And then she saw it—the castle looming high upon a cliff overlooking the Black Sea, dark and foreboding. But darker still was the sky as the blood-red moon skittered across the hemisphere like the gleaming eye of a serpent. From the nearby forest, a werewolf howled, the cry of the wild sending chills dancing down her spine. Oh, how she longed to meet Dracula, her champion, her one desire. A few more minutes and she would be at his castle, his fortress—his sanctum.
Romania was so stunning, so surreal. Gothic cathedrals and chateaux graced the landscape of fertile vineyards and lush green hills. Then she spied the cemetery next to the castle and her blood heated. Suddenly, a flash of lightening splintered the sky with forks of brilliant white light. And in that brief second, a vaporous glow illuminated the headstone of Count Vlad. Joelle licked her lips. He would come tonight—he’d promised her eternity.
She entered the courtyard, the ambiance dark and sinister. A wisp of cold air rippled through her crimson bustle gown, blowing her hair askew. Two werewolf knights in armor guarded the gate, the gushing water in the fountain the only sound. A wolf crept from the woods and rubbed against Joelle’s leg, a low but appreciative growl erupting from his throat. Surged with adrenaline, heart pumping, Joelle pounded on the door just as the clock in the bell tower struck the midnight hour.
With a groaning hiss, the heavy mahogany door opened and Oliver stood there in all his glory, costumed as Count Vlad in his scarlet embroidered cape. He treated her to a wicked wink as he pulled her into the vestibule. And with a beguiling smile, his searing gaze penetrating, he recited the lines from Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Her heart all a flutter, Joelle, knowing every line to her favorite movie, didn’t miss a beat.
Dracula: “The green fairy that lives in the absinthe wants your soul but you are safe with me.”
Mina: I want to be what you are, see what you see, love what you love.”
Dracula: Mina, to walk with me you must die to your breathing life and be reborn to mine.”
Mina: “You are my love. And my life, always.”
Dracula: “Then I give you life eternal. Everlasting love. The power of the storm. And the beasts of the earth. Walk with me to be my loving wife—
—forever.” Joelle and Oliver said in unison.
Joelle’s spine tingled as Oliver escorted her down the darkened corridor to the Gothic parlour where the party was in full swing. The powerful chords, the danse macabre that was Michael Jackson’s Thriller issued from the organ, the beat causing Joelle’s heart to palpitate. Sharon floated about, costumed as a vampiress in a mint green gown. Glass of Merlot in silver chalice, she greeted her guest.
Sharon: Joelle, welcome. You do Mina proud in that striking knock-off! Oliver, do bring a drink for our guest and some appetizers, please.
Oliver turns to Joelle, red cape flowing. He whispers something in her ear and she follows him to the bar and gazes while he shakes up the perfect Bombay martini. With a twinkle in his eye, he offers her the cocktail in a frosted long stemmed goblet. He grins, “There you are, just the way you like it. Very dry with two blue cheese olives.”
Joelle: Dragging one long, crimson nail slowly down Oliver’s arm, enclosing her hand over his, she brings the crystal goblet to her blood-red lips and sips. “Perfect, my darling…as are you.” She runs her tongue along her full lips and smiles wickedly. The heat in their gaze, palpable.
Reluctantly, Oliver disappears and returns to arrange snacks on the coffin table, ceviche, salsa and chips, shrimp cocktail and bruschetta with goat cheese and peppers, while Sharon and Joelle make themselves comfy in the wing back chairs.
Sharon: Well before the dancing gets underway and you meet more guests, why don’t I ask you a few questions about the Black Rose line of The Wild Rose Press. In real life, (Sharon tilts back her head and laughs melodiously). That is if you choose to go back to your real life after tonight, you are an editor of the paranormal. Sharon smiles. Not that there is anything paranormal about my world, mind you. But let’s start with the basics. What is a typical black rose story about? The setting, the characters, the time period?
Joelle: Ah, dear Sharon, I believe I can safely say there is no such thing as a “typical” black rose story. The settings and time periods range from the Ripper’s 19th century London and even long before, up unto the present and still far beyond—there are no boundaries. As for the characters, I believe most writers today have knowingly moved past the archetypical vampires, werewolves and shifters to inhabit their worlds with paranormal characters, consumed with unbridled passion and impetuous love—to feral savagery and primal obsession. Again—no boundaries. It’s said there are no new stories, yet, I firmly believe there will always be new twists to the old stories—I, for one, see them every day.
Sharon: And when you read the query and synopsis, do you know within a few lines if it is something you want or not?
Joelle: Oh, my, no, dear. We so appreciate the writers who choose to allow TWRP the opportunity to review their work, I think I speak collectively when I say that rarely is much purport put into the query letter or even the “dreaded” synopsis. In my years with TWRP—both the Crimson and now the Black Rose line—I have yet to reject a submission without at least requesting a partial. Although I’ve not received one, the exception would be if the synopsis actually indicates the story does not meet our romance ratio or, in fact, does not have the required HEA. But that is all spelled out clearly in our “queryus” guidelines.
