Samantha Kane, and her Brothers In Arms stories at Ellora's Cave, has become an auto-buy for me. So, being as I know her editor, I got brave enough to ask "Do you think she'd do an interview for my blog?" And Samantha was incredibly gracious and kind.
Seren: You have a very popular Regency-set erotic romance series out with Ellora’s Cave, BROTHERS IN ARMS, and each story is a ménage a trois including male-on-male sex. That’s unusual in an historical romance. What made you decide to write that?
Samantha: I’d like to say that I spent hours and hours refining a high concept for the idea, but that would be a lie, LOL. It was one of those lightbulb moments where you’re sitting or walking along, da dum, dum, dum, and WHAM! It hit me and I sat down and wrote the first five or six chapters and it worked. I think the idea was percolating in my head, and my brain, without my conscious participation, said hey stupid, how about this? Idiot. My brain talks to me like that a lot.
Honestly, I have always liked really hot romance. I was totally fed up with books that led up to excruciatingly short, euphemistic love scenes that ended before they began by slamming the bedroom door in my face. I had already completed one manuscript, which was a sensual romance, and most of the people who read it said the same thing—you write amazing sex scenes. So I didn’t have to be a genius to figure out what my strength was. Then I discovered Ellora’s Cave and erotic romance, and thought wow,what a fantastic idea, romance with extremely hot, explicit sex that ends with a happily ever after. I want to write that.
I only read a few erotic romances, and of those only two or three ménage stories, before writing THE COURAGE TO LOVE. It’s as if that idea was just waiting for the opportunity to present itself. The ménage stories I read were contemporaries, and after reading them I felt…cheated. It was as if half the love story had been edited out. Here were two gorgeous, amazing men who were close friends making love to the same woman for whom they both had feelings, or had the potential to have feelings for, and the sexual tension and chemistry between the men was never addressed. Not only that but the men never even touched while making love to the woman, a feat that would take a great deal of work and the limberness of a Chinese acrobat. The love story was incomplete, and the sex unsatisfactory. So I decided to write a ménage the way I wanted it to be.
I had two goals in THE COURAGE TO LOVE. One, create a situation where two men would development the kind of close relationship that would make them want to share a woman for life, and two, provide a plausible happily ever after for my three lovers. War was very much on everyone’s mind at the time, and it occurred to me that there is a situation where men become incredibly close, particularly men who fight together, watch each other’s backs, live together, and survive together. It was a natural step to imagine the heroes of COURAGE as veterans. Contemporary veterans, however, was not, in my opinion, an option. I think a contemporary setting presents too many problems for a believable ménage happily ever after unless it’s a paranormal, but I’m not going to talk about that right now. So I had to make my veterans historical characters. I’m a huge Regency-set historical fan, Jo Beverly is a favorite, so I decided to make my heroes Peninsular War veterans. This was a big gulp moment for me, because I had always written contemporaries. COURAGE was the first historical I tried.
A Regency setting was also a good choice for goal number two, a plausible happily ever after. As fans of Regency-set historicals know, the period was rife with sexual excess beneath its veneer of social rigidity. The way to legitimize those excesses was marriage. As long as your spouse looked the other way, or better yet engaged in the same activities, all was forgiven if it wasn’t too obvious or objectionable. So another aspect of the story emerged: the heroine had to marry one of the heroes to make their ménage “acceptable” in the eyes of society.
And there you have it. After only a couple of chapters it became obvious that COURAGE was the start of a series, not a stand alone book. There were so many veterans clamoring for their own story that I knew I couldn’t do this idea justice in just one book. The fourth Brothers in Arms novel will be out this fall, in November.
Seren: How do you maintain the romance, not just sex, between two men?
Samantha: I don’t differentiate between my lovers, it’s all romance. I treat the relationship between the men the same way I treat the relationships between the men and the woman. I try very hard to make sure that there are three love stories being told. To use the characters from THE COURAGE TO LOVE, I wanted to make sure that Tony and Kate, Jason and Kate, and Jason and Tony all had equal time. I think that may be even more obvious in LOVE UNDER SIEGE, and AT LOVE’S COMMAND, my upcoming fall release.
For each love story I explore what brings them together, what they find appealing about the other person, what they eventually fall in love with. The heroes in my stories are as enthralled with one another’s bodies, scents, laughter as they are the heroine’s. I also answer the central question in any love story, to me anyway--why are these two people together? What do they give, or provide, to each other that makes them so important? It’s a central part of the character arc. The relationships that develop change my characters in some positive way as a result of the love they share. That’s romance, baby.
