Author Spotlight Interview: Marie Tuhart
Today, we continue our series of author spotlight interviews by chatting to Marie Tuhart, author of a litany of steamy erotic romance novels including Tempt, which Hidden Gems subscribers picked as one of the top romance reads of April 2020. We asked Marie about her inspirations, motivations, and what keeps her adding to her impressive catalog of books.
HG: Well, my first question is – WHO ARE YOU? Or more accurately – how would you describe yourself to somebody who isn’t familiar with your writing yet?
MT: Who am I? Good question LOL!
Let’s see. I live in the Pacific Northwest about 50 miles south of Seattle Washington. I was born and raised in San Francisco, and moved to Washington after I retired from the day job. I love writing. I write sexy contemporary and contemporary erotic romance. My men are always alpha males, and sometimes they skirt the lines, but my heroines give as good as they get. Spunky and adventurous. I write for The Wild Rose Press, Trifecta Publishing House and my own imprint Hot Blooded Press. I’ve been published for a little over 10 years with 24 books out (combination of novels and short stories). Romance has always been in my heart, I would rewrite stories in my head when I was a teenager to make sure there was a love interests with an HEA.
HG: I love that! Okay, so my next question is how you got started writing. Was that when you were a teenager too? When did you first think about getting published?
MT: When did I start writing? I was a teenager, I would rewrite books I liked adding romance to them. I’d been reading romance for a few years and decided one day: “What the heck? Let me try and write one! At nineteen I wrote a romance book. It was awful – but I didn’t realize that! I did submit the book and it was rejected.
Then, life got in the way. I went to college and was working full time – but I never gave up the dream of writing. I took creative writing classes in college while getting my degree in computers. I kept reading romance and learning. I also kept writing. I didn’t start thinking about publishing anything until the mid 90s. I’d joined a local writers group and one day they had four speakers who were romance writers. I learned from them about Romance Writers of America. Plus I won an all-day writing class from one of them.
I’m going to say the stars aligned. My day job was dragging me down when all this happened. Right after I attended this workshop, a job I applied for opened. This meant a Monday through Friday set hour job. No shift work, no weekends. This meant I could attend more writing programs. Fast forward to the mid 2000s. Several job changes within the same company, many derailed my writing time – but I’d been writing when I could and still getting rejected. Erotic romance was starting to be a force, but there was only two publishers who took it. But, I kept writing. I loved writing erotic romance because it allowed me to let my heroes be alpha.
Then, in 2009, I decided to check out some of the small presses as I wasn’t getting anywhere with New York. I sent in my query to The Wild Rose Press, they asked for the full book. I was so happy. Then, they contracted the book – and now I have a career. I was still working the day job at the time, but I had a job that allowed me to be flexible with my time and write.
HG: What a fascinating journey! To me the thing that stands out is your persistence. It’s not easy to deal with one rejection, let alone multiple ones. So, you’ve got Sheiks, and doms, and cowboys. Where did the inspiration for all this start? Or do you just have a very wide circle of friends? Lol.
MT: Where did my inspiration for all this start? Good question. Because I was a romance reader from age 17 on, I read a variety of romance books. I was lucky at the time my cousin owned a used bookstore so she allowed me to go through her storeroom. I took home 4 boxes of books, much to my family’s dismay!
As I read through what I’d grabbed, I loved historical novels, and Harlequin category books. I began thinking about all the places you can visit in a book. Now, I do have to say I’ve always loved ancient history – Egypt, Greece, Italy… So, I did read history books on these time periods. When I first started writing I knew historical – but I couldn’t do it! I just didn’t have it in me, so I went with the contemporary category instead. I was told by some very famous authors that if I didn’t write cowboy, baby, or bride books I’d never sell. Well, I tried and tried – and nothing. But I loved category sheikh books, and read everyone that came out – and historical ones as well.
As the years went by, I started looking at writing for publication. I studied the market. Cowboys and sheikhs were popular. When erotic romance came out dominant men became popular. I already had my first book written when I decided to query The Wild Rose Press with it. It needed some tweaking, but it was done. It was a book I’d written during an online class with an erotic romance author. After that, I just went with the ideas that came to me. Readers enjoy cowboys, sheikhs, and dominant men. My characters really tell me who they are, what they do for a living. Not only that, but I have an idea folder and, if for some reason I don’t have an idea for a book, I’ll go look there – but usually my characters are already talking in my head wanting their story.
HG: Isn’t that weird how they do that? I swear that’s the mark of a good writer, though – that they put two well developed characters together and the story writes itself (unfortunately it doesn’t write itself down on the keyboard and edit itself.) So what’s the favorite thing of yours you’ve written? Which characters stand out?
MT: I get this question a lot and it’s hard for me to answer. All my characters hold a special place in my heart. But I will say the Desert Destiny series is one of my favorites, these characters lived in my head for years before I found a publisher willing to take a chance on them. The other is my new Wicked Sanctuary series. They’ve waited years for their stories to be told, and I’m having lots of fun writing them.
