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Sascha Illyvich’s, called the gentleman playboy of romance, joins me for this episode! He shares his insight on writing male characters, the line between erotic and romance, and the importance of doing your research when writing BDSM. Much of our conversation is centered on dark romance, and while I don’t think this episode needs a trigger warning, please proceed with caution if these topics are unsettling to you. xo

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Elle
Sascha Illyvich is today’s guest I hope I didn’t butcher that. I was saying it like 10 times before and and now I’m like oh no panic I have to say the last name Oh shit. Alright Sascha, who the publishing industry proclaimed the gentleman playboy of romance, started writing 20 years ago. His erotic romances have been listed under Night Owl Romances and Road to Romances recommended reads, and he’s been nominated for a Kappa by the romance studio. Recently, his novel Torn to Pieces was a USA Today recommended read. Congratulations, well done.

Sascha
Thank you.

Elle
Sascha is is a trained and experienced public speaker and enjoys giving talks and teaching particularly on aspects of romance or erotic romance and writing. He was the former host of the unnamed romance show on Radio dentata and is fond of doing guest spots and interviews on both traditional radio and podcasts. Sasha writes for City Lights Publishing, Red Sage, Secret Cravings publishing, Sizzler Editions, Totally Bound and Decadent Publishing. Welcome Sascha to Steam Scenes. Thanks for being here.

Sascha
My pleasure. And here’s the pisser three of those publishing companies are gone now.

Elle
I don’t mean to laugh, but it is not surprising. They’ve drop like flies over the past couple of years.

Sascha
Red Sage is the one that actually was my biggest because that was, for me, a victory as far as like, Okay, finally, I’m a romance author. Because Red Sage doesn’t publish erotica, traditionally, and when when I got the email – it wasn’t even that long ago, six months ago – I was shocked. Really? Y’all have Angela Knight. Why are you closing? And I guess they don’t have Angel anymore?

Elle
Yeah, I mean, but a lot of the the bigger publishing houses just went up. What was the one that Seemed like everybody wrote for for a while. Oh, shit. Now I can’t even remember.

Sascha
And I do know who you’re talking about

Elle
Ellora’s cave.

Sascha
Yeah, they bounced? Yeah, this funny story. They actually read the quote me. I submitted a series to them. And then I was hemming and hawing about the contract because if you know about a lotus case, you know, their contracts are generally geared towards the publisher. Right? Nothing wrong with that but if you’re a veteran author, you don’t take that shit. Homie don’t play that. If you’re a newbie, you take what they give you and say may I have another, sir. So I’m going back and forth between one of the editors over the contract. So I thought you know, I’m going to wait on this. I have another option l want to take a look at. And about a month later, everyone’s getting their rights back. And the house is closing. And the owner is? Well, we’ll just say she’s got her issues.

Elle
Yeah, there was a…. I don’t remember where…. I almost feel like it might have been in the New York Times. There was like a pretty deep expose on what was going on within that publishing house and kind of its rise and fall.

Sascha
They were the ones that really put the ebook in people’s hands. When you start to look at this industry from 20 years past. I’ve been writing for Sizzler Editions for about 20 years, they actually were first. Yeah, but Ellora’s Cave, because this is the way that I’ve been, quote, unquote, grown up in the industry. Y’all got real sick and tired of no sex and ya’ll got real sick and tired of the bullshit and said, you know, we want some sex in our books. We want to see it.

Elle
Right.

Sascha
And so Ellora’s Cave was the ones that like put it out there. And they started going off the shelves. No one knew what an ebook was. And all of a sudden, there’s these stories that are really enticing, and they’re gripping and they’re sexy. And women are getting laid. It’s being shown.

Elle
Because if I remember correctly, they predated Kindle. Correct. Like you used to have to buy a download from their website.

Sascha
Yep.

Elle
Right. Like they were there before. And I don’t know how they were delivering the books. But if I remember correctly, it was before Kindle

Sascha
Yeah, they were doing PDFs or some version of a digital copy. It’s been a long time. And I mean, 20 years goes by pretty quickly, apparently.

Elle
Yes, yes, it does.

Sascha
They were securing they were securing PDFs. And they had other kinds of formats. And then when Kindle came along and streamlined it all, that’s when EC really took off. And I’ve quoted them a couple times over the years. I have relationships with, or a had, with some of the editors over there. But it’s been a very long time since I talked to them. I don’t talk to too many authors online anymore.

Elle
Yeah. Yeah. So Sascha, when did you I mean, obviously we’re going to address the elephant in the room. Sascha is a dude writing romance and erotic romance and erotica, which is awesome. And you’re one of the few or at least one of the few that’s actually out that you identify as male you are not a woman or identify as a woman. And so that I think is a really unique position for you to be in as a romance slash erotica writer. Um, but first, I want to know, what made you decide to be a writer? What, where did you sort of come to the craft?

Sascha
It’s funny because years ago, I answered the same question for…oh crap, someone who used to run the blog at HarperCollins. And I did some real serious digging about why romance. And given the nature of this podcast, you’ll understand when I say exactly what it is, I wanted to get laid. And I thought, I thought if I could just put this whole persona on. But to be fair, even going further back than that, because 20 year old Sascha’s not very confident, 20 year old Sascha’s skinny, 20 year old Sascha’s got great blonde hair, but 20 year old Sascha doesn’t know his head from his ass. So 20 year old Sascha can’t go and approach a chick. 20 year old writer Sascha however, writes and publishes romance and gets paid for it. But going back even further, in high school, I started my first romance novel on typewriter.

Elle
Oh, that’s, that’s awesome.

