Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Meet Penelope Syn

Hello and lets give a warm welcome to Penelope Syn, who is here to talk about her work, including her latest, The Family Friend.

What is your story (or stories) about?

“The Family Friend” is the second of a paranormal series about “real” vampires. While I write erotica, I like my settings, my subjects, and my characters to be as genuine as I can make them in order to establish verisimilitude or “willing suspension of disbelief” that makes the story feel “real.” So when I write about monsters I like them to be monsters that can really exist, that have a logical, understandable rationale – even if I am the only one that knows it. In this case, my vampires are alive, though they have radically altered metabolisms thanks to a metabolic disease – one that also makes them crave blood.

In any event, in this story the vampire in question has generations of friends around the world that he has carefully cultivated; families of people who while they are not all “in the know” are sympathetic when discovering the truth. He also has a genuinely heroic background, having aided and sheltered people in times of great trouble over the years. Like most heroes, he also has tragedy: he’s extremely long lived in a short-lived world, doomed to watch the people he grows to love age and die while he hardly ages at all.

The longevity does allow me to indulge the whole BDSM scene with him as well – after all, after a hundred years vanilla sex has to get boring. The formalities and obligations of a certain kind of master/servant lifestyle allow emotional involvement and fulfillment while also maintaining a certain emotional distance.

Hence my vampires aren’t actually “dead” as such, and the coming stories explore what they are step by step. My werewolves – the “Wild Discipline” series, my publisher named it – are similarly not actual shapeshifters, although they do enter a different state of mind when the moon gets full, and they most certainly aren’t normal people.

On a wider stage, I try to present my stories as real events that can happen to real people. I want to make my characters and situations feel plausible even when I write paranormal, which is actually quite new.

While I write some fairly kinky sex-scenes, I try and keep that to the believeable level as well. Obviously people don’t want to read about lackluster lovers, but they don’t have to be superhuman either. All the devices and kinks I write about are out there on the market too – you’d be surprised how many people have experiemented with a little light bondage in their love-lives. I suppose a few situations are a little unrealistic – vampires and werewolves are not real, and I think a real reform school like that in the “School of Discipline” series would probably not be tolerated, even on extra-teritorial soil, but that’s where the suspension of disbelief comes in.

While most of my series stories are unrelated by characters and stand alone as stories, they have underlying themes I maintain and a shared “world” or paradigm that helps maintain consistency. The only exception is the “Slave Girl” series, which follow the adventures of Lydia as she explores the BDSM world like chapters in a book or episodes of a TV series. Ironically, that came about from a misunderstanding: to me when I started writing, that’s what a series is. To my publisher a series is just some stories linked by a theme. I had half of it written before he explained no, that’s not what he meant…but we decided to try it and see how it worked.

What traits were you looking for when you were creating the main character for this story?

I wanted Kristen Depew to be someone my readers could relate to easily. I wanted to make her relatively fresh, simple, direct, and while not exactly na├»ve, I didn’t want her too worldly not to be swept up in the romance of the “fairy tale castle” as one of my reviewers described it. Here’s the thing: adventures do not easily happen to wise people, they sensibly avoid that kind of trouble or else they plan it. Adventures are what happens to people who take risks but are capable enough to deal with the dangers, should they happen.

So Kristen is adventurous, but a little vulnerable still. She’s not foolish, and she is quite clever, practical, and thoughtful, but she does take chances and make decisions of questionable wisdom sometimes. In short, she’s a fairly typical bright young adult.

Her counterpart, Gerard Tournebouix, I wanted to make more exceptional (well, he is a vampire) but at the same time maintain his humanity – that’s important when the person maybe isn’t that human. I introduced him as he introduces himself, presenting as a normal person. When Kristen discovers his dungeon, she also soon discovers that it was used to shelter refugees from the Gestapo. Everything about him has two sides, and ultimately he’s a very humane and tragic figure; that’s what I think extreme longevity would do to a person – that or make them inhumane and power-hungry, but we have enough like that in the world as it is, and I don’t think a sociopath makes for a good romantic partner!

