. Absolutely incredible. And amazing. I remember when I read the list of 2006 CAPA nominees and my name was on there three times. I felt like looking over my shoulder to see who they were talking about, because it couldn't really be me -- could it? Once would have staggered me enough. (Now watch, I won't be nominated for anything this year, LOL!)
The best feeling is finishing a story and knowing I hit it. Knowing I wrote something that my fans are going to enjoy. Make Me, my first release at Ellora's Cave, was very much like that. Dravidian is another -- just very emotionally intense. And hot! :-)
PNR: Congratulations, readers are excited about the November release of DRAVIDIAN from Changeling Press; this is the fourth in your Dragon’s Heir series. Could you tell us what inspired this wickedly hot fantasy series and a little about your vision for the project? A sneak peek perhaps?
Sierra D.: For a wonder, I can remember exactly where the Dragon's Heir stories started (often, I can't). I was up at Jericho Lake near my house. We had an early fall that year, and the leaves were already starting to change. So there were these great swaths of brilliant color reflected in the lake, and I just got this picture in my head -- a young woman riding a massive red dragon, swooping low over the water, seeing their reflections beneath…
That particular image never made it into any of the books, but it got me thinking -- who was this girl? Who was the dragon? What if she were a dragon, too? What would that be like, to suddenly find out you're a dragon-shifter? And that's how Lara Southerlin and Rand, the big red dragon, were born.
Of course, by Dravidian, a lot of things have already happened -- Lara has found Zendar, her life-mate, and Rand and Darrek have become lovers. But one of the things I love about Dravidian is that you don't really need the whole history of the first three books -- it's a novella you can walk into and enjoy even without the backstory.
When Dravidian opens, Lara has just brought Zendar and Dravidian, one of the lost Astraea clan, back to Djarera -- and both she and Zendar are finding themselves overwhelmingly attracted to the tall, silver-haired Dravidian. They haven't been married long, and they're very much in love -- and how do you deal with that? How do you handle finding yourself attracted to another man when you're married? How do you handle it if your wife is attracted to someone else? And what if you're attracted to him, too? For all the differences between the world of Djarera and our own, these are very recognizable, familiar problems -- and although on Djarera they get to find a different solution than would be socially acceptable here on Earth, I like to think that the process by which they reach that solution is a very human one.
A little sneak peek:
“I’m going to touch your arm in a moment.” Dravidian’s low murmur was as soft as the air, not breaking her concentration. “Tell me when you feel it.”
His words sent an electric tingle through Lara, and her skin, already sensitive, seemed to become aware of every tiny, shifting impression -- the air, cooler for a moment as a cloud passed over the sun. A whisper of sensation -- had he just brushed her cheek?
No. Maybe. She couldn’t tell.
Then, unmistakably, she felt the feather-light touch of his hand on her forearm where it rested across her crossed legs. “Now,” she said.
“Open your eyes.”
The world sprang back up around her as if fresh-made -- clear blue sky, green, towering mountains… and Dravidian kneeling before her, his hand poised a good five inches above her arm.
Lara gaped at it. “But… You weren’t… Didn’t you…?”
He shook his head, smiling gently. “Not even close.” He dropped his hand to her forearm, stroking it lightly.
“But how could I…”
“How can you feel when someone is looking at you, even when you’re not looking at them?”
“But you can, can’t you?”
“How do you know when someone has walked into a room?” Dravidian asked, not giving her time to think or answer. His voice was low, hypnotic. His luminous gaze bored into hers. “How is it your body knows, before you’ve even turned around, if it is someone you love? Someone you desire?”
“I don’t…” Lara realized she was almost panting, her lips slightly parted. Dropping her gaze, she stared at his hand stroking her forearm, his strong, deft fingers sliding down to glide against hers as lightly as the wind. Her skin tingled where he touched it, almost unbearably sensitive. “I don’t know,” she whispered.
“Your body does. When you are still. When you are listening to it. Then even the gentlest sensation…” -- his fingers, barely brushing her skin, drew shivers of fire across her nerve endings -- “…can be almost overwhelming.”
Yes. Oh, yes. Lara trembled, her entire body yearning toward Dravidian as it had once yearned toward the winds of Earth. Longing, on a level so deep it was coded in her cells, for its touch, its embrace. Even before she’d known she was a dragon, she had felt instinctively that she belonged in the wind’s arms, just as she belonged in Dravidian’s…
Looking up, she saw beneath the surface of his eyes the same hunger, the same deep yearning. His features were lax, clinging to their usual calm neutrality by sheer force of habit. But for the first time she noticed the slight tremble in his fingers as he touched her, the softness of his barely parted lips… They were tiny things, signs so small she might never have seen them.
