so often we here at the Rockville 8 blog like to bring in a topic expert we
think our readers might learn from and enjoy. Twiddling my thumbs, I wondered
who the heck I know who’s an expert on anything interesting. Well, the Usual
Suspects turned to me and said, “Duh, your brother. You know, the brewery owner?”
Oh yeah. And he says, “Sure, love to. Only…wouldn’t my business partner, Liz
Crowe, be a better fit? Seeing as she’s not only a beer expert but a
multi-pubbed author as well?”
Liz was game to answer my gazillion questions. Read on to gain a little insight
into an author of erotic, emotionally complex, singularly modern stories and
why fans read her not so much for the standard “HEA” but rather the
“WHA” (“What Happens After?”).
Liz, thanks so much for being our topic expert this month! I’ll jump right in
with a burning question: In fiction, each genre has a certain set of
characteristics that consumers rely on. The same can be said for different
kinds of beer. What kind of beer do you suggest romance readers drink as they
hunker down with their favorite subgenres?
going to twist this around a little and give you a taste of how I relate beer
to my writing process. I am a hard and fast "hop head" thanks
to my work as a brewery owner and marketing director so I reach for my own
brewer's lovely, bitter, astringent India pale lager for my early creative
process. Sometimes I will alternate with a malty amber lager. I find that
having a bottle of craft beer next to the keyboard spurs my creativity in a
very positive way. But once I reach the hard core editing process (the stage
that many budding authors hit and give up at because honestly, if your editor
is singing your praises during this stage--you need a new editor. Your editor
is NOT there to be your cheerleader. He or she is there to make you better and
the only way to make you better is to push you, challenge you and make you
think hard about your characters' motivations, your word choices and your
storytelling. It's a tough moment as a writer, but one that you truly owe it to
yourself to experience). So at THAT moment, I'm reaching for the higher
alcohol, darker brews.
when I hit the post line editing or galley stages, it's straight Kentucky
bourbon all the way!
a dark beer drinker, the chewier the better. A good friend of mine loves only
Belgian beer brands. And another is happy with plain old Miller Lite. What goes
into different beers to give them such a variety of flavor? Do you find one
style of beer is more popular at the Wolverine State Brewing Company Tap Room
color/taste profile of beer is originally set by the malt that you start
with--and I will let you guys in on something: NO beer in its purely
"natural state" is yellow. According to the Germans who
invented "lagers" which are the bulk of the "macrobrews"
these days, beer is made up of 4 ingredients only: Water. Malt. Hops. Yeast.
Anything outside of those 4 things are considered "adjuncts" or
ingredients that are unnecessary for real beer.
However, as tastes evolved and more folks
wanted a lighter taste to their daily brew, rice syrup was added to make the
natural amber color of any typical beer yellow. Now all sorts of crazy
shit is added to make funky brews, but that's a story for another blog most
"stout" or "chewy" beer is a result of deep, dark, rich
malts that go in as the original ingredient. Then a bit of light hops are
added and an ale yeast is used to create the flavors you refer to---the fruity,
pruney esters that are the natural result of fermenting on an ale yeast.
however you use the four main ingredients of beer is how beer SHOULD be altered.
What malt you start with, be it light, dark, chocolate, crystal or anything in
between, plus the style and amount of hops you add next, then the type of yeast
you call upon to ferment the wort is how beers are made different, fun, and
Keely: How did
you get into the beer business – and was it before or after you started
writing? I know you are also a Real Estate agent. My dad always said, ask a
busy person to get something done. Do you find juggling these three careers
helps keep you focused on getting stuff done? Do you have a daily word count
you try to make?
HA! that sounds like something your dad
would say, Keely.
