(Readers, before you get into the interview, I just want to remind you to check out the other parts of the feature. Go here for info on Sharita’s new Michael Mandrake books, and here for an excerpt from Caught in the Crossfire.)
Hello, Sharita! I’m happy to welcome you as a featured author in my sylvre.com, Romance Across the Rainbow, 2018 “Community” series. Your support for the community of GLBTQ+ writers and readers is strong, and I do want to talk about that, but let’s start with a few questions about you and your writing.
Q: Just to break the ice, let’s start with something sort of standard for the author interview…. Oh, never mind that. How about this: What family member was the most influential, in terms of your eventual choice to write fiction, as you were growing up? How? What were their favorite things to read? Please feel free to define family according to your own lights—no limits.
A: Thanks for having me, Lou and for the kind words!
Honestly no one. (laughs) I come from a family of squares. It wasn’t until I joined the Erotica Readers and Writers Association that I was encouraged to write. My Durannie (Duran Duran fans) fanfic group encouraged me to publish so that’s as close as I can get to “family” who influenced me.
As far as books growing up, I read the classics as well as VC Andrews Flowers in the Attic. I loved romance early. Read some of grandma’s boring HQN and later, Jackie Collins as well as Fern Michaels.
Q: I admit to being intrigued by your bio. In particular, you name yourself a metalhead and say heavy music inspires your writing. As a founding member of the zine FourteenG, you’ve got some credentials! What first piqued your interest in heavy metal? How is it an inspiration for your stories? Do you have particular books you’d recommend to readers interested in seeing this theme reflected or explored in your writing?
A: Thanks for reading my bio! (laughs) What’s interesting is, I didn’t start out a metalhead. As a matter of fact, I didn’t start listening until I went to High School. I mean, my only exposure to heavy music was Def Leppard and Journey! (laughs) But when I attended an all-black high school, I met my metal tribe. Yes, an all-black (African American) High School. There were 3 white kids in our school and none of them liked metal. Go figure.
As far as what piqued my interest, I’d say the fashion, then the music. I’ve always loved men in makeup! (winks) And then, heavy guitar caught my attention. Once I graduated, I carried that all the way through adulthood. Although I love New Wave and most 80’s, I’ll always be a metalhead.
Inspiration? I have several playlists on my Spotfiy with old school metal or industrial music. Many times the harder it is, it fuels my paranormal work while some of the more soulful metal might be used for a rock and roll romance, or a contemporary with some angst. One example is my Immortals Series under Michael Mandrake. I listened to a lot of Opeth while doing Immortals, especially this last book I’m about to release entitled Calisto’s Quest.
As far as books that reflect the metalhead in me, check out my Wretched Series. Although The Wretched is about to be reworked, you can check it out in raw form on Amazon. It’s not a romance, but it’s full of drama and angst surrounding a fictional Heavy Metal Band.
Q: You say you always have stories waiting to be written, and your website upholds that claim. Writing under several pen names, your publications number at least dozens. Approximately how many books do you write in one year? How do you produce such high-quality books when writing top speed?
A: LOL Thanks for those compliments. Some are short while others are long. My busiest pens are Michael and BLMorticia so a lot of times, Rawiya gets the scraps. ☹ Veronica is new, and I’m about to release my second book with her.
As far as how many I write? I’d say anywhere between 12-15, but some don’t get published that year. I’ve slowed down on the self-publishing because its costly. I’ve also learned not to write long series, even though Immortals is 6 books. (oops) :/
High Quality? Maybe because I agonize over the stories all the time. I try to put out the best product I can in a timely fashion, but if the story doesn’t end well, or doesn’t sound right to me, I hold it until I can redo it.
I’ve written a large amount of novellas which is why I can produce a little more. Nowadays, both of the busy muses want War and Peace type books so it’s harder to release more, which is okay because readers prefer longer works anyway. 😊
Q: Michael Mandrake, Rawiya, BL Morticia, and Veronica Bagby—all of them are you, and each one has a distinct “author brand.” Is any one of these your “favorite”? How do you go about the process of determining “who” needs to be the author of a new story idea?
A: You wish to get me in trouble, right? 😀 Michael is my favorite, but BL is a very bossy bitch who likes to grab the spotlight. Michael loves a complex plot and he’s a lot more formal and long winded. I love writing paranormal with Michael because we always develop some twists together.
However, BL is the boss. She gets her way about 60 percent of the time because she’s my metal muse. Because I love writing musicians into romance, I’ll usually be in favor of writing her books first.
As far as brand, I’m not sure I can even call it that. I suppose style is part of brand, but at times they crossover. BL and Michael especially. 😊
I usually decide by flipping a coin. KIDDING. No, I usually know right away what muse is to write what story. If it’s a story with lots of plots and subplots, its Michael. Heavy on Angst and comedy is BLMorticia.
Q: Writing, as mentioned, under four pseudonyms, your character loves and liaisons certainly qualify as “across the rainbow.” Your stories, both erotica and romance, are invariably sexy. This leads me nicely to the question I’ve asked every author ever featured on sylvre.com: Give us, please, the fifty sexiest words you’ve ever written. Define “sexy” any way you want, and you can fudge a little on the word count.
A: Oh boy! Um… squirms in chair Let’s see… I’ll do Calisto’s Quest because its coming out soon, but 50 words? Ugh! It’s a tad over and I’m not sure this is the sexiest, but I had this doc open!
Despite those feelings of guilt, I attacked Valios’s mouth with all the fire and passion I could muster. I ran my hands all over his body, tweaking his nipples and pinching his abs. We tangled tongues furiously, making us both breathless.
“Calisto! I want you!
“Yes. I want you too!” I covered his lips with mine, sucking his tongue as if it were his hardened length.
