Welcome all, I’m Tinker Effit. Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Sadie and Bellora of Bermingham & Quinn, authors of The Rhythm of His Blood series.
TE: Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
Bellora: Hi, I’m Bellora Quinn, one half of Bermingham & Quinn. I can’t lay claim to any fancy degrees or prestigious awards, I am just doing what I love to do and hoping that those that stumble across our writing find it enjoyable. When I’m not writing I like to paint and wrangle dachshunds.
Sadie: Hello, and I’m Sadie Rose Bermingham, named after a Victorian Schoolmistress and an elderly Alsatian dog, by sadistic parents with a mutual death wish. I’ve somehow managed to stagger into middle age without killing myself or anyone else, achieving a staggering level of mediocrity in everything I’ve attempted, with the exception of writing, which I love more than sex. Well, almost more than sex, though it depends on the sex! When I’m not writing (or having sex… or writing about people having sex) I enjoy photography, revelling in the ancient – and sometimes not so ancient – past, and staring at the sea.
TE: What were you like at school?
Sadie: Probably a complete nightmare. I was a precocious kid, actually quite bright, I was in the top three of my year group every year until I hit secondary (High) school and then academically it just all went out of the window. Not sure what happened. I hated every minute of it. Couldn’t wait to leave, in spite of which I still scraped a few decent grades in some exams.
Bellora: I was just the opposite. A perfect angel. Yep. That’s what I’m going with. Really though, I did well with English and History, and Art, and I guess average with my other classes. I didn’t hate school, but I thought of it more as something I just needed to get through so I could get to the ‘real world’.
Sadie: I do agree on that point, I found other kids irritating on the whole, and that didn’t help. I think I was just anti-social from an early age. Good at English, but I failed my Art O’Level disastrously and that was the end of my illustration career!
TE: Which writers inspire you?
Bellora: I’m claiming him before Sadie does! Poppy Z Brite, who Sadie actually turned me on to (thank you Sadie). I’m still in awe of Lost Souls…? and Drawing Blood. I also love Lynn Flewelling. When I got done reading those novels I felt like ‘that’s how I want to write’.
Sadie: Yeah, I agree totally about Poppy Brite. I do have a lot of respect for him too, and his decision to transition, although I hope that once he’s settled into being Billy Martin, he will get his writing mojo back at some point. I love fantasy fiction as well, my other big fetish apart from M/M. I’ve just finished reading the Game of Thrones series, which is beyond fabulous, and now I’m waiting for a new Robin Hobb novel to come out. Her ‘Liveship Traders’ series was one of the best fantasy stories I’ve read in my life. She just knows how to bring her characters to life and make them live and breathe on and off the page.
Bellora: Sadie’s mentioned Robin Hobb to me several times now and is always shocked when I say I haven’t read any of her books yet. I will get to them, I just have a very long ‘to read’ list.
TE: Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
Sadie: An insight into Rayne is probably something that no one needs to have too much of. I’m actually always quite surprised that people take to him as much as they do. He’s a brat; seriously whiney and self-pitying and although he does have grounds for self-pity he usually takes it waaaaay too far. He has a self-destruct button a mile wide and he punches it at every opportunity. But there is a soft streak to him as well, and not in a bad way. He’s not a naturally malicious person and I think that’s been picked up on. His occasional vulnerability seems to appeal to a lot of readers and keeping that edge on him, not letting sentimentality run away with me when I’m writing him is a constant challenge. Just as readers think he’s mellowing, he usually manages to do something disastrous to remind them that he’s not a soft touch. You’re never quite sure what you’re going to get from him.
Bellora: It is precisely that vulnerability that I think people are drawn to about Rayne, I have to agree with that totally. He is essentially broken, but he still manages to live on his terms for the most part. You can’t help but love him, even when you know he’s doing something stupid. Then again I’ve been in love with Rayne for a very long time so I may be a tiny bit biased. Xavier on the other hand, I think people like the hints of strength in him that have grown over the series, or at least I hope they do. Its become my favorite part about him, that he’s not just the ‘damsel in distress’. He’s come out of that role quite a bit and I think he’s made a good compliment to Rayne’s dark horse.
Sadie: They’re Sun and Shade basically, aren’t they? Not to get too stereotypical about it, but they are each other’s ying and yang. And Xavier doesn’t take any shit from Rayne, at least not without giving some back, I like how that panned out.
