Fran Lee is the author of over 30 novels varying from Contemporary to Paranormal Romance and Erotic Romance; she has already released three novels in the first three months of 2014. In this Making Love 101 Fran takes the time to talk about how she created the love story between Azrael and Cheyenne in her book Woman on Fire. Thanks, Fran!
Fran Lee’s Making Love 101:
Holy stray kittens, Fran! Woman on Fire is an incredibly incendiary? Explosive? Combustive? Comburent? What was the recipe you were using for this book? What was the nature of the characters or story that lent to such a magnificent chemistry?
The need to connect was deep, even before they met in this story. Azrael was looking to find his other half…the part of his spirit that he had lost while in Hollywood.
Though Chy had grown up in a Native American home, being a pale, freckled redhead made her feel she could never be what she felt inside, and she wished for nothing more than finding the part of her that was buried deep within… the Native American spirit that she longed for. Two lost spirits seeking that special connection.
When you are creating a story what are the elements that you feel are most important to developing a Romance or Erotic Romance? How do you feel these components enrich the experience of the reader?
To create fiction and make it a reality for the reader the author must be able to place herself in the audience… to know what the reader feels as she weaves a believable, intricate story that will captivate and fulfill. Erotic Romance must also be believable. The reader will place herself/himself in the story along with my characters… the reader must be thrilled and aroused, just as the characters are.
As the author, I have to be able to convince my readers that it is real… real emotions… real love. The characters must have depth and a base in reality. They are flawed. They are human.
Cheyenne Red Wolf is a very strong and self aware woman. She is aware of not only her place in the Anglo world but also her place, both spiritually and knowledgably, within the Native American world. As far as you were concerned while writing her character, what did you identify her with in your own mind? Who was she and what did you hope readers would see in Cheyenne?
I totally identified with her as me. Her need to be accepted within the cultural circle she loved so deeply but was on the outside looking in. I grew up in a town surrounded by reservations…grew up with neighbors and school friends who were NA. I loved the culture and the people.
Cheyenne loved her adoptive father, and wanted to be a real part of his world. She was courageous, imaginative, and willing to go to any length to show him her loyalty and love. But as many of us are, she was a tad misguided in her desire to be someone other than her self. She had to learn that before she could mature and grow strong as a person.
You have an incredible gift for creating push and pull between your characters and the first encounter between Azrael and Cheyenne is powerful and hot as all get out. What is it about push and pull that works so phenomenally in particular with Alpha males? How do you feel about the way you used push and pull with Azrael?
Azrael needed to control his space… to control everything around him. He was a powerhouse of an alpha male personality, and it hit him hard when he realized he’d hired someone who was not a “real” Indian for a job that he expected a Native American to fill. Worse yet, he found himself sexually attracted to the woman, which led to his total meltdown in the classroom.
He is as vulnerable as he is alpha. His strong beliefs are brought into question. His pigheadedness is a direct result of prejudices he didn’t realize he had acquired over his life. All he knows is how to push for what he wants. But redheaded females often react badly to that. They push back… hard.
The development of Azrael’s character is given out in snacks rather than meals. You get to know Cheyenne a lot quicker than you get to know him or his history. He’s already enigmatic to Cheyenne. Were you ratcheting up that tension and drawing the reader into that sense of mystery by not telling them much about him until later in the story?
It’s no fun to let everything out of the surprise bag up front. Holding the readers attention is hard to do when there are no surprises left.
I usually consider my heroine to be the focus of the story. My hero must be enigmatic, shadowed, and something to be reckoned with. I like to unwrap him more slowly.
I know for a good deal of people Native American people are perceived to be exotic or somewhat foreign. Do you think that Azrael is made into a more romantic character by the fact that he might seem to be novelty?
Azrael is a romantic character because he is hot, sexy as hell,and all man. By a novelty I assume you are referring to him being culturally different from the heroine. I try to show that Native American men are certainly as desirable, hot, and sexy as Latin men or white men are.
The romance between Cheyenne and Azrael is so freaking hot that it nearly singes fingertips. They both see one another as touchable yet forbidden; they are basically one another’s apple in the Garden of Eden. When you are writing your novels what are your thoughts on temptation, anticipation and surrender? How do you feel those should be used? When shouldn’t they be used?
Temptation, anticipation, and surrender make a romance novel worth reading more than once. Erotic romance MUST have a real love story, and all the important elements of a real relationship between two people.
If surrender comes too quickly, and there is no heavy-breathing, fiery anticipation, the book loses something important.
