Janine’s currently touring blogs with her utterly awesome new novel Cover Him With Darkness. She stopped by to answer a few of my most Impertinent questions…
What are the best and worst things about being an erotic writer?
It has to be the best job in the world, doesn’t it? I mean, you sit round thinking of stuff that turns you on, and then you write it all down! You get to play with words and with sex on the page, and you get to make your readers very happy!
The downside is that the pay is terrible.
As a writer of fantasy, do you find people expect you to have a sincere belief in gods, ghosts, demons, werewolves etc?
No, I haven’t come across that. But then I don’t think I make any secret of my real-life skepticism/atheism. Of course it has no bearing whatsoever on whether I can write a good story about those subjects.
Which fictional character do you wish you had created?
God. I’d have done a better job of it. With none of that crap about sex being sinful.
What was the first book you read that turned you on?
As a teenager, I could get turned on by a single sentence. Practically any mention of sex, in fact. I was massively excited by the flirtation scenes in “Jaws” I remember – the actual sex was a disappointment, but there were many passages devoted to the anticipation and build-up. But I also recall a lone line in a horror novel: “She had spent all night catering to his seemingly inexhaustible sexual appetite,” that seemed the hottest thing EVA at the time.
I’m a lot harder to please nowadays!
What do you see as the future of erotic fiction?
I see hopeful signs – eroticism has become more mainstream for romance, and there are terrific small presses out there like Sweetmeats. I see scary signs – It seems to me like a certain online trader, having crushed every rival bookstore in the world, may now be trying to drive other publishers out of business and take over All the Things.
But erotic fiction will never die as long as people want to read in one format or another. We aren’t going to stop liking sex anytime!
Which of your own characters would you most like to have a sexual encounter with?
Hmm. I’d run a mile from some of my characters if I met them in real life. Bear in mind that a lot of them are dangerous, or messed-up, or not human at all – or all three at once. Reynauld from “Red Grow the Roses” would be best for a one-night-stand, but that’s like saying your first shot of heroin makes for an enjoyable evening in.
I think, on balance, Severin from The King’s Viper. He’s focused, obsessive, ingenious and has a wickedly horny imagination. And the poor sod could do with a break; it’d be a real sense of achievement to know I’d rocked his world. Satisfaction on every level!
Want to find out more about Cover Him With Darkness? Read on…
If You Loved an Angel… How Far Would You Fall with Him?
What happens when the daughter of the village priest falls in love with an archangel banished from heaven? Milja’s heart is struck when she catches a glimpse of the preternaturally beautiful prisoner her father keeps captive beneath his church’s altar. Torn between tradition, loyalty and her growing obsession with the fallen angel, will Milja risk losing her family, and her eternal soul, for the love of this divine being? Janine Ashbless will transport you to a world where good and evil battle for true love.
This was it. The moment of choice.
The moment I betray my family, I thought. My father, who has trusted me even after last time. The whole line of my blood. All those people over all the centuries, who have stayed here, slaves to this prisoner, because it was their duty. Because they were keeping the world safe. Because they were obeying the will of God.
I cut through his bonds, one by one. It took a long time. The leather resisted even the titanium-tipped saw-teeth, and I wondered what the hell it was. I thought about Loki’s son, slaughtered by the Æsir so that his body parts might be used as rope—for only a god might bind a god. The thought was foul and I tried to push it aside.
As I cut, his breathing grew louder and louder, sucking great lungfuls of the flat cavern air as if he were building up to a fearful effort.
When I freed his second ankle, he rolled onto one hip. For a moment he lay without moving, groaning a little under his breath.
I touched the back of his hand. “Take your time,” I whispered, wondering if I would have to pull him to his feet. That wouldn’t go well; he was far too heavy for me.
But then, with a heave and a grunt, he sat up, pulled the severed ends of his tethers loose and rubbed at his leg. The skin beneath his bonds was sticky-raw: I saw how he had to pull the leather off to free his wrists and feet. His breath came harsh and shallow, and I think the change in posture was as agonizing as the removal of the binding. When he opened his screwed-up eyes I passed him the water bottle.
He didn’t know how to open it. He had no idea about screw-top caps.
“Here.” Quickly I remedied the situation. The water escaped down his throat and chest as he glugged it back, cutting runnels in the dirt there.
I was wearing a long skirt that day to mollify the old women; I wet the hem while he was getting his breath back and tried to gently clean his face with the cloth.
