Name Emerald (legal name Emily McCay)
Where are you from Iowa originally
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I grew up in Iowa, where the rest of my immediate family—mother, father, two sisters, two brothers-in-law, and two (adorable) young nephews—still currently lives. I left Iowa when I was twenty-one and moved to Pittsburgh, where I got my bachelor’s degree in political science at a small private school.
I then moved to the DC area fourteen years ago (my mouth just dropped open a little bit as I typed that) to go to graduate school. My master’s degree is also in politics.
Three years ago, my cat and I moved from the Maryland suburbs to the Virginia side of the DC metro area to live with my partner and his two dogs.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My first two single-author books, If… Then: a collection of erotic romance stories and Safe: a collection of erotic stories, were just released in September and October, respectively. I originally submitted them as a single collection, and the publisher suggested that we might want to split them into two collections, roughly along the lines of the erotic romance stories and the erotica stories. We did so, and If… Then and Safe were the result. I even got to add back in a few previously published stories to If… Then that I had pulled due to length concerns.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was about seven. I’ve loved cats for as long as I can remember, and that age was when I got my first cat. As I recall, I seemed to feel compelled to write about him and started to write a formal feline-centered memoir—in very neat handwriting so that it felt very professional, lol. While I wasn’t writing fiction yet, writing felt like a very important—foundational, even—way I experienced and expressed myself in the world.
Shortly thereafter, I was inspired by a notebook I got ostensibly for school that had two Cabbage Patch Kids on the cover. I started making up a story about them and writing it down in that notebook (which would never again be dedicated to anything school-related!). I later moved to using the typewriter and cutting the typing paper to approximately chapter-book-size pages…because I thought that was how publishing worked—you had to make the pages on which you wrote things the size the books were. I laugh as I type that, but it just did remind me that I have been dreaming of publishing a book since I was seven or eight. This is a very special achievement for me.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
At the same time as I described above. I later met people who seemed to think “writer” was a professional term and should only be used as such by those who made money in the industry. I was not doing that at seven, but for me, it was a title with which I identified virtually immediately, and I have ever since.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t doubt I do, even if I don’t really mean to. It wouldn’t surprise me if people can tell I was the author of something just by reading it. I’m not sure, though—it’s not something I do on purpose!
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title of If… Then for the erotic romance collection was conceived by my publisher. It is a combination of the titles “If…” and “…Then,” which open and close the book. Both stories are previously published in separate anthologies, and I added the ellipses in the context of my collection to indicate that they are related. They are sequel stories, though I wrote “If” without any plans for following up with a alter related story. When I wrote “If,” that title just seemed to jump out at me and not let go. It’s in the last line of the story. When I wrote “Then,” the title also just seemed to come (and is also in the final line of that story!), and the connection between the words seemed to fit so well, even though it seemed quite coincidental that they both fit their respective stories, that I used “Then” as the title for the second one.
As far as Safe it was one of those titles that just seemed to emanate from the story. It was its title from quite early on, and I don’t remember that ever changing. I knew I wanted it to be the title story of the collection as soon as the story idea came to me. Safe was the name of the collection originally when I submitted it as all one manuscript.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
On a macro level, both collections probably do from my perspective—I chose or wrote the stories for what became these two volumes very carefully. I do a lot of psycho-spiritual Work—it is the central aspiration in me—and I am thus interested in displaying and evoking aspects of self-awareness and the expansion of consciousness in what I write. In some stories I’ve sensed this as seeming more forthcoming, explicit, or central than in others, and it was these stories I chose for what became If… Then and Safe, and it was this intention with which I wrote the original stories I did for them.
So it’s not a specific message, but they definitely encompass an energy to me that relates to simultaneous grounding and opening of consciousness and awareness.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
Interesting question. As far as how much of it do I find realistically feasible, virtually all of it (as I recall off the top of my head). If the question is referring to realistic as in autobiographical, far less of the actual content fits that description. But I’ve not written any paranormal or fantasy fiction yet at this point, so in that sense, the tone is definitely realistic. 🙂
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Some things in a number of the stories are, yes. In “The Plant on the Mantel,” found in If… Then, for example, there is a plant that serves as a visual centerpiece of the story. My mom actually does have a similar plant that has been alive literally all her life, as I understand it. She not only remembers it from her childhood, but she was told (if I remember correctly) that it was there before she was born. I actually have an offshoot of the plant in my own possession now, and I find the idea of an indoor houseplant’s lasting that long fascinating. “If…” and “…Then” are both based loosely on events and people in my experience, and “No Such Thing,” which relates the experience of discovering what the main character interprets as prayer via orgasm, is something I experienced as well (though not in the context of the actual circumstances that take place in that story).
