Q: Tell us about yourself and what you were doing before you published your first book?A: Hmmm... let's see. I'm 28, married for seven years, and live in a beach town in Florida. Before I published Blindfolded Innocence, I worked as an administrative assistant. I spend a lot of time with my husband and stepson and we all enjoy watching SEC football. I am addicted to organizing and also enjoy horse-back riding, reading and watching movies. I was lucky enough to find and marry my best friend, so we are constantly together.
Q: What inspired you to write Blindfolded Innocence? Was it based on your personal experience? A: Stephen King's book "On Writing" was the catalyst to get me to actually put pen to paper. When I sat down to write, the characters and plot of Blindfolded just poured out. I got into a zone where I ate, drank, and lived the characters in the book. The story is certainly based on some personal experiences in my life, and Brad -- the main character -- definitely has some similarities to my husband. Other than that, it's mainly fiction!
Q: Are there any notable differences in Blindfolded that we may not find in most romance or erotica books? A: I think my books are more for mainstream audience. With most erotica titles, people are likely to find they are short on plot and amped up on sex. I pay a lot of attention to character development and plot, which creates more of a satisfying pay-off for readers.
Q: You said that the character of Brad is loosely based on some similarities to your husband. Are any of the characters like you? A: The main character, Julia, is very similar to where I was in life at age twenty-one. She is sarcastic and has no problems putting the Hero in his place! At the beginning of the book, Julia starts out very narrow minded and set in her ideas about sex. It was a lot of fun to develop her sexual exploration in the book and see how she changes during the course of some life-altering events.
Q: Blindfolded takes the reader into a secret world that involves "swinging." What kind of research, if any, did you do on swinging before writing the book? And was there anything you learned about swinging that surprised you? A: I actually did a lot of research into swinging. I started out by joining a couple of the major swinging or lifestyle websites. I opened a profile as a married couple and over a few months interacted with couples and singles on the site via emails and a few webcams chats. I also joined some of the clubs such as Lifestyles and NASCA.
I dove into this genre with a lot of preset opinions, and had a lot of surprises along the way. One surprise was how mainstream swinging really is. Adultfriendfinder, one of the largest swinging social networks, has over thirty million members worldwide from almost every country. Entire industries centered on the swinging lifestyle, such as travel agencies, resorts that focus on the lifestyle, and large conventions that are held every year. The people that participate in all these events are from all walks and social economic circles. They range from young newlyweds to 70-year-old couples. The most surprising fact was that most of the professional people involved have been married for quite some time, and all seem to be very happily married, and in most cases have stronger relationships than the general public. The swinger lifestyle is one that 'has no bounds' as far as honesty in regards to sexual preferences, and a lot of the couples I met seemed stronger in their unions because of it. I also found that the divorce rate among these couples is much lower than the national average. When I asked couples about this, they contributed it to their openness, not just in their lifestyle but to each other. I also learned a lot of things 'not to do' in this lifestyle, which I added to the book, in the form of wisdom from Brad. :)
Q: How long did it take you to write the book from start to finish? A: I wrote the book in six weeks and self-published it three weeks later.
Q: As a first-time author, was there anything that held you back from publishing your book? What made you finally decide to go ahead and publish it? A: I had very low expectations for Blindfolded. I loved the story and was attached to the characters, but I had no idea if anyone else would appreciate the book. Given the erotic nature of the story, I didn't send it out to any family or friends to get feedback, so I just put it out there in hopes of getting some sort of response from others. I planned on Blindfolded being the first "practice step" of my future as an author and had absolutely no idea it would blow up the way it did!
Q: Speaking of blowing up, after Blindfolded spent several weeks on Amazon's top 20, is it true the book was banned on Amazon for awhile? A: (Laughs) Yes, that's true! They yanked it and banned it on the lists for a short while, but by that time there was already such a surge of interest that it didn't hurt sales of the book at all! If anything, I'd say this only helped create more curiosity about the book.
Q: Apparently so, since Blindfolded also reached the top 25 on Kindle. How do you feel about having your book selling among top authors such as E.L. James, J.K. Rowlings and other popular authors? A: It's surreal. I went through a month-long period where I went to bed every night pinching myself! After my first month of sales, I had sold 400 books. I remember purchasing champagne and toasting the success with my husband. Six weeks later, I was selling more than two thousand books a day! My pie-in-the sky dream was to one day be able to make enough money that I could write full-time. To have reached this goal already is insane! It's something I am grateful for every day and will never take for granted.
Q: Did you know from the start that Blindfolded would be a trilogy, or did you decide to continue the story after the first book's success? A: I never intended on Blindfolded to become a trilogy. I sat down to write one story - the story of a girl meeting a guy would would change her sexual outlook and take her into a world she never expected to be in. I finished the book, typed up a short 'About the Author' paragraph, where I mentioned that I was working on a sequel. It wasn't a true statement, at that point, I just wasn't really ready to leave Brad and Julia behind, and considered continuing their story. Once reader reviews started coming in, I didn't really have an option - readers were dying to know what was next, and their enthusiasm caused me to open up my laptop and start working on a sequel. My goal with the sequel is to follow the same course as BI - to 'end' the book, so that readers aren't obligated to purchase the third book, that they can have some semblance of closure when they reach the last page.
Q: When did you learn that Harlequin and several other publishers were interested in publishing your books? A: When BI reached the top 25 on Kindle, emails from publishers starting coming in. Before then, I had received a handful of publisher inquiries, but they were from small, independent houses. Once I hit the upper rankings, that was when I started getting Big Six interest. That was when I got my agent, Maura. Maura took the book and shopped it to the different publishers, and that is how Harlequin got involved. The entire process happened very quickly. Within two weeks of hitting the Top 25, we were negotiating a deal and choosing a publisher. I am so happy with where BI landed, Harlequin has given it a great home, and I am very excited to rerelease the new version, with their edits and improvements
Q: When can readers expect the sequel to Blindfolded and can you give us a hint about what will be in store for Julia and Brad in the next book? A: I don't have an exact date for the sequel's release, but it will be a month or so after Blindfolded's print release, which is in June. The next book takes Julia to the next level in swinging, and further erodes her boundaries and sexual expectations. There is a masked party, as well as the death of a major character. This death causes so many ripple effects, and ultimately will either ruin or strengthen their relationship.
Q: Are you working on any other projects or books right now? A: I have a finished sexual thriller that is in the final stage of editing, I hope to release it in the next two months. And I have started two other books, they are continually being worked on. Plus, I am working on the last and final Blindfolded book - which is a bittersweet project, because I hate to leave Brad and Julia's world.
Q: Where can readers find your books besides Kindle? A: Blindfolded is available on iBookstore and Nook. In June 2013, it will be available in print through Harlequin Publishing and in 30 different countries.
Q: How can fans contact you and learn more about your upcoming books? A: I love to chat a little while every day with fans and friends on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Readers can follow me on Twitter @ReadAlessandra and on Facebook at PROVIDE LINK HERE. My Pinterest account is also Alessandra Torre.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? A: I hope to publish 3-4 books a year and have a regular reader base. My ten-year goal is to have a movie made from one of my books!