This month, I corresponded with writer J.M. Rivers, winner of the January 2021 Fantasy Fiction contest. Rivers is a journalist who pursues fiction writing and poetry as a hobby. She prefers to write romance, fantasy, and erotica, which can be found on Bookrix.com.
Admin: So, first question: Who is J.M. Rivers? Do you write professionally, or only as a hobby? What do you do when you’re not writing?
Rivers: J.M. Rivers is a creative who tells stories through words. These words illicit strong emotions and leave lasting impressions. I write mainly as a hobby. Professionally, I am a Journalist. I studied Communication, specializing in Electronic Media, and graduated with honors (Cum Laude.) When I’m not writing, I’m thinking about what I need to write. Technically, we all write, so even when I’m writing something unrelated to my works, a random thought usually pops up and it can be very inappropriate at a very inappropriate time. Writing is my therapy and a creative outlet, so I’m constantly needing my fix. Did I answer that last part or no? (Laughs)
Admin: It’s really good. Is that your logline at the top?
Rivers: Unintentionally, so it seems, yes.
Admin: Do you typically write fantasy? If not, what do you typically write?
Rivers: Typically, no, but I have written fantasy before, and this competition was a welcome challenge. I usually write Erotica and Romance as independent or as a combination. I also write poems! The poems are a mix of topics and notable styles. They are not erotic, but one may find suggestive imagery in one or two. You have to be seriously looking for the said suggestive imagery, though.
Admin: Erotica is the most popular form of written fiction on the internet. Most people start there—E.L. James did.
Rivers: (Laughs) I did not begin with Erotica! I just found myself in the genre. I regret nothing, but it is quite consuming because I cannot imagine failing to write a steamy scene. I would rather write it and not publish that section than to skip it completely. Don’t even start with E.L. James—too much controversy, but we all love and hate her.
Admin: You seem to really love to write.
Rivers: I love to write. It is very in line with my degree and, you know, storytelling. I love stories.
Admin: Fair enough. So, who do you write for? Do you only want a small audience, to get published in a few literary journals, or do you strive to be a bestselling author?
Rivers: I write for young adults and anyone who needs to be more in touch with themselves. I think as one grows up, you lose some aspects of imagination and wide-eyed wonder. I think my writing emotionally and sexually connects with people. I don’t know about audience. Not many people know I write, but who doesn’t want the recognition and respect of their peers? I wouldn’t mind the success, but a small audience is better for now. I’m able to connect on a personal level and have people to hold me accountable. I learned about this contest through the small audience. That’s a great sign, right?
Admin: I know I appreciate having more submissions to the contest!
Rivers: Oh yeah, you will definitely get more submissions.
Admin: What can you tell us about the inspiration or process behind Dark Desires?
Rivers: Dark Desires was to be a spinoff of Hidden Desires, an erotic short story book I have published online. The aim was to publish fantastical and taboo erotica short stories. I had an interest in merging fantasy and erotica and had written one novel merging the genres. However, that was a long time ago, and was more romance than erotica. So, I formed a concept to be the first story for the spinoff, but before I could fully build on it, I was introduced to the contest! So, I dove in head-first.
The concept was inspired by a random thought I had once. I once was so horny that my entire body burned like I was in heat. It was funny, but frustrating, and I vowed to write a fantasy erotica about it. Thinking back to that moment, I imagined a being that was red, large, and powerful. Plus, you cannot talk about heat without mentioning Hell or the Underworld.
Admin: Steamy! Speaking of that wider story: with the limited space, you didn’t really have time to explain how Laura ended up in Hell, so how did she?
Rivers: In this fantastical universe, where otherworldly creatures can mate with humans, it’s the duty of the fantastical beings to shadow their human mates and either use coercion or force to get them to leave earth. There is no second chance mate, but the system is foolproof when it comes to selection.
Arlen shadows Laura by masquerading as several random strangers in her life that may or may not interact with her directly. Things get tricky when she starts to become hyperaware of a presence around her, i.e., Arlen. Now, this is normal, but with her it’s to the extent that she can start to see through his magic. That is not normal. Additionally, she starts to see all these other beings through their human projections.
One night, when out at a bar with her friends, Laura slowly begins to freak out when she realizes that she is the only one among her friends who can see all these different creatures in their true forms. It gets worse when a demon, Boe, realizes that Laura can actually see him. Furthermore, she tries to get the girl he’s talking to away from him and the girl happens to be his mate. Yeah, and he just met her.
Boe is furious and wants to kill her because clearly Laura cannot be ‘just’ a human. He takes her to hell, hoping to kill her in front of an audience and please his King. So, an elaborate event is put together to kill Laura in an arena (it’s a common activity for fun in Hell.) As the King enters to begin the event, things get interesting. You guessed it; Arlen is the King. What happens next is honestly a PR nightmare, but she does not die.
Admin: Woah! A whole backstory.
Rivers: Yap, a whole backstory.
Admin: I suppose people should see the novel. So, she can see these monsters in their disguises, does that have something to do with this this beastly estrus cycle she seems to have? Why does she go into heat? Is she part beast or demon?
Rivers: Yes, it’s all connected. Her ancestry is linked to a magical family as well as intermarriages down the line with demons and beasts. Laura just happened to win the genetic lottery of having all her magic genes be dominant. One particular magic gene from her magical ancestors was dominant, and that one gene unlocked all the other recessive ones. Her finding her mate—or rather vice versa—sped up the process, like a chain reaction.
Admin: So what kinds of things will Laura get up to after her transformation—if you don’t want to hold those cards too close to your chest.
