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This week’s guest is Anna Bishop Barker! We’re digging into her steamy romantic suspense Faithful Peace. We talk about how romance books are a wonderful companion for happiness, why she wrote 5,000 words of foreplay, and the pressure of writing characters who have experienced severe trauma plus the fulfillment of giving those characters their happily ever after.

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Reader Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/RomanceWithAnEdge/

And grab your copy of Faithful Peace on Amazon

Transcript

Elle
Anna Bishop Barker joins us today for Steam Scenes. Anna was born in Kentucky and raised in Florida. So she is a southerner through and through. When she was old enough to pick up a book she became a voracious reader, she wrote the usual poetry and short stories in high school. I’m waving at you. But kept writing in the back of her heart until opportunity and encouragement helped her realize that dream. Anna lives in Tampa with her kids, grandkids, dogs, various other livestock and way more books than is strictly healthy. Hot romance, suspense, humor and heart grown up stories for grown up people. This is what she writes. There’s also food, music, dogs, the occasional geek reference, and quite possibly an inappropriate joke. There will likely be dead bodies as well. Three random facts about Anna: she was bitten by a shark when she was 14. Ouch. Under statement. Ouch. She has read War and Peace and wants that week of her life back. She sincerely believes that any situation can be improved by eating some cheese. She lives by the philosophy guard your inner peace and read dirty kissing books. I love that philosophy. Welcome Anna to Steam Scenes. Thank you for being here.

Anna
Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited.

Elle
I’m super excited to have you so I gotta I gotta ask about the shark. Where did you get bitten?

Anna
You know how you have those like three semi-interesting stories about yourself you embellish? Well, yeah, this is the one I tell my grandkids friends so they can be impressed. I actually was walking like, I don’t know, maybe nine or 10 feet off shore, dragging my hands to the water, scaring my cousin who has come to visit. And I bashed a nurse shark in the face and the nurse shark decided she didn’t like that. So she decided to take a chunk out of my hand and it sounds way a lot more impressive than it was.

Elle
So I mean, are you missing an appendage? Or like did they get a finger or anything?

Anna
Oh, god, no. I have like three couple of millimeter little scars on my hand that I can kind of still see lo these many years ago. We made these many years now. But that was about it. Yeah, no, mostly it scared the hell out of my cousin and she would never get back in the ocean again.

Elle
Like, like never she was done. She was like, No,

Anna
She would never she would when she they would come down to visit she would go in the pool but no, she would never get back on the ocean again. She was on a raft when this happened. And I held my bleeding hand up out of the water. And she jumped off the raft and ran to shore. And left me out in the ocean to be eaten. So.

Elle
So I guess that might be where your suspense like, you know, like why you like writing about dead bodies. And since I don’t know, there’s something about this story that is like, I’m going okay, and she writes romantic suspense that kind of makes total sense. Like talking about you’re holding up a bloody hand and scaring the crap out of your poor cousin.

Anna
It could be a plot bunny that’s for sure.

Elle
Yeah, and enjoying it. So okay, so back in high school, you were writing poetry and short stories, was that sort of when you were like, you know, what I think I want to write I think I want to be a writer or did that come later.

Anna
I was a crazy reader. And I had a very, very good creative writing teacher when I was a junior and didn’t know that I could write. You know, she gave assignments and I did them. And we had a poetry contest, as part of our literary magazine, and I just wrote some – of all things – haikus. And she kept me after class and said that they were wonderful and that she thought that I had a gift and blah, blah, blah, and you know, I was 16 and insecure and my brain was more at that time anyway, geared towards doing science and I was kind of fascinated with medical things and it never occurred to me that I could actually write because I read so much and what these people said and the way they put their words is felt overwhelming to me and that I would never be able to do it. And then over the years, you know, you know how you read a book and you think, oh I could write something like that. It would be so much fun. Especially you know in romance, you lose yourself in the fantasy of it and start doing it yourself in your head. So you get cocky and think, oh, I can do that. But I never really believed I could do that. So, you know, I went on and, and did other things.

Elle
You had mentioned that you were you had a career in the health profession. Are you comfortable talking about what that was?

Anna
A little bit? Sure. I did a lot of neurobiology sleep research.

Elle
Oh, wow. Oh, my God, that’s pretty fascinating. I mean, I’m very curious, again, because you write romantic suspense. Has that influenced your work at all? Because I feel like there’s got to be some sort of like Venn diagram here?

Anna
Well, I think the books that I have written so far, let’s see, there’s, well, the first one has a medical researcher in it. So she’s kind of like me, that it’s, I don’t know if everybody has this, but the very first book that I wrote my female character, probably as far as profession and, and that kind of stuff is very, is very much like me. And so and then the further the other four that I’ve written, three of them have medical people pretty prominent, or all four of them actually have medical people pretty prominent, because that’s what I know. And it’s not something that I have to research a whole lot of, you know, you’d have to research dead bodies and decomposition and all that stuff, but, um, so yeah, it was an easy profession, for me to not only put women in, but also men. I find nurses and doctors and people like that, for the most part, to be heroic in a lot of ways. So it’s easy. It’s easy to make those people have a purity of purpose.

Elle
It’s funny. Romantic suspense and suspense, and, you know, crime and those sorts of thrillers like, that’s my kind of go to. If it’s not contemporary romance, the books that I’m picking up are romantic suspense. And I’m always so jealous of the people that have the medical background, because I would love to write something like you know, with forensics, and we actually have at the university near me, they have a forensics program and they used to do pre COVID times they used to do weekly Friday lectures that were open to the public. You would have all these police detectives from around New England would come in and give talks, and it was Oh, cool. It was so cool.

Anna
Oh, yeah. But my daughter, I have a daughter who’s in her 30s, my daughter wanted to be Clarice Starling for most of her life. So yeah, we both are big, serial killer buffs. And, and that kind of stuff. We both really like watching documentaries. Reading non fiction.

