Intro: Today I’m interviewing my beloved friend and brilliant writer Giulia Napoli. I’ve read and immensely enjoyed all her work and we have helped each other with editing of each other’s manuscripts. To be honest, although she’s too modest to admit this, she’s a much better writer and a much better editor than I am. The erotic content of her books is, how shall I say this? – yummy? OTT HOT? Yes, yes, yes. I envy her skill. It’s not porn either, it’s top notch literature with good plot lines sprinkled with LOTS of yummy sex.
Isn’t she beautiful? >>>
Hello Gi. Please tell us where you live and write. I know that like me you have two houses (at least) and move from one to the other seasonally. Describe them. Do the settings inspire your writing in any way?
Giulia: I spend most of the year at our home in the US Great Lakes region. It’s about 35 miles out in the suburbs, in a community built along a series of canals. We moved there from a high rise condo near downtown, which I dearly loved. Our home is a beautiful, spacious place, and I’m very fortunate to have it. Our other home, on the US southeast coast, is a fourth-floor condo in a gated community, about 500 feet from the beach. It has lovely, cathedral ceilings and is decorated very differently from our house.
Each place I’ve lived has inspired me differently. For example, I wrote About Lena, who also lived in a high rise, when I lived in one. Living in Europe for almost three years inspired the locations in Oh Claire! My fictional town of River’s Edge, from Eighteen Months and the Destiny Lost Series, was inspired by a community not far from the location of my canal-hugging home. The ocean at my condo got me thinking about an underwater archeology career for Destiny. That’s also the location where I first tried blindsimming, so I could intelligently write the many blind scenes in Eighteen Months. I did it there, because it’s not as crowded or urban, and there’s much less traffic than near my principle home.
Jini: Wow! I also have a home on the southeast coast and I love it there. Right now the weather is in the 70s and I go swimming every day. Wanna come with me sometime? Why do you write? Do you consider writing to be your vocation, your calling?
Giulia: I write because I have to, just as much as I have to breathe. What I mean is that I have stories within me that I feel compelled to tell. I would be totally unsatisfied if I couldn’t write them. I need to write to be happy. It goes beyond vocation or calling, it’s the necessary food for my soul.
Jini: I know what you mean. I feel that way too. When did you start writing? Did you submit your first effort anywhere?
Giulia: I started writing in high school – poems and short stories, in addition to assignments. After grad school (in Journalism), I got married, relocated, and started writing freelance for some of the suburban newspapers – human interest stories, and an occasional editorial. I submitted those stories and had good luck getting them picked up.
Jini: The more I learn about you, the more impressed I am with your life. No wonder you’re such a good writer. How do you classify your work as to genre? Do you think genre classification is important to your potential readers?
Giulia: I struggle with classifying my fiction, and so does my publisher. I write sexy (perhaps very sexy) adult, contemporary, fetish erotica. The fetish part includes hair, body modification, weight gain, smoking, sensory denial, speech altering, mind altering, etc. There is also my unique approach to BDSM. My novels are hard-hitting. I specialize in developing vivid characters, making the reader intensely, intimately care about them, and then changing them drastically, through plot, relationships and fetishes. A lot of my work, but not all, has female bisexual and lesbian scenes. My heroines are, invariably submissives.
Jini: I can’t classify my novels either but sometimes the publishing business and marketing force it on us. I don’t get it personally. I never bought a book because of its genre. I think literature like yours defies classification and who cares? Do you have a routine for writing? How long do you spend at the keyboard during creative spurts?
Giulia: Yes, I do, but I also have to work around family responsibilities; I have a Hubby and a young daughter and we entertain a lot. I’m also lucky to have a nanny for my daughter. I check email and some social sites over coffee, then I write until brunch. I write all afternoon, usually until about dinner time – though I’ll admit to a frequent 4:00 break for a cosmo or martini and, of course, to play with my daughter. That includes weekends, but I do take days off to do other things. I write 6 – 8 hours per day, every day. Not infrequently, I’ll write for 12 hours. If you aren’t going to be serious about writing, you won’t be successful. Of course, “writing” includes research.
Jini: Yep and research includes mostly reading. I spend half my writing time (sometimes more) reading. What do you feel are your strengths as a writer? How have you developed these qualities?
Giulia: I’m as good as the best in making the reader love a character. That’s why reviewers have said how much my books affected them. One of my favorite reviewer quotes is: “… a week later, I still feel that pain in my belly, so I’m calling it a 5 [5 stars out of 5].” I develop that talent by putting myself deeply in the mind of the character. I think, in some ways, I become the character while I’m writing. For example, in my sexually erotic scenes, I live them emotionally and vibrantly in my mind, even though I might never have experienced everything of what’s happening fictionally, in my real life. I suppose, in that way, I live through my novels.
