Here is a text transcript of DBSA 96. An Interview with Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso. You can listen to the mp3 here, or you can read on!
This podcast transcript was handmade with the highest grade alphabet letters by Garlic Knitter. Many thanks.
Here are the books we discuss:
Sarah Wendell: Hello, and welcome to another DBSA podcast. I’m Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. Today I am sitting down with Zoe Archer and Nico Rosso. We’re going to talk about pen names, Ether Chronicles, female characters, adventure romance, and demon rock stars. There’s a lot about demon rock stars. We also talk about Zoe Archer’s upcoming new historical series, which will be written under a new name.
The music that you’re listening to was provided by Sassy Outwater, and I’ll have information at the end of the podcast as to who this is and where you can buy it.
This podcast is brought to you by New American Library, publisher of Fall from India Place, the steamy new romance from New York Times bestselling author of On Dublin Street, Samantha Young. I’ll also have information at the end of the podcast and in the podcast entry about where you can buy this book or any of the other books that we talk about.
If you’re curious about finding one of the books we discuss, in every podcast entry I make sure to link to all the titles that we mention, in case you feel like buying them, because, well, that’s what I do, so I just presume you do it too.
And now, on with the podcast.
Sarah: Are you on the same microphone?
Zoe Archer: Yes.
Nico Rosso: Yes, we are.
Sarah: Nice. So, if, if I, if I ask a question that causes fighting, you’re going to be close enough to pummel each other?
Nico: Oh, yeah.
Zoe: Yes. And that happens a lot.
Sarah: That’s perfect!
Sarah: All right. I wanted to ask you both about writing and writing together, but also about the series that you do together and what you’re working on now.
Zoe: The Ether Chronicles series, like, is kind of wrapped up –
Zoe: – so that’s something that we did do together, but we –
Sarah: But it’s done.
Zoe: – it’s done, and I think we’re sort of embarking on separate projects, but we do work in terms of not necessarily on the same thing together, but we’re just sort of involved in each other’s creative process? So I don’t know if that’s sexy, but –
Sarah: That’s totally awesome! How are you involved in one another’s creative process? Does it involve weapons?
Together: Yes, it does.
Zoe: We’re critique partners, and he helps me plot and do all the – a lot. He does a tremendous amount – and I’m his beta reader is basically how I function, and critique partner.
Zoe: So –
Nico: And I’ll talk through – all right, we’re very different in terms of how we plot, so I don’t, I don’t really, like, go as hands on or need as much hands on. I kind of handle it, but I’ll talk stuff through and just, as I’m talking about it with Zoe, it’ll kind of take shape, and then when she’s plotting, we’re a little bit more active in terms of back and forth, you know, shaping the, the plot of, of what she’s working on. But right now, on, on my computer is the first draft of her next Regency set, so we’ll do that for each other, like, once, once something’s written, we’ll hand it off to each other and, and get that first read in.
Sarah: So the Regency set is not the, the, the Nemesis, Unlimited series.
Zoe: No, it’s a new series. I’ll be starting it – the first book comes out summer of 2015, and I’ll have a new name for that, actually. I’ll be Eva Leigh, so –
Zoe: Ev-, yeah, I know, I, I realized it afterwards that –
Sarah: That’s freakin’ brilliant, man!
Zoe: Yeah, yeah. It’s, Leigh is my middle name and then, but then once we realized that it’s Eva, Eva Leigh, then it was like, eh, all right. I’m, I’m good with that. [Laughs]
Sarah: That’s completely fine.
Zoe: It’s going to be for Avon, and it’s going to be actually, I ha-, the Ether Chronicles were for Avon Impulse –
Zoe: – but this is going to be print. I don’t if I – I guess it’s called a re-launch, but it’s sort of a, a new chapter, if you will, to use the literary metaphor. So I’ll be doing other things as Zoe Archer, probably self publishing as Zoe Archer, and then doing these historicals for Avon as Eva.
Sarah: Nice. How many names do you actually have, all of you together? Like, six?
Nico: Five? Right now?
Zoe: I have, I have three names, and you have two names.
Nico: I have two, yeah.
Zoe: So, yeah.
Sarah: Okay, Nico, do, do, do you feel inadequate?
Nico: I, do I need another name? I, you know –
Sarah: I think you do. [Laughs]
Nico: I, I’m, I – yeah, I might. I might need to, like, just launch a whole new career as maybe like a, a long-haul trucker or something –
Nico: – and then make a new –
Sarah: No, no, you need a web series of woodworking videos.
Nico: Oh, okay. All right, I’ll, I could work on that. I’ll see what kind of name I can come up with. Something very tactile and durable.
Sarah: You know, like Wood Quarter.
Nico: Right. [Laughs]
Sarah: Just go with Wood. It, it’s the –
Sarah: Yes. [Laughs]
Nico: Piney, Piney Birch. [Laughs]
Zoe: I, I like it. Piney Longwood.
Sarah: So, Zoe, are you still, is the Nemenis, is the Nemesis, Unlimited series done?
Zoe: Yes. Wicked Temptation, which came out just –
Sarah: Two weeks ago.
Zoe: – last week.
