September is going to start off hot and steamy. Today, award-winning author Sherry James joins us to chat about her erotic romance novel Cowboy Fling from Ellora’s Cave and her contemporary romance series Studs for Hire published by Black Velvet Seductions. The first book in this series, Women on Top is a 2007 Jabbic Winner in the Contemporary Series Category and Studs for Hire: Women in Charge is due out in November.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Sherry. It’s a great pleasure to have you here.
Thanks for having me. I’m thrilled to be here!
Before we talk about your books, let’s find out more about you. Can you tell us about yourself? How long have you been writing? Do you have any mentors or inspirations?
Well, I'm a country girl and very romantic, too. I grew up on the back of a horse and showed horses and barrel raced. I was even a rodeo queen in my younger days! Believe it or not, I’ve actually ridden off into the sunset many, many times. I still live in the country and have four horses. My favorite sports are rodeo, horse racing, and Nebraska football! I'm happily married and have two very energetic kids who keep me hoppin'. I did a lot of writing as a kid, and I've been writing and working toward a writing career for about half of my life—thanks to discovering historical romance novels when I was a junior in high school. I devoured books by authors such as Alexandra Ripley, Jude Deveraux, Laurie McBain, and Patricia Gallagher. They swept me away into amazing worlds that I couldn’t get enough of. And to my delight, I later found more wonderful authors like Judith McNaught, LaVyrle Spencer, Pamela Morsi, and Amanda Quick. These women captivated me so much that I decided I wanted to do some captivating of my own by writing my own books!
So, you’ve spent a good portion of your life riding horses and became a rodeo queen. Care to share what that’s been like and how it has impacted your writing?
It was wonderful! All those hours on the back of a horse gave me plenty of time to think, so I made up romantic stories. It was great plotting practice! As a rodeo queen I had many wonderful opportunities that turned out to be great training ground for my career as an author. I had the privilege of meeting many famous people, dealing with the media, and I found out what it felt like to be in the spotlight a little bit myself.
What’s your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day when you are more productive than others?
My goal is to write consistently five days a week. That’s been a little bit of a challenge, but this fall my oldest started kindergarten so that is helping immensely. I’m getting myself into a new work routine of getting him up and to the bus, then I walk for thirty minutes and then hopefully I can start writing. I still have a three-year-old daughter at home, but working with one child underfoot is so much easier than working with two! I’ve always been a night owl and that’s really my prime muse time for writing, but I’m trying hard to switch myself around to being an early bird. It’s not easy, but hopefully I’ll be successful!
Cowboy Fling brings together a sexy cowboy, a shy nurse, an impulsive bet, and three days of hot fantasy-filled sex in rugged Wyoming? What inspired this story?
Actually, I was looking at a gift catalog a few years ago and I saw this item you could order that was a jar filled with slips of inspirations. The idea is to pull out one slip of paper each day for a dose of inspiration to get you going. My brain got to thinking and I started twisting things a bit. What if instead of an inspiration each one of those little slips of paper revealed a sexual fantasy? From there the story just started to build on itself.
Tell us more about the main characters in this story—cowboy Lane Hart and nurse Paige Holister. Why will readers care about them? Can readers really root for their romance when it’s based upon a planned sexual encounter?
Well, I believe so. And if the reviews I’ve received are any indication, the reviewers are rooting for them. Paige is certainly the fish out of water with this fantasy quest her sister has gotten her into. She is shy, practical, responsible, and doesn’t consider herself sexy at all. I mean the idea of acting on our fantasies is really almost a fantasy in itself. Wouldn’t we all love to be adventurous and embark on our own sexual fantasies at least once in our lives? But because of our family and financial responsibilities we aren’t able to do so.
As for Lane, he’s not only hot and sexy as all get out, but he’s truly a good guy who’s been wronged. I think any woman would love to find a man like him and be the one to heal his heart.
And yes, the sex is hot, but Cowboy Fling is first and foremost a romance. These characters have real conflicts to resolve, and what starts out to be just a fantasy weekend, develops into way more. This story isn’t about just S-E-X.
Though Paige is on a mission, she actually meets Lane by accident during a brawl where Lane and another man are fighting in the parking lot of a rodeo arena. Why did you choose to have them meet that way?
Well, Paige is so unsure of what she’s out to do that I thought I’d take her by surprise and throw her sexy cowboy at her feet. That way, since he’s right there, she doesn’t really have time to talk herself out of asking him to be her cowboy! And of course, when she meets Lane, she knows she’s found her man. But the question is if she can muster up the gumption to go for it.
Let’s move on to your Studs for Hire Series. Where did the idea for this series come from? Is this going to be like a racy Harlequin series where the characters and stories are always different or is it going to be the same characters in each book?