Jini: Yes, I certainly see that in your work. Where do you find your inspirations? Do you base any of them on your dreams or nightmares? Do you have any real life person(s) in mind when you write your steamy sex scenes? I won’t ask you to name anyone but I’m sure my blog readers would love to know and so would I.
Giulia: I would love to answer that inspiration question, but I really don’t know. I may see, hear or read something (in an email, a novel, a short story or even a news article), which sparks an idea. But my inspiration comes from actually taking that idea, writing a few thousand words, and seeing if I can find an entire story there. I have many tens of thousands of words that I’ve written, which didn’t go anywhere. I use writing to help inspire me, and make me think. I probably have the world’s most boring, frustrating dreams, none of which would lend themselves to stories. Idle daydreams are another story – from which I get a lot of story ideas!
I will, though rarely, put someone I know into a story as the basis for a character. The first time I did that was the character of Vara in Oh Claire! I needed a fun, sexy, understanding lesbian or bi woman, and someone I knew was a perfect fit. I asked her at the time, and she was fine with it. I thought it worked quite well. That said, I don’t base characters on real people very often at all.
I am, personally, bisexual and, with Hubby’s understanding, I do have individual trysts with a very small number of female friends from time to time. When I write hetero or lesbian scenes, I do put myself in them in my mind, and I draw from some personal experiences. But I guarantee you I have not done everything I’ve written in those scenes by a pretty long shot. However, I also guarantee that I’ve researched them heavily. They are as accurate as one could make them.
Jini: Smiling as I read your answer. It was just what I hoped you would say.
Do you put yourself in your stories? You have told me you don’t do that but many authors do this without realizing it and I think that’s what you do. I have read all your books and I can always tell which character is your surrogate. Let me rephrase the question. Can you name a character in one of your books who resembles your personality most closely? All of us are dying to know.
Giulia: I never put myself in my novels consciously. I don’t think I’m particularly interesting, so I would not expect a reader to want to read about me, even with another name, place and situation. Fortunately, my real-life and online friends tolerate the weird things that happen to me. Those of your readers who understand a little bit of erotica or BDSM, would recognize that every one of my lead characters – Lena, Susan, Claire, Alie, and Destiny – are submissives, as am I. That’s where the similarity ends. The character that most resembles me is Claire, the lead character in Oh Claire! That said, I am, at this point in my life, more bisexual than Claire, thanks to one very close friend, and I’ve never been traumatized like Claire was.
Though I don’t put myself in my novels, my novels have had an effect on me personally, which includes everything from hairstyles (or lack thereof) to piercings, tattoos and body modifications. To some extent, I practice what I write, and I write erotica.
Jini: Knowing you, I agree on Claire too, so there we have it. Thank you! Claire is my favorite of your characters although I became very attached to Destiny as well.
You usually write in the first person POV of your character. Tell us why you think that’s the best POV for a novel.
Giulia: Great question! I didn’t think it was, necessarily, but I had an epiphany. I never wrote in first person until I started Eighteen Months. I wrote Oh Claire!, a very successful novel for me, in third person, which is how I’d always written EVERYTHING. Here’s how my change came about: Oh Claire! was picked up as a buddy read for the members of a very large interest group on Goodreads. There was a huge amount of discussion which greatly pleased me. I tried to stay out of the discussion, to see what the readers were really thinking, and to avoid biasing the discussion. One of the readers, whom I’d come to especially admire and respect, suggested something like: “Wouldn’t it be interesting to see the sequel in first-person, to get Claire’s thoughts first-hand. I broke silence to write back that I’d never written in first person before, so I wasn’t sure.
I started the [still incomplete] sequel to Oh Claire! in first person, AND IT WAS FANTASTIC! I could get into the heads of my characters (my strength) more than ever! Sadly, I’ve lost half of the Oh Claire! sequel text due to a backup snafu, and I haven’t had the heart to try to rebuild what was lost. But, when I started Eighteen Months, I tried first person and I thought it worked great. So did the reviewers.
With the Destiny Lost Series, I automatically started in first person, and it’s worked for me. I won’t write everything that way, but it has definitely served me well. I’ll admit, though, that I’ve had a few reviewers who claim to simply not like to read books written in first person. To me, that’s sad.
Jini: Do you make the characters say and do what they say and do or, in your mind, do they have free will and you simply write down what they are saying and doing of their own volition?
