Talking with Scarlett Parrish
Why don't you start with telling us a little about yourself? What genre do you write in and why?
I write erotic romance. Within that genre, I dabble in contemporary, M/M and urban fantasy. I want to try a little bit of everything, as long as it’s spicy, too!
I’ve always written. Always. But I never felt I’d really hit my stride until November 2008, when I complained to my ‘partner in grime’ Lori (who writes as Lauren Gallagher and L.A. Witt) that I had no ideas left in the tank. Being a no-nonsense type she said, “Ah, just make up some characters, get them drunk and have them fuck a lot.”
I took her advice and the result was Long Time Coming, which is why that book is dedicated to her.
I have never had so much fun since I started writing erotic romance. Finding my genre was like coming home.
What comes first for you when you sit down to write a book? Plot or Characters?
Character is plot. If my characters are three-dimensional, they determine their own course of action much of the time. Even with the projects I outline, my characters have a tendency to turn around and say “Nope, not doing that. This is a better way to make the story develop.” It’s fun when that happens; it shows they’re becoming real people...if only in my own head.
It’s really helpful for me to ask all my main characters three things: What do you want? How far are you prepared to go to get it? What will happen if you don’t?
Do you "cast" your characters using pictures or actors to help inspire you when you're writing?
Sometimes. But as with the original spark of an idea, by the time the book’s finished, the characters and situations bear no resemblance to whatever (or whoever) inspired them.
It’s fairly accurate to say I use templates on occasion, but the characters soon become wholly themselves rather than offshoots of so-and-so.
How long does it take you to finish a book from start to finish?
From opening up MS Word and typing ‘chapter one’ to finishing the first draft? It averages out at around three months. I know I can write faster than that; I’m not as self-disciplined as I ought to be so that’s my number one thing to work on regarding my writing. Lori is a great motivator for working harder and faster – she’s a robot ninja from the future with pens for fingers. She can write an entire novel in the time it takes my laptop to boot up.
I’ve been advised by well-meaning folk, “Don’t push yourself,” but that’s a mindset I’ll never subscribe to. I’m in this game specifically for that reason. I want each book to be better than the last and I always want to be pushing myself.
But no matter how long the first draft takes to write, I never need more than two weeks to edit it to submission standard. It must work because my editor told me I gave her one of the cleanest manuscripts she’d ever seen in all her years in the job. (Strange, as it’s a ‘dirty’ book)!
The thought of taking a year to write one book fills me with horror. Anything longer than three months feels like an eternity. I’d like to get it down to two for a novel, one for a novella. There are too many books to be written to spend longer than that on one.
Tell us a bit about your latest book, and what inspired you to write such a story.
My only published book thus far is Long Time Coming, which I mentioned earlier. It was written less because of inspiration, more because of a dare. I wrote it blind, with no outline, no plan, nothing. It ended up being the story of a woman who’s a bit of a player, and the man who finally tames her. I wanted to see if I could write a sexy book and ended up falling in love with the hero, Leo, myself!
When you're not writing, what do you like to do to just kick back and have fun?
I’m not gregarious by any stretch of the imagination, so I like to spend time alone or in very, very small groups – no more than say, four or five people. Ideally one-on-one. Truthfully, I’m an introvert, which doesn’t mean psychotically anti-social; whereas an extrovert would be energised in company, I feel like that about solitude. Company drains me. I like to go to the cinema alone or stay home and read. To be honest, writing’s the most fun I can have on my own (snerk) and that’s why I do so much of it. I’ve found what I most love to do, and I get paid for it. No hobby or pastime comes close to giving me that much pleasure.
Do you ever experience writer's block? If you do, how do you cope with it?
I don’t. I say it doesn’t exist.
People who claim to have it are putting the responsibility for their work outside of themselves. Blaming time, family, work, illness, whatever. Yet there are others in exactly the same situation who get on and do it. There are twenty-four hours in everyone’s day.
Ideas are all around us. There’s always something to write. We never hear of hairdresser’s block or dentist’s block or shop assistant’s block. We don’t always feel like bouncing out of bed and getting on with the day at hand and that’s tough but if you want to pay the bills, you do your job.
You know the best cure for ‘writer’s block’? A mortgage.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?
Definitely yes and I have no idea where it came from; no-one else in my family was a reader.
