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Catherine Stein is this week’s guest on Steam Scenes! We nerd out on historical porn terminology, talk about how visual art inspires her writing (she even matches her character’s outfit color choices with their personality), and discuss how cos-play informs her steamy scenes. Plus, we discuss how happy endings in romance are subversive. And, I learn about Gaslamp fantasy!

Connect with Cat online:

Website: https://www.catsteinbooks.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catsteinbooks/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/catsteinbooks/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catsteinbooks/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/catsteinbooks/

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/catherine-stein

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18369592.Catherine_Stein

 And grab her book A Shot to the Heart from her Sass and Steam series on Amazon.

Transcript:

Elle
award winning author Catherine Stein joins us today for Steam Scenes. Catherine believes that everyone deserves love and that happily ever after has the power to help to heal and to comfort. She writes sassy, sassy, sassy, sassy. Hello, good morning. Sassy, sexy romance set during the Victorian and Edwardian errors. Eras. I always say that wrong. Eras. Her books are full of action, adventure, magic and fantastic technologies. Catherine lives in Michigan with her husband and three rambunctious girls. She loves steampunk and Oxford commas, and can often be found dressed in Renaissance Festival clothing, drinking copious amounts of tea. Welcome Catherine to Steam Scenes.

Catherine
Hi, I’m so glad to be here.

Elle
Oh my god, I’m thrilled to have you. So there is so much fun shit to talk about. And I say we just sort of like go for it. So I’m kind of curious. How did you come to writing? Did you always know this was what you wanted to do?

Catherine
I did not always know. I always wrote a lot. But I had this idea that writing was miserable because of school. And I didn’t like to write the kinds of things we were told to write in school. Although anytime we had like a creative project, I loved it. Right. But I sort of had this Oh, writing is boring. But I was always making up stories in my head. And one point in college. My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, said to me, during a time when I was just babbling this story. He’s like, you should write that down. And I was like, Oh, okay. And so I did, I just started writing this really long, complicated, complicated story that I had been dreaming up in my head. And it was really fun. I really enjoyed it. And so then I just started doing more and more of it, I did some projects. I did a little bit of collaborative writing with a friend. And so I sort of had been writing. And then once my kids were all in full time school, right, then I was like, Okay, I want to get serious about this. And actually, you know, right to publish.

Elle
Wow. Okay, so I want to sort of backtrack to college for a second, what was your major?

Catherine
Art history.

Elle
Okay, so now, okay, because I love to, to sort of tie people’s pasts into, you know, to like, what they’re doing, you know, their present, and particularly with their writing. And so I’m guessing that pretty much informs the historical work that you’ve been that you write about

Catherine
It does. I really like history, things. I like visual history. I like to look at photographs and maps and things like that one of the reasons that I write in the periods that I do, is because they have photographic evidence. And so it’s not just, you’re not relying just on words and art, you have like this extra medium, and you can really see what the people looked like and what the buildings looked like. So I love to look at photographs, I love to look at art, I love to look at the real artifacts that exist from the time period. And those are the things that I like to research. And so that’s what, that’s where I go, mainly when I’m looking for research for my books.

Elle
So I’m kind of curious, like, Where are your go to places to go, you know, for like the photos or the artifacts? Or you know, because I know for me, like I’m constantly on like real estate websites, looking at houses this architect, you know, how homes kind of always end up featuring prominently in my books, but it’s contemporary, so it’s easy to find, how do you dig this stuff up.

Catherine
A lot of museums have really great stuff if you’re looking for artifacts. So if you’re looking for clothing, or if you’re looking for pieces of artwork from the time dishes, things that would be left over from that time period, the Met Museum in particular has a fantastic all their, all their stuff is there. So they have such a fantastic resource. So I just look at a lot of pictures like that. For books, if you just do Google Books, searches, you can find a lot of old works from the time period, because they’re all out of copyright. They’re just up there. Also, archive.org has lots of just old books, and you can go and read through the old books, what did people actually write at the time? There’s also I like to look for newspapers. Because those have fun articles and stuff. Sometimes I just google for whatever I’m looking for, and then do an image search. And then from there, I look for images and I click on the image and go to whatever site the image came from. And I sort of dialed down that way.

Elle
Gotcha. So you kind of end up doing like that Google rabbit hole.

Catherine
Yep, exactly. I love Google rabbit holes because then once you find one, it’ll lead to something else and it’ll lead to something else and you could find some relief in Testing websites that way.

Elle
super fascinating to me, because I’m kind of wondering when you talk about like you’re reading the books from the period and like going into like newspaper articles from the period. Is this also how you’re able to establish the voice? Because the way that they were speaking 100 years ago? Well, at this point, what are we like 150 years ago? You know, that was very different from our cadence of speech right now.

Catherine
Yeah, definitely. If you really read the newspaper articles from that time period, they have a very sort of distinctive pattern. Same thing, if you take a book, like if you pick up a Jules Verne book, or if you pick up a Jane Austen or Charles Dickens, or anybody who is writing in the 19th century, there’s like, these certain kinds of speech patterns that are very formal, I tried to kind of hit a medium road between that and what reread, because if it’s, if you write it like Charles Dickens, it’s not, it’s not going to be comfortable for a modern audience to read. But at the same time, you don’t want to be super modern, because then that takes you out of the story. So I kind of try to strike a bit of a balance, right? My series that takes place in 1880s, Europe is a little bit more towards the historical side. And then my other series, which is a lot of its takes place in America, in the early 1900s, that one I made deliberately a little more modern in their speech patterns, to sort of differentiate that, like kind of more casual Americanness. And a little bit more modern setting.

Elle
This is super fascinating. Because Yeah, you kind of have to find that balance between staying kind of true to the period, but also realize that modern readers are not going to necessarily have the patience for it. You know, and so finding that balance, and I’m kind of curious, is that the same with writing the steamy bits through this, because I know that there is, um, Victorian porn.

Catherine
Oh, yeah, I’ve read a lot of it. Oh, that’s research that I’ve done.

Elle
I might need a library list from you. Because I find it so fascinating. So is there again, is that sort of like how does that influence your writing, particularly with the steamy bets?

Catherine
That is a really great resource for words that they use at the time. I love to pull in odd slang words that they used.

Do you have a favorite?

I mean, from sexy scenes. I like the word Quim. I think it’s very pretty and also sexy.

