Do You Like Your Romance Novels to Sizzle?

22 Jul

HolliFrancesca Hawley is the type of person who can walk into a room and light it up.  I think she carries that gift over into her books.  I attended a program where she explained the different steaminess levels of sex scenes in the romantic genre, from the sweet romance that usually stops at the bedroom door to the explicit scenes needed for erotica.  She had a lot of information and if any other writing groups are looking for a speaker for this subject, I would highly recommend Francesca.

The following is our interview:

 Virginia – Where are you from?

 Francesca – I was born in Minnesota and raised in Iowa.  I’ve lived in Iowa since I was about three.

 Virginia – How long have you been writing?

 FrancescaI’ve written stories all my life.  I used to spend my lunch hours in high school writing fiction – bad fiction – but I was trying.  I’ve been writing with the intent to publish since 2002 or 2003.

 Virginia – What do you write?

 FrancescaI write erotic romance.  Most of the time I inject paranormal elements into a story, but that isn’t always the case.

 Virginia – Tell us a little about your publisher and agent.

 FrancescaAt this time, I am un-agented.  My publisher is Ellora’s Cave.  They’ve been around since the early 2000’s – last November they celebrated their 8th birthday.  I started reading EC books about the time I started writing seriously because my dream publisher was Ellora’s Cave.  I loved the books I read and I wanted to write books as good as those I read.  EC published Romantica®, which are stories that must be both erotic and romantic.  I was thrilled to bits to have an opportunity to pitch to Raelene Gorlinsky, the publisher, at the RWA national conference in 2007.

 Virginia – How many books have you published, so far?

 Francesca – I have a short story – Alpha v Alpha – published in an anthology called – Paranaughty. It was published by Draumr Publishing in 2005.  This short story launched my shape shifter world.  In January 2009, my first novel – Protect and Defend– was published by Ellora’s Cave. Protect and Defend is an urban fantasy.  My short pitch is “CSI meets shape shifters.”


The blurb for Protect and Defend is:

            Mikaela Laughlin discovers a whole new world, and an entirely new species, when she tours the crime lab to meet Lieutenant Diarmid Redwolf while researching her next book.  She’s lusted after “Delicious Diarmid” from afar for a long time, but meeting him sets her body on fire.  It doesn’t take long for Mikaela to discover there’s more to him than meets the eye.  Diarmid is far more delicious up close than she ever dreamed.

            Diarmid has bad guys to catch, but one look at the voluptuous writer has him wanting to catch her instead.  His shape shifter blood recognizes his true mate and he wants her naked body arching beneath his.  Now.  But with a cold-blooded serial killer on the loose, Diarmid has one shot at his future and he will not fail.  Because this time, the killer wants Mikaela.  (This was a 2006 Stroke of Midnight Finalist for Passionate Ink).


I recently sold my second book to EC too.  Seeking Truth is a medieval, paranormal, erotic romance set during the troubled reign of King Stephen in the 1100’s.

 Virginia – What is your writing day like? 

 Francesca – Well I work as a librarian, so during the day I answer reference questions and plan programming for my library.  I also write a weekly column in the local newspaper.  When I get home from work, I sit down at the computer and read over the last chapter or two I wrote so I can “get into” the story again.  I may make some edits if I see things that need adjusting then when I reach the point I stopped I start typing.  I work for a few hours in the evening.  I may do some research on the internet or in the collection of books I have about a topic.  Sometimes I hit a point in my writing where I need a quick answer so I research on the fly then keep going.

 Virginia – Can you tell us about how you found a publisher and/or agent?

 Francesca – With my first publisher, Draumr, I happened to be on a critique list with other authors who like to write BBW’s (big, beautiful women) as heroines.  The group was writing short stories to pitch for an anthology with Draumr, a small independent press.  Rida Allen liked my story and included it.