Zoe: Yeah. That is the final book in the Nemesis, Unlimited series.
Sarah: So was it, it was, it was a trilogy with a novella, right?
Zoe: Yes, that’s right. It was a trilogy with a holiday novella tucked in amidst that. I, I loved writing these books. They were a lot of fun to write, and – ask Nico; he had a lot of fun working on them with me.
Nico: Yeah, that’s partly when the weapons came out, ‘cause –
Nico: There’s, there was a lot of action –
Zoe: There was a lot of action.
Nico: We got to break out the rubber knives and, and –
Nico: – go at ea-
Nico: – go at each other.
Zoe: Or, yeah, or, like, I’ll practice a, like, what kind of self-defense moves a, a woman could use, because if she’s not necessarily trained as an operative, like, what can she do in order –
Zoe: – to disable somebody? So we worked on that, ‘cause I’m definitely not trained as an operative.
Zoe: Or am I? Or am I? We don’t know.
Sarah: Or am I? We don’t know.
Sarah: Plus the fact that if you are a female at that time, you’re going to be restrained by the garments that you’re wearing –
Sarah: – in one way or another.
Zoe: Right, totally.
Sarah: There is some kind of undergarment always getting in your way if you are a female. It is just the way of the world.
Zoe: Right, it, regard-, like, depending on what kind of action we’re talking about, it’s definitely going to come into play.
Sarah: I have to tell you, before I, I have another question, but I was having, I was having a conversation with Lisa Kleypas at RT, and we were talking about what we like in cover images, and she’s like, I just love when the guys are not all waxed and shiny, and I was like, you need to see the cover of Sweet Revenge –
Sarah: – ‘cause not only is he not waxed and shiny, he’s got hair, and it is hot.
Sarah: That was one of the very few covers I’ve seen where the guy is not all waxed and shiny.
Zoe: I was very pleased with the cover for that, and I really think that they – not just on his chest, but, you know, they gave him some kind of sideburns, he looked kind of roughed up –
Zoe: – I just really was very pleased with the direction that we went, ‘cause that was definitely that character, that was definitely Jack, who is not – oh, he, there’s, he’s far from a wax pretty boy.
Sarah: Yeah, he, he, he would not wax.
Zoe: No, he certainly would not.
Sarah: He’s not a waxing type.
Zoe: No, no, ex-cons, or, like, he’s an escaped convicts –
Zoe: – former bare-knuckle brawlers generally not so much with the, with the manscaping.
Sarah: But you’re, you’re, you’re Avon Impulse series, both of you, had some excellent manscaping with metal, metallic additions.
Zoe: We did.
Sarah: Those were some interesting covers.
Nico: Yeah, steampunk is, is hard, I think, to convey, especially in the romance, because it’s –
Nico: – you know, in, in the more just straight-ahead, like, sci-fi steampunk, they can kind of do more with the technology and go with a more illustrative look –
Nico: – but I think in the romance they’re trying to sell, obviously, the romance side, and in this case, the kind of the, the more, you know, masculine beefcake-y side –
Nico: – so it’s, it’s an interesting mix to try and get both in there, and I think they, they did a pretty nice job with the constraints of, you know, having to do this, you know, kind of on the fly and make it up as, as they went along.
Zoe: Yeah, I really like the cover that they did for Nico’s night, Nights of Steel, where the guy has the –
Nico: With the arm.
Zoe: – has a, has a cool arm; it’s a steampunk arm. That was a really nice cover.
Sarah: I see he’s not white.
Nico: He’s not.
Zoe: He isn’t.
Nico: He’s not. He’s, he’s an African-American guy who, you know, true, truer to the history than steampunk, was running out around in the old west.
Zoe: Yeah, that’s, that was one of the things that I think we both really enjoyed about the steampunk world. In, in Skies of Gold, the heroine is half East Indian and half English.
Zoe: That, that we could just – and in Night of Fire, which was the first Ether Chronicles book that Nico wrote, the heroine is Latina –
Zoe: So it was just really great to be able to – sometimes it can be a little difficult in the historical field to be as inclusive as that time period really was. There’s, like, a .gif that goes, that’s going around from, like, an episode of a TV show where this African-American character is like, wait, were black people not invented before the 20th century? And it’s like –
Zoe: – and, and –
Sarah: No, we invented that and also gayness and BDSM.
Zoe: Right, exactly.
Sarah: We invented BDSM, like, last month.
Zoe: Right, exactly.
Nico: Yeah, it just showed up.
Zoe: It, yeah, exactly. [Laughs] I have, I, I have some really awesome illustrations from the 18th century of people getting, like, you know, flogged, and it’s pretty awe-, you know, it’s pretty terrific.
Zoe: But yeah, it’s – and, and if you – the movie came out fairly recently, Belle –
Zoe: – where they talk a lot about the representation of African, British Africans, and in the paintings how they, they’re in a subservient role, but it’s like, they were there. Regardless of the – the representation in the painting is problematic, yes, but also that people of different races did exist. [Laughs]
Nico: Yeah, I think it grounds a lot of what we’re doing. You know, I mean, I, you know, even if it’s fantastical steampunk or, or, you know, more paranormal or whatever, I think to, to have this inclusion is a closer representation of the real world. I think it –
Nico: – helps to – it just makes it feel real.