Maude is a woman of my heart. Often in love stories where the boy loses girl phase comes and the remorse becomes so thick in the story that it bogs the telling down and ruins the pacing. I loved what you did in Woman on Fire because you let Maude sock Azrael in the kisser and then the ball rolled into a bridal gift. When you have secondary characters like Maude how do you balance their role in the story so that they can play their part without taking over scenes they show up in?
Secondary characters like Maude Thunderhorse must add to the story and give it brilliance without bogging it down and making it too complicated.
Maude is there to add fun and fire to the story. She is there like Jimeny Cricket on the puppet’s shoulder…a touch of humor as well as a touch of reality.
The love that is between Cheyenne and Azrael has an element of mysticism involved in it. How much about Lakota practices, beliefs and history are you familiar with and is the bond they share something based in truth or born of fiction?
Before I write anything about real people, I try to research everything. I ask many questions of people who have more knowledge than I do. Customs and traditions and even the mysticism used are a reality to many people. I spoke at length with people who have experienced such things in many religions. Even in fiction, an author must try to be accurate factually…unless, of course you are writing fantasy.
What is the difference between how you structured love stories when you first began writing erotic novels and how you do it today?
LOL! Compare me at age 14 to what I know now…about 54 years of experience.
If you were to review your own book what would you have to say about it? Tell me what you feel are the strong part and the weak parts about your novel and in hindsight is there anything that you might have changed.
The only thing I might have changed is the length…but sometimes making a book longer does it no real service. Readers always tell me I should have made it longer…but adding more words and twists often takes the book away from where I want it to go.
As for me reviewing my own book, I’m afraid I am totally biased. If there is anything wrong with the book, it never gets to the publisher. I am merciless in self-editing. Do I sound totally like a self-important author by saying that? 🙂
If someone who had never read any of your stories was to ask you to recommend them a book from each genre you have written what would be the list you would give them and why would you choose those books?
I sent you Woman on Fire because it has humor, lots of heat, and a dollop of mysticism. I often recommend my debut book, Out of Her Dreams, or my Cougar Challenge book, Nothing but Sex.
I think most readers like humor and heat and loads of fun. Out of Her Dreams is a story about a repressed author who uses her dream man as the hero in all her books, never expecting to find him in reality. When she meets him face to face, the fun begins.
Nothing but Sex is part of a very successful series by 17 of Ellora’s Cave’s best authors, and each story follows a path set by four women who met at a romance readers convention. Women enjoy stories of people like themselves who win in love.
What is the ultimate love story ever told as far as you are concerned?
There is no way I can possibly answer that. I have been a huge fan of the classics, and it would be a total tie between Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and about thirty others.
Thanks for taking part in Making Love 101!
Meet this Love Maker:
Fran Lee was a late bloomer. She started everything in her life a bit later than other folks. After spending most of her adult life as a hard-working, rather repressed woman, she started actually living. Shortly after her divorce, she decided to shed the box she’d allowed others to put her soul into. She began martial arts training at 46. At age 50, she achieved her black belt. Although she had been writing her fantasies for many years, she finally decided to begin seriously submitting her work to publishers.
She looked at herself and decided that what was important to her as a person no longer would take a back seat to what somebody else thought she should do. Stepping out of her shell taught her that anything is possible, as long as you never give up your dreams. When asked for advice from newbie authors, she always tells them to believe in themselves…and never to give up.
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Woman On Fire Synopsis:
Azrael Thunder Horse never thought another Anglo woman could possibly knock him for a loop after leaving Hollywood. Despite the instant shot of lust he feels when he first lays eyes on his new Native American Studies teacher, he’s determined to get rid of her. After all . . . she misled him with that damn Indian name of hers! But the stubborn redhead has a thing or two to say when he tries to fire her.
Cheyenne Red Wolf has never met a more maddening, arrogant, downright irritating man. He hates her on sight. Too bad he’s the hottest thing she’s ever seen . . . and her new boss. The man tried to fire her because she wasn’t a “real” Indian. Good thing he can’t stand her, because she sure as hell wouldn’t be able to say no to all that sexy, hardheaded, Lakota masculinity.
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Woman on Fire Excerpt:
The first day’s classes had gone well, and she had learned as much from her new students as they had from her. She loved it when learning went both ways. Cheyenne couldn’t have hoped for a better group. Most had been eager to learn, since none of them had ever before attended any of the Native American Studies classes that had been made available over the past couple of years through the Standing Rock Agency’s extension service. It was good to know that there were a lot of parents who wanted their kids to learn more about their very special Native American heritage.
