Today I’m happy to welcome author E J Masden to my Creekside Café. E J’s book, Undoing the Damage came out Valentines’ Day. This is your first book?
EJ: Yes, it is the first book I’ve followed through with to the point of publication. I have a couple of stories I wrote a few years ago which I love but they are so old now I kind of cringe when I look through them, because my writing has improved so much since.
Sherri: I bet you and your family are excited to see the book in print.
EJ: I must admit to being nervous due to the fact so many of my friends and family have pre-ordered Undoing the Damage and are going to be reading the sex scenes I claim to now own. It’s one thing for a stranger to read it, but to know your mum is going to be reading it? That’s a whole other level of crazy. My parents and sister are huge supporters of my writing and I know they’re proud of me, but at the same time, I know what they’ll be reading and well, let’s just say I’m glad I won’t need to look them in the eye for many months to come!
Sherri: So your romance is a bit on the calliente side.
EJ: I write contemporary romance with a high heat level. When I became serious about my writing, at age 14, I found the only stories I could write were about teenagers falling in love – and usually there was sex involved, though at that age I didn’t go into any detail, because I was embarrassed to include sex in my stories. Writing about sex isn’t something posed as an option when you’re in school, so I thought there was something wrong with me, or that I was some sort of deviant. I tried to write stories that didn’t contain sex, but I never got far, and it got to the stage I stopped writing. It was only when I met my wife that I realized there was nothing wrong with writing sex, and so began writing again. I was still embarrassed, but through her encouragement I started embracing my style of writing and came to realize there were a lot of books out there that contained the type of graphic sex I naturally seemed to write. Now, I own it. I write romance that contains explicit sex. If you don’t like that type of thing, don’t read it – but don’t make me feel ashamed for writing it.
Sherri: You and your wife are practically newlyweds.
EJ: Lauriel and I met on an online single parenting board and quickly struck up a friendship which strengthened over time. In December 2011 she came down to Christchurch to visit with me for two weeks, while her kids were with their father and though neither of us had the tiniest thought of anything romantic happening, by the time she left we were in love and knew we’d found the one. After our year of long distance and seeing each other for a week every three months, I moved up with my girls and we became a family of six – me and my two, her and her two. In April 2013 we were married and are looking forward to celebrating our sixth wedding anniversary in a couple of months!
Sherri: You and your wife are from New Zealand?
EJ: Lauriel is from France, though she’s been in New Zealand for seventeen years. We live in a small city in the North Island of New Zealand, called Wanganui. Growing up I lived in the South Island, moving from Oamaru to Twizel when I was four and then back to Oamaru when I was 13, to attend boarding school at the high school all my aunties (on both sides) and my mum attended. When I was seventeen, I moved to Christchurch and in 2013 I moved to Wanganui with my two daughters, after a year of long distance with my now wife, Lauriel. Between us we have four children aged 15, 12, 11 and 8, three of whom live with us.
Sherri: Undoing the Damage is your first published book, how long have you been writing?
EJ: Yes, I’m 35 and have been writing since I can remember. It was always my favorite thing to do at school and for most of my life it has been the one thing I’ve felt I’m good at. My goal has always been to publish a book and through the magic of self-publishing, that dream is about to become a reality.
Sherri: There’s nothing like seeing that first book in print, except maybe holding your newborn baby. It feels almost the same, doesn’t it?
EJ: When I first saw my book listed on Amazon I cried – it was like that first ultrasound when you finally get a glimpse of your baby! Seeing a book through to publication is very much like a form of pregnancy and birth, you spend months nurturing and growing this thing, until finally it is ready to arrive into the world. I imagine Undoing the Damage will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the book that made me an author, much like my eldest daughter being the beautiful little girl who made me a mama!
Sherri: I love writing, reading, talking about books and writing, and especially meeting other writers. I’d like to know what is that you love about writing. For me it’s discovering who the characters are and learning how they deal with the conflicts I throw at them.
EJ: What I love about writing is that it provides an escape for me. I suffer from anxiety and depression and find that when I write, I lose myself in this fantasy world I’ve created and while in it, forget whatever is weight on my mind at that particular time. I love getting to know the characters I write and love nothing more than when I have a set plan for what is going to happen, but the character is like, ‘nope – I’m not doing that, this is what’s happening…’. That is when I know I’m onto something good and it gives me motivation to finish because I want to see how things end up, now they’ve taken a different path from what I planned.
Sherri: What is your least favorite thing about writing? Most people I’ve talked to say marketing, but I find that to be challenging and fun, too.
EJ: I don’t know that I dislike anything about writing. In the past I would have said I hate that I get so far into a story and then come to a dead end, but I now know that happened because I was a pantser. I’d just write and didn’t have a plan as such, which was great until I’d written everything I wanted to happen, and the story was unfinished. Eighteen months ago, I began planning and quickly found that with a plan – roughly based around the three-act structure, I was able to finish what I’d started and that gave me a huge boost as a writer.
