Annabeth Leong is visiting again today with her latest release, Not the Leader of the Pack which is a sexy shifter read. Keep reading to get a glimpse of this book through an interview with Ms. Leong and through my review. Make sure to leave a comment for your chance to win a $10 Breathless Press GC! So let's get right to learning all about Annabeth Leong........
TSP: Knowing what you do now about the publishing business, would you have done anything different career-wise?
AL: I would have become willing to send out my fiction submissions sooner. When I was really young, as soon as I started making noises about wanting to be a writer, a well-meaning adult bought me a subscription to Writer's Digest. In retrospect, I wish I hadn't been so excited about this or read the magazine so faithfully, since what that did for me was scare me senseless. I got so concerned by all the advice meant to give pause to an over-confident adult that I spent too long terrified of making an editor think I didn't know what I was doing. I sat on a lot of work that never made it out into the world. I'm not saying it was all brilliant, but I think it would have been better for me to start giving things a shot at a younger age.
The thing that got me over this fear usually sounds awful when I explain it, but I'll try. I worked for several years at a national magazine, both writing and assessing pitches and work from freelancers. Our editorial meetings were pretty much exactly what I'd always feared. People made fun of other people's ideas, told mocking stories, and laughed at the freelancers' pitches and writing ability. That's awful, of course, and I hope it's not universal. However, knowing I could survive that gave me a lot of confidence. I spent a long time worrying that people would make fun of me if I sent in my work. Those editorial meetings gave me a new answer to that worry. "They might indeed be making fun of me," I could think. "Am I going to let that stop me?"
TSP: What does your writing space look like and do you surround yourself with any particularly inspirational items?
AL: I don't have a regular writing space. I like to do whatever works for me. Some days that's a laptop at the kitchen table, other days it's lying propped up in bed like an invalid, and other days it's pen and paper at a desk at the local library. If I'm desperate for inspiration, I usually find that in the notebook. I take the tech way down, go for a walk, sit in a park, and open to a blank page. It's amazing what gets written when there's nothing else to do.
TSP: You've written in many different genres, are any a particular favorite of yours?
AL: I'm deeply nomadic at heart, and I love being able to write different things when I'm in different moods. I do worry that this makes my body of work confusing for some, since if you like one of my books, you're probably not going to find another that I've written that's "just like it." In fact, I was trying to compile a short story collection earlier this year and found that, though I've published a lot of short stories, I couldn't come up with very many themes that applied across stories.
As far as romance subgenres go, one of my favorites to read is "marriage of convenience," though I've not yet written one of those. A couple years ago, I think I would have said fairy tale retellings were my favorite genre to write, but I don't think that's true for me at the moment. Most recently, I've been very excited about lesbian contemporary erotic romance. I think this paragraph alone expresses how untamed my interests are.
TSP: Beyond its synopsis, what do you want us to know about Not the Leader of the Pack?
AL: I would like people to know that, while the romance resolves fully in this book and it can be read as a stand-alone, I intended to give only a glimpse of the secrets of the larger world. I've outlined several additional books in this series, and my plan is to gradually reveal more about the situation with the Werewolf Council—which is really a thorn in the side of the characters in Leader, as well as the characters in the previous title, Not His Territory. Later titles will make meatier revelations about the world, as books begin to deal with characters who can't solve their problems by simply disengaging from the Werewolf Council. Ideally, a reader would enjoy the romance and get intrigued about the unworkable nature of the Werewolf Council's policies. I've seen several reviews talking about how annoying the Werewolf Council is and, believe me, they're supposed to be! This problem will come to a head later.
TSP: Which of your books would you like to see made into a movie and who would play the main couple?
AL: Well, though this blog tour is about a paranormal erotic romance, I'm going to jump genres to answer this question. I wrote a contemporary erotic romance about a married couple called Get Laid, which was published by Ellora's Cave. The main characters are trying to deal with the stress of home renovations, and they wind up embarking on a plan to get laid more, which leads to wild mishaps in their car, at the wife's mother's house, on the top floor of the public library, and everywhere in between. I'd love to see this as a movie starring some great comedic actors. Since I loved Red 2, I'll steal part of that cast, and make Byung-Hun Lee play Jason, the male lead, and give the female lead role of Eliza to Mary-Louise Parker.
TSP: Of all the heroes you've written, who's the most heroic in your opinion?
