Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Setting the Mood

My guest today is Dana Fredsti, author of MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon. Dana also writes erotica under the nom de plume Inara LaVey. Her latest release is Ripping the Bodice. Dana is a fascinating woman who has worn many professional hats in her career, but today she talks about the contrast of writing before being published and what it's like to write under contract.

When I write, I like to set the stage. Kind of like a woman preparing for what she hopes will be a super romantic date. You know, candles, the right music, the perfect food, and no distractions. Creating an atmosphere conducive to a particular outcome.

When I lived in Glendale (part of Los Angeles, near Griffith Park and the L.A. Zoo), we had a fireplace in the house so on days that were chilly enough (we don't really do 'cold' in the majority of Southern California); I'd build a fire. I confess to using a lot of non-environmentally, unfriendly faux fire logs back in the day. I’d draw the curtains to shut out the noise of the neighborhood (we lived on a busy corner, complete with bus stop and the only roundabout in Glendale), light some candles, and settle in on the couch with my computer and whatever music best suited the mood of my current project. The cats would curl up the couch next to me or in front of the fireplace and I'd write for a couple of hours. It didn't always insure a productive writing session, but it generally helped keep distractions to a minimum. The fact I worked at home doing freelance transcription also helped; I could pick and choose my writing schedule.

Then I moved to San Francisco and I lost the fireplace, but I gained a four-block walk to the beach, a quiet neighborhood and several cats. Easy access for a beach stroll and the lack of shrill, obnoxious teenagers improved the ambiance for writing. The cats? Not so much. Nothing says 'distraction' like a thundering herd of felines racing through the house, using one's lap and laptop as part of the racetrack. And I can light all the candles (and matches) I want, but when you're fostering kittens during the phase of weaning them from kitten kibble to adult food...there aren't enough matches in the world to mask the gaseous warfare that ensues.

Now if I'm working on one of my hard-boiled cozy mysteries, kitty poots can inspire such lines as 'he hung around like a fart in a phone booth.' But when working on erotic romance for Ravenous...not so much inspiration as watching my muse hightail it out of the room with a promise to come back when I've bought her a gas mask.

I also gained a full time job; including a 40-minute commute each way. The necessity of paying bills not yet covered by my writing income has severely cut into my creative schedule. However, over the last year and a half, I've been published three times. One traditionally published mystery novel, and one short story and novel for Ravenous Romance, an erotic romance e-publisher, co-written a non-fiction book about what women really want in bed (sleep!) with my childhood pal Cynthia Gentry and have a contract for seven more books with Ravenous.

I don't have time to create the perfect ambiance for my writing now; I get home from work, toss down some dinner, park in my rocking chair, and fend off felines while working for a couple of hours. Sometimes I work with one or two cats draped on the top of my arms, my hands and laptop keyboard barely visible below the furry bodies.

Weekends are better: I get up and go for a long walk on the beach (Must. Collect. More. BEACH GLASS!), come home and putter for an hour or so, and then settle in around noon to write for most, if not all of the afternoon and evening. Some days I listen to music. Other times I have a movie playing quietly in the background. Something about bad Sci-Fi original movie about giant snakes/dragons/alligators/spiders and zombie movies just fires the creative juices. I think it best not to analyze why this helps me write erotica. Some things are better left to the mystery of the muses, doncha think?

What does this all mean? I'm not entirely sure, but it seems the less time I spend trying to set the perfect mood for my writing, the more time I spend actually doing the work.

And I finally understand what people mean when they say 'writers write.' It still makes me want to smack 'em, mind you.... but at least it makes sense now!
Dana has been involved in the entertainment world for many years as an actress in film and theatre. She has worn the hat of actress, producer, and writer much of that time.

Dana's love of all things feline has involved her in volunteer work with both large exotic cats with Exotic Feline Breeding Facility/Feline Conservation Center, and ongoing urban feline rescue. She has been writer and associate producer of several award winning documentaries on the subject.

Dana was co-producer/writer/director for a mystery-oriented theatrical troupe based in San Diego. These experiences were the basis for her mystery novel MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon. She is at work on the second in the series, Murder for Hire: The Big Snooze. Writing as Inara LaVey, she has a short story, Succubusted, and a novel, Ripping the Bodice, and is currently working on Champagne with Ravenous Romance, a new e-book site focused on erotic romance.

