I met author Kallypso Masters this year when I was invited to join the Kentucky Independent Writers network. She is everything an author should be -- intelligent, witty, charming, and just as fiercely loyal to her fans as they are to her. I invited her to do an interview with me for my Indie Romance Novel column, but I was limited in space and not able to post the entire interview. So, I decided to do that here.
This is the entire uncut interview with Kallypso Masters -- about writing, about her latest book, Nobody's Perfect, and a few other things besides.
This is the entire uncut interview with Kallypso Masters -- about writing, about her latest book, Nobody's Perfect, and a few other things besides.
**Your latest, Nobody'sPerfect, picks up with Savannah and Damián eight years after the events in Masters at Arms. What can we expect in this story?
KM -- After what Savannah went through in Masters at Arms, Damián finds Savannah totally shut down sexually when she comes to him for protection after her father and his business partner come after her and her daughter. This wasn't nearly as erotic as the earlier ones in the series, because I wanted to show how incredibly patient and slow a partner needs to be when with an incest or abuse survivor. There are so many triggers and trauma (including PTSD flashbacks) to learn about and work through. Trust is always paramount in a BDSM romance, but in this one, it takes months to establish enough trust that she'll allow Damián to even touch her. And sometimes she takes one step forward and three steps back, which is very much like it can be for survivors. Some reviewers complained of the repetition, but it was there by design. You can't erase that abuse easily.
Another departure is the type of relationship they have. Rather than exploring the Dominant/submissive relationship, this couple will be in a Top/bottom one. He is a Sadist Service Top at the Masters at Arms Club and provides a level of sadomasochism I haven't shown in earlier stories. While Damián is now a sadist, he does it more as a service to masochists who need and want that, rather than experiencing sexual gratification as a sadist. (My stories always are Safe, Sane, and Consensual, or SSC as it's known in the lifestyle). But the BDSM scenes in the book are intended to be healing, not to titillate readers. To get the emotions in the story right, I've been in touch with a number of submissives and masochists, many of them survivors of abuse and trauma, who explained to me how sadomasochism helps them release pent-up emotions and endorphins. Many of my readers and reviewers have said they didn't understand sadomasochism (and in some cases BDSM itself) until reading this book. Those in the community have thanked me for portraying their world as the support network it is and not just about kink, pain, and sex.
Ultimately, Nobody's Perfect is about healing from past trauma. Both main characters are so very wounded (emotionally and physically). Damián came home from Iraq an amputee, feeling like a broken man. Savannah escaped her father's home and sexual slavery after an incestuous childhood feeling no man could ever want her because she's not only broken, but dirty, damaged goods. Damián's helping Savannah redirect those negative messages from the past with more positive interpretations not only help her heal, but him as well. He draws from her incredible strength. As in my other books, I have my hero and heroine rescue each other. It's not about the "damsel in distress" rescue.
**What is it about this couple that draws readers, do you think? It seems that Savi and Damián are everyone's favorite.
KM -- Well, I think Adam and Karla might still be the favorite of the majority (based on feedback I've received), but Damián and Savannah are a close second, especially after this book. But this seemed like a question for my readers to answer, so I went to the 750 fans who are members of my Facebook The Rescue Me Series Open Discussion Group and asked them. Here is a representation of some of their responses:
Jo V-P.: I can identify with Savannah's 'mother bear' attitude to Mari, and can understand her courage to face her problems. With Damián, it is the fact that he may feel he is 'damaged goods,' but he is still willing to help others, Patti and Savi, even while it is difficult for him.
Melanie G.: First love that turns out to be true love, plus the whole rescue thing… His fierce protectiveness of her even though he knows they may never be together romantically again, and his abiding love and patience.
Lisa S.: "For me, the resilience of both individuals and their strength to survive against the odds is what pulled at me. Damián being an amputee and having to struggle with the issues he has, including about being a survivor, and Savi's issues around trust and safety due to her horrific abuse… Watching the bond form between them SLOWLY and realistically is what really got me. The fact you took your time to really go painstakingly slow and not rush the process sucked me in completely.
Melanie I.: "I think it's because they are so very, very damaged by their pasts…at times in utter despair, without hope. This makes them kindred souls."
Chasity R.: "Another aspect for me involving Damián and Savannah's story is the light that is shed on the BDSM lifestyle and how it really works. Many times there is such a misconception when someone hears the term 'BDSM' or Dom...Sub...Master, etc. When I begin talking to people about these books and I get told, 'You are such a freak,' I always go to Damián and Savannah's story and tell them how the lifestyle helped her work through her dark past that she has buried. Before she can truly move on and begin to heal she has to first face it all, and Damián is able to help her toward that path with his use of BDSM. I think that readers get such a bigger picture of the lifestyle with this story and it can help people get past the stereotypical thinking. BDSM truly can help a broken soul pick up the pieces and rebuild what has been destroyed. This story is a flawless example of such!! Kuddos to you for your understanding and views!"
