Hi! and Happy Monday!
Today is my first post of a new feature that will be posted monthly here at Salacious Reads....CenterStage.
My first center stage spotlight will be on Author Natasha Blackthorne. I love her work and yes I'm girl crushing on her...lol and she has so graciously accepted my invitation to be my first guest...I am truly honored. Check out my Interview with Natasha and also be sure to click on the CenterStage page.
Tell us little about yourself.
I am married to a wonderful guy. I am a total history nerd. I have a B.A. in History. I love to read. I love literature, romance, psychology, and bits of everything else. I love cats and I live with a very neurotic but sweet calico. She is 16 and half years old and recently suffered a stroke, which had us very worried. She is recovering nicely now. I am grateful for that. She’s my little cheerleader and companion. There’s nothing aloof about her.
I spend most of my day surrounded by music. I like Baroque and Classical, Old School R&B, New Wave, Soft Rock from 70& 80s, Baroque Pop, 90s jazz-funk/dance, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, disco and funk, oldies from the 40s-60s, Reggae, Folk, Blue Grass, old style country and western. Mostly when it comes to music I like it all. It really just depends on my mood.
I don’t watch much TV but I do enjoy watching period movies or series on Netflix, British Comedies or series like Dark Shadows, Twin Peaks or original series Star Trek. I like all genres of emotional, character-driven movies. I have been enjoying Mad Men. Most of the time, I am writing or researching for the writing.
What started your interest in writing historical romances?
I am in love with history. It is the humanity of historical people that draws me. Not their highest achievements but the secret life of their hearts. Their little human imperfections and blind spots. The things they wanted most but could not have and how they dealt with that. Their sorrows and their joys. I enjoy exploring history at a very personal level. I enjoy reading biographies, letters, diaries and things like this.
There are some very passionate stories from this time in real history told through letters and other personal accounts. Sometimes so little is said but the words chosen are so powerful that emotion leaks in between the lines. In reading their stories, I begin to feel so deeply for these people. I’d love to go back and experience life as they did. So for me, it’s really a natural thing to go into a deeply personal type of storytelling about the periods of history that interest me the most.
What is more personal than erotic love? Especially if is erotic love that is able to break through people’s self defenses and bring real change into their lives.
I write erotic romance because I love exploring these intimate issues. I adore writing erotic and imagine I will keep on doing so for a very long time.
Can you tell us about the characters you've written about?
I never “planned” on writing the story portrayed in Grey’s Lady. I had done about six months of deep research into the Federalist and Jeffersonian periods. I focused heavily on the New England merchants, the men who made their fortunes as privateers in the Revolutionary War and then afterward were attempting to conquer the world of transoceanic trade.
I read another book that explored the sexual and economic politics between men and women in Philadelphia in this time. This book went into how economically disadvantaged women often made loose sexual alliances with wealthy gentlemen in the taverns, theaters and other public places in return for financial compensation. Sometimes it might even just be a nice meal or other luxuries that they couldn't afford. They were often otherwise respectable women. They weren’t professional prostitutes. They were simply trying to supplement their incomes and to get by.
There weren’t many opportunities for women in this time period. Some did have shops or a trade but it was often hard for widows or single women to make it. The post-Revolutionary War period could be very volatile as far as prices and wages and available jobs.
I read this book just to find out how gentlemen found their entertainment. I didn’t really think of having a heroine who did these practices. When writing a wealthy, powerful hero, one has to know many things about him such as where he goes to do the things he wouldn’t confess.
I was intending to write a very different story with another heroine. A very mainstream, sensual-to-spicy romance with a typical mainstream heroine. So there I was writing away at a scene about the hero and his backstory. An unrelated scene came to me. He shows me this moment in the Philadelphia bookseller’s when he made eye contact with this woman who had sad eyes. He was pierced by her look, flooded by his own emotions. He is a person who prefers to avoid emotion in himself and others. He would have liked to run.
But he couldn’t look away. She came closer to him and engaged him in a very bold way. A way he couldn’t possibly ignore. There was no escape from the feelings she evoked in him. He communicated to me his bewilderment, how painful it was to have the protective shield he kept between himself and his own feelings suddenly ripped away by a single glace from this unknown woman.
He was telling me his story, pressuring me to listen. He didn’t care that I was trying to write another, very different story. His life was changed in that one moment, he had no control over it. He needed someone to listen.
He understood why she wanted what she wanted from him. She uses sex just the same as he does— as a way to escape the boredom and bleakness of the life that each of them feels they are resigned to. They both also used sex as a way to keep their relationships with the opposite sex under control. She used her beauty and sexual allure. He used his wealth and sexual skill. But they both like to be the one in control, to keep their lovers at a distance. He’s fascinated by the similarities and he, however grudgingly, admires her audacity and bluntness.