Sascha
And life was just kind of shit at the time. It’s nothing bad, like no traumatic or anything like that might just standard, traditional teenage bullshit, divorcing parents, etc, etc. And I would escape into writing. I had these two characters that I very much had based on myself and a fantasy of a woman I used to be in lust with in high school, that she was going to fix him. Her love was going to take care of all the jaded he was sure to become. And so I just I wrote, and then, fast forward a few years later, I’m back in Houston, with an ex of mine, and I’ve gotten my hair trimmed. And my hairdresser and I were talking about this, and she’s like I said, I’m going back into tech because it’s what I know. And she said, you know, you talk about writing. I said, Yeah, I do. I’ve written poetry for most of my life. I’ve written these little short stories. I had started a novel. Once I got a computer, I put this this novel into a Word document. She said, if you want to write, wright. And it’s me, so I can’t help myself. I was on some porn site, and I ended up flirting with the web mistress. And we were going back and forth. And we developed a friendship. We’re still friends to this day, actually, even though I rarely talk to anybody online at this point, outside of people to trade with or a couple I’ve mentioned earlier, and she said, if you want to write, here’s what you want to do, if you want to write erotica. Here’s some websites and it was like…now I’m on blanking. But in the late 90s, some very well known website, Scarlet Letters, Scarlet Letters, and I can’t recall who runs that but she ran website for a number of years and she was doing these, these stories and quality. They were Yeah, you could, you know, sit there with one hand and read and you engrossed not just because your hand is where it is, you know, even though and I said I can do this, just okay, well give it a try. And so I emailed a bunch of people and I ended up joining the Erotica Readers and Writers Association. And that was an email list that I’m getting 600 fucking emails a day. Because it’s all these authors talking about well, author stuff. They had a setup to where they would help you critique. This is a thousand person list. So they’re helping you give you feedback on your stories. Your characterization could be better here your dialogue could be better there are some you know, rough edits, etc, etc. And they also had a list for market calls. And while I don’t discredit my skill, by any means, you’re not going to find an author with a bigger ego than me. I will tell you, considering the direction I took, I got fucking lucky. And I’m grateful every single day because I’ve been published since day one. I didn’t really I didn’t the fight.

Elle
that’s really incredible.

Sascha
I’m not making tons of money yet. The industry’s changed so much. But from day one picked up and paid.

Elle
That’s fantastic. Do you do you categorize and, you know, nobody likes to categorize their, work, but do you categorize your work like, do you feel like I am erotica, I’m erotic romance, I am romance, you know, and everybody has different. I’m finding, especially through this podcast, everyone kind of has a different interpretation of what the boundaries are within each genre, or, you know, segment of the genre, I guess one would say. Like somebody has told me, I was talking to her a couple of weeks ago, who said she had been told that if you use the word cock in a book that you are automatically erotica. I said, I don’t know if I believe that. Ya know, that I don’t believe. I think you can use cock in romance and and still be romance and not be erotica. So I’m kind of curious, where do you categorize yourself and also to you what are the kind of differences between these?

Sascha
In erotica, the only plot the major one is the climax is getting those characters into bed. In romance, sex forwards the plot. So to be brash, because you’ve done your research, and you know exactly who the hell I am, if I’m just going to take you to bed, that’s erotica, us getting to bed. That’s erotica. Me loading the emotional necessities that we’re going to go back and forth between, that’s when romance comes in. So the sex forwards is the plot becuase you got this character growth that happens. What’s funny about romance, and the way that I was taught it, from a number of people who’ve broken it down, we have men have the hero’s journey.

Elle
Mm hmm.

Sascha
Romance is your equivalent. Because if you really and it does differ between authors, obviously, because I don’t write a lot of female-forward stories anymore, my female leads are strong-willed definitely, it’s kind of my taste in women. But I’m not really, as of late, focusing on the heroine so much, which a traditional romance story is your fairy tale. And it’s your journey, from birth to maturity, to the pains that you’re going to go through potentially, with your father and how he’s going to have an issue with that, because it’s his little girl. And then when you become a woman, and all that sort of thing, and romance takes the emotional aspect of it, and puts it at the forefront. Whereas you don’t see that so much in sci fi or fantasy, it’s more about the journey, the struggle, those kinds of things.

Elle
But I noticed with your, because as you said, you’re writing this sort of like male-focused male protagonist in your romance, which I think is really fascinating because I’ve just started to kind of push myself out of my comfort zone, I don’t write dual POV, I’ve always done it as the heroine’s point of view, female point of view, and I discussed it with my editor, and I’m really working on you know, my work in progress right now I’m layering in the male point of view, and it’s fucking hard for me.

Sascha
I have a class for you.

Elle
So I was sort of, you know, reading, especially the selection that you sent me with keen interest because I was like, this is really, and I mean, truthfully, in the male journey, I did not see much of a difference. There’s still there’s still that layer of emotion there that is coming through on the male side, like, you know, of, like, what you had said, as a teenager, you know, writing out your this romantic fantasy because you’re in a shit place in your life. And, you know, sort of coming out of that through love or falling in love, you know, at least as you’re writing this story, which I think that’s the kind of the heart of romance, right?

Sascha
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you look at this, you look at any single story that’s done by a romance author, and it’s that emotional journey, because look at the world around you without getting too detailed into that. It’s pretty, it’s pretty dark right now for a lot of us. I like that darkness. Personally, I’m a twisted, sick individual. I fully admit that. But a lot of people are mot. So I can now tell you that with confidence, I can say this. I buy what I’m trying to sell you. Meaning for a very long time as a romance author, I was not convinced that I could be happy as a human being. But I could sure as shit try to provide you with a moment of happiness. Because someone should get it if not me, somebody else should get it. So I thought, what fuck I can write I get paid. Why not try to make somebody else happy? Right, you know. And that’s just how that kind of came about for me.

Elle
So in when we were in the proverbial Green Room, as it were, you had mentioned that you were a huge fan of Harlequin, Harlequin Blaze line. And you read a lot of their books. And I’m sort of wondering what drew you as a reader to romance.

Sascha
I think the fact that again, just being an unhappy human being and I’ve always had a special relationship with the dark. So the Harlequin books didn’t get that far yet. You have to really go into Christine Feehans work or Sherrilyn Kenyon’s work if you are trying to get the darker stuff. Laurie Foster actually has a pen name, that she wrote a couple of stories and that are really, really just twisted. But I was unhappy. With life. It’s been very difficult for me, and a lot of times because of the circumstances, and it’s not even things I can control. I’ve read everything, you know, growing up, my mother had me reading regular children’s books, and I was a member of the library club and things of that nature, and really liked reading. But I think what drew me to the Blaze line was partially the sex because I’m not gonna lie, I’m a card-carrying male. And I like sex. But and this took a while to figure out I need that emotional connection. I need it in my literature, books, everything else just fucking bores me. Like seriously fighting to solve the crime, get it, you’re gonna solve a crime and murder. I get it, solve the fucking crime. But dude, the chick is hitting on you bang her and take care of her or let her take care of you. Or you take care of each other. Something, you know. That’s kind of the best way to answer that question, I guess.