 For my second work, I had Ellora’s Cave in mind when I was writing it.  To me it was kind of a pipe dream… a pipe dream that came true.  I kept thinking “Wouldn’t it be great if the leading publisher of erotic romance wanted to publish my book? I joined RWA in late 2006 and decided to attend the national conference in 2007 – primarily because I knew Ellora’s Cave, Looseld, and Samhain Publishing would be present.  I was in PRO (because I’d completed my first manuscript and proven it to RWA) and so I had a jump on the general attendees and secured a pitch session with Raelene Gorlinsky, the publisher of Ellora’s Cave.  Raelene was way cool, and her hats totally rock any outfit she wears.  I tried to keep my cool – or at least keep my sweaty palm from grossing her out – a pitched my little heart out.  She liked the concept for my book and told me to send it as a submission.  I sent it in August of 2007.  In January 2008, I knew an editor had pulled it to read.  In April, my editor Mary Moran offered me a contract for the book.  I was thrilled.  Since this was my first novel, I hired a literary lawyer – Elaine English – to vet my contract.  Elaine was amazing and well worth the attorney fees.  She negotiated a contract that I liked and was wonderful to work with.  I completed edits last fall and my book was released in January of 2009.

 Virginia – Do you have anything that just came out?

 FrancescaProtect and Defend, my first novel with Ellora’s Cave was released in January 2009.  I recently sold a second book to EC.  Seeking Truth was released on May 29, 2009. I’m thrilled they liked this book.  Here’s my blurb for Seeking Truth:



Baron   Eaduin Kempe, a man of intense passions, seeks a healer at a nearby abbey.  When the abbess introduces convent-raised Lady Verite de Sauigni, he knows he’s hell bound for desiring her.  He wants to tie her to his bed until she sobs with the pleasure of his touch.

 Eaduin offers Verite marriage in exchange for easing the pain of his dying foster mother.  Years ago, Verite secretly watched Baron Eaduin arouse a lover and has dreamed of him ever since.  She desires him enough to risk exchanging the imprisonment of convent life for that of marriage.  On their wedding night, Eaduin craves dominance and Verite submits with enthusiasm.  Each heated encounter thereafter binds them closer together.

 When Verite’s father accused her of witchcraft because she won’t use her psychic gift of seeing truth to aid him, she begs Eaduin to kill her so she doesn’t suffer.  Instead, Eaduin challenges her father to trial by combat, determined to save her because she owns both his passion and his heart.

 Virginia – What are you working on now?

 Francesca – I’m developing two ideas right now.  The first is another book in my shapeshifter universe, which I’ve tentatively titled, Leader of the Pack.  And the second is a follow-up to Seeking Truth, entitled Seeking Peace.

 If readers would like to share your opinions about my work, please visit my web site at and send me feedback via my contact page.  I’m always interested in hearing from my readers.

 Virginia – Do you have some words of wisdom for us unpubs?

 Francesca – Never give up.  Never ever, give up. It takes perseverance even in the face of rejection.  You have to believe in you because if you don’t know one else will.  I know it’s really hard when those rejection letters come in, but don’t let them get your down.

 Find a critique partner or critique group.  They’ll tell you the truth when your work is crap and when it’s good.  My crit partners have helped me brainstorm and patted me on the back to say “it’ll be all right.”

 Never ever, forget that this is a business.  Think like the entrepreneur that you are.  Save your receipts so you can write off expenses on your taxes.  Find a trusted person to do your taxes (if you aren’t a financial whiz kid).

 Attending conferences, paying for organization memberships, the cost of classes and books are all a part of the cost of doing business. To be sure what qualifies, talk to your tax preparer for information.  Start now.  This year.

 If you are offered a contract but you’re not represented by and agent, good for you.  If you’re unable to secure an agent to handle negotiations, all is not lost.  Before you sign on the dotted line, as a literary lawyer to vet the contract for you.  I was so glad I contacted Elaine English about vetting my contract.  Not because I don’t like my publisher or don’t trust them, but because it’s just smart business. Contract clauses are negotiable.  Not all of them, but the worst that happens when you ask for a change is that they’ll say no.  A literary lawyer specializes in literary contracts.  They know that typical, where you can negotiate, etc.  They also do not need to live in the same city you do.  Elaine English practices law in Washington D.C. but her web site is out there.  She’s also a literary agent, so for me she was the perfect person to ask for assistance.

 Finally start promoting YOU as a brand before you’re published.  Buy and internet domain name and get a web site going.  If you have the time and energy, start a blog.  Make contacts.  Network.  It helps… a lot.

 As a final note, Francesca’s novel, Protect and Defend was recently reviewed and rated 4 ½ out of 5 stars by Romantic Times magazine.  The reviewer even called the book “a keeper.”

 Thanks to Francesca for taking the time to give us a little insight into her experience as an author.

Until next time,


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Posted by on July 22, 2009 in Author Interview


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