When I started reading romance I began with the sweet, mildly sexy stories from authors like Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz. Then, as my exposure to the genre grew, so did the subgenres of romance in which I was introduced. After 17 years of reading romance novels I have come to the conclusion that I'll read anything and everything. At least once. Probably a dozen times. Truly I do not have limits. I do not have standards. I do not have judgment.
Authors will occasionally creep into my DMs and anxiously ask if I'll read their totally and deliciously filthy romance, detailing all the content warnings but sheepishly requesting that I give it a chance. Let me tell you...you should never feel embarrassed about the content of the books you write or the content of the books you read. I'm the girl reading 50 Shades of Grey proudly on my college bus. I'm the girl who spent last night regaling my husband's friends about my reddit post entitled Buckets of Cum. I'm the girl who, when someone asks me what I'm reading, will announce that I'm reading a BDSM book featuring Disney villains.
So, when I stumbled across Orc romances via the brilliant Instagram stories of author Eliza MacArthur, I knew they were truly something special. She even went so far as to break down how realistic "buckets of cum" would truly be (it turns out it's not that realistic but we're more than happy to suspend our disbelief for this storyline, right?). After reading the filthy, fantasy Orc series--Orc Sworn-- by Finley Fenn I wanted to continue down the naughty Orc path and someone recommended the sweetly romantic Girls Weekend by C.M. Nascosta.
When my reading was finished and my soul was totally sold on big green orcs with huge dicks and a massive possessive streak I did what I always do after reading books I truly adore: I reached out to the authors and pleaded with them to do me the honor of being interviewed for this blog.
And they accepted because I am exceptionally charming and desperate. So, without further adieu, please welcome Finley Fenn and C.M. Nascosta to the stage. And buckle up because this will be a long one.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: First off, can you tell me what started you on the path of writing monster romances?
Finley Fenn: For me, romance stories have always been a huge source of escapism--it's such a relief to be able to disappear into a fantasy world without chores, work, bills, and the news! However, a few years back, I seemed to get stuck in a glut of books with perfect dukes, princes, and fairy kings who were all gorgeous, rich, charismatic, obliging, AND faithful (hahaha). My suspension of disbelief was shot, and so was my easy escapism! I desperately needed a palate cleanser, so I decided to write about the hideous, broke, stubborn asshole hero I was craving.
I originally only meant to dabble in it for my own amusement, but it just kept spiraling… and soon I was COMPLETELY obsessed with this orc book I was writing. And after a whole year of returning to it again and again, I finally decided to just put it out there and see what happened. It was such a delight to discover that I wasn’t the only one who needed some down-and-dirty monster heroes in my life!
C.M. Nascosta: I’ve always been a monster lover! My first crush was on Swamp Thing, I was bitterly disappointed when the Beast turns into some Chad at the end of the movie. I’ve always been drawn to the character the “hero” is trying to take down, so the seeds have been planted since childhood.
I’ve only been writing fantasy romance for about two years, but I’ve been writing for ages. An artist I had been friends with during our fandom days (the incredible Ilustrariane) was on a mermaid kick about three years ago, and I began writing a story to go along with her drawings (the first two draft samples of which are available on my free masterlist) and it was just so, so nice. At that point, I had just come off finishing two back-to-back emotionally taxing novels, and I needed a break. I was also at a bit of a crossroads—I had a very demanding 60+ hr/week job, my fandom days were long behind me, and I had received the professional advice of both an agent and another romance author to rewrite the first chapter of my novel (the second one) and pitch it to Harlequin immediately. Which I did! The problem was the first chapter set up the second chapter, which set up the third...by the time I was done, I had rewritten a third of my book and I hated it. And then I REALLY needed a break.
I started my monster romance blog—Monster-Bait—in August of 2019, and it gained steam much faster than I had anticipated. The first piece of writing I posted there was the first three chapters of a mothman story, which led to a series of shorts about a witch and a drider, and by then the blog had blown up. I wrote Girls Weekend straight through in October of that year (in addition to starting a second orc novel) and I didn’t look back. If someone would have told me then that in 2021 my high-stress job would have disappeared in a pandemic and I’d successfully be paying my mortgage with Patreon writing monster love stories, I probably would have laughed myself sick, but here we are!
Romantically Inclined Reviews: You both have written Orc romances and I'm curious to know...there are so many different interpretations of orcs in the media (mostly negative depictions, but not always!). How did you decide what route you wanted to take with your depiction of them (skin color, mannerisms, attitudes, world-building, etc)?