Elle
Yeah, no, I think that, um, no, I think that that makes sense. And I also think that, you know, I always kind smile when men say, you know, card-carrying male, I like sex. And it’s like, well, you know, what? Card-carrying women like sex, too. You know, we’re just, we’re just supposed to be quiet about it. I think society has told us that we’re supposed to be quiet about it, you know, about our desires and quiet about our, our fantasies. And that’s where I think that is part of the reason why so many women are drawn to romance and also why Ellora’s Cave for example, as we had talked about tapped into, you know, a really critical market, like women needed this. You know, because we do enjoy sex, and it’s okay for us to enjoy sex, but we still can’t sort of like carry that paperback around, you know, on the subway, or on public transportation or even in the office. You know? I mean, are humans are fucking complicated, man.

Sascha
I, I if it’s been a while I couldn’t even tell you where these posts are anymore. Actually, I do know where a couple of his posts are. I got banned on Twitter, like last year. But I had some posts up there from years and years ago where you’d see because as I mentioned to you in the greenroom, I’m a cigar smoker. And a lot of times, I would go into a particular male-dominated cigar shop in Pleasanton with a romance novel in my hand. Now, it was paranormal, usually, because it’s just what I tend to find myself reading most of time. But I’m sitting there with these old and I say old white men, it’s a diverse group, it’s just the act the same. But sitting there having a conversation about sports, or this or that, and I’m not a sports guy. I only know about sports because of the cigar lounge I used to go to when I was first here. And I’m reading a romance novel. And yeah, you’re right. You’ve mentioned it and what’s funny about the way sex is perceived, and what you’re supposed to believe, is a lot of these women who were writing these things were my age when I was in my 20s. When they were older, I won’t give too much away because it’s not mine to do so but with all due respect to Kate Douglas, who’s the author of wolf tales way back in the day with I think that was EC. I don’t remember offhand. This is a long time. But she was one of the pioneers in the industry. She was in her 60s.

Elle
God bless

Unknown Speaker
Putting that smut out. And it was dirty. It was nice. It was good.

Elle
I love the dirty grandmas.

Sascha
Yeah, yeah. She didn’t mess around. So the reason that even happened was because New York wanted her work. They just told her to cut the sex.

Elle
No.

Sascha
That’s correct. I did an interview with her many years ago. And that’s what she told me. And I said, seriously, this is a and the first wolf tales book is kind of brutal. It is paranormal romance. And it’s a werewolf series. And the alpha male asserts his dominance to the beta male hero of the story in front of the female.

Elle
Damn.

Sascha
And I don’t mean an ass kicking either, ass was involved, but

Elle
damn,

Sascha
Yeah. And again, this is a woman who like many in, you know, who came before me. They were older women. They were tired of the shit in the generation, and they had an opportunity and Ellora’s Cave, Lucid, Changeling, a number of other publishers had come about and just knew how to work the marketing aspect of that.

Elle
Right, right. All right. You know, it’s funny, because the person who though is sort of credited for bringing erotica out of the closet is EL James. And I know she’s gotten dragged for

Sascha
so many things,

So many things, one of which included, you know, the BDSM in her books that she just wasn’t knowledgeable about the scene, and what she was putting out was dangerous. And so, you know, honestly, I haven’t read 5050 shades. So I’ve no idea what’s in the book. And I am not part of a BDSM fetish scene at all. So I wouldn’t even know she had gotten it wrong. Um, I know you teach a class on it for writers.

I do.

Elle
Which I think is really fantastic. Um, did you read 50 Shades? And were you like, Yeah, she got this wrong.

Sascha
I couldn’t get through the first paragraph.

Elle
Okay.

Sascha
I tried. My problem, and I gotta be very diplomatic about this. My problem wasn’t so much. How do I say this without being a liar? My problem was that there were so many authors that had come beforehand, myself included, but some of the classic BDSM authors in the industry, putting out quality literature, quality BDSM with stories that took you on that emotional ride but also took you through proper techniques in terms of subspace or Dom space or knew how to beat somebody properly without leaving them…

Elle
Hurting them.

duplicitous. No that’s not true, you’re still hurting someone.

Well, you hurt but a different sort of hurt,

Sascha
But they like it. Yeah. And and you know how to take the person because you can’t just sit there and pick up a flog or beat somebody.

Elle
Right?

Sascha
There’s a whole up and down portion of it. There’s a warm up and cool down and aftercare is given because both parties are going to be emotionally and mentally kind of wrought after the fact. And if you’re not careful, that can really turn bad. Last time I played with somebody here was a pet of mine. And I flipped out after the fact and I’m the one beating the people. I don’t think that the proper credit was given to people who came before EL James because she caught on the trend and found a way to maximize and monetize that. And still screwed it up.

Elle
I think for her to it kind of was like right place right time. Right story, right? I mean, it was it started as Twilight fanfic. And Twilight was huge. And, and so she sort of just patterned it on the success of Stephenie Meyers’ story, it was Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight right? Oh my god,

Sascha
I I actually couldn’t get through it either.

Elle
My brain just shut off at that point.

Sascha
I get it. No, I could do certain things. I just can’t read like I can’t read ya.

Elle
That was definitely why YA.

Sascha
I’m a dirty old man.

Elle
Right, right. Right, right.

Sascha
I don’t want a 14-year-old you I want a 40-year-old you.

Elle

Oh, thank you for saying. I think I think older women get short-changed. Often. So yay.

Sarcha

I can’t speak too much of that. Just put it to this way. I’m proud of mine.

Elle
Awesome. So So, you know, I mean, for people who are interested in writing about fetish, I mean, you know, what is the what is the best way to research this? Obviously take a class would be enormously helpful, you know, this stuff, take your class. But um, you know, if people are if writers are interested in exploring that in their work, I mean, where do they where do you start? Would it be reading other people’s books? Would it be like, how do you, you know, how do you even start digging into that?

