Interview with Cecilia Tan
In addition to being an award winning romance author of the Struck by Lightning and The Secrets of Rock Stars series, Tan is also a baseball maven and member of the Society of American Baseball Writers (SABR). She has also had time to write fan fiction and a serialized tale about a guitar player (Daron’s Guitar Chronicles) since 2009, which is now bordering on 1.3 million words (and still going). She is also the founder and Publisher of Circlet Press, a 25 year-old science fiction and fantasy erotica publisher.
She is currently working on a blood magic fantasy series for Tor Books.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I do remember the first story I wrote because my mother had it up on the fridge with a magnet for years and she still has a copy of it. Don't laugh! It was called "The Witch and the Bunny," but I hadn't learned to spell yet because I had basically taught myself to write by sounding out words. So it reads "The Wich and the Bune." It was illustrated and I folded the paper over and wrote "Th end" on the back. I was four.
What is your writing process?
When I write a short story I just sit down with the blank page and let inspiration flow: it just takes one little nugget of a feeling or an image to build an entire story. With a novel it's a bit more involved, but honestly every one has been different. Some series I do a lot of planning of plot points and arcs beforehand, others all the prep is in the world building and characters but I don't actually write out any of the plot. I've written over 20 novels now and each one has unique demands. As I often say, I know how to write a book, but each time I start anew, I have to learn how to write THAT book.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
You have to go all the way back to Dr. Seuss for that. I remember being so intrigued by The Cat in the Hat and also The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins. I thought there was more going on there than I understood. The first things I bought with my own money to read for myself, though, were comic books. Wonder Woman, Superboy and the Legion of the Super Heroes, and Superman Family were my favorites. I read them over and over again. I loved stories that were different from the real world in some way or that showed a side of things I didn't know about. That continues on into "real" books like Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles. Bradbury's stories like "All Summer in a Day" and "The Veldt" cemented my early conviction that I was a writer and would someday be published, too.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing, you'll find me either eating in the best restaurant I can find or asleep. Eating and sleeping are underrated activities, and I am a champion of both.
What are you working on next?
My time is being split this year between two big projects, one that is ending, and one that is launching. I'm in the midst of writing what will be the final arc of Daron's Guitar Chronicles, a book series I originally launched here at Smashwords in 2009. The serial has been running for almost ten years! So there are a lot of threads to tie up in that one. The other one, the thing that is just starting, is The Vanished Chronicles. These books will be urban fantasy with sex magic and ritual BDSM instead of vampires. Book 1 is done but we're not going to launch until I have a full draft of book 2 to make sure we keep up the momentum. It's exciting.
What do you read for pleasure?
For pleasure I try to read outside of the genres I write in. If I read an erotic romance or a paranormal, it's "work." So I read stuff like YA fantasy, which is so very different from what I write, and autobiographies of interesting people. Of course sometimes the autobiographies end up being research--like all the memoirs I've read by US Navy SEALs, as well as all the rock stars. Lots of rock stars in my books!
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I read on my phone. It's always with me!
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I was born in New York City and grew up in and around the city in the 1970s and '80s. This may be why I write urban fantasy and not small town romance! I grew up thinking every place was like Sesame Street and the Starship Enterprise, where people of all races and colors and ethnicities were all mixed together as normal. I think maybe I've always written what's now called "diverse" casts because to me that is just normal. Having everyone be white and straight feels very, very artificial to me.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I have published with every level of publisher, from the Big 5 to the cutting edge niche publishers to self-publishing, and I always have. I self-published my first book in 1992, and my first book with a big 5 publisher in 1998, and I've continued to sell different projects in different ways all along. At first I didn't want to self-publish, but it was better to self-publish the material that publishers would not touch than it was to try to write something "mainstream." When I was a young writer, if instead of self-publishing books like Telepaths Don't Need Safewords I had tried to chase after what publishers "wanted," I would not still be writing today. I would have burned out and probably given up. Instead, I found my own audience and proved that there was a readership for me, for BDSM, for erotica, and for erotic science fiction back when no publisher would touch it. Here we are over 25 years later and the world has finally caught up with me. So now I have some projects that are right for big publishers, some that are right for small publishers, and there are still some I indie publish for myself. Now I save those projects for the ones where I want complete control and don't want to compromise.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
There's nothing like feeling a story come to life. You remember the old TV show, "The A Team," and at some point in every episode their leader would say "I love it when a plan comes together!" That's me while writing every book. It always seems like it's all going to fall apart of it's never going to be finished... and then you realize that the pieces are falling into place. Nothing feels better. Although sex is a close second.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans are everything. Without them I'm just shouting into the void. One of the best things about self-publishing is it has meant making connections with fans that I wouldn't have in the traditional publishing process. Like when I publish a serial online and the fans comment and build a community around it. That just wouldn't happen with a traditionally published novel.
February is Black History month, Women in Horror Month and of course, is the month for Valentine’s Day. Check your horoscope to see if love is in the stars for you this month. Even if you can’t get out in the world for now, you can make connections online. Also, if you do work with the community, you can expand your circle of friends and meet new people. Whether you are still in lockdown or not, you can still connect with people through the internet and phone or even standing outside socially distanced. Don’t forget to check up on friends who live alone, they might be lonely but not sure how to reach out.
To celebrate Women in Horror month, Sèphera will be reading from her own horror work on her Twitch channel on Thursday, February 11 at 7 pm EST. It’s free and will be fun!
If you’re interested in a free tarot card reading, follow Sèphera on Twitch for Tarot Tuesday and other
times she’s online.
Two Spirits, One Heart chronicles Marsha's personal journey from fear, uncertainty, and sadness to eventual unconditional love, acceptance, and support of her child who struggled to reconcile his gender identity. Told with honesty and warmth, this book is a must-read for parents and loved ones of LGBTQ+individuals everywhere.