Zoe: I think that’s also how we both feel about characters of the nobility. We’re both sort of like, we, we do a lot, especially with the Nemesis series, but also a lot of what Nico writes and stuff like that, it’s about people. Not necessarily people who were born into money, born into titles and stuff like that, and at RT we, I did a gritty historical panel with Carrie Lofty and Courtney Milan, and we talked about the relatability of these books that have characters who are more representative of the readership, and I think, Nico, you probably, you would agree with me on that?
Nico: Yeah, I mean, it, I think it’s, it’s much more interesting and, and accessible for, for the people, and it’s also kind of the stories that aren’t always told.
Nico: You know, because we’re so used to, you know, the dukes, you know, running around doing their thing, and it’s like, well, you know, there’s a whole, whole other [laughs], a larger –
Sarah: There was only a grand total of, like, 12 dukes.
Zoe: Right, exactly!
Zoe: It’s crazy.
Sarah: Not 2,000, just 12.
Zoe: I was, I was thinking about, like, you know, if, if we could do, like, a Hands Across Britain of all the invented dukes –
Zoe: – it would totally stretch from, like, Cornwall all the way up to, like, the Hebrides or something like that.
Sarah: [Laughs] I think you’d be in, I think you could at least reach Greenland if they were, if they float.
Zoe: Yeah, definitely. [Laughs]
Sarah: If they float, you can totally get to Greenland.
Zoe: [Laughs] Of course they can float!
Nico: Nobility, they just, they, they float just above the water.
Sarah: They walk on water, don’t you know?
Zoe: Yeah, totally.
Sarah: One of the interesting things about figuring out how to market, I think, is that with romance especially, publishers, in particular, or authors developing their own cover art, have to hit a really good balance of familiar signals and interesting ideas that are new. So you have the familiar signal that this is a romance – either you’ve got waxed man chest or a clinch or some bodices. There’s all of these established signals that say, hey, yo, romance. The dog will not die in the end of this book –
Sarah: – there will possibly be sexy times, and there will be a Happy Ever After. Come –
Sarah: – spend your $9 on me. But you also want to be able to introduce the idea of hey, this is something a little bit different and something you might not have seen before, and you might want to try this, so you have to sort of mix the, the, the interesting idea with the catnip that is familiar and the signal that communicates both, and that’s a very difficult task.
Nico: I, I –
Sarah: Especially when you’re looking at something like, like your steampunk series, where you have the romance, but also science fiction and steampunk elements and hero-centric stories.
Nico: I think that’s hard on the covers. I think it’s hard in the content, too.
Nico: I mean, like, we, we struggle with that where, you know, we’re, we’re writing stories that we would like to read, and we’re almost writing for ourselves and then each other and then it kind of, and then for the editor and then for the publisher. You know, it kind of expands out –
Sarah: Of course.
Nico: – from there. And, and we hope that we’re reaching, you know, we hope that the readers want the stories that we like to, to tell, but there is that, that interesting balance of, like, trying to bring enough unique elements to not make it just like everything else but at the same time satisfy those needs that the person is coming to that book for.
Nico: And sometimes it succeeds, and sometimes it doesn’t. I mean, I know that I’ve written stuff where I just, you know, I was going for a thing, and I, I thought it was cool, and the readership was like, mm, yeah, you know, it, the pieces were there, but it just didn’t come together, and it just, you know, it just didn’t hit that need, I think.
Zoe: But so, but then also we get people who are like, you know, sometimes, we know that our books aren’t for everybody, at least some of them have been and, but the people who come to us and enjoy it, they really get a lot out of it, so –
Zoe: – I think that the – it, it is a, tightrope that has to be walked.
Sarah: Especially because both of you specialize in writing romances that have a great deal of adventure in them. There’s questing or very high stakes or travel or space ships or –
Sarah: – neat, neat-ass inventions or just, you know, an organization devoted to ass-kicking. There’s some sort of –
Sarah: – adventure aspect of what you write, and much like adventure, contemporary adventure romance often gets folded into romantic suspense, which it’s not, it’s hard to distinguish adventure romance in the historical construct as well.
Zoe: Yes, and especially because historical romance has been coded as, because it’s come from this foundation of Heyer and Austen and Gaskell and, you know, like, putting it in where there aren’t a lot of, like, gunfights? –
Sarah: And you know, some of them could have used a gunfight or two.
Zoe: Yeah, I know, like in North and South, like why not some big shootout down at, with Mr. Thornton? But, like, I think –
Sarah: You know he’s packing.
Zoe: Oh, he totally – well –
Sarah: Yeah, we can just leave that there.
Nico: Yeah, yeah.
