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 This week’s guest is Stefanie London. Stefanie actually conducts workshops on writing the naughty bits, so there’s a lot of golden advice in this episode. We talk about how tapping into the weather helps her create intimate moments on the page, why writers should use craft books as revision tools, not writing tools; and how she finds writing tension between characters more gratifying than the steamy moments.

You can find Stefanie on

stefanie-london.com

Instagram

Facebook

And grab Kissing Lessons, the first book in her Kissing Creek series, on Amazon

Transcript

Elle
Joining today’s episode of steam sands is Stefanie London. Stephanie is a multi award winning USA Today best selling author of 30 – that’s three zero -contemporary romances and romantic comedies. Stefanie’s books have been called genuinely entertaining and memorable by book list and elegant, descriptive and delectable by RT magazine. Her stories have won multiple industry awards including the Holt medallion and OK RWA national Readers Choice Award, and she has been nominated for the Romance Writers of America’s Rita award. Originally from Australia, Stefanie now lives in Toronto with her very own hero, and is currently in the process of doing her best to travel the world. She frequently indulges in her passions for good coffee, lipstick, romance novels, and anything zombie related. Stefanie, welcome to Steam Scenes.

Stefanie
Thank you so much for having me,

Elle
Whoo, I got through it. Um, this is really fantastic. Thank you for being here. And I like literally just before we started found out that Stefanie teaches how to write sex scenes at various romance writer conferences. So you are perfect. You’re perfect for this podcast, tell us everything.

Stefanie
It’s a topic that is really like a big hot button topic for me. So I absolutely love talking about it.

Elle
I’m curious, like, why do you think we writers… We, the Royal we, that would be me. Yeah. And other right. Like, why do you think we struggle with writing these intimate scenes?

Stefanie
Well I think he just said it right, then they intimate. And I don’t think intimacy is something that comes easily necessarily to people, it’s something that we have to really like dig deep into ourselves to access and to do that, and then put that on display for the world can be quite intimidating.

Elle
It really can be when you think about it like that. Absolutely. So for you, is it just is it easy for you? Or do you? Or do you also struggle,

Stefanie
I think I have the opposite problem to some people. Whereas when I get to a sex scene in one of my stories, I’m like, Yes, that’s like 3000 words that I know, it was just gonna fly out of me and I get to the black moment, I’m like, Oh, I’m gonna procrastinate on this for weeks on end, because I don’t want to do it.

Elle
So you sort of have like, you have a total opposite reaction than I do. Because when I get to that, to writing those intimate scenes, I kind of everything to me grinds to a halt. And it’s like working through molasses to get the word count out to get the words out. It really is like, struggle, struggle, struggle. And then I finish it and then I’m zooming again, with the writing. It’s very sort of interesting how it stops my it sort of stops my flow.

Stefanie
Yeah, I can totally understand that. I have a lot of writer friends that have said to me in the past, oh, I’m, you know, worried about people reading it. And I think that that knowing that this is going to be something that other people read, and that it is such an intimate thing can be caused a little bit of a blockage in the writers process. Whereas I find for me, my characters are happy when they’re having sex. And when the characters happy, I can write, like endlessly. And then when I have to be mean to them, that’s what I get blocked because I don’t like doing it. So I think that it’s all about, I don’t know, very early on in my writing career, my father in law read my first book, which had some pretty steamy scenes in and I think that level of mortification will never be reached ever again. So now like, that’s already happened, so I could do anything now.

Elle
So basically, we have to hit hit peak mortification, and we’ll be able to write. No problem. Alright, so I’m gonna just gonna jump back a little bit. When did you realize that you want it to become a writer?

Stefanie
Oh, um, that terrible cliche that wanted to be a writer ever since I was a kid. That was like always a kid with a book in my nose. And I used to like write and illustrate my own picture books when I was little. And I just, you know, I have a business degree, that’s basically half an English Lit degree, because anytime I got to choose a subject, I put an English subject in there. So that’s definitely been like my whole entire life has revolved around books and storytelling.

Elle
Wow, that’s pretty cool. So then what drew you to the romance genre in particular,

Stefanie
I knew I wanted to write a book. And I actually wasn’t sure what I wanted to write. I just had this urge within me for a long time to tell stories and to write. And I actually grew up being more of a mystery reader than a romance reader. But I was not sort of not sure what to do when my sister was actually the one that suggested that and she said, Why don’t you just try writing a romance novel? Because it’s just stories about people and, you know people, and I was like, Yeah, I do know people. And that seems like a very, like an interesting topic because I’m a bit of a frustrated psychologist. So I like sort of thinking about what makes people tick, and why do they make the decisions that they make. And when I mentioned that to my mom, she went to like the local charity store and came home with a huge stack of romance novels for me to read. And that’s when I actually started reading romance as well. And I totally fell in love with the genre, based off the desire to write. So I kind of got to experience all of that at once, which was great.

Elle
That’s really cool. Because it’s sort of like, I think you’re probably the first author that I’ve spoken to, that said that you kind of thought about writing in the genre, but you weren’t necessarily an avid reader at first. And so when you went to research it and started reading the books, you just sort of fell in love with the genre, which I think is really, really cool.

Stefanie
Yeah, it was cool. Because I think that, you know, we have sometimes people that don’t read the genre have an idea about what it is, that’s been sort of falsified by either people over time. And so when I started reading these books, and I realized that Oh, my god, these are amazing, uplifting, hopeful stories. And I’ve been missing out my whole life not reading. And so I’m very glad that I came to the genre, both as a reader and writer at the same time.

