Thank you for joining us for The Flesh Cartel virtual book tour! All week long, we’ll be giving readers an up-close look at our new psychosexual thriller, The Flesh Cartel. The first episode in this serial story, Capture, is now available for purchase via the Riptide Publishing website. Because October is also Riptide Publishing’s Anniversary Blog Hop Bash month, we’re giving away an extra special reader prize at every stop along this tour—and all month long! One commenter from every stop we make in October will win a $10 credit to Riptide Publishing. Simply leave a comment below by 11:59 pm on Sunday, Oct 7th (email address included) to enter. Visit the First Anniversary Blog Hop Bash page for our complete October schedule, and make sure to check out each stop to increase your chances of winning great prizes all month long!
Tell us how the idea for The Flesh Cartel was born?
Heidi: That was um . . . that was me. I think what I initially pitched Rachel with was a story about an organization that deals in human bodies and human sexuality in the same way we deal with meat processing or car manufacturing or any other consumer product in the twenty-first century. Efficient and intricate and industrialized and professional and ultimately soulless. It was Rachel who kind of brought in the human angle, who suggested we less tell stories about the system itself, and more about the people who make that system work: the CEOs, the assembly line workers, and of course the people who are ultimately being commodified.
Rachel: Curiously enough, one of my frequent bedtime fantasies was very similar to the idea Heidi pitched. You know how it goes—me, a well-stocked basement with very secure locks on the doors, and all the hotties I could ever want. So her idea immediately appealed to me, but there was the issue of needing to give a story meaning. I mean, sure, sadistic kinksters like us are all about their torture-porn, but it’s not the sort of thing I’d feel right trying to pass off as serious work (or charging money for), and frankly, not enough story for Riptide to publish. Which was how the human angle came into it, and the idea of focusing on two brothers’ progress through the system. Which led to long, surprisingly serious discussions about psychology, human motivation and training and breaking and resilience, the kinds of cognitive dissonance you might need to be a part of something like this (our trainer, Nikolai, is a fascinating character in that regard), study and research into actual methods used to break people, sexual slavery rings that have been busted in the past, PTSD, etc. We decided that if we were going to do this, we needed to make it more than just the circumstances. The circumstances had to be, at best, the backdrop for the character journeys. We had to treat it with respect.
Plus somewhere in there was Sarah Frantz, the little devil on our shoulders egging us on. I’m almost entirely positive this whole thing is her fault. I just don’t quite remember how. But either way, we love her for it :)
Why Serial Fiction, and not just one big whole book or two?
Rachel: By the time we were finished laying out the whole series arc, we were looking at, easily, a quarter-million-word story. Quite possibly more. (We’re already over 100,000 words in and nowhere near the halfway mark yet.) You’re talking four to five full novels’ worth of material.
The thing was, it isn’t four to five novels. It’s one contiguous story that’s going to end up being like 1,200 pages long. So how best to tell that story?
Plus, because this material is so intense, there’s definitely wisdom in consuming it in small doses. Heidi pushed the serial format right from the start, and Sarah championed it hard too, and once we figured out a way to make serials work without costing the reader more money, Riptide got on board with the format as well.
For a more thorough answer to this question, Heidi did a whole blog post on serials that will be over at Smexy Books tomorrow. Stop in and check it out!
Are you both worried about readers reactions? Both the good and possibly the bad.
Heidi: There’s no “possibly” about it. There are definitely going to be some “bad”—and by that I mean critical or just outright angry—reactions to this. Which, just to be clear, is totally fine by me. When you write something that really pushes against boundaries and can be interpreted as eroticizing real-world trauma, you’re bound to upset, anger, or offend people. All we can do is make sure we provide lots of detailed warnings wherever we can, so people can make an informed choice about whether this is a story they want to read. It’s not meant as a challenge—are you (wo)man enough to read Flesh Cartel—it really is a good-faith effort to protect people from potentially hurtful and harmful content. Seriously, there’s no shame in saying “Not for me” and buying something else, and I’m not going to take offense if that’s what you do. The best I can hope for for this series is that the people who are intrigued by the subject matter enjoy it and find it satisfying, and that the people who find the subject matter upsetting have the foreknowledge to avoid it.
