Kate Marope (00:01:53):
So, I’m super excited because I know that you’re passionate about education, particularly like when it comes to writing. And I feel like, yeah, we sort of, kind of, mainstream that when you’re like a new author, you should read like certain blogs or they’re like the textbooks that have like become basically the course syllabus of “if you want to be a romance writer, here’s what you need to read,” and like Save the Cat! and um, Gwen Hayes’ Romance Beats and like blah, blah, blah, right? There’s like a whole litany of things and then after that, you know, you’re supposed to just suddenly know what to do, right? And when I saw your TikTok, it was important because I’ve always been one of those people who, I do not do well with abstract knowledge in the least. I, I like seeing things applied, that’s probably why I’m a good editor and that’s probably why I suck about like teaching editing, too–
RM Virtues (00:02:47):
Kate Marope (00:02:48):
–because it’s like, that’s an abstract thing. Like unless I have a manuscript I can point it out to you, this is an example of this, then to me, it’s like, does it even make sense? Like what is the point?
RM Virtues (00:02:58):
Yeah, so like, I, I absolutely got that. That was my biggest issue, was because, yeah, like, you had people say, well, you read this book, or you know, the simplistic thing to do would be like Editing for Dummies, or you know, let’s look at, you know, these blog posts or these, you know, videos, etcetera, etcetera. And even with the Udemy class that I took, there was a lot of applied stuff but it wasn’t necessarily to a full novel manuscript. It definitely wasn’t, most of the time, romance. Like there were a lot of things missing from the initial classes that I took, and I think the videos got more in depth as I went along but at the time, they were very general and I don’t have patience. Like ADHD, I will watch one thing and be like, well, that was enough for me, let’s move on! Um, and trying to like fight through that even though, even then, it was still very much daunting because it’s a lot of information. We’re not applying it, I’m not applying it. It’s not like they gave me a sample manuscript like hey, go wild. So it was very much this thing of, okay, what were the important things. Like, what did you take away from that? And what is like the concrete example that you can give yourself from your manuscript?
You know, with my first novel, I wrote it probably November of 2020, October maybe. And then, I was editing it with five passes, the longest days of my life. I definitely had to take a lot of breaks. I started writing book two immediately because I was like, I don’t want to do this again. So I think between passes two and three or three and four, I started writing book two. And when I finished book two, I went out and finished editing book one, and I don’t, I didn’t have, I had one beta reader for that book because I didn’t know anybody, have anybody. Um, didn’t even really know what beta reading was supposed to do or accomplish, um, but, and it was my big sister like I now, like it wasn’t anybody in the industry, she was just like, yeah, I’ll do it! And she was, you know, very honest, which, it kind of hurt more ‘cause it’s your big sister, and she was very not professional about it but you know, she had my best interests in mind, I hope. I mean, she didn’t tell me to trash it. She was just like, look, there’s this, there’s just some shit that I don’t really care for, let’s just get it out. Okay.
It came out in March 2021. I did get a lot of feedback, and I did read reviews, and I know reviews, as authors, don’t like reading reviews, absolutely I will not read them ever again, cross my heart. But at the time, I was like, this is the only option I have to know what the strengths were and what, you know, and there were some editors who read the book and then left a review, so that helped. And it was definitely the one, the things I was getting a lot of was basically like there’s a lot of passive voice versus active voice. There was a lot of telling instead of showing. There was a lot of, there was just a whole lot of explanation or exposition and not enough of the action.
And that made sense to me. Because again, I was like, I don’t know how long this is supposed to be, I’m just kind of cutting corners and not realizing at the time that in indie publishing, it doesn’t fucking matter. You can write a tome and nobody is going to fault you for it.
Kate Marope (00:07:06):
RM Virtues (00:07:07):
Obviously, I’m sure my readers appreciated it being not a tome to start but nonetheless, it was still, you know, 90k. So, I was like, okay, that makes sense to me, okay, I get that, that makes sense. Because these are words I understand. Active voice, passive voice, that is high school English that I somehow remember. Um, and then, showing versus telling, obviously you’ve heard that a lot, you get that a lot, that’s, that makes sense. Um, but there were good things, obviously, there were a lot of good things. The book has done really well, it’s still doing really well.
Kate Marope (00:07:46):
RM Virtues (00:07:46):
But still was not easy, but still wasn’t something I was able to pick up on myself. Most of the feedback that I got from book one was what helped me for book two but it was definitely just trying to figure out okay, what are the basics? What is like the base knowledge that you need to have in order to make this readable?
Kate Marope (00:08:08):
RM Virtues (00:08:09):
That was like the only thing I could count on was, well, copy editing, so don’t, you know, make sure you have all your proofreading done. Uh, make sure you got all the grammar mistakes out. Um, and then make sure there are, there’s no lag, like there are no scenes that don’t push the story forward or at the very least, the character development forward. Because I think that was one thing I struggled with at the beginning, was like, there were scenes where I was like, well, it’s not necessarily pushing the plot forward. It’s kind of like a mirror scene to the other point of view. So there’s not really a forward motion–
Kate Marope (00:08:50):
RM Virtues (00:08:51):
–for the plot. But did the character learn something integral, either about themselves or their situation? Yes. So I kept it. So it was very much trying to go through and figure that out and then also, tell the difference between, are one of these two things happening, so is it the plot or the character pushing forward, or do you just really like this scene ‘cause you wrote it?
Kate Marope (00:09:16):
RM Virtues (00:09:16):
So there’s a lot of that, too. Which of course, like, it was my first baby that I finished. Like I was very attached, um, but then, once I did put it aside, I, like, I forgot all about it because it was like, yeah, it wasn’t really that important.
Kate Marope (00:09:33):
RM Virtues (00:09:33):
So that became easier but it’s definitely that thing of, like, I can’t, you can’t just tell me, “hey, here are the beats. Here is the structure you’re supposed to use. Here are the, you know, flags along the path that you have to hit.” No, that doesn’t make any sense to me whatsoever, I’m going to need more than that because this is not, this is not tangible to me, so.
Kate Marope (00:10:00):
Yeah. I feel you with that. A lot of feedback opportunities and conferences and stuff are always going to be those like, make sure you have your GMCs! Like what the fuck does that actually look like on the page in my book, you know? Like that question never gets answered and so, yeah, it’s a struggle.
But I also think that people need to approach editing like it’s a skill gap tool, right? Like I always think that not every author needs to hit every stage of editing, right? Sometimes, you can– You know, if you know that you’re really good with the developmental stuff, you know your story’s tight, your pacing’s tight, all of that stuff is good. But when it comes down to surprising word choices, or maybe the order of your scenes and the flow and the logic of it is not working, then maybe be like, you know what, it’ll save me a lot of time and energy and like frustration, let me just hire a line editor to go through with it, through it, and they can like help me be like, okay, for your book, this is like the sequence you should maybe reorder these things in and then it’ll flow a lot better and then you’ll get the effect that you wanted.
Um, but I feel like there’s kind of like, especially in indie publishing because, you know, there’s that kind of judgment of like, oh, you didn’t hire all the editors in a row and like, in the sequence, like you don’t need to do that if you don’t need all of that editing.
RM Virtues (00:11:22):
And I think that’s like, that is definitely a gap in knowledge, as far as coming into the industry, especially when you don’t know anybody. And the way I came in was, I didn’t know anybody, I really knew, basically all of my information had come from blog posts. Um, and, you know, some websites or, you know, some people that have ongoing, uh, discussions about indie publishing. But there weren’t a lot of actual indie authors that I was able to access at that time that had that knowledge on hand, without asking them like, face to face, person to person. It was a lot of general knowledge.
Um, but coming in, you just, you know, you’re talking about, well, I have to get this edited. And that’s a very natural thought to have, um, because it’s not like nobody knows like, oh, I have to get this edited, like this is, you know, I need an editor. Like an editor is a very big word right next to author and publisher. So you understand that but nobody understands like there’s developmental editing, there’s structural editing, there’s copy editing, like nobody understands the difference. And actually, like, I didn’t know a lot of these different things and I think I asked you one day when we were in a Zoom meeting.
Kate Marope (00:12:53):
RM Virtues (00:12:54):
Then went to your website and kind of got familiar with those terms because it was very much, like, well, what, like what the fuck does that mean? Like, why do I, what do I need? Like, I don’t understand. Like, how do you tell? And then it’s that thing, too, it’s like, you think, you think that your story is tight, or you think that your story is good, but then you go to, you know, a beta reader or whatever and you’re like, no, it’s not that tight, like there’s an issue here. Or you read it, even. Like, you can read it and be like, there is something missing, and I have no idea what it is. Like, I do not have any clue what it is that’s making me feel like something’s wrong.
Kate Marope (00:13:37):
It becomes very hard, especially when you’re like looking at freelancers to be like, I need a developmental editor or a line editor or a copy editor, whatever. I think it’s another conversation to have about how we undergo the process of taking new clients as freelance editors because you know, recently I’ve changed my process and I’ve had clients be like, what the fuck? But it works more like an in-house submissions process because, not because I want to say no but because I want to read a sample of your work so that I can understand where you need the help and to tell you whether or not I am the person who you should be hiring to do that job.