Elle
Yeah, I think there’s a real sort of unfortunate stigma, I think that it’s sort of deeply rooted in the fact that these are books for women, mostly by women, mostly for women. that I think has, you know, given it that a very unfair stigma. You know, and even when you think back to some of those, you know, 60s and 70s romances, you know, they, they look kind of questionable, you know, to our 21st century eyes, or 22nd century, where are we right now? But, but when you actually start digging in, you realize that they were pretty revolutionary for their time period.

Stefanie
And I think romance novels tend to have a very, like, they really do hold a mirror up to what’s happening in society, which I find very interesting. And, you know, we often talk about the like novels of the 70s and 80s, feeling like of another time, but I even feel like that with some of the romance novels from like, the 90s in the early 2000s. I think just because as a society, we move so quickly. And romance novels really do keep up with that. So you can see a societal change as you read a book from the past, which is totally fascinating.

Elle
That is really fascinating. I never thought of it like that, but that’s super cool, huh? That’s really interesting. Okay, so we’re gonna talk about sex scenes. To you, What do you think makes a sex scene good?

Stefanie
I think a sex scene is good when in no pun intended, it works as hard as every other scene in the story. But in all seriousness, I think that one of the things that people struggle with sex scenes is that they so focused on the act itself, when really, I expect as much out of a sex scene as I do, as every other scene in the book, I want character development, I want plot development, I want a deepening of the relationship, I want them to face their fears. And all of that happens during when that happens during a sex scene, it can be really powerful.

Elle
So how do you write that? Right? Like, do you know, I don’t know if I’m gonna if this question is going to come out in any way that you’re going to be like, I get what you’re saying. Is it because we’re so focused on like, maybe the choreography of the work or something like that, that we that we kind of lose sight of how this is propelling the story forward?

Stefanie
Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s one of the key things that people struggle with writing a sex scene is that they are really focused on that, okay, where’s this hand going and what’s happening with this leg over here. And you know, that kind of stuff, where what really is happening is that your characters are being absolutely stripped down to the core of themselves. They’re burying themselves to another person. And any vulnerabilities that you have are going to show in this, whether they allow the other character to see it or not. So it might be an internal thing, or it might be an external thing. And I think that the best thing that you can do to write really great sex scenes is to know your characters as well as possible.

Elle
Okay, okay, that makes a lot of sense. So, when you sat down to write your very first one, like go back in the Wayback Machine, I know you have a lot of books. You know, and I don’t even know how many you have, you know, sort of shoved away in a drawer that you don’t count, but what was it like for you to write your very first one?

Stefanie
Oh, gosh, I think I had that feeling like a lot of people do about people reading it. And you know, what, what are they gonna think of me if I make it too steamy me or are they gonna find it boring if it’s not steamy enough? And, you know, I definitely had all of those fears just like most people do, coming into writing these types of scenes, but I think for me, the one thing that really helped is that I have a very clear distinction in my head that I am not the person in the book, that those are separate people to me. And that when people are reading my books, they’re not reading me, they’re reading these character’s stories, and they reading about those people. In my head, it’s a very separate thing. I don’t really put myself too much into my book. And also as a reader, I’m not that reader that puts myself in the character’s shoes. I don’t I know, some people do, but I’m not like that. So I can get that sort of like a layer of separation. And I think that’s really what helps me to kind of write those scenes a bit more freely.

Elle
Okay. Okay, that makes sense. So, so then does your first one exist in the world for people to read? Or is that something that’s tucked away? I’m just curious.

Stefanie
Actually Only the Brave Try Ballet was my first book.

Elle
Okay. Okay. So it exists out there.

Stefanie
It does. Yeah, I ended up selling my first book. I mean, it’s not anywhere near the version of the first iteration. But yeah, it was actually it was my first book that ended up selling. So you can go and see that.

Elle
So I’m curious in terms of your evolution as a writer of these steamy scenes, I’m guessing you can see it progress across your body of work.

Stefanie
Yeah, and I think that my, my heat level definitely fluctuates. Because I’ve written for Harlequin – they have a line called Dare, which is quite steamy, those books are in first person. They are, you know, very heavy on the sex in those stories. And so but then I’ve also written small town romance, which still has a bit of steam in it but it’s definitely, like more on the tension, rather than like lots of scenes. So and I like the ability to play with heat level, and to make it really appropriate to the characters rather than sort of forcing myself into a box and thinking, Okay, well, I need to have three scenes per book or whatever other arbitrary rules might be applied to it.

Elle
Did you find that you enjoy writing one more than the other? Or are you across the board? Like you just enjoy reading them all?

Stefanie
I’m getting less hot as I write more stories. And I’ve noticed that my books are getting longer, as well. Okay. And so I think that there is just, and I mean, this could just be a phase it might change again, but I think at the moment, I’m in a phase of like, I really want really rich, layered stories. And I really have discovered that what I love is the buildup. I love the tension. I love that will they won’t they feeling. And so for me, the sex scene is really important, because it’s about the characters connecting and, you know, burying themselves and being vulnerable. But I don’t need to spend as much time on that exact thing if I do the build up right.

Elle
Okay. Okay, that that makes total, total sense. So do you have a process when you sort of sit down to write these steamy scenes? Do you have like, one, one author, I talked to and I loved this, she assigns a scent to her characters. Yeah, I thought this was so cool. And so when it came to, when she sits down to write those intimate moments, she picks up, you know, the bar of soap or whatever it is that she’s assigned in terms of scent, and sniffs it. And I was like is awesome, I might have to try that. Yeah, and I was like, that’s a really great way to sort of, I don’t know, get kind of get out of your own head and like into your character a little bit. So I’m just wondering, is there anything that you do that might be like that?