Rivers: I’ll only give you a little bit. Whatever she gets up to may not be relatable, but it is an ode to the human experience of overcoming self-doubt and being courageous.
Admin: Fair enough. So, how has this story evolved since you started writing it? Was there anything you edited out?
Rivers: Hmmm, most of the story only involved the erotic scene only. I did leave out the second part of the original scene, which continues where this story ends. It’s more magical and out of this world as two magical beings mate. That being said, I had to build the entire backstory and explore the fantasy genre. That has allowed the story to develop beyond my initial plan and take on a world of its own. It’s challenged me creatively, and now I intend to publish the full story.
Admin: It used to be just a sex scene?
Rivers: I know, right? That was it! A little exposition (or none) then—boom!—sex scene, and a last-ditch effort to explain what happened or leave the reader questioning if any of that was a psychedelic trip.
Admin: I’m sure you know, there’s a whole section of the internet dedicated to pseudo-human and hybrid relations. Did you originally write that scene for something like that?
Rivers: No, that scene was not written for that reason. It all really stemmed from the idea of someone experiencing extreme horniness and linking an explanation for that through a pseudo-human and hybrid relation. I have kind of explored the idea as normal horniness, and I wanted to push the envelope to kink related activities and the fantastical world.
Admin: How long have you been writing?
Rivers: I’ve been writing since I was ten, but I have written seriously (I think) for 3 to 5 years.
I have a lot to learn, and I’m grateful for this platform because I realize now there’s more room for improvement than I initially thought.
Admin: Oh, I’m glad! That makes me feel really good. Can you tell us anything about the earliest piece of fiction you remember writing?
Rivers: Oh wow, I remember bits and pieces. I was so young. Ah, I think it was young adult fiction and it was for a class assignment. It was about a young girl who struggled with family dynamics. It was very simple, but my English teacher was so impressed, she urged me to pursue writing. Her response was the first positive reaction to my writing, because I honestly didn’t think that much of it. She unknowingly sparked an interest in writing generally, as well as giving my inner child the mandate to express my creativity freely.
Admin: Aw, I had a similar experience! Teachers really can mold young minds with the right reinforcement.
Rivers: I agree.
Admin: Is there a book or other media that you feel has informed your current style?
Rivers: I don’t have an exact book, but I really love Nora Roberts. Her writing is so captivating. She has the ability to weave words and make you feel like you’re the main character. The Circle Trilogy is one of my favorites, and it really inspired me to write my first fantasy book. The series is so emotionally draining. I love everything about it! Judith MacNaught is another author I love. Her romance novels are beyond life.
Admin: Then what’s your favorite book? Tell us a little about it and why it has significance to you.
Rivers: From The Circle Trilogy: Valley of Silence. This book stuck with me because it was a culmination of the series end. It was emotional and took me on a journey of decision making that is life changing. Honestly, this book made me believe in a lot of possibilities, and I carry that message of hope with me all the time. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but the ending was perfect, and showed a transformation that human beings go through. We should always choose to do things that are worthwhile and things we will be proud to be shared down generations to come.
Admin: That’s good. All the best books show a transformation I haven’t read any Nora Roberts myself, I don’t think.
Rivers: Dare I say, you are missing out? I also think that I was her target audience at the time. (Laughs)
Admin: When you write something like Dark Desire do you have a method to get in the headspace of fantasy or erotica?
Rivers: My method usually involves an idea first, then the flow of the story follows. I usually begin with one thing that draws me most to that idea. I then make sure that specific part is well written and developed, which often leads to a plot. Essentially, I begin at the middle of the story before building everything. Sometimes the middle becomes the beginning of the story or the end.
For Dark Desire, my head was fixated on Laura’s transformation, and Arlen as a strong being who cares for his ‘human’ mate. Of course, erotica was very much in there (Laura being extremely horny, and its implications) but those were the two things that stood out: the need to make both characters relatable, but imperfect.
Admin: Starting at the middle—that’s a unique approach, but I suppose it makes sense. Beginnings and ends tend to be difficult and sometimes tedious. Have you ever done an internet search for you and your writing?
Rivers: I have never done an internet search of my writing! Is that weird? I have done one of myself. Haven’t we all?
Admin: I wouldn’t say it’s weird that you haven’t, but you might have wanted to see what people would find if they searched for your writing. It’s a small thing
Rivers: You have a point.
Admin: Almost done. What’s the most common failing you’ve seen in others’ writing? What should other writers watch out for?
Rivers: The most common ‘failing’ in writing is a comfort zone. I’ve found myself there a few times and it’s not beneficial to anyone’s writing. I think this occurs once you get positive feedback and little criticism then an inflated ego. Solutions include participating in this monthly competition (Laughs,) reading widely, and learning more about writing. Admitting to yourself that you don’t know everything is a step in the right direction. The actual work is putting in the time and effort to research and letting other professional writers critique your work.
Admin: “Don’t get complacent”—that’s good advice. Thanks for participating in the contest, Ms. Rivers, and thanks for completing this interview with me. Where can readers find more of your writing?
And if you would like to participate in a Prose Opiate writing contest for a chance to win cash, a cover design, and participate in an interview just like this you can click right here. Even if you don’t win, you will receive guaranteed feedback on your work and professional editing.
If you haven’t considered submitting a story to our contests because you think the chances are slim, I would like to point out that we get surprisingly few submissions here and your odds are probably better than you think. We want stories. The point of this site is to encourage writers to write and to provide them with rewards for their efforts. Winning a contest and being published in an online journal is a great way to earn some recognition as a writer. I hope to see an entry from you soon.