HG: Whats the Tradpub route been like? If you had your time all over again, would you have made the same choices?
My traditional publishing route was with Harlequin and NY publishers when there was a lot more of them. I don’t regret going that way because it taught me a lot. When I decided to try a small press in 2009, I made sure to do my research. I was lucky with The Wild Rose Press, they liked my writing and were willing to help me. My editor left before my first book was published, but my current editor has been with me since 2010. The other small press, Trifecta Publishing House, I knew through the owners – and they asked if I’d come write for them, so I did. I don’t regret the path I took. It’s been a way to learn and understand about the writing business, but also helps me keep on deadlines.
HG: Do you think there’s still a ‘legitimacy’ to being traditionally published?
MT: Yes, I do still feel there is some “legitimacy” to being traditionally published. While it is getting better, some people still won’t accept authors who go the small press route or self-publishing route.
HG: One of my oldest friends recently had her first book published, and she went the trad pub route. She and I had a long and spirited debate about it. I certainly feel that it’s an issue getting physical books into bookstores if you self-publish – and my biggest piece of advice for other authors is to make sure you don’t LOOK like you’re self published.
I almost forgot to ask this – what attracted you to the erotic side of romance initially? I ask because I started out writing sexy shorts and then moved to romance. I just enjoy writing steamy stuff!
MT: Yes, getting into book stores is a big deal to a lot of people. I’m just glad my books are available in the Ingram’s catalog. That makes a difference. But now-a-days a lot of sales are online.
What attracted me to the erotic side of romance? Freedom. LOL. What drew me was the ability to write characters the way I wanted. I could let my heroes be as alpha as they wanted. As more than one editor told me, it’s easier to bring your steam down than to get you to ramp it up! I enjoyed allowing my characters to explore their sensual side, and that is part of their journey along with the romance.
HG: ABSOLUTELY! So, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about writing?
MT: Don’t give up and keep writing. While that may seem like two pieces of advice, it’s not. They go hand and hand. Persistence is the key in the writing business. Writing is not easy, and publishing even harder.
HG: What’s the best advice YOU’D give to somebody about writing?
MT: Write your next book. It’s how you learn and grow. I’d also tell them not to give up.
HG: Brilliant! So what are you working on right now?
MT: I’m currently in edits on the 2nd book in my Wicked Sanctuary series. Entice. Then it’s on to writing the 3rd book: Seduce.
HG: Ooooh! Such evocative names!
MT: Yes, there’s going to be 9 books in the series. I had fun coming up with titles.
HG: So tell me about the writing process. Are you a plotter or a pantster? And where and when do you write?
MT: I’m a Plotster – I’m half-plotter and half-pantster. It really depends on the book. Some books I have very detailed plots and others looser, more like outlines.
I have a home office. It was one thing when I bought my house I wanted a home office and now I’ve got it. So, I usually write there. In summer, if its really hot, I’ll move to the family room where I have an AC unit. I also write at the library once a week with a writing friend. I miss that right now with the Covid virus, but I’ll pick it back up once the library opens back up.
As for when I write, I try to write 2-3 hours a day but it doesn’t always happen. When writing a new book, I shoot for between 7,000 words to 10,000 words a week. I don’t work on Sundays, that’s my day off.
HG: I think you need one of those! Otherwise you burn out!
MT: Yes, sometimes I’ll take an afternoon off if the writing isn’t working or I just can’t concentrate.
HG: So, here’s a romance-specific question. When I started writing romance, I published stories inspired by Jilly Cooper and Jackie Collins (because those were the authors my mother had in her bookshelf.) Then I discovered that what was de rigueur in the 1980s, with bed-hopping etc. – wasn’t the same in 2015+. Do you think the dynamics of romance has changed? Are readers becoming more prudish, or more exploratory?
MT: Yes, the dynamic of romance has changed. It’s really funny because the best-selling romances are either inspirational or sexy/steamy/erotic. It’s actually funny in a way – one extreme or the other.
I actually think readers got more exploratory after 50 Shades hit the market – there was so much marketing behind the books. While they weren’t well written, it got a lot of readers asking: “Wait, do you mean there are other books like this on the market?”
HG: AND THEY’RE BETTER? Lol! I give props to Twilight and Fifty Shades because you can criticize the writing as much as you like, but it has a theme that RESONATES with people.
HG: Who are your favorite authors and writers?
MT: Some of my favorite authors: Susannah Erwin; JR Ward; Christine Feehan; Cadance Vonn; Peggy Jaeger; Anna Alexander; Carmen Cook; Tena Stetler; Cherise Sinclair; Lexi Blake – I’ll stop there or I’ll go on.
HG: Thanks so much, Marie! And where can people find you if they want to learn more?
Thanks so much for Marie for taking the time to speak to us – and remember, if you liked her books, you’ll get to read them first for FREE at Hidden Gems – plus titles from 15 other genres, all delivered direct to your inbox for you to download, read, and review.