Elle
Oh, what does that mean?

Catherine
The Quim is like pussy, your vagina.

Elle
Oh, I like that. I think we need to bring that back.

Catherine
There’s there there are penis words that sort of go with it. It can be a quim stick or a quim steak.

Elle
Oh how delightful!

Catherine
So those are kind of fun words. And sometimes it’s really just odd slang terms there is a Jonathan green has the greens Dictionary of slang, which has all of these historical slang terms for going back hundreds of years that you can look up. And associated with that he has a slang timeline. It’s called the timelines of slang. And it’s divided up into these various slang terms for various sex things for various money things. Let’s see what else insults, stuff like that. I’m going to click on these timelines and go back to close to your time period and see what really strange terms people actually used in written historical documents that we have. So sometimes I go in there to find funny words.

Elle
God bless historians, I just find this completely fascinating. This is so cool. I would probably lose days in this thing, just diving. Okay, so we’ve got the historical bits. But what was it about romance that drew you. When did you start writing romance was that the first thing you wrote, you said that you had written a story that your now husband encouraged you to write was it romance?

Catherine
It was not it was fantasy, but it had a very heavy romance arc in it. And then sort of the other stuff I dabbled with, it was always, you know, was tended to be like fantasy, but they always like, kind of glommed on to these romance arcs. And when I started writing, the book that eventually became how to seduce a spy, I had my hero when she was based on a painting going back to the art. And I had her and I was like, she’s this strong, independent woman and whatever. She doesn’t necessarily need a romance arc, but when I put her in the room With the character who became the hero, their chemistry was so good that I was just like, this has to be a romance like, forget, I’m just gonna go all out, I’m gonna make this a romance.

Elle
So are you a pantser or a plotter then?

Catherine
I am completely a pantser. Very much a pantser, I start off with the character. So I have the character is like very sort of fixated in my mind. And the whole plot is then character driven, okay, cuz I just go from there. And I have this idea of like, okay, here’s the situation they’re in, here’s what they want. Let’s see what they do. And that’s kind of how my books just come out. That’s awesome.

Elle
I kind of love that. So, so going into this, then you have you have no expectations, okay, there are going to be four sex scenes, or we’re gonna have, like, you know what I mean? I mean, I’m kind of curious how you end up following the conventions. If you do at all, maybe you don’t.

Catherine
I do not consciously go out of my way to follow the conventions. I’ve just, I’ve read a lot of books. Starting when I was very, very small. I started reading when I was about two years old. So I’ve read a lot, a lot of books, and I just kind of feel it out. So I’m like, okay, we’re getting to the point where they’re going to need to get soon. And of course, it varies from book to book and couple, the couple. But I always kind of have that sense of, Okay, we’re getting to what needs to be the next beat, we’re getting to what needs to be the next like conflict. So I just kind of feel the story out that way.

Elle
Okay. All right. That’s really that’s really cool. So I’m kind of curious, since you did you read a lot from a young age? Do you remember your first romance book, which one?

Catherine
I do not remember which one in particular was the first one, my friends handed me a stack of Amanda Quick novels. Ah, like three or four of them. And we’re like, here, you need to read these. And I read one. And then I was like, I need them all. So I just devoured them.

Elle
What grabbed you about them? What did you enjoy?

Catherine
I liked the historical setting, because I always was kind of a history nerd. Like, I read a lot of historical fiction and things already. So I liked the historical setting. I liked the hero winds that she had, they tended to be like these quirky wallflower types. And that’s what I was. And I really, really responded to that. I’m like, yeah, that’s the nerdy girl. And she’s going out and getting this guy. And she’s like, solving all the problems and solving a mystery and doing all the adventury kind of things that happened in those books. So I really resonated with that.

Elle
That’s really cool. Okay, so not only do you write historical, you also write steampunk. And so you’re still you’re still, you know, your first books were fantasy, you’re still drawing and drawing on those fantasy elements. I think it’s really amazing that you are combining historical plus the steampunk elements plus the romance elements. And I am kind of an odd that like I can’t imagine having all of those threads and trying to keep them woven together. And so how did I guess my first question is, how did you end up in steampunk?

Catherine
I don’t know how I really got interested in steampunk, it must have come out of like going to Renaissance festivals and like also some of the stuff that I was reading. But I just started like making a steampunk Halloween costume and just sort of doing little steampunk things. And so as I was doing that, I got more interested in reading more steampunk books and in writing more steampunky things. And it just sort of I sort of fell into it because it fit with all of the things that I liked. Right? It had the history, it had the kind of fantasy it had the dress up elements, and just kind of the fun, quirky genre that really fit my personal style.

Elle
So does having the addition of the steampunk does that change the dynamic of your steamy scenes? That’s kind of what I’m really curious about because steampunk is dealing with sort of, I guess, futuristic inventions. And again, the fantastical some very curious how it informs the actual romance bits of the of the story.

Catherine
Well, one of the things it does is that because it’s steampunk I can push the sort of rule breaking characters a little bit further than in plain historical. Like I get less pushback on that. And because of course there were rule breaking people and you can write them into any historical but sometimes you get readers Like being like, well, this is not realistic. And I can sort of push that a little bit more with the steampunk. So I have a little bit more flexibility where I can pull out, I have a pirate here when or you know, things like that where it’s this woman in an unconventional role, because I can make my world kind of fit that a little bit better. So it’s a little bit easier to fit in the sort of more forward here winds. And also I can do a lot of fun locations and things like that I have like laboratories. And I have I’m writing right now a submarine book. I do a lot of trains, airships, hot air balloons, I can incorporate all these kind of steampunky things and have different settings for where the characters end up together.

Elle
That’s really cool. Those are fun.

Catherine
Also, a lot of my characters in a particularly in my Sass and Steam series, have like technology, they have sort of biomechanics that are built into them. And so sometimes that can come into play, if somebody has a hand that’s partially metal, then that will, you know, they’ll be feeling things differently. And their love interest will be feeling things differently in a sexy scene if they’re touching with a metal hand, or they’re touching metallic body parts or something like that. So some of that also comes into play.

Elle
So that’s really fascinating, because it does hold that sort of element of maybe sort of a shifter romance where there might be a partial transformation into some sort of a beast like, you know, or, or there might be a different sensation because they are shifters. Like it sort of feels like that might be a similar, you know, along a similar line. Yeah.

