Welcome to another edition of Couch Convos with your girl, Lisa W. Tetting. Today we’re chatting with Author Twyla Turner. I ran across her erotica trilogy Damaged Souls and it blew my mind. Usually not one for Romance novels, I was pleasantly surprised when I could not put down her books. Her books made such an impact on me that they inspired me to try my hand at writing this genre. Join us as we discuss “Scarred”, “Open Wounds” and “Healed” the “Damaged Souls” Trilogy.
LWT: Welcome to Couch Convos Twyla. Let’s get started. What made you decide to make Sloan a vet suffering from PTSD?
TT: Well when I originally thought of the story all I knew was that I wanted the hero to be homeless. After watching a news story where Richard Gere was playing a homeless man for a movie and a bystander saw him digging through a garbage can and kindly gave him some food, I thought “you never know who is behind those ragged clothes and scruffy hair. And who makes up a lot of the homeless population…veterans. A story was born!
LWT: You have to love Richard Gere. During Open Wounds, Sloan makes a rant about how veterans are treated in this country. Do you have firsthand knowledge of veterans who were wronged?
TT: I actually don’t know any war veterans, who are struggling, but I watch the news a lot and here in Arizona is where they were having a lot of problems with the VA hospital not taking care of them and several dying because of it.
LWT: I’ve seen the reports also and think it is tragic. Sloan and Lexi meet in Savannah, GA where there isn’t a large population of interracial couples. Why did you select this setting?
TT: Many times I write the places that I would most like to visit or already have. I want to visit Savannah, so I decided to make that the place the story would be set. I know that there aren’t a lot of interracial couples there, but I never try to make race a huge factor in my stories. Basically, a world where color is appreciated instead of disparaged is my fantasy land.
LWT: I love that concept. Instead of pretending there is no difference, we should all embrace our differences. Why did you write about a mixed race couple?
TT: So far that’s all I’ve ever written. I prefer to date outside of my race. So I’m just writing what I know. Though I have dated the rainbow, black men included. But since I was little, my preference has always been white men.
LWT: I am happy to know it is a preference and not a prejudice. Even though they are an interracial couple, you make a point to let the reader know it is more about damaged souls and not skin color. Why was that an important message for the readers to obtain?
TT: Like I mentioned before, color is something to be appreciated. Not ignored or anything because it is brought up a couple of times in the story, but it will more than likely never be the main focus unless the story really calls for it. In my own interracial relationships, we talked about race here and there, of course. But it was not the focus; we just enjoyed each other as people.
LWT: I know that feeling all too well. Being a proud Southerner, I couldn’t help but notice the dialog used by Sloan’s childhood nanny, Annie. Where did you derive the inspiration for the manner in which she talks?
TT: I’m from the North so I haven’t had a ton of experience with Southern accents aside from movies or TV shows. But hearing my mom talk about family from the South, some of my great grandmothers and aunts sounded so sweet and funny when my mom would imitate how they would talk to her. So I was trying to go for that Southern charm and sweetness that many women have there.
LWT: Well, just for the record, not all of us Southern ladies talk like that, but it was cute. The sex scenes in the book really grab the reader’s attention. Did you draw from personal experience or was it pure fantasy?
TT: I wish it was from experience! Ha! I’ve definitely had some remarkable sexual encounters, but nothing on that level. Though I did learn that it is possible or almost possible to orgasm while giving someone else pleasure. Good stuff!
LWT: That was an amazing scene in the story. I had no idea. Sloan is such a captivating character. What made you give him such contradictory traits? For example he is such a loving and caring man, but when faced with jealousy he becomes scary and possessive.
TT: Well we can’t all be just one thing. People are more interesting when they have different sides to their personalities. Though I didn’t let the scary possessive side show until Lexi and the readers knew that he would never intentionally hurt her. I think most of us would love to have a non-psychotic man be possessive over us. At least, I would!
LWT: I must admit it made him more attractive, if that is possible. A lot of erotic books make the male character “Mr. Perfect” like your character Aaron. What caused you to give Sloan all of these imperfections?
TT: Because to me imperfections are so much sexier than perfection. I prefer a man with scruff than clean shaven. Thick eyebrows, sans unibrow, than perfectly arched. For some reason I love big ears and slightly crooked teeth too. I love finding beauty and quirkiness in unlikely places. Plus, I purposely wanted to stand out from all the billionaire romance/erotic out there.
LWT: Mission accomplished! I love how flawed the characters are, but remain perfect for each other. Explain to the reader why Sloan and Lexi just seem to mesh?
TT: I guess it’s the same way that people are paired in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). They’re damaged in somewhat similar ways, so only another damaged person can sympathize and help them. Someone as damaged as Lexi and Sloan are, would feel like a freak show dating someone that seems to really have their sh*t together. Someone like Aaron for instance. And it would piss them off if someone who had never gone through any real trauma tried to help change them.