Zoe: Yeah, all right. Back away slowly. But for me, a lot of the stuff that I read was not necessarily that kind of canonical sort of writing, and I did read a lot of adventure stories, and I watched a lot of adventure films, and those, for me, were the, the, the things that were the most influential, but I just wasn’t crazy about the amount of female agency in them? and so I, I sort of, I think, created a hybrid, or worked to create – I’m not going to say, like, I was the innovator, ‘cause I know this exists – where there is both that adventure quotient and then a lot of female agency, and I know that Nico, your formative stuff was, like, comic books that had very strong heroines in them –
Zoe: – and then I think he watched a lot of action films and probably being married to me [laughs] and my own agenda –
Zoe: I’m not saying that it, that it necessarily shaped you, but I think these are things that you kind of, you appreciate and you like.
Nico: Yeah, and, and when, you know, I learned the romance genre through Zoe, and I, I hadn’t read it until I read, like, the first romance novel I ever read is a book that, an early work of hers that’s never published, so it’s like, that’s how I learned the genre, and then reading her stuff as she was working on it and talking about it. So I didn’t have this huge, broad – and I still don’t have this huge, broad background that so many readers and writers have where they can just kind of name the, the, the litany of all these authors that they know and who’s on their stack and stuff like that. You know, I came at it as a writer who learned a genre, and I really, really like a lot of the elements, but my angle into it was very much Zoe’s angle, which, you know, was the strong female characters and this, this great balance between the men and the women, and that’s really appealing to me, ‘cause it’s more fun to write that, you know. It’s, it’s not as fun to write, for me, to write somebody who’s, like, a, a woman who’s just kind of a plot device.
Zoe: Like a football?
Nico: I mean, it’s nice, it’s nice to be able to, you know, to have her doing just as much ass-kicking as the guy, so that’s, yeah, that definitely fed into how I thought about the genre, and then, you know, as I was thinking about that, thinking about what kind of stories I could tell within it.
Sarah: Hence, bounty hunters.
Sarah: General ass-kicking.
Nico: Yes, yes.
Zoe: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Nico: A sheriff and a soldier and a, yeah, definitely.
Zoe: Yeah, and I think in the direction that you’re going, that you’re thinking about for the future, you, that’s still going to be a very strong –
Nico: Yeah, I think the, the action and, and adventure element will still be pretty, pretty strong within the stuff.
Zoe: And while I’m moving away from action and adventure, the, into more, I guess, “traditional” Regency, the, the notion of female agency and not necessarily titled, not all of the characters are titled, that still is very strong, so it’s, it wo-, it’ll be an Eva Leigh book, but it’ll still be in some ways very much a Zoe Archer book. Like, if somebody’s concerned that they’re going to lose the, these certainly qualities of the, of the books of mine that they’ve come to enjoy. I don’t think that that – I’m go-, I’m here to assure them that that’s not going to be the case.
Sarah: Oh, good.
Nico: Yeah. There’s just less shots fired –
Zoe: Yeah, exactly.
Nico: – to my chagrin.
Nico: I don’t get to plot the action as much anymore.
Nico: Yeah, it’s okay.
Sarah: You know, it’s, dialogue counts as shots fired too.
Nico: Yeah, well, that’s, that’s what we’ve discovered is that, you know, when, in these more traditional formats, it’s like, yeah, the action just gets reduced to one punch or one line of defiant dialogue –
Nico: – or something like that, which carries just as much weight.
Sarah: Oh, yes.
Nico: I mean, it’s not like it’s less important.
Zoe: There’s a lot of, and there’s a lot of, like, witty banter, which is like swordplay.
Nico: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: Oh, yes. Very much like swordplay.
Sarah: Sort of like the, the difference between an actual swordfight and Spencer Tracy.
Zoe: Right, exactly. Right.
Sarah: And, and, and Katharine Hepburn, so there’s –
Sarah: – there’s not, they’re not actually hitting each other, but they totally are.
Zoe: Right, exactly. Or you could imagine, like, Darcy and, and, and Lizzie, you know, sort of going up and down in Netherfield –
Zoe: – you know, parrying, kind of.
Sarah: Uh-uh. Yah-huh.
Zoe: Yeah, exactly.
Zoe: Meanwhile, they’re like, I’m so turned on right now.
Sarah: I know! One of the things that I loved about the Keira Knightley version, which has many, many problems, was the, the scenes, there’s one scene where they are dancing, and they start bickering with one another –
Sarah: – and then in the end of the scene, they are the only two people dancing in the room –
Sarah: – and then the music stops, and they both sort of wake up and realize that there’s all these other people in the room, but there’s at least a good 45 seconds to a full minute of the two of them dancing, and they’re the only two people in the room, and it communicated the, sort of the underlining of what all of their, you know, cranky dialogue had been doing –
Nico: [Laughs] Right.
Sarah: – which was, oh, my God, why do we have all of these people in the room? Let’s go –
Zoe: I see –
Sarah: – make out behind a plant.
Zoe: Right. I, I, I seem to recall Colin Firth saying in some interview that he was directed to basically act like he had a hard-on the whole time.
Zoe: That’s why he looks so uncomfortable.
Zoe: He’s like, please don’t call me up to the board to do a math problem.
Sarah: I, I need to hold a book.
Zoe: Sorry. [Laughs]
Sarah: A very large textbook needs to come with me; I’m sorry. I want to ask you about your new historical series. What – You said it was traditional? More Regency? Can you talk a little bit about it, or is it too soon?