Catherine
Yeah, I don’t read a ton of shifters on most of the ones I don’t know if I’ve read. I know, I’ve read one where the shifters are, like partially shifted, but not for a very long time. Yeah, but there is the sort of it gives us sort of sensory, like a sensory feeling, or a sensory thing you can play with that doesn’t necessarily happen between completely human couples.

Elle
Yeah. Which is really cool. So okay, so you talked about ren fairs, and I thought online, you have a lot of costumes, and you and you’re not afraid to wear them. And they’re great, thank you. And I’m wondering, are those are those that are those sort of like, you know, the for entertainment only purposes, costumes, or are those actually a true period pieces that you’ve collected over time.

Catherine
Most of them are just modern costume pieces. But I have a couple of actual real period pieces that I can mix in, I have to be careful with them, because I’m afraid of damaging them. So I always wear them sort of minimally. But I do have some actual real pieces.

Elle
Because again, you’re sort of when you’re writing in historical, your costuming choices for your characters does need to hew very closely to what people would have worn back then. And so I’m always very fascinated by by just that element, because I think it again, like there’s a lot more research there. And it does complicate things.

Catherine
It is I like playing with the outfits that they wear. Since it’s steampunk, I can sort of tweak it. And so sometimes they’re not wearing things that are like historically accurate to that era. And then sometimes they are and I can have different, you know, sexy bits where they have different outfits that they’re taking off because of what they’re wearing. And so I can have the hero in who is wearing every single layer all the way down if I want to. Or I can have her in like just a top with a corset over the top of it and a little fluffy skirt. So I can play around with that a lot. And I like to look at advertisements and photos and what are those things called the fashion plates and I like to look at all of those things and get sort of costume and character ideas from those.

Elle
That’s really cool because again, I’ve always I’d always be like petrified that I would get it screwed up. Because even just studying it like I imagine it’s got to be something very different to actually tactically feel it or see it or feel how the buttons like snap or unsnap or you know go in or out easily or not easily.

Catherine
Yeah, I have American Dutchess shoes, which has like replicas very excellent replicas of what like what the real shoes from the period would have been. And the buttons can be very tight and you have to be left to like use a button hook to get your boots on and off. So having worn those is fun. Cuz I can know what how it feels to use a button hook and how to, you know, do their do their button up shoes.

Elle
Yeah. And I imagine probably a lot of people are leaving the shoes on when they’re doing the deed. It’s a little bit easier that way. Unless you can’t get out of your clothes because there.

Catherine
Yes, I’ve definitely had scenes where the characters do not take off their shoes.

Elle
So, um, so I’m curious to you what, what makes historicals and in particular, steampunk, punk, historicals, sexy.

Catherine
Um, I think part of the time period being just a little bit of a fantastical element. It’s something different than what we’re seeing every day. And I think just that little bit of, of separation from the real world is in itself a little bit sexy. I also think that because a lot of historicals are written in time periods and places where there were very strict rules, you get that kind of forbidden love rule breaking aspect. Like, Oh, no, if I’m in the room alone with him, I’m going to be compromised. And so there’s this sort of sense of danger or forbidden pleasure. And I think that is a really fun part of historicals. steampunk just ups the fantasy element, it lets you kind of do whatever you want. I feel like it also is like it’s steampunk is made for breaking the rules. So when you have steampunk, you can have characters that fit really well into your world, when they’re the outsiders. And I always find the outsider, you know, people who don’t fit in bit attractive.

Elle
I also think, I don’t know, I think that the outfits like the steampunk outfits, I just find them so sexy,

Catherine
You can make really sexy outfits with steampunk,you can do lots of fun things.

Elle
And you’re mostly covered. You know, that’s, that’s sort of the amazing thing about it is that even though there’s nothing showing, you know, sometimes not even ankle, you, they’re still unbelievably sexy.

Catherine
Yeah, you can definitely have a lot of fun with outfits. My next book that’s going to be coming out, the heroine wears these shirts and dresses that button all the way up to her neck and cover her her sleeves all the way down to her wrists. And that’s her sort of standard outfit. But she still is able to like be a sexy badass when she walks into the room. And the hero like notices the way that she’s, you know, having these outfits kind of shaped to her even while they’re hiding everything. And so that’s one of the fun things you can do with the steampunk outfits is you can make them whatever you want. You can also make them really low cut and sort of saloon girl looking. So there’s a lot of options for how you do sexy outfits.

Elle
Yeah, it’s very very cool. And there is something when you throw in like those sort of more mechanical elements that sometimes come into the gives it I don’t know it maybe it’s like that sort of yin and yang of like, soft silky fabric against hard industrial metal, you know, that just is sort of such a turn on but I just find them so sexy.

Catherine
I like that contrast to I like yeah, everything is like very, like industrial and very metallic. But then you also can have silks and velvets and things like that. Yeah,

Elle
it’s really it’s the it’s sort of the lush against the harder you know, industrial stuff. It’s really cool. It’s just such an awesome, awesome element. I’m super Wish I could write in it. But I’m like I get overwhelmed writing contemporary scenes. I’m just like, Yeah, no, you leave that to the professional.

Catherine
I also should mention that I like to have a lot of color in my steampunk outfits. A lot of the steampunk that you see if you just Google for it tends to frequently be browns, grays, blacks. But when I write my characters, I like to have a lot of color. So I like reds and blues and purples and greens and I like to sort of play with that side of it so that people know steampunk doesn’t have to just be brown.

Elle
What is it about the colors like why you know apart from you know it doesn’t just have to be brown like what is it that it’s is their sensuality that you’re sort of like building through color as well?

Catherine
I think so I think the colors can be very sexy. If you have a really vibrant color, it’s like draws your eye. So when the character walks into the room, people are going to look at them because they’re wearing bright red or bright blue. I also like to have the colors be sort of pop of the characters, personality. So I have a particular character who loves red, and she wears red all the time. I have a particular character who wears a lot of purple, because her name is violet, and she sort of likes that purple side of herself. So sometimes I use the color just as like a person’s particular sort of favorite Look,

Elle
That’s really cool. Because, you know, we hear about, you know, it was like using your senses when you’re writing using, you know, and what they what it smells like, what it feels like. But I think that color is something that is completely overlooked, you know, apart from like, the sunset or something like that. But I do think that there is something, you know, very, that could be very sexy, or at least, you know, a sort of, signifier for something really sexy through working with color, which I think is a really important point.