Stefanie
Not really, I have to admit, I’m a really organic writer, okay. And that I kind of like, you know, whenever I hand a synopsis into my agent, like, she knows, it’s more of a loose guideline than anything else. I’ll like, get to a point and stop following it. I have to be in the story with my characters. And I need to really know them as people in order to be able to write these kinds of scenes. And so that means at the start of the book, I have no idea what’s going to happen. And I think that even writing the sex scenes is a bit the same. I need to get to that point in the story and really feel what they’re feeling. And so then, at that point, I craft a scene that has the right tone that they need, like the tone is really important to me, whether it’s like, you know, clothes flying off passionate up against the wall thing or whether it’s like really tender and exploratory. That’s the kind of key thing that I focus on. And so often, it’s the same before that I really start thinking about what that’s going to look like. And I start, you know, if I want it to be more intimate, I write a lot of weather.

Elle
Oh my God, I noticed that I made a note of that in the scene you sent me.

Stefanie
Like, if I want to increase the intimacy, I’ll often have it storming or raining outside because it creates that like, feeling of coziness. And, you know, sometimes I’ll put them outdoors if I want them to feel like they’re pushing boundaries, like I do a lot with the setting and the weather to create the right tone that I’m going for.

Elle
I thought, Oh, that’s so funny that you bring that up because that was totally In my notes, I’m reading a little excerpt I pulled out where I, I noted that and I was like, that is a fascinating use of weather. And I one that I never thought about, you know, it’s genius. It’s absolutely brilliant. And I have to ask, is this something that you do intentionally?

Stefanie
Yeah, I totally do. Yeah, it’s weather always plays a huge part in my books. And it’s like such a funny thing. I mean, I come from Melbourne, and I live in Toronto. And these are two cities that have like, very distinct seasons. And so I think that weather is something that I find really interesting. So I know people always say don’t talk about the weather, because it’s boring. And I was like, No, weather’s fascinating.

Elle
When started writing you was this something you were consciously doing? Like, I’m gonna, you know, some people are a little bit more conscious about touch or smell or sound? And were you like conscious? Like, I’m going to make sure that I did it just organically evolve? And then you were like, oh, okay, this is what I do.

Stefanie
Yeah, I think the way the thing was definitely organic. And as I said before, like, because I published my first book, I was so green. I think I didn’t, I didn’t necessarily have that, like, you know, people kind of write a couple of manuscripts before they get published. And, you know, they learn a lot through that experience. And you have that like exponential curve of knowledge that goes on in the early stages of learning a new skill. I kind of did that as I was getting published. And so I think that because of that might process for a lot of this stuff has really formed just with every book that I write, and then at one point, I’ll notice that I do something and then it becomes more of a conscious thing.

Elle
Yeah, like I found, you know, I read a lot of like craft books. I don’t know if you’re the same way. Sometimes I feel like I just need to stop because it gets so overwhelming. But where they talk about that sort of like, what’s your like…you have your goal of the characters in the story, but what is your overall theme of your book? And I can’t think like that, when I’m writing. Like, I don’t sort of come to a book and say that, well, this is my theme, you know. If there’s a theme it just sort of organically evolves through writing the character’s story.

Stefanie
Yeah, I totally agree. I actually think that my best use for craft books, because I also do love craft books, I love doing workshops. To me, they’re revision tools, they’re not drafting tools. So I realized, like, pretty early on that when I’m writing the book, if I think too much about that stuff, it kills my momentum with a story. And then I like, get lost in the feeling of it. And I can’t write as easily. So for me, it’s always I just like, you know, I write reasonably fast. And so I get the draft as quickly as I possibly can. And then I send it off to my editor, or whatever. And then when I’m revising it, that’s when I’m using all of that stuff. And I’m like, Oh, I can see the theme emerging here. But in this part of the book, it feels a little soft. So I’m going to try and strengthen that or I’m going to bring this element out a little bit more. But I never do that, while I’m actually writing the book.

Elle
Okay, and sort of jumped back a little bit you had, you know, mentioned that your synopsis that you submit is usually a very loose guideline. So does that mean you’re more of a plantser, as I’m called sometimes, a plantser, where you kind of outline but you kind of don’t? And you’re kind of pantsing it because you sort of changed your mind halfway through? Or are you? Are you an outliner?

Stefanie
No, I think I’m sort of like forced into outlining, because I’ve been traditionally published, and you have to provide a synopsis. And so that became part of my process, just because it was a requirement at the type of publishing that I was doing. But I think if like left to my own devices, I spend a lot of time during pre work on the characters, I really try and get to know everything about them. But as for what happens in the story, that’s usually I have a very rough sketch, I might have one or two scenes in my head when I get started. And I usually have an idea how the book is going to open. But beyond that, I only know the people. And I have to let that kind of guide me through the story.

Elle
Oh, that’s really pretty incredible. I love it. Okay, so um, you have 30 books. That’s a lot.

Stefanie
Yeah.

Elle
That’s a lot of output. How do you keep the steam scenes fresh as a writer. Because I was actually again, just this morning, I realized I have to put a steamy scene in where I didn’t realize there was going to be one. And I was like, how do I write this so it’s not something that’s I’ve already been like, that’s already been written in the book. And so I’m just kind of wondering, how do you keep that freshness?