Lesley F.: "There is definitely something about the Dom/sub relationship that has sucked me in. It's the ability of these Doms to read these women. To KNOW what they are thinking and getting them to vocalize it. Pushing the sub's limits sexually AND emotionally in a safe environment, and then tending to the sub's needs before their own. Men are typically so focused on their needs being met, and these Doms put the needs of their sub's first. Awesome!!!!!"
Elisa L.: "The realness of their story. As many triggers I had/struggled with at times reading their story, I found I had a better sense of my own self when I finished reading it. And have since read it 3 times more. I L O V E them. They just really really touched me."
Becki W.: "For me, it was that I identified with both 'broken' characters and seeing how they helped each other through their problems gives me hope that I can heal, too."
Serenity S.: "When they were torn apart due to various circumstances, you wanted so badly for them to reconnect because you knew that they needed each other to heal. The tenderness, caring, and deep love that they felt for each other and their unwillingness to express their love because they felt the other deserved someone better just tore at my heart. You wanted them to see that they were perfect for each other and to watch their relationship develop and bloom."
Brandy R.: "Because they are real and their lives have been so broken and rocky. People can relate to something that isn't 'normal' because so many of us grew up with things that others may find abnormal. To know that two people who were so broken and alone could find true love and be happy gives so many others hope as to the fact that it can happen for them as well."
Jackie W.: "I think what draws me to these two characters is that both of them are fighting battles. Usually it is just one of the characters in a romance, but both of these are battling their own problems."
Mandy G.: "I was touched by the emotions they experienced as they learned to trust one another. Very realistic. The unspoken love that they had for one another and the long journey it took for them to express it was especially touching. Their love story was beautiful after experiencing such ugly things."
Maycee M.: They are such strong people. And together the broken pieces mend. There's a quote about having courage that says bravery doesn't mean you are not afraid, it means doing it anyway. And for Savannah and Damián, after all they have gone through separately and together, no one would blame them for curling up and quitting. But instead they hold their heads high and carry on. True survivors!
**What drew you to the genre of BDSM and erotica as a backdrop for your stories?
KM -- I've read a few BDSM non-Romance books since I was 16 (a long, long time ago), but I attended a Kentucky Romance Writers workshop in March 2009 and first learned about erotic romance. (I had been out of the romance-writing loop for over a decade while I pursued my journalism degree and worked as a technical editor/writer.) I'll admit that the first appeal for the genre was seeing writers were actually making a living at writing in this subgenre (which wasn't true in other Romance sub-genres among the writers I knew in real life). So, I went home to see if I could write one (not having read one, mind you) and within a month I finished a hot, steamy, dubious-consent novella with coercive BDSM elements. (Nothing like what I write now, but a romanticized version of what I'd read in the non-Romance market.) I submitted it to Samhain Publishing where it was rejected for the anthology they were doing, but they did ask to see more, so that was one of those "good" rejections we writers talk about. (I never submitted another book to any publisher again, though, because by the time I was ready to pursue a career in writing, independent publishing had taken off and that's the only way to go, in my opinion, if you want to make a living fast.)
The following month, I drafted Nobody's Angel as a ménage story, because I heard those were popular with readers. (I'm telling you about all my mistakes here! Yeah, I thought I could write to the market—so wrong.) That one was never submitted and life (and work) began to consume me, so fast forward two years to Spring 2011. The evil-day-job pressures kept me from writing, but when my job reverted to an administrative position, I decided one weekend at a retreat for "The Artist's Way" that it was time to quit my crazy-maker job. Because Erotic romance had been my last endeavor (and was the only time I'd ever finished a manuscript despite 20 years of trying before in steamy Romances), I figured I was meant to write in this sub-genre.
While revising Nobody's Angel multiple times over the next 4-5 months, I learned that I can't write to the market. Thank God, because those books never would have connected with readers the way my stories from the heart do now. (And I even have a T-shirt that says "Write from the Heart," which I got at a Central New York Romance Writers conference decades earlier!) So, finally, three weeks before I published that book, I gutted two-thirds of the original manuscript and wrote from the heart. I tell my readers Master Marc came to me one morning to say he didn't want to share anymore, but it actually was a beta reader asking if he really had to share. Then rereading comments from my editor and another beta reader, I realized it just wasn't working, mainly because I wasn't believing it myself. I did keep the threesome scene on the sofa, though. It's a fan favorite I learned in a recent poll, and my support team all agreed that THAT was working, it was just what came after that they wanted to see changed.