Catherine
Yeah, I like to describe the clothes. So I think that works really well for me.

Elle
And so, in terms of like, because with any fantasy, and particularly with steampunk, you’re doing a lot of world building. And so is that also does that work to enhance the steamy scenes? Or do you think that it just you need to build the world and then and then you have the steamy scenes, and one doesn’t really inform the other?

Catherine
Oh, I think you’re world building is going to inform everything in the story. So it is definitely going to inform the steamy scenes in some ways, because it’s just, it’s part of who the characters are. They fit into this world. And so they’re constantly interacting with it. And what they do in their real life is going to be based on how their world is. So my potions and passion series, which kind of leans more Gaslamp fantasy than steampunk. It’s technology that is all driven by magic potions. So in that series, they have things like stamina potions, where they can drink a potion, and that will let them go for a longer time. And things like this, that then can be used. And of course, they’re gonna use them because they are a part of their world. And so they’re there and they’re not just going to be like in the background, it’s going to come into all other aspects of their lives.

Elle
Gaslamp fantasy I’ve never seen,

Catherine
It just means Victorian settings that are sort of magical. So rather than this sci fi, kind of aspect of steampunk, where it’s very technology, and we’re building things, it’s more magical side.

Elle
Oh, that’s really cool. I had no idea that this existed and now I’m gonna have to go there as well. Which series is of yours does. potions and passions, solutions and passions, thank you, I’m gonna go grab some of those when we’re done talking. Amazing. Okay, so, um, I do want to point out and sort of jump into this conversation really quickly about I was looking over, obviously, I was looking through your catalog and one of the reviews on your book shot to the heart to call that subtly feminist. And I kind of that really struck me and I think that bromont books, romance books, in particular, kind of get a bad rap, they’re always looked at as not feminist at all. You know, I can get taken to task once in a while for the quote unquote, you know, the the Cinderella fantasy or the princess fantasy and, and, and that rankles me. I think, I think out of all the books, you know, out of all the literary genres out there, I feel like romance is probably one of the most feminist and I would love to have this conversation with you.

Catherine
Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, not all romances are going to be feminist because it’s a huge genre, and there’s going to be people, you know, doing everything, but I think a lot of them are. And I think just the whole idea of romance tends to lean feminist. Because you have so many women out there in these books, and sometimes other marginalized identities that are like, in a world of sis hat men, they, you know, can’t always get what they want, or they have to struggle to get what they want in the real world. And in romance, that doesn’t have to be the case they are going to win, because there’s always going to be that happy ending. And since there has to be that happy ending they can get someone who appreciates them the way they are. They can get their dreams and a lover. They can sort of get everything and it’s it’s in a world Where frequently, you kind of get this sense that women are being told to choose like, do you want a career or do you want a family? in romance, you can have everything. And we know that the heroine is going to end up with her satisfied life at the end. And I think that whole aspect of it can be extremely feminist. Obviously, a lot of writers are writing to be deliberately feminist. Sarah McLean is very deliberately feminist, Maya Rodale, you mentioned the princess thing. And I think Alyssa Coles Royals book are a fabulous example of taking what people claim can’t possibly be feminist and doing it in a feminist way. All of her heroines have their own identities, they have their own life, they have their own goal. And yet, they still managed to find love in these royal situations, and still hang on to who they are and what they want. And so I think there’s a lot out there, that is, like, really strongly feminist and showing women getting everything and they don’t have to settle.

Elle
Yeah, I think the knee jerk response to that sort of like, well, romances and feminists is that the women do have their happily ever after. And I think that, you know, in a way, it’s sort of like, Oh, my God, there must be something really subversive about that, then

Catherine
Based on the number of people who come and say, What does romance really have to have a happy ending? That right there just tells you that the happy ending is subversive, right? So many people push against it, that you know, that there’s something that’s meaningful about it.

Elle
I mean, and what does it say to us as a culture that having like, being able to have this happy, happy ending, is a subversive thing.

Catherine
Yeah, it’s unfortunate. And I try, I’m trying to, like, in my writing, do what I can to be like, Hey, this is what it should be. This is how our relationship should be. This is what you should expect out of, you know, your life with your friends and your lover and your career. You don’t have to pick and choose you can be who you are, you can have your goals and find people who appreciate you for who you are. So that’s how I try to write all my stories. I have a lot of characters who start off thinking they’re weird. And then are kind of surprised when somebody is like, but I like you this way. So that’s something that I enjoy exploring in my stories.

Elle
Yeah, I think that that’s awesome. Okay, so I would love to dig into your intimate scene, which is from a shot to the heart which series is this from? This is from the Sass and Steam series. Okay, how many series do you have? You have a lot.

Catherine
I have two main series, SAS and steam and potions and passions. And then I have a third series, which is just a historical scoundrels new con is the first one and I am going to be having the second book of that coming out at the end of this year.

Elle
How come you decided to go strictly historical on that?

Catherine
I had some writer friends who were wanting to do a collaborative World project where they were all fairytale retellings and said, Hey, do you want to write a fairy tale retelling? And I said, sure, that sounds fun. And so I wrote it and I enjoyed it. And it still has a lot of the same elements as the steampunk ones do. It just doesn’t have that strict fantasy. It has Victorian spiritual ism and a little bit of, you know, Victorian Gothic vibe. So it’s still got a little bit of that fantastical sense, and it’s still got a lot of the same kind of intrigue and mystery that you find in the other series. So that one is strictly Victorian.

Elle
Can I ask what fairy tale you’re retelling or is that a surprise?

Catherine
It’s based on the Emperor’s New Clothes, which is why it’s The Scoundrels New Con, I sort of made the title kind of based on that. It is not necessarily a retelling because the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes is about half a page of description. So it’s really more of a loosely inspired by. But if you if you’re familiar with the story, then you can find like the all the all the little elements throughout the story that I kind of pulled from.

Elle
That’s really cool. I really love that idea.

Catherine
The next one in the series is going to be Rumpelstiltskin inspired.

Elle
Oh, it’s so is that series out now? The first one is out now. Okay, The Scoundrels New Con is available.

