This interview is part of our Paranormal Romance Author series of interviews where we interview some of today’s top paranormal romance authors! Be sure to check out our past Paranormal Romance Author interviews to learn more about various authors working in this growing genre!
For this week's interview, we talk with Ophelia Bell, author of such series as Rising Dragons, Black Mountain Bears, and various paranormal / erotica shorts.
Today, Ophelia talks about how she got her start as a writer, her first series entitled Rising Sleeping Dragons, her current series Immortal Dragons, her current releases, and much more! We also have an excerpt from her latest release, Dragon Splendor!
For our readers who are unfamiliar or new to you and your work, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I have a penchant for steamy stories and have been a voracious reader my entire life, but my first love was fantasy and adventure stories. My mother read Lord of the Rings to me as a child, which I remember vividly. She also read a lot of Kipling to me, so my writing as a result contains a lot of fantasy and adventure.
My real life has been a bit of an adventure, too, including leaving my small-town home in the North Carolina mountains at twenty-six to move across the country to California. I was chasing a man, not a dream, but I found my dream in writing almost fifteen years later. I didn’t keep the man I traveled for, but found an amazing tattooed bad boy who would be willing to follow me across the country, if I asked. He won’t have to, though, because I love where I am and prefer to stay home nowadays and explore the adventures in my head, with any one of my six cats or my husband to keep me company.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer and was there an event which triggered the decision?
I discovered fan fiction well after most fans do. First as a reader, because I was dissatisfied by the romantic resolution of an RPG video game I love dearly (Dragon Age 2 – How dare they make Sebastian celibate?!). Then I tried my hand at writing my own fan fiction – The first was a very steamy (of course) crossover fic between the Witcher (games and books) and Dragon Age, that when I revisit now realize it’s structured eerily like the Wizard of Oz.
When that started that Witcher/Dragon Age fic, it opened the floodgates and I couldn’t stop. I eventually wound up rewriting a Mass Effect fan fic to publish as a contemporary romance, which was picked up by a small press. Then I decided to try some purely original ideas on for size and independently publish those. That’s where my Sleeping Dragons series began.
Looking at your back catalogue, it appears you started writing both paranormal romance and erotica. Was it your plan to write for both genres or was it a case of the story dictating what genre it was going to be set in as you wrote it?
My original plan was simply to write short erotic fiction to see how well I could earn money by self-publishing it.
I started with paranormal because the idea of writing dragon smut really excited me more than anything. The contemporary stories I wrote and published my first year were just for fun, to try on the kink niche, but I always fall back on the paranormal because that original world and those characters I created keep calling to me.
I do have plans to write a contemporary series soon, based on the characters from the original novel I had published. The rights revert to me this month, and I plan to completely cannibalize that book and write a proper bad boy romance series (it was my first novel – I’m not too proud to admit it probably shouldn’t have been published). I also have plans to write a cyberpunk romance series based loosely on old Mass Effect fan fics.
What can you tell us about your first paranormal romance series, Rising Sleeping Dragons?
When I came up with the idea, all I knew was that I wanted to write a filthy series about dragons. I was shooting for over-the-top erotic and I didn’t want to include what I consider to be the expected dragon tropes… the first thing that popped into my head was virgin sacrifice and that didn’t appeal to me. I wanted a heroine with some balls, who knew what she wanted, who was fearless enough to go get it. I wanted Lara Croft to be my heroine. So that’s what Sleeping Dragons became. It’s a story about a group of explorers led by my version of Lara Croft (her name is Erika Rosencrans), who are trekking around the world in search of a lost dragon temple so Erika can prove that dragons really exist.
I knew sex had to be a key element of the series because I was aiming for paranormal erotica at the start, and what better way than to make the dragons feed on sexual energy? The romance bled into the first series a little at a time when I realized I wasn’t satisfied with the relationships being based purely on sex and I wanted more depth to my characters and their relationships. I wanted them to have REAL happy endings, not that other kind of “happy ending.” Like a lot of Paranormal Romance, the whole “Fated Mates” thing takes hold pretty quickly and continues throughout the series, but there’s still a hell of a lot of hot sex going on because the dragons need it to survive.
You released eight six books in the Rising Sleeping Dragons series during its first year. Is this a case where you had some of the books ready to be released when you made them available or are you just a fast writer?
