Author of The Black Oak series
Today I have the pleasure of chatting with fellow indie author Monique Edenwood about her Blackwood Oak series and all things writing and more! To start us off, Monique, tell us about your latest novel.
Monique: I’m currently working on book 4 (out of 5) of my Black Oak series which is a dark romance series within the genre of romantic suspense. The books is called Embers of Black Oak and is out on September 24th. At the crux of the series is a love triangle between the heroine Jessynia, the powerful and ruthless Jackson Wilder and his childhood friend and now sworn enemy, Cameron O’Neill, as equally powerful, dominant and damaged as his former friend. Both men love Jess to the point of madness and consider the other man dangerous. This triangle is the crux of the book, but as the series has unfolded, the subject of past trauma and how it affects our behavior has become one I’ve loved to explore as it’s a subject that is very close to my heart.
Helen: Not long now! Good luck with our forthcoming launch. How did you choose the cover design?
Monique: The cover of book one has a naked male torso on a black background with an oak tree bathed in dusky light at the top. My books are named after a dangerous secret society created by the outwardly respectable elite of Manhattan, the Black Oak Society or Quercus Velutina. I grew up surrounded by forests and have always been obsessed with trees and I knew I wanted the society to be named after a tree. After playing around with a few names and checking that Black Oak did not exist in this context anywhere on the web, I chose Black Oak as a recurring motif in the series titles.
I came across the picture of the man randomly while surfing stock pics and it just spoke to me. The fact that he’s standing so self-confidently and that you can’t see his face just felt so powerful to me, and all my books have an element of black in their background to represent the Black Oak society, of course, as well as the darkness of this dark romance.
Helen: You have four books written in the Dark Oak series, how did you begin writing this series?
Monique: I have to say my series has been on quite the adventure because I originally wanted to write a dark comedy, along the lines of the British author Tom Sharpe—totally outside the romance genre—about a wife who discovers that her husband is cheating on her and doesn’t tell him she knows, but sets off on a journey to slowly ruin his life in every way possible while trying to help him deal with all the calamities befalling him. So sadistic, lol!
It was really supposed to be just total comedic escapism. Once I had done a tiny bit of research and saw that romance was the biggest genre, and once I brought down that self-defence mechanism that wanted to turn this story into comedy, I realized that I wanted to really deep-dive into the bloody guts of a faltering relationship in a way that was raw and real and made you feel and think and question what you would do in the character’s shoes.
The very early chapters of the book deal with infidelity, dropping you right into the moment when the heroine, Jess, discovers her husband’s secret phone, but this is really just a catalyst to bring in Cameron O’Neill, the third man in the love triangle. He’s been in love with her for as long as he remembers and wants to her save her from her marriage, but he has demons of his own and the story ends up taking a lot of unexpected twists and turns. Realizing how much trauma was at play in the behavior of the characters really let me explore this subject and I hope it has made the whole series more powerful.
Helen: What genre do you write? What made you choose to write in this genre?
Monique: I write dark romantic suspense. My favorite author is Sylvia Day and years ago when I first read one of her books after picking it up at a bookstore without ever having heard of her before, I remember resonating so much with her Crossfire series and how raw and brutal it was and how deliciously deviant the hero was. I was shocked by the language he used and how graphic it was, but when I started to write, I realized I wanted my series to be raw and make you feel, and I find I can do that best within the genre of dark romance.
One of the things I love exploring is the concept of duality. I love books that really make you think, throw you off balance and make you question what is right and wrong. I like to be shaken about a bit when I’m reading and I love doing that to my readers too! In my series, some of the characters behave in ways that are questionable, but it’s super important to me that they are still seen as human beings. I really don’t like to distill everything to just black and white, good vs. bad. I hate this way we have in the fictional world of reducing complex people to weak and strong or good and bad when most of us are a combination of these things depending on the circumstances.
When a character’s behavior is questionable, we may not like them, but then we learn about the trauma and abuse they may have suffered and perhaps start to rethink. So, to me, it’s important that books are not reduced to just tropes and that they take you on an emotional journey and really make you think and feel and question everything! Dark romance offers me that space as I don’t have to worry about how flawed the characters are. Messy and damaged characters with questionable instincts come with the territory and those are the ones I want to know the most.
