Jen’s recap of Sylvia Day’s exclusive morning tea with members of the Australian Romance Readers Association.
On Friday morning I was fortunate enough to be a part of ARRA’s exclusive morning tea with Sylvia Day at Dymocks 234 Collins, as a sort-of organiser (but I was merely the +1 among the other twenty ARRA members). Actually I wasn’t even expecting to go, but HELLO JEN?, it’s SYLVIA DAY–when will another opportunity come again?
I can safely claim with all my arrogant fangirl authority that I have been a long-time Day reader, pre-Crossfire. I was almost out of high school when I discovered that there was even more smut beyond FanFiction.Net and Anne Rice (see, I got corrupted early). Now that was some tertiary education right there.
So it comes with great delight, some bemusement, and not a little “I saw her first!” smugness that we come to this Day (sorry, can’t help myself).
For the event, we were led into the upstairs Bargain Books alcove of the bookstore, away from the public (it felt kind of funny, actually). There was already a significant line in the general queue waiting for Sylvia’s 12pm signing, from which we received quite a lot of perplexed and envious stares and pointing fingers. Yeah, that was nice to drink in.
Firstly, Pamela from ARRA gave an opening speech welcoming Sylvia to Australia. Incidentally, Sylvia was ‘made in Melbourne’; that is, she is American but was ‘cooked in Australia’. Let’s just claim her as an Aussie!
Carol George of Destiny Romance then opened up the interview with Sylvia. For such a short amount of time we heard quite a lot about Sylvia’s thought process and other interesting insights.
On the Crossfire series
Gideon and Eva
Why do we love Gideon and Eva? Despite all their internal struggles, we sympathise and root for these characters, especially when they are doing it for love. In particular, we relate to Eva in a ‘girl to girl way’. We don’t mind that she gets the guy!
What inspired Sylvia to write Gideon and Eva, essentially abuse victims and survivors, was born out of her earlier historical romance novel, Seven Years to Sin, the hero and heroine being identical to Gideon and Eva, both in appearance and their histories of abuse, but the latter pair quickly evolved into totally different characters. She was intrigued by the idea that (abused) people meet (and love) someone before they find out why.
One person’s coping mechanisms trigger the other’s; they are negative forces—they want to be together but they can’t (Hmm, sounds like my OTP). She was almost finished with Seven Years to Sin when she realised this, but it was too late to just write it over. Plus, it was a historical, and she felt the story would be better told in a contemporary New York setting.
Sylvia’s characters have ‘different intensities’—‘survivors’ being the common thread to them. But she does favour writing tortured heroines over heroes.
Sylvia is more ‘narrator than creator’. The characters tell her what’s happening. She cannot write a synopsis or an advanced plan, or else she gets writer’s block. She coins it ‘author intrusion’.
It’s their story; I’m just fortunate enough to tell the story.
She’s an ‘organic writer’. She has writer friends who can stick to a schedule and write X amount of words a day but she can’t. She has to be connected with the story and let the words flow naturally. She says having a shower or going out for a drive helps inspire her.
It typically takes her 6 weeks to write a novel, and an additional 6 weeks to edit. It’s a very impressive feat, but Sylvia says that is because she is currently so invested in the Crossfire story. If she’s not in the mood, it might take a couple of months.
On Sexy Times
Sylvia put it lightly: it’s just ‘one man and one woman using the gifts God gave them.’ But what makes a sex scene more than just mechanical movement that makes you want to skip the pages is the emotional investment in the characters and their relationship. Pull the sex scene out of the book and it will feel disjointed—an emotional turning point must occur for the scene to make sense.
She compares it to walking into a hotel room while a couple is having sex—your immediate reaction is to recoil: ‘Oops! Sorry!’ but not if you’re emotionally invested. You will want to see it. (Alternately, you’re just one lecherous pervert…:P)
Is she surprised by the success of the Crossfire series? A resounding yes. She didn’t believe that Bared to You would find an audience given Gideon’s anti-hero and unforgiving character, and the dark nature of the novel. She initially self-published it, as despite having 12 publishers she chose not to ‘shop’ it because she was afraid editors would push to change the character. Fortunately, the novel found its audience quite quickly; there was reviewer and publisher buzz a month before it was even released.
Sylvia is humbled by her success, even after 10 years in publishing; she doesn’t want to hit a high point only to make the long drop. Her ‘celebration’ simply consists of a glass of wine/champagne, and then it’s onto the next book.
Other works in progress?
The Marked and Dream Guardians series are on hold. Currently she is contracted with five publishers, and those two series will have to be her ‘spare time’ projects. She is also toying with a contemporary steampunk YA novel, and a contemporary psychological thriller.
That TV Series
An audience member asked about how the Crossfire sex is going to be presented on TV. Because dear God Almighty there is a lot of sexy times. Sylvia brought up movie examples: 9½ weeks and Unfaithful. The sex depicted in those films signal emotional turning points that ‘fast forward the story’. So yes, it can be done without turning the program into omg!pr0n.
Regarding casting choices, Sylvia wants seasoned actors, as they will be ‘spending a lot of time with their clothes off’. To her mind no one looks like Gideon, but her best pick is Henry Cavill (BOO-YAH!). She pooh-poohed Ian Somerholder and other fan favourites (thank God). Why Cavill? He was so good in The Tudors, is the right age and he has ‘muscle on him without being Arnold’ (very important!).
As for Eva, Scarlett Johansson is Sylvia’s best choice. Or was. After recently seeing ScarJo pounds lighter, she is no longer Eva. (But hey, that can always change!) Other options could be Jennifer Lawrence and Amber Heard.
Sylvia is an executive consultant on the production which means the ‘creative stuff’ gets run by her. The producers want her to be an active voice in the process, which is great. They are also listening to the fans and their feedback.
The discussion then opened up to the audience before we got to eat and commence signing. One member asked an Entwined With You spoilery question, which was in very poor taste! You know who you are! Not happy, Jan! And now I remain in a tizzy thinking about said spoiler.
Luckily for us we got to be the first in the store to get our books signed by Sylvia. I was pretty shameless (all up I had 11 books), alongside fellow blogger Envyious, who actually works at Dymocks. The perks, I use them. Unfortunately, we got to the point of waiting where we could only have one dedicated book—before the public mobbed us for monopolising the author and their lunchbreaks, no doubt. Now call it ridiculous hyperbole, but choosing only one book to get signed is pretty much like Sophie’s Choice! Fortunately, we were able to leave our books behind to get signed.
The morning tea was only to go for an hour; it could easily have gone for three hours. Still, I feel thrilled to have been able to see Sylvia and talk to her—even if I barely stringed two words together when I did get to speak to her. It was also good to catch up with other Twitter peeps, however briefly!
Many thanks to ARRA (especially Debbie P, who flew down from Canberra for this event!), for initiating the morning tea and letting me go, and also to Dymocks Melbourne and Penguin for hosting the event.
Thanks also to Envyious for taking some of the photos and being my note-taking back-up! :)