They were short so it wasn’t a huge feat. Sleeping Dragons in total amounts to just under 90,000 words, which were all written and published between December 2013 and May 2014. My most recent release in my newest dragon series, Dragon Splendor, was around 110,000 words and was written and published in about three months total (I started writing in early January 2017 and published in early April 2017). I tend to write fast and also write a very clean first draft.
Around this same time, you came out with Sleeping Dragons Rising Dragons. What can you tell us about it and does it tie into your Rising Dragons Sleeping Dragons series?
After finishing Sleeping Dragons, I knew I wanted to write another series following the characters after they completed the ritual from the first series. Sleeping Dragons really only encompasses the events of a single night. Rising Dragons covers about nine months, give or take (long enough for the first twin baby dragons to be born). So far, almost all my paranormal titles are part of the same world, and the reading order can be found on my website http://opheliabell.com/reading-order/ The books really ought to be read chronologically for the best experience, but each one has its own story arc and HEA. With the later books (beginning with Dragon’s Melody and the Stonetree Trilogy) I branched out into bear shifters, falcon shifters, and nymphs, and all these creatures are featured heavily in my “Immortal Dragons” series.
The only exception to this connection is my very newest release, Hot Wings, which is a short novel set in Milly Taiden’s “Paranormal Dating Agency” Kindle World. Even though that book features dragon shifters, there’s no crossover between it and my world.
Oh, I should also mention that the entire Rising Dragons series is being produced in audio, so if anyone loves audiobooks, they’ll be available in a few months!
After, roughly, your first year of being published, you released some stand-alone erotica novels such as Dragon's Melody and After You. Does any of these two have any paranormal romance qualities to them? I'm thinking Dragon's Melody does based on its synopsis.
Dragon’s Melody is absolutely a paranormal ménage romance and is linked to the Sleeping Dragons world. It’s the only purely standalone dragon story so far, though Melody herself first appears in “Breath of Love,” which is the 6th book in the Rising Dragons series of novellas, and the events of her story fit into the larger chronology of the series. Any series purists out there should know that it takes place after Rising Dragons ends.
After You, on the other hand, is just a contemporary erotic short story. It is probably my bestselling contemporary short (it’s about 10k words) and I am planning to adapt it into a novel which will be the first in that bad boy series I mentioned earlier. The characters from After You were based on the characters from that first novel I published. The novel itself is a love triangle where one guy doesn’t get the girl in the end. I itched to rewrite a part of it to turn it into a ménage where both guys get the girl in the end (literally… I refer to it as “my buttsex story” much to the chagrin of my favorite beta reader, Nora Ash…
In March April of this year, you released Dragon Splendor which is part of your latest series, Immortal Dragons. What is Dragon Splendor and how does it tie into the Immortal Dragons series?
The Immortal Dragons series picks up after the end of Rising Dragons and features the six members of the infamous “Dragon Council” who are referred to in hushed tones throughout the Rising Dragons series. They’re the immortal lawmakers of the entire dragon race – three brothers and three sisters who were the progenitors of the race and each embody a different color: Red, White, and Black for the males, and Green, Blue, and Gold for the females.
The six siblings are tasked with leaving their sacred home (the Dragon Glade) and seeking out their own mates from among their sister races. The four “higher races” (dragons, ursa, turul, and nymphaea) have never interbred before, but prophetic dreams have told the dragons that interbreeding is required now in order for them to vanquish their oldest enemy – the Ultiori – in a war that’s looming.
Dragon Splendor is the fourth book in the series (technically Book 3, if you don’t count the prequel), and follows the Golden sister, Aurum, on her quest to find the pair of mates she’s dreamed of. She’s seen one man in the flesh, but he ran from her. The other has yet to present himself, or so she thinks. All she knows is that she’s unreasonably attracted to the ursa male who is helping her find the mate who fled. The problem is that he doesn’t look a bit like the ursa from her dreams.
Dragon Splendor is a very steamy paranormal ménage romance, as are all the books in this series (and almost my entire catalog, for that matter). It also picks up the story of a little easter-egg I put into my spinoff bear shifter series. The Stonetree Trilogy features a mysterious holiday visitor at the end, and his arrival in that book is explained in Dragon Splendor. He also happens to be the ursa featured in the excerpt I’ve included below. The Stonetree Trilogy is discounted until the end of June (June 15-30).
Your previous series have a high number of books in them. Do you see Immortal Dragons following suit or is it too early to tell?