That’s awesome. Love it. Okay, so Oh, Okay, so A Shot to the Heart. Setup the scene for us.

Catherine
Okay? The reason I picked this one ultimately, is because this is my friends to lovers book, okay? I really love the friends to lover’s trope me and my husband are a friends to lovers couple, we were friends for several years in high school and did not start dating until college. So that’s just sort of a favorite trope of mine. And in this particular scene, they’re very playful and teasing with each other. And you can sort of see the element of their friendship in the scene, which I really like. That’s part of why I picked it. And then the other reason I picked it was because I liked the heroes, it’s in the hero’s point of view. And I like his kind of reactions to the whole situation of finally getting to have an intimate moment with her, because he’s been in love with her for years and years, or not years and years, because I guess they’ve known each other a couple years, but he’s been in love with her for a long time. And this is sort of all his fantasies come true. And so he’s kind of got this mixture of, Okay, I know what I’m doing. I’m in control here. And also this emotional first time he vibe, where he’s sort of like nervous, and not sure if it’s gonna go the right way. And I liked his the way he feels sort of during during the scene.

Elle
So in terms of their background, it’s, it’s Adam and Cora. And were they like, they had written correspondence before they met Is that correct? Other friendship grew okay.

Catherine
Cora had an arm injury. And she used a an invention of Adams to rehab her arm because she’s an athlete, and she needed the full use of her arm to do her, her athletic work. And because she had such good results with this machine, she sent him a letter saying, Thank you, I love your machine. I think it’s, you know, great, and you’ve been very helpful to me. And he wrote back, and that started a whole correspondence. And so then for about a year, they just corresponded back and forth and became closer and closer friends, through letters. And now they have met up at the 1904 World’s Fair, where he was there to present his inventions, and she was there as an athlete to compete in the Olympic Games, which are happening in the same location.

Elle
So okay, I’m sure. So did you start? This starts then when they meet at the world’s fair for the first time? Or at the World’s Fair? Or, or do you give them that? Or do you show more of the backstory,

Catherine
The prologue has a little bit of their correspondence, it’s okay, a few pieces back and forth to show what’s happening. And then at the beginning of every chapter throughout the rest of the book, we get a small snippet of their letters. So you get to see a little bit more of their correspondence,

Elle
the whole book, and I’m assuming through the correspondence, too, you can see their flirtation developing the story that’s so cool. Okay, this was so hard for me to pick something out of this scene, because so much of it was like, super steamy. And I loved it. So

Catherine
I’m really glad to hear that. Yeah. All right.

Elle
So they are where we pick up there in I guess, a hotel room?

Catherine
ANd he has lost his job because there was a commotion at the exhibit where he was supposed to be exhibiting, his boss got mad, and he’s been fired. And so he has had to leave his accommodations from work. And so now he’s joined her in her hotel room.

Elle
Got it. Okay, cool. And for some reason, they have cake.

Catherine
They are coming home from having had a dinner together. And then he’s decided he wants to woo her properly, and that he’s going to move on from being friends into something more intimate. And so he’s taking her out to dinner and they brought home their desserts with them.

Elle
This is this is the beginning of the woo which is great. Okay. All right. So um, so there’s just a little bit that I thought was so steamy here and it was let’s say have they even sort of they just came back sitting down talking having this conversation about they have these three pieces of cake between them they don’t have a knife they don’t have a you know, it’s gonna be messy. Right and, and so he now we’re gonna go into this here.

He’d already picked up on so many things about her like the big freckle on the left side of her nose are purposeful strides that could almost match his habitually rapid pace. The way her body became absolutely still when she focused the way it melted against him when he kissed her. J

ust this little moment. So made me sigh and so made me go Oh, and just awesome. Have these, like sort of things that he kind of picked out about her? All of these things that her quirks that he loved, right? Um, it just really started, I kind of settled me into the scene to be like, yeah, okay, I’m ready for this.

Catherine
I love hearing that that’s, yeah, I just I wanted him. He is so attuned to her, that he keeps fixating on her to this sort of detriment, possibly of everything else around him. So he’s just like, really, this is her, it’s real. I’m close to her, I can see her. Because he loved her without even knowing what she looked like, without knowing a lot of things about her, just from the personality that he had gotten through their correspondence. And so now that he is actually in her presence, I really wanted to show all of the ways that he’s sensing her.

Elle
Yeah, yeah, that was really great. Because I just sort of love that it was, I mean, you know, I don’t want to say laundry list because it sounds terrible to say that, but it really kind of isn’t all the things that he loves about her. And it was just that thing that sort of really touched my heart and made me root for him to kind of win her over.

Catherine
That’s wonderful. He is a really great guy, I loved writing him, he’s a very beta hero, you can ask the more, he’s a little more alpha in the sheets, where he’s kind of like, I know what I’m doing. But he’s very much like, this is my lady, I’m just gonna back her up and love her for who she is. And I’m just going to be her supporter. I’m her number one cheerleader.

Elle
I love the beta hero, I do too, they’re the best. I think they’re giving given short shrift to the alphas because there is nothing like a beta hero who, you know, has your has the woman’s back, you know, but at the same time, is also willing to just let her go off and do her thing.

Catherine
Yeah, I think there’s this idea that people get sometimes that beta hero means weak. And it doesn’t, it just means that they do things differently. They sort of, you know, sit back and play the support role, which is vitally important. And they don’t necessarily, you know, push things. And there’s a lot of really heroic things that they can do, without having to be the one that’s striding into battle and being like, I will protect you, they can protect you in different ways they can protect you emotionally. They can be like, Do you need my protection right now, and then I will jump in front of you. So I like I like to be able to show sort of different ways of being heroic.

Elle
Yeah, it’s like they they let the heroine take, they’d let the heroine take control. And I think that that is and again, sort of like touching back to like, the feminist acts, aspects of romance. I do think that that is one way that you know, or maybe it’s not even controlled, but there is like a true partnership between the two, the two couples, rather than I’m taking charge, and I’m the man and I’m the protector, you know, it actually becomes a partnership between the two of them.

Catherine
Exactly. I love when a romance couple can have a very like solid partnership where they’re working together. And each of them has their own strengths, and they know what the other person’s strength is, and let them sort of take the lead when they are applicable. And then when it’s something different, like, Oh, that’s my skill set, I’ll go and do that. And I like when they can do that working together to accomplish things.