Finley Fenn: Since I was looking most of all for my romance fix, I started by digging through a variety of sources, and focusing on what I wanted most in a rough-and-tumble alpha anti-hero. Big, growly, aggressive, dangerous, determined, and messy (heh)… but also with a distinctive culture, religion, history, and code of ethics.
Once I’d worked through it all, I ended up drawing a lot of inspiration from Old Norse legends and culture… those wild old Vikings from the sagas were often VERY orc-like, ha! I’m also a bit of a language geek, and tried to give most of my orcs’ speech a strong Old/Middle English flavour. And as I’ve written these books, I’ve been continually inspired by SO many incredible artists who have so generously shared their orc interpretations with the world.
Finally, you can’t talk about orcs without talking about Tolkien. And while I still love Lord of the Rings, and can’t deny its massive influence in our cultural imagination (and therefore also my books) — I absolutely recognize the equally massive issues with how Tolkien described and depicted his orcs. I truly want my stories to be part of our larger reclamation of orcs, and a deeper exploration of the other side of the story.
C.M. Nascosta: Oooo, interesting question! My orcs are not at all based on the LOTR species with whom they share a name! I frankly don’t know enough about the lore of WoW orcs to determine if they have too much in common with my boys, but big, buff, and green is what I prefer visually!
The thing I love most about writing fantasy is the freedom to leave behind the utter bullshit of our world. I can make up the rules as I go along. So while some of my characters deal with issues to which readers will relate (particularly my Elvish girls,) other characteristics are left at the door. You’re not going to find a high level of toxic masculinity in my books, nor do I care to make my already physically imposing characters degradingly misogynistic. I’ve been a woman in corporate America for too long to find that sexy, and so I avoid writing it. (It should come as no surprise that I have zero appetite for bully romance, despite its popularity.) My characters deal with speciesism and classism, body issues and community expectations...and no one race is free of those issues.
Because the Girls Weekend narrative takes place in my Cambric Creek universe (modern world just like ours, where multiple species live in cities and towns, side-by-side) I didn’t need to give a ton of background on their specific clans and customs...at least in the first book. Much like our own society, there’s less pressure to practice your faith, for example, without the expectations and judgment of an entire community; less pressure to marry within your species and raise your children speaking the language of your grandparents when you’re the only one of your kind on the block. I’m also not a big fan of—brace yourself—endless world-building. I’m out here living the ADHD lifestyle babyyy, and I don’t need to hear about the hierarchies of this race and the proclivities of that one. Tell me what I absolutely need to know and get back to the characters, please and thanks. I also don’t love the idea of creating such a detailed idea of “what this monster-type is like” to the point that one character of the species is nearly indistinguishable from the next? Tate and Khash are night and day different, and it owes to their different life experiences and personalities, not their species.
What IS the same across the board: for my orcs, culture is very rooted in clan and tradition. Family comes first, honor above all, loyalty to clan. There is sexual freedom, career freedom, my orcs can do whatever they want with their lives...but the clan is the final authority, and to go against the clan is to be cast out of one’s community. Oaths are not broken; promises, once made, are promises kept. Marriage is bond made for life, children are raised by the community. Readers have already met two orcs who’ve been ousted from their Orcish communities, thought they don't know it yet, and you’ll learn more about the Orcish way of life in the next book.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Some of your orcs are merely possessive, but some have curious kinks (for instance, exhibitionism, pain fetishes, voyeurism, breeding fetishes, etc.). How did you decide the level of kink your monster romances would have and have you ever stopped and thought, "Is this too much?" RIR Note: it's never too much.
Finley Fenn: One of my favourite parts of writing is creating and exploring characters… and one of the best parts of writing sexy books is then getting to ask the crucial question, “What delicious stuff is THIS character into?” Haha. So for me, the kinks/bedroom preferences really grow from the character’s own history, hangups, and personality.
That said, my “tolerance bar” for sexy stuff is pretty damn high these days (I fully blame years of reading fanfiction!)… and I do worry about going too far for some readers. So once I finish a book, I usually go back and tone things down… and once I hear beta reader comments, I usually scale back even more. (So yes, believe it or not, what you are reading is the “tame” version, ha!)
Romantically Inclined Reviews: It is my understanding that you started writing monster romances as a serial author? Can you explain what those are and how the process differs from writing a full-length novel? What led to you deciding to write/compile them into a full-length monster romance novel and did you find the process challenging?
