USA Today Best Selling Author C.M. Albert writes heartwarming romances that are both “sexy and flirty, sweet and dirty!” Her writing infuses a healthy blend of humor, inspiration, and high-heat romance. She’s a sucker for a good villain but is a die-hard believer in everlasting love. In her spare time, she and her husband wrangle their two kids and enjoy spending time outdoors. When not writing or kid wrangling, C.M. Albert is also a Certified Medical Reiki Master, chocolate chip cookie aficionado, kindness ambassador, and seeker of naps
- Can you tell your readers something about why you chose this particular topic to write about? What appealed to you about it? Why do you think it is different and your approach is unique?
Thank you so much for having me! This is actually my first Reverse Harem novel, and boy was it a challenge at first. I was inspired by a publisher who asked me to write a short RH for a boxset—and since I love stretching myself as a writer, I accepted even though I’d always said I’d never write a RH. But as one reader said, I always need to put a “Colleen spin” on the concept. And that was very true for The Stars in Her Eyes. I wanted the story to be realistic and not just a bunch of sex for the sake of sex. Since it’s a contemporary romance and not a paranormal or fantasy RH, I really wanted to understand the female main character and how she could find herself realistically falling for three men at the same time—let alone having an arrangement to explore their relationships sexually. This book seriously wrote itself. It’s a cliché, but it truly did. Creslyn Knight came through hard and fast demanding that her story be told, and it’s now my favorite story to date. I think it’s different than most RH’s in that it is a longer book, and is equally balanced between the HOT HOT HOT scenes you expect with an RH (and there are plenty!) and the plot-driven storyline and characters readers need with a contemporary romance love story.
- How long does it take to research a topic before you write? And for this book?
I usually research as I go, when I discover I don’t know something or one of the characters throws a curve ball at me – like River in The Stars in Her Eyes, who ended up going to Julliard and was a classic cellist. On the plus side, as a result, I discovered the amazing duo 2Cellos during my research. But sometimes the topics are heavier, like with an upcoming novella where some of the characters are LGBTQ. I’ve already started interviewing several people who identify as this so I can do the story and characters justice from the get-go. But for The Stars in Her Eyes most research, particularly around location, was done as the need arose.
- Would you recommend self-publishing and building an audience before approaching a publisher? If so, what benefits do you see that it might have for the aspiring novelist?
So far, I am strictly self-published by choice; most of that has been because of a need for complete flexibility in my schedule up to this point. I am also a stay-at-home parent and my family comes first every single time. That’s not always the answer a publisher wants to hear. That said, I’m lucky enough that as the kids have gotten older and are in the same school now, I am able to write a lot more than I used to during the day. In general, I do believe it’s helpful to build a strong audience and brand before approaching a publisher. It’s certainly not required, but I think it does help them to see your dedication, commitment, and business savvy ahead of time. It also doesn’t hurt for them to know you have a built in audience and to see how people respond to your stories before taking a chance on an unknown author. In today’s market, it’s not that uncommon for authors to take this approach, or for publishers to find writers who bust their butts and are able to shine in a very dense market of eBook self-publishers. I also think it benefits the author because it helps give them a broader understanding of everything that’s truly required to publish a book and be successful, because only a small percentage of that is actually writing.
- What do you read when you are ill in bed?
I tend to go one of two ways, depending on my mood: YA dystopian (like The 100, Steelheart, Pure) or romance (Colleen Hoover, L.J. Shen, Skye Warren, Elle Thorpe, Melissa Foster).
- What is your favourite genre?
Hands down it’s romance, which is why I write it. I’m a hopeful romantic and love characters who are able to overcome personal challenges and still find a way to open up and love. In real life there’s always a lot going on politically and socially, so I think romance is a nice escape; it strips things down to the individual level while still giving us the bigger hope that love wins, despite the odds stacked against us. Humans are very complex (alone and in our relationships), and I love peeling back their layers to discover motivation. It takes a strong person to soften and open their heart to love again after experiencing tragedy, pain, heartache, or loss. And I think most of us can relate to that. Nothing makes me happier than for characters to get their happy ever after, whatever that looks like for them.
- If you recommend a living author – who would it be? A dead author?