Ok, so I have a degree in English and have
worked my whole life in fund raising, public relations and marketing in various
environments including newspapers (in the "olden days"), non-profit
powerhouses like United Way and small businesses. Finally, I got my real estate
license and kind of found my element -- where I could use my innate marketing
chops to make money for myself. Then, I found myself as a trailing
ex-pat spouse for the next seven years. I had my 3rd child in Japan and from
there we moved to Istanbul, Turkey then to London. When we returned to the
states (and Ann Arbor, Michigan) I retrieved my license from escrow and jumped
back in, having some killer years selling houses in a down market. Then, I met
a guy named Trevor (Keely’s brother).
and his business partner had invented a lager beer they'd been selling around
Ann Arbor but in the way of people who succeed, they felt that had something
awesome and wanted to make it bigger. So they sought out a marketing
professional. Urban legend is that I am the only one they talked to---I'm going
knew very little about beer, much less craft beer and told him as much but they
promised to teach me that part. So I chronicled my craft beer journey, from
beer school sessions with our newly hired brewer to brewing days with said
brewer all the way to the grand opening, in my blog: www.a2beerwench.com
. I have a huge reach
with this blog and support it with a FaceBook and Twitter presence. I didn't
spend any real cash that first year in advertising, just working online and out
in the field, bringing beer to as many non profit events and other places where
I could run my mouth about our lager revolution.
writing bit kind of paralleled this but only by accident. I latched on to some
erotic writers to expand my usual mainstream reading and took a nascent idea
about a couple of realtors and made all the rookie errors of head hopping and
passive voice and submitted, collected rejections, found some critique readers
I trusted, lost my nerve, got it back then teased out a side story from this
realty series and subbed it as a short story. That got accepted first.
That series (Brewing Passion
has just been returned to me from the original publisher and I plan to rework
it and release it the way it was meant to be in 2014. I had a series
accepted by Decadent Publishing (the Turkish Delights Series) and a stand-alone
) which taught me a LOT
about professional editing. Then I was approached by a start-up publisher
who had read a ménage novel I had released (Vegas
) and wanted to talk to me about my distinctive voice and style.
I pulled the Stewart Realty series out of mothballs and sent it to them.
Since then I've been published by Ellora's Cave (Lust on Tap
, a ménage story). And now, here we are.
I have 2 full time jobs I love. I fit it all in but do not adhere
to word count targets. I am about writing the story, not meeting the word
count. I am an avowed marathon writer--the story hits me, I head write a
bit, then sit down and just open up the laptop and let it flow. Essence of Time
(the 4th Stewart Realty
book and the one most fans claim as their favorite) is a little over 100,000
words. I wrote it in 3 months. Escalation
(book 6) is nearly the same length and was written in 2 months.
I don't claim that this is the correct way to do this--it's just my way.
Keely: Liz, the tag line on your website (www.lizcrowe.com
) says, “Romance for Real
Life.” What do you mean by that? What sets the stories you write apart from
more traditional romance and why do you think that taps such a rich vein with
The Romance for Real Life tag line
was actually coined by one my fans--she is/was a "hard core" romance
reader, had never ventured much beyond the "canon" of accepted
publishers and writers until recently thanks in no small part to the 50 Shades
phenomenon. One of the vows many of us published authors made (oh, ok,
maybe it was just me but whatever) over this year of the "erotic romance
revolution" was to learn--learn from what has been introduced to a new
crowd of fresh readers. One of the ways I learned was to read what I did
not like, find what I truly did like and discover my spot within the spectrum
When I started my own writing
journey about four years ago I promised myself I would write what I wanted to
read. And what I wanted to read was more real than the majority of what I was
finding the deeper I delved into the erotic romance genre. Don't get me
wrong. My favorite authors in this realm remain among what I maintain are the
best at what they do: Lauren Dane, Shayla Black, Joey W. Hill---but not their
paranormal stuff. I am neither entertained nor titillated by vampires,
were-anythings, angels, demons, ghosts or zombies. But that is just me,
so please don't be offended by this--"subjective" is the Name of the
Game here, as you well know if you have been reviewed.
So I took a fairly familiar
set up: the super alpha male confronts his ultimate female--the one who will "tame"
him or "make him whole" - choose your cliché - and put a twist on it.