Sascha
the author in question I was thinking of is Laura Antonelli, by the way. Yeah, I’d say, start picking up some things in the genre. You want to get the cadence of the genre down, because there’s certain ways that BDSM can be portrayed, I write BDSM. One way, another author who used to be one of mine, when I was editing heavily for Suzu Editions is Margie Church, and her BDSM. She’s not a BDSM person, she’s about as vanilla as they they come – her words, not mine. But she wrote some very fantastic stuff for us several years back, and got it right, partially because she had taken my class, but she did a lot of digging and asking. You have to really, not only get into the books, but then you can go on to sites like Fetlife. And just do a search on the history because BDSM comes from biker culture, which comes from gay culture, the way that I’ve understood it. And they all kind of have inner mixings because of the leather and whatnot, and more of a primal thing. But it’s been a long time since I’ve delved into the history of it, but Fetlife has a huge, huge, huge group thread on trying to document the history of where it all started.

Elle
Oh that’s cool.

Sascha
Yes, totally cool. Why we have the symbol we have for those of us that are involved in lifestyle, why we have certain protocols. If I tell you, for example, I was trained Old Guard, some buddies of mine don’t play that way. There’s a difference in what that means in terms of how you respect the people in question, how you greet them, how you do certain things. I’ve broken all those rules.

Elle
But you know, the rules to break them. That’s the, you know, that’s sort of the important part,

Sascha
Short version of long story. I thought it was a submissive slash switch. And then I realized, no, I was being trained to be an alpha DOM. And then yeah, and then I got tired of bowing down to anybody and said, I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do. I do what I want.

Elle
But I mean, I think that the sort of takeaway is you knew the rules, like you knew the rules before you broke the rules. And I think that that’s kind of you know, I think the takeaway and I love that you brought up Margie because and saying she’s – her words, as vanilla as they get – because I think the idea is like, you don’t necessarily need to participate in the scene to write about the scene, but you do have to do your homework.

Sascha
Yeah. And Margie did her homework. She picked my brain. We had many numerous phone calls where I insulted her. My version of the story has me being involved with another woman at the time. And Margie getting jealous because they stopped making fun of her. If you get a chance to she is a fantastic waiter. She’s got a lot going on in her life. But again, she can speak to that if you ever do have her on the show. Okay, she’s she’s one of those that gets it. She did her homework. She picked my brain. She picked the brains of people. She jumped online into the appropriate people. She was on Fetlife for a minute, doing tons of research because you can’t screw this up. Now you can you do this. You give someone the wrong idea. You can do some very, very difficult to repair psychological damage.

Elle
Yeah. Yeah.

Sascha
And Margie The story is I’ve read the stuff I’ve edited of hers. She got it.

Elle
I think that’s so cool. Yeah, I think it’s I think it’s cool that you teach a class like, I’m just like, that’s pretty fucking awesome. You know, and that you also teach a class about writing the male point of view. I think that that’s great too. And I think that these are important things that you know, as writers, we absolutely need to, you need to address and need to look at and need to consider.

Sascha
I, I mentioned earlier about getting lucky, but I’ve also had a lot of industry kindness come my way. It’s not always necessarily so common. I’ve had some big names tell me, they were glad that I was writing romance. Diane Whiteside was an author I read, starting in the genre many, many years ago when she wrote BDSM to I think, in her Texas vampire series. And I got a chance to interview her and she and I were talking in this interview, and she said, I know you from before this. And I said really, where? And she told me Erotica Readers associations now. Yeah, because she got big. I don’t know, to the extent anymore. But you get someone who’s a USA Today bestselling author, or you get a New York Times bestselling author, sincerely, not just a pat on the head, because they are the author and they can do this, but sincerely say to you, I am glad you are here. That tells me when I get to there, or on the way, I got to do my share too and I’m happy to do so. And there’s a lot of writers out there that, you know, y’all are married and you just ask your husband, Honey, why do I? Why is this what you do? And he just goes, Oh, man, that’s not really an answer. It’s alright. So it works. I understand what he’s saying. But you probably don’t. And I figured out that, looking at this from the perspective of primary that the darker alpha male, the damaged goods, made sense. And as far as BDSM was concerned, I started playing in the lifestyle, because I was trying to write it. And if you can play in the lifestyle, or you understand it, then they don’t give you shit for getting things wrong. Sometimes even give you money for getting right.

Elle
What do you think men can gain from reading romance? Not writing romance, but reading romance?

Sascha
Honestly. That’s a good question. I would say. Because for me, it’s all about the fact that and in both genders I can identify with depending on how the author writes, it’s about the fact that we’re stuck in our heads for so long, you have to be even still to this 2020 for fucksakes. And you still have to be hard. Okay, fine. You put that public persona on, you go outside and you be hard as you need to be. You go back behind closed doors with someone who’s taking care of you, and you let them so it’s very hard lesson. And romance as a genre does a pretty good job of showing it when you have the fight, you know, between the characters because he’s trying to take care of her and she is stubborn, and maybe she’s trying to take care of him and he’s stubborn, you know. And that get into the ability to let just for small minutes. And understand it’s not actually a weakness. It’s a weak moment, perhaps. But it’s not actually weakness. Weakness is going outside and doing the hard thing and drilling into your head that you have to do the hard thing. And romance. You know, you’ve got you’ve probably read show in Sherrilyn Kenyon. I haven’t read Archeron but I was told when it came out it was fucking brutal. What happened to him? For him to become the god of the underworld the way he was. I haven’t had a chance to keep up with that. I’m actually the last book I read Dark Hero was a Black Dagger Brotherhood book. And Wrath has got some shit to work through.

Elle
Yes, he does.

Sascha
And so do a lot of us. I can identify with the being blind kid because I am legally blind. I can identify with that kind of thing for some reason in my own head. And he’s got Beth to help as tough as it is for him. And that’s what we can get from that I suppose that of males reading romance.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, I actually completely forgotten about JR Ward’s Black Dagger series. And it makes total sense to sort of have the, you know, talk about that here. Absolutely.

Sascha
You know, you think about it. And if you’re gonna look at the romance genre as a whole, you know, we had, I got told years ago when we were last deployed overseas in the Middle Eastern countries that there were people who were glad to get, the military folks, who were going to get Christine Feehan novels, because she understood the alpha male mind in a combat situation. Because she either has a husband who has been in there, or should do research, or both. I got a buddy of mine, who teases me about this a little bit online because of my pack series. But he provided with me because he’s got military experience, and he provided me some feedback to help strengthen my characters, when I had those situations. And you don’t it doesn’t have to be flowers and hearts and candy. It can be rough, dirty sex, it’s angry, and hand guns and killing your enemy.