TE: How much research do you do?
Bellora: Ummm (guiltily looks at Sadie). I research when I have too. Mostly I research Brit slang when Sadie throws something at me I’ve never heard of before, which happens less often now but still enough to make me wonder if I will ever be able to do without Urban Dictionary.
Sadie: I take things to the other extreme, I think. I’m compensating. I like to know how a thing or a place should look or sound or feel before I try to describe it. Returning to the topic of influences, briefly, Christopher Fowler, another great English novelist, writes the most wonderful novels set in London and there is very little to do with the city and it’s weird and wonderful twists and turns that he hasn’t at some point dug up and used in a book. It just makes the scenes he writes come alive. London almost becomes another character and I love that.
Bellora: I can’t even count how many times I’ve been impressed with Sadie’s ability to set a scene. She does an amazing job with that. I’ve tried hard to emulate it.
TE: Do you also research your characters backgrounds?
Sadie: Researching to write Rayne’s character was the most difficult thing I’ve done. I read a lot about physical and mental abuse and the long and short term effects that it has on both the victim and the abuser, and in the end I had to stop because I started to believe that it was turning me into a very bitter person. It did give me a better understanding of my leading man though.
Bellora: I tend to write bits of my own experiences into my characters, and then if I need more info to flesh something out I will research it. For example, I love ballet, I have watched both performances and practices so I knew quite a bit already from personal experience but I did research on the names of certain poses and dances and the everyday life of a ballet dancer so I could write Xavier believably.
TE: Why did you decide to collaborate and did that affect your writing?
Bellora: We decided to collaborate because I begged Sadie to write with me.
Sadie: It’s true, she did. And because I’d not written in ages, but also because I’d read her previous Erotic Spice blog and really enjoyed it, I foolishly agreed. It cured my writer’s block… what can I say? But more seriously, I think it’s actually developed me as a writer. I like to collaborate because it’s always interesting to have someone throw you a plot curveball that you have to write your way out of. In that respect it’s always a challenge, but also great fun. Writing can be a solitary endeavour and it’s brilliant to have someone to share it with that’s as into the story as you are at the time of writing it.
Bellora: Yes, Erotic Spice was another collaborative story that I really enjoyed working on with Angel Martinez, it’s where Xavier got his start actually. Then one day I was reading naughty stories over on literotica and a found Sadie’s stories and I loved them, and loved her style of writing. Rayne inspired me to write a small scene in which Xavier finds a video of Rayne very stimulating. So, yeah, I basically wrote a fanfic and then asked Sadie if she’d read it, and then asked if she’d be interested in perhaps writing a little thing with me and I haven’t let her go since.
Sadie: I tried climbing out of the window once, but then she chained me to the bed and cut my feet off. Oh hang on, that was “Misery”! Hahah
TE: Why do you write?
Bellora: Because I’m afraid the voices in my head will do something drastic if I don’t. Because I can’t think of anything else that I get as much satisfaction and enjoyment from. Because I see a picture or hear a song and an idea will pop up into my head that I think is cool, even if sometimes they aren’t.
Sadie: It’s pretty much the same story. I always made up stories even before I realised it was an option or a lifestyle. I used to tell made up stories to my friends when I was six or seven to keep them entertained. I don’t know where they came from, just an amalgamation of crazy ideas that kids have; so one day we all found an old carpet rolled up in the bushes, just dumped there, so I told them a story about finding a magic carpet that we could use to travel anywhere that we wanted to go. In the stories back then we were kind of an amalgamation of the Secret Seven and the cast of Scooby Doo but it kept people amused. Then when I was about nine, my teacher at junior school in year 7 told my Mum and Dad at a parents’ evening that my composition work, especially my creative writing, was some of the best she’d ever had from a pupil of my age. It was her who first suggested I could be a writer. So thank you Mrs. Pallant, wherever you are
TE: Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
Sadie: I try to write something every day, even if it’s only a handful of lines. Sometimes it’s harder than others. Bellora and I both have jobs that take us out of the house most days so we’ve adapted to that by writing on the move. I’ve discovered that it’s even possible to write erotica on a mobile phone during a twenty minute train journey, which certainly is a poke in the eye for those people that like to read your text messages over your shoulder.
