Whether I was lucky enough to meet Shelby Kent-Stewart in a smoky pool hall while on tour hustling folks across the globe or in the ill-fated and now defunct I Love Erotica group (the first group I would be kicked out of, incidentally) can be neither confirmed nor denied. Either way, we have remained in contact ever since and I’ve come to admire her as a person, an activist, a thinker, a pool hustler, and a writer. Her prose is the cogent writing of an avid reader, a clear thinker, and a person in full control of herself and her craft. Like a pianist playing long legato stretches, her words cascade down the page seemingly effortlessly (although I suspect a ton of blood, sweat, coffee, and tears goes into it) as she wraps you in her delicate erotic tales and hooks you with an elite depth of character that I’ve rarely come across in the erotic genre.
For some crazy reason, I never thought to interview Shelby before. Don’t worry I’ve already kicked myself in the balls about that and now finally have a long overdue conversation on the record for all of you to enjoy. Whether writer, reader, political analyst, or WIB agent, you need to read what Shelby says. She offers wisdom, humor, and sanity in a world that drastically lacks and needs those elements.
A quick note on the formatting, my questions are in black (technically, for those perfectionists out there, it’s very dark gray and Shelby’s eloquent answers are in Pinkish/Purple.
Conversation with the Spectacular and Sane Shelby:
First, let’s get some basics on the table. I know you for a long time (maybe longer than anyone I have met on twitter, but let’s leave how we twitter-met where it belongs deep in the dungeons of Amazon and not here). Hopefully, all of my fans know you too but let’s assume a few of those lovely folks out there are busy having copious amounts of mind-bending sex so they haven’t had a fair chance to get to know who you are. Tell us your name and and a little bit about who you are.
Hey, MJ! Thanks for the lovely introduction. You’re a brave man for daring to plumb my psyche, but then I’ve always known that. Okay, here goes…
I’m Shelby Kent-Stewart, writer, fighter, asshole-smiter, surfer, dancer, necromancer, pool hustler, bullshit rustler. I’m the broad your mama warned you about, sweet as pie one day, the devil’s own handmaiden the next. As for the rumor I’m the love-child of William S. Burroughs and Sylvia Plath, I’ll neither confirm nor deny.
So, what are you working on and what genres do you think it fits into?
My current work-in-progress is For Love of Honor, the third and final book in the Wicked Tails Series. Like the first two in the series, Surviving Sydney and Blessing, it’s erotic romance with a bit more intrigue, danger and heat.
Now, the burning question my s.punky readers are begging me to ask: what’s your stance on cam2cam with your twitter followers? Yay, Nay, or May(be).
Ooh, naughty. I’m not averse to cam2cam interaction but it would depend on the follower. As my sainted grand-mum would say, “Skypin’ ain’t for pussies.” May she rest in peace.
Where do you publish your writing and why? Where have you had the most success?
Until someone comes up with a viable alternative, I publish on Amazon because that’s where the action is. My former publisher has four of my books on B&N, but I’ve never been to the site. Success, what’s that? The jury’s still out on that, but I’m in no hurry. My other writing gigs finance the necessities. I write Erotic Romance because it keeps me sane. The day I equate that to sales is the day I pull the plug.
Not that plug, silly. The other one!
Now, the hardest and most profound question of them all, why do you write?
It’s difficult to frame an answer that doesn’t fall on cliché, but it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. From a very young age, I was fortunate to have teachers and mentors who recognized my need to write and nurtured me every step of the way. In high school, one teacher threatened to haunt me from the grave if I didn’t pursue a career in writing. Creepy? Definitely. But as an inducement, it was genius. I write for the same reason people take a breath. Without it, I’d disappear into the void. Poof.
How would you describe your writing style?
Typical of most novelists, my style is narrative, often first-person deep POV, and almost always from two perspectives; or in the case of Blessing, three. It was risky but readers seem to like it, so what the hell do I know?
Fun fact: In lieu of an outline, I write my books as screenplays first. I find it helps with character and scene development.
Unfortunately, when I read my own writing, I cringe at some of the things that I don’t like about my writing style and even myself as a person. I’m not saying that you scream out your own name in absolute horror like I do, but surely there are a few spots you wish you could strengthen. What are they? What would you say is the weakest part of your writing?
This is an easy one. I’m horrified by the culture of violence in which we find ourselves and obsess daily over where humanity is headed. In my first six books, I tackled incest, domestic violence, capitalism, guns, bad cops, bigotry, hate AND Somali piracy a year before Captain Phillips was released. Where I fall short is not hitting harder on issues I find abhorrent for fear of offending a reader. I need to work on that. If I have to look at my other literary shortcomings, I might stop writing altogether.
Yes, I worry regularly about offending people. I share your pain and support your quest to hit harder. The world is messed up and hitting harder seems to be a necessity falling on your shoulders. This election alone is proof that people are in need of more help than I ever thought possible. I know you are active in many communities such as animal rescue, politics, social equality, and domestic abuse. You’re truly one of the good gals. This leads me to my next question regarding how you interact with writers. Are you part of any crazy writing groups? If so, how’s that going for you?
Shit, meet fan. Since you asked…I tend to shy away from groups, especially large groups where support and trust are sacrificed for numbers. The only way a writing group is beneficial is with the following provisos: 1) Rules regarding reciprocity are clearly spelled out by the organizer(s); 2) Drama is kept to a minimum; 3) Egos are left at the door; and 4) Anyone who utters the words “me me me” in a group discussion or forum is escorted to the air-lock.