Of course, there’s going to be some people who aren’t going to read it, but are still going to find the concept offensive. That’s okay too. I accept that.
Rachel: I’m 100% with Heidi on this. It’s an interesting kind of book because some people will find it erotic. Others will find it horrifying. People from both groups are bound to love and hate the book (I’m not anticipating a lot of middle ground, to be honest). Some people may love it specifically because they find it horrifying, because psychological horror and taut thrillers are their favorite kinds of reads. (And in this sense I’m thinking folks who loved American Psycho or the mind-fuck of a book like Silence of the Lambs, rather than fans of Saw, who will probably not be satisfied by the lack of splashiness and gore here.) Others will be so put off and offended by it that they won’t even want to have to hear the title mentioned in their presence. We’re both very understanding of that response.
Ultimately, all we can do is write the best book we can and treat the subject matter as respectfully and honestly as possible, not taking any shortcuts, never being gratuitous (yes, there’s a lot of violence, but every single drop of it moves the plot or the characters forward), and never doing anything to cheat the reader out of the kind of emotional payoff that can only come from building the most realistic scenario and characters possible. Whether or not we’ve accomplished that, well, that’s up to the readers to say. But I feel good, at least, about knowing we’ve done our best.
So I see BDSM is not apart of the classification. Can you tell us your reasons for that?
Heidi: Yes, we’ve specifically not categorized this as BDSM. We’re not going to label it that way, or market it that way, or any of the rest. The only time we’re using the term is to emphatically say it’s NOT a BDSM novel. BDSM is about consenting adults exploring power dynamics in a safe environment. This is a story with rape and torture and psychological breakdown. Of course, it’s got whips and chains and collars, so some people are going to call it BDSM anyway, and some people who are into BDSM (like Rachel over here) might also enjoy it strictly as a fantasy, but it is not BDSM. And while we’re at it, it’s not a romance, either. Nobody falls in love and has a HEA with their rapist. It’s an erotic thriller.
Rachel: Yeah, I cannot state emphatically enough that this is neither SSC or RACK or any other acronym you might want to use to try to classify the wide range of activities and behaviors and mindsets that fall under the BDSM umbrella. But, as Heidi said, I think many folks will enjoy it as a fantasy (and lol, look at my partner all innocent up there pretending she isn’t one of them!)—you know, the kind you have when you and your partner, safely and sanely, arrange ahead of time to engage in an abduction fantasy where your poor sub gets dragged into your basement, chained and “tortured” and “raped,” begging all the while for you to please stop and why me, except, of course, you’re both having a fantastic time. But what happens in this book occurs outside consent and safety, and fantastic times are had by none. So please, please don’t call this BDSM.
Was there ever a point while writing when you both decided that "Hell nawz we ain't writing that"? (Just because it would be too much)
Heidi: Yes! There are some places we will not go. I don’t want to spoil anyone, but we wrote a dream sequence that took place in a character’s past. We specifically chose for him to be his present self (i.e., an adult) in that setting because we don’t want any child characters in the story, not even in dream sequences. And although the incredibly sad and sickening reality of sexual slavery and human trafficking is that many victims are children, we’ve chosen not to feature any underaged characters, even in non-sexual contexts. It’s just not a place we’re willing to go.
Rachel: We’re also leaving off some kinks that you’ll typically see on a publisher’s do-not-submit list, though that’s in large part selfishness because we simply don’t want to write them: scat play, bestiality, and the like. Though we did write one scene that frankly squicked both of us out, but I’ll leave it at that; you’ll see what it is in Episode 2 :) And also there was this mysterious tweet. But legits, yo, neither Heidi nor I can remember what we were talking about.
