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We are writers mainly from Australia and New Zealand who write speculative fiction with romantic elements. Be it fantasy, paranormal, dark urban fantasy, futuristic and everything in between.

Saturday 24 September 2011

Darklight On.. Cathleen Ross Q&A

Today's Darklight On... is with Cathleen Ross. Welcome, Cathleen! 

How did you come to write speculative fiction? What attracted you to the genre?
I tend to write across various genres so I'm published in erotica, mystery and women's fiction, but I read heavily in paranormal because I like books with alpha males, intense love situations and fast pacing. Quite a lot of my stories have a paranormal element, but I find I'm drawn to writing deeper, heavier stories where both the hero and heroine have powers. It's a writing challenge for me to create the world that they live in and all the rules that go with it. I also like bringing my alpha male to his knees and creating a kick-ass heroine, which I think is essential if an author wants to sell to New York.

Please tell us a little about your road to publication.
From the time I was in my teens I wanted to be published by Harlequin and I achieved that when I sold Psychic Sex to Harlequin Spice Briefs. I didn't start to write regularly until I was in my thirties when my daughter went to preschool. Before that I was always working and studying my university degrees. I found the moment I started to write everyday was when my skills picked up and I began to sell. Although I sold my first book, Man Hunt to Black Lace now Random House, I had a long break before I sold my next because I didn't follow up the first book with a similar one in the same genre. I didn't give up though, which is an important lesson for all writers.

You have taken the route of self publishing with your latest release Highlander. How did this come about? Is self publishing the only avenue you are taking at the moment?

When I was in New York last July, I attended the RWA National conference. At one of the PAN (published author network) sessions, agent, Steven Axelrod said that he's been in publishing thirty years but he's seen more change in the last two than the thirty. Authors are self-publishing their backlists and books they haven't or don't wish to sell to publishers because Amazon gives a seventy percent royalty rate instead of the eight percent the big NY publishers give on print and in many cases ebooks. Smaller houses have better ebook rates of thirty to forty percent and fifteen percent on print but not as high a sell-through as the big seven publishing houses. Several authors report that they're making more money now than they have ever made, so I wanted to give self publishing a try, plus it's a medium that suits short erotic stories.

I'm writing a Forbidden Fantasy series because I love writing short stories that are off kilter and explore women's sexual fantasies, the ones we don't admit to.

Take Me explores the one woman/many men in uniform fantasy.

Highlander explores the forced marriage scenario with a fierce alpha conquerer in a kilt who the heroine tames.

The added bonus is that I really enjoyed designing my own covers. I've discovered the Jimmy Thomas Website. Had a couple of lessons from my critical teen on how to photoshop in the text and convert the covers to the various sizes needed. "I just showed you that, Mum. Why don't you remember?"

I taught myself how to upload to smashwords, amazon and ARe books. Smashwords has an option where the author can choose to have their work uploaded to most of the e platforms, which gives the work wide exposure, especially as more and more people are reading on kindles, nooks and other readers.

I enjoy learning and having full creative control - read control freak. The stories are selling well and every time I release another, the originals seem to sell more too.

I'm also completing a single title paranormal, as my agent is currently shopping the partial around NY. I let my agent Marisa Corvisiero of the L. Perkins Agency know what I'm working on and she decides if she wants to submit it. So essentially, I'm self-publishing, selling to smaller publishing houses and my agent is pitching to the bigger NY publishing houses for me.

You’ve had a wide range of covers, any particular one your favourite?
 At the moment I love anything with Jimmy Thomas on the cover. I think I've developed an addiction to his covers, especially when he is in period costume. He's the quintessential romance alpha hero for me. My next Forbidden Fantasy, The Lover, has a to die for cover.

Are you a plotter? Pantser? Or somewhere in-between?
I always know my beginning, then I picture my hero. I know who my heroine is, but in order to know what makes her tick, I have to interview her. After that, I interview my hero, so I understand what his strengths and weaknesses are. In particular, I have to know what wounds him emotionally. What qualities attract him to the heroine? Why does he want her love? What is he prepared to do to get it? What is at risk for both hero and heroine? Is the conflict strong enough to sustain the novel length? After that I tend to write into the mist even though I'd like to be a plotter. I'd save more time if I plotted efficiently but I'd also be bored.

Do you have a favourite of your characters?
I'm really enjoying my demon hero, Agrat from my current work in progress, The Demon Prince because of his complexity. He has been sentenced to be trapped in a statue for three thousand years because he fell in love with his father's virgin concubine. In this lifetime, when he finds the heroine, Phoebe, civilisation has changed and women are in charge of their own destiny. Perfect foils for my alpha male who is used to taking control. He was bred from a demon princess to be a warrior and make war on other tribes but in this lifetime he has to prove to the heroine, Phoebe, that he is safe enough to love.

What is your favourite part of the process of writing?
I love it when the words are really flowing, my fingers are flying over the keyboard as I'm watching my characters in my mind's eye. 

This sounds a bit unusual but i also really enjoy it when I channel my characters in dreams. I did this with Highlander. Even when I woke, The Black Douglas was still talking to me about his story. I don't consider myself to be a historical writer so Highlander is a modern take on the 1300s and I have romanticised the story, but the whole experience was unusual because when I did my internet research, I found out that the person I dreamed about existed.

