Monday, October 1, 2018

End of an Era! - A Ramble About Stronghold

I can't believe it's over...

I mean, granted, it's NOT over in some ways, because I'm going to be writing the spin-off series about Marquis, but really, the journey I started in The Venus School is now done. It's pretty incredible to look back and see how far the story has come, not just in terms of characters, but also myself as a writer since that was my first self-published book!

When I started the Venus Rising Quartet, I was doing it as a response to readers on Literotica who were pushing me to put the story somewhere they could buy/own it. I figured, sure why not. I had a vague thought in the back of my head that I could go ahead and turn it into something more than just a one off, I was interested in exploring what happened to Jessica, Justin, and Chris when they got home, and so I decided to turn it into a Quartet. Hilary was also in my head and I figured maybe I could give her a story too, intertwine it with the threesome.

At the time I was reading a lot of BDSM club books, most notably by Lexi Blake, Cherise Sinclair, and Sierra Cartwright, and I thought - wouldn't it be fun to write a book about a club, like these other books I love reading so much? And I already kind of had the set-up because of Olivia's friendship with Justin and Chris and the references I'd made to her and their friends.

I wasn't sure if I would actually write that series, but I decided to go ahead and start introducing Justin and Chris' friends, thinking that if the Venus Quartet had any kind of positive response that I would go ahead and write that BDSM club series that was teasing my imagination, and I'd use their friends to do it.

To my delight and surprise, The Venus School book version seemed to pick up more even more readers than the Lit version had, many of whom were definitely interested in seeing the rest of the story. I was having a blast writing about Justin, Chris, and Jessica and getting into Liam and Hilary's story, as well as introducing the rest of the Stronghold Doms. Mr. Winter insisted on coming home with them too, and since I'd already said he was friends with Justin and Chris during Venus School I decided he should be part of the Stronghold Doms too. I wanted to write their stories and started jotting down ideas for them, characters started to develop in my head, and by the time I was writing Venus Transcendent I had definitively decided to write the Stronghold series.

Adam was first, and I went into it knowing his character would be based on my hubby and would end up with a character based on me. I knew Rick would be next and that he'd get a curvy, sassy heroine. Obviously Patrick and Lexie were being set up from the very beginning, all the way back in the Quartet. I also was already setting up Leigh and Jared, because they were based on how hubby and I actually got together, which meant they both needed to be seen with their exes for a few books (and kept apart until the right time!), and I knew Andrew's ex would eventually be coming back into the picture. I also knew Ellie and Michael would end up together and started laying the groundwork for that.

There have definitely been a few surprises along the way though!

For instance, Michael and Ellie's book was originally going to be the last one.

Although I'd introduced Olivia in the Venus books, I'd never intended for her to have a book of her own. Just thinking about writing a Domme book intimidated the heck out of me and she originally wasn't interested either. Pressure from readers as well as Olivia deciding that yes, she wanted her own HEA, finally convinced me that I was going to need to write her story. Her sub showed up a book earlier than he was supposed to; originally he was just going to be a guy who came to the club for the Dominant class and ended up attracted to the instructor instead of a submissive. Then Luke showed up in Michael and Ellie's book and he was just so right for Olivia that I realized I was going to have to rewrite my whole outline.

Sharon was a completely unexpected character who appeared in Pieces of Stronghold. Until that time, I wasn't sure how Andrew's ex was actually going to return and I definitely didn't expect her to have such a hilarious and outspoken bestie who would also need her own book. Jake was originally supposed to be a side character, he was not going to have his own book, but once Sharon entered the picture and the two of them started clashing, I knew the series was going to be longer than I'd originally planned.

I have had such a good time writing this series. Every time I started a new book, it felt like I was coming home. Maybe it's because so many of the characters are based off of my group of friends, maybe it's just because I've spent so much time with them, but it's incredibly strange to know that the overall series is now done.

There will still be a few short stories and novellas I'm sure. I would like to write a novella for Justin, Jessica, and Chris' commitment ceremony in 2019. I also have a short story coming out for Rick and Maria in a Christmas anthology that will release this December. I also will probably eventually write a short story for Patrick and Lexie's wedding.

And, of course, all of the characters will show up in Marquis, but the focus will no longer be on them and we won't get as much interaction with them for the most part. It makes me so sad.

But at the same time, I'm so excited too. I think I've set up some fun scenarios for Marquis. I already know Freddy is finally going to get his HEA there. The Baby Doms and the newbie class of subbies need their own stories. Several of the Stronghold side character subs have spoken up in my head, letting me know they'd like happily-ever-afters too, and Marquis seems the perfect location for it. And, of course, the warring Chef and Sous Chef in the restaurant need to work out some of that tension going on between them...

I don't know what my writing schedule for 2019 is going to look like just yet, since I'm a few weeks out from having my first baby I don't want to commit myself to any hard and fast dates, but I can promise that the first Marquis book WILL come out sometime in 2019 and so will the novella for the Venus wedding. And as sad as I am to say goodbye to Stronghold, I am so looking forward to both of those =)