Monday, May 14, 2012

Wild Arcana with Lux Zakari

Lux Zakari and I have known each other for quite a while now. I've had the privilege of having her as my editor and I can say with all honesty that I love her fiction as much as she loves mine. She writes what I'd term as erotic fiction for women who are looking for sharp characterisation and narrative in addition to the erotic elements. Definitely a thinking woman's writer who leaves you well satisfied to the last page.

Today I welcome Lux to my blog for a little Q&A, and we're chatting about her most recent release, Wild Arcana.

ND: Wild Arcana balances the story from a handful of characters. Multiple points of view can be quite tricky. How did you manage to give each character a meaningful story arc?

LZ: Wild Arcana is made up of several intertwining stories in one because it was actually supposed to be several books—both Trey’s and Shane’s storylines were meant to be separate stories, and Kri’s was half-borrowed from a previous collaboration I’d written with a friend. In the end, I decided I’d rather experiment with weaving them in with everyone else’s storylines.

I honestly don’t remember where I came up with the ideas for what happens to Brand and Disa, but I did know that in the beginning, my goal was to write a story guided by tarot cards. I intended to achieve this by not having any kind of plot in mind; I just wanted to start writing, and when I got stuck, I’d choose a tarot card at random and try to make it work. Somehow, this idea evolved into following the already existing storyline in the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana, as well as getting the opportunity to recycle and reuse some half-formed ideas. I tried to keep each story arc meaningful by considering them as separate from the get-go, then I went back and laced them together more tightly.

ND: So, who ended up being your favourite character? Why? Any parts of his/her development that jumped out at you?

LZ: It’s really hard not to like Brand. As the son of a couple who had a one-hit wonder in the 1980s, he’s been living the easy life, doing little but sleeping around, selling weed, and having a good time. When his cop boyfriend finally has enough and calls an end to their relationship, Brand attempts to throw himself into the party mindset and move on, but despairs when he recognizes how meaningless his life truly is. He’s jaded, lazy, and careless and makes horrible decisions, but he’s also pensive, honest, and sweetly but sarcastically self-deprecating. I had fun writing him; I enjoyed the challenge of trying to rouse readers’ compassion for a drug dealer, and his scenes with his best friend Disa are some of my favorites. I loved writing their bratty banter and the challenge of keeping it both nasty yet affectionate.

Speaking of Disa, she’s another character who really grabbed me. She begins the story as a sexually manipulative pleasure-seeker—someone who gets off on breaking hearts and exerting her power over men—yet she is probably the one who undergoes the most growth, transforming from a cruel, relatively unsympathetic woman into someone to root for. Despite her carelessness when it comes to the boys, she is an incredibly loyal friend, which is demonstrated in her relationships with Kri and Brand. I also thought her sex scenes wound up being the hottest, and of all the characters, she’s the one with sequel potential, should I choose to go that route.

ND: You feature multi-racial and gay relationships in the story. Did the characters just jump out at you fully formed and shout "write me?" or did you purposefully set out to create such diversity?

LZ: It was a purposeful move on my end. I admittedly wanted to reach a wider audience, but more so, I just craved the variety; it’s no fun to perpetually write about white blondes, brunettes, and redheads rolling around together in a strictly m/f way. Plus, given the New York City setting, their lifestyles, and ages, the diversity just made sense.

ND: All your characters have quite fabulous lifestyles. What are the unique challenges each faces, in your opinion? Each of them gets their just deserts. Are there some especially piquant moments you can share without giving away the plot?

LZ: I believe I can sum up all the character’s drama with a blurb from the blurb!:

SHANE, the movie star. He arrives at a rehabilitation clinic for his sex addiction only to be enticed in ways he never thought possible...

TREY, the contractor. He looks after his friend’s deeply troubled stepsister under the guise of remodeling his New York City high-rise, but soon faces temptations that test the bonds of friendship and his self-control...

KRI, the Japanese heiress. Regrets haunt her when she learns she’s pregnant and must leave her lover at the insistence of her strict, traditional father...

BRAND, the high-profile drug dealer. He wrestles with demons of his own after his boyfriend—a cop—ends their relationship over his questionable career path...

DISA, the wayward tennis player. She has her sights set on talk show host Jules Rohan with no idea just how much truth lies in his bad-boy reputation...

I don’t know about their challenges, but one of mine was whipping up those fabulous lifestyles of theirs! Often I get bogged down and distracted with logistics, but with this story, I just had suspend my disbelief and go with it, and hope readers do, too.

As for something spicy, would a brief excerpt suffice? The following is in regards to Shane, suffering in rehab for his supposed sex addition with more than just a crush on his tasty group leader, Cyndi, when he gets an intriguing message online:

The message read, “You think I don’t notice you, trying not to notice me, but I do.”

Shane arched an eyebrow and clicked on NYLunatic’s profile, which revealed only the user’s gender, female. He couldn’t imagine who it could be. “You sure you have the right person?” he typed.

“Shane Gunder. I’m definitely sure.”

He started at the woman—if it was truly a woman—identifying him so accurately. Aside from the past month, he rarely found reason to go online, and his username was not something he gave out liberally. “I take it I know you then?”

“Of course you do. You fantasize about me all the time. You’re probably fantasizing about me right now.”

He stifled a sigh. He had no desire to play mind games with idiots on the internet. “Yeah? And who exactly is ‘me’?