Zoe: No, yeah, I can talk about it. It’s called The Wicked Quills of London, and the premise is it’s ba-, the three female writers in different professions in London, obviously, during the Regency period, and the men who love them. The first book is called To Ride with a Rake, and the heroine is a writer, editor, and owner of a scandal sheet, so you know though she’s like, Lord A– was seen in the company of a certain actress. Like, she writes that.
Zoe: And the, the hero is a nobleman who, who tangles with her. The second book is, the heroine is a playwright, and the hero is a nobleman [laughs], and in the third book, which I’m, I’m looking forward to writing all of them, and I really am loving it. The third book is a, a, a woman of noble birth who writes anonymous erotic novels, and the hero is a vicar.
Sarah: Oh, my.
Zoe: Yeah. It’s, these are super, super fun, and I’m really enjoying writing it, because again, like I said, it’s like, it’s, it’s, it’s very different from what I’ve been writing, but at the same time, it’s very imbued with the spirit of what I’ve been doing up to this point, so it’s all about female agency, and it’s literally about women’s voices within these contexts. And then of course love finds them, and things like that.
Sarah: I usually do not record more than one podcast in a day, but earlier today I was on a different podcast recording with Kate Noble who told me she’s currently working as a writer on a television series for TNT called The Librarians, which is a blend of action, adventure, fantasy, and magic, where you’re chasing magical objects, and there’s historical lessons, and, and –
Sarah: – Noah Wyle is in it, and –
Zoe: Yeah, it’s an, it’s an ongoing series. I’ve seen some episodes, yeah.
Sarah: And so she’s telling me about this, and I was like, you know, when this – ‘cause it, it, it goes on, the, the television show, it’s based on the earlier stuff that you’ve seen.
Sarah: It’s a new, the new show will begin in December.
Nico: I think it was TV movies in, originally, right?
Together: Yeah, yeah.
Sarah: They were all originally TV movies or mini-series?
Sarah: And now it’s going to be a regular series.
Nico: Oh, nice.
Zoe: Hmm! That’s cool.
Sarah: So she’s writing episodes for that, and it’s sort of like, she was describing it as a blend of sort of Indiana Jones and Doctor Who, and I was like, when people listen to this podcast, there’s going to be people in their cars going, I want it right now! Right now! Where is it?
Sarah: So you started talking about no-, anonymous erotic novels and a vicar, and I was like, that same person is going to be in the car going, I want that too!
Sarah: People are going to be so upset!
Sarah: ‘Cause they can’t get their hands on it right now.
Zoe: I want to make sure that people are prepared ahead of time to, to know, like, that this is something that I’m doing –
Zoe: – so that it doesn’t just kind of come out of the blue, and also, people who have been my readers will continue to be my readers, and I’ll also develop my readership and add new people who –
Sarah: Of course.
Zoe: – perhaps maybe the paranormal or the adventure had kind of kept them at bay.
Sarah: Mm-hmm. Always good to, like I said, dangle the familiar with the new stuff.
Sarah: You got to lead with the familiar stuff. Catnip first, then the surprise.
Zoe: Well, and you know –
Sarah: Have a surprise!
Zoe: – yeah, ooh.
Zoe: And Nico doesn’t generally read Regency-set historicals. I don’t think you do at all –
Nico: Just a couple.
Zoe: – so all you’ve read is mine, right?
Nico: I’ve read some others.
Zoe: All right.
Zoe: Oh, that’s right, you have read some others, like –
Together: Tessa Dare. Yeah.
Sarah: Whatever they write, it’s just like, it was just like that.
Zoe: Yeah, exactly.
Sarah: So all these, you know, people running around a coastal town who aren’t married but are awesome, those people were all real.
Nico: Yeah, yeah.
Zoe: Yes, exactly, exactly.
Zoe: It sort of passed the Nico test, I think, so far.
Zoe: The book, would you say?
Nico: Oh, yeah, yeah. Definitely.
Sarah: That’s excellent. So you guys are critique partners, and you help each other plot, and you’re married and presuming you cohabitate in the same space –
Sarah: Does that get difficult?
Nico: I think there are times when, you know, Zoe will be off writing at Starbucks, and I will be here, and it’s not because we’re mad. It’s just because, you know, it’s, it’s nice to just create a little space so that –
Nico: – you know, we’re not just hovering over each other all the time, and, and like, whoa, what are they doing? Are they writing right now?
Nico: Are they not writing right now? And –
Nico: – and I think we try and balance it so that it’s, you know, we have that space when we need it, and, and even we’re both in the office, you know, we’ll, we’ll put the headphones on and –
Nico: – and that’ll be like the Cones of Silence, where –
Zoe: Right. [Laughs]
Nico: – where we establish our space for a time, and, and we’ll respect that, and then we’ll come out of it and, you know, deal with whatever we need to deal with, so there’s, there’s a little bit of kind of unspoken negotiations that go on.
Zoe: But I think we’re fortunate in that, ‘cause I have heard from other writers when sometimes their spouse’ll come in while they’re working and be like, you know, where’s this, where’s that, I need this, or, you know, or their children’ll come in or –
Zoe: – something like that, and they don’t understand the limitations or they, that they need their space, but because we both are doing the same thing, we know. If he’s staring intently at his computer screen, I’m not going to be coming over there and, you know?