My husband owned a carpentry business for a number of years, and since that’s a field pretty much dominated by men, again, my mind got to working and playing with ideas. What if three women were to own a handyman/construction business where they called the shots and employed sexy, reliable guys to do carpentry/electrical work for mainly a female clientele? Remember the Diet Coke commercial from the 90's where the women were hanging out their office windows as the sexy construction hunk took a Diet Coke break? It was a major hit—he even had his own calendar. So, I thought, what woman wouldn’t want a strappin’ hunk-of-a-man rewiring her outlet! Hey, waiting for a repair guy like that would be worth missing a day of work for.
Right now I definitely have three books planned for the series, possibly a fourth. Each partner—Sydnie, Casey, and Terri, will each have their own stories. They also have reoccurring roles in each book. The heroes will make appearances in the other books as well. Although the books are tied together by common characters, each book definitely stands alone.
In Women on Top, we meet Sydnie Riley, a woman who was fired from her last job and decides to open up her own business with two of her friends—Studs for Hire, whose clients are single women searching for good looking men to help them with household problems. Is this a sexy take off of “Husbands for Hire”? Do these studs do anything more than just fix problems around the house?
No, it’s not a take off. At leastwise not intentionally. And the Studs aren’t supposed to do anything more than take care of handyman work. But tell that to the clients! Two of my heroes, Trevor and Alex, can give you an ear full about clients getting the wrong idea.
In Chapter One, we also meet Trevor Vanden Bosch, who Sydnie holds responsible for her getting fired. And unknown to Sydnie, he has a hidden agenda. What can you tell us about Trevor?
Well, Trevor has been working his butt off to climb the corporate ladder. Over the years he’s come to understand that in order to make that climb he has to do some things that he doesn’t like. And he sure as heck doesn’t like what his boss is forcing him to do now in order to earn a partnership. But Trevor can’t deny that going undercover at Studs gives him the perfect excuse to see Sydnie again. I better stop there. I don’t want to give too much away.
And once again I have to ask, why will readers care about these two people? Will they be able to root for them to be together? Or is Trevor’s hidden agenda going to turn readers off of him completely?
It’s true Trevor has a hidden agenda, okay, maybe two, but one is to make sure he doesn’t do Sydnie wrong again. And two, is to win her heart for good this time. I hope readers see that he genuinely cares for Syd and that he’ll do whatever it takes to protect her. He even makes some big sacrifices on her behalf. He’s a true hero to my idea (sigh), and I hope readers will agree with me.
Does anyone ever ask you why you have chosen to write erotic romances? Has anyone ever suggested you write something a little less controversial?
Not so far. Whew! But I write pretty tame. And Cowboy Fling is the only true erotic romance I’ve published so far, and it only carries an S (sensual) rating. My Studs for Hire series isn’t erotic. Hot yes! But not erotic. For me, what makes a romance hot is the sexual tension, the awareness, the hero and heroine have for each other. I love to see that tension build and build until you think they are just going to burst! And that’s the part I really like to write—the awareness. I believe all my books deliver on that account.
There are groups out there who would like to see books like yours taken off the shelves. How do you feel about this? Do you think censorship is necessary in some cases?
I believe we all deserve the right to read what we want to read as long as our actions don’t cause harm to anyone else.
Have you ever been subjected to criticism solely because of the genre you write? If so, how have you handled it? Do you have any advice on how other writers can handle such criticism?
Since I’ve been writing for years, I’ve had people give me a tough time about writing romance in general. Mention romance novels and a lot of people already have the misconception they are all nothing but trash. I calmly reply that romance novels are books about relationships, learning to forgive and grow, and learning to love. My advice to writers who are faced with criticism is to remain calm. Don’t get defensive. Remember you are a professional writer. You need to act professional. Simply ask the person giving you the hard time if they’ve ever read any romance novels. If they say no, then recommend some authors and ask them to give them a try before negatively labeling the genre. If they have read in the genre ask what they’ve read, then again recommend some books based on their likes and dislikes and ask if they’ll give us another try. Books, like any form of entertainment, are subjective.
What’s up next for you? Are there any exciting projects fans and fellow writers should know about?
Right now I’m getting ready for the release of my second Studs for Hire book, Woman in Charge. It’s due out in November. I had a blast with this book. Course, it gave me a chance to revisit my inner Elvis! That’ right, if you’re an Elvis fan, you won’t want to miss Woman in Charge.
I’m also writing the sequel to Cowboy Fling. Paige’s sister, Dorie, gets her turn at making her fantasies come true in Country Fling. Then, I’ll start on the third book in the Studs for Hire Series, Woman to the Rescue. I also have a paranormal that is close to being done, which I hope to find a publisher for in the near future, and I have several historicals I’d like to find homes for as well. Oh, if only there were more hours in the day.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Well, one of my main goals as a writer is to bring readers a few hours of just good ol’ fun and entertainment. If I can make them forget their day-to-day worries for a while, and make them laugh, too, then I’ve been successful.