Elle
Have you watched the Ripper documentary on Netflix yet?

Anna
I’ve watched one. But it’s been a while.

Elle
Okay, no, there’s a new one called it’s called the Ripper. And it’s a series it’s a limited series about the Yorkshire Ripper, which was the case in a serial killer in the UK back in the 70s. That made all of these headlines. He was kind of I guess, kind of like their Ted Bundy or something like you know, like that sort of serial killer. It’s really fascinating. I’ve only watched one episode. It’s a little slow going, but it’s very fascinating. So yeah, like keep up with that. But I just thought I’d throw that plug out there.

Anna
If there’s one I haven’t watched, I want to watch it because I just find it scary and creepy. And fascinating and yeah, yeah. Yeah, why people do those kinds of things. And how? Yeah, yeah, I like that kind of stuff.

Elle
So what drew you into romance?

Anna
I read Jane Eyre when I was 10 years old. I never looked back, never looked back. I was in love with Mr. Rochester, and probably still am, a part of me. And then I had, I was kind of the fat kid, kinda I was, the fat girl. I was very introverted. Family life was not great. And romance was a very real way to lose myself when I was unhappy. And I have found that throughout my entire life when I’m stressed, when I’m unhappy, when I’m lonely when I’m scared – and even when I’m happy and feeling positive and great things are happening – romance is so cathartic and such an emotional outlet. And it always was, I mean, you know, I was the brain and I went, you know, went to college, did all that stuff, and had to read a lot of things that wasn’t romance. I, if I never have to read Moby Dick again, it’ll be too soon. Moby Dick was the bane of my existence for eighth grade.

Elle
Beowulf killed me. When my daughter had to read it. I was like, I am so sorry.

Anna
Really. But I always Yeah, romance always. I read everything the Bronte sisters ever put the paper. Jane Austin, of course, Thomas Hardy. And then probably I don’t know how old I was probably younger than I should have been. I read The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen Woodiwiss. And yeah. So historical, romance, paranormal, alien, you name it.

Elle
You read the whole gamut.

Anna
I will read in romance genre, I will try anything. Ruby Dixon, In Her Eyes. Planet Barbarians is one of the greatest things ever written in romance. It is funny, and clever. And it’s just such escapism. And she just has a way with words and yeah. Oh, yeah. I like it all.

Elle
But you write romantic suspense. I mean, are you gonna branch out?

Anna
I probably will. Yes. Right now this is fun. The series that my first series, it kind of was, you know, it was kind of all in my head all at one time. And then the next one is coming. is romantic suspense after that. I don’t know. I’m sure that I will. I like science fiction and paranormal and fantasy way too much to never give it a try. I think.

Elle
Yeah, urban fantasy was my first, the first genre I wrote on and oh my god, I love it. And I’m gonna be working on a paranormal romance next to sort of meld the two.

Anna
Yeah, yeah.

Elle
Yeah, that kind of gives an explanation to some of the unexplained and the world building. I love the world building is one of my favorite parts. Oh, yeah.

Anna
Yes, yes. Yes. I have to read what you wrote. Because I yeah, I love it.

Elle
And they were my first books. I’m always I’m always so embarrassed cuz I’m like, they were my first books. They weren’t as good as like my romances because my right like, I have more experience behind me, you know, with the romance and I should be proud of them. Because I really, you know, created a world that I loved and made me you know, kind of made me happy to be in it even as I was decapitating characters.

Anna
So many people have told me you don’t appreciate reading until you write. Now, especially people who can build paranormal and fantasy worlds, they are like my gods. Because what it takes to do that well, is incredibly hard work and incredible talent to be able to do it.

Elle
Honestly, my hats are off to the epic fantasy people because they’re usually writing historical right? So they’ve got some sort of historical something that they’ve got to deal with. Plus, they’re creating these worlds that are so involved and so intricate. I mean, you know, for urban fantasy, it’s mostly magical systems in the world building, you know, I mean, they’re creating magical systems they’re creating, you know,

Anna
I’ll be writing and three paragraphs ago, I can’t remember the dog’s name that I wrote.

Elle
Put them through my character Bible. What color eyes did he have again? How do they do? It’s truly amazing. So with our, with the romance genre, and you in your bio, have said you have a real appreciation for the steamy bis and the dirty kissing books. What makes a sex scene good?

Anna
What makes a sex scene good thought about this a lot because I’ve, I’ve thought about this a lot because I, for me, they can make or break a book. And because I need to be titillated. It’s the emotionality of it. That intimate interaction tells you more I think more about your characters than anything else in your book. Because you are your raw, authentic self when you’re in a situation like that. And if it’s done well,  you can see how these two people irregardless what they may say, or you know, whatever has come before, when they are in that situation, they become who and what they are and who and what they are to each other. So the emotionality of it is what gets me, you can get all the technical things right. And he knows you have to, because you know, nobody wants to write a scene with somebody with four elbows, but you have to get the emotionality of it right. For me to like to read it. And I’m not satisfied writing it until I think I’ve gotten it as right as I can get it.

Elle
Do you struggle to write them? Are they easy for you?

Anna
Knock wood. So far, I don’t struggle. I did. I did at one point, struggle where to put them? Because, you know, you always hear people, you read things, Oh, you know, I’m kept the three of the book and nobody said anything, and yada, yada, yada. And I really had to think about myself. You know, what am I writing? I’m not writing erotic stuff. You know, and that’s fine. You know what? Listen, I, I am open minded and people should read and write what they want what makes them feel happy. For me, that’s at this point, I’m not writing that. So I really struggle that, you know, it’s chapter 10. And I don’t have any sex and I asked my reading mentor, who is Kristen Harbor, who is responsible for all this in large part. I said, when do you plot, I’m worried this book is, you know, 10 chapters in and nobody’s done it. And she’s like, you put it in when they’re supposed to do it. And that was very freeing. You know, and I know it sounds simplistic, and I’m sure that everybody else has said that. But iit got a lot easier after that, because I didn’t worry about what I was putting it in. It happened when it happened and when it should have happened to those people. Other than that, the mechanics of it can be a challenge.

