Interview: Janine Ashbless

janine-ashbless-iboteA definite fangirl moment for me today, as I interview the lovely Janine Ashbless about her new novel In Bonds Of The Earth, and much else besides! *Kermit flail*

1. Hi Janine, and welcome! It’s lovely to have you here. Just to start off, can you tell us a bit about In Bonds of the Earth?

It’s the second in the Book of the Watchers trilogy – the first, Cover Him with Darkness, came out in 2014 – and is a supernatural thriller / X-rated romance.

In the first book my heroine Milja freed the fallen angel Azazel from his prison under a mountain in the Balkans. In the second book he embarks on his plan to free the other 200 rebel angels and win a war against the Hosts of Heaven.

So they go off to Ethiopia to free the Angel of the Written Word, but they’re being pursued by Milja’s other love-interest Egan Kansky, who works for the Vatican and hates Azazel. And by Satan. And the Archangel Michael. It all goes horrifically wrong, as you might guess. There’s a lot of globetrotting and conspiracy and violent drama and angst. And sex

2. How did the Book of the Watchers trilogy come about?

It started life as a short story in Mitzi Szereto’s anthology Red Velvet and Absinthe. The then-publisher of Cleis Press loved that story so much that she asked me to write what happened next, which turned into a trilogy.

3. I get the impression that this series of books is particularly close to your heart. What is it you find most exciting about it?

It’s probably the book that has least focus on lots of sexual action and most on a twisty-turny plot … so I could guess you could say it’s slightly further uphill from some other bodily parts, lol!

I honestly put heart, soul and mind into all my novels while I’m writing them. But maybe what’s special about this one is the religious/philosophical side. I was brought up in a born-again Christian household and am now a non-believer. My characters, on my behalf, get to tackle all the big questions that we’d want answers to if we really could talk to angels or God – divine inaction in the face of suffering, the nature of morality, the supposed connection between sex and sin, duty versus love … that meaty stuff.

4. How did you first come to write erotica?

I’d always had a head full of what were basically erotic fantasy stories (fantasy as in magic, alternate worlds etc). When I was in my twenties and coming out of a period of terrible depression, a friend gave me a Black Lace story collection all about the knights of the Round Table. It was amazingly kinky. And I was like “OH!!! You ARE allowed to write about these things!” I wrote eleven or twelve of them down, sent them to Black Lace, and lo they became my first collection: Cruel Enchantment.

I’ve got three collections out now and maybe ten novels. I was deeply lucky enough to find the Thing I Loved was also the Thing I Was Good At.

5. Have you ever written anything that was too extreme to publish?

I’ve written quite a lot of stuff that had to be toned down for one reason or another – Black Lace went through a “No guy-on-guy sex!” phase which pissed me off hugely. And they really really took against me writing minotaur-sex for reasons that still baffle me.

I’ve written stuff that might not be publishable nowadays as censorship on Amazon etc grows – golden showers, sex with a gigantic dragon cock, that sort of thing. But Named and Shamed got as extreme as I dare get, probably. It scared hell out of me writing it – there’s a lot of enthusiastically-received humiliation and coercion in there, which is pretty taboo, so I was reaching down inside myself for things that pushed my limits. The power of erotica often comes from trespass and challenging boundaries.

But I also think a lot of the time it comes down to how you write it as to whether it’s deemed ‘extreme’. Editors often censor particular words – “gash,” “cunt,” etc – rather than the acts as such. If you’ve got a good enough ear for vocabulary you can work round it.

6. You can put one thing you’ve written – it can be a novel, short story, poem, whatever, but only one – into a time capsule for the future. What would your pick for the capsule be?

Since I can’t pick a trilogy (lol!) … My short story The Red Thread, which appeared in Dark Enchantment. It’s not the filthiest thing I’ve ever written by a long way, but it is dark and sad and I managed to sneak in several thousand words of minotaur-sex having been specifically forbidden to write about it, just by careful use of language. If I’m going to be remembered for my erotica, that’s the one.

7. Is there any subject matter you’d love to write about but haven’t as yet?

My other genre (under a different name) is Horror, and I think I’d like to write some full-on erotic horror. It’s a difficult subject to tackle without descending into misogyny, because your female characters tend to all end up being either victims or villains unless you’re careful (All your male characters are likely to end up victims or villains too, but it isn’t so symbolically loaded). I’d like to see what I could do with that. My vampire novel Red Grow the Roses is really dark in places, but it only skirts horror, I think.

8. Where do you draw inspiration for your work from?

History, folklore and myth, mostly. Non-fictional books, documentaries and TV programmes. I magpie settings from other genres in movies – like, I wrote a deliriously mucky story, The Military Mind, that was basically a gang-bang spin on Aliens.

9. Apart from in In Bonds of the Earth, is there anything else of yours out now or forthcoming that we should look out for?

I’m writing Book Three of the trilogy right now and it’s almost done, so hopefully there won’t be such a long wait for the final part to hit the stores! It’s called The Prison of the Angels and it’s set in Rome and Norway and Ireland. Fabulous excuse for some research trips, say I…

10. After the Book of the Watchers trilogy, what next?janine-ashbless-profile2

I’ve started an erotic quartet about nature/sex magic called Lover’s Wheel, which is about a young woman tasked with turning the wheel of the seasons by fucking her way through the avatars of the Twelve Months. The first two books (Summer Seduction and Falling Deep) were published by Ellora’s Cave, but that publisher folded at the start of this year and gave me my rights back. So I intend to see the first two re/self-published, and write the Winter and Spring volumes.

Thank you for having me on your blog, Carla! It’s been fun!

I will free them all.

When Milja Petak released the fallen angel Azazel from five thousand years of imprisonment, she did it out of love and pity. She found herself in a passionate sexual relationship beyond her imagining and control the beloved plaything of a dark and furious demon who takes what he wants, when he wants, and submits to no restraint. But what she hasnt bargained on is being drawn into his plan to free all his incarcerated brothers and wage a war against the Powers of Heaven.

As Azazel drags Milja across the globe in search of his fellow rebel angels, Milja fights to hold her own in a situation where every decision has dire consequences. Pursued by the loyal Archangels, she is forced to make alliances with those she cannot trust: the mysterious Roshana Veisi, who has designs of her own upon Azazel; and Egan Kansky, special forces agent of the Vatican the man who once saved then betrayed her, who loves her, and who will do anything he can to imprison Azazel for all eternity.

Torn every way by love, by conflicting loyalties and by her own passions, Milja finds that she too is changing and that she must do things she could not previously have dreamt of in order to save those who matter to her.

In Bonds of the Earth is the second in the Book of the Watchers trilogy and the sequel to Cover Him With Darkness.



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