Q: Not surprisingly many, if not all, of your books feature people of color. Tell us, if you will, about moving in your writing from one skin to another, so to speak, and about characters who are different from one another in background find common ground. How much or how little do you feel you have to reflect a difference in culture (wealth, status, race, religion, values, etc.) when writing your characters? Are differences a major source of conflict in your books? A major stimulus for attraction?
A: Really good question!
I do love opposites attract stories, and one is usually so different from the other, that its hard to believe they might click. When I have two or more characters falling in love, I try to get into each one’s head to tell me how they’d feel about that other person. How they could relate in some way, because all people are unique as are characters. I try to find some common traits beyond the, we’re all human, thing. I kind of interview each character and say, Seth what do you like about Malakei? (Seth and Malakei are characters from my rapper/rocker book) There has to be something else in common other than being human. They might like the same music, food, or traveling, or hate the same things. I usually write out a character ARC for both people and find their motivations. If they’re similar, I can match them.
Then there are times when they don’t necessarily match but the attraction is there. Hence, Where There’s Smoke. I had 3 very different men and they decided to be together because of attraction. Once they got to know one another, it worked. There’s more to it, but I can’t reveal the main plot. Lol.
I do like to point out differences in culture. This could be something as simple as the way they talk or their families around them. This all influences characters and what they’re makeup is. And yes, differences are a major source of conflict and its not based on their cultural or race differences. Its usually class, status, or something else a lot smaller because writing an IR book where it is just focused on racial differences would be boring in my opinion.
Q: The fact that you write characters from all walks, across the spectrum racially as well as in the expression of gender and sexuality, reflects your stance as what I’ve called a “warp thread”—a support—in the woven tapestry of the GLBTQ+ readers and writers community. Though you clearly stand against hate and public policies that produce and promote it, when I see you on social media, it always seems to me that, inside the community, you would rather bridge the gaps between people than choose a side. Do you feel that is an accurate statement? Is it a day-by-day, moment-by-moment choice, or does it more reflect your core?
A: You’ve been paying attention to me. Lol
(Note from Lou: I’m not a stalker, really. It’s for the blog, that’s all!)
Yeah, I am that type of person. I’m not confrontational, and if I can avoid it, I do. Anytime you have a difference of opinion its always better to discuss it than jump to conclusions. I try to understand both sides of the argument, especially when it comes to matters of culture and race. Though I don’t stand for intolerance of any kind, I’d try to teach that person, why that doesn’t fly. And if they don’t agree, that’s fine, but yeah, I try to get people together. We need more togetherness in this world. Being on different sides hasn’t solved anything.
Q: A point of controversy at times within the community has been whether people should write outside their own gender, sexuality, or race. Some authors have said they are afraid of being offensive if they write characters from different racial or cultural backgrounds than their own. Would you be willing to share with us your stance, thoughts, or advice on the subject?
A: I’ve always said to do the research. I feel you can research cultural or gender differences just as you can for a doctor, cop, or a lawyer. Of course, talking to someone that’s part of that marginalized group helps more than everything, but you also shouldn’t take it as gospel. Not every ¬¬¬¬______ is the same. You can fill in the blank as far as what person.
For example, the controversy with Amy Lane about the “dark chocolate monkey of love.” Although I wasn’t personally offended, I know the negative connotations behind calling a black person a monkey. I’m black and never do it. On the other hand, describing someone’s skin like a food. Like saying coffee or honey. I don’t see an issue, but some do.
If an author decides to write outside of their spectrum, the best thing to do is ask for help. Read things on Quora or Reddit. Find people from that marginalized group. Use Youtube, everything you can. But don’t make stereotypical statements. That’s just a no no.
Q: You are part of a thoroughly fabulous idea called Queer in Color. Please tell us about that project—how it got started, who’s involved, what we can do to support it, anything else? Do you have any other projects promoting the reflection of the true diversity in GLBTQ+ people?
A: Thanks. It started with me and author Christa Thomlinson. Both of us wanted to do something to highlight books with characters of color. Through a survey in the multicultural queer group I run on FB, we gathered a small group of volunteers to help. Christa and I discussed doing a newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, and the website as a landing page. We started that late last fall and officially “opened” in November.
Of course with any venture there will be some kinks. The site isn’t as comprehensive as Queeromance Ink, but it doesn’t need to be. We are specifically looking to highlight books with CoC as well as spotlight authors of color. We do it all as volunteers and because this isn’t a paid venture, the amount of help has dwindled a little too. We make the best of it.
Q: What’s coming up, Sharita? Anything exciting in your author world you’d like readers to be on the lookout for?
A: Well, I have two releases coming under Michael this month. Caught in the Crossfire is PROTEKT book 3 and Calisto’s Quest is Immortals book four. Readers can read more info at Michael’s website. *smiles*
Also, for Veronica, a cougar IR called Teacher’s Pet.
BL is busy writing a small paranormal novella with a musician, but it is going to a publisher. I’m sure she’ll have a release soon enough!
I can’t thank you enough for letting me interrogate you here on sylvre.com, Sharita. I wish you the best in all your future endeavors. Please come back to visit again!
Thanks so much!
About Sharita Lira:
Romance and erotica author Sharita Lira believes that love conquers all. Writing sexy stories of people who might be complete opposites, but somehow make a lasting connection that often leads to a happily ever after.
Happily married and mother of two, Sharita never allows complex plots to deter her from writing the story. Inspired by heavy music, attractive people she’s seen in person and on the internet, Sharita always has a tale on her brain.
In addition to being a computer geek and a metalhead, Sharita loves live music, reading, and spending time with family and friends. She’s also a founding member and contributor to the heavy metal ezine FourteenG.