Interview with Brenda Cothern

Published 2013-08-21.
When did you first start writing?
Unlike most authors who will tell you they have been writing since they were a kid, I didn't start writing until around 2005. I say 'around' because back then it wasn't anything serious. I just started writing the back story to my D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) character, Zarkina, who has been rattling around in my head for the last 31 years.

For over four years, the first three chapters of her story sat on my PC and every now and then I would add to it. It's wasn't until the economy tanked and I lost my job as a COO (Chief Operations Officer) in 2009, they I really started to write. After becoming miserable and frustrated searching for a job, my husband said, "Why don't you finish Zarkina's book?" I am sure he just was trying to give me a distraction so he wouldn't have to listen to my b*tching about my lack of success in finding a job.

I started writing more of Zarkina's tale and her voice kept growing louder and louder in my head with every page I wrote. I went to conventions and sat in on writing panels and joined writer's groups online to learn more. By the time the first half of Zarkina's story was written and I had investigated & learned about publishing, other voices made themselves known.

Since then, writing has become not only my full time job but also a compulsion... and it is all my husband's fault!
What motivated you to become an indie author instead of going with a traditional publishing house?
The more I learned about writing the more I wanted to be educated about the publishing aspects. Since I was a COO, I was familiar with contracts, distributors, vendors, and the such. I think this gave me an advantage when I was looking into my publishing options. I spoke with several authors and did my homework on the pros & cons of becoming self published. So much so, that I now speak every year at a convention about it and have put the information on my website.

This was in 2009 and self publishing wasn't even picking up speed yet. Most indie authors were looked down upon and comments about them 'not being a real author' were frequently tossed about.

However, the real deciding factor was cost. I looked into several different publishing house submission requirements and almost had a heart attack. They did not accept digital copies of a manuscript but wanted a hard copy, double spaced, bound manuscript mailed to them.
No big deal right? Well, Fates was 330 pages, over 150k words, and once I double spaced it, it was over 700 pages! To put that in perspective, that is almost a ream of copy paper for every printed manuscript I wanted to send out. Add to that the cost of binding the manuscript to the publishers specifications, around $70 a piece, at the time, and the shipping and I was looking at $150 or so per manuscript that I wanted to send out. And that did not even guarantee it would even be looked at!

Since I was unemployed at the time, I just didn't have the money to gamble on 'hopefully they will look at it." I wasn't writing to get rich anyways so self pub was the better option for me.
What is your writing process?
My writing process starts out very old school. I write all my novels on legal pads. Most authors who don't write at home write in a coffee shop somewhere. We have all seen this romantic, stereotypical image portrayed in person or on the big screen from Hollywood. But I write the majority of each of my novels sitting in a bar. Don't get me wrong, I love coffee but since I am a 'camper' once I start to write, I would rather pay $7 for a pitcher of Bud Light than for two cups of coffee. The beer lasts me longer and the added buzz is nice too!

After people realize that I write primarily male/male romances, it doesn't surprise them that I write in a gay bar. Frequently, people say, "that must be where you get your inspiration." All I can do is laugh at that because the characters in my head are way more intriguing and fun than my day-time regular friends at the bar!

I usually write a chapter or two in a session, depending on the book, which runs anywhere between 2500-4500 words per chapter. Once the physical writing for each chapter is finished, I return home and resist the urge to do a zillion other things on my computer before I make the chapter digital.
I use the Dragon speak to text software and read my book into the PC. This is the first round of the editing process for me. After the chapter is in word, I then let the software read it back to me. This acts as the second round of editing. From there, the chapter is sent out to my beta team to pick apart (round 3 of editing). I don't look at any of their feedback until the novel is finished and I am ready to start the 'real' editing process. If any rewriting needs to be done, this is when it happens for me. After I make the changes, I go back and let the Dragon software read the chapter to me again (round 5 of editing.) I assemble the novel into a loose version of a book and the beta team has another look-see (round 6 of editing.) When the team is finished, I let Dragon read the novel to me from start to finish for the first time (round 7.) If all is well, then it is onto formatting the manuscript into the three different formats that I need for publishing (print, Kindle, & Smashwords.) I upload the print copy, order a proof (round 8 of editing), and if all is well... Volia! A new novel!

You are probably thinking, 'damn that is a lot of work' and you are right. But one of the biggest hurtles for going the self pub route is editing. Even with eighteen pairs of eyes (mine & eight beta readers) on the manuscript, we still miss things. I "know" what is supposed to be there so I rarely see when it is not.
What made you decide to write male/male romance?
The decision was made for me by Nick & Jordy. I started out with Zarkina and her book Fates is high fantasy or epic fantasy depending on which book site description you want to go by. There is sex in Fates, erotic sex, but the book isn't a romance at all. In fact, the sex caught me by surprise probably as much as it did my readers. As I was waiting for the editing to be finished on Fates, Kira and Alec starting showing me their story and my Shadows series was born. The Shadows books are paranormal romance and I am thrilled to say they have been compared to True Blood and the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series.