Elle
Yeah, it’s like, it’s my, I remember the first the first romance I wrote for a very small ebook publisher, and it was one of those where they, they totally, you know, I was told what to do, you know, okay, this is going to be a taboo age gap, blah, blah, blah. And this is how we want it to start and, and I was like, you know, the opening scene is this and I was like, okay, go off and write it. And I had in one moment, in one scene, the heroine kind of, like, stepping up and punching somebody out. Right, you know, because that was and and, and the editor came back and was like, No, no, no, you can’t have that. He’s like the guy your hero has to do that. And I was like, but she’s the feisty one. She’s the one that’s gonna turn around and punch somebody in the face, not him. And it just felt so untrue to their characters, you know, and I guess I was supposed to alpha him up or something I didn’t last long. I didn’t last long with them. Um, But yeah, it was. Yeah. And I just was so I was so like, Well, why can’t she cuz that’s kind of like who she is. And she’s totally, you know, but but it just didn’t, they don’t like that.

Catherine
Like, I also like in the sexy scenes when they can take turns and you know, one can be in charge here and want to be in charge there.

Elle
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I think that that is also I don’t know, I feel like that’s, that’s, well, I guess it sort of like, you know, results may vary like your experiences are going to be different, but I do feel like even in the bedroom, for most people, there is definitely a push and a pull. You know, there isn’t always one person that is constantly dominating that role.

Catherine
But again, I think and I think that’s a fun thing that we should show in romance is that, you know, obviously certain, depending on your particular partnership, one or the other partner may want to take a more dominant role. But each one of them is going to bring something

Elle
right. Right. Right. And there isn’t just there, there is not a passive participant in the bedroom. Like everybody needs to be everybody is active. Everybody should be active.

Catherine
Yeah, everybody has agency in their bedroom rule.

Elle
That’s the word. Okay, I’m gonna keep going because we’re about to eat some cheesecake.

He picked up the slice of cheesecake and lifted it to her lips have a bite. She did chewing slowly before licking her lips every nerve and Adam’s body jolted awake. Delicious. She picked up the hazelnut torte you try this one. Adam sample the small bite of the rich chocolate cake, letting it linger on his tongue watching Cora’s mouth the entire time. Her lips were fractionally apart and she stared at him as he ate. was she thinking about kissing him? Because he was absolutely thinking about kissing her. How was it? she asked? Almost perfect. Almost? Her nose scrunched as she frowned at him. She sat down the slice of cake smears of chocolate hazelnut cream coated her fingers. Adam’s hand shot out to catch her wrist before she could look the icing away herself. Already he was losing control. And already he didn’t care. He raised her hand to his mouth. This bite will be perfect, he murmured. He was right. The chocolate on her fingers tasted divine. Her sharp gasp of breath as he stroked his tongue across her skin. set his blood to boiling. Yes, perfect. He released her hand and rose from a seat dragging the desk away from the bad. But I think I’m done with this. I think I’m done with dessert for now just to taste just to taste a cake. Just a taste of Cora. Cora stared up at him scooting to the very edge of the bed. Her night gown caught beneath our sliding upper calves as she moved. But what if I’m not done? The breathy quality of her voice spurred him on, he scooped up a glob of chocolate with one finger. try this out and walked her side and press the finger to her lips. her tongue snaked out probing then she wrapped her lips around his finger and sucked every drop of cake away. Lord, what a mouth. He wanted it all over his body.

Okay, this was super sexy. And they haven’t even done anything out.

Catherine
Just eating dessert.

Elle
It’s just dessert. And oh my god, it was so i think i think what did it and and I could be wrong here. But I think what did it was the details. And sort of like really kind of narrowing in on certain things, the smear of the chocolate on the, on the hands or on the fingers, you know, that sort of thing. And I’d love for you to tell me about this scene. Do you remember what made you sort of conjure up what it was about the food wasn’t the food, you know, like what? What brought this about?

Catherine
I wanted it to be kind of fun and playful to get them into the mood. Again, going back to that sort of friends to lovers thing. They they have fun with each other. And so I wanted to start out the scene in a way that was just having fun. And then morphing into sexy. So they started out with we have food but how are we going to eat it. And I mean feeding each other bites of food is always it just conjures up that idea of Ooh, something sexy is going to happen like at a wedding, you feed each other bites of your wedding cake. So I had that sort of sense that okay, if we feed each other food that’s going to lead to other things. And I just kind of went with it and they started off by by teasing each other. And then as they actually start feeling the sensations of Whoa, this is something delicious stimulating my senses, but also So, the taste of this person is stimulating my senses. That leads directly into I want to taste more of you.

Elle
Yeah, that’s Yeah, it was, I mean, this was just like, Oh, wow. You know, sort of like, as I started reading this, I was like, Okay, this could either turn into a food fight, or it could turn into something. And, and you know, I mean, I’m sorry, I honestly, I would have probably done the food fight. That could be really fun, too, if that could be super sexy, too. Yeah, yeah.

Catherine
But I just certainly not, I’m certainly not ruling out the idea of having food fights in my books. I like quirky things like that.

Elle
But there was just but you know, it was just those the whole sort of description of the cakes and feeding each other. It was absolutely so central. And it was really, really sexy. And again, like, they haven’t even done anything.

Catherine
Thanks. I really love that it like is coming across like that, because I’m always never sure. Like, is this going to be sexy to other people. And it’s super gratifying when you read it, and you’re like, oh, that really, really worked. For you.

Elle
It is sexy. And you know, it’s so funny, because some I was I did, I had one scene, that was like, literally five pages of foreplay that somebody gave to me. And I was like, This is amazing. So you know, or I’ve talked to authors who close the door, you know, and they don’t actually have sex in their books. But everything leading up to the moment where they close the door is still very, very steamy. And I think that the assumption is that for there to be steamed, there must be sex, there must be a penis, there must be boobs, there must be all of these things. Right? And that’s not necessarily the case, you can have something very sensual and very sexy. And super like, Oh my god, I’m a little warm here. Um, you know, moments in writing that have absolutely nothing to do with the bedroom door being open.

