Cassandra Carr writes romance novels about hockey players, bull riders and everyday men and women who fall in love. Carr is the pen name of a 40-year-old author who is married with one young daughter and who lives in the Southtowns.
A past president of the Western New York Romance Writers of America, Carr’s specialty is writing romance erotica, a genre that has skyrocketed in popularity since “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James became a best-seller in 2012. Romance novels, Carr said, commanded $2.2 billion dollars in sales in 2012 compared with $765 million in sales of mystery novels.
Carr loves her job as a stay-at-home-writer. In her words: “What could be a better thing to do all day than write about people who fall in love?”
People Talk: How did you come up with your pen name?
Cassandra Carr: We went through 300 names trying to come up with one for our daughter. Cassandra was in the top five. Carr is actually my mother’s maiden name chopped off. I wanted something with alliteration that was easy to remember because some authors spell their names funny. How are people going to find it? On Amazon, it’s not going to come up.
PT: How do you tackle the process of writing?
CC: I don’t tend to be the type of writer who reads everything she wrote the last time before I write again. There’s two kinds of writers: plotters and pantsers, who fly by the seat of their pants. I have an idea of what is going to happen. I have an idea also of how many words I want, which means I know how many chapters, and about how long they should be. But that’s it. I don’t like plotting.
PT; Are you that way in life?
CC: No. I am an organizer, a planner.
PT: Was your husband OK with you being a romance author?
CC: Yes and no. When you have a tiny baby they tend to sleep a lot, so I had time to write. And I also had really bad post-partum depression, and it was there a good long time. She was a couple of years old before it really lifted. One of the things that made me happy was writing. My husband wanted me to be happy. I sold my first book in November 2010.
PT: How many books have you published?
CC: I’ve published about 35 works. They’re not all books, though. I’ve published everything from short stories to full-length novels. My shortest is about 500 words. My longest now is about 75,000 words. They’re going away from mass market paperbacks – the smaller ones – which are about 80,000 words. Print on demand is so much easier. As a publisher, you don’t have to put out the money for 10,000 books you might not be able to sell. Every time someone orders one from Amazon, CreateSpace (Amazon’s company) prints the book.
PT: Are romance novels trending?
CC: They’ve always been hot, plus they’re recession-proof. It’s better than reading about serial killers.
PT: Would you include a character who is a serial killer?
CC: I don’t, but there are people who write everything under the sun. A friend writes dragon shifters. Another writes bear shifters. I don’t really want my hero to turn into a dragon. There’s a specific market for shifters.
PT: Who is your audience?
CC: My reader generally is female, college educated, age 25 to 55. I think mine are voracious readers. Voracious readers read 50 or more books a year, statistics say.
PT: How many do you read?
CC: I read about 200 books a year. I write about all sorts of things. I write male male. I write male female. I write menage. Like I said, I get bored.
PT: Does erotica sell?
CC: Oh yes. I hate to say this, but especially because of “50 Shades of Grey,” which is not the most well-written trilogy. But we have to be grateful, too, because it brought a lot of readers to our genre.
PT: Is this a good time to be a writer?
CC: For a lot of reasons, yes. First there’s self-publishing. You have more power as a writer than you ever had. Before, you sent your manuscript off and waited and waited because you couldn’t simultaneously submit. Now it’s expected, so when an editor gets your query letter, he knows someone else has it, too.
PT: Is Harlequin the gold standard of romance writing?
CC: No, though some people will not agree with me. There are a lot of great publishers and a lot of great e-publishers.
PT: Can you make a living as a romance writer?
CC: I don’t make a living off of it right now. You can make a lot of money, but most of us make enough to pay for your kid to go to Catholic school, take some trips, that kind of thing.
PT: Why don’t romance writers get any respect?
CC: Because Americans are so puritanical. It seems so funny but when it comes to sex, Americans cringe. They don’t want to talk about it or have anything to do with it. They don’t want to admit that we all do it. A lot of people either think it’s porn, which is ridiculous, or smut, which is insulting.
PT: Is there such a thing as a perfect hero?
CC: Perfect heroes are boring. They have to be flawed. Heroines, too. I tend to write more realistically than other writers. I don’t write a lot of happy-ever-after endings. There are not a lot of marriage proposals at the end of my books.
PT: Does writing about romance help your marriage?
CC: It’s not that romance writers understand love more, it’s that we are around it. I don’t see a lot of divorces among romance writers I know. We might spot problems soon, but it also gives us a higher expectation of love.
PT: Why is sports romance so hot?
CC: The number of female fans of sports is exploding – football and hockey in particular. You can see it. They still have the pink jerseys, but now they have regular jerseys fitted for women.
PT: Are there romance novels about zombies?
CC: There’s everything. There’s zombie romance, gargoyles.
PT: What’s your top seller?
CC: Actually the first book I ever wrote. It didn’t come out until last year because it got rejected, rejected, rejected. So I wrote another book – “Should Have Known Better” – which was my debut, and it turned out to be No. 1 in a series.