Nico: If I’m mumbling. I’m usually mumbling when I’m writing, so she’ll –
Nico: – she’ll know.
Zoe: Or, or sort of breathing heavy, if it’s an action scene.
Nico: “Action” scene.
Zoe: Action scene. [Laughs]
Sarah: Action scene, yes.
Sarah: Is it hard for you guys to not work?
Sarah: Yeah, I have that problem too. I was just really being nosy with that question. [Laughs]
Zoe: No, I, I, I think we’re constantly working. Whether or not we’re sitting at our computer, we’re almost always thinking about work.
Nico: Yeah, we, we went out to dinner on, a couple Tuesdays ago, ‘cause it was the release date for the la-, the latest Nemesis book, and we’re sitting and we’re having a nice dinner, and it’s this kind of raucous place, and, you know, it’s feeling good, and, and then, like, maybe 20 minutes into dinner, we started plotting the second Wicked Quills book.
Nico: And that took us all the way through dessert.
Zoe: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: Of course!
Nico: And then we were like, you know, it’s like midnight, and we’re still working, and we’re like, God, you know what, we’re going to get up and just keep doing it. And then midway through the day the next day, we were doing something that was not work related, and Zoe’s like, God, I, maybe I should be, you know, I should be doing something, and it’s like we worked from, like, you know, 7:15 to midnight last night. I, we can take an hour in the middle of the day today.
Zoe: Oh, we went for a bike ride.
Nico: Yeah, we went for a –
Nico: Yes, it’s like, you know what, we can kind of do this. We, we put our time in.
Nico: Yeah, we, it’s, it’s hard to not be working.
Zoe: I -, yeah.
Nico: But work isn’t always, you know, a drudge, so it’s kind of like, I, I, I personally don’t mind it. I like working. You know, even if it is just sitting and plotting or taking a shower and coming up with an idea.
Sarah: It, it is a pretty rad job.
Zoe: It is, it’s –
Sarah: Making shit up.
Zoe: It is, it’s a, it’s a really tough job, but, you know, like they said about the Peace Corps, the toughest job you’ll ever love –
Zoe: – or something like that. It, it kind of feels like that, ‘cause it’s like, there are times when it’s just like, ahhh! I mean, damn, darn, this job’s really hard!
Zoe: And, and, but you’re just like, I’ve been wri-, I mean, I think Nico has been writing since he was young too.
Zoe: I started writing when I was a, a little kid. It’s like I can’t stop.
Zoe: This is just, it’s intrinsic to who I am. So it, it doesn’t feel burdensome to do it, you know. It’s all, like, and – people will ask us a lot, like, where do you get your ideas? We’re like, we can’t stop them. They don’t, you know –
Nico: It’s, it’s not like going to the, you know, pick your own blueberry place, you know, once a month and get, getting the ideas.
Nico: It’s like they’re just going to show up and, and they’re just this, this constant flow of, of content.
Zoe: Especially, for me, it’s like, because I write historicals, there’s, history’s so rich, and I’m fascinated by women in male-dominated professions. It’s like, just take a woman and stick her in any kind of male-dominated field, and I’ve got a story, and there’s, you’ll inve-, inevitably find a woman who actually did it, so I’m researching the second book in the Wicked Quills book, and I found out about this woman who during the late Regency period became, like, a theatre owner and manager. I’m like, this is awesome! I love this!
Zoe: And, you know, Nico’s always got some action sequence playing out in his head.
Sarah: Listen, I need you to come up behind me and hit me really hard –
Zoe: Right, yeah, exactly.
Sarah: – right between the fourth and fifth vertebrae, but not so hard I get paralyzed.
Sarah: Okay, go! [Laughs]
Nico: And then we’ll, and then we’ll see happens.
Zoe: Yeah. [Laughs]
Sarah: Am I going to fall this way or am I going to fall that way?
Zoe: Yeah, exactly.
Sarah: So, a hard question: Nico, what is your favorite thing that Zoe has written that you have read?
Nico: Oh, that is, that’s really hard. Um –
Sarah: Yeah, I know, it’s a really, it’s an asshole question.
Nico: [Laughs] I’d never say that.
Zoe: [Laughs] Are you trying to engender discord?
Sarah: Yes! Yes, I am!
Nico: Yeah, that’s nice. Well, I, I generally don’t pick favorites in general, just in life, so I, but, I, I, I really, I really enjoyed Skies of Gold, the, the last Ether Chronicle book. It, the, the way that the slow burn played out between the hero and the heroine and their back stories, their kind of wounded nature, and their, their caution as they approached each other, literally and, and figuratively –
Nico: – was really, I really liked the way they, that played out. It was, it just felt very, very real to me. In, in spite of the, not in spite of, but, it felt very real within the context of all of the steampunk and stuff, so I, I really enjoyed that one.
Sarah: That’s very cool. Okay. Zoe, same question.
Zoe: Um –
Sarah: You’ve had, like, a whole two minutes to think about it.