And he’d meant her not to see them, Lara realized. He’d never intended to let her see the passion blazing beneath his cool, controlled surface. But she’d felt it anyway, hadn’t she? Yes, and returned it -- wordlessly, unconsciously. The blood mounted to her cheeks as she remembered how she’d looped her arm through his at the reception, how she’d taken his hand as if she had a right to and practically dragged him out of the throne room. For his sake? Or her own? Had she really merely wanted to give him a rest from the throngs of gathered dragons -- or was it, in fact, that she’d wanted him alone?
Zendar had known -- of course Zendar had known. The same way she and Dravidian both had, on a level so deep it didn’t need words. But even jealousy didn’t fully explain the violence of his reaction.
She couldn’t think about that now. Not now, with Dravidian kneeling before her, his silver hair twisting in an errant breeze, his eyes gazing into hers with a hungry yearning he’d never meant to let himself show…
And the answering ache inside her pulled her forward, drawing her to him until her hands tangled in his hair, her fingers twining through the silken silver strands as their lips brushed together in a kiss that was like the touch of wind.
PNR: Readers are drawn into the magical world you have created. Tell us about the challenges you face in world building and making it work with the ideas you have in mind for the progression of your characters and the series?
Sierra D.: There always has to be a balance between the strange and the familiar -- between the magical and the mundane, for me. No matter how completely different from our everyday reality a fictional world is, there have to be elements we can recognize, touchstones that allow us to find our way into a story, that make it familiar to us. J.R.R. Tolkien was a master of that -- he created the most enormous, complex, and fully fleshed out alternate world that literature has yet seen, so far as I know. And he led us into this huge, fantastical world by letting us see it through the eyes of a hobbit. A character comfortingly familiar, very much like us, who was as overwhelmed by what he was seeing as we would be. And who often wished he was back home in his very own bed with the covers drawn up over his ears! I mean, that's just marvelous. It's a feeling we can all relate to.
In terms of a continuing series, I always look for the conflict that hasn't been resolved in the last story -- and there's always something! Some area that hasn't been explored, or a new character that's been introduced. When Dravidian first appeared in Dragon's Desire, he was to some extent a plot device -- he was the means by which Lara and Zendar could get back to Djarera. But within half a page, he became very interesting to me, and the old questions started coming up -- who is he? How did he get there? What does he want? The Astraea have been gone from the dragon planet for a very long time -- how have they changed? What makes them different from the four clans that haven't left Djarera? And in starting to answer those questions, I found the core of the story for Dravidian.
PNR: Do you feel your writing is character driven or plot driven? How do you balance these two elements?
Sierra D.: Definitely character-driven. Basically, it's my job to create two things -- the characters, and the situation. Plot is simply the interaction of those two elements.
PNR: Could you tell us a little about how you develop your characters? Who has been your favorite character to write? The most challenging?
Sierra D.: Oh, gosh. Well, I ask a lot of questions -- who are they, what do they want… But the germ of a character never comes from those questions, for me. What I usually get first is an image, much like Lara riding her red dragon, or a werewolf, not what I think of as a paranormal werewolf, you know, full moon and silver bullets and all that, but a being who is as natural, as flesh-and-blood, as an ordinary timber wolf. That's when the questions come -- what would that be like, to be a wolf-shifter in a world that's slowly eradicating wild wolves, a world where every day there is less and less room for wild creatures?
That was Wolf, in Wolf Bound, who's in many ways my favorite character to date. I've seldom had a character walk into my mind so fully-formed. As soon as I saw him, there was just so much I knew about him -- and he was very compelling to me.
Who was the most challenging? That one's easy -- Persia, the star of Stray Cat Strut, the last Shifter Sisters book. I remember being halfway through the first draft and tossing my hands up in despair -- here I had this main character who was snippy, self-centered, totally amoral… my God, how was I ever going to make her likeable? What had I done to myself?
But I liked her. I liked her sauciness. I liked her utter self-absorption. I'm very fond of Persia. All I could do, really, was hope that readers would enjoy her, too. And apparently they have -- I got a lot of fan mail on that story, and two recommended reads, which of course made Persia feel very full of herself, LOL!
PNR: Dragon lore is deeply embedded in the mythology of many cultures; they are powerful and dangerous yet have a sensual, beguiling quality. Why do you feel mythology in general, and dragons specifically, are such a popular theme in the paranormal romance genre?