When they meet and come together, they find they can no longer retain control. The feelings they have control them and this is a new and scary experience for them both. It’s a secret affair. Even if it wasn’t, being as self-protective as they are, neither of them has a confidant. They have to go through this new experience alone yet together. However they are unable to completely trust each other.
Well, after all of this, I knew I had to tell this story, even though it is not the usual historical romance. This was also the point at which I knew that in my heart I wanted to tell highly erotic stories. It was a highly liberating moment and I have deeply enjoyed the change.
Once I made this decision, I found Beth’s character harder to access. She was extremely complex and a character who would hide certain truths from me if she could.
I saw that she was very hard working, dutiful to her family. But she was also restless. She found it hard to live within the confines that are expected of her. She seeks secret affairs not for extra money but for the thrill of making a conquest of these gentlemen who hold so much power and wealth. She’s also a very sexually driven person and quite emotionally impetuous.
In Grey’s Lady, Beth thinks she can never have the type of man who really excite her, a handsome, powerful, dynamic gentleman. She won’t settle for less. So she thinks she has to fore-go marriage and children and she makes peace by helping her half-siblings and their children. She’s really very devoted and giving in this way. Maybe too much so. But it is not enough for her and so she makes this secret life for herself. She seeks out short-term relationships with gentlemen where she decides who, when, where and for how long. This way, she feels she has always the power.
In reality these gentlemen have vast wealth and social power compared to her. Power she can never hope to have. She can’t ever forget this even though their very wealth and power is what draws her and fascinates her. She’s determined she will remain in control in their liaison. She loves them once and leaves them burning.
With Grey, she cannot resist her continued and growing attraction. She’s no longer in control over the liaison. This really brings out a defiant, resistant side to her. However, over the course of her interaction with Grey, she begins to see she just might be able to have what she wants most of all.
To her surprise her deepest desire is not to be the wife of a wealthy, powerful gentleman. It is to be the beloved of the man she sees inside of him. It requires a real leap of faith and change within her to get to this point. She’ll have to fight his demons to get to a place where she can reach this inner man. But she’s also going to have to find a way to reconcile her secret life with her everyday life before she can find the strength of will to do this. She has to be the first to risk, the first to grow and change before she can inspire him to change.
The pain of finding the way to merge the two sides of her personality is the source of much of the pain she encounters in White Lace and Promises, the sequel to Grey’s Lady. While being very erotic, White Lace and Promises is also very angst ridden story. With the two main characters of Beth and Grey, it could be no other way. It is a longer story and the pace is slower than Grey’s Lady. The reason for this is that it shows a relationship at a different place than Grey’s Lady did. Grey’s Lady is about how lust can grow into feelings of being in love and wanting something deeper. White Lace and Promises shows how two self-protective, emotionally damaged people work to find a way to move from merely being in love to learning how to give the type of love their spouse really needs.
The story in Alex’s Angel and Emily’s Seduction is rooted in two aspects of American cultural history in the Federalist period. One of them is the slavery question that was applying increasing pressure on the conscience of the new country.
At the same time, America mariners were being taken by Barbary Pirates and being held in slavery in Northern Africa. The country couldn’t afford to pay the tributes the Barbary countries demanded to stop the practice and there was considerable debate about the practice of ransoming captured mariners. People fear it will only encourage the capture of more mariners.
Some want to create a national navy to fight for America’s interests at sea. But others fear any creation of a standing navy or army because it might be turned against the population.
A specific type of literature came out during this period, the captivity novel. These narratives focused on the experiences of those Americans who were held in bondage in foreign countries. People were trying to justify being sympathetic to the mariners held in captivity in Barbary while turning a blind eye to slavery in America at the same time. Emily, the heroine of Alex’s Angel, is involved in writing something that is very much like a captivity novel and she hopes it will become something higher. She hopes to change people’s minds and hearts.
Another cultural aspect in Alex’s Angel comes from the strong focus and insecurity of what it means to be a man. Business relationships depended on respect of one’s peers and interdependent relationships between men.
If a man lost the respect of his peers he lost a lot more. He lost his network and might well find himself closed out of his profession and the support he needed to attain power and position. Men suffered much inner insecurity about how other men viewed them.
Surface bravado and inner insecurity seem to mark much of the early national period in America. Rapid social and economic changes only added to this uneasiness.
Alex is a man who has been captured into slavery in a foreign country and he was targeted for his unusual handsomeness and blond, blue-eyed coloring. So this was a gentleman living in a time when a man must be self sufficient, powerful, masculine.
However, it happens in Alex’s Angel/Emily’s Seduction that the hero has been forced into a state of powerlessness in the past. Moreover, this happened as a result of something that is more often seen as a feminine trait: extraordinary physical beauty. It was a double blow. The two stories explore what happens to this man’s sexuality and self-image as a result and how he works to reconcile what has happened to him.
Of course, I write erotic romance and not history texts, so much of this is implied, a backdrop to the erotic romance that takes place.