Catherine
Yeah, absolutely. I definitely agree. Some of the fun is like, how do they get there? Sometimes the actual, I tend to write fairly short parts when we actually get into the open door sections. I know some people have it go on and on and on. And their books and mine tend to be fairly compact. But I do like, I’d like to have the lead up with like, how did they get into the bedroom? And so that’s kind of what I was just doing here with the cake is getting them into the mood.

Elle
Yeah, yeah. And it’s and it’s, and it definitely gets the reader into the mood to it’s almost like, you know, it’s in service to the book and the character, but it’s also prepping the reader, I think, to a certain degree of like, yeah, okay, this is gonna, this is gonna go where we want it to go, you know?

Catherine
Yes. Because if it’d be, it would be kind of awkward if just, boom, suddenly, they’re sexy tie. And that would be a little strange. And I I don’t know if it would might be kind of an interesting read. But I think it works best, at least for me as a reader. When I get the sense that they’re looking at each other. Sometimes it’s a glance in their eyes meeting somebody, it’s a hands touching, but there’s something where you start to feel that this couple is ready to go at it.

Elle
Yeah, yeah, it’s really, I thought that was so well done. Okay, well, more a little bit. Here we go. Now we’re gonna get into it.

Adam kissed his way along her thigh, sliding a second finger into her. She lifted her hips to take him deeper god she was lusty. Her arousal made him ravenous with desire. For a long time. Now, he’d all he had had only himself in his imaginings, of doing these very things to her. Now he was living the dream, and he wanted to savor every second of it. His tongue circled her colitis, drawing a blissful moan from her. He repeated the movement pumping his fingers in and out of her as he worked her swollen bud. She said, this is better, better than I imagined. Blood pounded in his veins had she fantasized about him. Had she touched herself thinking about him. That erotic mental image was so powerful. He had to reach down and free his COC from his trousers. His fingers clenched around it stroking himself as he sucked and licked at chorus clipped god yes, her hips bucked. She gasped again and tried to say something. But the words were choked off beneath her groan of need out inflicted sucked move his fingers in and out of her in the same rapid rhythm he was using to pleasure himself. Cora broke with a cry trembling beneath him and a magnificent orgasm. Adam slowly pulled away sitting up to observe the aftermath of her climax. Her skin was flushed a glorious pink with soft wood, the soft mounds of her and the soft mounds of her breasts rose and fell with each deep Her eyes were light with pleasure. And a small dreamy smile curved her rosy lips.

Whoo. So, I should say we’re at mid coitus when I jumped in there. Yeah, um, what I kind of really loved about this piece, because I thought it was very unusual in the spirit to have him masturbate while giving her oral sex because I don’t think we see that very often. Sometimes we see the heroine masturbate, but even not that much, but we definitely never see the hero masturbate. If we do, there’s like a start to it. But then the sex finishes it off. And and that’s not what happened here. They actually don’t, at least in the sin that you gave me. They don’t have penetrative sex at this moment. And so I thought that I don’t know. I just was like, wow, this is really unusual. You don’t read that this often. I thought that this was a really great moment, and still absolutely sexy as hell.

Catherine
Yeah, I like, I like the hero masturbating scenes, because I like getting in his head and in his like, I am so into her. I just I’m, it’s my fantasy. I like the idea that she has become his fantasy. And so that when he does, like, go stroking himself, she is what he’s going to be thinking about. And I like that idea. And so that’s why, why, why I wanted to write that into the scene because I wanted him to be like, living out his fantasy sort of in a very concrete way. Like, instead of, he’s lying around in a bed by himself having these fantasies. Now he’s sort of performing the same physical task. But at the same time, it’s more real. Now he’s here, he’s with her. He’s experiencing with her. And it’s just all the more sort of extreme for him, it’s like even more pleasurable for him.

Elle
How come you didn’t have them have penetrative sex here?

Catherine
Um, partly it was because it’s halfway through the book, and I wanted to save a particular sex act for another scene I like, I like breaking it up. Like if they’re gonna do this one here, we’ll do it in this scene. And then they’ll have a different, you know, do a different kind of sexy thing and the next scene. And so I wanted to break it up a little bit. Also, because this is an Olympics book, this is kind of a weird quirk of this book, because it’s an Olympics book, I wanted to make references to the Olympic condoms that the modern athletes get handed out. Oh, okay. Oh, it’s the 1904 Olympics. They weren’t handing the athletes condoms. There was the Comstock laws, you couldn’t even buy a condom at the drugstore, you had to like jump through hoops and bite sneakily. But I wanted to include that. And so later on in the book, she sees some of the male athletes like chatting with each other and like, sharing condoms, like one of the guys is like, here, you should, you know, you should take one of these because it’s, it’s a great way to relax before your event. And so then the hero in like, sneaks a condom from this guy who’s passing them out. And then that’s their way of being able to have safe sex once they do get to the penetrative sex. And so that I was sort of saving that aspect of the book for later. Okay, so I had to wait until she got the condom. And I wanted to have some sexy times before that.

Elle
That’s great. I’m curious. Did you get any pushback about the whole condom thing? Because, okay, alright, just because it is like out of period quota. You know what I mean? Like that, that probably wouldn’t have happened, but who cares, right?

Catherine
I mean, it would be. I mean, it would not be super strange for, like the men to be like secretly talking to each other and being like, Hey, you know, you want to go hang out and find a girl later. But yeah, but it was a little bit. I did push the boundary a little bit with having someone actually being like, I’m gonna hand out condoms to all my buddies. But again, that was it was a nod to the Olympic athletes and the whole debate of, oh no, do I need to abstain from sex before my event so that I’m physically fit or the other side of the coin is like, is this a great way to get all my emotions and aggressions and everything about so I’m just ready to go and nothing else is going to distract me from my event. So I wanted to kind of play with that athlete expert aspect. I’m a big sports fan. So this is my one of my one of my sports books. I like to put sports in my historicals

Elle
Oh, that’s really fun. I Had no idea cuz then this one core is an archer. Is that correct? Yeah, yeah, they were there was

Catherine
The only women’s event in the 1904 Olympics was the archery. And so I’m gonna make her an archer and she’s gonna compete in the Olympics.

Elle
I think that’s kind of cool though. I love that she is an archer. There was something about that, that I thought was really kind of neat. You know, like more interesting than a swimmer or a long jumper. I was like, okay, she’s an archer. She can handle a bow and arrow, she can handle a weapon.