Sierra D.: I think it's a number of elements -- I don't know about you, but I was absolutely fascinated by dragons as a kid. Dragons vary a lot, of course, but almost always there is a unique combination of vast physical strength and vast knowledge. Dragons, by and large, are thinking creatures -- they're wily, cunning, fiercely intelligent… They're both wild and civilized, which I think is a huge part of their appeal, both rational and magical. Brute strength and intelligence -- plus, of course, they can fly :-)
So in paranormal romance, and as shifters, they're sort of the ultimate alpha male -- I mean, can you imagine a better protector than a dragon? And yet there's something eternally untamable about them, too, something as elemental as a hurricane or a thunderstorm… It's an irresistible combination, at least for me!
PNR: How would you describe the sensuality level of your books; do you find it challenging to write the hot love/sex scenes that readers demand?
Sierra D.: Well, it varies somewhat. All my books are pretty explicit, and some of them venture into downright kinky, which can be a lot of fun! On my website, I make sure to specify which books contain m/m content because I can completely understand why some readers wouldn't enjoy that -- in fact, as an author, I was kinda floored when I wrote my first m/m menage scene and found myself having a great time with it!
What I find challenging, or at least the challenge I set myself, is for each love scene to really matter. There's a lot of times when I could sneak a sex scene in simply for the sake of having it, and I really don't like doing that. For me, what matters are the stakes -- what's happening emotionally in this scene? Why do they have to make love now? What changes as a result of that?
For all the explicitness, what I find most exciting as both a writer and a reader is the emotional tension of a sex scene. Making love, there's always this element of risk -- of vulnerability, openness, intimacy, discovery… Or conversely, sometimes it's where our darkest emotions come into play. No matter how hot the action, it's always that emotional journey, for me, which really counts. Even in Absolute Power, which began half as a lark-- "Hey!" I thought. "I know! I'll write a story with one woman and six hunky vampires!" -- now there's a book you'd expect to be little more than a sextravaganza. But it ended up being one of my favorite love stories to date, and Mia and Fyodor are one of my favorite couples.
PNR: You have written in the fantasy, sci-fi, and shifter genres to name a few; what is it about the paranormal romance genre that captures your imagination? Is there a genre you haven’t written but would like to try?
Sierra D.: The last time I answered that question about genres I'd like to try, I ended up writing the Shifter Sisters! I love comedy, and had always wanted to take a stab at it, so I did -- and I was very happy with the results. I really like my motley band of shifter misfits, and how they all found love, each in their own way.
There's a quote I love, and I'm totally embarrassed that I can't, at the moment, remember who said it or the exact wording, but the gist of it is this: "Good writing consists of taking the unusual and making it familiar, or taking the familiar and showing it to us in a way that makes it new and unusual." I might be flattering myself on that "good writing" part, but I love stepping into a world with unusual situations and making it familiar, making it believable, making it a place you'd really like to go. Sometimes that doesn't even mean paranormal elements -- right now I'm working on a menage story set in Idaho, about a woman in love with two men, who are also both attracted to each other. And how would that work, in rural Idaho? How difficult a situation would that be?
But of course it also means I get to play with werewolves, vampires, dragons, and the occasional shapeshifting cat. Which is pretty much like putting me in a room with lots of bright, shiny toys and saying, "Okay, Sierra -- go play!"
PNR: You are writing several series; Dragon’s Heir, Shifter Sisters and Devarian, all enormously popular with readers. What has been your favorite series to write so far? Single title? Why?
Sierra D.: I've loved each of them in their own ways -- Shifter Sisters was just a ton of fun. In the Dragon's Heir series, for me, there is definitely a lot of wish-fulfillment going on there, LOL! I've always loved dragons, and the idea of being able to fly… Well, let's just say Djarera is a world I really enjoy visiting! And I have to mention one other thing I love about the Dragon's Heir books, something that isn't even any of my doing -- the covers. I absolutely love the dragons Bryan Keller created for the series.
I love the Devarian books, too -- they're a sci-fi series set in a future where all men are slaves, and the core trilogy, Devarian Exile, Uprising, and Revolution, follow the quest of one strong, determined woman to free the man she loves. So it's a really big canvas to paint on, and I got to tell the story of a galaxy-wide rebellion -- how cool is that? The trilogy essentially forms one full-length novel, and probably reads best that way. Devarian Pleasure-Slave and Devarian Renegades are ancillary stories, both set before the trilogy in terms of time, and both work well as stand-alones.
Single titles -- now, that's really rough. But I think my two favorites are Make Me and Wolf Bound. They're both, to me, very romantic stories, and I love the characters in them.
PNR: Could you tell us about your current projects, what can readers expect to see in the coming months?
Sierra D.: Let's see -- this month we have The Dragon Prince, another Dragon's Heir book, coming from Changeling Press, as well as a fun little Christmas short, Dancer. Shapeshifting reindeer, yum! Then in January His For the Taking, my first erotic Regency, is releasing from Ellora's Cave -- I like that story, it's very intense, very passionate…
I've got a lot of projects in the works, but only a few of them are already contracted, so I don't want to take about them too much -- suffice it to say that readers can expect to be seeing a few longer stories from me in 2008!