As for why BDSM, I read the classic non-romance The Story of O when I was 16. I think the BDSM world has always fascinated me, even though I didn't know there was a lifestyle and community until last year while researching my series. But I didn't really like the dark, hardcore BDSM novels outside the Romance realm. Once I read Cherise Sinclair's Club Shadowlands, I saw how beautiful such a relationship could be if it were safe, sane, and consensual (SSC). It's a world misunderstood by many "vanilla" people (those who aren't in the kink lifestyle), so I wanted to show a realistic version with people the reader might actually meet (rather than the fantasy Doms and unrealistic set-ups). I seem to be a gateway for lots of readers who have never read a BDSM novel before (or at least not a realistic one). Feeling a responsibility to explain things that another writer would assume their readers would know, I tend to provide more information when I introduce some new technique or tem into the series, to keep them from running off to google a term every other page. That may annoy some who are well-read in the genre, but I also get messages and Tweets from those in the lifestyle thanking me for portraying their world in such a positive, realistic way, especially after that über-popular trilogy that was on the news earlier this year, which left a lot of people seeing BDSM as something abusive. (While that wasn't a BDSM-genre novel and I hadn't even heard of it until the Today Show mentioned it in March, many readers did misconstrue it as what BDSM was all about, which is far from the truth.)
**Was there a lot of research required for these books?
KM -- Definitely. I don't live the lifestyle and I'm not a Marine or former military person or family member. Masters at Arms primarily required Marine/military research, because I didn't go too deeply into BDSM in that one. Nine months after it was originally released, I uploaded a new version that a retired Marine Master Sergeant who is a big fan had gone through page by page to make sure I got everything right about the Corps he loves. I just revised the wedding scene in Nobody'sHero, too, because the wife of a retired Marine Lt. Colonel noticed something I had gotten wrong. But that same woman just "pimped" me out to a Marine recruiter today while her son was taking his test to try to get a Marine ROTC scholarship, because I do portray the Marine ethos so well.
As for the BDSM, I was writing Nobody's Hero late last year when I was adopted by a submissive who asked her Dom, Toymaker on FetLife.com, to be available to me if I had questions. Boy, did I ever jump at that opportunity! He's been in the lifestyle for more than 20 years and now mentors other Doms. This couple helped me understand from both perspectives the dynamics of the Dom/sub relationship, especially one in which past abuse of the sub was an issue. Toymaker added warm-up techniques in the Shibari scene that took it to a whole new level of sensuality. He also provides technical assistance and helped me plan the play scenes in Nobody's Perfect to achieve the goals Damián had in those scenes. Toymaker has worked with a number of submissives dealing with past abuse issues and helped me see that it's not possible to erase those negative messages, but a patient and well-trained Dom can work to redirect those messages and help the submissive stay in the moment when flashbacks are triggered.
**Are there any more books in this series? And what will you write next?
KM -- There is no end in sight. In fact, when I asked readers in my Facebook series discussion group who else they wanted to see books about, they literally named every secondary character, including "the next generation." I have ideas for about a dozen books in this series (and I just published #4), plus a spin-off series with Angelina's firefighter brothers and Victor and Patti from Nobody's Perfect. My goal is to publish two books a year starting in 2013 (I averaged two a year in my first two years), so I'll be writing for a very long time. Unlike some writers, I really have no desire to branch out into some other world or sub-genre at this time. I have left so many characters with unresolved issues or in desperate need of Happily Ever After (HEA) endings that I feel compelled to write as quickly as I can in order to get them the happiness they all deserve.
Next up is Somebody's Angel, the HEA for Marc and Angelina who were left at Happy For Now in Nobody's Angel. I hope to get back to writing as soon as I get the first four books out in print. Originally, they were supposed to reach their HEA as a subplot in Nobody's Perfect, but when I realized what it was that Marc had buried so deep inside even HE didn't know it was there, I saw that it would be a distraction to bounce back and forth between the two plots. Besides, Damián and Savannah needed their space to deal with their issues in what was already a very long novel (172,000 words!). So, I decided a month before publishing Nobody's Perfect that book five in the series now would be Somebody's Angel, running simultaneous to most of the timeline in Nobody's Perfect, but taking the series just a little further into the future at the ending. Then will come the long-awaited story of Luke in Nobody's Dream. I won't put that one off any longer!
|Masters at Arms is the |
first book in the series
and is a free read.
Thanks so much for having me, Jesse! I'd like to invite your readers to download the free introduction to this series, Masters at Arms, which provides prequels to three of the following books in the series, but is primarily intended to show how these three Doms bonded together in Iraq and what their earlier experiences with BDSM had been. They can get a list of buy links at all booksellers where the books are sold by going to http://kallypsomasters.blogspot.com/p/books-by-kallypso-masters.html.
You can find Kallypso Masters books at all online booksellers. I recommend them highly!