Helen: It sounds like you have some very dominant characters in your novels. Who is your favourite character to write?
Monique: Sebastian Gravier. He is the head of the Black Oak Society and a dangerous sadist, murderer and prominent member of Manhattan’s high society. He is almost certainly an irredeemable character, but he is the most fascinating to me as unlike most psychopaths, he was not born that way. His soul and psyche fractured as a result of horrific and untreated narcissistic abuse on the part of one of his parents while the other stood back and did nothing to intervene, like a coward. The subject of parental abuse and narcissistic abuse is one that is not talked about enough in my opinion, so exploring this fascinating, dangerous, terrifying character and his origins has been just thrilling and very cathartic to me.
Helen: How do you get on with editing your books? Most writers prefer writing as it is more creative and freeflowing, yet editing you have to discipline yourself to look at every word.
Monique: I definitely prefer editing! I actually find the writing process quite painful but I am in heaven when editing. I love playing with words, rewriting sentences until they grab you by the throat or make you shudder from fear or pleasure.
Helen: Words are such fun! When not writing what do enjoy spending your time doing?
Monique: I am from the UK originally but have lived in beautiful British Columbia for several years as I have lots of family here. I love hiking through forests, writing under trees, swimming in the ocean, cycling, hot yoga and just being in nature and with my lovely friends and family.
Helen: Sounds lovely! I imagine reading fits in there somewhwere. Which books have your read recently that you would recommend?
Monique: I read the Tainted Love trilogy by RC Christiansen and it is so raw, so brutal and yet so beautiful. It just haunts me and even though it breaks a lot of the rules of romance, I highly recommend it. She’s just such a huge talent.
Helen: I have that trilogy on my tbr pile. I must find time to read it, but I know it will be raw and emotional, and I’m not int he right mindset yet. We’ve come to the end of time together, thank you so much for joining me. One last question. What advice would you give to new writers?
Monique: Thank you for having me!
I would say to really enjoy the writing process above all else and to realize that in the first year or so, your books are not necessarily going to take off. It will take some time to get traction and to become better known in the community. I’ve seen quite a few authors really suffer because they’ve been keen to have big sellers in their first year and it’s difficult in today’s highly competitive and saturated market. I would say to always write for yourself first, and I remind myself of that too when I read lots of opposing opinions about what the outcome of my series should be from my lovely group of readers.
It’s really easy to fall into the trap of writing primarily for the buzz of getting positive feedback from readers and I have actually seen authors post that that is the main reason why they write their books which I find so amazing. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing more glorious or uplifting than getting emails or messages from readers to tell you how much you’ve touched them with your books, but if you’re only writing for the high of having people read and tell you they loved it, then if they don’t, you’ll be devastated, and it becomes more about chasing the high of positive reinforcement at that point than about the joy of creating these magical characters that will live on forever. In the long run, if you write from your heart, things will always work out. If you write purely to get praise, that’s a dangerous place to be in.
I am so lucky to have really passionate readers who contact me on a daily basis, and who are very active in my Facebook group. Their support and enthusiasm is not something I expected to experience so early on in my author journey. They give me so much energy, even when they shout or sulk at me for things that the characters do, lol. However, they have some deliciously strong and opposing opinions and it’s easy to get lost in them, especially when you hate the idea of hurting or disappointing anyone.
That’s why your most important author relationship should always be with yourself and your characters before that with your readers, otherwise you will get lost trying to please everyone and second-guess yourself and your writing will suffer because of it, so staying connected to your characters above all else is the best way to make to make your amazing readers happy as well!
About the author:
I am the writer of the Black Oak Trilogy, the first novel of which is Enter The Black Oak. I love helping people escape their daily lives for a short while with the help of some intrigue, suspense and some smoking hot fictional boyfriends!
I am a British-Canadian author based in Vancouver, British Columbia and when I’m not reading or writing, I love hiking and cycling around beautiful Vancouver. I’m also an epic fantasy geek and lover of 80’s and 90’s music.
You can find more about Monique via:
You can purchase the first book in Monique’s Black Oak series, Enter the Black Oak:
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