Anyway, in Soul Stealer (Kira & Alec's book) Nick and Jordy introduced themselves to me and I knew there was a story there between the best friends. By the time Soul Stealer was done, they were giving me glimpses of what it was. If two characters ever made me grumble and curse more, I haven't had them intrude into my head yet! Their book, When Beats Bite, was my first male/male romance and opened the proverbial door for other characters who were hiding in my mind's closet. Since that door has been opened, it seems that most of my novels have turned out to be male/ male.

I always thought I would be a fantasy writer since I am a huge Forgotten Realms & Dragonlance fan and D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) player. But somehow that's not how things turned out. Don't get me wrong, I do have a few other fantasy novels but they still fall into the male/male category.
Are your plot lines based on real life experiences or are they purely fiction?
All of my plots are fictional but how much of my real life experience is included in each one varies. Which, if you consider what I write, is kinda funny. There tends to be more fiction in my fantasy and paranormal plots (as expected) than my contemporary novels and more real life experience in the contemporary ones. My most recent novels, Brothers By Bond and especially Not For Sale, have more of my real life experiences than any of the others.

In Brothers by Bond, I was able to use my past experience as a medic and my current experiences seeing the conflict some men go through as they are discovering their sexuality. In Not For Sale, I brought a whole different set of experiences to the table! Having been in the D/s (Dominant/submissive) life style for almost 18 years, being a rope sub, and spending a lot of time in the gay leather community, let me apply a ton of my personal experience in the story, which I have to believe is why the novel is doing so well.

Even on the emotional side of things it's hard to say how much is from real life experience. For my female characters, there definitely is but logically there isn't for my male/male characters. However, I have had gay men say to me, 'how do you know what's going on in my head,' or 'it's scary that you are woman and get it' so many times that the comment that I am a reincarnated gay man has been so many times to explain it that I am starting to believe it must be true! So many times in fact, that my friends in community don't refer to me as a 'fag-hag' or 'fruit-fly' but instead say 'she's really a gay man, don't let her boobs fool you.' For me these are the best compliments I could get on my male/male novels.
How do you handle a bad review?
Honestly, I don't think there is such a thing as a bad review. I have always had thick skin when it comes to criticism and I think that really is a requirement for an author, especially a self published one. You can't please every reader all the time so low star reviews are going to happen.
But what I try to explain to aspiring authors is that what matters the most is that the readers actually took the time out of their life to go back to a site and post the review.

I use the example of Not For Sale to emphasize the point. As of the time of this interview, it's sold almost 2000 copies, most of which through Kindle. But if you look it up on Amazon, you will find less than a dozen reviews. Some are raving and others aren't but what matters is that the book affected those readers who left a review enough that felt compelled to go back and throw a few stars on it.

I have also made it an effort to thank everyone who has returned to leave a review on my work. Even if the review is 1 star and nasty. I never argue with their opinion of my work or try to change it because we all know what opinions are like and we all have them. But instead, I thank them for taking the time to leave the review. We all have busy lives but it really does mean a lot to me when someone takes a moment out of theirs to share their opinion with me about my work. Even if that opinion is not a very flattering one. And the reality of the matter is, I can learn more from the more negative reviews than the ones who rave about my work. There will always be ways to grow and become better at the craft of writing and without the opportunity to learn from the less than flattering reviews, I wouldn't be able to do that. That's not to say that I want every book review to pick a part my novels but I can appreciate the honest feedback my readers give me whether it is good or bad.
What kind of travel do you do concerning your books?
I travel in the state of Florida (USA) when I attend conventions and events to sell my books. There are several Fantasy & Sci-Fi conventions that I have become a regular vendor and guest to speak on writer panels at. I also attend some of the fetish & alternative lifestyle events to sell my books but usually that is just so I can combine work & play. *grin*

I keep an update list of where I will be in person or online on my website: so people will know where to find me! I love meeting people to talk about our shared interests (fetishes, writing, etc.) and meeting fans.
If you had to name one character you have written that was the most like you, which character in which book would that be?
I would have to say Zarkina from Fates. She is so independent and her stubbornness to remain so is very much like me. This is the only book my husband has read and he was only a chapter in when he told me, 'Zarkina is so you.' Of course, this didn't surprise him, but it did surprise me. I knew that we had some of the same characteristics but after giving it some more thought, I realized that she couldn't be like anyone but me. She has been in my head for 31 years and I have been her in every version of D&D (Dungeons & Dragons) since the first edition in 1981.

I don't think I am as quick to let my tempter get the best of me but according, once more, to my husband, I used to be. It seems the old adage about mellowing with age must be true then but I doubt Zarkina will ever mellow as much as I have.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I spend most of my time in the gay & fetish communities. I am a volunteer with The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and on their board. They are a 501c3 that provides condoms & lube to the gay bars, educate & promote safe sex practices, and hold fundraisers for other non-profits. We are a bunch of crazy tranny nuns in white face who love and support the community. As an associate member of The Tampa Leather Club, I am their event coordinator for their Alternative Life Bike Festival.