Elle
It’s funny, because I don’t necessarily worry about like, Well, sometimes I do go, oh, man, this is going on a really long time and like there’s no sex scene. And I know, that is something that the readers enjoy, you know, but it’s more like how many, right? Like sometimes I’m always like, Oh, I think I only had one and the whole book and is that going to be enough?

Anna
Well, yeah, and I’m exactly the same way. You know, one of the books that there was only really one, and then I kind of threw in a little bonus at the end just to make people you know, happy, to make me happy because I like these two people so much, I wanted them to do it again. Yeah, I worry about that. And I worry about well, you know, where’s somebody’s elbow? And I got I have a good editor who’s like, you know, people’s arms don’t do that. So I’m like, Oh, yeah, you’re right.

Elle
Because I think that like it’s tricky, because like on the one hand, we of course want to serve the story and the characters. But on the other hand, we also have to think about the readers and you know, and I know for the most part, they just want the good story, but they’re also there for the steam.

Anna
Well, yeah, I am when I read. I’m all the time telling my friends who recommend books. Is somebody gonna get busy at some point, because, you know, this is kind of, and I’m ready for them to do it. You know? The hardest thing for me for writing it honestly, is trying to find more words for sliding and slipping. And, you know, is this a G rated show.

Elle
Oh, God, no, I mark that explicit tag. I read your sex scenes out loud.

Anna
I mean, how many different words can you say for dick I mean, I’m not doing engorged member I’m not doing any of that. And I’m not using fruit for you know, Lady bits. So I try not to get too flowery.

Elle
It does become tricky because it’s like you’ve got dick, cock. You know what I mean? Like, you start running out of words. And, sometimes, you know, I know some writers do this brilliantly where they can kind of, you know, they get it out without actually saying it, you know, and not sort of resorting to the more flowery and the cringy things.

Anna
Yeah, that’s my goal.

Elle
Mine too,

Anna
You know, without saying those words.

Elle
Yeah. But that’s some skill right there. And that takes a lot of, you know, does take a lot of like brain power to kind of get it out, right. Yeah. You said slipping and sliding and all of that. In the book, I’m writing right now. Like, how many times can we slide? This is enough.

Anna
Oh my poor editor. She’s like, you just said slid. Well, slid it t worked. I don’t know. I don’t want to say bullnose I mean, you know, okay, your bits hurt if you say the wrong thing.

Elle
So I’m curious, do you have I mean, you know, this might this I feel like I might be taking you I don’t think this was something that I submitted in advance. Can you think of like what your favorite intimate scene is that sort of made you go? The scene is perfect.

Anna
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I may you there are others. Okay, there’s a couple but Kristen Ashley has a book called Breathe which is probably my favorite Modern Romance of any. The couple in Breathe. their first time was perfection.

Elle
Remind me which one was in Breathe.

Anna
Breathe is Chase and Faye. Chase is the small town cop and say is the kind of nerdy library.

Elle
Right? Okay, that’s the one okay. Yeah, I’ve read like all of her books.

Anna
Yeah, you got to. Their first time seeing was absolute. For me. Perfection. Now some people that’s not their cup of tea, okay, you know, live your life. But for them. It was so for me that sexy was so wrought with emotion, and love and pain. And I don’t mean physical pain. I mean, just emotional pain of how long this man had wanted her and how long she had wanted him and everything that they had gone through. And I’m not a big virgin fan. You know, if you write it well, and that’s fine. I like them. I don’t you know, whatever. Um, this one was perfect. Because this was a woman who’s smart and talented and, and witty and in control of her life. But she’s also shy. She has been in love with this man for years and saved herself and made a conscious decision to do that. Not because there’s anything wrong with her sexually, not because she’s been abused or defiled or anything, but because that is what she chose to do with her body and her life. And the two of them together. I could go on forever. It’s perfect for me.

Elle
I am going to have to reread that one. It’s one of the ones that I never reread of hers. I reread her stuff a lot. I’m one of those that I can just go back and keep reading her work but I’m gonna have to go back and take another look at it.

Anna
It’s not the hottest scene that she wrote. But for me emotionally with all the components together is perfect.

Elle
I think with that whole series it’s not as I guess like you said hot you know, as some of her other stuff I think within that whole series I really think that is definitely more heart wrenching I think.

Anna
Yeah, the Colorado Mountain Series is my favorite because it has the I think such a great blend of emotionality, characters and really good storytelling.

Elle
Yeah, yeah, it’s a good serious. It’s a really good series. Oh, I love that you just pulled that out. You’re like I know exactly what it was and Kristen Ashley. And you know, how many people have I talked to and nobody’s brought her up yet, which really surprised me. You know, because particularly with contemporary because she is, you know, sort of like so big, you know, as far as contemporary romance. So now you’re writing as we said, romantic suspense, and I’m really curious how you balance the romance with the action.

Anna
I kind of so far these have come to me as like, movies in my head. Um, if you think about watching a good movie that has a good balance of romance and suspense, or a good balance of action and storytelling or anything else, you know, you get into this rhythm when you’re watching it, okay? You did the fight scene, I need some, I need some people interaction. You know, I need some other things. Okay, I’m ready for another fight scene. And it just so far, it just kind of comes that way to me that if I’m, if I’m at a point where I’m writing, and I’m like, Okay, this is nice. I’m ready to write something else. And that’s what I do. And it seems to work out.

Elle
So do you struggle at all with writing the action sequences?

