Steamy Scenes Saved My Sanity – Here’s How…
I remember New Years’ 2019. I celebrated it in a crowded square in Spain, drinking champagne with strangers and swigging straight from the mouth of the bottle. It was fun, it was exciting, it was the beginning of a brand-new decade!
2020 was going to be a great year. I just knew it. I had lots of travel plans and several writing projects in the pipeline. Plenty to look forward to. But little did I know that three months later a global pandemic would hit, I wouldn’t be going anywhere, and one of those projects was going to save my life. Or, to be specific, writing about sex would!
When the pandemic hit, I figured my life wasn’t going to change all that much. I work from home anyway. My kids were nine and eleven at the time and weren’t going to bother me too much. I live in a different country to both of my parents, so I’m used to missing people already. It was only going to be a few months anyway, right?
So I knuckled down and started on a new writing project. A few months earlier my writer friend, Jacqueline Silvester, had asked me if I wanted to have a go at co-writing a paranormal romance series with her. Our Blood Web Chronicles series would be self-published, written to market (ie giving readers what they really want), and it would just be a bit of fun. No pressure. No problem. It was worth a shot.
As the days rolled into one, shops ran out of pasta and loo rolls, and my kids sat beside me asking for help with long division and spelling, I focussed on a very different world. A free world full of magic and opportunities.
Jacky and I are immigrants. She’s a Jewish Russian, raised in the US, France and Germany, now living in Berlin. I’m a Spanish Brit, raised in Catalunya, living in the Netherlands. Between us, we’ve lived in twelve countries and speak six languages fluently. That’s why we set our series in cities in which we’ve lived. We decided our main character, Saskia, would be a Verity Witch and an undercover reporter for a paranormal online newspaper found in a hidden bloody corner of our dark web. A corner reserved for the paranormal community. And we also made her bisexual and bold as fu*k.
So through Saskia, we got to escape. Every day Jacky and I would talk on the phone and we’d create a new reality – a world where vampires and witches walk among us, where crows are actually hot shifters, and where it was safe to travel the world having sex with whoever you fancy. As news grew darker and our own world grew smaller, our series got bigger, and our friendship grew stronger.
We thought writing sex scenes together would be awkward, we were just going to see how we got on with the first book. But the oppositive happened – writing sex scenes together actually brought us closer to one another. We fought the loneliness of isolation through daily Facetime chats, and every day was filled with photos of sexy potential characters and saucy Tik Tok and YouTube clips. It’s not only men who share smutty stuff with one another, you know (although in our case it was research, of course!).
As the semi-freedom of summer faded away and our deadline date loomed, the world was closing in again. At that point, Jacky had gone from being a friend I sometimes spoke to, to becoming my daily respite, and this book series had gone from a writing project I was curious about, to my only breath of fresh air.
And it was the same for Jacky. She lost two family members last year and caught Covid herself. Not one day has been easy, so I’m glad I was able to be there for her – if not in person, at least on the other end of the phone. With our writing, we always had something positive to focus on…somewhere to lose ourselves. And with our growing friendship, we always had one another.
In September Jacky came to stay with me and my family for ten days for the final stage of editing and I was suddenly reminded of what it was like to have real fun again. As my kids kept saying, “You two can’t be working that hard. All you do is laugh!” We turned off the news and instead turned on our readers. We tried not to think of all the eating out and travel we were missing out on, instead taking our readers to LA, Moscow, and Barcelona and having our characters eat local dishes in amazing locations. We replaced the mundanity and fear of everyday life with spicy excitement and a world where anything was possible. We forgot reality, but we remembered what really mattered. Connection.
In October 2020 our first book Vampires of Moscow was released, accompanied by a prequel novella Sirens of Los Angeles. What began as a ‘let’s see how it goes’ project, fast turned into our vital lifeline. Writing smutty scenes together, laughing, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, grieving, complaining, leaning on one another, and creating a dangerous but dazzling magical world together that we are immensely proud of, was more than a lockdown distraction – it saved us.
And now here we are, more than a year since the world stopped, and we’ve just released our second book Witches of Barcelona, and are planning the next one in the series along with a Christmas novella. Not a day goes by where we don’t talk, laugh, and send one another photos of hot people (of course).
They say that food made with love tastes better, and I guess that goes for books too. We never expected to finish the first novel, let alone get the response we have had from readers. We have been overwhelmed that they love Saskia and her world as much as we do! We are even in discussions with publishers abroad looking to translate the series, and talking to TV producers.
I never imagined, sixteen months ago in that crowded Spanish square celebrating the beginning of a new decade, that the world would look like this now. But equally, I never imagined that the worst year of all our lives would also become the year I wrote a funny, smutty, series that would not only give me back my sanity and a whole load of new readers – but would also give me a new best friend. After a year of so much loss, we’re so very thankful for all we’ve gained.
In the words of Saskia, real friendship is “pure and real and sacred.” So true. And luckily we have plenty of stories left to tell. Together.
Written by: NJ Simmonds of Caedis Knight.
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