Elle
Right. Right. And I think that that’s sort of, which is why it’s sort of also great to sort of bring up people like Christine or JR, and what they’re writing because I think that there is an assumption, that romance genre, even if it moves to sort of the steamy, darker side still is a lot of flowers. And actually, no there are, and this is also women as well as the men writing, it can be very violent, and can be very dark.

Sascha
JR Ward is the author, I will most credit for giving me permission to put this darkness into my earlier work. Because I was scared because it literally it kind of fucked with my head. I have a novel that I rereleased and I swear even to this day, I still want people to read that novel and ask me personally, what the fuck is wrong with you? Or are you okay? Do you need a suicide hotline? No, I don’t. But I wrote that novel in a really bad headspace. And it was because I was reading Christine Feehan’s Carpathian series or starting to read the Black Dagger Brotherhood. And I can’t think of the character who mirrors him. But Sherlyn Kenyon has got a character who’s wearing dark and really twisted. And there’s a Black Dagger Brotherhood equivalent. And that’s again, it gave me permission to put this out there and try to give something else a happy ending. Because again, I wasn’t buying it.

Elle
Right. Right, that there is, you know, even through darkness, there is a certain degree of light that can come in, you know, because I think that that’s sort of like the I think ultimately every romance no matter how dark is hopeful.

Sascha
That’s what we’re trying to sell. I think seriously, it’s this light in a dark spot.

Elle
Yeah,

Sascha
Not everyone has to go down if you do if you do any really serious digging into my social media feed. I got some twisted posts up there that are a lot of times lyrical in nature because I listen to death metal. I listen to black metal posts, I listen to these angry, angry, angry genres. And every once in a while bad buddy makes an appearance. It’s rare. And at the end of my day, I have that cigar to look forward to I have my trades. I’m an option trader. I have my love to go to bed with. I have love coming to me that needs to remain the focus of my world. But for a lot of us yeah, it’s just it doesn’t it doesn’t seem to come out that way.

Elle
Okay, well, I want to dig into the little bit that you sent me from your under undead blah, blah, blah, sorry. I’m Undead Souls MC paranormal romance series. And this is Righting Tempest. Is that correct? Yes. And so could you set up the story for us? Where are we at when we start the scene?

Sascha
We are in the kingdom of fairy I forget which court because I didn’t specify courts in this particular storyline. Wait, nope, I didn’t. And we’ve got an MC that’s a vampire MC. They want to get back to their realm and they can’t get back to their realm without selling these bikes that are due to go to the queen of Fairy. So, Jonas, yeah, Jonas used to be a crook in his former human life. Unlike half the rest of the MC who was actually royalty before they were turned, Jonas was a petty thief. Well, more Lupin the Third if you get the reference, so high end artworks, things of that nature.

Elle
Got it, okay.

Sascha
And they find the bikes, they understand the motorcycles can get them back. They gotta steal them. Turns out that Jonas and Tempest have a chemistry and it’s unique.

Elle
Now is Tempest guarding the bikes is that is she sort of like this fairy enemy?

Sascha
Enemies the wrong word. And I can’t think of Smokey and the Bandit. It’s the closest I can come to think of as to what that is. She’s actually a truck driver.

Elle
Okay,

Sascha
She’s just a fairy truck driver, who’s literally on the verge. Once the Queen pays her for these goods. She’s good to go. She could retire, she can disappear off the grid, and she can live the rest of our days after peace.

Elle
Oh, I love that for her actually. I actually love that for her backstory.

Sascha
I had a lot of fun writing it too.

Elle
She’s a kick. She’s a kick this one. I liked her.

Sascha
I better grab a bourbon.

Elle
Alright, so I’m going to start reading a lot of these some of these are pretty short. But then I’ve got I get moving into some long sections. So I am taking this I’m literally taking this from the top because I just absolutely enjoyed the sort of opening sequence of moving into this erotic scene. Life slowly seeped back into his body waking up his every nerve in all five senses. Jonas opened his eyes halfway, saw a mane’s amount of hair in his face and inhaled the scent of cherry blossom join vanilla scent he’d grown fond of from Tempest, and it made him wonder where he was. I picked this out, because I think that I loved the use of senses that you’ve had through the scene, particularly scent. And, and this just was kind of the start of it, because it’s really layered throughout the whole, you know, the whole piece. And I was sort of curious, like, how you layer this into your writing? Is this something that you consciously do? Or is this something that just kind of presents itself as your it’s just how you write and that’s, and that’s where you where it is.

Sascha
it happens now, subconsciously, as part of the process. But I mentioned years ago, that I originally, I’m a cigar smoker, I’m an alcohol connoisseur. And by that I mean I’m not paying attention to those particular hobbies to imbibe and get fucked up. I like all the sensory aspects of both. And a buddy of mine had said, your writing is really good. But where you’re missing things, this is like 15, 20 years ago, I guess it was, where you’re missing things is these details. And I thought about it and thought about it and wondered, oh, shit, it’s because I don’t notice them myself. Because I’m legally blind. So when I go to the store, I go to the shop or I go wherever I’m focused on what’s in front of me directly in front of me. I can’t drive right now, no, no license. So I’m not going to see the same things. If we go to the same cigar shop, you’re going to see different things than I’m gonna see. And she told me to pay attention to those extra details that I do pick up because I’m in it. And that’s when it became part of what I do. In addition to again, I think it was also might have been Sherlyn Kenyon who I picked that up as well, because she’s gonna see the JRWard had a thing for cents as well. And I can relate that I cook, so I can relate that too.

Elle
Right. Because I was like, that’s really great. Because I know for me, like, I really have to stop and say, Okay, wait a minute. Yeah, go back. Add this in. You’re missing some stuff. You know, I think that I don’t know. Like, I think some writers like for me, I can pound out dialogue, so that’s where I go first. That’s what you know. But I was also trained as a playwright. So I think that’s probably where that comes from. And so I always have to, like, go back and layer it. So I’m really an all when I when I sort of like something jumps out at me in terms of like the layering of the sensory experiences. And I’m like, man, I mean, it looks so easy.

Sascha
It isn’t it isn’t. I mean, I got one author that I know who she writes straight through. If she’s got that draft down, then she gets to rest and then she can go back and then layer where as I do But the same thing, but I want to get it right the first time around. I’m a control freak. I’m a bit of a. And I know better about being a perfectionist, but I don’t have shit first drafts. I hate the first draft they write. Nobody likes a first draft. But I want to make sure I get those things in there upfront because if I don’t, I might not get it next round.

