Today we are hosting the Bliss Blog Tour.
I posted my thoughts on Bliss a few weeks ago. It’s an edgy book dealing with some touchy subjects. It is the sort of book that makes you think…a lot. So, for our stop on the tour, I jumped at the chance to ask authors Lisa Henry and Heidi Belleau a few questions. I was impressed with their willingness to answer all my questions frankly and without hesitation. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing from them as much as I did.
Charlee: How did Bliss come about as a project for the two of you? And/or as a story you wanted to write?
Heidi: We’d just finished King of Dublin and were eager to work together again. We’d been spitballing some ideas when Lisa brought up a story idea she’d come up with. She sent me the first couple thousand words she’d written on her own, and I loved it! So we went from there.
Lisa: It was one of those vague ideas that you start writing, and then lose impetus. Luckily Heidi liked the idea, and we ran with it!
Charlee: Every good book has many angles, but usually there is some guiding focus. Did you have a focus when you wrote Bliss? If so, what was it?
Heidi: For me, I guess, it was all about writing a good person doing terrible things. Can they still be good? When you exploit someone without knowing you’re exploiting them, what does that make you, ethically? Does it change who you are? Corrupt you? Can you be forgiven? What do you have to do to move past it?
Lisa: Very much so. There’s nothing I love more than exploring morally gray areas. And BLISS is full of them. We have one MC who is unknowingly doing terrible things to the other hero, and the other MC who has had a chip implanted in his head because he assaulted an innocent man. But I think both our MCs are good guys, and their motivation is good — but do we judge a person on their intentions or on their actions?
Charlee: Rape has long been a sensitive but frequent subject in romance; from forced seduction, to traumatic back story, to rape fantasies. Where do you feel Bliss fits into that landscape?
Heidi: I’ve written rape in lots of different ways: as an erotic fantasy, as a terrible backstory, as an aspect of realism in the life of a character . . . Here I’d say it’s definitely meant to be a visceral source of horror. BLISS is a thriller and the rape serves that end. Really, we’re telling a story about having free will and bodily autonomy taken away from you, and for me personally, considering my background and my fascination with the subject as an author, I just couldn’t leave it out.
Lisa: I think rape was essential to the story, and it is definitely presented as a horror. Humanity being what it is, I think that if you gave any person absolute control over another person, it certainly wouldn’t be unusual for that control to be abused. History bears that out, over and over again.
Charlee: Did you set out to write this as a romance? Do you consider it a romance?
Heidi: Well, there is a love story of sorts, although I don’t know if I’d classify it as a Romance. Basically we have two characters: one of whom has free will and is ignorant of the fact that the other doesn’t, and one who has no free will. They’re intimate with each other. Can there be any hope of love or a relationship between them considering the barriers of power and ignorance keeping them apart?
Lisa: That’s a tricky one! I think that while there is romantic love here, the relationship between our MCs begins so unevenly that there are more important things to develop between them first: honesty, and respect, and trust.
Charlee: Did you ever consider a non-HEA ending? (Thank you for the ending you chose, btw!)
Heidi: I don’t think it ever occurred to us, no! Which is funny, because we talked a lot about The Stepford Wives as an inspiration while we were writing. If you know the movie, you’ll know that it was recently remade. The original has a chilling, thriller ending that’s like a punch to the gut. The remake goes a different, lighter route that feels almost sanitized. I definitely think the original is the superior of the two, and yet writing BLISS we didn’t even consider an ending like that! (Or at least I didn’t! Maybe Lisa has a different answer to this.) But I got into writing M/M because I was so sick of queer stories having unhappy endings and I guess even in a story like this I couldn’t get away from that! Maybe we should write an alternate ending, too . . .
Lisa: Actually, I seem to remember an email where I definitely wanted to go for a much darker ending. Heidi very sensibly talked me out of it.
Charlee: How did you find the compass for Rory? It seems like a step too far in any direction could make him seem anything from weak to despicable.
Heidi: You know, I really can’t say that we did find the compass. That’s going to be something that’s really up to the reader. Some people are going to sympathize with him and admire his (eventual) heroism. Others are going to despise him from the word go, and I really can’t say either reaction is right or wrong. The whole debate is kind of the thrust of the whole book. Rory is ignorant and through that ignorance enacts some pretty terrible evil. He ignores his instincts, and Tate suffers for it. When he’s finally confronted with the truth, though, he acts quickly to rectify his wrongs, even at great cost to himself. But is that enough? I can’t say.
Lisa: Agreed! He’s a guy in terrible circumstances — not as terrible as Tate’s, but still pretty awful. He’s unknowingly part of Tate’s torture, and, however much he tries to redeem himself later, some readers are going to hate him for not doing more sooner. On several occasions he ignores his misgivings because he wants to believe the best about his new home, and because it suits him to do so. Rory’s the sort of guy who will never really forgive himself for that. It’s up to our readers to decide if they think he’s suffered enough!
Charlee: Was it difficult to make Tate’s character come across, despite his circumstances?
Heidi: Yes, and I think actually we used that. You see Tate pre- and post- chip, and there are these glimpses of character that otherwise you just don’t have. That’s how thoroughly the chip dismantles him. It’s eerie and I think it makes it a little hard to relate to him or really know him, and I think that’s exactly what we were going for. It’s offputting.
Lisa: It was interesting to write Tate pre-chip as this foul-mouthed smartass guy that Rory never gets to see, and then turn him into the sycophantic anxious slave. Post-chip, I don’t think he’d be as sympathetic a character if our readers hadn’t seen him before. Post-chip Tate is obsequious and in many ways pathetic. It’s only his flashes of memory, and the glimpse of the guy he used to be, that keeps him from basically turning into an object.
Charlee: Will you be writing more in the Bliss world?
Heidi: As far as we know, no. Right now we’re planning a completely consensual contemporary erotica with daddykink. 😉
Charlee: If readers are just discovering you as authors and want more, which of your books would you recommend as a “read next” book?
Heidi: Well, if you liked Bliss then obviously I would suggest “King of Dublin”, which is by Lisa Henry and myself and is a post-apocalyptic story that also deals with slavery and autonomy and morality. If you are more into the sexual depravity aspect of Bliss, then I’d suggest from my backlist “The Flesh Cartel”, which is a story of human trafficking I wrote with Rachel Haimowitz (and has just finished, so if you were waiting for it all to be released, now’s your chance!) If you want to read something from me that doesn’t include rape, then I’d suggest my Rear Entrance Video series, which are a series of erotic new adult contemporaries with a lot of humour and heart.
Lisa: I’ll recommend Heidi’s “The Flesh Cartel” too! It’s a great read. From my backlist, if you like contemporary BDSM with a bit of angst and a bit of sweet puppy play, I’d recommend “The Good Boy” co-written with J.A. Rock. If you like sci fi with a creepy edge, and two MCs who find themselves sharing a psychic link, you might want to check out “Dark Space”. I’m writing the sequel to that now!
Charlee: Thanks for the opportunity to read Bliss and ask you a few questions about it!
Heidi: You’re welcome, and thank you for your very thoughtful, chewy questions!
Lisa: Thank you so much for having us!
For more stops on the Bliss tour see the schedule by clicking the tour banner.
And please join in the discussion by commenting on this post.