Zoe: Yeah, I know, I, I have been thinking about it, and I’m, I’m thinking about all the different books that he’s written. God, I like the sci-fi, I like the paranormal demon rockers, I like – but I, I really liked Nights of Steel, which was the book we talked about earlier, which is the one about the two bounty hunters. I really liked the settings because it’s an old west tale that’s set in California, which often doesn’t get, you know, get done, and it’s also, you know, that it is a, an interracial relationship.
Zoe: Really like that. I really like the characters’ backstories that they’re, you know, they’re flawed, they’re wounded, but they come together. There’s just, there’s so much there. I don’t know – God! God, I hate you!
Zoe: Why are you doing this to me?
Sarah: ‘Cause I am an evil, evil person.
Zoe: Yeah. We often speculate about that late at night. God, that Sarah! God!
Sarah: She’s just, she’s just Satan, and no one knows.
Sarah: It’s excellent. So aside from Regency writing women, which sounds bad-ass, what else are y’all working on right now? Nico?
Nico: The third and final book in, of my paranormal erotic romance Demon Rock series is going to be coming out in August.
Sarah: And those are the satyrs and the muses, right?
Nico: Yes. Yes, that is. The second one came out last month, and the third one is titled Ménage with the Muse, so as you can imagine, there’s a ménage in it.
Sarah: Nuh-uh, for real? Whoa!
Nico: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I didn’t see –
Sarah: I never would have guessed!
Nico: That was one of those things, I didn’t want to do the bait and switch, you know. I wanted to give them what they wanted.
Sarah: Yes, there will be – is it, is it male/male/female? Male/female/female? All of the above?
Nico: It is male/female –
Sarah: Does one of them have more than one penis?
Nico: No, no, I, you know, I probably could have, but I –
Sarah: Have you guys –
Nico: I figured, eh.
Sarah: Have you guys read that book?
Nico: Heard about it.
Sarah: No, you need to read it! Oh, my God!
Sarah: It’s not only – okay, speaking of women with agency, this is Nicholas: The Lords of Satyr, except I said it to my husband, and he was like, wait, like Passover?
Zoe: Then Elijah comes in, and it gets crazy up in this place!
Sarah: You know, there is a lack of Jewish Talmudic ménage, and I think that the money train is, is poised to back up to our respective porches –
Sarah: – and dump –
Sarah: The Naughty Rabbi series should be a thing.
Zoe: Well, actually, you know, Nico and I are going to be trying, we’re going to be thinking about doing some venturing into self, some self publishing, and we’re talking about doing a –
Nico: – a little holiday antho-, anthology –
Nico: – between the two of us.
Zoe: Yes, and –
Nico: We’ll split the religions.
Zoe: – and, yeah. I’m, I’m doing one that’s Jewish.
Sarah: I love this idea.
Zoe: A Chanukah-themed erotic romance.
Sarah: There’s eight nights!
Zoe: That’s exactly right! There are eight nights, and –
Sarah: It’s true.
Zoe: – as he pointed out, there’s, you could do a lot of fun things, not, like, in terms of where you put it, but what you can do with a dreidel. [Laughs]
Sarah: That’s right. All, half, none, give, right!
Zoe: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Nico: Right. Lot of possibilities.
Zoe: Yeah, exactly.
Sarah: There’s a lot of options. Nico, when does your next Demon Rock book come out? Ménage with the Muse, right?
Nico: Yes, Ménage with the Muse comes out August 4th –
Nico: – from Carina, so it’s all eBooks all the time on Am-, you know, Kindle and Nook and –
Nico: – Google and all the such. But yeah, that’s August 4th, and then, and then I got a couple other things kind of in the hopper, where we’ve got that holiday thing that we were talking about.
Zoe: Now that I’ve mentioned the holiday thing, now we have to do it. [Laughs]
Nico: Yeah, we’ve got to get cracking on that.
Sarah: So tell people, if you would not mind, Nico, a little bit about the Demon Rock series, ‘cause we’ve spent a lot of time talking about Zoe’s historical projects, but I want to also talk about your rock star ménage a de-, ménage a nid, ménage-anating.
Nico: [Laughs] Ménage-anating?
Nico: Thank you!
Nico: The Demon Rock – What’s that?
Nico: Ménage, ménage-anism? I think we’ve known people that have been into that.
Zoe: Is that, like, isn’t that what they sing in that song? Ménage, ménage, do-do-to-do-doot.
Sarah: [Laughs] Totally! Totally!
Nico: Suddenly, I have much more appreciation for the Muppets.