MURDER FOR HIRE: The Peruvian Pigeon is available through all fine bookstores in the US and Uk, on-line through, and other internet sites. Also available direct from the publisher at


readwriteandedit said...

A contract for 7 more books!!! Dana, you are da man! What an awesome couple of years for you. And it's only going to get better. And busier, I'd guess.

Laughing at the cat tales. Didn't we recently hear about writers with dogs who interrupt? Must mean that our pets are necessary for the writing life.

I hope that the writing will soon pay all the bills.

Sherrie Super said...

Great article, Dana! I loved the glimpse into a writer's life. I was especially struck by the differences you spelled out in writing now (while juggling a day job) compared to when you had more free time.

(And dang it, now I want to build a fire. Oh, I know it won't help me write, but it sure would be toasty.)

Fires aside, what an impressive bio too.

Thanks, Sia, for bringing us another great article. Your blog is a real treat, just like fancy coffee.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Sherrie, Thank you. I'm glad you find it a treat. I seem to have quite a few fancy coffees featured at any given time.

Beth, thanks for stopping by. It would seem that pets (and kids) do play into a writer's life.

Anonymous said...

Dana, your bio reads like the plot of a book! And congrats on the contract for 7 more books! I laughed myself silly over some of the great lines in Murder for Hire, and now it's fun to know what inspired some of those! And your erotica? Um, YUMMY! I need to follow your example and and simply write. Thank you for the laughs and for the inspiration, and Sia, once again, great hostessing!

Judi Fennell said...

Having had the good fortune of seeing this cat haven and close-to-the-beach writing sanctuary, I'm amazed that you can be so disciplined! After working outside the home for just a few hours a day, I was exhausted when I got home. To then have to write for hours... as Beth said, you are da man!

Wishing you many years of success and only a few months until the books pay the bills!

Kenna Coltman said...

Thanks for sharing, Dana! It always seems there is a lot of juggling to do to make time for writing. Perhaps someday I'll join you among the published, but for now, I just enjoy the creating.

I join others in wishing you success - may your writing pay the bills. It sounds like that day may not be too far off!

other lisa said...

Please pet the kittehs for me!

Great interview/article. Thanks Dana and Sia!

Dana Fredsti/Inara Lavey said...

Thanks, everyone, for the lovely and supportive comments, and thank you, Sia, for being such a great hostess and making me sound so cool! :-)

Here's to a good year for all of us and our writing!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Lisa! Good to hear from you! Wow, the Internet gremlins didn't interfere with posting from China. How cool! I know you have has some problems with it here and there.

Btw, I'm loving following your blog, Paper Tiger about your adventures with this visit to China. It would make a good book, just sayin'

Thanks for stopping by!

Dana Fredsti said...

I think Lisa's Chna experiences would make a fantastic memoir...

~Sia McKye~ said...

I happen to think you are rather cool, Dana. I didn't do anything special to make you sound more cool. You are multi-talented!

Anonymous said...

I thought I was the only one who hated that phrase "a writer writes." Especially when they tack on "Always." No one does anything "always," not even breathe, otherwise why are we reminded to breathe when we get panicked?

It's nice to know that even though you don't have a fireplace, you still have your "mews."

Dana Fredsti said...

Pat, I HATE that phrase. Like, paging Captain Obvious here!

I seem to have traded my fireplace for 6 more felines... :-)

Dana Fredsti said...

And Sia, thank you again! And everyone who stopped by to read my post and make such nice, supportive and funny comments! :-)

aries18 said...

Great article Dana! Love to read how you work. Sia, you bring us all the best people! Thank you.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Wanda, I do try. thank you for stopping by.

Judi, I hear you on the juggling working and family and then make time to write, it's not easy. Which is why I have this blog and plenty of people who can relate. :-)

~Sia McKye~ said...

Kenna, whether we are published or not, we are writers and we face problems around accomplishing that. Happy writing!

Morgan Mandel said...

A contract for 7 books and a full time job - I call that pressure. You are a miracle worker.

Morgan Mandel

Dana Fredsti said...

ooh, you did get both bookcovers up! Sweet!!

Morgan...I also agreed to lead a blog book tour for 11 other RR authors... I think I am mad. And did I mention I'm the events coordinator for Sisters in Crime NOr Cal this year?

Just shoot me.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Dana, You will handle is as you do all other things I've noticed, with style and a smile.

I wan to thank you for being my guest Over Coffee, Dana. It was a pleasure. One I hope to have again, in the future.

I wish you great success!