Sherri: I’m a pantser too, and I agree, learning to plan, if not plot, has helped me make my stories tighter and stronger. I take classes online and attend workshops. Have you taken any classes? Are there any you would recommend? Our local writers’ group, The Pamlico Writers will be hosting our seventh, annual writers’ conference in April. Too bad you live halfway around the world.
EJ: I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from New Zealand authors such as Jackie Ashenden, JC Harroway, Nalini Singh, Serenity Woods and Nicole S. Goodin, as well as TL Osborn, who I know personally. In New Zealand it is ridiculously hard to find romance novels sold in bookstores – unless it’s the big names, such as Danielle Steel etc, and it makes me sad to think we have so many amazing authors in this country that go without local acknowledgement. The status of romance novels in New Zealand is something I could rant about for days.
Sherri: You said you and Lauriel have four children. That must be difficult trying to write with kids still at home. I remember when mine were young, I raised six boys, it was often difficult to find an hour or two of solace in which to write.
EJ: Most of my writing is done during the day, while the kids are at school. I start when I get home from school drop off (three kids, three schools), I make myself a coffee and sit down at the computer for a little bit of Facebook browsing. When the caffeine hits, I open Word and let the writing flow, usually forgetting to stop for breakfast – resulting in my wife telling me off when she messages me to enquire if I’ve eaten yet. I get lost in my own little world and food isn’t part of that world. My writing is either done in silence or with the TV on. I cannot concentrate on writing if there is music playing and the same goes for lots of kid-related noise, hence why I generally don’t write after the kids get back from school. Besides, it can be awkward writing sex scenes with children in the same room!
Sherri: Your novel, Undoing the Damage, is a contemporary romance. Is it in anyway based on real life?
EJ: Looking back over my adult life, I’ve dealt with a few experiences – some traumatic – that have changed me as a person, and I find these themes seem to find their way into my writing. None of my characters have the perfect life, they’ve all gone through things that weren’t pleasant – but one of the goals of my writing is to show you can move past the events in your life that once threatened to break you. In my first book, Undoing the Damage, the heroine is a rape survivor, in two books I have waiting for publication stillbirth, forced adoption, unplanned pregnancy and the death of a parent all play a part.
Pregnancy is a reoccurring theme in almost everything I’ve written, and this all comes back to me being ten and reading a book called ‘Tough Choices’, about a teen who gets pregnant and needs to decide whether to keep the baby or adopt it out. Ever since then I’ve been drawn to books where main characters are pregnant, I think writing pregnant characters was a natural progression to me. I’ve been pregnant six times – and have suffered four first trimester losses, so pregnancy loss is also something that seems to pop up in my stories, though I’m yet to write a character who has a miscarriage during the book and doubt I will. Romance, after all, is about the happy ever after and I don’t want my characters suffering such a devastating loss.
Sherri: Are you traditionally published or indie?
EJ: Though I’d love to be traditionally published, and it’s still a goal, I decided to self-publish Undoing the Damage, which is due out on Valentine’s Day. The experience has been a real eye opener and is something I wouldn’t have been able to achieve without the generosity of the writing community. Nicole Highland did my cover design as well as the formatting and never made me feel like I was annoying her with my millions of questions and requests. Terri Osborn (writing as TL Osborn) did the editing for me and has given me heaps of great advice about the self-publishing process.
I chose to publish through IngramSpark, mainly because I had no idea what I was doing, and their step-by-step process made things a lot easier on me – and my poor brain. I like that through them I’m able to have my books on a bunch of different platforms, making it a lot easier than uploading on each platform, one by one.
Sherri: Like most good writers, I’m sure you love to read as well Who are some of your favorite authors or genres?
EJ: My favourite genre to read is romance, however because I’m writing so much of it at the moment, I’m finding myself drawn to books with a strong forensic science element. Jefferson Bass is one of my favourite authors right now, and I’ve loved Patricia Cornwell since I began reading the Kay Scarpetta series when I was 17. James Patterson is another of my favourites, his Alex Cross series became an obsession of mine, as did the Women’s Murder Club series.
Right now, I’m reading Mindhunter by John Douglas, and recently binge watched the Netflix show by the same name. If I’m really honest, I haven’t been reading all that much lately, instead I’ve been watching true crime shows on Netflix – I can’t get enough of them. I find it funny that I’m writing lovey-dovey romance by day and watching shows about grisly murders by night. It’s all about balance, I guess.
Sherri: Do you have any hobbies, and do they show up in your writing?
EJ: When I’m not writing, reading, or getting my true crime fix, I spend a lot of time knitting, but also love going to the beach and finding new recipes to try out on my family. I recently found a recipe for a sesame dressing that is amazing, and because it’s summer I’ve been baking my famous brown sugar pavlova and we’ve been having noodle salad a lot (I’m happy to share recipes if anyone wants!). The kids keep us busy with their various extra-curricular activities and sometimes it feels like we never have down time, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Social media links:
https://www.facebook.com/ejmasden/ – FB page
https://www.facebook.com/groups/masdenhq/ – FB group