Nico: So the, the Demon Rock kind of came out with the idea with, of seeing all these rock stars in reality and thinking that, I mean they’re, they are pretty demonic, and it’s always been kind of vilified and, you know, rock stars are always kind of perceived as these kind of hedonistic demons, and I was thinking, well, what if they actually were? You know, and, and so the, the concept is kind of that they’re descendants of satyrs, so they’ve been around as long as human beings have been kind of collecting around the fire and partying, and what the demons do is they feed off the energy of an audience –
Nico: – so if they perform, the audience responds to the energy that the, the demon is producing, and then the, that wave will rise up from the audience again and then crash back into the demon and essentially keeps them alive for as long as there’s an audience. And that’s kind of one of the, the ideas of, these demons have to keep performing, and they have to keep adapting, so they’ve changed their faces, they’ve changed their musical styles over the years to, to keep the audiences coming. And all throughout their history, there’s been this legend of the muse –
Nico: – where, and, that has never shown up, but what it is is it’s this, the one woman that can feed the demon un-, unlike the audience. So it’s like, with, without the muse, the demon would starve to death, so there had always been this legend, and it had never come true until the first book, Heavy Metal Heart. We meet Trevor Sand, and he’s this rock star with a, a little bit of a dark past in, and a little bit of a, a romantic edge to him, but – and he’s always kind of been on, on the lookout for this muse, but never believed that it was true until he finally meets Misty, who is just a mortal, and then she meets him, and her world is kind of turned upside down, and she’s wrapped up into the Demon Rock world.
Sarah: So do you make references to bands that they were in the past and sort of hint at, like, were they Rush? Were they – ?
Sarah: Were they Journey? Oh, nonononono, they were White Snake, weren’t they?
Nico: Yeah, you know, we, when, when we’ll, when we’re driving around and we’re listening to the radio, we will think, okay, is, are these guys demons or are they not?
Nico: Rush is not demons. White Snake, yes.
Sarah: [Laughs more]
Nico: But, but in the books, I do make references to the bands that they were in the past, but I don’t make, but I, they’re not specific bands, because I wanted to – and that was actually something I did deliberately in terms of even the music that they’re making within the current books –
Nico: – is that I didn’t want to say exactly what they sounded like, because I didn’t want to alienate a reader, so it’s like if I say, oh, these guys have a total groove and they’re sounding exactly like The Black Keys, if the reader is like, well, I don’t really like The Black Keys, I like some other band –
Nico: – then they’re immediately going to be alienated and not feeling it, so I, I try to stay –
Nico: – generic, generic enough –
Nico: – with the descriptions of the, the music so that you could kind of plug in the style that you liked.
Nico: In the second book, Slam Dance with the Devil, it goes deeper into the history of, of the demon –
Nico: – Kent, and we, he, in the past, he was a blues man along the, the Mississippi River and stuff like that, and, and kind of a Robert Johnson-style guy, which like, did he make a deal with the devil kind of questions. And, and in that one, we learn more of that history, and we get to kind of delve back into what really these guys, you know, had been doing in their past.
Sarah: Wow, that’s cool.
Nico: Yeah, it was, these were, I, I had a lot of fun writing these, and they’re, I put song lyrics into them because that was just another aspect of kind of creating the characters –
Nico: – and fleshing them out –
Sarah: Of course.
Nico: – and that was a lot of fun, just to kind of round it out as much as I could, and it was, it was an interesting and, and a lot of fun journey just to kind of go along with these guys.
Sarah: It’s very difficult to write about music, though.
Nico: It was, and it kind of got to the point, you know, by the third book, ‘cause in the third book, all three characters are musicians –
Nico: – and it’s at a music festival, so they’re all kind of there for the same reason –
Nico: – and so there was a lot of descriptions of music and, and their personal relationships with music and, you know, so it, it was, it, it’s one of those esoteric things, like writing about a food –
Sarah: Yep. Exactly.
Nico: – where you’re take, you’re, you’re taking this, this experience that isn’t, that is very experiential. It’s very much –
Sarah: And not verbal.
Nico: – sensory – yeah, and then, and trying to translate it into these words, and it’s like, well, I hope it’s coming across, ‘cause – [laughs]
Nico: – you can only do so much, but then you do just try and use as much visceral language, excuse me, as possible.
Sarah: And that’s all for this week’s podcast. I want to thank Zoe and Nico for sitting down with me and talking about all of the things. Next week we have a podcast with a person who works in the FBI – for really reals. It’s awesome. It’s a really good interview; Jane and I had a really good time.
And we are still hoping that you will call or email us with your suggestion of books that young readers might enjoy, particularly books for readers who might one day turn out to be romance readers, ‘cause, well, that’s what we’re actually doing her, right? Indoctrinating a future generation with literary awesomeness? I mean, that’s what I’m doing, anyway.
If you would like to email us your suggestions about books for young readers or you want to make a suggestion about a future interview or you have a question or you want to ask Zoe or Nico a question, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call and leave a message at 1-201-371-DBSA. Please don’t forget to tell us who you are and where you’re calling from so we can include your message in the podcast, because technology is magic, I’m telling you.
The music this week was provided by Sassy Outwater. This is called “Forgotten” by Jason Hemmens, and I have links to .mp3s at various locations, along with the album, Welcome to Reality, should you wish to buy this for your very, very own. Which you should, ‘cause it’s awesome, right? Totally. My music collection, much like my to, to-be-read list, is much bigger since starting the podcast.
This podcast is brought to you by New American Library, publisher of Fall from India Place, the steamy new romance from New York Times bestselling author of On Dublin Street, Samantha Young.
Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I hope it’s awesome, and Zoe and Nico and Jane and I all wish you the very best of reading. Have a great weekend.