Elle
In terms of your process, do you like sort of edit it as you write them? Do you like write something and then go back and futz with it? Or Or do you go very slowly as you’re writing to make sure that you get it all down? Sort of the first time.

Sascha
I do stream of conscious. I plot heavily, but I do stream of conscious. The exception to that was the last book I actually finished, which was probably earlier this year. It’s the third book in the writing template in Undead Souls MC series, there’s a scene that I based off of an old, Sepultura song, and a whole Sepultura album, because the album itself is basically Sepultura’s concept of Dante’s Inferno. And I felt really, really enamored by the concept of doing Dante’s hells and all that sort of thing and having a death metal band do it and do it well. And then I wanted to take that and put in romance. With that being said, I wrote the scene where they go into in Dante’s wood it’s the dark wood of error. And I call it the same thing because people will know it and I had to layer that because that particular scene I wrote with that album one like serious repeat and just repeat the song repeat the song repeat the song stay in the dark woods stay in the dark wood, fuck these characters up, or fuck the male up anyway. Let him get so down into and layer and layer and layer. You want your readers crying when he’s out, because you want them to go, oh my god, she pulled him out of the thing. Thank God, she pulled him out of that level of hell. So that I really worked at but for the most part, I write straight through.

Elle
Okay. All right next little bit. He felt it then the energy that animated the undead part of her stirred coursing through her body with enough force that Jonas felt it. She turned around in his arms, eyes open her tri-colored irises were now a shade of deep red Tempest, kiss me. He smiled at the request she’d made in such a husky voice then move to do just that. Okay, this is romance. I read that I said this is romance. No doubt this is romance. It’s seducing the reader. And it’s, you know, just even from that small, little bit. I sort of got the sense of, oh, he’s kind of fallen for her. Like we’re moving beyond that sort of attraction, you know, physical attraction into something a little bit deeper here. And, and I thought that that was really kind of cool and slightly unexpected, because I kind of expected this to be more straight up erotica. And so I was pleasantly surprised when I was like, now this is romance. This is definitely steamy. But this is romance.

Sascha
I haven’t done erotica and like pure erotica. That’s not true. I did a piece a couple years ago, I ghost wrote a piece under the name Kilison. People who watched Iron Chef would get the reference. Yeah, because I was not supposed to put my name on it. I was just getting paid. And that was erotica. I actually took us during the election. And I took all the old white men politicians, and they just they got out of politics. And they went and formed an MC.

Elle
Oh, shut up.

Sascha
So you think about

Elle
That sounds ridiculous. I love it.

Sascha
So that the heroines because it had to be like a younger woman or the man thing. See if there’s like 20 something year old doe in the headlights kind of girl who likes sex, blah, blah, blah, and wants to be involved in the S&M scene. And she’s being seduced by not Senator Ted Cruz. But I had some of that ridiculous as name for Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio. And I just I put them on this novel and you look familiar what I seen you before, but you can’t place them because social media is what it is. And that’s the last time I actually wrote real erotica because it gets me paid for it. Otherwise, I haven’t written erotica in 15 years.

Elle
I guess for your bio I was kind of expecting you know, I was expecting more erotica than romance. I was like, Well, wait, no, this is romance. This is romance. Here we go.

Sascha
You know what, I thought about this too because I get this question of an element and I think why romance? I thought well, honestly outside of every single story – that’s not true. There are two that I’ve written in my entire career that are not necessarily happily ever afters. But just about every story that I’ve been paid for. Had a happily ever after, or at least a happily from now. And I thought, you know, I guess I really liked this.

Elle
Okay, um, Okay, here we go. Yeah, so settle in kids. This is gonna be a little bit of a long, long stretch here.

Sascha
Um, before you continue, I should actually mentioned that I forgot to mention this earlier. Tempest is half fairy half vampire.

Elle
Okay, good. I’m glad that you pointed that out. Because I was wondering if she was because I know obviously, since I’ve read the scene, I was wondering, you know, who exactly who she was? And also, if you know, when you would said that she was, you know, sort of working like I knew she was vampire, but then I wasn’t sure about the fairy part. So okay, cool.

Sascha
She did not get trained or get taught how to be a vampire. So she ends up her biggest problem with this, and this is what comes into the relationship aspect later on. She’s when she goes to feed that side of her. She accidentally kills victims, and it bothers every single time.

Elle
Right. So this is why she’s, she’s really scared to death of her power. Really? Yeah. Yeah, Okay. So this makes us even sort of more like poignant to sort of you know, because I, you know, I dance a line…. I haven’t actually not written a paranormal romance. I write contemporary romance, but I write urban fantasy, and love, you know, but then there’s romantic elements, but it’s totally not, not any stretch of the imagination.

Sascha
So you’re more like Yasmine Galenorn’s darker stuff or Illona Andrews?

Elle
I write. No, cuz it’s funny. I think that I don’t know that I am. My characters are kind of ridiculous. I mean, I think I trend almost more towards a Kim Harrison.

Sascha
Okay,

Elle
kind of where, you know, it’s dark, but like, my characters are kind of goofballs.

Sascha
Now, that’s, that’s because I got I was reading my share of urban fantasy about that in 2013. And all the heroines were the same. They were all snarky. They worked for demons, blah, blah, blah. It was getting boring. And Yasmine Galenorn, not being boring by any means, was one of the ones that pulled me out of that, until life happened. And then I stopped doing all kinds of things.

Elle
Yeah, no, I, I had a vampire/witch character and similar to this actually didn’t. Well, the reverse of it, knew that she would be a vampire turned into a vampire with different magical sort of like systems going on once she was killed. And so the idea was, she wanted to stay alive for as long as possible, because she didn’t want to be a vampire. But then it turned out she was also part witch, which she never knew about. And so you know, hilarity ensued. But it was it was fun writing, I was going to I ended up kind of being a trilogy, and I was going to keep going, but I don’t know, like I tried to go back to it recently. I have like a 30,000 word outline, but just wasn’t feeling it. So I think I’m going to do a different series, but kind of set into that in the world. I always sort of had a spinoff series planned. But I was going to keep going. But now I think in the first series, but I think I’m just gonna go with the spin off series now because it’s kind of making me more excited.