Anna
The fight scene? Yes, yeah. Yeah. I don’t know that I struggle with them. It’s not my favorite thing to write. You know, he hit him in the face, he hit him in the face. somebody threw a knife. But, you know, the violence of it is not my favorite thing. I like the fear. I like the suspense. I like the build up. But that, you know, that pivotal scene that you have, is not always my favorite, because it’s just, it’s not as easy for me to do logistically, right, you get all the pieces and parts correct. And use the right words, for the intensity of it, and where I want it to go, you know, where I want the reader’s attention to be those are harder for me.

Elle
It’s really funny because some romance authors that I talked to that have no problem writing the steamy bits do struggle when it comes to writing you know, sort of fight scenes and you know, anything like that. And um, and that’s like, the fight scenes is where I live I’m like, I can do it. Like I can breeze through a fight scene. And but you know, but when I have to write the steamy bits, I grind to a halt. I end up going so slow.

Anna
Now, yeah, the steamy bits take me longer. Because I go back, you know, I go back and move and edit and do and I don’t like the way this but that’s just me. I think I want to get steamy bits perfect. I have my hardest scene to write, inevitably, is that first kiss. Every single time. Yeah. For me, as a reader, it’s got to be perfect. Because it’s what sells a couple to me. It can also really make or break a hero for me. When authors get that one, right, they’ve got me they can do anything else they want in the book. If they can make that first kiss believable. And they can make that hero become a hero to me. Whatever he’s done, whatever, if they can get him right in that first kiss. Yeah, I’m toast.

Elle
I mean, clearly, though, you’re putting your characters in peril, because you’re writing romantic suspense. And I want to kind of talk about this. So, you know, how do you come up with the ideas of how you’re going to put these characters in peril? And how do you know how far to go?

Anna
My first book was a standalone, okay. And the story came very easily. I knew she was going to have a stalker. You know, I knew what he was going to do. And the balancing act for me, usually, well, not even usually the balancing act for me, is to write a conflict and a female character that is not too stupid to live, weak, or stereotypical So I, you know, normally, it’s always the women who are in peril. And that’s, you know, that’s kind of how it is. But, I try to work it in my mind. So that I see her the way she gets out before I ever start writing. I have to make it real fast and how she gets out, what happens at the end? And then I go back and write it happening.

Elle
Right, right, that idea of sort of knowing what happens at the end, so you can build to it.

Anna
Yes knowing specifically what happens at the end of the conflict, and when the end of the conflict is going to come?

Elle
I think it’s that’s too stupid to live part that sort of like really gets me because on the one hand, like, you know, if they didn’t stumble, make a mistake, you know, you wouldn’t have you wouldn’t have a story, right? So, you know, how do you figure out how to make it so that they’re not idiots? You know, although I have to say, if ever there was somebody in a situation of peril, who would be too stupid to live, I’m like raising my hand. I’m like, that would probably be me. I’m terrible in a crisis.

Anna
I’d be going to those high heels in a hot new york minute.

Elle
You do not want me on your team in a bad situation because I’m the one cowering in the corner.

Anna
Yeah. And for me, that colors how women can react because I try to make it real. You know, I’m one of these people, when I’m reading or I’m watching a movie, you can make me believe anything, as long as you can make it believable. So I don’t I try to. I’ll give you for instance, take Clary Starling from The Silence of Lambs. One of the best books in for suspense ever written, I think. The second book, Hannibal, I threw across the room. Because I really felt that Thomas Harris was not true to that character. So I try to think that whatever she does, is going to be true to her. So yes, she can, you know, maybe she cries, maybe she gets mad. Maybe she forgets what to do. Maybe a circumstance happens that there’s you know, she fell ass backwards into a pot of gold. Who knows? But it has to be believable for the person that I had built. That’s, that’s what I tried to do. And I hopefully I don’t build wussy the women.

Elle
What is your Google history look like? I can’t even imagine.w.

Anna
You’re asking right now. Right now is body composition times in water. And I’m not even kidding. Body decomposition times in water. How long a forensic diver can stay under and how deep they can go. I’m trying to remember the other one. Oh, what happens to cold cases? How can you get cold case information if you’re just a civilian? Like the FBI? How do you get that information?

Elle
Now, apart from Google, do you have people that you work with that you can bring your questions to? Are you doing this on your own?

Anna
I have a reader whose father is a former FBI agent. He has been a wealth of information. I have readers who are in law enforcement, I have readers who are in forensics and in medicine and things like that. So if I know, you know, I’ll go on my reader site and like, Do you guys know anything about this? And I’ll have four DMS before I can even you know. That’s the great thing about my readers. I have people who do everything you could imagine it’s kind of it’s amazing.

Elle
The other thing that I’m in awe of with romantic suspense is there’s a real balancing act between the romance and the action. And how do you get that right?

Anna
Well, I don’t know if I get it right yet. I guess you probably have to ask the people who read that. Like I said before, I think when I’m reading a romantic suspense novel, when I’ve had enough of the romance and I want to know what’s going on with the crazy person. I kind of get into a flow when I read and if I if the book is not good at it, I know. And if it is, I really can’t wait to the end. I try to write and then go back and read it as a reader and say okay, is it time for something else. And I have, I gotta tell you, I have an alpha reader who is my best friend, Debbie. And if I send her a chapter, and at the end of it, she goes, What the fuck, I need the next chapter. I know, I’m doing good. I know I’m doing good. Because she, she will say to you, well, we love each other, and we trust each other. And I know that she will tell me the absolute truth. And if she yells at me and says then I’m good, you know, I send her a smiley face and I keep trucking. It’s a flow and a balance and I don’t know what it is. I can only hope that I’ve seem so far to be able to kind of hit it. Also.