Most of her students were kids who had grown up off-res, but whose parents were now moving back for economic reasons. The good-paying jobs they’d left the res to go work had evaporated with the shrinking dollar. And bringing Anglo husbands or wives and kids back to the res for survival meant culture shock to many—especially the kids who were used to the big cities and huge schools. Many of these kids had not an inkling of the deep roots that drew their NA parents back home.
And many of them couldn’t have cared less.
Being swallowed up by the melting pot society of the cities made it virtually impossible for NA families to practice a culture that seemed “antiquated to the max”, as one of her more outspoken ninth grade students had quipped earlier in the day.
She smiled as she thought about the questions she’d gotten from several of the kids. The same questions she always got, and she always answered with a wry sense of humor and a ready grin.
“What tribe do you belong to?”
“I come from the tribe known as the Celts.”
“How come you have red hair and blue eyes?”
“A lot of us have red hair and blue eyes.”
She shook her head and picked up the books the kids had not returned to the bookshelves like she’d asked as they had trooped out of her last class of the day. It would take a few more classes to get them into the habit of being kind to their teacher. As she placed the books on the shelves, she saw the classroom door open and glanced up expecting to see Mr. Wyatt, the principal, and found herself staring at a man she could only describe as the primest piece of oh-my-god-beautiful masculinity she’d had the pleasure of ogling in a long time. Her belly fluttered a joyful salute to his delicious, hot looks. Sheesh! Down girl. It hit her on a primal level that she couldn’t quite define…
“Can I help you?” Her quickly pasted-on smile was polite and pleasant. Probably a parent, checking out the new teacher. Damn. They didn’t build single males like him these days.
Night-dark eyes slid past her, wandered around the classroom slowly, and then returned to her. Eyes that would normally have set her pulse off like a shot, but these held a cold, aloof quality that let her know she was beneath his interest.
“Is Ms. Red Wolf still here?” The dark-chocolate voice held a quiet, tense note.
“I’m Cheyenne Red Wolf.” She repeated the polite smile. “How can I help you?”
The look of shock in those obsidian eyes made her bite back a grin. It wasn’t an unusual reaction to her definitely un-Indian looks attached to a very Indian name. But the desire to grin dissolved the instant those eyes turned angry.
“You are Cheyenne Red Wolf? Our new Native American Studies teacher?” Every word was clipped and reflected a fury that was barely held at bay.
She moved away from the bookshelf and resisted the urge to cross her arms defensively over her chest. The animosity rolling off that man was enough to choke her. It was only through sheer willpower that she didn’t cut and run. He took a step toward her and she had to crane her neck to meet his glare. She drew herself up to her tallest possible height which wasn’t much over five foot six in shoes and lifted her chin slightly in answer to his unspoken but clearly heard challenge. Damn! She wished now that she’d worn heels.
Forcing her voice to remain softly calm wasn’t easy. “I am. And you are…?” she coached gently, refusing to retreat as he invaded her personal space with all that hulking, broad-shouldered menace he exuded.
His eyes moved from the copper-penny red hair she’d dragged back into a bun before her first class, all the way down her fuzzy blue cardigan sweater and travel-wrinkled beige linen slacks to her vintage fifties penny loafers, then back with a disbelieving insolence that was as insulting as it was scary. Every nerve in her body screamed at her to take a few steps back and get a desk between them, but she’d be damned if she’d let him intimidate her.
She had no real reason to fear him, after all—it was broad daylight and they were in a school full of—empty classrooms. Oh, shit. As the realization hit her that regular classes had let out over half an hour ago, and most of the teachers were gone for the day, she inhaled slowly and wondered if maybe it might be wiser if she turned tail and sprinted for the still open door.
But her common sense returned after one panicky moment, and she frowned at her own silliness. What the hell was he gonna do? Attack her? He was understandably shocked to find a non-Native American woman teaching a class that should by all rights be taught by a Native American. There were a lot of Native Americans who resented what she did, simply because she was not one of them. Not really. And being one in spirit didn’t quite cut the mustard.
She made a point of glancing at her watch and lifted her eyes back to his face. “I really can’t take time to go over lesson plans right now. If you’ll just tell me which student is yours, I can give you a call tomorrow—”
“There’s been a mistake, Ms. Red Wolf.” The voice was low and controlled.
“A mistake?” She had to work damn hard to keep a tremor of anger out of her own voice.
Those almost-too-damn-sexy-to-be-real lips twisted into a sneer as he seemed to loom even closer in the suddenly airless classroom. “A big one.”
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