Way back in 2012, I fell in love with The Vampire Diaries, and as I am known to do, I started reading fan fiction written about the show. I stumbled upon this fantastic story by an author with the pen name Trodgor19. She’d written this alternate, epic version of season 4 of TVD that I couldn’t put down. It was the first time I ever reviewed something I’d read (school book reports don’t count). I was tickled when she sent me a PM, telling me how much she liked my reviews. From there, we started a correspondence that has turned into one of my most treasured friendships.
A Cruel Kind of Beautiful is such a wonderful book, and I’m not saying that just because I feel like a proud aunt. It was the first book I ever read that featured a heroine that had sexual dysfunction. I think we can all agree that romance books set a bar that’s almost impossible to reach in regards to sex and orgasms. Michelle took that on with Jera McKnight and I fell in love. Here was a heroine that I could truly relate to on every level. I’m so glad that Michelle wrote this book, one that her muse bugged her to write even when it was a really, really inconvenient time to do so. I’m thrilled that everyone now has a chance to read it and fall in love with Jera, Jacob, and the other members of The Red Letters.
Michelle and I recently had a chance to sit down and talk. She answered some questions for me in anticipation of today’s release of A Cruel Kind of Beautiful.
Sandra: Romance books are (in)famous for the “Oprah’s Orgasms for Everyone” mentality. What led you to go the opposite route?
Michelle: I knew I wanted to write about love, but I didn’t want to do anything that had been done before, which is pretty close to impossible. But I thought about love stories and was like, what never happens in romance novels? Bad sex. LOL That’s what never happens. Not that I wanted the hero to be bad in bed but more like, what happens if you fall in love with the right guy, but you’re not so great in the sack?
I wanted to make a story that said hey, if the sex isn’t perfect, it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.
A lot of women struggle with satisfaction in their physical life, even when they’re with somebody they love. I wanted to show that you don’t have to fake orgasms and settle for just that. There is more, it can get better, and a lot of that has to do with being comfortable and intimate with yourself and your body, as well as with your partner.
When this book starts out, Jera’s confidence has been ruined by her ex-boyfriends calling her a cold fish. Which especially sucks for her because she’s in a rock band and the music world just seethes with sexual tension. Both her band mates are ah-hem…very sexual men. And watching how much fun they have only makes her feel worse.
Jacob is really the key for her, because he’s confident enough in his own sexuality to help her experiment. He’s willing to wait for her, he makes her laugh when she’s feeling vulnerable, and most of all, he makes a safe space for her where it’s okay to fail so that she can work out what it is she does enjoy. And let me tell you, by the end of the book, it’s working out scorchingly well!
Sandra: What do you hope your readers take away from A Cruel Kind of Beautiful?
Michelle: At its core, this is a book about knowing when to leap.
Jera gets a lot of opportunities in this book, both in her personal life and for her band. She has to decide which ones will bring her closer to who she wants to be, and which will carry her further away.
In America, we’re often told “Take risks, grab opportunities.” But like Jacob says, sometimes the bravest thing you can do is know when to quit something that’s wrong for you.
Sandra: Besides what’s in your author bio, what’s one thing you would like readers to know about you?
Michelle: I deeply love Chuck Norris jokes.
Sandra: Fan fiction is something very personal for both of us and, even though you have a fairly extensive original work library, you still write fan fiction. What is it about fan fiction that draws you back? Why would you encourage new writers to explore it?￼
Michelle: Fan fiction is like biting straight to the core of the Tootsie Pop. You can piggyback on all the setup and back story of an existing show or book and write just the climactic turning point scenes, where everything pays off. Or, you can play God and change something you really wish had gone differently. Who wouldn’t want to do that, given a chance?
Jera McKnight loves music, swoons for hot guys, but sucks at sex. Jacob Tate is her perfect storm: a pun-loving nude model with a heart as big as his record collection.
When a newspaper-delivery accident lands him in her living room, he’s almost tempting enough to make her forget she’s never been able to please a man—in bed or out of it. Sure, he laughs at her obscure jokes, and he’ll even accept a PG-rating if it means he gets time with her, but he’s also hiding something. And it has everything to do with the off-limits room in his apartment.
Jera pours all her confusion and longing into her drum kit, which pays off when her band lands the record deal of their dreams. Except just like Jacob, it might be too good to come without a catch.
She doesn’t know if her music is good enough to attract a better contract, or if she’s enough to tempt a man like Jacob to give up his secrets—even if they could fix her problems between the sheets. But if this rocker girl is too afraid to bet on herself, she might just end up playing to an empty house.
LOOK FOR MY REVIEW OF A CRUEL KIND OF BEAUTIFUL TOMORROW!
Award-winning author Michelle Hazen is a nomad with a writing problem.
Years ago, she and her husband ducked out of the 9 to 5 world and moved into their truck. She found her voice with the support of the online fanfiction community, and once she started typing, she never looked back.
As a result, she’s written most of her books in odd places, including a bus in Thailand, an off-the-grid cabin in the Sawtooth Mountains, a golf cart in a sandstorm, a rental car during a heat wave in the Mohave Desert and a beach in Honduras. Even when she’s climbing rocks, riding horses, or getting lost someplace wild and beautiful, there are stories spooling out inside her head, until she finally heeds their call and returns to her laptop and solar panels.
She’s currently addicted to The Walking Dead, hiking, and Tillamook cheese.