Here's the interview posted there ...
Alessia, thanks for the taking the time to answer my questions! I know the readers are going to LOVE them.
What drew you to writing romance?
Um, well… nothing. I landed in the romance genre because that's where the publishing industry currently herds the royalties-based erotic fiction. The draw, as you put it, was toward the erotic elements—the transformative power of sex, the way it brings out the best (and the worst) in people, the way it challenges our absolutes. Sex is not only titillating, it's absolutely fascinating. Every sexual act carries a complete story arc in microcosm. The relationship is changed by the experience and the emotional distance between the characters either increases or decreases. Individual changes, often profound, take place as well. Sex is a crucible for character development. So, while some of my work may indeed qualify as "romance" by the prevailing genre definitions, I never set out to write romance. I set out to tell a story.
Tell me about the first Coming Together and how it came together.
The first volume of Coming Together was self-published in late spring of 2005—just a couple weeks before I got "the call" from Phaze. In fact, the two events are somewhat related.
About 5 years ago, I started searching for erotic fiction online, and I wound up at a site called Literotica and began to post my early scribblings there. It's a huge site, and the quality is… diverse (to put it diplomatically). However, there are some very talented authors in its ranks. After about a year, I discovered that those who were serious about writing good erotica tended to congregate in the forums, particularly a section called the Authors' Hangout.
I made the Authors' Hangout my online home. I was still just a hobbyist, though, with no aspirations beyond that site's contests, and the word "ebook" wasn't even in my vocabulary at that time. As I got to know some of the other authors and poets and illustrators, we began to discuss options for getting a broader audience for our work.
For a short story writer, publication options—at least in print—are sporadic and limited and certainly not an adequate source of income. So, we discussed the possibility of bundling our stories into anthologies. When talk turned to money, we realized that splitting the proceeds 15-20 ways was never going to result in a lucrative income. Someone—and it may've even been me, I don't recall—suggested donating the revenues to charity, and Coming Together was born. Many of the original participants are still involved with the project. I'm both humbled by and proud of its growth.
It was in the process of gathering all the stories for that first volume into a manuscript that it dawned on me: I could do the same with all of my short stories & poetry. That's how fine flickering hungers became a book. I submitted it to Phaze thinking that, at the very least, I'd get a professional opinion on my writing. A couple weeks later, I had a contract, and that resulted in an EPPIE Award winning publication.
Is there a way you pick the theme for each one? Do you do it, does Phaze?
At first, we picked one charity: the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The first volume was published in conjunction with a Free Speech contest on Literotica, and it seemed fitting to have our erotic fiction benefiting an organization that fights to preserve our ability to freely express ourselves via the Internet. Volumes 2 and 3 also benefit EFF. They were all initially self-published through Café Press but now have homes as ebooks with Charles River Press. When their contracts expire in early 2009, I'll be adding the ebooks to Selena Kitt's eXcessica collaborative and self-publishing the print volumes through Amazon's Create Space.
It wasn't until Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast that we produced a themed volume. All the stories and poetry in the Special Hurricane Relief edition involve storms. It benefits the American Red Cross.
Themes and causes for the rest of the volumes have a variety of sources. Kat Lively suggested Coming Together: For the Cure, our Susan G. Komen benefit, and it was the first volume to result from an open submission call. It was a 2008 EPPIE Award finalist, a Romantic Times BOOKreviews Top Pick, and the winner of the 2008 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Erotica category (and a finalist in the Anthology category).
Other suggestions have come from readers and fellow authors. Coming Together is not housed solely at Phaze. We have self-published print books, ebooks with Charles River Press and eXcessica, and will soon have an exclusive title with All Romance eBooks.
Does each theme have something to do with the charity you give to?
In later volumes, yes. I do try to tie the overall theme to the cause. For example, Coming Together: In the Kitchen (a cookbook for which submissions are still open!) will appropriately benefit a charity for the hungry.
The most recent release, Coming Together: With Pride, doesn't really have a theme beyond diversity. I think that's appropriate, though, since HIV/AIDS affects everyone.
Coming Together: Under Fire (4 Stars from Romantic Times BOOKreviews!) contains fire-themed stories and poetry. The upcoming interracial volume, Coming Together: At Last, which will benefit Amnesty International, has a theme of hope & freedom.
You are planning on making Coming Together a non-profit charity all by itself. What are you hoping to do with it? Will it only include books, or are there other ways you are planning on raising money?
Yeah, I filed the registration a couple weeks ago and am now slogging through the development of Articles of Association and Bylaws. We have seated a Board of Directors and as soon as all the requisite documents are on file with the state, we'll be tackling the application for IRS tax exemption. Coming Together is now officially a "nonprofit voluntary association."
While collections of erotic fiction and poetry will remain Coming Together's primary fundraising product, I do hope to branch out into other forms of creative expression: photography, audio books, graphic arts, painting, etc.
We'll also be doing some single-author compilations. There's a book of Lefty McGee's incredible poetry in the works entitled Coming Together: Pondering the Indelible and a collection of erotic short stories by the prolific Laurence Doyen entitled Coming Together: For Her. I can wait to put these on the market! The ebooks will be released through eXcessica and the print through Amazon's Create Space.
How do you go about picking the stories for the anthologies?
It's all about balance. The quality of the submissions is VERY high. Almost everything I receive is publishable, in my opinion. So, my task is to select material that fits the theme and is well-balanced in length, point-of-view, sexuality, and tone with the rest of the book. I strive for diversity in each collection. In fact, "Celebrate the diversity of desire!" is a new promo slogan we've adopted.
Do you have the next theme and charity picked out?
There are several volumes still open for submissions:
Coming Together: Al Fresco closes on January 31st. It will be released on Earth Day 2009 exclusively in ebook from All Romance eBooks and will benefit Conservation International. Its theme is sex in the great outdoors.
I'm in the process of working with a popular toy store to develop a branded benefit sex toy to be sold in conjunction with Coming Together: By Hand, which will contain stories about masturbation and benefit a sex-positive charity (TBA). Submissions won't open for this one until we hammer out the details. I'm targeting a release during National Masturbation Month (May), but whether that's 2009 or 2010 remains to be seen. Promotion for this volume will also be tied to the toy review blog, Toys for Tarts, which also fundraises for Coming Together through affiliate sales. (Authors are welcome to submit product reviews for posting, and I'll happily include a reciprocal link.)
Coming Together: Pondering the Indelible is Lefty McGee's poetry, and it will benefit a literacy charity (TBA).
Coming Together: For Her, Laurence Doyen's collection, will benefit NOW.
Beyond that, I'm open to suggestions.
What do you, Alessia, have coming up in the next few months in terms of releases?
I have so little time to write "my stuff" these days. Pity, 'cause I've been told it's quite good. *grin*
Let's see. I just had a short-short story released (last week) in the Surrender: Tales of Erotic Submission print anthology from Phaze. In September, I'll have a story in Rachel Kramer Bussel's Tasting Him anthology. (It's already available to pre-order from Amazon.) In October, my & Will's e-novellas, "Double Header" & "Spring Training" will be released as a print compilation entitled Squeeze Play from Phaze. And, I'll have a story entitled "Double Decker" included in the lesbian print anthology, Sapphistocated, from Phaze in early 2009. Of course, I intend to have contributions in each of the multi-author Coming Together volumes as well.
I'd like to find time to finish four longer works-in-progress: Zane, Snatch, 'Tude, and (collaboratively with Will Belegon) Missing Pieces, the next book in our Erotique series.
Now for the fun questions:
Name three books on your keeper shelf.
In no particular order (out of dozens of keepers),
- Marge Piercy's Three Women
- Stephen King's The Stand
- J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
I don't do guilt. However, I do try to limit my indulgence in the plum and raspberry wines from the local winery. Unrestricted consumption would be detrimental to my bank balance—not to mention my waistline. *wink*
If you had to choose between a night in with a pizza and a movie, and a night out on the town, which would you pick and who would you have with you?
Most of the time, I'd opt for the pizza & movie simply because I am an introvert by nature. Crowds are an energy drain to me. I have to be in just the right mood (or have had an ample amount of social lubricant in the form of vanilla vodka) to enjoy such events. Regardless of the venue, though, my company of choice is my writing & life partner, Will Belegon.
What is your favorite non-writing activity?
Creatively, it would be doing cover art. In terms of leisure activity, it would be sex. Does sex still count as a non-writing activity for an erotica writer? Hrm…
peace & passion,