My lead women do vary, but I do my best to make them relatively “normal” people.  They may be gifted, or successful, and most are attractive, but as often they are “the girl next door” rather than “the supermodel on the catwalk.” In fact my editor has occasionally sent back my descriptions urging me to make the lead characters sound more attractive, or give them sexier names.

The same is true with my heroes, although I maybe make them a little larger than life, a little more “wow” to them, but that’s more because I present them through the heroine’s eyes’ than because they are always that awesome.

Did you do any types of writing while you were in school.  If so did you receive any awards or recognition for your work?

I used to love writing in school, at least when I had the opportunity to write creatively! My English teachers applauded my attempts at writing epic fantasy, but my History teacher despaired of getting me to write a proper factual essay! My biggest let-down was my handwriting, it was and still is awful. I had a few poems featured by the school, but I never won awards or anything other than some moderately good grades. At that time writing in a structured and clear way to order was quite beyond me, I was very much a dreamer, and while I had the patience to write something once, I could never go back and re-write it.

Was there anyone, in your life who was an inspiration for you to write.   If so what did they do?

The man who’s now my publisher, Harry, undoubtedly encouraged my talents no end. By an accident of fate some years ago we ended up collaborating on an attempt at writing a gothic horror novel. It was the very first time since I left school that I’d sat down and really tried to write. It was also the first time I’d used a word-processor to actually write a story, and all of a sudden I found that rewriting and correcting my own work was way, way easier than I had imagined. The project we were working on petered out when he married and left the UK for California, but now I had a PC and software, and for the next ten years I was constantly writing stories and coming up with ideas in my spare time. I was still attempting novel-length ideas, though – usually in science fiction or fantasy – and none of them ever seemed to get finished.

Then out of the blue, on one of his return visits to the UK, Harry cornered me and asked if I’d ever considered writing erotica. “Fifty Shades” was just out, and he knew a wannabe writer who’d crossed the boundary and become a self-published author. She was making good money writing erotica in short stories, and she’d done a lot of market research we could benefit from. This lead to Silverline Press, and me making a serious effort at writing again, only this time short stories. I’ve really found my style in writing erotica, and it’s taught me a great deal about writing in general.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?  Can you elaborate on what has worked for you.

If you mean, do I have a “message” that I want to communicate, then I guess if there is one then it is that we should be slow to judge. Many times my characters can find themselves in situations where they have to stop and think, or rely on trust, rather than reach snap-judgements or be reactionary. I think that’s important, because snap-judgements, or making decisions “with your gut feeling” can often get things wrong. Beyond that, there are endless variaties of people out there, with very different life experiences. You can’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, as the saying goes.

Ultimately, though, my stories do focus on love, even if it isn’t explicitely stated – because love comes in many varieties too. To go back to “the Family Friend” it’s very clear that Kristen has fallen in love, and that the vampire Gerard, too, loves, but it’s never explicitely stated and indeed it is implied that by him it never will be. Tragedy, as well as romance, that neither can voice their feelings, even though they act on them – but then they do get to act on them, so there is a big plus.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

Well, I do get tied up regularly, but apart from that I live in some a fantastic corner of the world and despite the weather I love getting out and walking the hills and vales. I’m a fairly avid gamer too, and I devour documentary TV. On top of that I read a lot, although less than I used to before writing consumed my time.

What has been your favorite part of being an author?  The least fave?

I think my absolute most wonderful moment was getting my first good review, and every review I have had since, come to think of it! Knowing you created something, that is was out there, that it was being enjoyed and loved…wow, I can’t describe it. I was on a high for a week or more.

On the flip side…it’s hard work with long hours. Not just the writing, but the promoting as well, and planning, there is just so much to do! Silverline is still a small outfit, and in a way we aren’t launching one business but two: I’m launching myself as a writer, while Silverline launches as a publisher. So right now I’m doing a lot of my own promoting alongside all the other Indie authors out there, and that takes hours in the day. I’m not saying it isn’t fun, I love it, but I have to say I’m sleeping the sleep of the exhausted a lot.

I think somebody once said that writing wasn’t something you did because you could, it was something you did because you couldn’t not do it. I feel like that: I can’t NOT write, and I’m glad I made the transition to writing professionally. If I hadn’t, I’d still be cluttering my computer with files of half-finished ideas. Now I’m finishing my ideas and publishing them, which is much more productive and vastly more satisfying.