“I’m hurt you don’t already know. Should I describe myself to you?”

“If you must.”

“Red hair. About five two. Pale skin. Freckles in places you wouldn’t believe. Wore a green dress you wanted to tear off me today. Currently not wearing much underneath it.”

Shane swallowed hard. No way. Cyndi? Knowing his username? Knowing his problem and coming on to him anyway?

“I want you to do me a favor, Shane. I’m going to tell you a fantasy of mine, and I want you to come thinking about me. Okay?”

That wouldn’t be difficult. “I thought we weren’t supposed to beat off while in the program.”

“Please. I know you do it anyway. And I can tell just by looking at you that you do it while thinking about me. So drop the pretense. I find the truth much sexier.”

“Fine.” He drew another cigarette from the pack and let it dangle from his mouth. “Let’s hear this fantasy.”

Shane lit his cigarette and smoked in a nervous silence for the next few minutes while Cyndi wrote her reply.

His heart hammered in his chest, both excited and scared to death of what Cyndi would say.

Finally, her message appeared. “The hallway of the center is completely silent. I find my office and slide my key in the lock. The door opens with a click. I step inside the room and shut the door behind me without turning on the light. Then I feel him behind me. Shane.

“He pulls my hair to the side and kisses my neck as his other hand works at tugging up my dress. His hand untangles from my hair and pushes the neckline of my dress down, exposing my tits, as the other hand makes a circle around my clit. I start to moan but his hand silences me, and he plunges a finger in my dripping cunt. Soon his hand is replaced with his cock.

“Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s my colleagues, fresh from the meeting and wanting to know if I’d like to get dinner. I can hear them breathing, separated from me by only a weak door. God, what would they think if they walked in and saw me getting screwed by one of the people I was supposed to be helping? So much is at stake here, but I can’t push him away. I want this too much…”

ND: How did you borrow from the themes of the Major Arcana to shine through in the story? This sounds like it could have been quite tricky--with the very real danger that you'd shoehorn a plot to fit the theme. How did you get past this?

LZ: I was actually grateful for the opportunity to have the Major Arcana’s basic formula/plot line to follow, with the added bonus of having the freedom of interpretation. I definitely don’t consider myself to be a tarot guru; I doubt myself too much when doing readings, and I never know if the answer is just my wishful or negative thinking. But I know enough about the Rider-Waite basics to know what themes I needed to have in each chapter.

I remember in the beginning assigning each character to a chapter and its corresponding card. I knew I wanted to start and end in a similar way, with the same character, and certain events had to happen at certain times. And I tried to be “even” with the character assignments—“Oh, it’s been awhile since we heard from Shane, let’s give him something to do here” or “I need to wrap up this storyline about here, but that can’t happen until this other one ends,” and so on. Man, I’m getting exhausted just remembering all that! But the plotting was fun, and I liked sneaking the tarot themes into the details—be it in a prop, event, someone’s name, or just the way something was phrased. I’d like to think of them as little Easter eggs for readers with a little bit of a background in tarot!

ND: You've recently embarked on a self-publishing career. What challenges have you faced and how has your considerable experience in small press publishing prepared you for this endeavour?

LZ: Having experience with small-press publishing was helpful in that it gave me a boost in regards to exposure, and working as an editor helped me become a better writer for sure; I’m more critical of my own work. The challenges I’ve faced are, unfortunately, marketing ones. I don’t have the budget or the time to do anything elaborate right now, but I’m experimental! I have some ideas up my sleeve. Also, because anyone who knows how can publish a novel these days, I think it’s hard for readers to trust what’s truly worth their time and money. I definitely need to do more to prove myself to them.

But I’m really enjoying self-publishing. The world of publishing is changing; authors have more control, provided that they want it. An author friend of mine pointed out that if you have a good editor and cover artist in your corner, as well as marketing know-how, you’re pretty much good to go. I also have a background in art, so now I’m dabbling in creating my covers, such as the one for Wild Arcana, so to be able to combine my love for writing and art (and control freakiness) is absolutely perfect for me.

ND: You've got a tasty short up as a free read. Can you describe Across the Way in three words?

LZ: In the words of red-scrunchie queen Heather Chandler: “Shower-nozzle masturbation material.”

I’m deferring to MS Word here, which believes “shower-nozzle” is one word. However, it also thinks synonyms for “information” are “in a row,” “in sequence”… Bug alert!

ND: Any future works readers should look out for?

LZ: Right now, I’m in the process of editing my next novel: Single, Cool, and Fine: How to Get Laid as an Ex-Teen Idol. It’s about how a struggling musician, who had fame when he was young, is in the throes of a divorce, only to realize that, because of his lifestyle and early marriage, he has no idea how to date. So, at the urging of his friend and younger brother, he takes to reading fan fiction about himself in order to gain dating tips and advice on how to be the guy everyone wants him to be. I can’t tell you how excited I am about it. So far, it’s my most favorite story I’ve written; I had such a good time writing it, and I can’t wait to unleash it upon the world!

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Wild Arcana is available on Smashwords or Amazon.

To download Across the Way for free, visit its page on Smashwords or Goodreads.

Find Lux Zakari at her website or email her.

Alternatively, follow her on Twitter @luxzakari, Goodreads, Tumblr or Facebook.