Because like we said, not everybody needs all levels of editing and if I’m helping you do developmental and line edits and you need a proofreader, I’m not your girl. So I need to be able to look at a sample of your work and be able to tell you that, be like, save your money, not on me, and use it for somebody who will actually get you to where you need to go. It’s an entire conversation and then the author was like freaking out, like, oh my god, I don’t have the whole book ready, and I’m like, I’m just, I don’t need the whole book, I just need thirty pages. I don’t care if it comes from the beginning, middle, or end, or somewhere in between there. Just give me something so that I can tell you hey, this is the kind of thing, ‘cause I don’t want to take your money for free. Like yo, I’m working for my money, too, right?
And I don’t, I, yeah, like that’s another conversation I don’t think we have enough of–
RM Virtues [00:14:56]
Kate Marope [00:14:56]
–of helping authors identify where they need help and who they need to ask that help from.
RM Virtues [00:15:05]
And then, the next problem, even when you are, because like my first book that I went through five to seven passes, by the fourth one, I was like this is trash, like it’s boring. But the reality was, I’d just read it five times, like I, of course. I know word for word what’s going to happen like, yeah, it’s boring. So it’s that thing.
But it’s, I think what needs to occur is, I think people need to kind of look at it as, it’s a second opinion, right? Like you, you, we’re getting into a very comfortable culture of being able to self-diagnose. Not in a harmful way but in a way that’s like, I know my body better than anybody else, nobody can, you know, tell me what I’m feeling or not feeling. And I think that’s very much good because you need to be, you need to be in tune with your body, so I think the same thing has to be said for, look. This story is really good. I understand, um, you know, my story structure or whatever I did, the knowledge that I have, I put it here. But I need a second opinion so that I know one, I’m not being, um, you know, it’s, I need an objective opinion about the things that are, I’m going to get, you know, hit for or judged for, because again, you know, we’re not the reader. Like, your story is good to you but you’re trying to build an audience, and your audience has very specific expectations, whether by your design or anybody else’s design, that have been in place and held, upheld by editors.
So when the editors go in, they’re thinking of, well, this is, the end is too standard, these are expectations of the industry. Um, these are the things that certain readers expect. So I think that they have to look at it, um, we as authors have to look at it as, this is a second opinion and somebody who is going to look at it so that you have a perfect balance of the story you want to tell and the story that other people want to hear. So I think that if we look at it as this, you know, marriage of these two positions rather than somebody coming in and telling you that your, your manuscript was trash, like that’s not what’s happened.
It’s definitely, I mean, you obviously have to find an editor you can work with and that you trust. That’s, you know, one big thing. Um, obviously that is harder, especially for, you know, marginalized authors who come from different backgrounds and a lot of the editors that we see are white. They don’t have the background necessary, they don’t have the range to edit our stories. And that’s a big issue, and I think that that adds to that fear, you know. Because I’ve had, in my year, multiple people come to me and be like, should I, you know, my editor said to take out, you know, all the Spanish in my book. And I immediately have to go, well, why would you do that? It’s like, well, I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking you. And I’m like, okay, well, I’m telling you, don’t do that. Like I don’t care what they’re reasoning is, don’t do it. And don’t let them italicize it either, take that shit out.
But your editor, when you find them, is your friend, and they are there to help you, not to, you know, keep you down from being published.
Kate Marope [00:18:32]
Yeah. I agree. And I think in publishing by virtue of our positions, we’re in a position of power, which means we are seen as an authority. So even if, and I’m saying, because I don’t know everybody’s intentions. Even if your intentions were just to point out, hey, maybe this might be a lot of Spanish, what comes across is get rid of everything, you know. So we have to be careful not only in how we comment even in the margins, you know, a lot of of the time I’m like, you have to point out the good things and the things that need work because, and then, when you see somebody doing it right, the things that they maybe not been doing well so far in the manuscript but at some point in the story, they do it right, that’s when you tell them, this is what I was looking for back on page four–
RM Virtues [00:19:14]
Kate Marope [00:19:14]
–when I was like, I need more of this, or maybe can you reframe it this way?
Those notes are the ones that make the difference, I think, to somebody reading it because it then says, oh, so I can do it. It’s not that she wants me to go back and remove everything out of the story, it’s that she wants more of this type of edit, you know what I mean? And sometimes I think we forget and it’s like oh, yeah, okay, we need to get this book done, you know, publishing deadlines, whatever. But like, we should never forget that these are people. <laughs>
These are people with feelings and as somebody who is very in my feelings all the time, a lot of the time, I’m just like, I’m just going to say all the nice things because I’ve, I don’t think you can ever say too many nice things and also yes, your editor should be your advocate all the time. Even within your publishing house, if you believe something strongly to be like, hey, I want to stet this because I don’t agree or you know, that’s not the story I was trying to tell, or maybe for the audience I was writing for, this will fucking make sense so maybe I’m not going to leave that, I’m not going to like avoid that topic, or maybe I’m going to leave what your suggestion says out because of x, y, and z. Then your editor should be able to go to your publisher and say, now, this is staying. How can we, you know, communicate that? This is for this particular audience and this is what the author wants, you know.
And I think we don’t have as many of those conversations from editor to author that your editor should be your advocate, should be the person who loves your book as much as you do, and they just wanna see your book get better. They don’t want to change the book you’re trying to tell or the story that you’re trying to tell. It’s more about making sure it’s the best version of that story that can be published. And I think that’s where like the editor/author partnership is like at its best form, is when you get that magic between the two people, or however many editors you have because you know, copy editors and other editors are also involved in that conversation. Sometimes that means battling the other editors. Hey, copy editor, if you change this, you’re actually changing the meaning of the sentence, which is not fucking okay, so maybe don’t do that, okay? It’s also a conversation that happens behind the scenes. <laughs>
So yeah, I definitely agree that that relationship is very integral.
RM Virtues [00:21:32]
Yeah, and I think that definitely, again, I feel like there are just so many conversations that are cut out of that process, especially when, you know, you’re going into the situation not having all of the knowledge, not having all the understanding of what it is that you’re looking for. Um, and I think that it’s very easy to be overwhelmed by the amount of work that goes into this little, this small world, this word, like “editing.”
Like. So I think it’s gotta be, authors have to get to that place where not only can they trust somebody else, they have to trust themselves to know what’s best for them, to know that okay, this is my project. At the end of the day, this is my project. I’m going to stand by this project, I, even if somebody tells me, and then, you know, same thing for, you know, um, querying for, you know, going out on a limb and giving your manuscript. Like, look. You have to believe in this manuscript. You have to believe in it to the point where if 30 people tell you, I don’t want this manuscript, you’re going to take it back home with you, you’re going to keep working on it, and you’re going to try again. That’s how hard you have to believe in this manuscript.
Because if you get one rejection and you’re like, oh, well, that’s out, that’s exactly why. Because you gave up on it. You already gave up on it. So how is anybody else supposed to carry it to the end if you weren’t willing to? So you have to be willing to be, to say like, okay, if I get 50 rejections, I’m still going to take this wherever I can take it. And I think that that’s something that a lot of people find hard to balance, is wanting to be published and holding tight to their morals, their story, what they want to do with it. And it’s okay to have both, and I don’t think a lot of people get that, is like, it is okay to be confident in your story and also need help.
Um, and I think a lot of people kind of have this misconception that, I mean, a lot of people have this misconception that self-publishing is this failure of being able to get into traditional publishing. That’s not the case. A lot of us have chosen to do self-publishing because we wanted the freedom to have our own schedules, to, creative freedom to tell the story we want to tell without having to worry about is it good enough for publishing, because we know it’s good enough. We know that it’s a story worth telling.
Um, but it’s not, it’s never been, um, the failure route. It’s never been a consolation prize to self-publish. First of all, that shit is hard. Don’t ever tell me that self-publishing was the way out because let me tell you, I wear ten hats a fucking day, and I’m tired all the time. I work 24/7, I have 20 different jobs, and I’m exhausted. So it’s not easier by any means.
Kate Marope [00:24:26]
When we have conversations, you know, as in-house editors, because I get to see both sides of the coin, sometimes it’s like, we can’t sell this to a mass market. We’re not saying that there’s not a rabid audience who will love the fuck out of this book, it’s that we cannot sell it to the best of our ability. And that’s kind of doing the author disservice, saying yeah, we’ll buy your book knowing that we can’t get it to the people who are actually going to fucking read it, right? So sometimes, it is actually a good thing when somebody says no, because they’re saving you so that you can actually get your book into the hands of the people who are going to hype you up the most, right?
And I think a lot of authors, again, trad pub is like, that golden standard, right? Like that, like if I don’t make it here, am I worthy? Is my book good enough? Maybe I’m not supposed to be telling this story, maybe I should try again in ten years because maybe all these people have gone and died or I don’t know, whatever, but maybe.
Now, your story’s ready when you say your story is ready, and you have to choose whether it’s more important for you to publish traditionally or to publish your story and get it into the hands of the people who you’re trying to communicate with because inevitably, most of the time, you’re telling stories to help somebody. Whether that’s help a reader who’s going through a hard time have something to occupy their mind with that takes them on this escapism fantasy, or whether it’s for the people who are like, hey, I know when you go to a bookstore, you don’t always see people who look like you in the books but I got you, or whatever. There’s always an intention beyond just, I want to tell the story, you know? It’s I want to tell the story to a particular reader and indie publishing does allow authors to have that direct line of communication with their readership a lot more, I think.