Stefanie
I think again, I’m gonna sound like a broken record, but it comes back to the characters for me. Because the characters are so unique and individual as people that even if you write to shower scenes, they are doing to feel different because the people are different and what they’re experiencing is different. I mean, I think a very easy trick is to just change up the setting in some way. Whether it’s like, you know that they’ve moved into the kitchen instead of the bedroom or that they’re doing it outside or something like that, there’s a lot of things that you can tweak to kind of make it feel fresh. But for me, really the main thing that makes a sex scene feel high quality and interesting and different is the emotions that are being explored in that scene. So whether it’s that I have a character who like in my very first book, Jasmine, has a lot of scarring on her leg from a car accident. And so she puts on these like knee high socks, to in his mind, he thinks, oh, she’s like, you know, doing a sexy thing. But actually, for her, it’s about covering her scars, because she’s self conscious of them. And so there’s a moment where he goes to take them off, and she becomes very afraid. And I like putting fear in a sex scene in that way. Because I think it really increases the intimacy between the characters. And then they have to make a decision of whether they trust that person or not. And that really helps to make the scene feel unique to those characters.

Elle
Oh, I actually love that idea. That’s a really fantastic tip to take away, put the fear, you know, add a little fear in there. The other thing I noticed about the subjects of your books, they’re so diverse. You had like one book was the care executive and the business analyst. Then you have the ballet instructor in the football player, which I absolutely loved that I was like, Oh, I’m gonna go back and read that one. You have romantic suspense. Like you have all of these books? Is there a sub genre that you prefer writing in?

Stefanie
Yeah, my heart belongs in romantic comedy.

Elle
Okay. Yeah.

Stefanie
I love it so much. I love the silliness of it. Because I think that we could all stand to be a little more silly at times in our lives, like, especially this year, everything feels so serious. And I just want something that’s gonna make me laugh. You know, I mean, I like an emotional layer. Underneath that it needs depth. But with Kissing Lessons, which is my latest release, like there’s a whole thing in this book about how there’s a llama that goes around and terrorizes everyone in the town, and it’s just fun.

Elle
Oh my god, I love that. That’s hilarious. That’s Well, okay, so Kissing Lessons is your most recent book. It is part of the Kissing Creek series. And that was a romance themed town. You wrote a romance themed town.

Stefanie
Mm hmm.

Elle
Where did you get that idea? That was fantastic.

Stefanie
So funny story about how this series got started. My editor basically came to me and said, Look, we want another small town series from you. So you know, can you have a go at creating something? She’s like, I really want to, like lean into the quirkiness, because that’s something that she thinks that I do well, so lean into the quirkiness, and I want to give a Roman sounding name. So do a bit of brainstorming. And I was like, okay, so I came up with a list of probably like 15 or 20 names. And honestly, I put Kissing Creek, there is a bit of a joke, because I thought it was ridiculous. And of course, the one that she’s like, Yes, that one Oh, my God, this name is just very silly. I was like, Oh, no, this is interesting, because I want to how the people who live in the town like every time they have to write the address that how they feel about living in this town. And so I decided that actually, they love the name and they like leaned hard into it. And so all the businesses have like kissing puns. And the town colors of pink and red. And so it all came from the fact that I like, you know, made the dangerous mistake of joking with my editor about something. And then from that, like tiny little kernel, this whole wacky town got created.

Elle
I actually think that it’s a stroke of brilliance, frankly, like I saw that. And I was just like, that’s genius. Because there’s so much potential.

Stefanie
Yes. I mean, you do a lot with it.

Elle
You really can. Is their big blowout holiday Valentine’s Day?

Stefanie
Yeah, well, I’m thinking I haven’t actually written a Valentine’s Day book ever. So that would be a cool thing to add in this series. The next book in the series is going to be a Halloween book. But yeah, I love the idea of just being able to write all these, I don’t know, totally like, they make a lot of jokes about Hallmark movies and romantic comedies. And it’s just like such a goldmine for that stuff.

Elle
It really is. I was like, Oh my god, this is genius. So your most recent book in the series is Kissing Lessons. What inspired that particular book?

Stefanie
Oh, when we were sort of brainstorming the book, my one of the editors I work with likes to, like challenge me and will be like, hey, do you think you could write a book about this and that my first instinct is usually No, I don’t want to write about that. And then I like go away and think about it. And with this book, she wanted a professor hero, which have to be honest, was like, Oh, God, I don’t know if I could do that. And then but the more I thought about it, the more I was like, how can I take that trope, which I think in the times that we live in currently can be kind of an uncomfortable trope if not handled well. And how can I make it so that he is this like absolute cinnamon roll of a hero, and he’s like just this delicious human, a certain kind and like good hearted. And he like hunts for Agatha Christie books for his grandmother. And it’s just like a, like a golden human. And then sort of building the book around that idea. And having Audrey who is basically has given up her entire life to look off to her siblings and has made, like as many sacrifices as a person can make for her family. And then the story becomes about her learning to understand that, you know, in order to help her siblings, she needs to live her own life as well. And provide that example for them that like you have to care for yourself, and you have to chase your dreams, and you have to strive for something.

Elle
Yeah. Oh, wow, that’s absolutely, I think that’s beautiful, beautiful. I actually love these two characters, because you’ve got the scene that we’re going to dig into is from Kissing Lessons. And I really adored these characters. So can you set up the scene for us before we dig into it?

Stefanie
Yes so Ronan is a professor at the local college and Audrey is she’s in her like mid to late 20s. And she was taking one class a week with him for like a night school development. But she’s unfortunately had to drop out of the university because of the cost factor. And so they have just realized, for the first time, that they are no longer professor and student. And so all this attraction that they have been beating down, essentially, suddenly, they don’t have to do that anymore. And it becomes like a moment of revelation that actually maybe we can act on these feelings that we have.

Elle
Very, very cool. Okay, so I’m going to start and I actually sort of like hit it right at the very beginning. So are we ready to dig in?

Stefanie
Yep.

