Please welcome my good author friend, fellow Breathless Press Author, and beer enthusiast, Liz Crowe. Liz and I met before either of us were published and worked together, critiquing each other's works. It's like destiny that we found a home with the same publisher within a couple months of each other! Without further ado, here's Liz!
1.) Thank you for visiting today and answering a few questions. I'm going to step into uncharted territory with a few of my questions, but let's start with the staple... Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live one of those schizoid lives that many authors inhabit. Unable to actually carve out a living (yet) simply sitting and writing/editing/re-writing all day like many of us would like we get up and get out and make money elsewhere. Of course, I’ve taken a slightly different tack with this having recently more or less given up making money selling houses to focus on my new project: The Wolverine State Brewing Co. in Ann Arbor. I’m part owner, sales and marketing director and have created this character “The A2 Beer Wench” (not to be confused with the West Coast Beer Wench who is a journalist and kick arse karaoke partner) who blogs, facebooks, tweets and generally makes Herself known in the craft beer world as the “face” of the company. www.a2beerwench.com is where she cavorts and creates mayhem and lusts after Sam Calagione and whatnot, causing her business partners to roll their eyes and suffer her because she sells beer.
On the home front, I have one kid in college, one in 10th and another in 7th grade all busy with sports, music and being teenagers, which provides me plenty of windshield time opportunity to ponder the many universes of my characters. I have a degree in English Lit but have spent the bulk of my post-college days in marketing and public relations (and breeding, apparently). Ann Arbor, Michigan is home now but I’ve lived in three foreign countries (4 if you count Overland Park, Kansas). I’m a Southern Girl at heart, born in Nash-Vegas, Tennessee, and a graduate of the University of Louisville, Go Cards! I’m a rabid sports fan – only the real stuff, no golf or NASCAR, preferably soccer because frankly those are the hottest and most fit dudes around (and that Rick Pitino, he sure could write HIS own erotic fiction couldn’t he now?)
2.) Tell us about your latest book.
“The Rookie” is a short story (@ 8000 words) that was to be part of a series “Brewing Passion”. Turns out that my publisher figured out it, and the other story that’s in line edits (“Jockey Box”), are the missing chapters of a serialized novel “The Tap Room” (@ 60,000 words) that I had on my blog: www.aabedwench.blogspot.com. They now have the entire story in their hot little hands and we hope to get it out there spring/summer 2011 after “Jockey Box” and the Naughty Holiday chapter “XXXMas Ale” are released.
The Rookie is about a hot shot beer sales woman, Lisa, who is facing her least favorite sort of sales day—dragging a beer company rookie rep around on her calls (the dreaded “Ride Along” which was the working title for a while). Turns out that guy, Trent, is neither just a rep NOR a rookie and their instant sexual attraction and tension finally culminates in a surprise encounter in a pretty cool place.
3.) Romance heroes come in many flavors, but most are some epitome of a woman's fantasy, rather than a truthful everyday guy. However, because they represent what many women need/want or wish for in a partner, what could men learn from your heroes?
I read a lot in my genre, naturally and realize that 90% of the stuff out there is pure fantasy, as you say, even down to the larger than life, perfect men who strut around f**king everything that moves just because they can, in their six foot plus, thick haired, dark eyed, muscled glory. Between The Tap Room (the beer story) and Floor Time (another WIP that’s Realtor centric but set in the same town with many of the same characters in The Tap Room) I’ve created no less than six heroes. It makes my editor crazy, frankly and she keeps trying to tell me “traditional romance readers” don’t want that many options. But then she admits she herself is torn by the choices my heroines must make and wants to read on to find out what happens.
I swore to myself I would always stick to a more realistic arrangement for my heroines—you know, going from nothing and staring at reruns of The Office on Saturday nights to having to choose between more than one VERY viable male option—and NOT always making what the reader considers the “right choice”. Anyways, I’ve managed NOT to answer your question…can you tell?