That was rash. He caught my wrist in one hand; I felt the fingers of his other on my bare calf. Our eyes locked, and I felt time hang, breathless—before he moved to cover my mouth with his, and I tasted blood and stone and darkness in his kiss.
There were no words. There had never been adequate words for his pain and need, or for my hunger. All these years my guilt and my loneliness had pulled me back to this place, and to this moment: this kiss. I grasped his shoulder and felt the play of his muscles as we moved together; beneath my fingertips there was grit stuck to his skin that might have been there for centuries. I yielded to his cold lips and his arms and the press of his torso, repudiating my yesterdays and throwing away all my tomorrows in the rush of this moment, this ache. He had already taken my heart: now he stole my breath and my senses.
The only thing that kept me from rapture was his grip on my wrist, tight and growing tighter. I could feel the bones of my wrist grinding together; in the discomfort I felt a dim echo of his agony—and because of that I welcomed it. But the hurt grew and at last I broke the kiss with a gasp.
I heard him growl.
“Please—not so tight!” I begged.
He looked down at his hand as if he’d never seen it before, and abruptly he released me. I cradled my wrist, rubbing it, and stared up at him through my lashes. I was half-afraid, half-enchanted, and dizzy with uncertainty and arousal.
For a moment he took my face lightly in his hands, thumbs limning the bones of my cheeks. In the half-light I saw the slow shake of his head. “My star of the morning,” he breathed, “come to lead me to the day.”
I didn’t understand.
“Is there a sun shining still?” he whispered. “And snow upon the high peaks?”
I nodded inside the cage of his fingers.
“Is there grass?” he pressed me, brushing my lips with his. His skin was warm now. “Do trees still lift their arms to the sky?”
With all the muscular uncoiling of a snake he rose up on his knees over me. I saw his skin gleaming with perspiration. Maybe he was no titan, but he was far taller than I was; he loomed like a wave about to fall. For a moment then, I admit, I thought that he was about to seize me and press his naked body down upon me—but instead he put his head back and stretched, flexing each joint, and just by watching I understood the inexpressible pleasure of being able to move and twist and ease every muscle: the visceral joy of freedom.
He laughed disbelievingly, low in his throat. “Show me.”
“Which way is out?” he asked, reaching to pull me to my feet as he rose up himself. My legs were weak and I tipped against him, dizzy.
Oh God. His naked body, here, now, against mine. I can feel his…
“Okay. I’ll take you.” I was blushing with shame for what had not happened.
And that was how I came to release the prisoner of eons. The act itself had been so abrupt—so sudden—that now it felt utterly unreal. Even the throb of my flesh and the quiver in my legs made it seem all a part of my fantasy.
I led him to the tunnel mouth, but he wasn’t content to follow and he pushed ahead, drawing me by the hand. He didn’t spare the icons and the votive offerings a single glance: his attention was fixed upon escape. As the first breath of warmer air came to us he released me and hurried forward, fending off the walls as he stumbled because his legs were still a little uncertain beneath him.
I felt then the clutch of fear. He didn’t look back to see if I was following. He didn’t seem to remember me. All his focus was on what lay before him and, as I hurried to keep up, every straining inch of the distance between us tore at me.
Was he going to abandon me, now that I’d freed him?
The door to the church was standing open. He surged out into the room, searching for an exit. I wondered for a moment whether he would be able to cross holy ground, but he didn’t even seem to notice his surroundings: he had eyes for nothing but the outer door, its ancient planks outlined by the sun. He wrenched it open and the blazing glow of the afternoon poured in upon him, lapping his naked flesh, haloing him in light. A human would have flinched and shielded his eyes: even where I stood, at the back of the chamber, I was half blinded. Tears swelled my eyes and my throat. He only lifted his chin, staring.
Beneath my feet, the ground trembled. It lasted perhaps a second or two—almost as if the Earth itself shivered.
The breath stopped in my breast as I waited for what would happen next—for him to burn to ash perhaps, or for an eagle to swoop down upon him from the heavens. Or for him to unfurl demon wings and vanish with a clap of sulfurous thunder. I didn’t even have his name to call out in my terror.
None of those things happened. It was just an earth tremor, one among many we suffer yearly. A little dust fell from the arched ceiling. My companion didn’t even seem to notice. Instead he looked back into the room, toward me, and stretched out his hand, pleading. I moved to lay my fingers in his and he pulled me against him, holding me tight. I could feel his strong, hard body trembling. Without words we stood holding each other, looking out upon the valley and the village below, with its fields and its brown-and-red tin roofs and the snow-capped peaks of the Durmitor range beyond: the terrifying open vistas of freedom.