RM Virtues [00:26:14]
Kate Marope [00:26:15]
Um. But what do you, what, does it mean enough to you to get through? It’s not just about facing rejection, it’s about also facing why you’re facing that rejection, and is it a good rejection? Because rejections can be good for you.
RM Virtues [00:26:31]
Absolutely, 100%. And I think, because it, it comes down to, I mean, for me, when I was considering like, what were the pros and cons. Obviously, patience is a virtue when it comes to traditional publishing. Um, you can be waiting for a year for a rejection. You can be waiting for a year for an approval. And then you can wait, be waiting two more years to see your book on a shelf. And in those two years, you have no idea how well it’s gonna do. Like you still have to do all the marketing and promotion. You still have to, you know, sell yourself and put yourself out there and network. You still have to do all of that.
So, I mean, in the year that I’ve been publishing, a lot of my time is spent online. A lot of my time is spent on social media. A lot of time is spent with promotional materials and putting them out there and posting them, making sure people know about my work, and it takes a lot of confidence. You have to have a lot of self-assurance to be able to say hey, why don’t you read my book? And that’s not any different with traditional publishing. Like you are still the powerhouse of your promotion.
And, um, yeah, indie publishing, you wear a lot of hats because you are the writer and you are the editor and you are the marketer and you are the promotional graphic designer. And sometimes you’re the cover artist. And sometimes you’re the actual artist. And sometimes you have to work with other people who are just as independent as you, so they have to get used to your work, or they don’t know your work as well as you want them to. You are kind of duct taping things together for a lot.
But it doesn’t mean that it’s any less quality, it just means that it takes a long time. And it takes a lot of trial and error. Like my whole first year was just trial and error. Um, and was it fun, in a way, because I got to say yeah, I did this myself? Absolutely. Were there a lot of times where I, you know, obviously I had to learn some lessons? Absolutely. I had to step out of an anthology that I was being, you know, railroaded in, and I had to step away from an audiobook deal that wasn’t, did not have my best interests in mind.
Like there are going to be times where you trust people, and you think that you can trust them, and no matter how smart you are or how many degrees you have or how many years you’ve been publishing, they will get you, and you will have to reassess the situation and be like, yeah, this isn’t for me. I made a mistake. And that’s okay. That’s ab, that’s absolutely okay. But it’s just a matter of like, you have to remember, you are your own advocate at any point, at any stage, traditional or otherwise, you are your own advocate. You have to be able to say whatever you need to say and stand up for yourself because otherwise, you are going to be very miserable.
Kate Marope [00:29:39]
I think it’s equally important to say no in publishing as it is to say yes. And I think sometimes we forget that because like, we’re really good at setting boundaries in our personal lives and like, what I want to share on media. Yeah, we’re really good at that kind of stuff. But sometimes, in your professional relationships, saying no is perfectly acceptable. It is it the only answer that you can have to certain situations, and you are entitled to say no whenever you feel uncomfortable, whenever something is not in alignment with what you want to do, no is a perfectly acceptable answer and nobody should guilt trip you and/or persuade you in some fashion that no is not an acceptable answer. And if you ever feel that way, maybe that, that, that’s just a signal to you to maybe not work with that person or with that publisher or whatever that, get yourself out of that circumstance completely.
RM Virtues [00:30:34]
Absolutely, and it’s very much like, that’s the signal. That’s really it. Like they just confirmed whatever gut feeling you had or whatever feeling you thought you were, you know, getting from the situation. If somebody’s trying to get you to not leave that situation, it’s not for your best interests five times out of ten. Like, nine times out of ten. Um, I think I was really, um, lucky for like, for the audiobook deal when I left, they were very much like, we get it. We broke our contract, we broke our promise to you, here’s your, you know, your rights back, etcetera, etcetera, wish you the best.
That’s it! That’s how it should be. Um, whereas, you know, other situations, it was like very much a lot of gaslighting, a lot of manipulation, a lot of lies, and it’s just like, this is, I mean, you’re proving my point right here, and it was for all of Twitter to see so it was like, yeah, I’m actually vindicated in the situation and don’t have to do anything, okay? I literally told the truth and you did the rest.
So it, it’s, it’s going to be like that sometimes and it’s gonna be more civil sometimes. Um, but that doesn’t, you know, you shouldn’t be more afraid to stand up for yourself after those incidents. I got a lot of confidence from those incidents because I didn’t realize like, hey, I did that, you know. I trusted myself and I got myself out of the situation. Imagine if I hadn’t trusted myself and got myself out of that situation, I’d be fucked right now. So it was very much, um, being able to look at that as a learning moment instead of as a failure. And I think that’s, at the end of the day, what you have to look at most things as, uh, especially, uh, being rejected from traditional publishing.
And it’s not to say that you can never go back, you know what I mean? It’s not to say that you can’t do both. It’s not to say that, you know, you have to be like, Team Self-Pub, I can never traditionally publish now, you know? Uh, you can absolutely do that, nobody’s gonna fault you from wanting to try. Like, it, it would be nice to get a six-figure book deal. Nobody’s gonna tell you it isn’t, anybody who tells you it isn’t is a fucking liar. Because that would change somebody’s life. So to sit there and pretend like that’s not the case, please. But it’s also like, you have to, you gotta have thick skin to some extent. My signal that I didn’t really like writing contemporary romance but it was something I had to do, right, to, to get that–
Kate Marope [00:33:20]
Find that out? <laughs>
RM Virtues [00:33:21]
Yeah, find that out, which was really fun. I was like, I fucking hate this, this is not my cup of tea. But it was a challenge in a different way because I wrote it, it was very short. It was 50k, um, but I wrote it in third person to start and then I wrote it in first person at the end. So that was a lot of, a lot of editing.
Kate Marope [00:33:48]
RM Virtues [00:33:49]
A whole lot of editing ‘cause it was like, you have to change everything because now all the shit that you thought was okay is not okay because this man doesn’t know this x, y, and z, and she doesn’t know x, y, and z, and now I have to go into internal monologues and, and that’s what I realized, too, was like, first person, also don’t like it.
Kate Marope [00:34:07]
RM Virtues [00:34:10]
It’s– No, it’s hard!
Kate Marope [00:34:11]
First person, unless you really know what you’re doing, is never my first recommendation for writing just, even just regular contemporary romance. It’s not. Because it’s so prone to all of the things you mentioned, like passive voice, telling, all of those things. It’s, it’s like the slippery slope that nobody asked for but somehow keeps falling down, that is first-person present-tense.
RM Virtues [00:34:39]
And it’s just like, well, ‘cause like even reading it, I struggle because I’m like, I don’t, what if I don’t want to be in your character’s head? What if I don’t want to be in this character’s head at all? Because in, ‘cause one of the most realistic things that happens with first-person writers, and this is not at all a jab at them ‘cause again, it’s realistic as fuck, I understand it, is the repetitiveness of the thoughts. Like the thoughts of this character are very repetitive. You know, every time they see their love interest, their thoughts are more or less the same. Absolutely understand that. That is very realistic. I don’t like it.
Kate Marope [00:35:19]
RM Virtues [00:35:19]
Because I don’t like dealing with it. Like, I, it’s the thing, I don’t like, I don’t like my own thoughts, what the fuck would I do with–
Kate Marope [00:35:26]
RM Virtues [00:35:26]
Kate Marope [00:35:28]
Wait, so why did you change it to first person instead of keeping it in third past?
RM Virtues [00:35:33]
So, I think what I really, really wanted, because let me tell you, um, What are the Odds? is the blueprint romance that I was introduced to. So there is a naked dude on the cover.
Kate Marope [00:35:51]
RM Virtues [00:35:51]
Chest. Nipple. On the cover. And yeah, it’s in first person and it’s present tense and so I was like, I really wanna do like the one, the romance that I see written the most, I’m gonna try it. I want to try it and see if I’m good at it because obviously, this is the romance that I always read, and I liked it. I liked it, the story. I did not like the present tense, I did not like the first person. But I wanted to figure out if it was something in, if there was a specific issue I had with it, or if I could actually write it and be content.
I cannot. Thank you, What are the Odds?, for letting me know that and I appreciate you for being the guinea pig.
Um, was it, do I feel like it was a strong project on my part? Yeah. I feel like it was still a strong project in that the romance was there, obviously, and the, the plot was not high stakes. It was very loose, very easy to get through, and it was, the sex was good. I think, and that was my main thing, ‘cause that was the only thing I was really focused on for that book is like, I just want a little dessert project in between this flagship series that I’ve now dedicated my life to, uh, so, that, so yeah, I’d written it in third person but I kept, you know, there were people that had, did not like Drag Me Up because Drag Me Up was third-person present-tense. I didn’t realize what they meant was, just change it to fucking past tense. If somebody would’ve just said that to me, I would’ve just done that. But that’s not what everybody said until later. So I was like oh, so they don’t like third person or present tense. Okay, great.