LWT: I can see that. Tell us, why were Victoria and Aaron the perfect nemeses for Lexi and Sloan?
TT: Because they were “perfect” for them by outside appearances. They were what society or Sloan’s parents thought were acceptable, when in reality they were the worst possible people for them and they both knew it. Though they were still jealous and intimidated by them because they knew Aaron and Victoria were what they should want.
LWT: I love how Lexi befriends Sloan when he is homeless and scary looking. She feels something in his spirit that she is drawn to. Do you believe in soul mates and love at first sight?
TT: Even after all the crap I see in the world when it comes to relationships…I do believe in soul mates and love at first sight. At least to a certain extent. I do believe it is possible but rare. Even though I still haven’t found mine at this time.
LWT: I am here to tell you it exists, because I found mine. Never give up hope. How did you start writing erotic romance novels?
TT: Well I always knew that I’d like to write a romance at some point, but never thought I’d have the discipline. And I’ve always been a sexual person that doesn’t mind talking about sex to anyone, but I didn’t even know about erotica until Fifty Shades. Yeah, I know. That book opened up a world I didn’t know about and once I knew it was there, I tried to get as much of it as possible. Then I found BBW Erotica and was in heaven! Though at the time (two years ago) I couldn’t find very many BBW Erotica novels that were full-length and that frustrated me. Then one day I was reading a book and my very first characters Sunny and Gabe wouldn’t get out of my head. So much so, that I couldn’t even concentrate on what I was reading. That was when I put down my Nook and picked up my laptop and started writing. I basically wrote what I wasn’t getting from other novels. The erotic part just fell into place. Though I think of my books as more Romantica. A combination of Romance and Erotica.
LWT: Tell us what the premise behind “Novels with Curves” is and how it came about?
TT: I write stories for women with lovely curves and beautiful imperfections. I have always loved reading and mainly romance, but almost every heroine I’ve read since Jr. High was slender and perfect in almost every way. Well, I’m not like that and many women I know and see aren’t like that. And isn’t reading one of the most intimate forms of entertainment? Where you feel like you are or know the characters? Like they’re a part of your life? Then why can’t the heroines better reflect what the majority of the population looks like? So one day I thought, “I write novels. Novels with curves.” And I was like, “That’s it! That’s what I’m calling my brand!”
LWT: It is a great representation of curvy ladies and I thank you. Speaking of brands, the book covers for your trilogy are amazing. Who did them and how did you find her?
TT: They are, aren’t they?! She’s amazing! Her name is Suzy Almblade and I met her working at a call center, selling cable. Hahahaha!!! I had just released my first book “Star-Struck” when I started working there. I had a piss poor excuse for a cover that I did myself and I showed her the paperback and she asked who did the cover art. In which, I bowed my head in shame and said, “I did.” She then offered to do the cover for the follow up “Awe-Struck” and redo “Star-Struck” and from then on, a partnership was formed. I knew my covers weren’t the classic erotica covers, but I thought they were beautiful. And the covers for the Damaged Souls Series ended up working out perfectly because they look like something Lexi would’ve painted. And by the way, here’s Suzy’s website: www.suzyalmblade.com
LWT: I’m sure our readers will check her out. Is there a stigma that comes along with writing erotica? If so, how do you combat it?
TT: I do sometimes get a little bashful when telling someone what I do because I never know how they’re going to take it. Well, at least in the beginning I did. Now I tell people with more confidence because the moment you say what you do, the majority of people are instantly fascinated, instead of turned off. And if someone does turn up their noses, I don’t really care. Romance and Erotica are the biggest selling genres of all-time according to what I’ve read. So those people can stick a sock in it and secretly go buy the book on their Kindle and shamefully adore it in private, like I’m sure many of them do.
LWT: That’s funny. What advice would you offer someone new to writing in the erotica genre?
TT: My advice is…write like no one is gonna read it. Ha! I just came up with that off the top of my head! You know the saying ‘Dance like no one is watching…’You have to go into it with no fear or you’ll hold back. Trust me, if you’re writing erotica and when you release it and put it in the erotica category where everyone knows what it is, the right audience will pick it up. And the erotica audience are some kinky f*ckers and will probably love what you write, if you write with your heart and no fear. And if you’re still uncomfortable, I know several erotic authors that write under a pen name. I don’t because I don’t feel that my books are that kinky…well, maybe “THR3E” is, but other than that, they’re not. Plus, my head gets all jumbled trying to keep track of social media under my own name. Add double the social media accounts under another name and I’d die!
LWT: That’s great to know. You have inspired me to dabble a little in this area so be on the lookout. Are your book signings handled differently than say a fiction novel? Do you run into fans that are inappropriate?
TT: And as far as book signings go…I haven’t had any yet. I’m still new to this world and still learning. I’ll be attending my first convention in September in New Orleans called Swirling the Big Easy, a convention for readers and authors of IR Romance. So I’ll see how that goes.