Elle
Okay, cool. He took both her hands in his and started walking backward, bringing her along with them. In the dim light, his eyes look strangely ethereal and the lines of his face are sharper, more exaggerated. You’re far more interesting than you give yourself credit for. I’d rather be beautiful, successful, formidable, powerful, free. Something else. She said. You can be anything and everything you want. They were in his bedroom now and he tugged her backward toward the spacious bed dominating the room. But he didn’t immediately pull her down and start stripping her. Instead, running stared right into her eyes as if forcing her to focus and let her mind slow down. He was so beautiful. She wanted to pinch herself. Yeah, because that won’t make you seem like a born again, Virgin. But it was hard for someone like her to accept the good things wouldn’t come with a hefty price tag. Life had taught her that anytime she wanted something for herself. Well, it always turned out to be out of her budget. Why wouldn’t run and be the same? So long as you’re not paying with your heart, you’ll be fine. Alright, see, I loved this setup. I felt like Justin, these paragraphs, we’re getting a lot of information about her in particular. You know, she sort of feels like this woman whose self esteem is like completely in the tank. Like she is just like, and and that and she was so relatable, she was so relatable because I think there’s there was a real universality and what you’re writing in terms of like, you’d rather be somebody that you’re not; you have you feel like you have all of these faults and failures. And you’re afraid to I guess this is sort of the whole point, right? Show your vulnerability to another person.

Stefanie
Hmm. Yeah. For sure.

Elle
You know, like, and I just really thought that this was kind of an extraordinary start to an intimate scene, because without the actual physical intimacy happening, you’re getting like, some really serious intense intimacy going on right on the page.

Stefanie
And I think intimacy starts with the mind, doesn’t it? You know, and then the body kind of follows So yeah, I really, I liked building that up for her and she is such a relatable character is like, the best thing to be able to write a happily ever after for her.

Elle
Yeah, I can imagine I can imagine. Because she just even in those sort of, like, you know, just in that moment, I was like, man, is she likable. And I completely know where she’s coming from. Okay. Let’s a little bit further down. I’m not saying anyone can do anything. I’m saying you can do anything, because you’re not average, Audrey. Her breath stuttered in the back of her throat. You don’t have to flatter me, Ronan. I’m already here. I want you to see even a sliver of the potential you have. I want you to see a speck of what I see when I look at you. He fingered the lengths of her for her bow which now hung loose and useless. Oh, sorry. He fingered the length of length of her bow which now hung loose and useless. I don’t know whether you’re afraid or If you really are blind to it, but I see Audrey, I see all of you, okay, I’m not crying. I’m not crying, I’m crying. For you as a writer. When you’re at this point, like, what what is happening between them here for you as the writer as you’re writing this? I don’t know if this is coming out right.

Stefanie
I think so my characters, especially Audrey, I think like, even stronger than some of the other people that I’ve written, my characters are like onions. And so every scene in the book is like peeling away more and more and more about trying to get to like who they are, at the core of it. And like earlier in the book, when you meet Audrey, she’s like, so positive and upbeat, and like, nothing can touch her. And then the further you get into the story, the more he starts to understand who she is, you see just how much of herself she has chipped away for those around her. And that until she really does believe that she has no potential at all. And that’s like the moment in this scene that it’s like, oh, like, we’ve all had those low moments in our lives where we just think, what’s the point of even trying, and that’s kind of where Audrey’s life has become. And I love pairing that with an intimate scene, because I think that it’s so real and understandable.

Elle
So does that mean like, so? Oh, my gosh, I had that. I had a question. And it just blanked right out of me. Oh so all her positivity, right, that you’re talking about that she had at the beginning of the book? Does that mean that was sort of a defense mechanism for her?

Stefanie
Yes, absolutely. You learn over the course of this story that her mother passed away when she was 15 or 16. And her dad is kind of a bit of a deadbeat. So she’s basically been caring for her siblings ever then. And like, one of the big things in the story is that she’s never visited her mother’s grave.

Elle
Oh, wow.

Stefanie
Yeah. And it’s because she believes that if she breaks down, she will be so broken that she will never be able to put herself back together get in order to look after her brothers and sisters.

Elle
Okay.

Stefanie
And so her sunshine is absolutely like a deflection of the things that she really feels and his area of study is positive psychology.

Elle
Oh. Wow, I was gonna I was about to ask what type of Professor is he.

Stefanie
He studies happiness. I actually read a nonfiction book on this topic, which was kind of where the theme for this started to emerge as I was writing. And so I wanted to look at like, what is the difference between the happiness that we see sternly from someone and a happiness that we actually feel inside?

Elle
Do you find that you get ideas and nuggets of ideas from nonfiction works that you’re reading? I’m just curious.

Stefanie
Totally, I get that. Like, literally, from every way, like I do read a bit of nonfiction. I also enjoy like, just reading random stuff on the internet, because I never know where a story is gonna spark from. And it’s always like, I have this, I don’t know, like a storage case in my brain where all this stuff goes in, and I don’t actively think about it. And then all of a sudden, at a point in one story, in the part of the story, I’ll just be like, oh, that thing that I read two years ago, he’s going to be what I’m going to draw on. So this book, but it’s not, it’s a very like, passive process. It just kind of happens as I write.

Elle
Right? That’s really amazing. Okay. All right, so I’m gonna keep going. You can see more of me she was spurred as she drew the hem of her top up and over her head every last inch. Her hands went to her jeans, and she popped the button slowly, in the quiet, almost blotted out by the soft drumming rain was Ronan’s breath. His eyes look dark, his jaw tight as he watched her undress. She toed off her sneakers, and then her jeans hit the floor, stepping out of the pile, she brought her hands behind her back and released the clasp on her bra. It felt good to shed everything to take it back to the physical. I love this so much. Because I felt like again, there’s these like, what are we 1,2, 3 paragraphs were saying so much. Like it was like Audrey was sort of saying you can see more of me while she means it as a physical stripping thing. Yet, I also felt like she meant internally even if she is not admitting it to herself in that particular moment. Am I reading too much into that?