AL: I don't want to slight Neil Statham, the hero of Not the Leader of the Pack, since he's certainly very heroic, but I'm going to give this honor to the hero of my forthcoming book from Breathless Press, Run for Your Love. Zach Paul, the hero of this book, is a pacifist facing the zombie apocalypse (and he applies his pacifism to the zombies as well as to the people, so he's really at a disadvantage!). Zach isn't the typical ultimate fighting hero, but I think it takes an incredible amount of heroism for him to stand by his principles when they're constantly being tested. This answer probably reveals my views on what heroism really is.
TSP: How has the digital revolution affected your career and how you market yourself? Do you have an eReader yourself?
AL: It's opened up many more opportunities and options, especially since I prefer writing in niches that aren't particularly accepted by traditional publishers. Small presses such as Cleis have long been fighting the good fight, but it's awesome to see so many new places interested in erotica and erotic romance of all stripes.
This all feels very natural to me, since I have a background in technology and do a lot of reading online and electronically. At this point, my mental image of a "book" is not necessarily a physical object, and I'm surprised whenever I'm reminded that many people are just making this transition. However, it's great that not everyone has embraced e-books, since I think it means there's an even wider potential audience for work published in these formats.
As far as marketing, I'm still figuring that out, along with many others. I think an important shift thanks to the digital revolution is that work stays in print much longer and is easily accessible. A reader can look me up on All Romance, say, and find a whole bunch of titles, all of which are available right then and right there, and can be read immediately. This is immensely different from how things would have been back when a reader would need to look for my stuff physically, and might then discover that not all of it is in print, or some of it's on back order, or some of it won't make it to her hands for several days or weeks.
This is not to disparage physical objects. I still love books in that form, and purchase many of them. As a writer, however, I like that readers can get my work easily through the Internet, and as a reader I like the instant gratification of it. I often buy books in both print and e-book, actually, so I can take it into the bath if I want (print), but then keep it forever without having it take up space (e-book).
I've never had a dedicated eReader, though I have been thinking of getting one recently. I've always read my e-books on my laptop or my phone.
TSP: What's the biggest issue affecting the writing community right now and how would you address it?
AL: I think wild changes in distribution models and company policies create a huge issue for writers. There have been many instances of sudden policy shifts that remove whole categories of erotic books from websites, often inconsistently and without clear policies about what exactly is going on. Amazon is famous for doing this, but there have also been issues with PayPal, other distribution sites, and so on. Most of the time, the books most affected are in niches that are hard to stand up and publicly defend—incest, say, or non-consent. However, I think it is important to ask companies for consistent policies, and, while companies have the right to set policies about what they will or won't sell, the way these policies get applied is often deeply problematic. Many classic works of literature have themes that would get a newer book banned, for example, and in that case, I think banning the newer book but leaving the classic up is a little suspect. Many examples of the content deemed unacceptable in erotic books can also be found in thrillers, horror titles, or elsewhere, often written in a way intended to titillate. This makes the uneven application of bans even more of a problem.
I'm concerned about efforts to police what people can write or read about. A common example is that of grisly murder mysteries—writing and reading in that genre does not make a person a serial killer. Similar logic should be applied to all forms of erotica.
I also get concerned about "bystander books" that get swept up unfairly when huge swathes of other books get banned. Distributors don't currently have a good way to deal with false positives and false negatives considering the amount of content out there. Finally, I do think erotica and erotic romance remain vulnerable to broader bans. Money protects us to some degree, because our books sell, but what's to stop a distributor from arbitrarily banning, say, LGBT content?
The way to address this issue, I think, is to call on distributors to clarify their content policies. They need to be a lot more specific, and more fairly applied. Also, it's very important to have distributors who are open to a very broad range of content—as long as it's well-labeled so that people who don't want it can avoid it, it should be available. Credit card processors are a whole issue unto themselves, and I'm not sure how to solve that one. I do think, however, that it's important to make it possible to access books that it's perfectly legal to write and read, even if they might trigger some people's squicks.
TSP: My site's all about favorite things, so what are your favorite things/the things you can't live without?
AL: My laptop nearly feels like a part of my body. I also love my car, a 16-year-old Honda that's been through more than half the states in the U.S. with me. Sometimes, I imagine myself as a cyborg when I'm driving, since I know its responses so well. Wherever I go, I bring a stack of books, and, though the titles change, I can't imagine living without the stack. Similarly, I couldn't do without a radio or iPod or some form of music delivery. My slow cooker also keeps me alive when I can't imagine getting involved with more complicated cooking.
After years of loyal service to the pack, Neil expects to take over as alpha when his mentor dies. As good as it is to see Juli again, he knows he can’t trust her. After all, she abandoned both him and the pack years ago and never looked back. Neil determines to fight for his rightful position in the pack, even if that means going up against a woman who fills him with an overwhelming urge to mate every time she walks into the room.
