Category: Interviews

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Fifty Shades of Green and the Joys of Co-writing

Fifty Shades of Green & The Joys of Co-Writing with Eileen Gormley and Caroline McCall


echeadermiddle_sm_fixAs Fifty Shades of Grey becomes a digital and now print sensation, with a movie on the way, Irish authors are far from being left behind in the steamier side of fiction. In fact, several Irish authors have found success with one of the world”s leading online romance publishers, Ellora”s Cave who sell up to 190,000 books a month. Are there print and movie deals on the way for them? We hope so!

With romance one of the fastest growing areas in publishing today, caught up with Eileen Gormley and Caroline McCall to find out more about what”s hot in the genre and all about their new co-written book Angels Demons and Doms.

Please note this article is unsuitable for readers under the age of 18.

eileen-gormleyEileen Gormley grew up in the midlands of Ireland, with an idyllic childhood, complete with pony camp and her own horses, even jumping with the Irish Junior Show Jumping team. Always dreaming of being a writer, Eileen was laughed at by her teachers as she”s dyslexic – it was suggested she study architecture and computers instead. Within a couple of years of leaving college however, she started writing occasional articles for local papers and graduated to becoming a full-time freelance journalist for the Irish National newspapers, specializing in court and crime reporting. After her third child was born, she took extended maternity leave and wrote a science fiction novel. Don”t Feed the Fairies

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reached the quarter final of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition in 2011. Following superb reviews it was picked up by Ragz Books Publishing and is climbing the Amazon charts, ranked #1 in Interspecies Romance!

Caroline_McCallDublin born Caroline McCall is a mild mannered paralegal by day who writes sexy sci-fi and paranormal romance and spends most of her evenings and weekends dreaming up alpha males and feisty heroines. As a non-fiction writer and genealogist, she has been published in journals and magazines and has an eclectic background – she’s done everything from working as a roadie with a rock and roll band to being an heir searcher. Three of her futuristic romances Time Slip, Jake’s Prisoner, and Virtually Yours have been released as ebooks by American publisher Ellora’s Cave.

Her fourth novella – co-written Eileen – Angels, Demons and Doms, and is a naughty BDSM romance that will be published by Ellora’s Cave in July 2012. Indeed, Caroline told us that they had so much fun writing this one, that they have plans for several more in the series. Angels 2, with a working title of Models, Demons and Doms is almost complete.

So how does co-writing work for them, and in particular how do they write the hot bits?

Eileen told us, “For the last year, Caroline and I have been saying that we should do a co-write. Every so often, we’d even plot out a couple of stories that we would write whenever we got time. But we were both busy with our own books, and it never seemed to be the right time. That was, until Ellora’s Cave put out a submission call for stories with a tattoo theme. The problem was that the deadline was only two weeks away. We got together, mapped out a rough plot, and started to write.

We don’t live or work near each other, so we did everything by e-mail. Caroline wrote a scene, e-mailed it to me, and I wrote the next scene. We each took a character and wrote all of the scenes where that character had a point of view. Caroline and I met twice in person to work out plots points, and there were a lot of anxious phone calls when we discovered problems, but overall, it worked very well.”

We wondered how they had decided which parts each of them would write? Eileen explained, “In the case of Angels, Demons and Doms Caroline wrote the heroine Lexi, and I wrote the hero Sam. Writing like this meant we could work a lot faster, but it also had surprises and challenges, and yes, a bit of competition. We’d open our e-mail, see what the other one had written and say, “Wow, how can I top that?” Particularly when we were writing passionate scenes, we wanted to up the ante each time and out-naughty each other.

One big difference from any other story we had written was the element of uncertainty. Instead of being in total charge of the book and knowing exactly what our characters would do next, we had to cope with characters who didn’t always do what we had expected, and deal with it when they threw us for a loop. Just like real life, in fact.

The advantage was that we only had to live in one character’s head, and both the hero and heroine have strong distinctive voices.”

Sounds like an ideal way to write, but Eileen continued, “The editing, though was a nightmare. Because there were two authors who sometimes saw scenes in different ways, there were a lot of minor continuity errors. In one particular scene, the same zipper got pulled down three times.