It was still fun to kind of go into it and see what I didn’t like about it, and I think that’s what it was, was I didn’t like being in my character’s head that much. I’d rather do the external, um, narration in the third-person objective, um. But it was also, like I didn’t get, didn’t get to use prose the way that I use it in third person because obviously, your character really isn’t that poetic.
Kate Marope [00:38:19]
RM Virtues [00:38:20]
They really aren’t that lyrical. They’re not that witty all the time. Sometimes, they say dumb shit and sometimes they have dumb thoughts. Happens. And that’s okay, that’s what makes them human and lovable, 100%. So, but getting away from that was definitely just, my writing style is very prose-heavy or, you know, very lyrical. So in that sense, third person works better for me. Um, so, with Keep Me Close, which was the second book in the Gods of Hunger series, that was third person past tense. And it works, and I love it, and I’m so, I’m so happy in this place that I’ve come up with and I’m like yup, this is my writing style.
Kate Marope [00:39:04]
One of the things I think you actually learned from What are the Odds? and brought to the next Gods of Hunger book is also having that trope-forwardness that you didn’t have in the first book. But that second book, right at the, that enemies-to-lovers, you are right there with it, and that bodyguard dynamic? I think you learned that lesson, too.
RM Virtues [00:39:29]
I think so. And I think it was because I didn’t really know, writing book one, I didn’t know how, how strong those tropes could be, or how vital they could be to a storyline. ‘Cause I didn’t really pick tropes. Because even like, you know, with Drag Me Up, even the sex scenes like, there wasn’t any specific kink or trope to those sex scenes. It was very much just, they like being together and this is what happened to happen at that time that they were together. And I honestly didn’t, also didn’t understand what a romance actually meant. Because obviously, a lot of people who will tell you about romance don’t actually know what the fuck romance is. A lot of people will act like they know and they really don’t, or they just kick it down and they don’t actually care to tell you what it actually is. Um, so being able to learn that for myself and again, my first book in– back into romance, in 2020, was Desperate Measures by Katee Robert.
Kate Marope [00:40:33]
RM Virtues [00:40:33]
So, um, that was very much to me, I was like, you can do this? This is what we’re doing now? Okay, well, shit, I can do that. I would love to. So being able to look at that and then do it for myself, it was very, um, cathartic. And very empowering. And very exciting. But I still didn’t know what the fuck I was doing.
So Hades and Persephone were definitely like a toe in the water but then I wrote, you know, Aphrodite/Hephaestus, and I was like, yeah, they fucking hate each other. And I’m gonna do my best to kinda lean in on that a little harder and really see, you know, that story all the way through as it was. Was it hard? Absolutely. ‘Cause I was like, they hate each other but I just want them to be together already. What am I supposed to do?
But I, for me, editing-wise, because that manuscript when I finished it, when, before I published Drag Me Up, the first one, it was 55k and then I got that show vs tell, passive vs active voice, and I went back and I made those edits. And I fleshed out those scenes, and I let them tell more, I mean show more. And I let them have more dialogue and show more action and all this. And that came out to a whopping 112k words. So it was very much more action-heavy to begin with because the plot was just that way but to be able to see it and feel it, um, you know, the tension, the suspense, the stakes, and everything that had to go into it, I felt better about it.
Kate Marope [00:42:26]
I read your first book first, then your latest book second, and then the ones in between. So one, I love seeing the growth in your writing because I was like, first book, sir was giving me all the characters upfront. I was like, that’s a lot of people to introduce you and if you don’t know like Greek mythology, um, you don’t get like a lot of the Easter eggs and like the naming of the districts, and all of the, all of the fantastic stuff that you did. But like, you kinda got lost in like, the overwhelm, right?
RM Virtues [00:42:56]
I think, yeah, definitely have to balance, um, what’s fun in fantasy and what’s easy for the reader to understand.
Kate Marope [00:43:09]
Yeah. Overwhelm is a thing.
RM Virtues [00:43:12]
Kate Marope [00:43:12]
It is! It is! Sometimes in fantasy, y’all will be like, really in your feelings. Be like, yeah, this is some good shit, and I’m like, nobody will get it. <laughs> Nobody will get it.
RM Virtues [00:43:25]
That’s true. That’s definitely true. That definitely happens.
Kate Marope [00:43:28]
But in Sing Me to Sleep, he’s like, this is the story I’m telling and it’s about this girl who just went through this thing, and I’m just gonna keep with it. And then, you kept like twisting the story. I was like, first we were like, okay, this is about her trauma and I’m like, okay, that’s sad, girl. Like, I would freak out, too. And I was totally into it.
RM Virtues [00:43:48]
Kate Marope [00:43:49]
And then the demon comes and I’m like, wait a minute. Wait, wait, wait, wait, what? And then she liked it, and I’m like, okay, that’s hot. And then, he’s like, let’s murder the fourth man. I was like, now it’s a murder mystery?
Normally, you know, the kind of prequel-type books happen after the main series has already started, right? Kind of like, to open up the world a little bit, right? Like with those prequel books, you can be like, oh, yeah, there’s this whole other area we haven’t fuckin’ explored. And there’s a spin-off from that, it’s very good for that kind of introduction. Why did you start with the prequel?
RM Virtues [00:44:27]
So, when I first wrote Sing Me to Sleep, it was not part of this universe at all. This Series of Sacrilegious Events, which had already been a project I was working on, um, with the Seven Deadly Sins. It was just Penelope and the sleep demon. It was supposed to be due on Halloween. Um, it was such short notice. I was already on deadline for the third book of Gods of Hunger, so I was like, I am behind. That’s– That’s, you know, wrap it up. But I think my thing was, when I finally attached it, was one, because I wanted a way to introduce that series on a smaller scale.
Kate Marope [00:45:02]
RM Virtues [00:45:02]
Um, and I hadn’t been, I’m not, I hadn’t been sure how to do that. Because I had, there’s actually a prequel, like a real pre, like a biblical prequel to the main series–
Kate Marope [00:45:13]
Kate Marope [00:45:14]
–that I had been writing, but I was like, this is like, this is heavy. If people don’t know me already, which is to know that I am a constantly recovering Catholic, you would be like, what the fuck are you doing, sir? This isn’t, what are you doing? So I wanted it to be a little bit easier on, um, my secular faction, or whatever. And then, to kinda ease into the world without opening up the world because even, you know, obviously from a biblical prequel to the first book, that’s still thousands of years from a garden to sin city. Like, a very big jump.
Kate Marope [00:45:56]
RM Virtues [00:45:57]
So I was like, well, what, what would be a medium? Like what, and then I, well, obviously, I’m writing the book and I’m like, sleep demon, I want to keep the sleep demon. Like, I don’t want to never write a sleep demon again. Very, very attached to my sleep paralysis demon. I don’t see my own very much anymore but like, the ones, ‘cause I mean, I met my sleep paralysis demon when I was a child and naturally, as a child, what did I do? I became obsessed with the thing that terrified me.
So, um, working from that, I was like, I don’t want to like, never write another sleep paralysis demon. And I was like, well, can he, can this be interjected into the main series about demons? Yes! I can do that! Easy. So I did that and then I kinda put the lore together for, ‘cause there was already, like, I already had the reapers, I already had the crossroads demons because obviously, everybody knows those. So it’s not, it’s not difficult to put those into the series.
Um, but I was like, so what do we do with the sleep demons? Like, what do they do? Like, what is their purpose, what would they serve in matters of, ‘cause every demon has its, it’s about human will, it’s about free will of the moral realm. So what would that have to do with that? What would sleep demons have to do with that? And I was like, well, I mean, you always think that your sleep demon is there to terrify you. What if they were actually the thing that was chasing the night terrors away? What if they were the thing that was protecting you? Um, and then I was like, well, that kinda doesn’t make sense because then everybody would have one, right? You’d have one for everybody. So then I was like, well, what if they were always there and they were feeding off of your fear but this one demon was like, I don’t want you to be afraid, I actually want you to be happy. So–
Kate Marope [00:48:00]
And horny. <laughs>
RM Virtues [00:48:01]
And horny! So then, that worked out. And I was like, oh, well, that works. We just implant that. So now, he’s like a weird demon, like a fuckin’ puppy demon now, and he wants her to be happy and horny and not afraid. So that was kind of like a twist on that that I was still able to put in. And so in doing that, I was like, well, I’ll just attach the lore and you know, did I have to announce it as a companion novel? Not really. But I was like, I mean, if I did that, then I would have to talk about his creator. His creator is one of the Puri, which will be Sloth in the main series, so I was like, well, then now, I kinda have to– I mean, I have to say it’s all attached. And I had already talked about the Seven Deadly Sins series on Patreon, so they knew about the series before I announced it all together.
Kate Marope [00:49:02]
RM Virtues [00:49:03]
So I was like, yeah, we’ll just do it that way and again, I realized there were obviously some, I set myself up in a lot of ways because it’s not gonna be, like, they have to be in human form to some extent because of, it being, it happens on Earth. But it was easy to do Sing Me to Sleep because I was like, sleep demons can’t leave Hell. Boom! They can’t see Earth, so y’all, so when we go to Earth, it’s a whole new world. Like we, he has to learn it, y’all have to learn it, like we all get to go up there together.
