So, after some disorganization on my part, I finally got to sit down and talk with Bestselling Romance Writer, Victoria Dahl.
Victoria Dahl lives with her family in a small town high in the Utah mountains. During the summer, she hikes and drinks margaritas (usually not at the same time.) During the winter she likes to curl up with a book and a cup of hot cocoa and think about all those poor, freezing skiers working so hard out in the snow.
She’s been reading romance since the age of twelve and started her first manuscript at the tender age of twenty. Occasionally, on dark and stormy nights, she bravely posts excerpts of that original story on her blog for the entertainment of her readers.
Her first published novel won the Golden Heart award. Since then, she's published over seventeen books and novellas, including three USA Today bestsellers, and several of her books have been nominated for the prestigious RITA® Award for excellence in the romance genre.
1. How to write sex scenes: Is it something you just sit down and write? What do you think is too much detail - or too little? What kind of language do you not like using (or seeing) versus language that is (maybe) tired?
I know some writers struggle with writing sex scenes -or maybe they struggle with the idea of writing them?- but I love them. In fact, oftentimes when I start a book, I only have an idea for one or two key plot points in the whole book, but I always have an idea for the first sex scene!
I prefer straightforward, somewhat vulgar language. I don’t want to feel like I’m in science class, nor do I want to feel like I’m dancing around the issue with my grandma. I think you have to use the language that people use during intense sex. There’s nothing polite about it. Call a cock a cock, I say.
2. What is one time period/event/character that you really want to write (but haven't yet)?
I have an idea for an alternate history story, but it would involve years of research. I think that might be the book I write when I’m retired! And it’ll probably end up being an unfinished masterpiece.
3. "So Tough to Tame" just came out, what can you say about it/are there any little bits that you can share?
For me, SO TOUGH TO TAME will always be about the hero, Walker. I fell totally in love with him. He’s big and sexy and naughty and vulnerable. I just love him so much! Here’s a little taste: http://victoriadahl.tumblr.com/post/43413483769/so-tough-to-tame-walker-meets-his-match
God, I hope you guys like him as much as I do.
4. Why is it important (for you) to write strong female characters (especially in romance) and why you would write a character who is - not weak - but perhaps more indecisive?
I often write strong female characters. I love kick ass women, and some of my heroines push buttons because they don’t want to ask for help or be vulnerable. But I absolutely try to write a variety of women. As a matter of fact, I got some criticism for the heroine in TOO HOT TO HANDLE because she was awkward and not very confident. I don’t understand that reaction. There are lots of women who feel awkward around men they like. And plenty more who aren’t confident about their own sex appeal. Does that mean they don’t deserve love or respect or their own story? Strength comes in all forms, and people who seem weak in one aspect can be so amazingly strong in others. I think these kinds of judgments are another way that women are hard on themselves and fellow women.
5. (Admittedly I borrowed this from an interview with Jeri Smith-Ready because I thought it was really interesting): Do you feel that female characters are held to a higher standard of behavior than their male counterparts in similar situations, i.e., are their transgressions less often forgiven by readers/reviewers/publishers/contest judges? If so, why do you suppose this is the case?
Definitely! See above! Male characters are often allowed to be obstinate, stubborn, rebellious, misguided, etc. all throughout a book, but if they grovel at the end, all is forgiven. When female characters struggle, some readers find it unacceptable. “She doesn’t deserve him.” “He should find someone better.” “She was so mean to him.” “She’s such a slut/bitch/whiner.” I’ve seen all those comments. In fact, sometimes I feel like heroes are relegated to child-like status. They need someone who will take care of them and coddle their feelings even when the men don’t know what they are. Guess who has to do that? It’s the heroine. She has to be noble and worthy and make sure the hero sees that he’s noble and worthy of love also. Frankly, I have enough trouble being responsible for just myself, thank you very much.
The damaged hero is always popular. The hero who needs reforming. The hero who needs to be shown that despite his past and his scars, he’s worthy of love. Hey, I love him, too! But the damaged heroine? Not so many people want to read about a woman who responded to a rough start in life by making lots of mistakes. But the good news is…some of us want to read that! There’s a growing audience for damaged heroines, and I’m so thankful to the writers who take that on and treat those heroines well.
6. I have to ask about the cover art. How much control do you have?
Not very much! With my historicals, in fact, I always just got the finished cover with a “Hope you like it!” note. Ha! Actually, with my very first book, TO TEMPT A SCOTSMAN, I almost fell on my butt when I saw it. I opened an envelope from my editor and saw a cover with two totally naked people. They were wrapped in strategically placed red satin, but you could see the hero’s butt crack. That’s not an exaggeration. Even for someone as immodest as I am, that was pretty shocking for a first book.
As for my contemporaries, there’s usually a little back and forth between the editor and me about details, but the idea and layout is pretty set once I get involved. I make suggestions for tweaks or corrections. Sometimes I get my way and sometimes not. I’ve only pitched a real fit once, and they reshot the covers, and I’ll be eternally grateful for that. You should be, too.
7. How is the transition between contemporary and historical? Pretty easy? Hard? What are the main challenges as a writer?
I haven’t written a historical in a while because my current contracts are for contemporary, but I totally enjoy the experience of switching back and forth. It’s palate cleansing! Historicals can be lush and sensual and a little overwrought and so much fun! But dialogue and jokes are so much easier to write in contemporaries. They flow a little faster. The only challenge is the occasional formal language creeping into a modern hero’s dialogue. My critique partner catches that if I don’t.
8. Finish this sentence: "If I weren't writing I would be..."
Totally vegging out. I can be social, but I’m very much an introvert, hence my career as a writer. If I had any other job, I’d spend all my free time as alone as I could possibly be. At least with writing, 99% of my colleagues are imaginary characters. That’s exactly the way I like it.