Sharon: What do you look for? What makes your adrenaline pump when you know you have a smashing hit on your hands?
Joelle: If not the first sentence, then the first paragraph— or the first three paragraphs. No kidding. A great first line hook sends chills up my spine. Another thing is if I start reviewing a new submission, look down and I’m on page ten and still haven’t picked up my big red crayon—hey, I figure I just might have a winner on my hands. As for what I look for, although I’ve heard it said frequently that romance novels are generally character driven, I lean toward a healthy balance between plot and characters. In my opinion especially in the paranormal genre, it’s essential that the plot must carry its own weight. Often, when I’m working with an author on their excerpt, I remind them to search for a scene that whets the appetite of both the paranormal and romance reader—you must captivate both tastes. Of course, characterization is extremely important and possibly a bit different in a dark paranormal romance. In some romances in today’s market I suppose the hero can be a Beta male—sweet, understanding, empathetic, etc.—but I have a hard time envisioning a werewolf or a vampire as anything but an Alpha male.
And last but, by no means least, when a clean, well-formatted, grammatically correct manuscript comes across my desk, my heart goes all aflutter.
Sharon: Tell me a bit about the role of the vampires, werewolves and shape shifters?
Joelle: Simply put, Sharon, vamps, weres and shifters can play any role. They can be the hero, the heroine, the protagonist or the antagonist, most often, with a few mortals thrown in for good measure.
Sharon: Where does an editor draw the line between the Black Rose and the erotic reads of the Scarlet Rose?
Joelle: Well, Sharon, it’s the rare occasion that we, the staff editors, are in the position to make that decision. First, the author designates the line she/he feels the submission is best suited. The Editor-in-Chief looks over the synopsis to see if, in fact, she concurs and, finally, the query is forwarded to the Senior Editor of that line. Now and then, a submission is flagged and we are asked to make certain the story doesn’t overemphasize a graphic, strong sexual premise and “dark erotic journeys of forbidden pleasures,” …taking “ them
Sharon: About how long does it take you to review a full length manuscript?
Joelle: Admittedly, I’m slow-paced. That’s partially because I lightly edit as I review. For two reasons this works well for me—first, if I decide the manuscript is not yet ready for publication, I want to give the author feedback in the form of suggestions/comments as to why I’ve rejected the submission, particularly, if I’m requesting a resubmission. Secondly, if I suspect I will be requesting to contract the submission—well, heck, I’
Sharon: What type of workshops or research would you recommend for authors wanting to break into this genre?
Joelle: Read, read, read. My love for the supernatural began with Poe and then Stephen King’s Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot—and I haven’t stopped reading any and everything paranormal since. Although, I must admit, I am decidedly more discriminating now than I was in the beginning. If a writer wants to break into the genre, research who
Sharon: I’ve recently attended a writers conference. And word is, the vampires and fantasy and futuristic are all still very hot reads. Do you see this ending any time soon?
Joelle: No, not at all. In August I believe it was, Charlaine Harris, author of The Southern Vampire Mysteries, had an unprecedented nine books on the NY Times Best Seller list! Not to mention, its great HBO spinoff, True Blood. And i
Help! Sharon, stop me! If I keep waxing on and on, everyone’s gonna leave the party!
Sharon: OK, enough work. Oh, Oliver, more drinks o
Joelle: (Laughing hysterically, covering her mouth with a black lace hanky and, finally, clearing her throat) …Uh, yes, spare time—that would be the
Sharon: You have a huge love of Francis Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Do you know I belong to a wine tasting group and about a year ago, we had an event at a recording studio and the theme of the evening was Coppola. All his music played all night long and we sampled some of his vintage wine. What fun! Do you enjoy some of his other movies or is it Dracula, hands down?
Sharon: What is your favorite Halloween memory?
Sharon: I’m very superstitious and adore legend and lore. I just can’t get enough of them and am a real sucker for good luck charms and spells. LOL How about you? Do you have a favorite superstition you can share?
Joelle: Well, y’know, I must admit I believe there’s something to the number 13. I lived in a high-rise once on the twelfth floor…and the next floor up was the fourteenth. And that’s creepy enough, but a guy jumped from the 14th…right past my
On the other hand, when you add 13 together, you get—voilà—4, my lucky number.
Sharon: What kind of music do you like?
Joelle: You know, strangely enough, the blues always has a way of lifting my spirits…
Sharon: Ah, and here comes Oliver with dessert.
With a sweeping bow, Oliver presents the crème brulee with rum sauce. With a glazed look in his eye, he feeds a bite to Joelle.
Joelle: She grasps the silver spoon in one hand and draws it to her mouth—with the other hand, she dips her fingers into the decadent dessert, throws back her head and slowly draws the mousse from her delicate throat down into her ample cleavage. Oliver leans closer, emitting a low, guttural growl.
Joelle: Oh, darling, my pleasure indeed.