So it was really, it was easy in that sense because I could keep it to a confined story, like the story was able to be confined in this very small box without going out of that unless we absolutely needed to and obviously, the one time we needed do was one, when Xaphan got hurt and then two, when he had to, they had to go to a Reaper to be bound. Um, but it, it was like, ‘cause the whole time, through all of Sing Me to Sleep, I never say where they live. Like, I never say where Penelope and Jenna live. So it was always like, well, where are we going? Uh, Vegas, duh! Like, so now, I’ve set them based on the Patreon short in Vegas.
Kate Marope [00:50:24]
RM Virtues [00:50:25]
So now it’s like this thing where we’re all in the same place. There’s not gonna be any travels but like, so Acheron will be present in the main series pretty prolifically. So it’s just a matter of like, he won’t have a lot of time to himself, obviously. Do they deal, maybe perhaps, with the other three people who fucked over Penelope and killed her father? Perhaps!
Kate Marope [00:50:53]
I hope so! <laughs>
RM Virtues [00:50:55]
Kate Marope [00:50:55]
I hope so.
RM Virtues [00:50:56]
Yeah, I mean, there’s–
Kate Marope [00:50:57]
I’ve never been so like, delighted by a murder. Because like, when I read the content warnings at the beginning of the book, I was like, “Oh, my god, please let the demon not kill her at the end–”
RM Virtues [00:51:05]
Kate Marope [00:51:05]
Because like, I was anxious the whole time. Like, let it not be her please, god, sir! But then, when that guy happened, well, I knew he was shady from the beginning so the whole time, I’m like, please let it be him, please let it be him.
RM Virtues [00:51:18]
Kate Marope [00:51:18]
It was thrilling to see him die! Which is like a really horrible thing to say, but it means, it means that you wrote him very well, so. <laughs> That was just–
RM Virtues [00:51:26]
And that was the thing, though, I’m always about it.
Kate Marope [00:51:26]
RM Virtues [00:51:29]
Yes! Because you never get to see that, you never get to see, ‘cause it’s always this, I’m, I’m so sorry but every you’re in a movie and these guys are killing everybody, and the one good guy is like, if we kill him, we’re just as bad as they are. No!
Kate Marope [00:51:45]
The fuck you say!
RM Virtues [00:51:45]
You’re the hero! Act like a fucking hero, sir! He has a gun pointed at you, he just killed three people! If you don’t kill him, I’m gonna kill you! Like, what the fuck are you doing? Every time.
So I was like, no, this is, and I think we had just, well, actually, yes, because it was during Halloween. So we had all watched, we just watched all these movies, and I think one of the ones we watched was like the fuckin’ Belko Experiment or whatever, where like, these guys are in an office building and it’s like, if you don’t kill thirty people, sixty of you will die. And the three white guys are like, well, yeah, we’re gonna kill everybody. And the good guy, good guy has a gun trained on them and is like, don’t shoot them. We’re just as bad as they–
Kate Marope [00:52: 28]
RM Virtues [00:52:28]
They just killed everybody! So it’s just like, no, no, we’re not playing that game this time. We are going to kill Shane, and it worked out.
Kate Marope [00:52:36]
I love that because I also feel like, um, you know, I’m like forever a fan of morally gray characters. I don’t care what their moral code is but they have one and if it involves murdering people who deserve it, I’m down with that program. In books, because you know, otherwise that’s–
RM Virtues [00:52:53]
Kate Marope [00:52:53]
–illegal, and I’m not an accessory to nothin’. Um, but in books, totally my favorite part. And the fact that afterwards, he was like, am I your monster? She’s like, yeah, you are, you’re my fuckin’ monster, I was like, yes, he is!
RM Virtues [00:53:07]
<laughs> Yeah, and I just like, it was very– <laughs> It was very cathartic after writing Hades not killing Zeus, which is also still like a huge thing that they’re dealing with and that’s, it’s, ‘cause in book three, it’s a lot of Hades, why didn’t you kill him? And Hades being like, he’s my brother, and Athena being like, I don’t fucking care.
And this is coming from Athena, who was raised by him and whose only, like this was her father figure, this was the person she looked up to, the person she learned everything from. But it’s like, you shot the love of my life, sir. You are a dead man. So it’s like her dealing with, her dealing with that and having to face the fact that she let him leave the city alive.
Kate Marope [00:53:53]
RM Virtues [00:53:53]
Um, and that’s not to say like, it’s not even about Zeus being there or them seeing Zeus at all. Like, it’s just about this is the aftermath of Dionysus getting shot. Like, y’all are dealing with that while you have to deal with now all this other shit going on ‘cause like, y’all are obviously new leaders in a brand new city, like a newborn city, born again city, whatever. And them having to deal with looking at each other and being like, I couldn’t protect you, and Dionysus being like, no one could have! You realize like, I walked in front of a fucking bullet, like nobody could have saved me. And Athena’s like all guilty, and he’s like, can you get a grip? Like, really? This is not–
Kate Marope [00:54:40]
Get your shit together, woman!
RM Virtues [00:54:41]
Get your shit together! Like, there is nothing you could have done. I walked in front of a bullet. Like, he didn’t even shoot me! He was shooting at somebody else! <laughs> Like, he’s, and it’s, and then, that’s the big thing is like, she thinks he doesn’t take it seriously.
Kate Marope [00:54:57]
RM Virtues [00:54:57]
And he has to have this big talk with his family because they continue to be like, well, it’s only been eight months, or it’s only been a little bit of time, blah, blah, blah. And he’s like, listen, I know y’all think that I took it seriously, but I was the one on the table. I was the one who had to fight for my fucking life. I promise you I took it very seriously. It’s not my fault that the rest of y’all wanna dwell on it, and I just wanna go back to living my life because I have fucking PTSD. Thank you, goodbye.
So it’s a lot of that, and it’s a lot of him trying to prove himself. Um, versus Athena being like, I fucked up. And it’s like, girl, you did nothing wrong, what are you, shut up. Stop. Stop it! So yeah, so, I mean, coming from that, like, so coming from that whole thing with Zeus and being able to kill someone in Sing Me to Sleep, I was like, this is, I love, this is great. I love this a lot.
Kate Marope [00:55:56]
RM Virtues [00:55:56]
And it was very much like, you know, Acheron was still like–
Kate Marope [00:56:01]
That was too short! <laughs>
RM Virtues [00:56:02]
Yes! He was like, wh– This was, I think we shoulda took him to Hell, like I, you know what I mean? <laughs>
Kate Marope [00:56:08]
RM Virtues [00:56:10]
Everybody get a hit in, that’s what I think. But, and he’s probably in a torture chamber somewhere with little torture demons, I’m sure. I hope. Um, but for, for Acheron, it was still like, he’s imposing upon your free will. Like, he’s here all the fucking time and you don’t want him to be. He obviously knows something so he’s keeping an eye on you. Like, he is legitimately imposing on your ability to do anything. So I think that’s a good reason to kill him. And also, I don’t fucking like him! So what, I don’t need any other reasons. And Penelope was like, you know what? You are absolutely correct, sir, let’s, let’s do it. So.
Kate Marope [00:56:56]
Let’s get her in it!
RM Virtues [00:56:57]
This was my first tiptoe into horror because like, I wanna write more actual horror but I was like, I have never done that before. I’ve read a lot of books and that, that just still doesn’t equate to me. So this was my tipping the toe in the water, and it was fun but it was also like this, yeah, you have to keep that tension ‘til the end. And when you break that tension, it better be worth it. So it was like, I don’t think there, how else, how else would you end that? Just have your demon give him a talking to?
Kate Marope [00:57:34]
RM Virtues [00:57:34]
Like, no! Fuckin’ tear his guts out, what are you talking about? Just like, hey, buddy, don’t ever do that again. I– No!
Kate Marope [00:57:43]
RM Virtues [00:57:43]
Kate Marope [00:57:44]
RM Virtues [00:57:44]
Kate Marope [00:57:48]
I love it. And it makes sense for the characters because like you said, they don’t have that Hades/Zeus dynamic where it’s like, well, it’s my brother, you know? I am obligated to give him a fair go of not fucking things up for once even though it’s been his entire life but, you know, let’s–
RM Virtues [00:58:04]
Kate Marope [00:58:04]
Hopefully he’ll take it seriously this time, now that he sees that we mean business.
RM Virtues [00:58:10]
Exactly, yeah. And I’m like, just give me this one. Just give me this one, and, uh, we’ll end it the way we see fit. So it’s definitely, it’s definitely a lot but it’s fun. It’s gonna take a lot of, uh, continuity editing, is what it is.
Kate Marope [00:58:35]
Yeah. That’s the problem with series.
RM Virtues [00:58:39]
Yeah. Continuity. And I, the good thing about this one is I know that now, which is another lesson that you don’t get taught is when you start a series, you have to keep track of everything you say from book one on. And I didn’t do that well from book one to book two. I’m doing better this time because I’m actually going through the first two books and making a bible, a series bible.
Kate Marope [00:59:04]
Yeah. As you go along.