What can we expect from Cathleen Ross in the future?
I'll keep doing my erotic short Forbidden Fantasy series, more paranormal books, plus I'm going to take on up to ten students because I'm a dedicated teacher and I love developing writers. I've set up my rates so that they are affordable and students get some one on one contact time. I've taught writing for a tertiary provider for several years now and I noticed that the contact time was essential to improving student's work and motivation, especially if they are serious about selling their work. 

See the link for details. 

Who are your favourite authors?
At the moment JR Ward but I'm always interested to discover more paranormal series writers because I can happily read the same authors for months on end and not get bored.

What are you currently reading?
I'm reading my way through the whole JR Ward Blackdagger Brotherhood series.

Do you have a favourite spec fiction movie or TV series?
 My daughter and I are watching the whole of the Supernatural series back on back.

Do you have advice for emerging writers?
Emerging writers should read, read, read. Join RWA and a good critique group where there are some published writers who are kind and are prepared to helpfully critique/not crush the writer. They should have a good knowledge of grammar, be prepared to practise their craft on a regular basis and accept advice from experienced writers.

Thanks, Cathleen.
Please visit Cathleen at her website, where you can get details of her Forbidden Fantasy series.


  1. Great interview! Sounds like you've got it all sewn up. Can't wait to read your Highlander piece. I'm a little partial to Scotsmen. =)

  2. I'm a little partial to them too, Robyn. I'm enjoying having creative control, especially doing the covers, which surprised me, but maybe because I've discovered Jimmy Thomas covers :)

  3. I'm so impressed, Cathleen at your ability to manage covers and learn all that other stuff. Congratulations!

  4. Channeling your characters! That's fascinating, Cathleen. Thanks for the insight into your writing process.

  5. I love the interviewing characters! Thanks for the advice. :)

    Have a Sparkling Day!

  6. Thanks for sharing your publishing ventures, Cathleen, and that you are going down all sorts of paths. It's an exciting time to be in publishing indeed. And fantastic job on the covers.

  7. Ever since MANHUNT I've been a fan of of yours Cathleen! Can wait to read HIGHLANDER. Terrific blog. You have such great covers!
    CC Coburn

  8. Thanks CC, Rebecca, Eleni, Fiona and Anonymous,
    I think that there are more venues for writing than ever before. With self-publishing, I've noticed that I'm earning more than I did with my smaller publishers because of the 70 percent Amazon royalty rate. The Smashwords rate is good too. It's worth exploring all avenues because not all stories suit NY publishers.

  9. Excellent interview, Cathleen and Eleni! Do you think what you are doing is the way of the future for authors, ie, a career comprising both writing for major publishers and self-publishing?
    Love your new covers!

  10. Wonderful interview, Cathleen. I enjoyed reading about your venture into self publishing. It's great there are so many avenues open to writers now. Highlander is on my TBR pile. :)

  11. Thanks Kandy
    After our trip to America, and that life-changing Amazon talk, I realised that a lot of authors in the future would be self-publishing and publishing with traditional publishers too. The technology isn't so complicated anymore, you just need time and patience.

    Cheryl, thanks for stopping by. Gulp! Hope my historical take passes muster;)

  12. Fabulous interview Cathleen. With publishing evolving at an unprecedented rate, your insights and experience are valuable to both published and emerging authors. I love the Highlander cover :)

  13. Thanks Helen
    For me, Jimmy Thomas covers suit romance. He's perfect alpha material. I've learned a lot in a short time.

  14. Great post, Cathleen. Loved "Take Me". Thank you for sharing your publishing journey and good luck with your self publishing venture. Look forward to seeing many more of your books out there. Suz Hamilton

  15. Cathleen, I'm so intrigued by the dream you had, that turned out to be about a real person. Love things like that :-) Congrats on your new releases and also your fabulous covers! Whenever I see Jimmy Thomas now I think of you!

  16. ahhhh Jimmy Thomas - love that pic that Cass sent us I must say!!
    I too am fascinated by how you channeled your story through dreams =))

  17. Thanks Kezian. I love doing the covers. Hi Suz Take Me is the ultimate Men in Uniform fantasy. We may not want to go there in real life but the fantasy is fun. Christina and Mel - the channeling started with a dream but when I woke up I was surprised that the person was still talking to me. He said his name was James and explained that he had to fight for his land under Robert the Bruce. I had to look it up on the internet because I love history but don't consider myself a historical writer. It as in 1308. I had to write and romanticize the story, but believe me, the experience was real.

  18. Oh, your stories sound terrific! I love the idea of interviewing your characters. And what a great blog this is. I won't worry about making my paranormal too dark. LOL!

  19. Hi Regina
    I find if I talk to them it's a good way to get to know what makes them tick. From there, they seem to develop their own personality. Glad I could be of some help. It's the writing teacher coming out in me:)

  20. Loved hearing about your process Cathleen, and your multi-pronged approach to the publishing industry.

    Great interview.

  21. Congrats on your new releases. Great blog. Thanks for sharing your publishing journey,and also your advice for emerging writers. Cheers


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