Sascha
This isn’t gonna make any sense, because I’m guessing based on what you said about my age come in earlier that you’re possibly a little wiser than me. That being said, Take it from the industry alter, go where your heart wants you to go.

Elle
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So I was like, yeah, and this was why I was like, you know, I wanted to incorporate other magical systems. And then when I was like, wow, I don’t know now, I think so. I think that that’s kind of where I’m going is I’m going down this other route, which I’m, you know, pretty excited about. And I kind of haven’t been really I was a little burnt out on the urban fantasy for a bit and partially why I turned to contemporary romance. And now I’m sort of I’ve been writing a lot of the I’ve been doing a series that’s been a lot of contemporary romance, and I’m kind of like, you know, ready to go back to fighting not fucking.

Sascha
Yeah. I got it.

Elle
I think I need some ass kicking, not some ass. So let’s go. Okay, I am ready. All right. Let’s do this. In an instant Tempest had shucked her Brian kicked out of her panties. Are you going to come here or am I going to force you inside of me? I love it. Whoa. He puts up his hands and joking surrender not even dinner and drinks first. I have an idea. You be drinks, I’ll be dinner, her lips curled into a wicked smile. The glint in her eyes spoke volumes about intent. If he didn’t act on his body’s natural desire, she’d make the decision for him. Life was hard sometimes. Shaking his head Jonas fell on top of her as cock pressing against the warmth of her flesh. He caught her lips again. The Press of soft skin against his hard body made his vampire desires kick in fueling his lust reaching between them she grabbed his cock and gave him a solid pump. He groaned into another kiss, dueling with her for control while she had him in her hand, spreading her legs beneath him. She helped position him at the entrance to her heat. God damn, you’re so hot Tempest. You ain’t felt nothing yet, outlaw. No, I…she cut them off with a pair of fangs clamped down around his throat, while her hips arched up, pushing him past her entrance. Unable to control himself, Jonas jerked into her head groaning louder at the tightness clamping around his cock. Tempest scraped her fangs over his flesh without sinking in. Burying his own fangs, Jonas freed himself from her grip and clamped her mouth once more, surrounding her with his arms and holding her in place while he drove into her. She moved her legs wrapping around his waist, moving a hand to cup her ass, Jonah’s tilted her hips up slightly, improving the angle and driving deeper inside. Crying louder with each thrust Tempest head, lolled bap eyes wide and glowing the brightest shade of red he’d ever seen. Now is not the time to be thinking about whether he’d fucked any other vampires or not. Her muscles gripped him on every thrust inside shaking control from him. Thought strayed and vanished until the only thing he felt was the steady movement of his body. Grinding against hers is focused solely on the increasing loudness of her screams. He taught himself from their kiss and bared fangs. She gripped his shoulders, yanked him against her and sank her fangs into his neck. Jonah’s pumped harder, faster, letting the fog of vampire magic ease the pain from the bite into pleasure while she drank from him. I absolutely loved how you threaded the eroticism of a vampire bite into this erotic moment. The bite actually became as sensual I think, as the act itself. He wants something from her. And he’s willing to steal it, which I guess now knowing the a bit more background on the scene, it has to do with the bikes. And I’m getting the sense that he’s ambivalent about that. And I kind of loved how it was translated into this moment between them how that was kind of written in to this moment.

Sascha
It does he needs something else from her to actually he needs her fairy knowledge. Because he’s got a sick sister.

Elle
Oh, okay.

Sascha
He wants to be told he can take the MC or leave it.

It’s really for his sister.

Yeah, like he likes the camaraderie, all that sort of stuff. But he’s, he’s really more invested in his sister’s life.

Elle
Right. But it’s almost like he’s ambivalent to take whatever it is that he is looking for that she has.

Sascha
That’s fair.

Elle
There was like an ambivalence there. I sensed from him.

Sascha
Yeah, that’s definitely fair with Jonas, he’s he’s not so fully vested in jacking the bikes, especially after they get on the road and shit starts happening.

Elle
Yeah, and it just seems like, I guess, I guess there was an undercurrent of him not being comfortable with not being honest with her if maybe I’m reading into it, but that was like kind of what it said to me.

Sascha
Now you’re on the right path.

Elle
Okay. All right. Cool. I mean, and that’s kind of amazing, because I just have this bit like, I haven’t read the full book, or the full story, because you said this was an anthology. So was this a novella, or was this a full length?

Sascha
It’s actually a full length. It was part of a, like seven or eight author box set that I Love Vampire Novels put out and it was out for like two and a half months. We made our money and they pulled it back and gave us the rights back.

Elle
Okay, cool. You’re gonna put this out again, right?

Sascha
Yeah, yeah, I have two more in the series, and actually, without giving too much away. I really, really like what I did with the entire trilogy because of how all this really started.

Elle
Well, I think it’s pretty cool. Like I’ve all as like with my urban fantasy like I don’t even want to touch the fairy realm because that magical system is so goddamn complicated. So when anybody writes in it, I’m like there for it. But I want nothing to do with it as a writer.

Sascha
I’ve got I’ve got names and characters in books that are non standard, because my international background is Hungarian. So I’ve got a series with a bunch of Hungarian characters whose names I can’t pronounce. And that sort of thing. But the magical aspect of things as far as fairy is concerned, I keep telling the older girlfriend I said, If I don’t get this right. I’m going to get blasted for this. I don’t want to get blasted for it. So let me do as best I can to get it right. I kind screwed up here I think in the series, but I don’t care anymore as much.

Elle
Yeah, just it’s very, very complicated. It’s a complicated magical world.

Sascha
I’ve got a series I’m working on the second book in right now where I’ve turned fairy into a cyberpunk hell. Ooh, imagine Hitler’s Third Reich and Ghost in the Shell meet.

Elle
Oh, that sounds really cool. Cyberpunk fairy, I’m kind of digging that deep. is the first book out or is it? Are you holding it until you’re ready to like, do a rapid release.

Sascha
I’m in the middle of some crazy ass bullshit in my own head that I can’t get past right now. Okay, I would get finished by now. But the first one is definitely done. I’ve rewritten it from the ground up back in 2015, 16 when I got here. And in the second book, I’m trying to layer more of that, especially because it seems timely. That whole third reich, Hitler’s bs thing. So my girlfriend’s have to clear my browser history should I disappear. On that aspect of things, because the ultimate goal of my hero and heroine is now to dismantle said Third Reich version of fairy and restore it back to nature.