Giulia: Oh, there is no doubt. My characters have free will. They take me for the ride, not vice versa. People who are not as familiar with writing, or what an author does, always struggle with this revelation, and many dismiss it. But it’s totally true. I’ve never known an author who wouldn’t agree. If you’re inside the head of your character, and you refuse to write illogical passages, you will write what the character thinks and does, and it will invariably take you places you didn’t expect. The only writing rules to get you to this nirvana state? “Know your characters and be consistent with their personalities.” Once that happens, you, as the author, are along for the ride!
Jini: Great answer Gi, and I’m sure it will be insightful to some struggling writers.
Are you an outliner or an improviser? Do you write your stories fast or slow?
Giulia: Outlines are worthless to me, because I give my characters too much say in what I write about them, and those sneaky devils go off on their own every time, violating any outline I created. I use three main devices to write: a thought bubble, a timeline, and references. A thought bubble holds all the ideas I’ve had in whatever format they happen to be, though I find it best to organize them a little. The thought bubble can contain novel terms, summaries of characters or research, targeted character changes, or anything else important to that novel or series. The timeline keeps me from messing up the order in which things happen, and serves as a sort-of outline. Without it, readers might find an effect before a cause, which would ruin the story for them.
If I’m “in the zone,” a term anyone will recognize if they’ve had to do something that required all of their attention, I can write 5500 words of solid prose a day. If I’m writing about something new to me, I might struggle to get 1000 words out. Most of my novels are over 100,000 words, – very long for erotic novels, which are usually under-40,000-word novellas. I personally think my best work is Eighteen Months, at over 103,000 words. The surprising thing to me is that I wrote that superb (IMO) novel in 6 weeks. By contrast, Oh Claire! required 9 months.
Jini: I like the term “thought bubble” and agree with you about outlines. I carry a little pocket Moleskine notebook with me everywhere I go to capture writing ideas, which I will from now on think of as “thought bubbles.”
Tell us what you would like us to know about your current work, the Destiny series.
Giulia: The books within The Destiny Lost Series, Destiny Taken and the coming Destiny Bound, and the unnamed third book, are first-person narratives that are intended to take the reader somewhere where she or he has never been, into situations they would never want to be, with people totally foreign to them, and with a morality that is obtuse to whatever they’ve known. I’m trying for the same love of character, the building up and the disastrous fall into tragedy, the evolution of the main characters, and the lopsided happily ever after that characterizes all my novels. I think these books are even more dramatic and impactful than Eighteen Months, and are definitely more imbued with BDSM. In fact, I’ve only written short, relatively mild, BDSM scenes, up until the new book, Destiny Bound. I have a hard-hitting, intense, pure BDSM scene in there, which lasts 2 chapters!
Jini: I want to read it!
I am an Indie author and you have a publisher, Global Jele – Can you tell us why you went with them and whether you’re happy with how they are helping your career?
Giulia: Global Jele is more of a writer’s co-op than a traditional publisher. They also restrict their offerings to only a few genres. I went with them for two reasons: to get good editing, in exchange for my editing other people’s books, and for the painless submission of my books. I don’t have to do anything but send them the Word document. They create the covers too, but I do have refusal rights. If, for example, Amazon doesn’t like something about the formatting or the contents itself, they deal with that. They handle distribution to R2R readers, web sites, and sellers. In exchange, I give them a small percentage of my profits. They don’t do more than the minimal marketing, though they will advise.
Jini: Sounds to me like you have a good partnership with Global Jele. Traditional Publishers have pretty much stopped handling anyone but authors already on the bestseller lists.
I know you’re working on and almost finished with the second novel of your Destiny series. Do you have any thoughts about books after this next one?
Giulia: I expected Destiny Bound, would end the Destiny Lost Series. Like a lot of the things I write, it got way, way too long. So now there’ll be a third book in the series to finish it off. After that, at this point in time, I plan to finish the Oh Claire! sequel, unless another idea comes along to distract me.
Jini: Nice. What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?
Giulia: I want to produce a body of work, of adequate size, that I can be proud of. I’m fortunate in that my Hubby supports us so well, that I can write what I want, not what might sell to the largest group of readers out there – the pure romance readers.
Jini: Pure romance readers, booo! Let them eat cake! I have the same sort of life with my hubby. Aren’t we lucky?
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Giulia: “Write what you’re interested in, not necessarily what you know.” I suppose you can always learn what you don’t know. And I don’t have to write what the big market wants to buy. As a result, I write only what interests me. I think my own excitement about what I write comes through to my readers. To my readers, I can say that what I write honestly reflects what I like.
Jini: Thank you for a wonderful interview Giulia. I know my blog readers will love it and feel free to reuse it anywhere else you want.