RM Virtues [00:59:06]
Yeah, so that’s good. But this one, this series will hopefully be easier, just ‘cause I’m keeping track of it from the beginning. So fingers crossed.
Kate Marope [00:59:16]
Yeah. And at least there are no kids yet. <laughs>
RM Virtues [00:59:20]
Kate Marope [00:59:20]
‘Cause that can also get you with development markers and shit, and I’m like, see, this is why I can’t write no books with kids. I would never, it’s too much work and I have no patience for that sort of thing.
RM Virtues [00:59:33]
That’s why I’m like, ‘cause with, with, um, Hephaestus and Aphrodite, I’m like, well, at least they’re grown. So they’re just like two, I mean, they’re not grown grown, they’re fourteen, but it’s still like they’re two characters that I can keep track of and remember that they, uh, they’re alive.
Kate Marope [00:59:50]
RM Virtues [00:59:51]
Uh, but yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a process all the time.
Kate Marope [00:59:56]
Yeah. That and series baiting. Like, you know, kinda like setting up the next couple in the previous book and all that work. It’s work. It’s work, and it’s things that you have to consider. You’ll be like, oh, fuck, who’s next? How am I gonna tie them into this book but not let them take over the whole damn book?
RM Virtues [01:00:14]
Exactly. Every, every book! Book one and two was like, I had to have, um, like even though Dionysus is in both books–
Kate Marope [01:00:25]
RM Virtues [01:00:27]
–I had to keep Athena away. Because I was like, you, I can’t trust you here.
Kate Marope [01:00:32]
RM Virtues [01:00:33]
It was also the reason I couldn’t put Hera anywhere near the first book. Because I was like, my Hades/Hera kink will show through if I put them in a scene together for longer than ten seconds. And then it was like, at the end, they did see each other and had a cheat kiss and I was like, oh, no.
Kate Marope [01:00:53]
RM Virtues [01:00:53]
It happened. It’s only been ten seconds. And I was like, all right, just leave it alone. Walk away, walk away.
Kate Marope [01:00:59]
I was like, I noticed. <laughs>
RM Virtues [01:01:01]
Kate Marope [01:01:02]
I’m not gonna say nothin’!
RM Virtues [01:01:03]
<laughs> I was like, oh, no! Like, I couldn’t do, even like for that, even for ten seconds, I couldn’t do it. Um, I have vowed that they will have a stand-alone at some point. Set far away from this series but still like, ‘cause they’re very important to me.
Kate Marope [01:01:21]
RM Virtues [01:01:21]
But that is also why they can’t be in any scenes together. Um, but yeah, so I’m getting better at that, I feel like. Um, introducing the characters that are necessary to the current book and the next book but um, yeah, it’s, it’s fun to have like, you know, you have to develop all these characters and make them all unique and make sure that every couple, not just the characters but every couple is different and the dynamic is at least marginally different.
Kate Marope [01:01:57]
RM Virtues [01:01:57]
Um, but having to like, go through and make sure like, oh, this, this, ‘cause despite as many people who are in Greek mythology, I’m always like, did I use this name already? Is this character already in there? Let me go ahead and search my Kindle version of Drag Me Up and make sure the bartender did not have the same name as the fuckin’ guard at the front door or whatever. And it’s like, oh, okay, like, mm, I’ve tried to like, entire family units, I’m like, okay, don’t use x, y, and z yet. Like, for later. ‘Cause I mean, at this point, there are, I’ve named 20 couples, I think. So it’s very much, ‘cause then you have to think, well, who’s their friends? Who are the people they have in their circle?
Kate Marope [01:02:51]
RM Virtues [01:02:52]
Who’s going to be important to their timeline? Like, who’s the villain or who, what are they dealing with at the time, etcetera, etcetera. So that’s very much something that has to constantly be considered.
Kate Marope [01:03:04]
RM Virtues [01:03:06]
But, doll, make a series bible, just do it.
Kate Marope [01:03:10]
<laughs> Save yourselves!
RM Virtues [01:03:11]
Save yourselves. Don’t wait until book four, three. Don’t wait ‘til book two. Just do it now. Uh, make a list of all your places. Um, all your locations, all of your characters. All of your settings and then you’ll thank me for it later.
Kate Marope [01:03:34]
Legit. Like one of the things I always tell people is like when you do a character sketch, make sure you have a section about like their physical attributes. Especially things like scars, tattoos, things that are prone to changing. Just write it down because those are the things that will get you.
RM Virtues [01:03:53]
Kate Marope [01:03:54]
So it’s like eye color changes halfway through the series and people are like, you thought we wouldn’t notice but we did. <laughs>
RM Virtues [01:03:59]
That’s the one thing they notice. Come on, y’all.
Kate Marope [01:04:02]
RM Virtues [01:04:03]
It, and that, yeah, the, the tattoos, it, I don’t, it, that almost got with me Dionysus. I’m like, Dionysus’s most important tattoos, the tattoo he has for Athena. And at first it was on his back and then later, it wasn’t, and I was like, oh, fuck. Then I had to go back and luckily, it was only in this book but it’s also, like, y’all, you do not wanna be in that position where you write something and you go back to book one and this whole different thing was taking place, and you’re like–
Kate Marope [01:04:41]
RM Virtues [01:04:42]
And especially with something that your entire plot like, is on, or like is important, like crucial, critical to your plot, ‘cause you’re gonna have to rewrite the whole thing.
Kate Marope [01:04:54]
I love talking to you. <laughs> We can just talk about all of this stuff for forever.
RM Virtues [01:04:59]
Forever! Like, I talk forever all the time but.
Kate Marope [01:05:04]
I love it. Um, but before you go, I just have a list of quick questions and just answer with whatever comes to mind, okay?
RM Virtues [01:05:11]
Kate Marope [01:05:12]
So what has been a reader review or a comment from a fellow author or industry professional that like when you first got it, you were mad? You’re like, fuck them, fuck this shit. And then like a few days later after you had some time to think, you were like, well, they ain’t wrong, though, so maybe I should fix that.
RM Virtues [01:05:32]
Um, I, it probably was definitely like, um, ‘cause like, the comments were never, well, from editors or, you know, whatever, it was never mean. It was just like, it was a lot of there was a lot of telling and not enough showing.
Kate Marope [01:05:50]
RM Virtues [01:05:51]
Or, you know, it was very passive. Um. This was very passive voice, the author has a very passive voice. And I was kinda like, what do you mean? What, but then, you know, going back and reading and realizing like, yeah, I swept over a lot of shit. Like, I was so worried about like length and packing all this in, etcetera, etcetera. It was like, bam! And then there were, there were also just like comments on, you know, like, just like, um, I think the pacing, it was, um, comments about the pacing. Just how, you know, there were times when it got really slow or really stagnant and then a bunch of shit happened at once or like kicked up all of a sudden, or whatever. And I’m like, what the fuck? Like, well, that’s, that’s life!
Kate Marope [01:06:59]
RM Virtues [01:07:00]
But then after, you know, going back and thinking about it like, okay. Yeah, that makes sense, okay. You don’t wanna sit too long, right? Like–
Kate Marope [01:07:09]
RM Virtues [01:07:10]
–obviously there are very long books and some of it is sitting but if you’re writing like a romantic suspense, a romantic thriller, you kinda want it to go a little faster. And also, it’s like, it’s not bad, like ‘cause you think about older books where they have like entire moments where the character’s just sitting in the windowsill, looking at something, and you’re like, what?
Kate Marope [01:07:35]
Me and my sister fight because she loves Anne of Green Gables, but I’m like, this bitch just spent 20 minutes–
RM Virtues [01:07:41]
Kate Marope [01:07:41]
-talking about a damn lake of shimmering fuckin’ water and by the time something happens, I am so mad like, bitch, I have eyeballs, I’ve seen lakes, they’re not that interesting!
RM Virtue [01:07:54]
Kate Marope [01:07:56]
Isn’t it lyrically beautiful? I’m like, fuck that, it stopped being interesting ten minutes ago!
RM Virtues [01:08:02]
That’s what I’m saying. I’m like, you just sat there and described to me. Draw me a picture! What the fuck? I don’t wanna do this! So I got that. I think the only comments that, you know, there were just weird comments or comments about the trans rep not being deep enough, which I don’t know what that means to this day.
Kate Marope [01:08:31]
Oh, no. We had this conversation with Ali when she was on the podcast but like, sometimes I feel like people want to see the struggle.
RM Virtues [01:08:41]
Kate Marope [01:08:42]
Yeah! They wanna see the trauma! Like, you just want a different story than what was being told. And sometimes that goes back to sometimes saying nope as an answer. That’s not the story you wanted to tell and that’s your business.
RM Virtues [01:08:54]
Kate Marope [01:08:55]
And if they wanna read that kinda story, you’re not for them. They can, too, say no, but like, don’t come up here talking about something like, “I wish you had written a different book.” That makes me mad.
RM Virtues [01:09:04]
Exactly. That’s exactly what it is. And it’s like, um, it’s very different from like if, you know, ‘cause there were comments by like trans people that were like, you know, this, um, you know. Maybe this, well, even those comments, too, because it’s still like you’re asking me for, to incorporate everybody’s experience, and I can’t do that. Would love to. Cannot do that.