Elle
When I wrote my first urban fantasy, send it to my editor, she was like, this is great, but your pacing is way too fast. She’s like, I’m exhausted. Like, I was just she was like, you’re just one thing after another. And she actually told me to go watch the TV series Alias, which I had never watched. She was like, she’s like, go watch. Let’s go watch that. And then go back to your novel. And you’ll like, figure out the pacing. Or she’s like, take a look at that for pacing. I was like, Oh, okay. And I did. And I was like, holy shit. Like, it actually was very helpful to go to Alias and take a look at that to sort of figure out the pacing.

Anna
I live in fear of getting rushed at the end. Because I know where it’s going. And now I want to get there and you can see the finish line. I always worry about that. So, but my, my beta team readers seem to be very good with them, you know, saying, you know, you need to fix this, you need to add this what happened and so on. So, are you just gonna leave that hanging? So? Because by the time you know how it is, when you get to the end, you’ve re read and self edited so much. Sometimes you just cannot see the forest for the trees.

Elle
Yeah, like I always think about, like, I feel like I’m sending my work too prematurely to my editor, but by the time I’m ready to send it, I am so over it. And I can’t even see where I screwed up. And I don’t want to go back and reread it again. Like I’m just sick of it and I want somebody else’s eyes on it.

Anna
By the time I send it to the editor, I’m convinced it’s a piece of shit. And I should be doing something else with my life.

Elle
Same!

Anna
I think most of us are like that. And thank God that I have an editor who’s who would tell me first of all, if it were a piece of shit, but who understands that and, you know, kind of, she’s like, you know, just go rest and, and then I have a really, really kick ass author posse that we kind of are, hold each other’s hand and tell each other the truth. And so, I think it’s vital that you have a group of people that really understand what you’re going through.

Elle
I need one of those, I think that I’ve always shied away from because I took you know, through college, I was when I grew up, I was supposed to be a playwright. And so through college, I was involved in a lot of, you know, writer groups. And I just never I never enjoyed it. I always felt everybody was so snipey like I never you know, like it was hard to find a place where you know people were supportive and gentle and you know what I mean? And still were able to critique the work and say hey, maybe here or you should do you know not you should do like in terms of rewrite like writing your story for you. But you know, but came to the criticism from a place of love rather than destroying my soul.

Anna
It’s just five of us but these are we’re all women who kind of knew each other a little bit okay, and enjoy each other’s work. And we are like minded and how we think about you know, politics and relationships and family and place in life. So we kind of all we kind of just gel as friends But no, it was not easy to find. Yeah, there are people who will you know want to cut your nuts off and I just have no patience for that. I’m at an age where I don’t suffer fools and I don’t want to be with people who just want to be nasty because they’re competitive or jealous or bitter. Or it’s Tuesday or whatever it is. It is hard to find that group and that’s why I hang on to mine for dear life because we don’t critique each other’s work – we do some – what we really do is help each other be writers. You know, we help we commiserate about marketing and, and you know, whatever the gossip du jour is that we roll our eyes at and, you know, whatever political thing and in romance may be going on, you know, we kind of and you know, when one of us is really, in, it’s usually me, really thinking that their work is shit. You know, we’re all together and saying, look, let’s get real about this. So we just respect each other and like each other. And like I said, we’re like minded. So it’s a blessing to have them.

Elle
I really don’t think that this can be overstated, like I found because what we do is so solitary, you know, and our editors don’t come in until the end, you know, of the process, really. And so, you know, one of the things that I have loved about doing this podcast is just getting to like getting to talk to you.

Anna
Because I’d never do this, sitting here talking with you. This is the most I’ve verbalized about writing in a long time.

Elle
And it’s so lonely, like, you know, my husband comes home from work, and he’s just like, What are you talking about?

Anna
And when you find somebody it’s like, Oh, my God, they understand exactly how I feel.

Elle
Because I’ll just be blabbing along about this character did this and that character did that and he’s just looking at me like, Okay, what do you want for dinner?

Anna
Yeah, unless you’re, you don’t really get it?

Elle
Yeah, it’s true. Okay, I want to dig into the steamy scene here. Now. This is from your book, Faithful Peace. Can you set this up for us a little bit?

Anna
Faithful Peace is the third in before book series. This series’s overlying story arc has been about a religious cult or a religious slash domestic terrorist cult. So each couple has had a part in what has happened to the people and like one is an FBI agent who was undercover. Anyway, this Faithful Peace is John and Esther’s story. Esther is 33 and she was a wife from this cult that was rescued and given a home in faithful which is the town of Tennessee that all these books are being placed in. And she was a child bride at 12 years old. She was born and raised on this call, compound, she never knew anything else. And then one of the other characters is an FBI agent. And then there’s another character who was a physician’s assistant who worked on the compound, but was there to actually try and find her own father. These two people helped Esther to get out of the cold and gave her a home and a life and everything back in Faithful and John is this man that she met when she first got there. He is there. The four books are two brothers and their two best friends, the men, the men are the ones who are the ones in the common thread. And John is the best friend and cousin. He’s the best friend of the two brothers. And the cousin of the fourth man. And John’s wife committed suicide when they were very young he has two children. Okay, um, and Esther obviously when she came to Faithful, she didn’t have a driver’s license. She didn’t have a birth certificate. She had no formal education really, except what had happened. So she had to learn and find a life and find a place in a job in Faithful and she ends up being the nanny housekeeper for John’s boys.

Elle
Got it.

Anna
This book takes place three years after she came there. You know, she’s been through therapy and worked very hard, got her, you know, her driver’s license and has built a life for herself here. And of course in doing this She is the nanny housekeeper of this movie star. kind of shy, slow spoken, very handsome. Kind of cowboy. So. Yeah.

Elle
Okay. So I’m going to start. Let me see where are we? Yeah. So when we start out we are in John’s point of view. Just want to point that out.

Anna
Yes. Yeah. And I always write a male point of view. Because I love knowing what the man is thinking and feeling. I think our heroes get shortchanged.