Stefanie
No, totally. She’s not a character that lets people in. Partially because she just doesn’t like her life is so hectic and so full of responsibility that she doesn’t have the space for anything beyond the necessary and everything with Ronan is about want rather than need. And so just the act of her even being there in the first place is sort of like the first time that she’s nurturing a desire that she has. And so it’s like letting him see her as someone who can want, who has the space for want, in their life.

Elle
Wow, okay. Wow, that’s really cool. Okay. For a moment there was a void, sound and light and feeling all blotted out by the wave of rightness and release that ebbed through her. She discarded the pillow and looked down into the dim light to see Ron and resting his cheek against her inner thigh, his eyes were like fire, the light shifted as the summer storm swelled outside, showing Audrey the details of him in flashes, the lips that had brought her to the brink, the eyes that she wanted to drown in the hand, he rested on her leg. This is where the use of the weather really jumped out at me. And I loved how it kind of mirrored what was going on with them. It did enhance that intimacy that was happening between them. And then the other thing that I just sort of, like struck me is all the scenes that really jumped out to me in terms of the intimacy wereor not the physical action, like he just went down on her, they, you know, he just gave her oral sex. She just had an orgasm. Yet that wasn’t necessarily the intimate moment that sort of jumped out at me and made me sort of sigh.

Stefanie
Yes, totally.

Elle
It was these sort of, you know, really kind of non physical moments between them that I thought were super, super touching, and also very sexy.

Stefanie
I think that they, they’re also the things that can sometimes get lost when we focus a little bit too much on the choreography of the scene. You know, it’s almost like, and I’ve read books, where it’s like, you know, even if there’s only one sex scene, I think the point that it starts to feel a bit like, Oh, I want to skip the pages, is when you are so focused on the act that the scene doesn’t have any room to breathe. Yeah, like you need those kind of peaks and falls and those pause moments, to let the characters sort of figure out what they’re feeling in that space and to like, actually experience what’s going on, as opposed to it being like a bit of a freight train towards the end.

Elle
Oh, I love that. Yeah. Yeah. It’s funny, because when I sat down again, today, I started, you know, going through it, and I kept deleting, because I was like, No, this is not about the, this is not about the choreography. This is not about where her hand goes, or his hand goes or whatever. This is about something else. And I just kind of wasn’t sure what that something else was, I think. So this is kind of helping me wrap my head around, at least my choices for what that something else could be.

Stefanie
Yeah. And I think that sometimes people are afraid to, like give space for a sex scene for that stuff to like I do sometimes see people being like, oh, why is there so much talking when there’s a sex thing going on? And it’s like, well, because one it’s weird to just be completely silent when we have sex. And two, it’s like two people connecting like we want to see that connection. It’s not just about getting to the end. It’s about that like what they learn from one another.

Elle
Right. Okay. Ronan rose off the bed and took a step back. Audrey looked like a goddess spread out on his bed, hair fanned out behind her and her lips parted in anticipation. He tore his t shirt off without any finesse or teasing because as far as he was concerned, they’d waited long enough already. The sound of his belt cut through the quiet room and soon it joined the floor along with his shoes, socks and jeans. He stood in his underwear for a moment enjoying the way her eyes roamed his body eagerly sucking in every detail. He drew the last item down over his hips, feeling his cock spring out and bob against his stomach. God, he was hard. So hard. It was almost as if he hadn’t gotten himself off nightly for the last few weeks, like some horny teenager. He went to find his wallet and prayed that he hadn’t thrown the spare condom away at some point victory. With a relieved release of breath, he returned to the bedroom and tore it open. So we had a perspective swap at one point. So we’re now kind of in his, in Ronan’s, world, and I thought he was fantastic. And you know, he’s not terribly alpha, which I so appreciated. I tend not to write alphas, or at least that sort of the more typical alpha assholey kind of guys, you know, but I do know readers tend to love them. And so I’m kind of curious like for you, how do you craft your heroes?

Stefanie
Yeah, I think, early on when I started writing romance, I definitely fell into that trap of thinking that that was the only type of hero that people wanted to read. And it never felt authentic to me, because I’m that’s sort of like, I don’t know, I think I have a fairly strong personality myself. And if I wouldn’t let the hero treat me the way that he’s treated the heroine in the book, then I can’t get on board with the romance. So if for me, it’s sort of like I have some character, some heroes that are a little bit more cold and closed off or have some that are really open and loving and caring like Ronan is. But they all have to be, I think, have to be well motivated. That’s the thing that I always come back to with heroes, particularly, is that we can make anything believable so long as we motivate it in the right way. Because that’s the difference between someone just being a bit of a not nice person, versus someone that’s damaged and damaged is appealing, but I don’t want the asshole stereotype in my books.

Elle
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I because I noticed oftentimes, the Alpha asshole will redeem himself sort of by the end, but it’s still always it’s not something that I’m personally comfortable writing, you know, because I don’t… Maybe I don’t know enough men that are like that, or I don’t allow, I’ve never allowed that into my life or within that relationship. Because, you know, I’ve sort of felt like, as soon as you treat me like shit, like, I’m out.

Stefanie
Yeah, absolutely. Like I had a relationship when I was younger, that was very controlling, and, you know, kind of borderline emotionally abusive. And I think after I exited that, and then met the man who’s now my husband, I can’t put that into a book. Like I just, I just can’t there’s like a part of me that always thinks in the back of my mind, if a young woman picks up my book and reads it, what example am I setting to her about the health of relationships and what she should expect from romance?

