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The Writing Process With Katrina Strauss

Posted on: October 3, 2008

Blue Ruin

Blue Ruin

YaoiandYuri.com is honored to interview Katrina Strauss [site] [blog] [myspace]

Please describe one of your latest m/m releases, describe the plot and how you set it up without giving us spoilers of course.

KATRINA: I originally envisioned the basic plot behind Blue Ruin 3: Chains of Love for the second book in the Blue Ruin series, but one of my secondary characters had different ideas. After three false starts, I gave in and set my original idea on the backburner, then wrote book two, Close to Me, accordingly. When it was time to write the third installment, I went back to my notes for what was supposed to have been book two and said, “Okay, boys, let’s try this again.”

I’ve had a taboo fetish for Eastern European mobsters since viewing a documentary in the mid-90’s on the role of body art in the Russian mafia. Believe me, I wouldn’t want to be involved with men that dangerous in the real world, but in my fantasy life, anything goes and tattooed bad boys rule! In 2002, the movie Triple X (2002) was released. I found myself drooling less over Vin Diesel’s character and more over that of Russian mob boss Yorgi, portrayed by the uber-hot Marton Csokas. A few years later, I started writing erotic romance. I kept looking for a way to sneak my Balkan mobster fantasies into my work, but nothing really presented itself.

Then I discovered the joys of yaoi. As I tend to lean toward the darker, harder stuff in any given genre, I soon found myself immersed in Yamane Ayano’s Finder series (aka Viewfinder). If you’re familiar with VF, then you know it involves a Japanese businessman seme, Asami, with suspected ties to the Yakuza, while the uke, Takaba, finds himself kidnapped by Asami, then the Chinese mafia (mmm, Fei Long), and later the Russian mafia. VF proved to be one of a few influences behind my approach to the first Blue Ruin book, Some Kind of Stranger, as far as how hardcore and violent I decided to go. I was aiming for a little more romance, however, so I toned down the captor/prisoner elements behind my seme Derek and uke Blue’s first encounter. I placed one person between them as the true kidnapper/villain, and let Derek rescue Blue instead.

My Balkan bad boy fantasies finally found an outlet when I wrote up the notes for Chains of Love which, again, was meant to be Blue Ruin 2. I wanted to bump up the intensity of Derek and Blue’s BDSM relationship and explore “dungeon play” (I blame/credit Tori Maia’s Hoshi no Yakata for that one) but I needed to somehow give them access to the proper equipment. I began to entertain a “kidnapped by the mob” fantasy as a way to do just that, but as I’ve explained, I ended up setting that idea aside and saving it for book three, while book two focused on an abusive high school crush barging back into Blue’s life. After I got all that drama and angst worked out, I returned to my notes for Chains of Love and started my next manuscript.

Or so I thought. It seemed that while I was writing book two, Yamane-sensei’s Russian mobsters had taken on a more prominent role in VF and – guess what – kidnapped Takaba! After vacillating between hyperventilation, and wondering if I needed to rework or even trash my story, I held off on Chains of Love yet once again and watched VF’s Russian arc unfold for the next few chapters. Assured that my Balkan boys were very different from the VF Ruskies, and that my story was going in a unique direction wholly my own, I resumed breathing correctly, returned to my manuscript, and had at it. I gave free rein to my BDSM captor/prisoner scenario at the hands of bishounen Balkan mobsters who wear black leather and look like gothic rock stars. I plopped tall, dark, and dangerous Sasha into the middle of my Blue Ruin universe, put Blue and Derek in his path, and the story evolved from there. (I’ll plead the Fifth as to why Sasha might bear a suspicious resemblance to a certain Ville Valo.)

How do you develop characters?

KATRINA: I’m more of a panster than a plotter, and my method extends to how I develop characters. I’ll start with names, occupations, and an idea of basic physical and personality traits. I’ll collect pictures of the inspirations behind these characters. (Hey, any excuse to clutter my hard drive with images of beautiful men!) From there, I allow the characters to develop themselves based on their interaction with one another and how, given their personalities, they react to different situations. I learn more about them as I go from the back story that reveals itself during the writing process.

How do you manage to reach your writing goals? For instance do you have a daily schedule or are you very flexible in terms of how much you can complete in the course of one day. What atmosphere do you try to maintain as you write.

KATRINA: My “writing window” is 6 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Some days, I make the most of that time, while other days will find me distracted or dealing with other pressing matters like promotion, household chores, etc. I consider 1500 words a day to be productive, though I can knock out up to 5K if I’m focused and the Muse is on fire. For me, nothing will dampen that creative spark more than a specific word count goal or deadline, and I’ve learned it’s pointless to beat myself up over failing to make a certain count each day. Instead, l set mini-goals that aren’t dependent on numbers, e.g. “Okay, I’ll write as much as I can until noon and then break for lunch”, or “I’m not allowed to eat the other half of that chocolate bar until I finish this chapter.” (Those two have been effective in monitoring the calorie count, too!) Basically, the less I fret over word count, the higher it gets. It’s an interesting formula!

As for atmosphere, I put on music, sometimes as background noise to induce those creative Alpha waves, other times to evoke a specific mood that I wish to convey in my story. I keep plenty of caffeine and the aforementioned chocolate at hand. I usually write in my bedroom on my desktop, though if the weather is nice, I’ll sometimes go out on the back porch with the laptop.

The Blue Ruin series is available from Loose Id at:


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Visit YaoiandYuri.com

4 Responses to "The Writing Process With Katrina Strauss"

Enlightening and entertaining interview.
I loved Marton Csokas in Aeon Flux 🙂

I can’t wait to read what you come up with next, Kitty! 😉

How wonderful–and now I only want to read BR3 even more! (I loves me a good writing process:-)

Cool interview and so interesting! I have to say I adore Yamane Ayano’s work. Totally cool.

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