I met my friend recently to catch up over lunch one day when we finally had all of our kids off to camp. We’ve been both been writing professionally for years and we like to check in with each other.  As we sat down with our drinks, she dropped her bombshell news. She’s been writing raunchy sexy romance novels and they’ve been published under an alias. I nearly spit out my smoothie when she confessed her hidden secret. She didn’t feel like she could tell anyone but for some reason, she thought it be okay to spill her secret with me.

“OMG! Really?” I blurted out loud. We looked around laughing to see if there were any familiar faces. Phew. No. But I’m sure a few ears perked up. She’s one of the sweetest people I know. She’s also a mom. I had so many questions.

Having worked with a book publisher, I know how tough it is for someone to get a story published and then get the buzz out. But thanks to online publishing, a whole new world has opened up. Authors globally can reach audiences beyond borders.  Sites like Kobo and Wattpad are also popular options for self-publishing which she’s exploring also for future possibilities. She explains that she’s feels fortunate to have found a publishers who are interested in supporting her work.

When she revealed her secret to me, my mind went into overdrive. I must admit I had to convince her to do this interview. She’s a talented and well-respected writer. We both know that everyone thinks they can write a book but  why the heck would she choose this genre. Erotica? Romance? Whatever you want to call it, it’s one of the most popular niches, globally. Also, I know there are so many women, and men, who would love their stories to be published and she could provide some insight.  Okay, we also laughed but her stories were too good not to share and I pinky-swore to her that I wouldn’t reveal her true identity.

Under the penned name Natalie Sloane, here’s what I wanted to know!

What made you decide to write in this genre?

NS: I’m a writer and sometimes a very frustrated writer. It can be very difficult to be published! I’ve done a lot of work for magazines, newspapers and blogs but always wanted to be an author. A friend suggested I try to write romance so I started to do some research on the industry. There is a really big and warm romance writing community in person and online so I dove in.

You had mentioned that when writing elsewhere and other genres, you feel more proud of your work. Why?

NS: I’ve been really proud of the work I’ve done for magazines and newspapers. Much of it has been personal and I’ve been really touched by readers who have reached out to tell me that I inspired them to carry on. When I write romance, it’s under a pen name. It’s completely anonymous and I need it to be this way. I value my reputation in the community and I care what my family and friends think of me. I don’t want them to know I’ve written smut! I don’t think they know how many bad words I’ve learned from writing romance! At the same time, romance is a wildly popular genre. People shouldn’t be embarrassed to read or write it if that’s what they like.

We spoke about where you find inspiration, and it can be anywhere. Like Yoga class? So, we want to know what thoughts are going through your mind and where else have you found inspiration?

NS: In any good story—including love stories—there needs to be conflict. You need two main characters who are destined to be together but because of their personal baggage they fight it and fight it until they fall in love. The key to romance is there must always be a happy ending (that kind and the actual kind!). Romance stories also have typical tropes, like office romance, older woman-younger man, friends-to-lovers, and so on. Whenever I’m out and about, I try to think of situations in these terms. I come up with characters, add some romantic tension, some conflict, a few sex scenes, a climax and a happy ending. Voila!

You’ve told us that your novels are pretty “raunchy”. How would you compare to say, Fifty Shades of Grey?

NS: I honestly am pretty typical in the bedroom—there’s only so much experience I have to draw on! I read as much romance as I could across the various genres to get a sense of the language used, how much description to offer and basically what others were writing about. I can’t write what I don’t know about, but I tried to add in scenes that were hot and heavy using visual descriptions and language I was comfortable using. With a pen name, I could let my vocabulary go!

Typical? Okay, sure.  lol  So, often authors who publish their books get help in marketing and publicity but what challenges have you faced with this experience vs your other writing experiences?

NS: It is very challenging to promote your work under a pen name. For one, I’ve found it difficult to market myself online, especially on a prime platform like Facebook, which has so many romance reader fan groups. Facebook, for instance, only lets you join groups and post under your real name so any promotion I wanted to do on Facebook was impossible without revealing my identity. I also can’t market to friends and family or spread the word without feeling like people might judge me or that one day my kids would find out what I’ve been writing. You can set up an author page on Amazon, for instance, and create a website, but most of the promotion that’s been done for my books has been through my indie publisher. These publishers are great, but they tend to be small and have a big list of books to promote, so you really have to be able to take it on as your own small business. When I write under my real name, I can post across social media platforms and share with friends and family. It’s much easier to spread the word when you can be yourself.

You have to admit, it’s fun going incognito to write these novels?

NS: It was definitely fun and makes me laugh that I put something dirty out into the world. It’s so not like me at all. It’s like having a secret life. The first time I sold a book it was a big thrill. I’d finally done it! I was so proud to become a published author. But then I realized I couldn’t tell anyone and that was a little sad for me. Now I’m determined to write something my kids can read!

NS: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about self publishing? In this genre and/or any other?

NS: If you love romance or writing in any genre then definitely go for it. You have to do what you love and it’s easier to self-publish these days than you might think. I’ve met many writers who have been very successful taking control of their careers and publishing online.

What would you want people to know about you without giving anything away?

NS: I guess I’d want people to know that I’m just a regular woman and mom who took a chance—and I had fun doing it!

Why do you want to stay mysterious?

NS: I haven’t even told my husband my pen name! I don’t want anyone finding out! Only my best friend knows and she’ll take my secret to her grave.

Your secret is safe with me. We’re curious and want to check out your published works. Where can we find them?

NS: Check out my website at nataliesloane.com. It has links to my two novellas—Worth The Risk and Fulfilling Her Needs—and some information about me (at least my secret identity!)

This is also a great infographic on who is reading romance novels. Link here.