Unknown Speaker
Yep. She does say in the book when, when one of the more villainous characters is kind of harassing her. She’s like, I know how to handle a deadly weapon, like, don’t necessarily want to mess with me.

Elle
This is so cool. Okay, this has been great. I absolutely loved the scene. And I thought it was so super sexy. Thank you. I really like it. It’s one of my favorites. So what do you have coming up next? What’s next for you?

Catherine
My next book will be in this same steampunk series, the same one is in a shot in the heart. And it will be out this summer. I’m working on the final edits to it right now. It’s called dead Dukes tell no tales. Oh, I love it. And it is my Duke and Pirate book. The hero is an American who has inherited and duped them unexpectedly because he is the very, very distant heir. And the hero is a an airship pirate. And she’s searching for treasures. So they basically go on a big treasure hunt.

Elle
Oh, that’s great. It kind of sounds a little fish out of water. If it’s somebody who’s like an American that inherits some sort of like dukedom and they’re like, what the hell is this? And

Catherine
They’re both a little bit kind of outside of society. And the people around them are kind of like pushing at them to like, Well, you know, you’re supposed to do this and you’re supposed to do that and they’re like, but that doesn’t really fit us in our personality. So they’re kind of trying to work within the system and like how can they still be themselves and kind of adapt to the world around them?

Elle
And you also just have a recent release, Love at Second Sight.

Catherine
Yes, that is the last book in my Potions and Passions series. That’s the magic potions world got that book is an amnesia book. amnesia is one of my like, favorite quirky tropes.

Elle
I love amneisia in soaps so I’m right there with you

Catherine
I wanted to write an amnesia book. And because I had this magic potions world I could do basically whatever I wanted with amnesia, I didn’t have to have somebody get clumped over the head. I could just have them in just a potion. And so what has happened is both the hero and the heroine have lost their memories. They are a married couple, but now they don’t remember each other with this memory loss potion, and so they have to sort of solve the mystery and figure out who they are and what is why are they pulled towards each other it gets a little bit of a faded meets five because they really feel like connection to each other but are like why am I so interested in this person?

Elle
Oh my gosh. Wow. This is awesome. I’m excited about this series. I’m really looking forward to picking that one up. So very cool. How many books do you write a year? I mean, you’ve got you seem You’re so prolific.

Catherine
I go three to four books a year. That’s what I’ve done so far.

Elle
Okay, that’s, that’s amazing. Wow, Cat. Thank you so much for doing this with me. This was awesome

Catherine
Thanks for having me.

Elle
Oh my God, my pleasure. Yay. Oh, I almost forgot where can readers find you?

Catherine
Um, I am all over social media at cat Stein books, CAT STEIN books. And I am on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and now tik tok. I’m just starting to learn Tic Tok. I’m on all those things at and it’s cat stein books. My website is www cat Stein books dot com. And that has all of my books listed. It’s got some excerpts from the book so you can figure out what series is what it tells has content warnings if anybody needs those, and that it also has links to find my social media and to find my books for purchase wherever you need them.

Elle
And I will have links to those places in the show notes. I’m curious how’s Tik Tok going for you?

Catherine
It’s been fun so far. I’ve only been doing it for not quite a week now. Oh, wow. Okay, and I’m enjoying it.

Elle
It’s how many of you put up there.

Catherine
My first one was like just an intro to me. So I was wearing one of my costume And I’m like, this is me. And I like tea and steampunk and I write books and I read books. So that’s what I’ve done. And so far I’ve done one about sort of my writing brain and I did one more, I shared some my tea and some of my hats. So that’s kind of what I’m going to do. I’ll like me with my costumes, I will have me with my books. And then writing stuff whenever I think of

Elle
What a super fun idea because I just went on tik tok. And I was like, I have no idea what I’m doing. And I did like my only post on there is Gen X discovers tik tok for the first time, and it’s like, What the fuck is going on?

Catherine
That’s how I felt. Because I was why I for about a week, I just like had the app. I’m just like, looking at it every now and see what some other people were doing. Like, okay, what is this? Yeah, when I first opened it up, it was like, oh, there’s just constant video. Okay, how do I find anything? And it was just sort of this kind of navigating a completely new social media space. Yeah. But once I figured out how to make the videos, which it’s my first video took me a really long time. But now that I figured it out, I sort of have like, Okay, this is how it works.

Elle
Are you doing it in app are you doing because this is the one thing that I’m trying to figure out? Am I supposed to be doing it in app? Or can I edit it outside of the app and then upload it,

Catherine
You can edit outside the app and upload it. There are like, some programs and websites. I think that where you can do the editing kind of stuff. Or presumably if you are a video editing type of person, and you have software you can presumably do that. I’ve done in mind all in app because on Okay, that’s the easiest way for me. Right?

Elle
Right. Okay, cuz I was just kind of like going, am I supposed to be doing this? Like, because it just because I can do video editing. I’m not great at it. But I can do it, you know. So it was a little bit weird to actually like, do it an app and try and actually it was actually a little bit hard for me to figure out how to do it in app like what was going on?

Catherine
Yeah, the first time I was, I was like, wait, what do I do? How do I pick up part of the clip I want and figure it out all those things, then it went pretty smooth.

Elle
Okay, cuz I was like, wait, I know how to use video editing software. I have no idea what’s going on. I’m gonna go stalk you because I have no idea what to do. And I might copycat some of yours. Don’t have costumes and hats and T. But I like the idea of this is who I am. This is what I do. Here’s some of my stuff. I like the idea of that, because that sort of seems like a nice slow intro, as opposed to doing like the weird Tik Tok dances

Catherine
Well, and there’s a lot of people, a lot of authors starting to do book talk. And like talking about the writing process and showing off their books, and hey, this is what I read this weekend or whatever. And so I can find a lot of things in the in the doc,

Elle
I think for me, I always feel so awkward, like who’s gonna want to hear about my process, right? Do you know what I mean? Like, oh my god, because a lot of people have it out there. So somebody is watching it? I guess so because I’m like, I like I’m like, Who’s gonna fight like I sit down and I write that’s not very interesting watching me type away. not interesting at all. But I should spend more time on book talk right now. I’m into gaytok. I love gay tik tok. That’s like where my heart is. So Cat, thank you so much for for doing this. It was a real pleasure to have you.

Catherine
Thanks so much.