Seren: Why do you think m/m romantic relationships have recently become such a big fad with women romance readers?
Samantha: Umm, let’s call it a trend, which I think will continue far into the foreseeable future. I’m going to combine this question with your next one: "Do you think romance readers are as interested in just two men as they are in man/man/woman ménages?"
I think the male/male/female ménage is a favorite female fantasy. So no, I don’t think romance readers as a group are as interested in just male/male as they are in the type of ménage I write about. That’s not to say there isn’t a readership for male/male out there, there obviously is. But I think romance novel readers would be more inclined to accept a male/male/female ménage because it’s a way to vicariously live the dream.Two gorgeous men want to have wild monkey sex with one lucky girl for the rest of their lives, and love her forever. Holy fantasyland, Batman, youbetcha! It’s also easier for them to relate to the sex when they can experience it through a woman’s viewpoint. And yes, I am making the assumption that most romance readers are women. Again, yes, there are men who like romance, but I don’t think I’m speaking heretically to say that your typical romance reader is a woman. And she wants to be able to place herself in the pages of the book. In a male/male/female ménage she’s able to do so as a participant. In a male/male, she’s an outsider looking in.That may be oversimplifying, but that’s the way I think of it.
As for why the male/male aspect of the ménage has become more popular, I think it’s because we like men, LOL. We especially like handsome, strong, masculine, sexy, take charge guys. Who are naked. I’ll take two, please. And then, oh yeah, have them make love to one another for my pleasure. Yep, that’ll do it. I don’t think it’s some social phenomena that’s a symptom of some greater societal issue. It’s just two naked sexy guys doing each other. Yikes, is it hot in here or is it me? We could get Freudian and say that through the male/male sex women are able to hypothetically fuck men, which in reality they can’t do without a strap-on. That may be Jungian. I honestly blew off that whole semester, but you get my drift.
Seren: Ooh, the thing we’re all dying to ask: How do you research your male-on-male scenes? Do you think they are realistic?
Samantha: ROFLMAO. I hate to disappoint, but as I told my Dad, I write fiction, not autobiography. I’m probably going to get a lot of grief over this but here goes—I never read, or watched, any gay or bisexual stories or movies before writing THE COURAGE TO LOVE. That’s right, not one. I drew on my own background of loving, and making love to, a man. The feel, the taste, the scents, the sounds, they don’t change based on who’s pitching and who’s catching in the lineup that day. And after forty years I damn well better be able to figure out which slot to put Tab A in. As for realism, (shrugging here) who’s to say? They’re realistic for me. I like to think they’re realistic for my readers. The feedback I get seems to indicate they are. But let’s be honest, how realistic are the sex scenes in the majority of romance novels? If we wanted realism we’d just read Sex forDummies. Instead we read fiction—romanticized ideals of what we want sex to be. I think the sex in erotic romances comes closest to the real thing than other genres, but again, readers don’t want the real thing. They want it better, faster, stronger, for less than six million dollars. Was that reference too dated, LOL?
Seren: Do you have more stories coming? And if so, will they include m/m or m/m/f?
Samantha: Yes, and yes. As I mentioned earlier, the next Brothers in Arms novel willbe released from Ellora’s Cave sometime in November, and is titled AT LOVE’S COMMAND. It is the story of Ian Witherspoon, his lover Derek Knightly, and Ian’s wife, Sophie. AT LOVE’S COMMAND is nearly twice as long as THE COURAGE TO LOVE and LOVE UNDER SIEGE, so it should satisfy all those readers who’ve told me to write longer books! For the first time I go back and explore the start of the men’s relationship during the war, and readers will also see Jason and Tony from THE COURAGE TO LOVE and their war experiences. I loved writing this book so much I was heartbroken when it was over. Luckily I had another project to jump right into. Right now I’m working on my first ever science fiction/futuristic novel. It’s also a male/male/female ménage, and I’m completely in love with the characters. I like to think of it as what if Han, Luke and Leia were doing it? Tell George Lucas not to panic, the story is completely different, but the whole good vs. evil and love triumphant theme still rings true. As someone once said, there’s only one story but endless ways to tell it. Next year will see more Brothers In Arms, specifically Freddy and Brett’s story, and quite possibly Very, Michael and Wolf’s story as well. Whew! I better get writing.
Seren: Thank you, Samantha! And now get back to writing! I'm really looking forward to your futuristic. Especially since our editor has so cruelly refused to give me a glimpse of your upcoming fourth Brother in Arms. November? I have to wait until November?!