Um, but it was definitely a lot of comments about like, she didn’t struggle enough. She didn’t struggle with this and people struggle with this. And like, I get that. Like, I absolutely understand that, you know, there are individual struggles, you know. I’m, as trans as I am, I’m not the most trans to ever trans. Like, I understand that. This isn’t something that can be, you know, it’s not a monolith. And that can be said for a lot of things that we are expected to incorporate to its full extent. But it was very much like, you know, white women were asking for a black trans woman’s trauma and I’m like, I’m not doing that.
Kate Marope [01:10:22]
RM Virtues [01:10:22]
And I, you know, I’m on Twitter all the time. Like if you come here to my books to see trauma or trans people hating themselves or trans people being hated by everybody else in society, you’re gonna be waiting a long fucking time because I’m not writing that book. That’s not what I’m doing. Like, I’m not interested in it. I’ve done my time. I, I read fantasy, write fantasy for the escapism, that’s exactly what I do it for. If I wanted to write that, I wouldn’t be writing this. Like if I wanted to read that, I wouldn’t be reading fantasy. But the point, my whole point, my entire point, every time I write a book is I wanna see my community, communities, in a place where they are already welcome in a world that is already theirs, which is why it was so important to me to write, to rewrite Greek mythology, despite it already being written so much.
How many fuckin’ black people are you seeing in Greek mythology that were prominent in the lore and had their own stories that were told? Like, because everybody likes to act like ancient Greece was this homogenous society where there weren’t any people of color and there weren’t black people but it was like, they were going back and forth from Egypt, west of Africa, but there definitely weren’t any black people.
Um, wrong. And then to say then, well, there weren’t any queer people when ancient Greece was queer as fuck. Like, you could fuckin’ stand in a room with ten men and nine of them were queer, I guarantee you, and the other one was queer and nobody knew about it. There’s no fuckin’ way. Like, don’t lie to me. Um, so it was definitely important for me to be able to do that but it’s also like, I don’t wanna read about my struggle. Like, we live our struggle every day, don’t y’all want a break? Fuck! Do you not want a break? So it was like, yeah, those are the comments– the only comments I really got that were like, I don’t fucking like you and I don’t care what you think.
Kate Marope [01:12:30]
Exactly, and they can find the door. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
RM Virtues [01:12:35]
But alas. Alas.
Kate Marope [01:12:39]
<laughs> All right, so what do you do to unwind, you know? Like, I feel like as creatives, it’s very hard to disconnect from the work because like you say, you can be watching Lord of the Rings trying to unwind and suddenly something will spark off that like work brain that’s like, oh. <laughs>
RM Virtues [01:12:54]
All the time, it’s so bad. So bad. Um, usually I play video games. That still has that effect, just ‘cause like, and it’s more like, um, the stories can be very inspiring so you’re like, I wanna go write. Which is still fun, like it can still be cathartic, it’s not work all the time but it is. ‘Cause it’s like, well, I’m writing this story, I might as well sell it. <laughs>
Kate Marope [01:13:19]
RM Virtues [01:13:19]
So it’s like, hard to break that. Um, but video games are good. Um, less, like, I don’t really like comedy a lot–
Kate Marope [01:13:31]
RM Virtues [01:13:32]
–but I can watch it when I don’t, ‘cause then I’m not, it doesn’t inspire me to write because obviously, I’m not a comedy writer, the way that fantasy movies or horror movies inspire me to want to write. But horror movies, I still love immensely and will watch all the time if I can. Um, puzzles. I do a lot of puzzles. Um, and that’s fun because I can hyperfixate and do a puzzle for six hours and not realize it’s been six hours, that’s cool. Sometimes. Unless you’re on a deadline, then it’s not cool at all.
Kate Marope [01:14:08]
RM Virtues [01:14:09]
Uh, but yeah, and then, you know. I’m a simple fellow. I smoke weed and, you know, listen to an album or, uh, scroll Reddit, no sleep. Or, you know, I’m, this fuckin’ Wordle archive that somebody posted on Twitter has derailed me immensely.
Kate Marope [01:14:37]
I’m so sorry.
RM Virtues [01:14:38]
Yeah, it’s, it’s okay. So yeah, that’s usually what I do. I don’t really do anything else. Like, I feel like I’m working 24/7.
Kate Marope [01:14:49]
Same. But yeah, like you, when I have “free time”–
RM Virtues [01:14:55]
Kate Marope [01:14:55]
–which normally means I can’t fall asleep because insomnia but I’m too tired to be productive anymore so therefore I have ceased working so that I don’t have to redo everything I just did anyway, um, during that kind of “free time,” um, I probably end up watching like, weird like celebrity gossip like videos or like, ooh, who are we shipping today? Like, Tomzeya or whatever. <laughs> I lost a lot of time, I lose a lot of time to that, and reading fan fiction. I think, to me, because like, it’s so separate from everything else that I have to do, it’s just really like, eh.
Okay, favorite reader interaction?
RM Virtues [01:15:39]
Oh, man. There’ve been so many good ones, just ‘cause like so many of my readers are now really good friends and like, being able to, you know, a couple of them, obviously, are now writing their own books and being able to be a part of that has been really cool.
Kate Marope [01:15:56]
RM Virtues [01:15:57]
Um, but it, just finding out like, you know, when people are like, hey, well, I read your book and, you know, I really loved it! Or going on TikTok and seeing like a video about my book. Like there was one the other day that I really loved, like I saved it to my phone and it was about Sing Me to Sleep.
Kate Marope [01:16:20]
RM Virtues [01:16:21]
But it was like, they were using <laughs> like an over– the sound was from Buzzfeed Unsolved and it was like, you know, me explaining the book I’m reading, and they were talking about the vibrating tail and the antlers and it’s like, the way that they listed it out, it was so funny because it’s like, y’all are so talented and creative. And it’s like, y’all are just using it to talk about books, or y’all could probably write your own and you’re using it to talk about books so that’s always really cool.
Um, and obviously I’ve done like interviews and stuff with people who have read my books. And it’s just, ‘cause it’s so hard to like see them as just readers ‘cause like, it’s like, this is my community. These are my people. This is my circle. But I feel like every time somebody is like, I read your book and I loved it, or like, this is amazing, or like, I wasn’t expecting this and I got this and I was very pleasantly surprised, um, it’s always just surreal in a way. ‘Cause it’s just like, what the fuck? I just, I was just fuckin’ around! <laughs> You know, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t think I did anything.
Kate Marope [01:17:38]
Okay. Less serious question: what is a sex position and/or kink that you haven’t included in your books, so–yet. But you’re like, oh, no, it’s on the list, we’re gonna get to it.
RM Virtues [01:17:53]
<sighs> There are so many. Um. Mm. Like the MFM or like, you know, those, that threesome.
Kate Marope [01:18:08]
RM Virtues [01:18:09]
Um, I haven’t done one of those. Definitely want to and will do that. I think that’s just, too, is like I just wanna be able to do more and read more, um, research more, and be more, um, knowledgeable–
Kate Marope [01:18:30]
RM Virtues [01:18:31]
–in my kinks. And like, the more, like the more obscure ones, like the ones you don’t see on like the regular dictionary list of kinks or whatever, like stuff like that, people don’t, ‘cause even like What Are the Odds? There was breeding kink, and I was like, I didn’t think I’d be doing that in my second book and yet, here we are.
Kate Marope [01:18:48]
RM Virtues [01:18:50]
So it’s always like, it always surprises me just as much as it surprises y’all. I haven’t done like bondage or like, um, the more intricate forms of bondage. So I’m like, and that’s because I don’t feel like I’m knowledgeable enough to do it respectfully, so I definitely would wanna look more into that before, um, I venture any deeper into it.
But yeah, like, sex positions. I have like a whole list of them that I haven’t done yet, so there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of that. But it’s also, too, it’s so hard to describe, you know what I mean? ‘Cause it’s like, I can see it and visualize it but now I have to tell you where the limbs are. Does that make sense? Are you seeing the same thing I’m seeing and are we looking at the same picture? That’s always the thought that worries me.
Kate Marope [01:19:42]
Listen! If you ever need someone to read them for you, I will volunteer, okay?
RM Virtues [01:19:49]
Kate Marope [01:19:50]
I’m just putting it out there. No pressure.
RM Virtues [01:19:51]
Okay, great. ‘Cause I’m just like, I’m always like, I’ll write it and then I’ll be like–
Kate Marope [01:19:56]
Does this make sense?
RM Virtues [01:19:58]
Yeah, like, does this look the way that I think it looks? Or is it not, the, is it, is it looking–? Yeah. So it’s like, yeah, I just, uh, there’s a lot of like side positions like, you know, with one partner on their side and the other person’s like, kneel– knelt behind them or whatever. And I’m like, does this make sense? Do you know where everybody’s legs are? What about everybody’s arms?
Kate Marope [01:20:23]
RM Virtues [01:20:24]
And then, like, then, you know, when you do start thinking about monsters and the demons’ appendages, it’s like, well, where the fuck is all this?