What has been the strangest thing a reader has asked you?

Well, there’s strange by other people’s standards, and strange by the standards of someone who writes BDSM erotica. For some reason, people sometimes seem to confuse “erotic writer” (which I am) with “sex therapist” (which I am not), but maybe it’s easier to open up about things that are really very intimate on the internet, and someone who writes about sex must know at least a little about it. Usually my advice, when asked, is that they should always talk to their partner about these things frankly and openly.

The commonest question I get asked is, have I, Penelope, actually done the things I write about in terms of BDSM-sex. To which the answer is, some of them. Those things I haven’t actually done I have insight into, at least, from what I have done. The follow up to that was to ask what the kinkiest thing I’ve done was…but you don’t need to know that, do you?

I also get asked sometimes about how a BDSM relationship works, to which the answer is trust and respect. The submissive is giving up all authority to the dominant, but in return the dominant has to understand what the submissive needs and deliver it to them. It certainly isn’t as one-sided as it may first appear, and never involves non-consensual sex. The submissive ALWAYS has a safe-word they can say to stop the action, and the dominant has to always respect it.

Can you give us a peek at your future project?  Or is this a secret?

Well, my publisher has an idea in the running for a cross-author series of stories in a shared setting of a post-apocalytic/steampunk world, and I have some ideas to contribute to that along with the other Silverline writers. I have the final third of the “Slave Girl” series to complete, it’s my earliest work for publication, and now a year later I am looking back at my work and thinking: “Did I write that? I HAVE to rewrite it!” Once it’s done we’ve discussed releasing it as a novella rather than the usual collections.

Right now, I’m finishing the four short stories of the vampire series: number three is in editing, number four is taking shape. Beyond that, I usually throw ideas at my editor and he points me at which ones he wants me to pursue right now.

Very long term, I have a project bubbling under that took root when I had insomnia a month or two back. This is going back to my original ideas, writing a novel-length fantasy work. It’s going to take a few years to piece it together, though, with all my other committments.

Here is a review of The Family Friend:

**** Fairy Tale Erotica October 18, 2013
By Lee

We begin with a fairy tale – that is a fairy tale castle at the top of a hill – and the opening sequence makes you feel as you plunge into the pages that you’re going to end up in a dark damp dungeon. And you’re right.We meet pretty, naive, slowly blooming Kristen Depew doing that thing American girls do, visiting Europe, taking in the culture, the atmosphere – the open stares of those good-looking men – so confident, so different to Americans. It makes her feel – well, sexy, desirable, tingly in all those special places.

She has an address in France, an old family friend who lives – well in that fairy tale, and feels drawn as if by the magnetic pull of the moon into driving up that winding hill, taking hold of the giant iron knocker and calling on Monsieur Tournebouix, the first step on a journey into his dark interior and her own deepest desires. In the long tradition of the Marquis de Sade, Penelope Syn puts us through our erotic paces and I closed her book feeling breathless and far from sleep. You want good erotica, you have arrived in the right place.

Here is an excerpt from The Family Friend:

With a theatrical creak of ancient hinges, the door opened. Beyond it, her failing light showed a stairway leading up a short distance. Feeling like a thief, and excited by the adventure, Kristen stole up the steps as quietly as she could. At the top, the walls were masonry mingled with worked stone, she must be in the foundations of the chateaux. The roof was arched, as were the doorways and doors. One was at the top of the steps, but this one had a well-oiled latch and opened easily, and Kristen stole through and closed it behind her. She found herself in a dimly-lit passageway that ran right and left, and picking at random she turned left.
The floor was smooth, almost polished, and the light came from small up-lighters set intermittently along the walls, clearly electric. The first door in the wall she came to opened easily into a dark room, and once again she pressed her flashlight into use, and gasped in surprise. Inside was a sumptuous medieval bedroom with the hugest four-poster bed she had even seen. It was a king’s bed-chamber…in a dungeon?
That’s crazy, who’d want to sleep in the basement? Although I guess if it’s Uncle Gerard he saves on black-out curtains. Hang on, if this is Uncle Gerard’s bedroom, where is he?
Confused, Kristen crept to the next door. It opened to what looked like a pantry-cum-kitchen, with several large refrigerators. Curiously, she opened one and immediately wished she hadn’t.
It was full of blood, in plastic bags as from a hospital, in racks clearly designed for them.
Who the hell would want a fridge full of blood and a bedroom in a dungeon under an ancient castle? Other than Count Dracula, that is!
Kristen paused and tried to make sense of it.
If I had any sense, I’d turn around, get out, and make like I was never here, Kristen reasoned..  I can get a lift to the station tomorrow and catch the train to Paris and the others. But her feet refused to move, Kristen Depew just had to know more. Until now she hadn’t been able to admit it, but her heart had been set on Uncle Gerard and she couldn’t leave without knowing the truth. So she went to the last door dreading what she might find.
Even as she approached it, she could hear sounds of occupation. Breathing, gasps, odd noises she could easily place given the last few months sharing tents with friends, some of whom were couples: someone was having sex.
Oh god, he is having sex, and it has to be sex with Monique! Kristen felt a sinking feeling of defeat in her guts. I never stood a chance – hell, I’d even be prepared to share him, if it meant a touch, a kiss...
Blinking back tears Kristen very cautiously lifted the latch, eased the door ajar and peeked through the crack as the sounds became louder.
Inside was a dungeon.
Not a medieval dungeon, but a modern sadomasochist’s fantasy room of padded restraints and exotic punishments. Expensive leather and wood racks, tables, horses, benches, chains from the ceiling…it had it all.
In the centre of the room a girl dangled from a chain, strapped into a device that held her body parallel to the floor with her wrists and ankles bound together in a hog-tie that also held her head up and her knees wide apart. Her only garment was a black corset that cinched her waist in tight, but left her naked from the hips down with breasts also exposed.
She hung in front of a man who was naked, his slim form pale and angular like an alabaster statue by Michelangelo: Uncle Gerard. Her head was at crotch-height, and it was clear that she was performing fellatio on him, as he murmured encouragement.
Kristen was shocked into immobility.
Uncle Gerard is into bondage? I’d have let him tie me up and do this, the thought was plaintive in the back of Kristen’s mind.
This was Uncle Gerard’s kinky hideaway? This was what he did?
Kristen’s guts churned as a rush of jealousy and arousal possessed her: how badly Kristen wanted to be the girl in that cruel device, helpless and used by Gerard. Her nipples were hard as rocks and her pussy was hot and moist, such that she was clenching her thighs together tight and biting her lip with desire. If that were her, she would want him to spin her around and fuck her hard…
As if reading her mind, Gerard did exactly that to the restrained girl, and as he did so Kristen could clearly see that it was Monique as she had guessed. She moaned softly in French, and while Kristen could not make out the words it was clear that “stop” was not among them. Gerard thrust into Monique hard and fast, and her breasts quivered as he pulled and pushed the dangling girl back and forth.
Just as Monique’s cries of pleasure reached a crescendo, he leaned over her, pulling her back in the harness as his mouth opened to reveal long, pointed teeth, and he sank them into Monique’s pale, exposed neck.
What the fuck? What the fuck?
Kristen recoiled, stumbling back and letting the door close once more, her mind numb with shock as it made the connections: blood in the pantry, biting Monique’s neck. Gerard was not just into kinky sex, he was acting like some kind of vampire! She was completely torn between horror, lust, jealousy, and desire. Horror that he was some kind of monster; lust at the erotic scene played out before her; jealousy that it was Monique in chains; desire that she wanted oh so badly to be the girl her adopted uncle made loved to, bound, and fed upon.
Dazed, she stared at the door, unable to move for what must have been several minutes. Then the door opened, and her Uncle stood there, a robe thrown over his nakedness, and his dark eyes pinned her like a deer in headlights.

I want to thank Penelope for joining us today.  Stay tuned for my review of The Family Friend.  Also if you loved this book, you'll love Blood Hunger.  To find out more about her check out her links:  

Links to The Family Friend:

Amazon US

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