In Safe, “Power over Power” was inspired by a crush I did indeed have on my Krav Maga instructor a number of years ago. (Sadly, the autobiography ends with the infatuation!) Sometimes, as many authors do, I used experience or knowledge I have of certain professions or settings in writing a story’s details or background, such as my experience in the sex industry (as a stripper and webcam model) in “Lifeline” and “Open Invitation,” respectively.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
I don’t know how to articulate exactly how it influenced me, but one of the earliest would be The Velveteen Rabbit. My mom read it to me when I was a child, and I felt intensely affected by it (admittedly in a way that made me cry and elicited an experience of poignancy I don’t know that I was even equipped to handle yet at that time). As an older child, I loved a series written by the author James Howe about (and told from the perspective of) the domesticated pets in a family. The books were Bunnicula, Howliday Inn, and The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and I feel the degree to which I adored them definitely strengthened and solidified my interest in writing.
And while I don’t know consciously how it has influenced me, my favorite novel I’ve read is The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I consider myself “influenced” by any book that moves me, even if I don’t know exactly how or why or couldn’t point to a tangible “way” it influenced me or choice I made due to it. If it moved me, that means it influenced/influences me, as I see it. There are a number of other novels I’ve felt particularly deeply moved upon reading, including Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Amorous Woman by Donna George Story.
From another angle, it’s arguable I’ve felt most influenced by a few select nonfiction books that I have found literally life-changing. At the top of this list is The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson. (This answer would become entirely too long were I to aim to explain why, lol. But I certainly recommend checking it out!)
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Right now I’m working on a story that has been in progress literally for years…it started out as a short story, but it has come to my attention in recent months that its telling will likely take up more room than that. Potentially, it may become my first novel. We shall see!
I also have short story contributions in a few forthcoming anthologies, including Best Erotic Romance 2015, edited by Kristina Wright and published by Cleis Press; Dirty Thirty Volume 1, edited and narrated by Rose Caraway; and The Athletic Aesthetic, published by Sweetmeats Press and due out next summer.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, of course, though I myself have not earned a living writing fiction at this point. I write and have written in other capacities (e.g., as a freelance copywriter) as a profession.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Of course, and thank you for asking. If it’s okay, I’ll share a bit from each collection. Here’s an excerpt from one of the stories in If… Then, titled “Honey Changes Everything”:
Terry had been without a job for three weeks, and his general state seemed even more lackluster than the professional prospects he’d found. Kim was well aware that her husband’s resume was exemplary—highly educated, experienced, and commended, he demonstrated unquestionable competence and even superiority in his field. The present job market was responsible for the dearth of opportunities he was finding, which made sense given that it was the reason he was unemployed in the first place.
She opened the refrigerator and grabbed two eggs, setting them on the spotless counter. All that seemed to have been forgotten by Terry. Whenever she reminded him of either his own proven competence or the obvious influence of the larger economic environment, it was as though the words dissolved in the air between them before they ever reached his powers of comprehension.
Smothering a yawn, Kim began to pull mixing bowls and measuring cups from cupboards and drawers as quietly as she could. The counter collected with ingredients as she slid canisters forward from linear rows, the immaculate surface offering itself as her canvas, a steady, solid space upon which to create. The familiar, warm appreciation for the art of food preparation spread through her body.
Picking up the griddle, she sprayed it with organic safflower oil and set it on the burner, turning the heat to low. Terry’s despondence, which at this point was of more concern to her than financial matters, had been manifesting sometimes as a tightly controlled anger and bitterness and other times as a smothering despair. The night before, when he had left the kitchen after dinner with a whispered, “I’m sorry I’ve failed us,” she had almost thrown a dish against the wall in frustration.
Kim reached for the canister of organic whole wheat flour and wiped away a spot on the side before unscrewing the lid. The dispiritedness Terry had displayed since losing his job had included a lack of interest in many things he usually appreciated—including sex. While she didn’t take it personally, she suspected the degree to which Terry’s subconscious linked his perceived professional success with his sense of basic personal value was what had made losing his job seem such like a staggering blow—and thus may seem now to be threatening his entire self-image. It wouldn’t surprise her if on some level a part of him was questioning whether he was still worthy of her affection.