Alex meets a young woman who is innocent, idealistic and determined that she can and will make a positive change in the world around her. She reminds him of everything he has lost inside himself. He cannot turn away from her. Yet he fears contaminating her with the darkness he feels powerless to overcome in himself.
Just as with Grey’s Lady, the H/h in Alex’s Angel have been living in a sort of bondage. A loving yet overbearing grandmother sheltered Emily which kept her from fully experiencing life around her. Alex has been running from himself, trying to lose himself in distractions that increasingly proved to be self-destructive. So again as with Grey’s Lady and White Lace and Promises, the stories AA/ES center around two flawed individuals who are each other’s only hope for rescue.
Not to give away your secrets, but how you come up with such intense sex scenes...especially for the time periods you write about?
Most all of my writing comes to me as scenes, images, dialogue and the inner thoughts and feelings of the characters. Usually this happens when I am not expecting it, like when I am listening to music, doing housework or trying to fall asleep. It is the same with the sexual scenes. The characters reveal what happens and they put pressure on me to tell their stories as they have shown them to me. The type of sex they have and when is determined by their personalities and the dynamic between them. I never add things in to make a scene more erotic or for shock value or impose acts that these people wouldn’t do naturally.
I love how you empower the women in you stories. But then men they are paired with seem to empower them as well. Your reason for this is?
Again, I have to say that most of what happens in my stories frist come to me from my subconscious. I listen and try to see what my inner vision is showing me as clearly as I possibly can. Then I write and work hard to adequately capture what I have been shown as true to my vision as possible. I feel extreme pressure to tell the stories that come to me and to get them right, as they are meant to be.
I have to do quite a bit of studying in the time period and give my subconscious some material and understanding of the time to work on. I find I must read extensively from biographies, letters, diaries, personal accounts before a character will come to me. I assume my subconscious draws from these materials to create the characters it shows me. Then through the character’s eyes, I start getting scenes. I do far more historical research than ever makes it to the page of my novels.
How long do you plan to keep the Carte Blanche series going?
I except to write at least two more novel length stories for it.
Whose story can we look for next?
The next book will focus on a new heroine and hero and will be set in New York.
Will you stay within the Genre you are in now or can we expect a Natasha Blackthorne story in say maybe PNR or another Genre?
I intend to keep writing erotic historical romances set in the time period from 1600 AD to around 1840 AD, set mostly in England and America. As I said earlier, I really love writing erotic and right now easily see myself continuing in this heat level.
What do you like to do when your aren't writing?
For the past five years pretty much everything I have done in my available time has centered around writing. I spend my time either studying writing craft, researching for stories, daydreaming the stories and then writing them down. Then comes edits and promoting my books. There’s actually very little spare time left after all of that. I do enjoy music, reading and watching movies.
I also enjoy interacting with other writers and readers on Facebook, anyone who is 18 or over ( and legally considered an adult) and is interested should feel free to friend me there or to “like” my author page. I also welcome emails. But you have the best chance of finding me on Facebook. Many times I need mild distraction to take a moment and let some aspect of a story come to me, chatting on Facebook is excellent for this. J
Any favorite authors?
My some of my favorite authors are the Bronte sisters, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Boris Pasternak, C.S. Forrester, Simone Schwarz-Bart and Louise Erdrich. But there are many more. I enjoy and find much to appreciate from many different genres and authors. I read everything from literary fiction to inspirational to erotica. Historical anything is always my favorite.
And are you reading any books now?
I recently read and enjoyed a unique vintage novella, a MM romance by Vastine Bondurant called Purly Gates. Ms Bondurant really has a gift for capturing that period between the 1930-50s and creating a world filled with aching, haunting emotion. Sublime is the only word that does justice to the story in Purly Gates.
However, lately I am researching for a new novel and reading many history books related to that.
Finally, my dear what do you want readers to take away with them when they're reading one of your stories?
I hope to provide readers with a trip to a different place and time. While there, I hope to give them the opportunity to experience being under the skin of those characters, to journey deep inside the characters’ hearts. Escape, release, emotional connection, these are the things I aspire to give inspiration for. But in the end, it is the reader who experiences the story from the place where they are in the moment. In my opinion, as a writer I cannot hope to predict or know what a reader’s end take away is. People are individuals. I can only write my stories as I see them and try to keep growing and learning my craft.
Thank you so much for letting my lil ol blog spotlight you. I think you are a wonderfully fantastic writer and I'm so looking forward to reading more of your books.
Thank you, Sharonda, for such kind words about my writing, they leave me pretty speechless. Thank you also for inviting me here today and for asking me such thoughtful questions. I enjoyed answering them. I am very honored that you thought of me as your first guest in your new spotlight series. I am touched by it more than I can say.
You can find Natasha online: Author Site | Blog | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Shelfari | Facebook | First Chapter Excerpts
Thank you for Stopping Through!