Provisos. This is why all of you have to read Shelby. She’s smart and sane; how often does that come along? You need to get your work out there. People need Shelby. Do you have a publicist?
To paraphrase Groucho Marx: Any publicist who would have me as a client is one I’d never hire.
Many writers might simply get some kind of bot, load it with links to their books, and set it on BLAST muhfucka BLAST. As I gain experience in this genre, I’m realizing there are better ways to get your voice heard than to cockslap people with “Look at me! Look at me! I’m a beautiful, filthy peacock! Clean the mud off me and enjoy!” What kind of publicity do you (or those around you) do for your books? How did you start out? What advice can you offer newbies?
Nope, no bots for me. While I know it’s important to have a presence, I take the ‘less is more approach’, rarely posting more than 3 book promos per week. I’m a human first, writer second, so limiting my posts to all things book-related doesn’t work for me. Within the the first few weeks of joining Twitter, I made the conscious decision to follow people unaffiliated with the literary world. The Twitterverse is vast, filled with fascinating people, and trapping myself inside a bubble with other writers didn’t make sense. Do they buy books? Sure, but so do stay-at-home moms and dads, doctors, nurses, artists, musicians, journalists and politicians. Many of my best reviews are from non-writers who found me on Twitter.
To newbie writers, I suggest they mix it up. Tweet out a joke, a quote, their favorite song on YouTube, a photo of their dog, something representative of who they are, not what they do.
I hear you on that. Plus, there are too many damn cats on Twitter! Where my dogs at?
Shelby, I’m always curious to know what other writers like and who they read. I think a writer’s tastes in books says something about herself and the artist she likes. What’s your favorite line of somebody else’s writing?
Several come to mind, but the opening line of the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude blows me away. Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
Yes! I love that book and was immediately caught by that line. I love how he makes ice magical. And see? This question worked because I noticed while reading Blessing – A Wicked Tales Story that you have a knack for pulling magic out of somewhat innocuous situations. I think this, like Marquez, stems from the fact that the emotional depth of your characters is vast. I think that’s your real strong suit. I find that you have an incredible way of revealing to readers that your characters are larger than life, intelligent, good-looking, and wrapped in intense dramas yet human. You just have a wonderful way with words that shows you are sane yet spectacular. Any tips for newbies and slow-learners like myself that can help us improve?
That’s a wonderful compliment, MJ, thank you. Trust me, you need no advice from me. There’s a reason I coined the title Smutpunk Scholar just for you.
For those starting out, I advise them to write as truthfully as they can and avoid the trap of writing what they think readers want. Savvy readers will sense when something is real and when it’s forced.
My last question and then I’ll open the floor to Q&A.
With which writer would you secretly trade places?
K. Rowling, but not for the fame or money. She created a brilliant and engaging world, and in so doing encouraged kids to put down their video games and read. I like to think one of those boys or girls will be tomorrow’s Steinbeck or Morrison. What a legacy!
Now, from the mailbag.
Little Jay Scott of Carson City wants to know, do you really write in lingerie on a chair with dildo strapped to it, or is that make believe invented by the Republicans?
Well, Little Jay, I hate to disappoint you but I tried the dildo thing and it interferes with my tutu. While we’re at it, let’s give Republicans their due. Conservative Evangelicals purchase more porn and erotica than any other group. Bless their hearts.
(Hearty laughter) Very true. I have it on good intel that you are absolutely correct.
The Real Donald Trump asks, are you writing speeches for that yuge fucktard Clinton? Weird this guy has sent a picture of himself, I suppose, with his red hair all over the place wearing pink nylons with a big lipsticky kiss mark where the balls and cock should be. That’s not right. Skip that one. Weirdos.
Now would be a perfect time to tell you how much I loved Dump the Futa President. It’s been on my reading list for months and I finally read it last night. How much did I love it? Read my review, the one I hope to write before the election is over and Trump is hiding in a dacha playing patty-cake with Putin.
Punk E. Shmooster of Hallandale writes, if I read your books will my breasts grow like promised on the generic erotica I bought at the bus stop?
That would depend on what you’re doing while reading my books. I have it on good authority that manual stimulation of the naughty bits can cause swelling so…
Ursula Van Savage from a yurt in the Steppes of Kazakhstan wants to know which book of yours is your favorite and why?
I vacillate on this but currently Once Upon a Faerie is my favorite. Perhaps because it reflects the chaos in the world right now, it was emotionally draining but immensely satisfying to examine it in another context. At its heart, the book is about love and courage and sacrifice, three things we’re a bit short of at the moment. A sequel is planned for 2017.
You said it! And finally, Jaime Johnson from NYC wants to know do you consider your books to be smutpunk? Why or why not?
I’m not nearly talented enough to pull that off and am quite content to leave that to the masters like you, Callie Press and Kat Crimson. When I read something you’ve written, my inclination is to fall prostate and whimper, “I’m not worthy.”
Total bullshit but very diplomatic. Smutpunk would be extremely lucky to have you in the cadre!
Shelby, thank you for having the courage to come on the MJ blog and answer my inane questions. It’s been my total pleasure to ask!
Nah, the pleasure was all mine. Inane? Hardly. In fact, they were some of the best questions I’ve ever been asked. Thank you for that!