I met Barbara in an online writing community over ten years ago. After studying English Language and Literature at the University at Birmingham, she has published over 40 books in her writing career with more coming every year. Her genre of choice is Romantica, MF, MMF, and MM with a great mix of comedy. She writes contemporary, historical, paranormal, Scifi, thrillers and more. I love her stories. Not only does she self-publish, she was well known at Ellora’s Cave and Samhain. Forever, she will be popular at Loose Id, and Decadent Publishing.
Please allow me to introduce one of my favorite romance/erotica writers. Barbara Elsborg.
Hey, Barbara! I’m so excited to be interviewing you. I’m dying to know, what drew you to write romance?
Barbara: Thanks for having me! Well, I didn’t start off writing romance. My first stories were fan fiction written in my teens based on TV shows like Star Trek. I have hundreds of those little stories. My first full-length novel was a suspense thriller about the mafia in New York. I sent it to agents and publishers (Pre ebook days) and was told it was too dark. So I wrote another one called Chosen and that turned out dark too though it was ultimately published. But I realized that inside those suspense stories, the bit I liked the best was the love aspect and the moments of humor.
So I tried to write a romantic comedy and produced Digging Deeper. It’s light and fluffy and the exact opposite of what I’d done before – violent stories with drug abuse and dangerous situations. Still couldn’t find anyone who wanted Digging Deeper, though I did later, but I had the bug for romance then and all the books after (apart from a few) have been romances. Because I could only find an e-publisher to take them (no self-pubbing at that time) I was advised to add sex so they would sell. So I did. That was the start of my writing career.
But I do like writing stories with plot and more character detail than would be expected in an erotic romance. I think of my books as sexy stories rather than erotic ones. While there is explicit sex in most of them there’s also lots of drama and angst.
Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer to just to see where an idea takes you?
Barbara: I don’t plot or plan. I like to start the day not sure what’s going to happen in the story. Part of me wishes I did plan because sometimes I can spend a long time thinking and not writing. I’m not a fast writer. I don’t do a word count each day or week as many do. I spend a lot of time working on the first few chapters because that sets the plot and characters and enables me to work on. One thing I always know is that the story will end on a happy ever after note but how I get there is a mystery and writing in that way makes it fun for me. Each day at my laptop is an adventure.
I do make notes when I think of things I might like to add later. These are usually jotted down in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep and aren’t always legible in the morning. I add those to a file of notes for my work in progress and gradually delete them as I add to the story. It works for me!
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Barbara: Yes it does. I’d be more inclined to check a book out if I found the cover appealing. I did once buy a book that I knew I probably wouldn’t like because I loved the cover so much. It was a YA book so not for me but the cover… Beautiful. When you are with a publisher there is only so much you can do to get the cover you want. Whenever I complained about a cover I was told – that they knew best what would sell. So I had to just take what I was given. But now I’m in the world of self-publishing, and my experience with covers has been transformed. Jo Raven, an old friend from the writing site where I met you, has made me three fantastic covers. I had another writing friend make a few more but the vast majority have been done by B4Jay, a friend on Facebook and I am more than thrilled to finally have images I love on ALL my books.
Having said all that – if I love an author, I don’t even look at the cover. I just buy!
Do you read your reviews?
Barbara: All the advice says don’t. I can see it’s better not to. I really can. Especially when you read a hard-hitting one but I do read them. I haven’t read all of them. There are too many on Goodreads but I have read all those on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. I wish I had more on Amazon because they make such a difference to sales and rankings. In my head anyway.
Some reviews have made me sigh with happiness when the reader ‘gets’ what I was trying to do, has seen the themes in the story, fallen in love with my characters. No review has ever made me cry but some have made me mad when I haven’t agreed with what the reviewer has said. For example that one of my stories encouraged violence toward women. I was appalled. I’d never do that. But I’ve learned it’s better not to respond to any review beyond saying thank you if that is appropriate.
I have a hard question to ask, and one I suppose will be hard to answer. You were a very prolific writer for Ellora’s Cave and Samhain. Their closing sent thousands of authors into a spin. How hard were you hit?
I was very disappointed by the way Ellora’s Cave treated their authors. I had 17 books with them that earned me no money for almost two years. Two years of pestering and anxiety and aggravation. They sold the books and kept my money. In order to get the rights back to my books, I had to sign to say I wouldn’t sue them.
It’s taken me until now from the beginning of the year to get all the books back online and soon all will be in paperback too. So as well as losing the income for that period, I’ve had to pay for new artwork, do a lot of formatting etc.
That was bad enough and then Samhain announced they were closing. Then they said they weren’t. Then they said they were. Sigh. I had 8 books with them so I had to reformat and get new covers for those too. It’s made me very wary of going with a publisher now. There was no protection for the authors with the Ellora’s Cave contracts.
The cost of pursuing a case against them was just too high to be worth it. Something I’m sure they factored in. I’m glad to be out of it. I lost maybe $20,000, though others lost a lot more than that.
Now I’ve actually managed to self-publish I can’t see a reason to go with a publisher. The market is saturated with books. Marketing is difficult whether you’re on your own or with a publisher. We’re all trying to find the way to discover new readers and if anyone has the magic formula – let me know!
I’m so sorry that happened to you. It was shocking to see a giant in the industry such as Ellora’s Cave fall so hard and disgracefully. Let’s end this interview on a good note. Where was your favorite reading spot as a child? Where is it now?
Barbara: As a child, it was in bed. As an adult, it’s in bed!
Thanks so much, Barbara. I had a blast!
Barbara Elsborg lives in West Yorkshire in the north of England. She always wanted to be a spy, but having confessed that to everyone without them even resorting to torture, she decided it was not for her. Vulcanology scorched her feet. A morbid fear of sharks put paid to marine biology. So instead, she spent several years successfully selling cyanide. After dragging up two rotten, ungrateful children and frustrating her sexy, devoted, wonderful husband (who can now stop twisting her arm) she finally has time to conduct an affair with an electrifying plugged-in male, her laptop.
Her books feature quirky heroines and bad boys, and she hopes they are as much fun to read as they were to write.
My favorite book, the one I did a critique on, is Lucy in the Sky. It’s adventurous, hilarious, and steamy hot.
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