I made both of them ... real...that is to say, challenging and difficult
and even, by the time you hit the 3rd book of the (now) 6-book series flipping
their roles somewhat.
It was truly an experiment in
"can I do it?" and, after my fair share of rejections from agents and
publishers alike, it finally found a home.
But the interesting thing
about my entire backlist is that you can apply the "real" moniker to
pretty much every book or series I have written. My readers use words
like "frustrating," "aggravating," "made me want to
hurl my kindle at the wall," but to a person, I always hear, "When
can I get more?"
It's a combination of my
voice, which is realistic and down to earth and the situations that make my
characters react like real human beings--they make stupid mistakes, say idiotic
things at the wrong moment, learn, fail, succeed and keep trying. And for the
most part are NOT billionaires but people who own businesses and work hard--and
play hard---every day.
upcoming release, Paradise Hops
, is set in a brewery. Give us a
sense of how that book came together. The inspiration for the setting seems
clear – the Tap Room. Did that come first, or did you have a character at loose
ends who decided to go down to the pub for a drink but took a detour into your
Actually, the Tap Room was not the
inspiration for this book. My inspiration came from a story I read on Salon.com or
HuffPo or someplace about a woman who had been brutally attacked as a teenager
and not expected to survive but who ended up running her family's restaurant
business thanks to her father who forced her into a healing mindset by learning
the business and taking over. I just extrapolated that into the brewery
I don't typically take bar patrons and put them into a story. I do take
elements of peoples' lives and try and mold them into an interesting narrative.
And many of my characters are amalgams of people I know, including myself.
is a snippet from Paradise Hops – a conversation
between Garrett, one of the men in Lori's life, and a small but very important
character, Mrs. Anderson, a long-time employee of the brewery when he is
frustrated by Lori’s apparent recalcitrance:
winced at the sound of his harsh voice.
“I will take those
tickets, thanks, but in the meantime I need to tell you a little story.”
He turned and
glared at her, but she sat and arranged herself for a long chat.
Brockton was the biggest tomboy, the toughest teenager, the most amazing,
smart, beautiful girl.” She stopped, as if to gather her thoughts. “Her mother
died when she was twelve. Cancer took her in something like six months. It was
awful. Her father was…is a tough man, and he took over her teen-aged years that
way, on his own. They fought, good Lord did they fight. But he loved her and
thought he was doing the right thing, making her defend herself about
everything from her hair color which turned pink one year to her college
in his seat. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear any more, but she went on.
from Michigan with honors, and an acceptance letter to medical school, but she
balked. Something happened. Probably her dad pushed her hard one too many times.
She turned it down, took a job selling prescription drugs and bought herself a
little house. She did well, for about three years, and then she met that
clenched into fists under the desk.
terrible incident, she literally became a different person. She wouldn’t leave
her dad’s house, stayed in her old room for months. Made her dad get rid of the
piano she loved. We all tiptoed around here for almost a year. Mr. B would blow
up at the slightest provocation, but we all let him do it. We understood.” She
shook her head, and wiped her eyes. Garrett frowned but didn’t know what to say
so he kept his mouth shut.
day nearly a year and a half ago now, she appeared, a shrunken, scared version
of herself. Her father declared her ‘well’ and ‘ready to work’ and that’s when
the rotations began. She started in distribution, worked the warehouse for
about nine months. Then went to the pub, doing everything from food prep, to
bartending. I was so worried about her. She lost more weight, hardly talked to
anyone. We all said we’d give anything to witness a good knock down drag out
between her and her father, like the old days.”
out the window, realizing where this was headed. He closed his eyes and fought
the need to get up and pace.
“Then, Mr. B.
tells us he’s hired a manager. A general business manager. Someone who will
take over most likely, and here you are.” Mrs. Anderson stared at him, making
him squirm. “The old Lori is back, Garrett, and we have you to thank. But that
means you have to understand her, stop trying to be so controlling because that Lori won’t be controlled.
