Message From The Author
Breaking the Ice
ANNE STUART DISCUSSES BOOK TWO IN HER
NEW ROMANTIC SUSPENSE SERIES
Anne Stuart published her first novel in 1974 as a "child prodigy" of 25. Now, 22 years, many different genres, numerous publishers and dozens of books later, she's written book two in her Ice series, Cold as Ice (Mira). The book's antihero pushes the envelope: He first appeared in Black Ice, working undercover for a shadowy group called the Committee as the homosexual companion of a weapons dealer. Stuart talks with RT's Liz French about her hero, her passions and her career.
Wow, more than 60 books. Ever get burnt out, pumped dry? What do you do to combat those feelings? I'm such a writer that my sex fantasies -- and everyone has them -- are in words, not visuals. So I'm never tired, burnt out or pumped dry. What causes that is the business. It can make you crazy after you've been in it for decades, and fate and luck have way too much to do with things. Mainly I just take a step back from the crazy business of being a writer when things get too overwhelming. But the stories are always there, thank God.
In an online interview a while back, you said you didn't like to write connected books, but now you've written the interconnected Ice books. What changed your mind? Long ago I did the Maggie Bennett series, but those were ostensibly single title. I did some connected cat burglar books and long, long ago I did
a couple of connected gothics. But in general I was writing single stories.
When I finished Black Ice ('05, Mira) I loved it so much, I had a hard time letting go, and when I was starting to write the next contemporary it kept harking back to the Committee, and every time I tried to change it, it felt artificial. It simply made sense to go with what the story was telling me to do, to make it a spin-off, but I fought it like crazy. Jill Barnett and Barbara Samuel (aka Ruth Wind) performed an intervention, slapped me upside the head and told me to write the book the way it wanted to be written. And they were right.
How did you come up with the Ice novels? You've said Black Ice came to you as a gift. Care to elaborate? I've found that if you look for inspiration it eludes you. If I'd expected to get a book out of my one-day trip to Paris with my son and niece, nothing would have happened. Instead I went for the fun of it. When we got a taxi back to the train station, the radio was playing a song about "she has revolver eyes" that stuck in my head. The mood of the song, the mood of the day stayed with me and jumped at me out of the blue. I'd already written 70 pages of a different book, and it didn't feel right. Every page was torture, and it had taken me two months to write. I put it down, started Black Ice and had 36 pages in two days. So I called my editors and said, "You're getting something else." Fortunately, they were with me.
How many books are planned for the Ice series? When does the next one come out? At this point I'm guessing five. The third is already written -- Ice Blue, and it comes out next spring. I love it to pieces. I'm working on Ice Storm, though the title may change, now, about Isobel, the head of the Committee, and after that I'm hoping to write a punk Japanese Yakuza operative.
You've set the online message boards and bloggers on fire with the so-called "bisexual hero" of Cold as Ice, Peter Jensen. Some people have said they won't pick up the book because of this. What do you say to them? Actually I think I handled Peter Jensen in the best possible way. I'd already set him up in Black Ice, and at the time I hadn't planned to write a spin-off. And he was working undercover, providing sexual favors for a mafioso. He simply took the persona of who he had to be. He can control his body, perform sexually and doesn't think twice about it. It's a nonissue for him.
It's simply part of his cold and calculating backstory, and it fit. It wasn't meant to be shocking, though I was pleased that my editors didn't make me wipe out all mention of it and pretend it never happened.
If people won't pick up the book because of it, they probably shouldn't read my books, anyway. The relationships between my heroes and heroines are quite dark and intense. I don't set out to offend, but I'd rather risk that than write something safe.
Is the inclusion of gay themes or a quasi-gay character part of a larger agenda on your part? No, I don't have any agenda at all. I want the people to be who they are, with no restrictions. In the past, I've had gay characters as supporting characters. Because I'm straight my romantic fantasies tend to be heterosexual ones, so those are the ones I concentrate on. I could easily have a supporting gay love story, but it would come from the plot, not from a political agenda.
That said, I do find androgyny appealing, but I think that's because of the dichotomy. I love masquerade books in general -- plots where someone is pretending to be something he's not. Think of Percy Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel. There's something very hot about a lacy, bejeweled fop who's an alpha wolf in bed.
The couples in both Black Ice and Cold as Ice have unprotected sex. Wouldn't a modern-day heroine demand protection? The heroines aren't really in a position to demand anything, and death lurks around the corner for everyone. But that's a good point. Peter has had sex with men, and you're more likely to get AIDS that way. Then again, my heroes could also have used intravenous drugs in their undercover assignments.
But these are stories about people in desperate situations, and sex is never planned. If they stopped to think, then they'd probably decide not to do it, and then where would be the fun?
Is Takashi, your next Ice hero, your first Japanese character? Is this the influence of Japanese rock musicians you like so much? He's the first openly Japanese character. The hero in The Devil's Waltz (Feb., Mira) was based on Gackt, a J-rocker who dresses in extravagant Georgian clothes and says he's a vampire born in Norway 450 years ago. My character in the novella "Blind Date From Hell" in Date With a Devil ('04, Harlequin) was based on a couple of Japanese rock musicians, and the devil showed up looking like another one. The book has just been published in Japan and I'm waiting to see if anyone recognizes them.
As a huge music fan, do you have a suggested soundtrack for the Ice books? I listen to a lot of Gackt, L'arc-en-ciel (the best current Japanese band), Richard Thompson, a little U2, some Evanescence. Stevie Nicks for the new books, since Isobel was a wild child when she was young. Usually music full of melody and pain.
Anything else you'd like to add? One of the best, most unlikely benefits of being a writer is the friends you make. I have the most wonderful bunch of writer friends -- people who always have my back. Editors and agents, some of whom I've never worked with, are good, dear friends, and the community, despite a few bad apples, is absolutely wonderful.
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