Someone needs to lead, and the more Neil and Juli fight, the more they attract interference from those who would control the pack and destroy the ties between them.
Juli smiled for only a second before her expression turned serious. “Neil, I wasn’t ready for any of this.”He tightened his arm around her. “Of course not. How could you be?”
Neil cleared his throat. It was just like her to take him off balance by diving straight into the heaviest part of the conversation. He needed to respond carefully. “Juli, if that’s a burden to you, I may be able to help.”
“I hope so! I don’t know what I’ll do without you staying on as beta. What if people don’t accept me?”
Neil blinked. He’d expected to find her desperate to relieve herself of the responsibility Darrow had dumped on her. She’d left years ago, after all, and had never seemed to spare a backward glance for the pack, or for him. “You mean, you actually want to do this?”
She pulled back a few inches and stared. His body cried out at the loss, and he had to resist the urge to close the distance she had opened between them. “I have to do this. My father used his dying breath to pass this on to me. I have a duty. You of all people ought to understand.”
He spoke before he had a chance to think. “Maybe it’s time to stop worrying so much about duty. Maybe it’s time to think about what’s right for us individually.” He should have kissed her that night years ago. She shouldn’t take this responsibility now, when she clearly didn’t have the resources or the training for it. Both these things could be fixed.
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MY IMPRESSIONS OF THIS BOOK:
Not the Leader of the Pack was a fast-paced read that left me conflicted as to the connection of the two protagonists and their HEA. The storyline made for unique reading and set up interesting ideas for any future books but the hero left me extremely disappointed. Time and again Neil showed himself to be unworthy of the title of hero as he expected to take over his pack when the leader died. Finding out differently brought out the childish side of him and he tried to manipulate and cajole the woman appointed Alpha, the leader's daughter and Neil's former infatuation Juli. He tries to take over via legal means when Juli denies him and when again thwarted he challenges her in a physical contest. All through this he keeps proclaiming his love for her but his actions speak differently, he's acting like a child upset with second place. He wants Juli to stay but only as his second. Late in the story he tries to make amends but by then I'd lost all respect for him.
Juli always felt her father preferred Neil over her. As she loved Neil and was turned away by him after she confessed her feelings, she left home and made a life for herself within the Werewolf Council only just now coming home with her father on his death bed. She never expected he'd name her Alpha but in honor of him she'll do anything to keep control of the Pack, even if she has to banish Neil from her heart forever. She's a strong-willed woman but their mutual hormones continually
get in the way which makes the fight for Pack supremacy difficult. She still loves Neil and wants him by her side but it will take a twist of Fate to get them to their HEA.
The battle between them is waged through words and legal precedents and ultimately by a physical fight with a surprising conclusion. Every step of the way Juli wants nothing more than Neil to rule by her side whereas for him it's all or nothing. The inclusion of agents from the Werewolf Council further complicates things and shows a ruling council that's extremely rigid and wanting to greatly diminish the werewolf side through drugs and other penalties. The few times we witness the character's shift there's an overwhelming sense of freedom and excitement that is just the first sign of rebellion. Future books might very well take this notion of succession further which makes for an intriguing and thought-provoking element.
The action sequences are thrilling as is the character's time spent in wolf form. The romance is at first frustrating but then morphs into overpowering eroticism due to emotional intensity. The heroine is one to admire but the hero left me frustrated and though they reach a HEA I never fully believed their love for each other. Too many bad deeds by Neil left me unsatisfied and a bit disappointed. Fans of the paranormal genre will find this an intriguing read but lovers of romance will be left wanting to hit Neil over the head numerous times throughout the story in this good, not great, addition to Ms. Long's repertoire.
My rating for this is a C+
*I received this book from the author for review in exchange for my honest opinion.
Annabeth Leong has written romance and erotica of many flavors -- dark, kinky, vanilla, straight, lesbian, bi, and menage. Her titles for Breathless Press include Not His Territory, Not the Leader of the Pack, and a contribution to the Ravaged anthology. She enjoys writing about the tension between passion and control that werewolves embody. Unfortunately, when Annabeth loses control of herself, she does not gain the power to change shape. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/
Annabeth-Leong/e/B007UUBXJU/ ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid= 1370186737&sr=8-2
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/
Annabeth will be awarding a $10 gift card for Breathless Press to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour.
-To be entered, leave a comment, along with your email addy (no email=no entry).
-Winner will be chosen randomly from all comments made throughout the tour, so the more you comment the greater your chances of winning. A list of all participating blogs can be found here.
-Giveaway ends at 11:59 PM CST on 9/23.