Kim opened the bottle of vanilla and inhaled deeply before tipping it over the bowl. She watched the thick brown ribbon swirl into the pale mixture and screwed the lid back on the small bottle. Frankly, she wasn’t interested in rebuilding that particular self-image back up in Terry. The fact was, he was far more than his professional success, and while she saw nothing wrong with taking pride in it, to her, Terry’s reaction in the face of losing that perceived source of achievement indicated that it comprised dangerously too much of his appreciation and understanding of himself.
And from Safe, here is a bit from the second story in the collection, “Hers to Keep”:
“Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven!…”
It was the pause between each shout, the literal split second of anticipation before the next number, where Leslie felt like she was. Perpetually in that place of waiting, watching, wondering, the in-between of what was happening rather than actually living among it.
Of course, that was a bit of an exaggeration. The countdown to the annual climax mere seconds away just seemed to highlight the anticlimactic feeling of her current circumstances. Between jobs, between relationships, between any experience that seemed exciting or interesting in her life.
She watched the glittery ball on the oversized flat-screen TV as the frenzy around her grew until the shout of <i>“One—Happy New Year!”</i> reverberated in her ears and the ball dropped amid a flurry of camaraderie and confetti and chaos. The crowd in the room turned to the floor-to-ceiling windows to watch the barrage of fireworks that shattered the frigid air amidst the pandemonium of kissing, drinking, and laughing that took over the large suite for the next several minutes.
She suddenly noticed that her eyes had landed on the man she’d seen enter the room only about 10 minutes before midnight. She’d taken note of him then, no doubt, but she had no idea who he was and felt no desire to approach him on her own.
Actually, that wasn’t true. The desire was there. She squirmed uncomfortably, taking another drink of champagne. Sometimes her own shyness frustrated her. It was more that she didn’t feel <i>comfortable</i> going up to him, especially since she was obviously not the only one who had noticed the particular presence he possessed, as he was now surrounded by a group of partygoers and appeared perfectly comfortable as the center of attention.
She stepped into the mob and made the rounds, placing chaste kisses on the cheeks of her closest friends and, with a bit of a blush, some of the new people she was just meeting tonight.
Without really trying, she eventually she found herself in the group surrounding the mysterious—albeit popular—stranger, and as her friend Ed kissed her cheek and turned to introduce him to her, she blushed harder.
“Leslie, this is Grant. He heads up the IT department at our branch in Colorado. Grant, this is Leslie, a good friend of mine.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” Grant said as he offered a warm handshake. Leslie nodded and returned the sentiment even as his touch made her body tingle. He was even more magnetizing up close than he’d appeared from across the room, his smile glittering like the ball that had just dropped in Times Square. She was suddenly sorry that the kissing part of the evening had just passed. She thought wistfully for a moment about her less shy friends and what they might do in this situation before she looked down, flustered, and let go of his hand.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a hard time getting things done without externally imposed deadlines for them. Working on the collection on my own schedule, without an editor or publisher telling me exactly when something needed to be done, presented a serious challenge to productivity for me.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
If I could say one thing to my readers, it would be that I truly appreciate the support of all of you so much I don’t know how to convey it. It is a true honor to m for anyone to buy or read my book(s), and it is not something I take for granted. Thank you.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I also do some volunteer work, which I wouldn’t necessarily call a hobby but is something on which I tend to like to spend time. In the summer, for the past several years I have volunteered a local live butterfly exhibit as a docent and tour guide. (I love butterflies!) I also started volunteering earlier this year at a local no-kill animal rescue/shelter. I spend time with the cats to help socialize them and work on the dog side giving the dogs walks, participating in an organized dog socialization group (where we introduce the dogs to each other and let them play together to help them get used to being around other dogs), and in general love and care for the animals while they wait to be adopted—which in turn helps them become more socialized and more likely to be adopted.
In a less formal/organized context, things I simply love and tend to devote attention to include dancing, swimming, cooking, and baseball. 🙂
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
My favorite job I’ve ever had besides writing was as a stripper, and that’s a job I’d love to do again were the opportunity to arise (which would include my applying myself to be in the physical condition conducive to it!). For both jobs, in my experience, the schedule tends to be relatively flexible, making it a bit easier than with some occupations to work both simultaneously.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes, both. My website is The Green Light District, found at http://www.thegreenlightdistrict.org
My blog, available via the so-named tab in the menu bar, is at http://thegreenlightdistrict.org/wordpress
If… Then: a collection of erotic romance stories: http://amzn.com/B00NN6L5U2.
Safe: a collection of erotic stories: http://amzn.com/B00O5BTXSK