I usually create a “love to hate him” option and a nicer one—not a perfect guy by any stretch, but one the readers tend to root for because we can all see what a disaster that bad boy will be for our heroine. My heroes are what I feel many men are: flawed humans, with normal physical needs/urges, including a need to make a connection with a special someone but reluctant to admit it (and once they’ve achieved one, quick to screw it up). They are, in a word, real. I love men, frankly, love to watch them walk, talk, drink, work, drive, mow the grass, whatever. They are horrifically frustrating creatures of course, but so are we. That’s what makes this sort of fiction so fun to create for me. Bringing out The Real in a hero is my favorite moment, once we’ve gotten past his swaggering, boasting, chest thumping bullshit. Keep it real men. That’s what you can learn from Trent, Owen, Jeff, Bradley, Jack, and Craig. Let us be our real selves around you too, once we’ve gotten past our own lipsticked, Brazillian waxed, pilates pummeled, sexy shoe wearing ideas of our own perfection.
4.) The heroine is the backbone of every romance and represents for the reader, a little part of themselves. I daresay, even for the male readers. What aspects of yourself, might we see a hint of in your heroines?
Oh I’m all over these gals I can tell you. “Erin Brady,” the heroine of The Tap Room, is the sole female owner of a small craft brewery and bar in a mid west college town. She has some issues I don’t have, and manages to get herself into predicaments I only imagine, of course (and if I’m writing from real life experience well, you can just try to figure out which ones THOSE are). Erin is torn by her need to be taken seriously in the Man’s World of Beer (yeah, we are making strides, we Beer Wenches, but we are still an anomaly which is fine with me, frankly), and her desire to maintain a normal personal life—something that is slowly slipping away as the story progresses. The need to be seen as Keg-Lifting strong, beer-drinking capable and smart with the Boys, yet sales savvy and still feminine is a real dilemma as This Wench can attest.
Lisa, the heroine of The Rookie (my first published work) has the same problem. She is a GREAT sales person, knows her products, is driven and more than a little OCD when it comes to hitting her sales goals at the cost of anything like a personal life—until Trent strides in to her universe of course. Leave to a man to give our little self-important lives a flip on its tail, eh ladies?
5.) A followup question, if I may. What aspects common to your heroines, would you like to see in yourself that isn't readily seen by others in real life?
Sara Thornton, my heroine in the Realtor WIP (Floor Time) has a lot of single minded focus that I lack. Of course she doesn’t have her finger in quite as many pies as I do either. However, I created Sara as more of a reflection of what I WAS as a Realtor (BBB=Back Before Beer): determined to prove myself, make a sh*tload of money through hard work, networking and raw guerilla marketing tactics that are crucial to any small business be it selling houses or beer. As you’ve probably discerned by now, her Bad Boy shows up (was actually lurking about for a while but makes his move within the course of the story) and she struggles to maintain her prior laser beam focus on her goals. That Nice Guy helps, but ultimately, Sara opts for the dangerous and unpredictable—at least for a while.
Now that I’m Beer Wenching and formulating naughty fiction instead of driving annoying buyers around in my car for hours only to have them choose to rent for a year or whatever, I am kinda scattered, I won’t kid you, in ways that are alarming to me. My Bad Boy is Beer, I guess. And He is a sexy beast, ‘specially since I picture him in a Sam Calagione shaped package (I promise to explain this reference).
6.) The term "Alpha Male" means two different things to men and women, in a very general and broad sense. What characteristics do you like to include in your heroes, that might qualify them as an Alpha Male?
I had this debate just this week with my 16-going on 30 year old daughter with regard to “Bro’s”, the new slang for “Young Alpha Male” in high school circles. A “Bro” is, depending on your perspective, The coolest dude in the room or the fraternity-bound tool who carries his lacrosse stick in the gun rack of his F150. He has the best hair, best clothes, hottest girls, usually good grades and is an Eddie Haskell level brown noser to the grups. My daughter is dating one.
An Alpha Male in his infancy started as a “bro” most likely. How better to become accustomed to screwing the hottest women and eating first after every hunt than to be That Guy in high school? As he develops, the Alpha learns that his power can be wielded for good or evil and I would venture most use it for good, making boat loads of money as lawyers, doctors or other professions that put them out in front of people constantly. An Alpha will settle down, choosing a woman of similar potential for his mate and they will typically reside in a McMansion, drive SUVs and have a few kids who generally excel at everything they try. I know, because I have sold a lot of 4000 square foot plus homes to these guys.
I am personally drawn to Alpha Males as a rule. I like to see what I can use in my girlie arsenal to bring them to their knees a bit. Usually works out well for all concerned. And my books are riddled with these guys, whether they are millionaire, 6’4” Jon Hamm look alike Realtors (Jack) or his rock band playing, Ducati riding, blond haired foil for Sara’s heart (Craig).