C.M. Nascosta: Soooo...yes and no? I’m a novelist,
I’ve always been a novelist, and that’s what I am first...but I’m also (marginally) capable of writing short stories? I absolutely struggle with shorter narrative arcs...which is why Girls Weekend, which started out as a 30k word novella, now has a story too big to be told in three books. GW was never a collection of short stories cobbled together as a book, though—it was written as a novella from the first word, in the span of about three weeks. (I cut the first installment at 50k+ words, so it’s too long to be considered a novella, in truth. Short novel is more fitting) That being said, I’ve also written several short stories that take place in the time period between Girls Weekend’s ending and the point where Parties picks up.
I’m old-fashioned in the sense that when I first started writing, workshopping in critique groups and writers circles was the norm. The trend in self-publishing over the last few years has shifted to authors churning out book after book, writing as fast as they can, minimal time editing, and then slapping up the latest offering with a few days rest before diving into the next, and I just can not do that.
When I first began building my brand, my strategy was to spend a year establishing a solid readership before publishing, and I worked my ass off during that year. I published a piece of writing a week on my blog, some of which were short stories (that are still there to be read) and longer-form drafts of ideas I had for publication work. I know it’s not something most authors do (although there’s a good handful of authors out there posting draftwork on Patreon!) but it was a strategy that paid back dividends for me. Girls Weekend had a super strong debut, and I’ve not spent a single penny on advertising.
What I do post on both my blog and Patreon page is draft work of workshopping chapters, short stories, and ideas for future full-length work. Everything on my blog and Patreon is unedited first draft work, and the for-publication pieces all go through several rounds of rewrites and edits once they workshop online. One of the next pieces I’ll be publishing is a novella that, like Girls Weekend, first appeared on my blog in its first draft form, posted in several installments, because trying to read a 30k word story on a blog page is an optical nightmare, but it was conceived as a full story before the first word was ever typed out.
Beyond that, I’m really not sure there is a difference in serial work, you know? You have to plot the same way, you need to have strong character voices and defined arcs, you need to know your characters inside and out...the difference is posting those chapters for limited consumption before releasing the whole. Now that Amazon is jumping on the serialized bandwagon, I’m rather glad I have that experience!
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Does anyone you know in "real life" read your work or is it your best kept secret?
Finley Fenn: So I can absolutely assure you that my wonderful (yet deeply conservative) parents will NEVER read these books! However my husband has read
The Lady and the Orc, and while he admits that dominant, well-hung orcs are not his personal passion (shocker, haha), he has also been unbelievably supportive of my writing. He deals with the appalling amounts of time I spend on it, he helps make decisions when I can’t handle them, he’ll go on spectacular rants on my behalf about the various frustrations that arise from this whole indie publishing thing. He also feeds me, because otherwise I’d exist on snacks and caffeine. Ahhhhhh, he’s amazing. I’m going to go hug him now.
C.M. Nascosta: Ha! My family does know, but they’ve not read any of it. My cousin is a book blogger, and GW was featured on his blog before release, which outed me to the people who didn't know at that point, lol!
I think if I were slaving away at my laptop after coming home from work each night with nothing tangible to show that I was doing “real writing” (omg, don't you hate that phrase?!) there might be more of an effort to hide things, but the fact that they know this is how I’m paying my bills, they know I sold through four cases of books on Etsy (because the empty cases are still sitting in my living room, ha!) and they know I work with a professional artist. My sister keeps tabs on how many patrons I have, my mom was texting me every night for the first week after the book came out to let me know it was still ranking in the top 10 in fantasy romance and erotica.
I would prefer if they didn’t read it, but they know what I write. If they choose to wade into reading, that’s on them!
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What is your favorite part of the monster romance community?
Finley Fenn: I’ve definitely been completely awed by this community. My fellow indie authors have given me SO much guidance, encouragement, and kindness — I don’t think I would still be doing this without their support.
And oh my god, my readers are WONDERFUL. They make me laugh, they inspire me, they help me out with various questions and quandaries, they feed my orc artwork addiction, they make the rough days better. I still don’t know how my grumpy, growly orcs attracted such a generous, open-minded, and empathetic bunch, but I feel SO honoured and humbled to share my stories with them.