Bellora: What Sadie said. I try to write every day, and it’s pretty rare that I don’t. I don’t block time out to write though. I will sit and write a few paragraphs at a time and then leave it for a few hours or a day. Then there are times we get to write in tandem and knock out several hours worth of work. Neither one of us can write if we’re not in the mood, so to speak, so it’s really an ever changing schedule that just happens whenever it happens. I know that may sound terribly unstructured but it’s has worked for us for years now.
TE: Where do the your ideas come from?
Sadie: That’s an interesting question. A lot of plot ideas are almost subconscious things. Bellora’s talked about hearing a song or seeing a painting and from that just a few lines can spin off into a storyline; or maybe you recall a scene that you saw on the street or in a shop, or a story that you overheard on a bus. Ideas come from all around us, is I guess the easy answer. I like to work to music. A lot of very emotional scenes are written with music as a background. Sometimes it’s classical, sometimes it’s punk, I’m an equal opportunities listener. But there is just something about a really good song or a powerful piece of art, it catches emotions like butterflies in a net and when you listen or look at that work it’s like the butterflies all escape, time and time again. So, butterflies, yeah… they’re really ideas in disguise. Watch out for them. (Commas and Painted Ladies are especially awesome!)
Bellora: More of the same that Sadie said. It’s really hard to say where an idea comes from because they come from so many places and things. Unlike Sadie though I don’t write to music. I might hear a song and get an idea for a scene from it, but when I sit down to write I have to turn it off or I get too easily distracted. I do find it interesting to see how a small little thing, just one little idea for one little scene, can take off and grow in so many different ways.
TE: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
Sadie: Because I hate restrictions of any kind, I never, hardly ever, have a plot when I begin to write. I have a middle, and sometimes I have an idea where it’s going to end but I rarely sit down and say “right, this is going to happen here and that’s going to happen there” because by chapter three that’s all in the bin and the characters have run off with the story and will do it their own way anyhow. Beginnings are something I hate. I’m crap at beginnings. Can I say crap, by the way?
TE: You can say crap.
Bellora: I have just discovered there is a word for us. We are pantsers! I love that word. I think Sadie and I both work so hard on character development that sometimes the plot becomes a secondary consideration, but they do seem to grow organically as we are writing. We’ve gotten better at plot development too as we’ve both grown as writers. I also recently met someone that talked about the habit of Canadian authors to write novels so focused on the characters thoughts and motivations that it takes a very long time for a plot to actually unfold. Maybe I should have been born Canadian.
Sadie: Maybe you’re channeling your Inner Canadian?
Bellora: It’s very possible. I was born in Michigan so close enough?
TE: Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Bellora: I would say to bounce an idea off of Sadie but you can’t have her. Seriously, that is one of many clear benefits to writing collaboratively. It always helps me to have someone that I trust as a sounding board.
Sadie: Many thanks. But also very true, sometimes it takes a change of direction to shift the block and you get that a lot when you work with someone else. It’s why comedy writers so often work in pairs. I get blocked when either the story just gets so big that I can’t see around it, or I just get so exhausted that I can’t feel my way into the next part of the book. When that happens sometimes all you can do it to take a break, but it helps to keep writing, even if it’s just random ideas for other stories, or completely unrelated conversations from a different scene. And if you have someone shouting suggestions for different directions in your ear, (the louder the better in my case) then often one of those ideas will set seed and start to bloom and suddenly before you know it you’re off again.
Bellora: Oh yes, and something else I just thought of, it sometimes helps to move from whatever point you are at to a different point in the book, if you can do that. Most of the time we write very linear but sometimes we jump ahead if we’re stuck.
Sadie: And then forget to go back, until someone reminds us by asking; “What happened to such and such?” “Him…? Oh, he died! Horribly, in a plane wreck!” Hahah! (We’ve never ‘technically’ done that by the way.)
TE: What are your thoughts on writing a book series.
Bellora: Be careful. They are like bunnies.
Sadie: Yes, they breed… for the sake of your own sanity, keep them in separate boxes and do not let them play together.