Elle
I struggle so much with a male point of view. So I don’t write in it, but I’m trying. I’m trying to you know, because I know you do it very well. Okay.

“I want you to know I went to see Eliza Raymond.” She maintained her silence, her eyes never leaving his. They did not change expression, so he went on. “She didn’t break your confidence, and I didn’t ask her to. But I wanted to get some advice from…well, a professional.” This didn’t feel like it was going well, and his chest felt tight. He pushed on, needing to get it said and done. Her continued stillness was not helping the situation at all, in his mind. He could not fuck this up. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. The tightness in his chest began to feel like a vice. “Esther, I want you to know you don’t have to do this now. If you can’t do it, it’s okay.” He watched a shadow move over her face. Shit. She thought he wanted to stop. He pulled her more closely to him. The next was spoken from his gut, the sound of it barely above a whisper. “Baby, I want you so damn hard I ache. You have got to know that. But no matter where we are, what is happening, how far we have gone, if you are not ready, it’s okay.” He couldn’t stop his hands from flexing at her waist, and he brought his face closer to hers. What he was conveying was intense. He had to make sure she heard and believed him. “As far as I am concerned, this is your first time to make love. First times are rocky, darlin’. First times rarely turn out the way we think they will. I have no clue if I’m going to get this right.” He paused and bent his head toward her. “I swear to you I’m going to try, but this may take some time. I’m sure Dr. Raymond told you that, right?” Unable to stop himself, needing her close, he finished pulling her into his embrace. She didn’t resist as he drew her to his body, sliding his arms around her slenderness and bringing one hand up to press her face to his chest. He felt her arms go around his waist and her fingers grip the back of his tee shirt. She still didn’t speak, and the tightness in his chest was joined by a twist in his gut. Jesus, how in hell did people get through something like this? Oh, this poor man.

Anna
I know.

Elle
You know, I loved this because he’s so stumbling around. You know, like, he’s still he’s, he’s like, he knows she’s that she went through this awful thing. And he doesn’t. And he wants to get it right with her and her first time and like, and he’s treating it like he’s saying like, as far as he’s concerned, she’s a virgin. This is her first time and like, he wants to get it. So he is so painfully awkward here. And trying so hard. And so nervous. I loved this. I loved this. I was like, and you know, and I was like, No, this is a good guy. You know? Yes, he is so careful. And you’re writing really hard. And really tricky. Stuff like that. Do you work with sensitivity readers? Like, you know, because I imagine it’s hard for readers to like, you want to make sure your readers feel safe with the story that you’re telling I do.

Anna
Yes. I have been a victim of abuse and right in my past, and I’m 63 years, two years old. You know, I’ve hopefully, I think I’ve emerged from that. So, I have a little bit of an insight to that. But I also have a couple of friends who I trust, who have had horrific things happen to them and who were very willing to say, let me read it to make sure that it’s the right thing and be that I’m okay with it. You know what I’m saying? Yeah, so yes. The answer to your question, the short answer is yes. I do have said when it comes to that kind of stuff, abuse and rape Yeah, I am always I don’t do it in every book, certainly thank God but this particular one is the most intense of them.

Elle
Yeah, it really just from this, this it really, you know, the bit that you sent me I was like, go like, this has got to be some tough stuff to write because you’re dealing with some really difficult things here. You know, and I’m really in awe. You know, when people do it you know, I kind of my, the last book I wrote, I went to that edge with some of the characters and I just pulled myself back because I just didn’t feel right, you know, didn’t feel quite right. I don’t think I was ready to go there. as a writer.

Anna
Oh, no, I  understood. But to tell her story, it had to be you know, there was no way to tell us her story without this.

Elle
Yeah. Yeah. It’s really extraordinary. I’m like, already in love with him.

Anna
Yeah, yeah. When I was coming up with the man that was going to be for her. It’s like, assessed to be the guy who’s not to alpha-hole. Yeah, he can’t be an asshole at all. He has to be manly and strong and whatever. But this has to be a man who gets what he has in his hands and has to know how to how to protect it. And not, you know? Not go macho. He can’t do that. He has to be a man and he has to be somebody that you just oh my god. Yeah, John kind of makes me a little wobbly kneed.

Elle
He’s a fantastic character. He really is.

Anna
I had a lot of readers who said you better get him right. Rob will come to your house and fuck you up. So

Elle
I really struggle with the alpha-holes like I really do. You know, readers love them. But I find like when I push myself to write them I’m always like, oh, you’re just an asshole.

Anna
Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I don’t like them at all. You know, you can be arrogant. You can be full yourself. Confident. You can be swaggy you can be whatever, you cannot be an asshole.

Elle
So yeah, there’s a fine line. There’s a real fine line.

Anna
And when you’re reading you know when they’ve crossed it.

Elle
Okay, next bit. Now we’re going into her point of view so just want to give that you know morning so it’s not a little jarring.

Her breath left her in a gasp as John swiftly bent, wrapped his strong, work-hardened muscles around her, and lifted her off her feet. Before she could register fully what was happening, he was in her room, his long legs eating the short distance through her sitting area to the alcove where her bed stood. He stopped at the foot of it and allowed her legs to slide from his hold, back to the floor. He took no time to speak as he brought her face up to his, cupping her cheeks, and fitting their mouths together. His tongue danced with hers and she whimpered slightly. At the sound, one hand moved down to grasp her at her waist and the other moved to hold her face to him as it cradled the back of her head. His mouth opened more fully over hers, encouraging her full participation in the beautiful battle of lips and tongues and teeth.

I kind of love this so much. Just to get to that kiss just that. It was absolutely exquisite. I thought the pacing was exquisite. And yeah, you’re really there was a real tease going on here. This sort of well, they want they tease. Like, I was like where’d that pacing come from because it’s amazing.

Anna
Thank you.

You’re welcome.