C.M. Nascosta: Everyone is so nice! It’s honestly a really lovely place to be, both in the “published author” realm and on social media. The online community is simultaneously tight-knit while still being very hands off, and as an introvert, I appreciate that. One of my WIPs is a fae world novel, and I’m blown away by how excited people get when they learn you’re working on a similar project as them—just this week alone I’ve had conversations with the artist that did the special edition dust jackets for Sarah J Maas, an Instagram-popular model who does fantasy/fae photo shoots, and the creators of a brand-new book box. People are willing to collaborate, share ideas, extend their platforms to help others...it’s very rare I encounter the person who has an attitude of “No, this audience is just for me.” Those people exist everywhere, but fortunately, they seem to be in relatively short supply in this genre community. And of course I have to shout out the monster romance community on Tumblr—incredibly kind, intensely supportive, and littered with talent.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What are some of your favorite monster romances and authors that orc and monster fans should be on the lookout for?
C.M. Nascosta: Tiffany Roberts is one of my favorite writers in the genre, and Tiffany Roberts is wonderfully supportive and helpful. I love their diverse heroines and swoony monsters! And if you’ve not read everything Grace Draven has put out, what are you even doing with your life?!
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Finally, what are you working on now that fans and curious onlookers can look forward to?
Finley Fenn: I’m currently working on Orc Sworn #5, with the sly, snarky scout Joarr as our hero! Joarr will definitely meet his match with our practical, quick-witted heroine, who is NOT willing to tolerate his cocky nonsense (well, most of the time, hehe). It has been so much fun to write, and should be out early this summer!
I’ve also been planning out a spinoff MMF book for later this year, and if all goes well, it will focus on Baldr, one of my favourite orcs! I originally wrote Baldr as a random side character, but have grown to love him SO much that I just can’t stop sticking him in everywhere! I did give him a deeper story in The Duchess and the Orc, but I think there’s still a lot more to explore and resolve between him and Drafli. (As well as a lot of angsty fun to be had when the inevitable drama-bomb goes off, hehe...)
Beyond that, I do still have SO many stories I want to tell in this world. I really hope readers will keep sticking with me for the ride!
C.M. Nascosta: Parties will be the next installment of the Girls Weekend story, and I am endeavoring to keep it under 100k words right now. It’s set several months after the end of GW, and readers will follow the girls through several different parties—a trip back to the nudist resort, fraught family meetings, and a trendy club soiree—and the progression of their relationships. I’m not ready to release a title on the third installment at this point, but it’s already mapped out.
Moon Blooded Breeding Clinic is a novel set in Cambric Creek, and will be the first real introduction to that community and the Hemming wolf pack. When the desire for a child becomes a desperation, Moriah, a human, seeks out alternative means of conception, leading her to visit a most unconventional clinic. Picking a donor from an online catalog seems as easy as shopping for shoes...until she receives her first shot, triggering a heat that has her dreaming of being bred by a stranger, over and over. Developing feelings for the werewolf she’s chosen is not a part of the plan, but she quickly learns that even the best-laid plans can and do go awry.
I don’t have a release date for this werewolf romance yet, but it will be out sometime before the end of the year!
The aforementioned novella that previously appeared in draft form on my blog is Morning Glory Milking Farm, and I apologize in advance for the volume of bodily fluids dripping off every page. It’s a minotaur/human story, takes place in my Cambric Creek universe, and has been demanded by my readers, so it’s in production!
There are a handful of other pieces in the works—a fae world novel, Beneath the Linden Trees, which is a medieval fantasy-set orc romance, a drider anthology, and a few others—but those are the ones I’m actively working on! In the meantime, my Patrons receive an exclusive short story every month, in addition to for-publication draft work and physical mailouts, there is a free masterlist of short stories available on my Tumblr blog, and a Girls Weekend short goes out with every issue of my sporadic mailing list! I'm on every form of social media and I love chatting with readers, so please come say hello!
Thank you all for taking time out of your schedules to delve deep into the psyche of monster romance authors. I was so lucky to have both these amazing authors willing to spend their time answering my nosy questions and indulging my fetish of getting inside details into author's lives and I so hope that you'll give them a chance and check out their books!
Both authors have books on Kindle Unlimited, so there's no reason not to give them an opportunity to blow your mind (but if you're like me and don't have KU I shall let you know that consider them very reasonably priced for their length and content!) It might not end up being for you, but at least you won't be able to say that you were bored. And you'll have tried something new and exciting and that's always a delightful thing.