Erin is in the process of divorcing her Uber-Alpha-Male husband Bradley, a former football playing old Southern Money banker who simply cannot deal with the attention she now pays to her business of beer instead of him. She is surrounded by Alphas (Entrepreneurs in beer are such by definition) which is at moments both amazingly hot and incredibly stressful but ultimately, when she comes to terms with the level of relationship she has with each of them, turns out to be a happy place for her.
My Alphas (there are no Betas in my books—it doesn’t make for good conflict when one guy will just lie down and take it, you know?) come in all shapes and colors, but they share a few core characteristics:
Striking good looks (not perfect, but striking)
Successful in business
At least one (or in the case of “Jack” several) failed serious relationship
A desire to “tame” or “possess” the heroine, only to find her untamable and elusive
A final realization that he does not have to tame or possess, merely love, which he does, with relish.
7.) What's your favorite non-romance book?
Anything by Jonathan Franzen (Freedom, his newest book full of meaty long sentences that I love to go back and read out loud to myself, is an amazing treatise on Real Human Beings—I recommend it to all romance writers if for no other reason to see that “not so happily ever after” can be entertaining too.
Brewing Up a Business by Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewing. A seminal “how to” and “how not to” for anyone starting a brewery. And he is smoking hot and the model for Trent, one of Erin’s business partners.
I’m also a closet Stephen King fan but only of his long epic- style stories like The Stand and Under the Dome.
8.) If you could be any fictional heroine/hero, who would it be and why?
Scarlett O’Hara—and trust me, Rhett would NOT have left, but would still be sitting at my feet feeding me peeled grapes and pouring my wine while I counted my money made in the lumber business.
9.) Pure fantasy here, someone seduces you. Who would it be, and how would they ignite the fire? (It's fantasy here, so there's no boundaries. If its Leonardo Di Caprio taking you on the bow of the Titanic, so be it! Run wild with it!)
Oh you WOULD make me work, wouldn’t you?
OK, I’m a huge fan of public or semi public encounters—the thrill of “maybe getting caught” is a huge turn on for me and I have held back on my Real Sam Fantasy until now (it’s first person short scene with names changed to protect the innocent):
It’s been a tough couple of days at a national beer festival, serving, talking, serving and talking more to the thousands of beer fans mobbing the cavernous hall. I’ve already introduced myself to my “beer crush” Jack Amato, and he has acknowledged that he’s “heard of me”, and posed for the requisite photo. I consider it “mission accomplished” – I’ve met several craft beer rock stars at this event and many of them have given me excellent advice. That’s the cool thing about the beer business at this level—the more success we each have the more craft beer drinkers we create, and hence the more beer we all sell. At one point, with only an hour to go on the last night of the event I sense eyes on me so I glance up across the aisle to see Jack standing, arms crossed, eyes narrowed, just watching me work. A shiver runs up my spine. I have not been short of admirers, drinking buddies and dark corner groping enablers all weekend. It’s the beauty of the “what happens at the beer fest, stays” attitude we all take.
But this? Damn, now THIS is the pure, damp, sheet grasping stuff of dreams. I wink, and wave, but my palms are sweaty and my knees wobbly and not from the copious amounts of beer I’ve sampled all day either. I lose sight of him as we start the clean up process, packing up marketing materials and the security dudes chase out the last of the rowdies. My partners and some other Michigan based brewers have arranged to meet up at The Cruise Room, the famous art deco martini bar at the Oxford Hotel a few blocks away. Yes, even beer people get sick of drinking beer—but there are martinis to be imbibed and the festival to be arm-chair quarterbacked and gossip to share so off we go.
I sit, cozily between a couple of my colleagues from breweries in Michigan, as the small bar fills up with more and more of us—seems lots of folks had the same idea. There is a commotion when Jack enters the room, which I ignore. Something in my “man radar” told me he’d show up here. I smile into my Vespa (the perfect Casino Royale, Daniel Craig inducing combination of top shelf gin, Russian Vodka and Lillet aperitif— with a lemon garnish--gorgeous!) as my buddy sitting next to me elbows me in the side. “He’s headed straight over here,” he hisses. “I know,” I say to him, my calm exterior hiding tremors that could be read on a home made Richter scale in California. I continue to ignore him, as he slaps backs, shakes hands, kisses proffered cheeks but keeps an eye on me as I sit and chat, ensconced between two brewers.