Elle
So we’re gonna credit for

So where’d it come from?

Anna
I don’t know. I just tried to put myself in her shoes and in his and how would I behave? How would I feel? What would my fear be? Right before that where you started reading, there’s a little passage where you start to say that Esther is not a victim. Yeah, you know, yeah, she has worked really, really hard not to be a victim. So she’s not you know, she’s ready for this. She wants his pants off and she wants yeah.

Elle
Right before I read this there she is saying to him “I have fantasized of your hands on me, your body inside mine, your pleasure coming because I was the one meant to have it. I had nearly given up I would ever have something I wanted, needed so badly. The one thing, after my freedom, that was most important.” Like she knows what she wants. Yeah, she does, you know, and this is so so amazing coming after John being so nervous.

Anna
He has no real idea of the strength of this woman. Yeah, yeah.

Elle
I think he’s sort of stuttering right? He’s kind of stuttering his way through and kind of stumbling around. Very nervous, doesn’t want to hurt her so worried about hurting her and she’s here like, you want to fucks? Like, you know? It’s like, come on, let’s go.

Anna
When I was setting this up, I’m like, this scene has got to show that she’s not only is okay with what’s gonna happen, but she is ready for it. You know, she is tired of letting what happened in her past dictate what’s going to happen in her future. Yeah, she’s not having any more.

Elle
“How much do you care about this excuse for a nightgown?” His eyes were burning into hers and his drawl was more pronounced, his voice guttural. John, I—” Again, she did not get to finish. “In about five seconds I’m not gonna be responsible if it gets ripped when I’m taking it off you. If you want it, you better deal with it.” He was deadly serious, and he did not sound the least bit concerned with preserving her nightgown. She swallowed and felt the flush of heat in her stomach spread out and down at his words. She stepped back from him and, holding his eyes, reached for the hem of the garment. She grasped it and pulled it swiftly up and over her head. She pulled the long length of her hair through and flung the lightweight piece of cloth onto the floor behind her. She felt no hesitation. She did not need to worry about being naked underneath; she had no fear of John standing inches away when she revealed her nudity to him. She heard his sharply indrawn breath and watched as his eyes moved down. He took his time, his gaze burning into her flesh where it touched. It felt like an eternity as she stood before him, presenting herself to his eyes. There was a fierce contentment and something akin to pride swelling in her at his obvious pleasure in looking at her. Finally, his eyes returned to hers. “My imagination did you no justice, sweetheart.” His rumbled comment was nearly her undoing. My heart can’t take it here.

I know.

I think like what really struck me is that sort of the first time like, it’s like the first time you expose yourself to somebody, and how vulnerable you are and how she lets herself go to that vulnerability and like and what he says, is just so beautiful. Like he recognizes this is a vulnerable moment. And, you know, and I don’t know, I just thought this was a gorgeous, like, absolutely gorgeous moment between the two of them.

Anna
Thank you. Thank you so much.

Elle
I love it.

Anna
Thank you.

Elle
I think we’re back I think we’ve moved into his point of view now. No, we may still be in her nope, we’ve moved to his point of view on this next step. He moved and sat down on the edge of the bed, still holding her hand. “Come her, Essie.” He guided her forward until she stood between his parted thighs. God, she was beautiful. Her skin glowed, her breasts were full and peaked, her stomach softly rounded, her hips generous. His mouth watered as he anticipated what was to come. Just one more thing to ask and a couple more things to say. “I don’t want to ask this, honey, but I gotta know.” He squeezed the hand already held and reached for the other with his free one. “Is there any position that scares you?” He felt her hands convulse in his. “I need you to communicate with me, sweetheart.” He gripped both of her hands harder and pulled her an inch closer. “There is nothing you can say that could make me not want you, baby. There is nothing you could do that would shock me or put me off.” I love the communication between them at that moment are with him, in particular, because I think so much of intimacy lies just in the act of communicating. And I don’t think that we recognize that enough.

Anna
Yes, you’re right.

Elle
And particularly in intimate scenes, because so much is you know, and again, maybe this is me with my playwriting background where all I wrote was dialogue. So that’s where I live mostly most comfortably. Like, sometimes I’m writing and I’m like, they really need to shut up now and do. But, but that act of communicating, you know, particularly looking at she’s got this trauma in her past and he’s being so careful. You know, and I’m sort of curious, you know, because this is sort of one instance, but do your other characters communicate this way too?

Anna
I think that these two more, because it has to be, but I have, I have a fair bit of communication during sex these just because when I read them, if they start and they don’t talk again until it’s over, I’m like, Who? Who does that? You? I guess people do that. Do that. I mean, even if it’s nothing more than put your hand here. But, again, going back to what makes a sec thing for me, is the intimacy and the feeling there. And, you know, sometimes it’s really hard to convey that without having dialogue. And especially the women that I have written have got history, they’re not young women. I don’t, none of my characters are under the age of 30. So these are couples, and in particularly, these are women that have history, it may not be a sexual problem. But things have happened in their life. They’re not they’re not kids, and the men that they are with also have histories. But these are men that by the time for this series of books, by the time these people play together, they are invested emotionally in each other, you know, that may not be in love yet. But you know, it’s not just somebody who’s getting banged up against a wall that they just met in a bar. Now I’m going to do that, but not in this in this. So So yeah, I mean, I think if I read a sex scene, and it doesn’t have some dialogue, other than dirty words, but if it doesn’t have some communication, I always feel it’s a little lacking this particular couple, they had talked to each other.