That said we both found co-writing to be such a rewarding experience that we are doing to do it again. Five times, in fact. Angels Two – with a working title of Models, slots Demons and Doms – is currently underway and is already proving to be hotter than the first.”

So Angels, Demons and Doms “went to bed”, and in due course Ellora’s Cave got produced a stunning cover model to pose as the hero, Sam (see below). And then it happened. Publicity. An interview with journalist Sue Leonard for a feature about writing erotica, turned into a half page spread in The Examiner. Caroline and Eileen”s email boxes filled up with requests for interviews.

angelsdemonsanddoms_msrCaroline told me, “Everyone wanted to know who were these mad Irish women, why were they writing erotica, and in particular how? Their questions were invariably the same. Did Eileen and I practice our erotic scenes with our respective long-suffering partners? No to that one – and quite frankly, writing about sex is just as emotionally exhausting as having a hot night in. After writing a particularly naughty scene, all you want to do is sleep.

A lot of journalists were concerned whether our parents and families knew. And yes, they do, now. What most people wanted to know was exactly how do you settle down after a hard day at work and write about sex.”

Laughing Caroline said, “I wish I could say that it was all down to research, although that did come into it. Eileen has a background in journalism and I don’t believe she has ever asked so many people, so many personal questions. They were generally happy to talk, as long as she promised never to reveal her sources. While the experiences of others were immensely helpful, in the end you have to tap in to your inner self.

I tend to work late at night, when the house is quiet. I light a scented candle (usually one of those yummy Irish Rose ones), pour a glass of wine and just go for it. Next to writing a fight scene, writing sex is probably one of the most difficult challenges a writer can face. The choreography has to be spot on and you have to build the emotional tension so such a pitch that the reader wants them to climb into bed together.

But the most important element of writing about sex is the emotional connection between the hero and heroine. Whether you are writing a HEA (happy ever after) or a HFN (happy for now) they must love each other and that must shine through in the writing.”

So what is next for this writing duo? The sexy, otherworldly predator has always been a popular theme in romantic fiction and Caroline is currently seeking a home for her full-length novel Tanglewood. This ghostly tale of obsession, sexual blackmail and revenge is set in contemporary and eighteenth century Cornwall. Caroline spent some time at the Museum of Witchcraft there last summer, researching all things magical and witchy. At present, she is working on a series of shape shifter romance novellas. Two of them, Maggie’s Pride and Bad Kitten are complete and waiting for a date with a red pen, lots of coffee and a bar or two of dark chocolate. The third, Tooth and Claw is still at the plotting stage. Meanwhile Eileen is writing rip roaring historical romances set in the Regency period, the detail meticulously researched – her latest manuscript under consideration with a major publishing house.

Watch this space for more!

(c) Vanessa O”Loughlin June 2012

Reader warning: Angels Demons and Doms is not suitable for readers under the age of 18.

Caroline loves to hear from her readers and she can be contacted through her website Find out more about Eileen at

For more on writing romance check out Clodagh Murphy”s article Frisky Business for more on Getting Published in America, read Caroline”s advice.

A passion for sexy writing

By Sue Leonard

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

LAST September, Caroline McCall attended a masterclass on writing for publication.

When the publisher asked the participants what they read, most said literature. Caroline’s answer shocked the class.

“I said I liked to read erotica; and I told him I wrote it too,” she says. “You should have seen the look on his face.” Caroline didn’t care. Her erotic e-books were being published with US publisher Ellora’s Cave. She’d published three with the company’s Blush imprint, and when she learned they planned to publish hardcore erotica, she decided to write that, too.

Caroline rang her friend, Eileen Gormley, and asked if she’d be her co-writer. Eileen agreed.

“I’ve e-published some young adult books, and I’d just finished a paranormal romance,” says Eileen. “I was at a loose end and I thought it would be fun.”

First came the plot.