I could recommend a dozen living authors, but if I had to pick just one right this moment, I’d probably choose L.J. Shen. I never understood the appeal of “the bad boy,” until reading her books. And she writes hot bad boys like nobody’s business. I haven’t read a book of hers I didn’t end up loving, including her latest release, The Kiss Thief. What she excels at is making the bad boy sympathetic by the end of the novel (even if he still is a bad boy). It takes talent to make a reader cringe at someone’s behaviors throughout a book but by the end everything clicks into place and you love them more than any regular hero—exactly because of everything they had to overcome to brave it all for love. There’s something about cracking open a hard heart and seeing the light.
As for a deceased author, I grew up reading Bertrice Small. She is the QUEEN of sexy as sin historical romance. I’m not even a huge historical romance reader, but I devoured every one of her books and miss her greatly. She was so detailed in her knowledge of the time period, wrote an amazing anti-hero, and set the pages on FIRE. That’s probably where my love for explicit romances began, as I read my first Bertrice Small book—Skye O’Malley—when I was just sixteen.
- Which author had the most influence on your writing? Your writing style? Your writing genre?
I’d probably say Melissa Foster. Her knack for writing both sweet, soul-quenching romance with a lot of heat really inspired me that it could be done well and be done successfully. Most writers are either sweet and clean, or bad and dirty. I think you can be both—which is why my author tagline nails what you can expect with my books so perfectly: “Sexy & flirty, sweet & dirty.” My first book, Faith in Love, was originally published as a part of Melissa Foster’s Kindle World. I chose to do that because I knew our audiences would be similar and I loved the world she created for her characters the Remingtons. It was an easy fit for my contemporary writing style that combines real, complex emotions with a high dose of heat and soulmate level attraction. Even though Kindle Worlds went away, I’m forever grateful that it pushed me to write and release my first book in the genre I love most.
In your opinion who is the funniest author now writing?
- I don’t read as many funny books, but in the past I’ve enjoyed Laurie Notaro, David Sedaris, and Elise Sax when I needed a dose of laughter with my books.
- Have you ever tried to imitate another author’s style? And if so, why?
I really haven’t, and that’s because I think for your writing to feel authentic to readers, you have to write it from your heart. There is something missing when a person just writes words to spit out books. The connection is missing. For example, I LURV L.J. Shen’s sexy AF, bad boy anti-heroes, but I would fall down all over the place if I tried to write one like her. It’s just not ME. And I think my readers would feel that disconnect in an instant. I always think it’s best to tell the story your way, because you’re the only one who can. The best feedback I get from readers is when they say they are touched by the way I was able to so easily blend heart, hope, and high heat—and I think this is my own unique style and brand – my “Colleen spin!” One of the best reviews I got was simply, “Fun, sexy, and poignant.” That’s what I try to hit every time.
- What have you done with the things you wrote when in school?
I have kept them, but haven’t published any. In high school I wrote a lot of very angsty, depressing poetry. My dark years. Haha! I still have every horrible poem because that was what I was needing to release through my writing at the time. In college, I wrote more non-fiction and poetry (which got marginally better when I was told I could throw everything I thought I knew about poetry out the window).
- Do you have any pets?
Absolutely! I think pets bring so much happiness and healing, so I’m a big believer in the strong connection you can forge with your pets. (I have had one soul mate kitty and one soul mate dog.)
- If so, what are they?
We currently have 1 dog, 3 cats, 1 fish, and a bearded dragon. My daughter wants a chinchilla since she just lost her fish named NASA, and I’m obsessed with adorable little hedgehogs, but I doubt either will join our household. We have enough chaos right now!
- And what are they called?
Dog, Beau. Cats: Patty, Sarah, & Leo (who is our asshole kitty; there’s always one). Fish: Javier. Bearded Dragon: Waffles.
- Do they help you write?
Beau is my faithful companion. Sometimes the cats curl up with me, but Beau always is my sidekick. I write in a big club chair for comfort, and Beau is always napping on the couch right next to me in the sun, just being near me for love and comfort. It’s sweet.
- What is the funniest thing they have done while you are writing? Mostly it’s just Leo who chases the other cats. I’ve been concentrating before on a really intense scene and two cats will tear through the room at warp speed, flying off the couch over the coffee table like mini super heroes, all spitting and hissing. Scares the bejesus right out of me every time because it’s so fast and unexpected. Leo is ALWAYS the instigator too. Haha!
- Do you want to add a photo of them to this Q&A?
Sure. I’ll attach a rare photo of Leo not being an asshole and snuggling up with my baby Beau on the infamous couch in my writing room.
- If so, what are they?
Thank you so much for having me today—this was fun!