Elle
Oh, wow, that sounds really cool. I’m really loving the concept.

Sascha
I got to throw out the magical rules because no more no more DOES MAGIC exist anymore. It’s all mechanics. Like standalone complex if you’ve ever seen Ghosts in the Shell. But I based it very heavily on that. Because it was fascinating and it hadn’t been done at least to my knowledge, and why not?

Elle
Very cool. Very cool. Okay, one last little bit. Yes, it is last one, okay. His balls slapped her ass with each thrust and he held or tighter against him aiming to drink from her with as much desperation as she displayed. Tempest continued sucking on him, ramping up the sensations in his body and making him feel lightheaded. He forced himself from her jaws and ignored her hiss while pistoning himself inside her. Harder, r faster, deeper, he pumped until she cried, and her head slammed back against the pillows. She arched upward, giving him one last squeeze that sent him over the edge when her orgasm hit. Trembling against him, her nails dug into his flesh, ripping it skin and causing the most delicious pain he’d ever felt from a woman. See, this was where I was like, God dammit, I need to write for like, if I was writing from a male perspective. It like I don’t, I would, I would not be able to, to give the reader this experience. And I think I’m not a guy. I don’t have balls. I have no idea what happens, you know, and I thought and it was not something I would necessarily be thinking about, as you know, as I’m writing the scene, and I was like, Well, of course, like what’s going on with your balls as a dude, like, you know, and even writing it from a female point of view. You know, a woman would absolutely feel that. So I think that there’s so much that we can learn from male writers. And honestly, I wish more of them were out because I know that they exist in the genre. And a lot of them are using, you know, women identified names when they write because I do think that we can learn a lot from each other because our perspectives are really really different.

Sascha
It surprises me a number of women I have to tell a man does not stay hard 24/7. His penis maybe eight inches or six inches or whatever the fuck, where he’s aroused. But just a basic thing like that.

Elle
Right.

I mean, you married you got kids, you probably know this already. You know, it’s common among people who have lots of sex or it should be. But a basic fact like that. So, don’t get me started on the emotional aspect of things where Yeah, and you’re gonna get a bit of a different spin from me because of how I view the world. And how honest I tend to be with that viewpoint versus a lot of other men who will just play it off and try to be cool. And I’ll straight up tell you, this is the reality. And sometimes that hurts to say it. Because it could be construed as digging into male masculinity. But I’ve told the younger lover numerous times, you know, if I can’t pick up myself, the fuck good, am I? But yeah, you need that perspective, from from both genders, to, to where to get get in with it to put you in that head, because maybe you don’t identify with the heroine of the story. Maybe the male is more your speed, maybe the way he thinks is more your speed, maybe the way he has sex is more your speed.

and I think I can’t, I was trying to sort of remember when I had, if I had ever read a sex scene from the male point of view. And it’s rare.

Sascha
you probably have more often than you think that like, it wouldn’t be like every third book kind of a thing. But there’s, there’s quite a number of us out there, I’m not the only game in town. I’m only gonna say that one time, ego and all that.

Elle
But I think I was like, you know, it is rare, though. It’s definitely not something that, um, that a lot of writers do. And, you know, like I said, I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone, just to write a male point of view, I don’t know that I feel confident enough to write that point of view while they’re having sex, because it’s just so out of my wheelhouse at the moment. And I need to, like, it’s hard enough for me to get into like that sort of male persona, just with like, going down the street and getting a cup of coffee, like I couldn’t even dig into it with the emotional layers that need to go in with crafting an intimate scene. I’m like, Yeah, I can’t do it, I can barely write intimate scenes between, you know, for the female point of view.

Sascha
It’s, it’s difficult to really, you know, get into this as they say, because if you’re not, if you’re not really in touch with you, I think is what a lot of boils down to, like, I know how I’m intimate. The biting thing is actually a big thing for me, I have to be very careful, otherwise, people will bleed. And can’t make that happen all the time. I try to channel My intensity into my stories. So while this is not an example of how I would have sex, per se, this is an example of the kind of intensity that the characters display. And, you know, they always tell you, and this is bullshit advice, but it’s true write: what you know. I know intensity. From this perspective, I’ve paid enough attention to what I would consider initially my own flaws. And that’s where it kind of comes from, I guess.

Elle
I think that that’s sort of you bring a good point, like with the write what you know. That, that makes me a little, like, when I hear people say that it makes me a little like, yes, but and then I like how you kind of said, I know intensity. Okay, now it makes sense. So you, that’s where you’re kind of writing from, but I do think the write what you know, can be a little tricky, because then we just if we all just wrote what we knew the world would not. You know, I think part of what draws us to being writers is this curiosity about the world around us. And being able to explore other other things that we might not know, and learn about it. And then tell those stories, right?

Sascha
I told the last time I taught a class live was the RWA chapter in Detroit, and a little five minute interview before the class to pump the class up. Because they were paying me to come out there. I mean, they spent 1000 bucks to send me out there. And one of the things that I told them about this because I always get this question, you know, you’ve been around for 20 minutes or 10 or 20 years you get this question, what advice do you have for writers? And the advice I would say is Yeah, write what you know, but here’s the reality of it. You as the romance author, you as the author to begin with, but you a romance author are the truth of the world. So share it. Because we need your voice, first of all, and second of all, you’re going to have a perspective. On a situation or incident, it’s going to be different from mine. You put 10 writers into a room, you know this, you put 10 words into a room, you give them all one same idea. I want you to write about this particular anything. You can get 12 different stories. So it works out in the long run. We did this!

Elle
Sasha, where can where can listeners find you?

Sascha
I’ll have to get to the Amazon link right now. I do update my website occasionally. More with long form posts as of late at Sascha Illyvich author dot com. And then I can get you the Amazon link as well. I’m on Facebook, but I troll. I was on Twitter, but I got banned. I’m on Instagram and Pinterest. I think Instagram is Sascha Illyvich and Pinterest is my lingerie fetish. Yeah, go with the Amazon link.

Elle
All right, cool. I’ll have that in the in the show notes for people that might want to check out what you’re doing. So Sasha, thank you so much for doing this. I appreciate you being here and sharing your perspective.

Sascha
It’s been really cool. I appreciate getting to be a ham. So

Elle
Excellent. Thanks so much.

Sascha
My pleasure.