Elle
Yeah, I thought it was really, really gorgeous. And it made me sort of go Ah, that is like a real foundation of intimacy is going to be that communication. Okay, so last bit, I’m kind of like going to jump from because I thought this was really kind of neat, where I’m going to be in her point of view, and then I’m going to jump down to another section that’s in his point of view, because I thought this was really kind of neat what you did here, so Okay, so first, we’re in hers. His eyes darkened dangerously at her words and he sat fully upright, his hands going to pull her head to him. His mouth came back to hers and he kissed her, his tongue twisting and stroking, one hand holding her head at the back. Then one hand was back at her wetness and he was pushing apart the folds, seeking and finding the throbbing bud at the top of her sex. Pleasure radiated from his touch and her pelvis involuntarily rocked against him. She gasped into his mouth and he pulled his lips from hers, his breath hard and hot against her skin. Her pelvis undulated against his hand as he kept at her, rubbing and flicking with his fingers. “Are you ready, sweetheart? I need to be inside you, Essie. But I gotta know you’re ready for me.” Lifting herself on her knees in the bed on either side of his hips, she pushed herself into him until their stomachs were rubbing together. She fisted his hair in her hands and rubbed herself on him, feeling his shaft between her legs. His groaned, “Jesus, Esther,” made her want to impale herself on him until she couldn’t tell where she ended and he began. Okay, so now I’m going to jump down to him. Thank Christ, she was coming. Because he had to let loose. His balls felt like they were going to explode. The telltale contractions started around his cock and he lost all sense of reason. Grunts rumbling up his throat, he slammed up into her, once, twice. On the third stroke his balls tensed, the heat rolling from his spine and his groin. He groaned as the pulsating shots jetted from his body and into hers. Her sharp cry fueled his orgasm and he had no control over the loud, guttural gasp she pulled from him. He fleetingly felt her teeth sink into his shoulder, and it amplified the other sensations gripping him. He held her tight as her hips jerked and his did the same, each of them caught in a timeless dance of pleasure. I loved putting these two bits together because it’s like this totally different experience. You know, because it’s like, you know, reading the act between them, you know what was going on between them? Like his is still lovely, but he’s more direct. Yeah. So the writing style there the juxtaposition of the writing styles I thought was so cool. And you know, there was never any question of whose head you were in at the time. And you know, and I also want to point out at this point like this is what you sent me was, you know, probably a relatively long scene, and you have nearly 5000 words of foreplay.

Anna
Yeah, I know. I worried about that. When you said, when I said I’m like, I remember.

I remember asking my editor. I said, Karen, I have a two chapter sex scene. Is that okay? She’s like, Is it good?

Elle
I was like, holy shit. It’s like, 5000 words of foreplay. And that’s awesome.

Anna
Oh, good. I felt that Esther deserves 5000 words of foreplay.

Elle
She really did. You know, there was such a difference in the voices that I thought was really, really great. And like I said, I’m in awe of people that can write that dual point of view, because I really do have a hard time with that.

Anna
I really do want to give. I want to be as fair and as careful with male point of view as women because I think that’s important. And I don’t think that anybody thinks any less of john as a romantic hero. Because he was caring and awkward and a little fumbly.

Elle
Absolutely not.

Anna
And then he got a little guttural is like yeah okay, we got to do this at the end. Because to me, I think that’s how a man would be, you know,

I agree. Yeah.

I mean, he’s waited a long time.

Elle
It’s been 5000 words. It was time, it was time. And she was okay. You know, I mean, I think that was also part of it is like, he was allowed to let go because she was okay. You know, and he and he, and they were able to sort of like, communicate that and talk through it and have those moments throughout, so that he could finally just go off and like, experience that pleasure too.

Anna
I tell you, this is the most nerve wracking. sex scene  I’ve ever done. Because this is, yeah, this is three books into the series, people, readers were really invested in this couple and knew what she had gone through. And I knew that if I fucked this up, it was not going to be good. What happens at the end of the book and how she gets her vengeance was important. But for me, this was more important. This had to be right. It had to be it had to do her justice, him justice. And it had to be for those women who were going to be reading the to have been through that. It had to be right for them.

Elle
And I imagine it’s sort of like, you know, it was a real pivotal moment in her growth as a character. So yeah, I imagine there’s probably a lot of pressure to get this scene right.

Anna
If you have read the rest of the series, you would know more about her struggle. And to get her to be able to trust being in the same room with a man she doesn’t know was gut wrenching at times of the glimpses of Esther throughout. Because she meets John in the first book of the series, and it doesn’t go well. So knowing that she’s in this background, taking her life back, and knowing that at some point, if Esther’s going to get her HEA then this is going to have to come in and I just felt a real responsibility to get that right. Like I said, for women who have been through it in real life.

Elle
I loved her quiet strength. There was so much of that that came out. I really loved her quiet strength. You know, I thought that that was a and I thought that that was important. Yeah, like absolutely important knowing that she had some sort of, you know, abuse in her background like she had and being able to see her come to this relationship and be open to it and relish it and want it. I think one of the things that I’m that sort of struck me that was that I heard and I’m sort of exploring it more is that sex is actually a form of healing, which I think is actually a really lovely way to, to think about it and look at it. And I think that it’s right. I think that that’s right. I think sex is a form of healing.

Anna
Yes. Yeah, because your trust you don’t have anything to hide.

Elle
Yeah. And you can see it happening here on the page with this little bit with this excerpt.

Anna
I’m really glad you liked it.

Elle
I did. I did. Thank you for sharing it with me. Anna, where can readers find you?

Anna
Um, I am on Facebook. I have a reader group on Facebook. I have a personal page on Facebook, and I have the author page on Facebook.

Elle
I will link to this in the show notes. For anybody who wants to go give it a follow

Anna
And I’m on Instagram. And my website Anna Barker books dot com

Elle
Perfect. Anna, thank you so much for being here. I appreciate you taking the time.

Anna
This has been so much fun. Oh, good. I’m glad Yeah, this is great. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is Yeah, this is the most fun I’ve had in a while.

Elle
I’m flattered!

Anna
I got to talk about myself for a whole hour and a half and talk about what I love to do with somebody who loves to do it too.