On the fetish side of things, I am one of the organizers for the Florida Leather and Fetish Pride weekend that is held in St. Petersburg every November. For fun, my husband and I belong to a rope bondage group and frequent the fetish nights on both sides of the bay.

At home, if I am not writing, or working on anything writing related (editing, marketing, etc.), I am reading or playing an MMO (Rift or Guild Wars 2, usually.) Lately, the reading has been more than the MMOs but it really is whatever kind of break my muse is looking for that dictates which I will be doing in my downtime.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

Books by This Author

Revelations (The Goddess of Fate 3)
Series: Goddess of Fate, Book 3. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 52,610. Language: English. Published: September 5, 2015 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic, Fiction » Fantasy » General
As Fate continues to manipulate Zarkina, she has no choice, but to venture to the Isle of Destiny to learn to control her Goddess ‘gifts.’ The journey is fraught with danger as the Bis’halites attempt to make her chose the God of Chaos and the Sisters’ of Fate have their own agenda for the heir to Jaxarelin.
Reunion (Goddess of Fate 2)
Series: Goddess of Fate, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 35,990. Language: English. Published: July 6, 2015 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
The Goddess of Fate, Book 2 Forced to meet her mother, the Queen, but also confronted by the world’s religious order, the Sisters of Fate, Zarkina's life changes. The forces of Fate try to make her walk not one but two paths. She stubbornly refuses to take either. But sometimes Fate gives no other options but to do as it bids.
Retrieval (Goddess of Fate 1)
Series: Goddess of Fate, Book 1. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 40,700. Language: English. Published: April 20, 2015 . Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Zarkina had always known she was the bastard daughter of the Queen and was perfectly content to have never met her mother. Perfectly content guiding merchants and travelers through the Broken Arrow Mountain range. However, that contentment is shattered when she is ripped from the life she knew, abducted, and forced on a journey that she wants no part of taking.
Shattered Illusions (Shadows v.5)
Series: Shadows, Book 6 ยท Guns & Hoses Universe, Book 2. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 45,850. Language: English. Published: November 15, 2014 . Categories: Fiction » Romance » Paranormal » General, Fiction » LGBTQ+ » Gay
(5.00 from 1 review)
Guns & Hoses fans... John's story is now here!!! The Tampa nightclub Shadows, in Ybor City, is the refuge for those who are not quite normal. When John meets Simon, his life takes a bizarre direction. Can either handle the fall out of John's acceptance of who he really is?
Embracing Sin (Shadows v.4)
Series: Shadows, Book 5. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 40,760. Language: English. Published: March 26, 2013 . Categories: Fiction » Erotica » Romance, Fiction » Romance » Paranormal » General
Shadows: Embracing Sin is the 4th book of the Shadows series. Shadows: Soul Stealer is #1 Shadows: When Beasts Bite is #2 Shadows: Barely Restrained is #3
Barely Restrained (Shadows v.3)
Series: Shadows, Book 4. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 59,550. Language: English. Published: November 4, 2011 . Categories: Fiction » Erotica » Gay, Fiction » Erotica » BDSM
Roni is the head bartender at the Tampa nightclub Shadows. All she wants is to date normal humans as she brings enough baggage to the table as a changer. However, when her past comes calling and she kills her tormentor once and for all, what she thought she knew about her new lovers turns out to be a lie. Surviving the punishment is the easy part but can she accept what her lovers are?
When Beasts Bite (Shadows v.2)
Series: Shadows, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 40,950. Language: English. Published: November 4, 2011 . Categories: Fiction » Erotica » Gay, Fiction » Erotica » Paranormal
Jordy, manager at Shadows and Nick, Ex-Special Forces and Marine instructor, are best friends. Both are garouls. Everything changed when they accidently touched intimately; both enjoyed it. Neither will admit it. Jordy’s abducted and Nick must rescue him. Will he be able to make Jordy remember his humanity & love?
Soul Stealer (Shadows v.1)
Series: Shadows, Book 2. Price: Free! Words: 41,290. Language: English. Published: October 25, 2011 . Categories: Fiction » Erotica » Contemporary, Fiction » Erotica » Paranormal
Born at the creation of time, the Soul Stealer feeds on the malevolent and immoral auras to survive. She has honed her skills by enticing her meals to lay with her. But by attracting the attention of a soulless life-drinker, her very existence begins to change but will she allow it?
Before there was Beer Pong...
Price: Free! Words: 11,090. Language: English. Published: June 6, 2011 . Categories: Nonfiction » Entertainment » Games, puzzles, & brain twisters
45 different party games that are from the 1980's. Some are still around while others have been taken out of the closet and dusted off for the next generation to play! Great to add to your phone so the games can go to any party with you!