The first book I read that made me realise what words can do was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. The Twits by Roald Dahl was another childhood favourite. I read Dracula at the age of seven and that sparked a lifelong love of all things undead. I binged on Danielle Steel novels in my teens. I still read children’s and YA books in my thirties. There’s no rhyme or reason to my reading tastes over the years. I was a voracious reader throughout my youth and still am today, though the vast majority of books I read now are in the genre I write – erotic romance. I carry my e-reader everywhere. I also like historical biographies and historical fiction set during the Wars of the Roses or the Tudor period.
If you could have been the servant to any famous person in history, who would that be and why?
I lean towards Anne Boleyn. She was innocent of the charges against her in my opinion. I would have liked to have known the real Anne, rather than the historical figure. But as the saying goes, “History is written by the victors.”
Or Leonardo da Vinci. Can you imagine picking that genius’s brains?
What do you see for the future of publishing and ebooks?
There are a lot of doom-merchants when it comes to publishing. I don’t believe a word of it. As Adam Ant once sang, “There is always room at the top/ Don’t let them tell you that there is not.” Storytelling’s been with us since the dawn of mankind. It’s not going away any time soon.
As for ebooks? They’ll grow in popularity, like any new technology. A couple of decades ago mobile phones were expensive and as big as housebricks. Now everyone’s got one. The same will be true of e-readers.
Which of your characters do you love/hate/fear/pity the most and why?
Love? Daniel Cross from The Devil You Know, which will be on submission by the time this interview’s published. He’s a shameless flirt who’d nail anything that moves, male or female. His flirting is of the sort that makes the object of his attention feel like the only man or woman in the world. So by his own admission he’s a slut, but he’s charismatic and fun with it.
Hate? None of them. Cian Ambrose from A Little Death (a novella which will be on sub soon after this interview goes public) is a psychopathic killer, but hey, we’ve all got faults. And he’s just a little angry at the whole ‘undead and condemned to a life of bloodsucking and no-one truly understanding or loving him’ thing.
Fear – see above. Cian again!
Pity? I treat all my characters badly; it’s a wonder they don’t hate me, but everyone gets what they deserve in the end. I do feel sorry when I have to hurt one of the good guys, though.
Do you get along with your muse? What do you do to placate her when she refuses to inspire you?
Just like I don’t believe in writer’s block, I wouldn’t say the muse is a real person either. However, just as there are things which make writing more challenging but not impossible, there are other things which make writing easier.
Having a good night’s sleep (rare). Having nothing to do for the rest of the day, which frees me up to think of whatever book I’m working on at the time. Music. I don’t listen while I work, but if I’m doing chores for example, I’ll listen to a favourite album or two which I nominate as soundtrack for my work-in-progress. It’s a way of almost hypnotising myself into the writing mindset. And caffeine. Caffeine is always good. Twining’s Assam tea is nectar.
Plus, when my partner in grime, Lori, is online, I find it much easier to get work done. I have no idea why this is the case, but it works, so I’ll take it. She’s the only person I can talk to on MSN without getting distracted. I’m miles more productive when she’s around.
Do you have another book in the works? Would you like to tell readers about your current or future projects?
I’ve always got one book on the go. Just like Lori, I only draft one book at a time, but I may also be working on galleys, edits or revisions for another and synopses and queries for still more.
At the moment I’m drafting a novel with the working title Family Jewels, set in – yes, a jewellery store. The owner’s daughter and the acting manager take a shine to each other, and you can imagine the rest...
Have you ever experienced weird cravings while you write? If so, what kind?
Um...I write erotica. Cravings? You do the math. ;)
I think I’ll leave it at that.
What is the strangest source of writing inspiration you’ve ever had?
A conversation with a complete stranger in a library about the works of Anais Nin and the Marquis de Sade.
You come back from the dead as a spirit, what message are you trying to get across?
That 30 Seconds to Mars, Linkin Park and Goo Goo Dolls are the three greatest bands in the universe, if every good-looking man had at least three tattoos the world would be a better place, and whatever the question, chocolate is the answer.
If you were a world ruler and you were given a choice of 3 laws to enact, what would they be?
1 – The ‘If your surname is Leto, shirts are illegal and tattoos are compulsory’ Law.
2 – The ‘If your neighbours make too much noise, homicide is the only option’ Law.
3 – Jude Law.
Where can we find you on the web?