Kate Marope [01:20:32]
RM Virtues [01:20:33]
Where is, where, tongue, where did it go? Um, tail? What’s the tail doing? Wait, that was what the tongue was doing, hold on. Fuck.
Kate Marope [01:20:44]
<laughs> And in Sing Me to Sleep, how his antlers always like, turned away. They’re like, we aren’t stabbin’ her, okay, this is, this is a fun time, this is a nice time.
RM Virtues [01:20:53]
Right? Yeah! Every time. And I was just like, “Dude, just put ‘em away!” But he was always like, “No, no. I have to be in all my glory because I’m arrogant as fuck.” And she’s, something to hold onto sometimes, like, that’s what they’re there for! So he just has to be, he’s, and he’s always like, yeah, ‘cause even in like the short that I wrote yesterday, he’s like, I don’t wanna tear up all these fuckin’ satin pillows–
Kate Marope [01:21:18]
RM Virtues [01:21:18]
–that we’re workin’ with here. So it’s constantly, he has to be considerate of that, especially now that he’s on Earth. So that’s super fun.
Kate Marope [01:21:27]
Yeah. Can you imagine going to the ER? Like, how exactly did this happen?
RM Virtues [01:21:32]
Kate Marope [01:21:33]
Did you run into an elk or like, expliquez-moi, s’il vous plaît, like, what happened? <laughs>
RM Virtues [01:21:39]
<laughs> I was mauled. I was mauled and that’s the story I’m sticking to.
Kate Marope [01:21:43]
Especially if he’s beside her like, uhhhh…” <laughs> “Is that what we’re going with?
RM Virtues [01:21:48]
<laughs> It’s just like, coming on, coming up with a lie on the spot. Unbelievable. Oh, my lord.
Kate Marope [01:21:54]
<laughs> Okay. And finally, finally, finally, tell the people what’s coming up next for you and when they can expect books. Because, you know, I know you mentioned them but when– Pre-orders. Information. Please, details.
RM Virtues [01:22:09]
Um, so, Let Me In will be out hopefully this month. I say hopefully just ‘cause like, again, the editing is a lot more immersive than I thought it would be. Um, it’s a lot of chopping where we, we finished the first draft at 160k, so we’re trying to get it down a little bit. Um, I make no promises.
Kate Marope [01:22:35]
RM Virtues [01:22:36]
But I’m doing my best. Um, and then, after this I will start working on the series, uh, the, uh– Series of Sacrilegious Events. Um, I’m hoping to have book one out by the summer, so I’m working on the series bible and then the plotline, like the overarching plotline, and then the individual plotlines and then obviously, of course, that goes to cover editor for all seven so they look the same and, you know, all the continuity stuff. And then, I’ll be writing it as I do that but– so hopefully like the beginning of the summer, so like June.
And then August, September, will be the first book of my Mummy reimagining, so it’s basically, this book will be like, eh, it’s kind of a prequel, I guess. But it’s like the prequel story in The Mummy of Imhotep and Anck-Su-Namun but with black people, so, um, and a lot more magic. So we’ll have that.
And then, um, after that, will be the first book in the Series of Sacreligious Events, um, Sacreligious Events. Which is the series–the spin-off series, so it’s a lot of, this book, well, the first book is a little bit more plot-heavy than I had originally thought it would be. But it’s still very much what the witches do, so the witch world of that. Um, and, uh, it’s like, kind of, mm, a little gothic. Definitely haunted house-ish. It’s a lot more horror-ish than the main series, I would say. But that series will also include, um, the, it’s a big, it’s a big house somewhere with a lot of rooms and a lot of monsters that you can kinda just show up and have fun with, if your heart desires. So there will be that.
Um, and then, after that, um, what my patrons voted for, the next series that I will debut is the Oracle series, which is basically set in a magical secret society and it can, it, it’s kind of part of the world, this world, except it takes place away from the main plot. So it’s magical, which is etcetera, etcetera, but um, it takes place away from the main plot and probably in a different timeline, just so like it’s separate from that main conflict. Um, and the first book is an arranged marriage and it’s kind of like, you, the male main character, he’s kinda like a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde kinda thing except it’s like, he’s really, his, his, his default mode is very shy and quiet and submissive, subservient. But then he has like a serial killer side and, uh, it is definitely a dark romance.
Uh, so, he’s, he’s got, so his wife that he’s now married to is very, she’s very dominant, very, but she’s also very mean, um, very, uh, she’s obviously very angry that she had to marry him even though she, she didn’t have problems before like, they grew up together, but she was supposed to marry someone else but then that fell through so she got stuck with him. Um, and so she’s kinda upset about that but then she realizes like, oh, my husband’s actually not a big baby all the time. Like, he’s actually got a pretty good knife hand so maybe I’m a little turned on by that. So they kinda get into that and she, she has to kinda deal with the fact that she’s encouraging this side of him to the point where the other part of him is kinda being–
Kate Marope [01:27:05]
RM Virtues [01:27:05]
–set aside. Uh, disappearing rather quickly. So it’s, it’s, it’s really that thing of like, do I want the serial killer 24/7, or should I find some balance here? And him, too, he’s like, do I actually want to be the monster she wants me to be? Or do I want her to love me for all of me and keep a little bit to myself? Um, so that’ll be fun.
Kate Marope [01:27:35]
Oh, my god.
RM Virtues [01:27:35]
And then, yeah, I think, I think that’s, I think that’s all I had planned for sure for this year. But who knows?
Kate Marope [01:27:45]
Who knows? Oh, my god. I am so excited for all of your books. I can’t wait. Like, I just need to be like, pre-order! Take my money!
RM Virtues [01:27:56]
Kate Marope [01:27:57]
So you’re basically telling me you’re gonna take a lot of my money this year, and I’m perfectly fine with that. That’s, that’s, we have an agreement. You write the books, I read them, it’s good, you see? That’s how this relationship works.
RM Virtues [01:28:07]
<laughs> I do, I like that. I’m very, I’m very happy with that. If we ever get to a point in the future where I can just zap the story out of my hand onto the paper–
Kate Marope [01:28:18]
RM Virtues [01:28:19]
–we’re gonna be golden. We’re gonna be so golden. So I hope for that one day.
Kate Marope [01:28:25]
Don’t worry, one day you’re gonna make like mega billions of dollars and then you’ll just be like, editor, here.
RM Virtues [01:28:30]
Exactly. Ugh, that’s gonna be great, I love it. You know, people will ask me, ‘cause now that I’m, you know, in school and actively studying editing to be an editor, um, you know, are you gonna get an editor when you won’t need–? Like, yeah, I actually plan, more plan– I plan to more get an editor than I would’ve before. Like, because back then, I mean in the beginning, it would just– it was just a simple, I could not afford it. It was never I know my story better than anybody and I can do this myself. It was never that. Every single day I wished, I was like, this is so– I wish I could just send this off right now.
Because they, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s many things but if you have to think about it, it’s one thing. It’s basically just, it’s taking the pressure off of your back to do all these jobs and to make, like, you have to every step of the way be perfect. And it is the most grueling process.
Like every day, it’s like, I’m, I’m, you know, get upset when I only get like two chapters done a day but in reality it’s like, you had to sit there and rewrite that first half of the chapter. You had to sit there and flesh out this whole scene. Like, you don’t realize how much actually goes into editing until you’re going through editing and like, every stage of editing on your own, day after day. I don’t wanna do this for the rest of my life! <laughs> I don’t wanna do my books! I don’t wanna–
Kate Marope [01:30:07]
– Listen, I’m telling you
RM Virtues [01:30:07]
Yeah, like, I don’t, I don’t wanna do that! Like, I wanna write the book, send it off and then go back and write again. Like, I wanna do my job, that’s the job I wanna do.
Kate Marope [01:30:16]
RM Virtues [01:30:17]
So yeah, I’m more likely to get an editor once I’m better at editing.
Kate Marope [01:30:22]
Yes. Aw, thank you so much for coming onto my podcast.
RM Virtues [01:30:25]
Thank you for asking me. Really. I was really like, oh, no. I’m, I’m like–
Kate Marope [01:30:31]
RM Virtues [01:30:32]
‘Cause I was like, am I qualified? <laughs> Am I qualified for this?
Kate Marope [01:30:38]
RM Virtues [01:30:40]
Yeah, now that’s what I, that’s what I’m realizing, which was our whole point–
Kate Marope [01:30:43]
RM Virtues [01:30:44]
–is that you can do this, but you gotta trust yourself. But also trust the process.
Kate Marope [01:30:49]
RM Virtues [01:30:50]
But also trust yourself.
Kate Marope [01:30:51]
Trust yourself. Or if you don’t trust yourself, trust me. Because–
RM Virtues [01:30:55]
Kate Marope [01:30:55]
–I was like, obviously, I want you here. So. Safe space and also, you’re fuckin’ awesome and you write so beautifully. Like, I can’t say that enough. So don’t ever doubt yourself.
RM Virtues [01:31:10]
I won’t. But you are amazing, and I really am glad I got to talk to you one on one. Um, I know we don’t get to do that much ‘cause we’re always in a group. But uh, I appreciate you, and I’m so glad I got to talk to you.
Kate Marope [01:31:25]
Aw, thank you so much.
Kate Marope [01:31:29]
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