I give it a solid count of 20 once he is standing by our table, still chatting to the guy who’s followed him all the way across the room. I know he’s stopped here for a reason but I’ll be damned if I’ll acknowledge it just yet. I look up, ostensibly to find our waiter to get myself another fortitude shot in martini form. He meets my eyes, still running his mouth to the annoying guy next to him. I raise my eyebrows. “Jack,” I say, as I raise up a bit from my seat to find that damn waiter.
“Jack,” the table says as a group as he shakes hands all around. When he my palm I swear I feel an electric shock…and pull away quickly, my face reddening embarrassingly. He smiles—smirks is more like it—which pisses me off. Fuck this guy. He’s messing with me and I am too tired to deal with it I don’t care if he is the one guy whose book I literally sleep with and turn to when I’m hitting that “what the hell made me think this was a good idea” wall in my brewery business. Everybody at the table, hell, in the room knows I have a huge “internet crush” on the guy. And yeah, he’s married. Whatever. I put a hand on the guy on the outside of the old fashioned overstuffed booth seat. “Excuse me babe,” I mutter. “I need a pee break.” He stands, and all eyes, including Sam’s follow me out the door.
I stand at the mirror after splashing water on my face to calm down. My hair is a mess, my eyes are tired, but my color is high and I’m aware of how hard my nipples are under my thin bra and company tee shirt. As I lean down once more to cup some water in my hands to drink I hear the door close and a noise like the click of a lock. I stand back up and turn slowly to see all six foot two inch of him, dark eyes flashing with either amusement or passion, as he makes his way in two steps over to me. I lean back against the marble sink, unable to speak. He takes a deep shuddering breath, cups my chin in one of his hands and leans down. I keep my eyes open in shock as his lips touch mine, ever so gently, just brushing me as my hands go white knuckled gripping the edge of the sink behind me.
He stands back up and smiles before pulling me towards him and whispering in my ear, bringing goose bumps to my entire body. I feel him slip one of those credit card shaped keys into my back pocket and then he grasps my ass and pulls me against what promises to be a simply lovely rock hard erection under his zipper. “Room 1800, the penthouse,” he mutters and runs in lips down my neck as I lean back, unable to suppress a moan before I bury my hands in his hair and pull his face back to mine.
“Kiss me Jack,” I mutter. “Like you mean it.” And he captures my lips and invades my mouth with his tongue, his hands on my ass. The kiss makes me positively dizzy and when I lift a leg to wrap around him, giving me even more contact with that glorious bulge he’s sporting he moans and fists his hands in my hair, giving my lower lip one last nip.
“I’ll follow you back up there, but I expect to see you within an hour,” he releases me and steps back, making an adjustment to his tight jeans, trying to relieve some of the pressure. I realize I haven’t moved from my original position, leaning against the sink as I stare at him, about to smack myself across the face to wake up from this dream. He lifts his eyebrows, opens the door and motions for me to precede him. I float out in a haze of passion and he hooks a finger in my belt loop before I get all the way past him and leans down to whisper to me. “Room 1800 Liz, one hour,” He captures my earlobe in his teeth and I shiver. “Plan to stay over,” he pats my ass as I leave. “We have a lot to talk about.”
Knowing better, knowing I should tell him to fuck off and go mess with some young groupie, I realize that I will be counting the minutes before I can safely make my exit and open the door to his room with they key he gave me. I smile, slip into my spot, a fresh Vespa ready and waiting as Jack follows me back in, in full capture-the-room mode, I can still feel his lips on mine, smell his scent, and I cross my legs tight under the table, shivering in anticipation. My friend leans into me. “Fix your lipstick,” he mutters under his breath. I blush and rub it all off onto a napkin, and the sound of Jack’s laughter across the room sends new tremors down my spine. Oh yeah, we have a LOT to talk about all right, I think as I glance at my watch and start the countdown.
(I’m including our “requisite photo” here from the Great American Beer Festival last month…..let your imaginations run wild! He’s lovely, no?)
10.) Romance is made up of many facets, each reflecting an emotion and I believe, corresponds to a physical reaction. What three emotions are most important in your vision of romance?
Passion/physical chemistry/lust, pure and raw.
Jealousy, and its corresponding pain and then recovery.
Love that comes from understanding and mutual respect.
Thanks for the opportunity Brindle! It’s been a blast!