Elle
Yeah, yeah. And you know, it’s funny, because it wasn’t something that I had consciously done. Because I write rockstar romances for the moment. I know for the moment for right now. I actually also write a paranormal not PNR, I write urban fantasy, as well as separately. And so I’m sort of, I have another urban fantasy ideas that I think might end up being a PNR. But anyway, you know, I ended up writing…the rock stars were actually the women in my book, as well as the men, too. And I was sort of amazed, I didn’t think that I was doing anything, all that original. But then when the readers started coming back, and they were like, I loved that the musicians were the girls. And I was like, wait, what? This is weird.

Stefanie
Yeah, that’s funny, isn’t it? When you discover, like, oh, I’ve done something that completely subverted a trope and I had no idea.

Elle
I was like, Oh, wait, this is weird. You know, because I, I, you know, in my day job, I have worked with a number of musicians and there were always women in the band, you know, and, and then I guess it is kind of weird. But I was like, Oh, and I enjoyed it. And because I want them to be the creative forces in these books, too, which I thought was kind of fascinating to sort of see that. I think that there is this sort of, like, where the, I guess, like you’re saying where the holes are within the genre that need to be filled. And I think that there is an appreciation, you know, I don’t know that we give the readers enough credit.

Stefanie
Yeah, I also, I really do believe that there is a reader for every type of book. So you know, even though we tend to see that there are people that a very like, you know, will devour every type of like alpha alph-hole bad boy kind of book out there. And you know, that’s like, I never shame anyone for reading anything. So that’s totally cool, if that’s what they like. But there are also people that really love these like down to earth like good guy characters, which is what I tend to gravitate towards even my books that came up before this one is very much the same thing. It was just a guy who was a really decent, good person.

And, you know, I think that in this day and age, maybe more people are coming across to those types of heroes, because we’re a little bit sick of seeing alph-holes every time we turn on our TV.

Elle
Yeah, maybe. I hope so.

Stefanie
I hope so too.

Elle
I like writing the nicer guys. You know, I really do. Okay, and this is probably the most explicit we’re getting here in terms of like what I’ve picked out. His cock rubbed at her entrance sliding between her slickness. As he coded himself in her bed, she reached down between her legs and guided him into her. He pushed up and in one fluid moment, the shock of how tight she was enveloped him. Give me a second, she came forward, bracing one palm against his chest and squeezing her eyes shut. After a brief respite. She led out a soft mode and started moving her hips rocking back and forth. Oh, yes. I love that she needed that second. I felt like it grounded this moment between them in such reality, and that she and again, it kicked that intimacy level kind of into overdrive where she is being very vulnerable there by saying, wait, give me a second.

Stefanie
Yeah. And I think that it’s realistic as well. I mean, she’s a character that probably hasn’t had sex for quite a long time, because her life doesn’t really allow for it. Generally. And, you know, sometimes I don’t know, I have a bit of a pet peeve about, like that stuff not being acknowledged.

Elle
That it might have that you do need to take a moment.

Stefanie
Yeah that sometimes it’s, you know, if it’s been a while that, that it might feel like that, or that you might have a moment of embarrassment, or, you know, a bit like wave like, Oh, my God, I don’t know what I’m doing.

Elle
Am I doing it this right?

Stefanie
Right. You know, I think that everyone’s had those feelings during Yeah, during that kind of a moment in their real life. And I don’t know, I think it, I think it’s special to acknowledge that on the page.

Elle
I do, too. I do too. And I never quite, I guess I never consciously thought about it, which is, but I completely agree. Like we do have those moments. You know, where we fumble? Frankly, you know, and, and that does make it all the more real. So I have a question. And this might be hard to, like, come up with an answer. And I’m sorry, I’m kind of springing it at you. Do you remember the very first steamy scene that you read?

Stefanie
I have a vague recollection of it being two people in a cabin in the woods, during a storm, funnily enough, so maybe that’s where that comes from.

Elle
Oh, wow.

Stefanie
But I can’t tell you what book it was. I can’t tell you. Like, I remember like pitching a book off my mom’s bookshelf and like reading the naughty bits when I was younger. But I can’t remember anything more than that.

Elle
Do you remember what your reaction was to it?

Stefanie
Oh, I think I was a bit… I was probably younger than I should have been really because I used to borrow my mom’s Jackie Collins books when I was like 13

Elle
I feel like we all were younger than we were supposed to be when we started picking these things up.

Stefanie
Yeah, right. So I just think I remember being a bit scandalized by it because I was young and didn’t really know anything much. I really wish I could remember what book it was. I’ll have to ask my mom.

Elle
There’s another find that book a moment. So what we’ve got is a scene and a cabin and during a storm.

Stefanie
Yeah, it’s pretty vague. I wish I could remember more.

Elle
It’s kind of amazing to me how, you know, like those groups that do a lot of you know, find that book stuff, how vague it can be and somebody on Earth. It’s like, it’s, it’s extraordinary. It’s amazing. Yeah, it really is. So okay, kind of a goofy question. You’re a zombie lover. Have you ever thought about writing in the zombie romance niche because it is a thing.

Stefanie
I have thought about writing post apocalyptic, but not in the romance space. So I like read pretty widely, and I also want to write pretty widely in the future. So I have definitely thought about it, but not zombie romance diary.

Elle
Oh, yeah, cuz it’s a thing.

Stefanie
Is it? How have I missed this.

Elle
Warm Bodies was kind the one that broke out. But there but there’s a whole there’s a whole genre of, of zombie romance.

Stefanie
Wait, like, where the people are zombies?

Elle
Yeah, really? Where the love interests are zombies.

