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Rachel Haimowitz (Wanna know why she's smiling? Read the interview to find out!)

If you haven’t seen Rachel Haimowitz in the last few weeks, I must say I’m impressed with your evasive techniques.  This woman has been everywhere!  Not only has she been on the All Things Romantic Suspense Blog Tour with me, but she’s gone raving mad with daily blog stops on a whirlwind tour to celebrate the release of ANCHORED.  And if you haven’t caught the buzz about ANCHORED, I’ll pay BIG for directions to your hideout.  (I have six kids.  ‘Nuff said?)  Ms. Haimowitz gives great interview, so let’s see what she has to say, shall we?

Thanks so much for joining me today!  You’ve had your keyboard in many facets of the writing industry – everything from freelancing to editing.  How did you get started, and what led you to write your first novel?

I actually got started by owning a game store: a shop called The Only Game In Town (TOGIT) that sold collectible card games (like Magic: The Gathering), tabletop minis games (like Warhammer), roleplaying games (like D&D), some traditional games (chess sets/clocks, etc.), and a wide assortment of truly excellent import board games (think Mayfair games like Settlers of Cataan—best board game ever!). TOGIT sponsored a team of professional gamers (yes, there is such a thing; several collectible card games are successful enough to run a worldwide tournament circuit with big enough payouts that the very best players can play for a living), which, by some combination of luck and insanely hard work, went on to be one of the best teams in the world (three or four US National Champions, the Team World Champions, etc.). Since part of the players’ sponsorship deal was to write tournament reports and strategy articles for the store’s website (which drew in huge crowds around the world to shop at our online store), I spent several hours each week editing their work and writing some of my own to fill in the posting gaps. This got the attention of Upper Deck Entertainment, the makers of the World of Warcraft and Yu-Gi-Oh! card games, who hired me as a freelance editor for their own growing website. I spent several years working for them, improving my craft, and when I sold the store, I went to work for them full-time freelance. From there I started picking up other freelance jobs, went back to school for writing, ended up interning and working editorial in some amazing places (including a large NYC publishing house), landed an unpaid gig at the Huffington Post (which opened a bazillion doors for me in terms of professional work), and became a ghostwriter and book doctor.

Experience ANCHORED for yourself! Click image for an excerpt.

All this time, I’d been nursing dreams of becoming a novelist. I actually started writing my first novel, a sprawling alternate history (post-apocalypse America as a theocracy), in high school. I “finished” it about five years later. It’s still in a drawer and rightfully so—it needs heaps and piles of work, arguably to the point of a complete scrap-and-rewrite—but it was the first thing I ever tried submitting to agents. They all turned me down—again, rightfully so. One day I want to pull that baby out and fix her up the way she deserves.

My first published novel is a different story. Tal, my editor, actually found me through my freelance work. She had an idea for a story she wanted written to launch the Guiltless Pleasure list, and thought I’d be the perfect person to do it. We talked it out, and she turned it over to me and let me run with it. I’m forever grateful for that, for any number of reasons.

Um, wow.  Just … wow.  Your new release, ANCHORED, is drawing a huge emotional response from readers.  That’s not surprising considering the powerful content, but are you ever taken aback by the depth of the impact you’ve had on your readers?

A little, yeah. One of the things that surprised me the most was how black and white some people seemed to see things. The world—not just the Belonging universe, but our own world as well—is full of cognitive dissonance. We constantly and simultaneously do and say and believe things that are in direct contradiction to other things we do and say and believe. That’s the only way a world like Anchored’s can exist, and it’s the way slavery has existed in so many forms throughout history. Carl can be a nice guy and a total moron at the same time. He can be a slaveholder and a critic of despot governments at the same time—not seeing, because he lacks a proper frame of reference, that his own government has significantly despotic tendencies. This is something I’ll be addressing throughout the sequel, with characters coming to realize the issues with their own preconceptions and contradictions.

On a different note, it’s in a way quite gratifying to see the kind of response the book has gotten. There has been a lot of beautiful, positive feedback, people saying the book has opened their eyes to a new set of perceptions or thoughts, people who have been moved to agony and sorrow and joy by it, and that is, hands down, the highest compliment a writer could ever receive. Of course, there’s been quite a bit of negative response to Anchored, too. But even if people are furious with you—which it seems many people are—and rage against you and the book and your gene pool and whatever else, that anger really says something: You’ve touched that person enough to make them care, to make them bother with coming online to rage. And I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone and fervently hope I haven’t (hence the heavy warning at the bottom of the book blurb), but sometimes a strong negative reaction is a great thing. As a consumer of media, be it TV or movies or books, I tend to seek out material that creates a strong negative reaction in me—that incites my passion—and I enjoy that reaction (unless said reaction is because the media is just terrible, rather than inciting passion). I know not everyone is that way, and those who aren’t may find that Anchored is not for them.