Although more seriously, it can be a lot of fun. It’s hard work to keep a series rolling, there is only so much suspense that you can write into the same characters before they begin to feel exhausted. (A bit like their authors, from time to time!) It’s never a bad idea to inject fresh tension by the liberal application of new characters for the main protagonists to bounce off, or fresh and interesting places for them to visit. Which is also lots of fun to research.
TE: For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hardback books?
Bellora: I still buy both, although I will admit that I find myself reading ebooks more just for the sheer convenience of being able to have it in my hands whenever I want. I am an artist too though, and so the thing I miss most about having a big library of ‘real’ books is all the beautiful cover art. It’s still there in ebooks of course, but it’s not exactly the same as having it in your hands too look at.
Sadie: I’m a bit of a luddite when it comes to my books. If it’s a story I love, I have to have a paper copy. There’s nothing to compare with opening a new novel and just breathing in the scent of the pages and knowing from what you have in your hands just how much there is left to treasure and the sense of completion and fulfilment and sometimes sorrow when you finally turn that last page and close the cover. But then I’m the same with music. It all went downhill when they started releasing music on CDs as far as I’m concerned. Give me sixteen square inches of inner sleeve covered in handwritten lyrics and filled with perishable vinyl any day of the week!
Bellora: For those of you too lazy to go to wikipedia… The Luddites were 19th-century English textile artisans who protested against newly developed labour-saving machinery from 1811 to 1817. The stocking frames, spinning frames and power looms introduced during the Industrial Revolution threatened to replace the artisans with less-skilled, low-wage labourers, leaving them without work.
Sadie: There, see, you ‘can’ do research!
Bellora: I think I can sum up by saying Sadie is not big on embracing change. I’m sort of the the techie one trying to convince her to try this neat new thing while secretly crossing my fingers that it actually works.
Sadie: I don’t object to change. I like new things. I love my smartphone, it’s my baby. I just don’t need change for change’s sake. And I’m a creature of habit. Not all of them good ones.
TE: Why do you think that some well written books just don’t sell?
Sadie: That’s a difficult one. It’s very hard to predict what will grab the reader’s imagination. What one person loves, another might read the first chapter of and just not get it at all. I think all you can do is to try and write a story that grabs the reader by the short and curlies straight away and doesn’t let go, then try to launch it into as sympathetic an environment as possible, then promote the living shit out of it until you have to physically curl up in a ball and cry/sleep/kill someone. A lot of things that have really taken off over the last twenty years or so have just really been in the right place at the right time, and there’s a lot of luck as well as judgement involved in that, as I think any publisher will tentatively agree.
Bellora: I don’t really pay attention to trends, either to read or to write. Sadie and I write what we love to write, and I don’t think our focus has ever been on writing a book with the sole intention of getting it to sell. I can’t say what makes a book take off or languish in obscurity. Honestly it’s baffling to me how some books get so popular while others that I consider a hundred times better only do so-so. I can’t even think about it really, it just makes me mad.
TE: Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
Sadie: I think that anything that induces a reader to try something they might not necessarily have tried before, in book format, is a good thing. Or in other walks of life even. Except perhaps bestiality… and Morris Dancing. (Look it up!) Supermarkets do it all the time; “Buy one! Get one of these!” Garages do it, think of all the freebies you get with your petrol, whether you wanted it or not, you buy your petrol there to see what you might get. It’s kind of the same principle with a free read. Try it out, and if you like it, you can get more stuff like it —> HERE.
Bellora: Marketing is such a hard thing for me to do. Free give aways do work for some authors, I don’t see why they wouldn’t. I think the best sort of free giveaway though would be by an established author that has a long series perhaps and decides to give away the first book. This has worked more than once to hook me into a new series that I might not have tried out otherwise.
TE: So what’s next for Bermingham & Quinn?
Bellora: For a long time we have been content to offer up our writing on Literotica only. Right now we are focused on reaching a wider audience, looking into possible publishing ideas, writing the next series, and editing.
Sadie: I’ve published stories on Literotica’s site for about ten years now and whilst I’ve got a respectable following on there, it’s still quite restrictive. By publishing things ourselves we can move things along at our own pace and this website gives us the opportunity to showcase a few new ideas as well as some older stories that readers have loved. The sequel to London Loves…? is already mostly written and now at the editorial stage and at some point I’d also like to finish the Underwear story cycle that I started way back in the mid 2000s. There’s plenty more to come, so watch this space.