LWT: We will have to fix that. The convention sounds interesting though. How do you handle negative feedback from critics and fans?
TT: That’s a tough one. At first, I didn’t take it so well. It was very discouraging. Never enough to stop me, mind you. But it still hurt like a mother. Now I’ve come up with a strategy. I only read the reviews that are 3 stars and above. Why you ask? Because I’ve found that most of the 1 and 2 stars reviews are just mean and hateful, instead of constructive. The 3 star reviews are usually the best for getting honest constructive criticism. That way, I can still learn and grow, without wanting to roll up in a ball and give up.
LWT: Sometimes people can be mean for no reason. Please tell us about your involvement with Indie Books Be Seen?
TT: Another author invited me the event and I thought it was awesome. But I’ve only done the one big day a couple weeks ago. Normally, I basically try to join groups on Facebook and interact with other indie authors to offer support. Though I’m sure there’s a lot more that I could be doing.
LWT: What is your writing process like? Do you have any rituals that you utilize?
TT: I basically just write. And when I get stumped, I write down an outline as a map of what I’d like to happen throughout the rest of the story. I also wake up at 6am every morning because I seem to get my stride in the morning and early afternoon hours.
LWT: Outlines are a great tool to rely on. In your “Damaged Souls” series you utilize a great connection between music and your novel. Please explain this to the readers and tell us how you came up with this idea?
TT: I’ve always felt like I should have theme music or a soundtrack to my life. And once I read a book where the author placed random songs in the footnotes that went with a certain scene. So I decided to take it a step further. Plus, as I was rereading and editing Scarred, I was listening to Calm Water Radio on iHeart Radio and a sad instrumental started playing during a particularly emotional part of the story and I started crying. So I thought it would be perfect to add music to the story, since it heightens emotions. I love movie soundtracks and felt like a book could have one too. So I painstakingly listened to songs I knew and loved to see which ones best fit the feeling of each chapter. It was fun and I loved adding that additional element.
LWT: How do you determine your book prices on Amazon?
TT: Well, most self-publishing advice says that books $2.99 or less do better than pricier ones. As a new author you kind of have to price your books lower until you gain a large readership. And even then I don’t know if I’d jack up the prices that much because I know how much hardcore readers spend each year on books. Though, if I ever signed on with a publishing house that would probably change. So here’s hoping that I can be successful enough on my own to where I don’t need a publishing house.
LWT: Here, here! Please share your top 5 marketing tips with us?
TT: Oh boy, I’m still learning and I still have a LONG way to go. But for now I say…
- Join reader/author fan groups in your genre. This is huge!
- Find a good Twitter book promoter to tweet out about your books.
- TALK TO YOUR READERS!!! They will love you for it and spread the word of how awesome you and your books are. There’s nothing like gaining loyalty.
- Utilize Thunderclap and HeadTalker. (I’m not sure how great they work, but they have great potential)
- Keep writing. Keep putting stuff out there. The more you write, the more readers have to read, share, and talk about.
- Okay, just one more for a bonus. I no longer use Facebook or Twitter ads because unless you have a big budget, I found that they really don’t work. Also, start a blog! Tumblr is pretty popular and it gives readers another chance to see your personality and thoughts on a deeper level than FB or Twitter, while they await your next book.
LWT: Speaking of Facebook and Twitter, how do you use Social Media to engage your fans? Do you find that it builds loyalty?
TT: Dear Lord…YES!!! It’s funny, I have a private personal Facebook page and an Author Fan page, but they still find my personal page and friend request me. So I decided to start accepting them and it was totally worth it. They get to know me as a person and they message me every now and again. And I take time out to chat with them for a little while and I’ve been gaining their loyalty a little at a time. I cannot emphasize enough how important readers are to your success as an author. Unless you’re John Grisham or someone like that, books aren’t really advertised like other products. Books live and die by word of mouth. If you write a decent story and act as a decent person by communicating with the readers that have found and loved your work the word that they’ll spread can change everything!
LWT: Do you have plans to write in any other type of genre?
TT: I actually plan on writing kid’s books or YA at some point. Though I’ll definitely have to use a pen name for that. Hahaha!!! I would also like to write a memoir too. My own version of Eat, Pray, Love but I’ll wait until I can start doing some of the traveling that I have planned in the future.
LWT: I have the travel bug as well. Let us in on what project you are currently working on and what’s coming up next for Twyla Turner?
TT: I want to tell you but its kind of super top secret. I’ll just say that it is a book of short stories. After the depths I needed to go to write the Damaged Souls Series, I needed to step back and do something lighthearted before I dive into another full-length story. I can also say that it will be BBW and it will be a book of several different ethnicities, ALL interracial. Like a United Nations of Erotica. Teehee…
There you have it ladies and gents, another edition of Couch Convos in the books. If you have never read erotic romance, I challenge you to give it a try and Twyla’s series would be a great place to start. To purchase her Damaged Souls Series click the book covers below. Be sure to follow her on social media as well.