Can you tell me what to expect in the upcoming episodes/seasons (something spoilerish)?
**BIG SPOILER ALERT!!!**
Rachel: A lot of folks have been asking us if the boys will ever have a happy ending. I know how impossible that seems given the current circumstances, but they do both get one, after a fashion, at least assuming everything goes according to the careful planning Heidi and I have done. Keep
in mind this story isn’t a romance (although there are a couple of different romances going on, after a sort, throughout the third and fourth season), so it won’t necessarily be the kind of HEA/HFN you usually see. But nor will their story end in the sort of abject misery it begins in.
Heidi: Which is to say, yes they get out alive. How they put themselves together again afterwards, and go on living, I think, is the real question. One I think will be an especially interesting (and heartbreaking) part of the story for us to write. And we do intend to give that aspect of the story due attention, and just as much thought as the grimdark torture part.
Will each season feature a new cover, or will it just always be the one cover?
Rachel: Each season gets its own cover. Each episode within a season shares the season cover.
Heidi: I can’t wait to see the cover for season 2!
Sum up in 30 words or less what this whole project means to you both.
Rachel: A thrilling (and kinky-fun) chance to try something new and different and extremely difficult and frankly a little terrifying for any number of reasons.
Heidi: It’s an exorcism. I had a thing inside me, and now it’s taken shape and I can look it in the eye and speak to it and send it on its way.
Finally, can I expect some epic pants losing?
Rachel: I bought you a 48-pack at CostCo, just in case :D
Darien: Yes, more pants. ^_^
In this first installment of the exciting new psychosexual thriller, The Flesh Cartel, orphaned brothers Mat and Dougie Carmichael are stolen in the night from their own home. Taken to a horrifying processing facility, they are assessed, microchipped, and subjected to unspeakable brutality—all in preparation for sale to the highest bidder.
In a world where every person has a price, the beautiful and subduable PhD student Dougie is highly prized. His brother, a rough-edged MMA fighter, is less desirable—and potentially too dangerous—but he still has his own appeal.
Abused and locked up under round-the-clock surveillance, with no idea where they are or even why they’ve been taken, escape seems impossible, which leaves staying together their only hope. And after being separated once by the foster system, they'll do anything to keep it from happening again. Anything at all.
Rachel Haimowitz is an M/M erotic romance author, a freelance writer and editor, and the Managing Editor of Riptide Publishing. She's also a sadist with a pesky conscience, shamelessly silly, and quite proudly pervish. Fortunately, all those things make writing a lot more fun for her . . . if not so much for her characters.
When she's not writing about hot guys getting it on (or just plain getting it; her characters rarely escape a story unscathed), she loves to read, hike, camp, sing, perform in community theater, and glue captions to cats. She also has a particular fondness for her very needy dog, her even needier cat, and shouting at kids to get off her lawn.
You can find Rachel at her website, Tweeting as RachelHaimowitz, chatting in the Goodreads forums, and blogging at Fantasy Unbound. She loves to hear from folks, so feel free to drop her a line anytime at metarachel (at) gmail (dot) com.
Heidi Belleau was born and raised in small town New Brunswick, Canada. She now lives in the rugged oil-patch frontier of Northern BC with her husband, an Irish ex-pat whose long work hours in the trades leave her plenty of quiet time to write. She has a degree in history from Simon Fraser University with a concentration in British and Irish studies; much of her work centred on popular culture, oral folklore, and sexuality, but she was known to perplex her professors with unironic papers on the historical roots of modern romance novel tropes. (Ask her about Highlanders!) When not writing, you might catch her trying to explain British television to her newborn daughter or standing in line at the local coffee shop, waiting on her caramel macchiato.
You can find her tweeting as @HeidiBelleau, email her at heidi.below.zero (at) gmail.com, or visit her blog: http://heidi-below-zero.blogspot.com.
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