Stefanie
Oh, okay. I have never heard of the I’ve heard of warm bodies, I must admit, but I didn’t know it was a thing.

Elle
Yeah, it’s a thing.

Look it up.

Stefanie
Yeah I totally well.

Elle
Which is it’s like super fun. And I guess I guess I Drew Barrymore’s Netflix series and the name of just escaped me, falls into that.

Stefanie
Oh, teah, The Santa Clarita Diet right.

Elle
Yeah. Yeah, that’s the one so yeah, I guess that could kind of maybe fall into this genre. But yeah, there it’s a thing.

Stefanie
Hmm, that’s fascinating.

Yeah, cuz I’ve definitely read like zombie books where there was like a romantic thread to it, but I would definitely would not call them romance.

Elle
Right. Right. So you want to write outside of romance?

Stefanie
Yeah, I do. Yeah.

Elle
Do you think you’re ever going to have the time though? You’re busy.

Stefanie
Yeah. I experimented with a few things at the moment. It was funny that you mentioned urban fantasy before because that was one of the genres I really have come to enjoy. Recently. I started reading it, but I also love cozy mysteries, as well.

Elle
I do too.

Stefanie
They are so fun, right?

Elle
Yeah, I don’t think I could write a cozy though.

Stefanie
Yeah, I can’t. I mean, I grew up reading a lot of Agatha Christie that was like basically where I started like my adult book reading as like a, you know, young teenager was a lot of those type of books. I used to read them. Carrie Greenwood, who wrote the Friday Fisher Murders. And so I would love to try that as well. I’m just gonna have to carve out some time.

Elle
Yeah, yeah, I love urban fantasy. I always sort of say like, my characters are either fucking or fighting. Yeah. I absolutely love urban fantasy. And the ironic thing is I can write a fight scene is like one of the fastest scenes I can write.

Stefanie
Oh, really? Anytime I try and do anything, actually, I like grind to a halt. Because I’m like, wait. Yeah. It’s really tough.

Elle
Really, because for me, it is like one of the easiest breasiest things I can write and I up the ante every time I’m in my first book. I have like the character or like, you know, like picking up a piece of Oh god, what are those things called on the side of the road? The metal barriers, right? Yeah, the metal road and picking like that up and because she’s got like the super humans human strength and, and decapitating an attacker, like I just get so gross. And so over the top with the fight scenes in the violence, and I am just like, bring it on. But for some reason, like when it comes to like that those these really quiet intimate moments between characters. It’s like, oh, God can’t do it.

Stefanie
I find it so fascinating. What some authors find really easy and really hard versus other people. Because like I have people that like they live for the black moment in a story. And that’s the scene, I will rewrite it three times before the book comes out. Because I just can never get it right the first time. I hate every moment of it. I don’t like being mean to my characters.

Elle
Oh see? And that’s where I am. I am like, so down with that. Like, I am just break, I will break their hearts and I have no problem with it. I am breaking your heart. I mean, actually, in this one that I’m writing, I’m like, I think I think my main character is crying too much. Like, I think my heroine is crying too much. Stop crying. I need to go back and rewrite. But um, but you know, because I’m like, oh, maybe I’m maybe that’s me. Maybe I’m making her cry too much.

Stefanie
Yeah, it’s so interesting, because it’s, you know, there’s like, the character field is a sensor corny, but they said they feel like real people to me. And then when I have to be horrible to them, I just like I actually end up in like… I am always in a bad mood, the day that I write the black moment, because it’s like, I feel what they’re feeling. And I think it’s I don’t like feeling upset so when I have to do, I’m like, No! I don’t want to.

Elle
Yes, you know, I will, I will sit there. I love it when I’m sitting there and I’m crying. Like I love making myself cry. And I love having that sort of feeling in the pit of my stomach. I mean, like when I get up and walk away, like I feel that that relief wash over me. And I actually really enjoy having that relief of being able to get up and walk away like that particular feeling. So I do like living in the black moments with my characters.

Stefanie
Yeah, that’s interesting, isn’t it? I suppose there is some catharsis that comes from either writing people that are in a dark place that then triumph over that.

Elle
Yeah, yeah, I think that’s it that I know I’m gonna get them out of it. And I know that they’re gonna…when we get to the end, they are going to have the happy, the happiness that they deserve. And that, you know, and I think maybe that’s why I really do enjoy putting them through the wringer.

Stefanie
It is very satisfying, even if I don’t necessarily enjoy it at the moment. Like once I push past that scene, and I get to write the ending there. I feel so satisfied that they’ve worked hard to become these better people that deserve a relationship that fulfills and like I really, yeah, there is something really satisfying. I think that’s why people read romance.

Elle
Absolutely. Absolutely. Because, because you do get to that happiness at the end, and it feels good. So where can readers find you?

Stefanie
These days, I’m most active on Facebook, Instagram, and with my newsletter as well. So my website has all the details. It’s www dot Stefanie with an F because my parents hate me.com because me to a lifetime of having to correct forms.

Elle
I know I kept retyping and re typing because I was like No, no, that’s wrong. I had to be very, conscious.

Stefanie
Yep. That’s Stefanie with an F dash London dot com And then basically, you’ll be able to find everything on there.

Elle
Yeah, and I will have it in the show notes. I’ll have all the links to everything. So Stefanie, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. It was such a treat to have you and definitely learned a lot.

Stefanie
Oh, thank you so much. This was a really fun conversation. I enjoyed it.

Elle
Oh good, glad I’m really glad that you did. Cool. Come back. Come back.

Stefanie
Absolutely, absolutely.

Elle
Okay, so we’ll talk to you soon then. Great

Bye!