An Interview with Shannon West

Shannon West is a bestselling author of M/M romance. She currently lives in the South with her husband and large family. A lover of M/M romances, she began writing them with a male partner to add authenticity to the love scenes, but graduated to watching videos online and reading everything she could get her hands on to help her out. She loves men and everything about them, and believes that love is love, no matter the gender. A huge proponent of gay rights, she is a member of PFLAG and supports equal rights for everyone.

Though there are never enough hours in the day, she tries to work every day, giving in to the demanding men in her head and writing their stories. She’s easy like that. She loves traveling, reading, and watching scary movies and ghost shows on TV.

Q: As a writer of erotic romance, what turns you on? Turns you off?

A: I love the way a man smells. The good smells, of course, not the stinky I’ve-been-mowing-the-lawn sweaty smells, but the way he smells when he’s ready to go out for the evening. Or even better, at the end of the evening, when the cologne wears off a little and his own unique, sexy scent takes over. Hmm…Turn offs? Snarky, unhelpful comments like, “You’ve put on a few pounds lately, haven’t you, baby?”

Q: In your Dark Hollows series, you write about the blood match: two characters fated to be together. Do you believe in fate? Do you think we have only one true love?

A: I think the idea of fated mates is a lovely idea, but I don’t know that I believe there’s only one man or woman out there who is the only one we can possibly find happiness with. It certainly wasn’t true for me, but having said that, my own parents were married for well over fifty years, and my father died while in his sleep, holding my mother’s hand. She never recovered from his loss and followed him soon after. Still, only one true love? I’d like to believe God wouldn’t be so cruel as to grant us only one.

Q: Describe a typical day spent writing. Do you have any unusual writing habits?

A: It starts very early, but only lasts until around noon, unless my characters are really urging me on. I hold myself to writing at least 2,500 to 3,000 words a day, and I find I write best when I first wake up in the mornings. Maybe I’m more rested, or maybe I’m still under the influence of my dreams. I tend to dream a lot of scenes. I tend to think of the plot as a series of scenes, and plan them carefully. Of course, once I sit down to write, they tend to go off in their own direction, but I do try to keep them on track. It’s my characters who lead me astray.

Q: Whose books do you read?

A: So many! I love a great deal of the M/M authors—Kim Dare, Joyee Flynn, Sara York, L.A. Witt, Sean Michael, Patricia Logan’s series Master’s Boys. I could go on and on. I like pretty much everything, including some YA. I like other fiction writers such as Diana Gabaldon, Stephen King, all of Stieg Larsson’s books. Classic authors too, like Thomas Hardy and John Gardner and yes, however cliché it sounds, William Shakespeare. I really spend most of my time with my M/M authors, though. I can’t get enough of them.

Q: Many of your Dark Hollows books are written about this one specific area of North Carolina. Any particular reason why?

A: I have a house in the area, and I think it’s truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. I do have a mountain heritage through my mother’s side of the family, though not in North Carolina, but the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The woods are so lovely in the Blue Ridge, and the mists on the mountains add to the charm and mystery. On certain rainy days I can look out my window and almost imagine I see my wolves prowling through the woods, always on the lookout for the evil Hunters. I actually wrote my first novel—a historical M/F romance—about a couple who lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I guess you could say the mountains inspire me.

Q: Some of your male characters, particularly the beta males, are difficult, emotional, a little bratty, and prone to bringing a lot of attention to themselves. Some people say your alpha males are almost too alpha. What makes you interested in difficult men, and why do you tell their stories?

A: God, I love a bad boy. They’re so much more interesting than vanilla characters who always try to be good. Nicky, a prominent character in many of the Dark Hollows books, is considered to be bratty and a lot of trouble, but I love Nicky. He never gives up, and he never gives in. One reviewer says his own body betrays him, and that’s a perfect description of the blood match Nicky experiences with his alpha wolf. Yet, despite what’s happened to him he continues to fight it, even while embracing the greatest passion of his life. He’s so open to what the future holds, even though he’s a bit afraid of it. I don’t think of him as brat—he just knows what he likes and goes after it. As for my alphas—I say, if you’re going to write an alpha, write an alpha, not some watered-down, politically-correct version of one. As long as what they do is morally correct and they don’t hurt anyone, then I turn them loose and let them have their fun.

Q: What books, other than shifters, would you like to attempt?

A: I’ve also written contemporary romance and a few BDSM stories. I really enjoy both of these genres, particularly BDSM. The readers are incredibly knowledgeable, so doing the research is a must, but I love to shine a bit of a light on this fascinating subject. I happen to believe all of us are Doms or subs—we might not be actively practicing it, but we have an inclination one way or another. I think I’m a total Domme, and unfortunately my DH has the same turn of mind. Neither of us wants to ever give in, which is one reason why we clash so much—I’ve been told our fights are epic—yet we always find our way back again. I’d love to do a good coming-out story too, and I have an idea for one. Now I just have to find time to write it. I usually have two or three stories going at any given time. Right now for example, I’m working on a BDSM M/M/M novel and a new shifter series, as well as having an occasional Dark Hollows and three more Love Slaves of the Alphas in the works.

Q: Are you a believer in happy endings? Is that why you write romance?

A: Absolutely yes to both questions! I’m such a total sucker for a happy ending, especially ones that make me cry!

Q: Why M/M romance? How do you know what a man is feeling and how they might make love to another man?

A: Many women who write M/M get this question. Some people want to know how we can possibly get into a man’s feelings, not to mention his anatomy, to accurately write erotic romance. Not long ago, I read a less-than-complimentary review of one of my stories on one of the popular sites for readers, and while the writer said he enjoyed the story, he wondered how a straight woman could feel that she had anything to bring to the table when it came to writing M/M romance. He also felt that men should be tougher, rougher and, I suppose, throw each other around a bit while having sex. I’ve even had some women express surprise over a tender moment between two characters, saying the beta was “too much like a woman,” because he expressed strong emotions. I think there are all kinds of men and women out there who don’t necessarily fit the stereotypes, and we shouldn’t feel threatened by them, but celebrate their individuality. We’ve internalized these stereotypes to a degree, I think, and thereby perpetuate them. Showing a variety of personality types in our characters is one way writers can combat that pressure to stuff everyone down into a small box based solely on their sex. As for how I might know how a man makes love? I may not be an owner of the equipment, but I’ve been an operator for years. As a writer, I have an imagination, and I’m not afraid to use it.

Q: Why do you think M/M stories are so popular with so many readers? Do you think they may help to trail blaze the way to political change or help bring about greater acceptance of differences in lifestyles?

A: I think they’re popular because they’re interesting and well written for the most part. Women love men, and we love to read about them and try to figure out what makes them tick. I think they’re just good love stories and full of adversity and struggle and heartbreak and finding each other. I do think that reading these stories emphasizes the fact that love is love, no matter the gender. I hope that people realize how important it is to embrace gay marriage, and if I can help that idea along even in a small way, I’m very happy. Everyone deserves a love story and a happily ever after.

One comment

  1. I may not be an owner of the equipment but I’ve been an operator for years…. OMG, I love that!!! I’m stealing this Shannon! WTG dude!