Thinking you can will only lead to your unhappiness.”
“I’ve watched you and her. I see what’s happening, and I can’t think of a
better thing than for you two to be together. You balance each other, but only
if you are willing to let go a little. Otherwise, it will never work.”
“So, who’s giving her the little pep talk about how swell I am?” He couldn’t
smiled and patted his shoulder. “Oh, hon, Lori has twenty or so moms and big
sisters, and even a few big brothers, in this building. I’m pretty sure
somebody has, or is right now.”
She smiled at
him. “Well then, that’s really all you need. Trust me. That and patience.
She’ll see the light.”
She turned to
go as her desk phone started ringing. Then threw out something that Garrett
would remember for a long time. “You know, as much as I hate to admit it, it’s
as if between you and that horrible man Eli, you brought our Lori back.” She
smiled, but he felt his heart sink to his feet.
are a wizard at PR. Have you learned anything promoting Wolverine Beer that
you’ve applied to your writing career and/or vice versa? Do you have any tips
for authors on effective self-promotion and how to get the most bang for your
I will tell you, the whole social
networking thing is a mixed blessing. I have learned to use it, but it is not
something you can just start and then stop and hope it works. It's a 2-way
street, no matter what. You cannot simply open a Twitter account, mention how
hard you are working at your revision and then go away and come back hoping
there are 1000 more followers. I have nearly 2500 followers, but use Twitter
as a promo platform AND a place to find others interested in things that
interest me. I have conversations with people, and take the time to seek
But, first things first, guys. Write the book, get it beta-read,
critiqued and subbed. THEN mess around on social networks. If I had been FaceBook-
and Twitter-distracted in 2008, I would never in a million years have cranked
out the equivalent of 200,000 words that eventually became the first 3 books of
the Stewart Realty series. *shiny* *sparkly* *internet*!
get me wrong---have a blog platform and use it to practice writing. The only
way to practice writing…is to write. So you can blog, daily, if you want, but
writing a FaceBook post or a Twitter update is not writing. It's promoting.
Understand the difference.
use FaceBook and Twitter for both the brewery and my reader audience but only
because I know when to turn them off and focus on the engine---> getting the
beer sold by getting in front of people, or, by writing the next book.
It is not easy. But if you want it bad enough, you will make it work.
you have several stand alone titles and two very successful book series
published. After the release of Paradise Hops
, what’s next for you?
2013 release schedule is pretty set and includes a late 2012 release called Honey Red (a brewery based story of
"real" ménage--which by any true life standards is a challenge at
best). Then I will release the next Stewart Realty series book Mutual Release, which will serve as a
potential stand alone novel exploring a more hard-core BDSM lifestyle that
serves as release for 2 wounded individuals from the first realty books, Evan
Adams (who owns a brewery) and his wife, Julie. This releases on February 14th
and we will host a Valentine's Day book signing event with books, beer and
chocolate in conjunction with Nicola's books (the one remaining large indie
book store in Ann Arbor, and a local chocolatier). The fall will bring the
release of the Black Jack Gentlemen series, a soccer-based offshoot from the
Stewart series that is hinted at in the 6th book (Escalation Clause). These three books are: Man On, Free Agent, and Penalty Kick.
Finally, I will wrap up the year with a novel I've already contracted
about the dark side of the "BDSM lifestyle" that is so seemingly
fascinating right now. What happens when that "Dream Dom" is
really just an abusing jerk? How do you rebuild your life and self esteem once
it's been ripped apart by such a man? In
will be something completely different, more than a little
controversial and hopefully very compelling.
I will end the year by releasing the final official Stewart Realty book,
, which will be a long
novel about the lives of the children of the original set of characters.
It will include a very difficult psychological exploration of addiction.
Keely: Liz, this has been super! Your creativity and
dedication are an inspiration to me. Thank you for taking the time to answer
all my nosy questions!
Thanks for this Keely! I welcome all
questions and comments and hope you get a chance to read my books soon!
more Liz Crowe here: