Tonia Brown, author of the novel, Lucky Stiff: Memoirs of an Undead Lover, was kind enough to let me ask her a few questions on Peter (the zombie Casanova, which has crawled into so many hearts), Madam Sangrail (the woman who basically fucked Peter back to life) and the inspiration that led her on the path of becoming a writer.
Monique: Lets start off with the difficult questions first… So tell me Tonia, what drove you to write erotica?
Tonia: My first published works were erotic in nature partially because I had the opportunity to write them, and partially because I found I enjoyed it. My first serious writing project was a romantic novel. When I submitted it to a small publisher, they liked it but thought the characters were a bit on the innocent side. On my next try, I decided to attempt the opposite, and found I really liked writing the naughty bits. So, I just kept doing it.
Monique: I know many people perceive that an erotica writer actually enjoys what he/she writes about (you know, the sexual parts), is it something you can confirm or deny?
Tonia: Yes! I confirm this emphatically! While I don’t write nearly as much sexy stuff as I used to, I find sex tends to creep into most of my tales in some shape or form. They say write what you know, don’t they?
Monique: Was Peter a planned out character or did he take on a life of his own?
Tonia: The seed idea of Peter started as the result of another novella. When I wrote The Blooming, I was careful not to put the zombies in sexual situations because the idea of it was just … disturbing. Yet, the whole time I was writing it, I toyed with this idea of how a zombie would have sex. Would they? They seem to like to eat. Would they want to screw too? I tossed this idea back and forth within my circle of friends, and we laughed about how it could work. It was a very enlightening and interesting series of discussions.
When I was done with The Blooming, and finished work on another erotic novella, I sat down to pen a few shorts for some anthologies I had my eye on. I typed a few things, intending to write a steampunk piece, but what came across the computer screen were the words:
“My name is Peter Lyles, and I’m dead.”
I hadn’t planned on writing his tale, or doing so in first person, which I usually avoid. But he insisted. I know this sounds weird, and I’m going to get the stink eye from a lot of writers for saying this, but I swear to the heavens above that it was less like writing a novel and more like taking dictation. I dropped 96,000 words in 56 days. No outline. No backtracking. Just chapter for chapter writing. When I passed it off to an editor, she found it needed little work other than some cleanup. Peter told his tale from beginning to end, chapter headers and all, word for word. I just took notes.
Monique: Something that’s been bugging me since I read Lucky Stiff was Peter’s lack of ejaculating; may I ask why you took that route? Was it the fact that you didn’t want half dead zombie-ish kiddies running around?
Tonia: Two reasons here.
One: During talks with my friends, the subject of erections rose to the top of the list. How would the zombie maintain an erection when he didn’t have any blood flow? It was a hard topic to ignore. When it came (pun intended) time for Peter to develop a zombie lover physiology, I decided that if he didn’t pump blood, he couldn’t pump any fluids. His erection is by means of magic. His lack of ejaculation is by means of biology.
Two: As I settled on the idea of it, I kind of liked it. Peter really is the perfect lover. A permanent rock hard man, eager to please and hungry (literally) for your orgasm. He can’t get you pregnant. He can’t carry disease. He never tires. Never gets tired of you. So rather than make his priapism a problem, I focused on it being his blessing, and his curse.
Monique: I liked Madam Sangrail a lot; she’s one of the few female characters that I think is real in fiction. She says it like it is… basically she calls a spade a spade and I liked that a lot. What was your inspiration to create her?
Tonia: Sangrail came out of nowhere! I had no idea she was going to play such a big role in Peter’s unlife, or in the long run of the story. I knew she was his ticket to immortality, but I didn’t know how much. She was supposed to be in a few chapters, but she wouldn’t let me cut her free. Before I knew it, I had half a book with her in it, and even then she wanted to keep in touch with her Petar. And as you know by now, she’s not the kind of woman you say no to.
Monique: Do you think you’ll continue with Madam Sangrail in a prequel or spin-off novel perhaps? *crosses fingers and whispers: “Please say yes, please say yes…”*
Tonia: Actually, I hadn’t given it much thought. I would love to work with her again. Perhaps her story should be told. It sure is an interesting one. *taps chin and starts to wonder*
Monique: What made you want to become a writer in the first place?
Tonia: Reading. I love to read. I grew up on the greats: King, Vonnegut, Robbins, Poe, Lovecraft. Then the terrible happened. One day I was reading a book, the author’s name I shall leave a mystery, and it dawned on me that it was a complete piece of tripe. Not just that but a complete piece of tripe I had paid full price for! I told my husband I could have written a better story, to which he replied, “Then do it.” So I did.
Monique: I know I ask all the authors this, but it’s something that I’m sure not only I am interested in hearing… Did music influence Lucky Stiff: Memoirs of an Undead Lover?
Tonia: Music influences everything I do. I have a tendency to sneak either song titles or lyrics into my work. I listened to a lot of 80’s songs when writing Peter’s tale. Even when I had moved beyond that era in his story, I still found that ‘sound’ put me in the perfect mood to write his tale.
Monique: Would you be so kind as to tell us a little bit about your upcoming work? Is it anything like Lucky Stiff: Memoirs of an Undead Lover?
Tonia: Sure! I’m nothing if not an attention whore. (And yes, you can quote me on that.)
Right now I am working with an agent to get my steampunk horror novel, tentatively titled “The Cold Beneath” into the hands of a major publisher. *fingers crossed* Hopefully it will be available for reading soon. I’m very sexcited about it. And no, it’s not erotic. Meanwhile I have been penning the steampunk serial western adventure, Railroad! It involves crazy gadgets, daring gunplay, weird characters and odd situations, all set in the Wild West of 1870 or so. The story follows a train that can lay her own tracks, the barmy professor that invented it, and the troubled gunman hired to protect the thing. The tale is updated at about 3k words at a time, every Monday morning. It’s a great way to start the week!
You can find out more about it at www.steampunktrain.blogspot.com
Monique: Do you have any inspiring words to give some of our readers who might want to become writers too?
Tonia: Read. Read. Read. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write. Write for fun first, then after you’ve honed your craft try your hand at writing for profit. Keep an open mind about edits. Not every word you write is gold. Not even half of them. Get used to that idea. Otherwise, enjoy yourself. Writing should be fun. If you aren’t having fun, then it will show in your work.