“Our heroine, Lexi, is 39. She’s a bit overweight and she’s just divorced from her husband. She wanted to try something different. The guy she gets together with pretends he likes normal sex, but he’s really a sexual dominant. They’re both pretending to be something that they’re not,” she says.

They each took a character. With ten days until the deadline, they wrote furiously, sending the scenes to each other by email. Having completed the required 30,000 words, they sent in the manuscript. The publishers liked the story, but wanted to spice up the action.

Both aged 50, Caroline and Eileen do not conform to anyone’s idea of an erotica writer. Eileen has three children, two of them are teenagers, and Caroline is a civil servant who owns five cats. So how did they imagine and write scenes sizzling enough to satisfy readers of bondage, dominance and submission?

“We’d try and out-naughty each other,” says Caroline. “Eileen would write something. I’ll read

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it and go, ‘Oh my God. How can I better that? I have to get in touch with the naughty in myself’.”

Eileen writes when the children are at school, and tops up by writing in cafés.

“When I write the raunchiest sex scenes, I might have a glass of wine to push my inhibitions a little bit. I’ll read Caroline’s scene and think ‘wow’. Then try hard and top it. I tell myself I can be as filthy as I like, because nobody will read it but me. Then, when I’ve tidied it up, I send it straight to Caroline.”

Caroline fits her writing in after a long working day. She writes for two hours, or more, every evening, and also on Saturday mornings.

Doesn’t her husband mind? She laughs.

“I’m the ideal wife. He can watch rugby for hours and hours and I’ll never complain. He laughs at me a bit, but he’s the one bringing me coffee and my laptop on Saturday mornings, to make sure I get to write,” she says.

But what does he think of the sex scenes?

“He wasn’t interested in the milder romance books. But he got hold of my Kindle recently, and he read our book. I think he was a bit shocked. He wondered how I knew all that stuff. It certainly put a glint in his eye,” she says.

Do the husbands benefit? Eileen laughs.

“You’re writing all this sexy stuff. Then you get to bed and think, ‘I’ve had sex. I’m exhausted.’ It goes into the page rather than the bed,” she says.

Caroline and Eileen have had mixed experience of online publishers.

They trust Ohio-based Ellora’s Cave, who sell 190,000 copies a month. But it’s a rigorous procedure.

“They take on four of 100 authors, and it takes new authors three months to hear back,” says Caroline.

“You sign a standard publishing contract, but there’s never an advance, just royalties. Then, you’re into edits. There are three or four rounds of them, all by email, and then there’s publicity. We were accepted early in March for publication in July.”

Ellora Cave was set up by Tina Enger 12 years ago, because traditional publishers turned down her steamy romances. They told her that women didn’t want to read explicit sex scenes. She didn’t agree. The e-books available through Ellora’s Cave, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble sell throughout the world.

“But you have to use American spelling,” says Caroline. “I got a roaster of a rejection on the first manuscript I sent. The editor said, ‘I couldn’t see beyond your spelling and cultural references.’ You have to conform to how Americans speak. It’s a constant battle and a big learning curve.”

The two love writing e-books. They like the length — 30,000 words; they like writing a series of books and have mapped out another four for the Taboo series. They think they’ll earn more money than with a traditional publisher. But they would both love to see their books on the shelves in Easons. Their timing appears perfect.

Since they wrote Angels Demons and Doms, the world of print publishing has changed. The success of Fifty Shades of Grey, originally published as an e-book, has stunned book editors. Along with its two successors, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed, it dominates the bestsellers list in Ireland as elsewhere.

Are they worried about ‘coming out,’ as erotica writers?

“I think it’s exciting,” says Caroline. “When the cover came out, I passed it round the break table at work. Someone said, ‘you’re a manky bitch’.”

“My parents laugh at my writing,” says Eileen. “They don’t know what I write, and refer to it as ‘that Star Trek stuff.’ I don’t think they’ll take it seriously until they see the book in a shop.

“And my 15 year old daughter is mortified. She’s horrified her friends might find out that her mum is writing smut.”

* Angels, Demons and Doms, by Caroline McCall and Eileen Gormley, is available from Jul 11.

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