The buzz has been amazing, and you’ve given great wordage as to how and why this story caught fire.  The sequel looks to be fantastic as well!  Looking back over all of the intimate moments you’ve created between characters, which scene would you most like to experience for yourself?  What makes it so alluring?

Believe it or not, it’s not a sex scene. It’s the almost-kiss between Ayden and Freyrík on the battlefield in Freyrík’s tent. That moment when Rik is playing violin and painting worlds in Ayden’s head with his music. For a long moment, Rik and Ayden were quite literally the only two people in that world—a world created just for Ayden. Is it even possible to be more intimate than that? Feel more special, more the center of someone’s life?

Oh, wow.  Beautifully put!  Have you ever battled with any of your characters over their personality traits?  If so, who won – you or the character?

Oh my yes. If a character is well-constructed, it will go where it wants to, and to hell with your plans. The most stark instance of this is in an as-yet unpublished psychological thriller called White Lies that I co-wrote with a dear friend. One of the hero’s biggest allies in the book was originally intended to be a seekrit villain. Couldn’t do it; the character wouldn’t let us. So the character definitely won. The character always wins.

I bet that makes for some great storytelling!  What are you currently working on?

Right now I’m neck deep in Crescendo: Book II of Song of the Fallen, which will be coming out this fall. I’m trying to hurry it along, because there’s a lynch mob waiting down the street, and you don’t want to mess with those guys 😉 I’m also working on a small collection of short stories set in the Belonging world, which hopefully I can wrap up in the not-too-distant future; and a sequel for Anchored, which is still just in the planning stages but starting to gel up nicely in my head. And a third story in the Belonging world, too: a novella about a slave boxer, which is also just in the gelling-in-my-head stage. (Aleksandr Voinov is also writing a novella about a slave boxer in the Belonging world, and we hope to release them together.) Lastly, for Sir/Nicky fans, I’m doing edits on their origin story, and am hoping to resubmit that in the not-too-distant future.

Now that we’re all on the edge of our seats, here’s the scoop on ANCHORED.

Network news anchor Daniel Halstrom is at the top of his field, but being at the bottom of the social ladder—being a slave—makes that hard to enjoy. Especially when NewWorld Media, the company who’s owned him since childhood, decides to lease him on evenings and weekends to boost their flagging profits.

Daniel’s not stupid; he knows there’s only one reason a man would pay so much for what little free time he has, and it’s got nothing to do with his knowledge of current events. But he’s never been made to serve like that before, and he fears he won’t survive the experience with his sanity intact.

He finds himself in the home of Carl Whitman, a talk show host whose words fail him time and again when it comes to ordering Daniel to bed. Daniel knows what Carl wants, but it seems as if Carl isn’t willing to take it, and Daniel’s not willing to give it freely. His recalcitrance costs him dearly, but with patience and some hard-won understanding, love just might flourish where once there’d been only fear and pain. Can Carl become the anchor in Daniel’s turbulent life, or will he end up the weight that sinks his slave for good?

(Content warning: This book contains potentially triggering subject matter, including a violent rape that is NOT committed by either hero. Please take heed.)

Anchored is available at Noble Romance Publishing, Amazon.com, and ARe.

Other books by Rachel:

Crescendo: Book II of Song of the Fallen (Coming Fall 2011)

Counterpoint: Book I of Song of the Fallen / M/M Erotic Romance, Fantasy / Available direct through the publisher (best for authors!), Amazon, and ARe.

Anchored: Belonging Book One / M/M Erotic Romance, Alternate Universe, Dark (Please note that despite how some third-party vendors have this book listed, it is not BDSM) / Available direct through the publisher, Amazon, ARe, and Bookstrand.

Sublime: Collected Shorts / BDSM, M/M erotica / Available at Amazon, B&N, and ARe.

Wanna hook up?  Catch Rachel at her website, blog, or connect on Facebook, Twitter, and GoodReads.