PNR: Thank you, Sierra, for taking time out to talk to us. Where can readers find out what’s new and how can they contact you?
Sierra D.: The two best places to stay up to date are my website at http://www.sierradafoe.com, and my yahoogroup, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/The_Sierra_Club. There's a lot of cool features on the website including free stories, excerpts from all my books, and featured author interviews -- in January it'll be Kate Douglas, author of the fantastic Wolf Tales and Sexy Beast series for Kensington. She'll be joining us at the Sierra club for a loop chat, as well. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and I love hearing from readers -- please feel free to drop me a note!
Thank you so much for the great interview questions, and here's wishing everybody at PNR a wonderful holiday season!
December 27, 2007
Dragon's Heir: Book 5
Something is wrong with Kevan -- he knows it. As heir to the throne, he’s expected to be dutiful, responsible, levelheaded… and to marry and continue the royal line. But not one of the females presented for his consideration rouses his interest, and on his twenty-first birthday, Kevan throws duty to the winds and runs away to Earth to try and find out why. When he meets Cal, a handsome young dancer, Kevan finds all his questions answered in one blazing night of passion. Caught up in the first flush of sexual awakening, Kevan is willing to risk everything to keep Cal by his side -- even the throne of the Dragon kingdom!
But Cal has plans for his dragon prince, and is willing to do whatever it takes to continue Kevan’s erotic education…
November 23, 2007
Dragon's Heir: Book 4
Bringing Dravidian, one of the lost Astraea clan, home to Djarera is something of a triumphal success for Lara. The dragon kingdom is at peace, the succession of the throne ensured, and the clans have at last accepted the rogue dragon Zendar as her life-mate.
But she never envisioned the complications that Dravidian’s return would bring. When Zendar first accuses her of being attracted to the exotically handsome blue dragon, Lara is dumbfounded -- and even more confused as she realizes not only are his accusations true, but Dravidian hungers for her as deeply as she for him.
But the depths of Zendar’s jealousy betray another unexpected truth -- that he himself, for the first time in his life, is tormented by sexual desire for another man. When Lara finally discovers what’s really distressing her life-mate, she is determined to give Zendar, Dravidian, and herself what they all yearn for!
March 23, 2007
Dragon's Heir: Book 3
In the dragon kingdom of Djarera, Lara Sotherlin has at last found her life-mate in the handsome rebel, Zendar. But the four clans, still furious over Zendar's rebellion, refuse to accept him as heir to the throne. Zendar can see no other way to save Djarera from all-out warfare than to leave, even if it means losing the woman he loves. And Darrek, badly scarred and left half-blind by the battle to save Elara, believes he wants nothing more than to be left alone. Together, they disappear, leaving Rand and Elara frantic.
Now Elara and Rand must put everything on the line to find them, and in a last desperate struggle, each of them must finally acknowledge their own deepest desires. But will the result be ruin for the dragon kingdom, or the dawn of a whole new era?
November 1, 2006
Dragon's Heir: Book 2
Lara’s back -- but this time, she has three dragons to handle!
Not only has Lara Sutherland learned she’s actually Elara Southerlin, the Dragon Queen’s daughter, but she also has two gorgeous, passionate lovers in Darrek and Rand. Oh, and she can shapeshift into a dragon -- how cool is that?
But Lara is about to enter khef, the overwhelming mating frenzy that overtakes dragons. And that means that, like it or not, she is going to have to choose a life-mate. She loves both her handsome lovers --- but she isn’t in love with either Darrek or Rand. How can she bring herself to choose between them? Will the pressures of khef destroy not only her chance of happiness, but theirs, as well?
Or is there some truth to the dream that haunts her -- the fantasy of a powerful dragon lover who will fulfill all the desires of her body and heart?
May 1, 2006
Dragon's Heir: Book 1
For decades, the two most powerful dragon clans have been at each other’s throats over one very important question: who will get to marry the Dragon Queen’s daughter?
Determined to end their feuding, Melgara sends the two young princes to Earth where her daughter, Elara, has grown up in hiding, ignorant of who she is and safe from the bickering that besets the dragon kingdom. The one that wins Elara’s heart will be heir to the throne -- while the other will be banished forever.
But when the two princes find her and start vying for her affections, Elara finds herself in a wholly unexpected predicament. On the one hand there’s Darrek Hausther, dangerous and dominant and darkly handsome. On the other, there’s Rand Aurorea, who is strong and sweet-tempered and red-haired to boot.
How, oh how, is a girl ever supposed to choose?
For Additional Titles from Sierra Dafoe
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