There will be seven books in the series by the time it’s finished: the prequel (Dragon Betrayed), and one book for each of the six siblings that follows that dragon on his or her quest to find their mates. Dragon Rebel (Book 4) is due in August, Book 5 in December, and hopefully Book 6 in April 2018. We’ll see if I can stick to that schedule. I’d also like to write another standalone novel that ties up a loose end in the series, so I’ve got dragon books planned every four months for the next year, which I intend to stagger with the shorter, hopefully quicker contemporary novels. That means a new release every two months if I don’t go completely bonkers trying to accomplish it.
One thing I have to ask about is in regards to the covers to your books. They are some of the best on the market, in my opinion. Do you have a hand in the cover design?
I adore my covers and lucked out with one of the most amazing cover artists: http://dusktildawndesigns.com/ She’s done *almost* all my covers. I have done one or two myself, but used hers as the guide for quality. The only dragon book cover I did myself was the “Sisters of Flame” cover. The rest were all Dawn’s work.
On your website, it says you’re working on two new stories, Hot Wings and Dragon Rebel? Is there anything you can tell us about either project?
Hot Wings is my newest release (due June 1st), and is a 50k standalone novel set in Milly Taiden’s “Paranormal Dating Agency” Kindle World. It’s every bit as steamy and delicious as any of my other dragon books. However, it is set in Milly’s world, not mine, and there is no crossover. The only similarities are the sexy dragon shifters and the panty-melting ménage sex scenes.
Dragon Rebel is the next installment in my “Immortal Dragons” series, which follows the red dragon brother from the six on his quest to find his mates. The problem is that he’s found them… he just can’t have them until he takes care of some unfinished business. I’m hoping to release Dragon Rebel around the first week of August 2017.
And lastly, can you share an excerpt from your latest release, Dragon Splendor?
Aurum waited as still as possible, debating whether to leave and fly solo, or make herself known and go sit beside her sister. She itched for some kind of physical activity to alleviate the ever-growing craving for sexual energy, and a good, long fly would do wonders.
Nicholas’s masculine musk reached her, and her mouth watered at the scent. He smelled fertile, his aroma promising an abundance of energy if she had any inclination to take him to bed.
She didn’t, of course. The heat pulsing between her thighs was just evidence of her waning power, which she was sure would last long enough for her to reach the male who still regularly haunted her dreams even after finally seeing him in the flesh.
Males, she reminded herself. There was a second male in her dreams besides Calder, but she had begun to doubt Fate’s message, because that second dark-haired man had yet to appear. Still, that he continued to be a regular presence in those nighttime visions gave her some hope. She’d first believed that he was an ursa male, though she was more inclined to think he might be another satyr with the way he kept appearing at the river’s edge in her dreams, and was more convinced than ever that getting into the Haven was how she would find him. Maybe Calder had a brother or friend who was fated to be her second mate? And if he was indeed an ursa, then passing through the Sanctuary would give her more opportunities to meet him.
Closing her eyes, she could remember the scent of that second male, as wet and fertile as Nicholas, but the difference was that the stranger from her dream was hers as much as Calder was, and he was most certainly dark-haired and green-eyed with golden, sun-drenched skin and an aura that drew her own energy to it like a seedling reaching for the sun.
The thoughts made her cravings even stronger and she shifted on her seat, squeezing her thighs together to ease a bit of the pressure in her core.
Through the branches, she saw Nicholas rake his fingers through his hair and turn his head slightly, lifting his chin and inhaling as though savoring his freedom.
In a low, deep voice, he said, “I know you’re there, Goldilocks. And I’m guessing it isn’t watching your brothers that has you so worked up. Do you know you smell like sunshine when you’re excited? It’s the oddest thing, because I only pick that up from you. Your sister’s not shy, but she’s also nowhere near as worked up whenever I’m around her. Not at all, in fact.”
Aurum tensed, irritated by the fact that he’d sensed her presence. She shouldn’t have been surprised—he was an ursa prince, after all, being the firstborn son of Maia Stonetree. She’d just rather not have to have a conversation with him again after their failed first interaction.
“It isn’t you, I assure you,” she said. “My sister and I simply have different thresholds …”
His booming laugh stopped her and her eyes widened as he turned. His pale silver gaze bored into her as he stalked over, ignoring the scratch of branches against his bare chest. He was uncomfortably close when he bent over, his nose millimeters from hers. She leaned back, scooting as far as she could, her heart pounding. He inhaled again and grinned.
“Sunshine, Goldilocks. I bet if I spread your thighs, light would pour out from between them the same way water gushes from Gaia’s Source. Yet you seem intent on locking it up for a man who abandoned you.”
“Us …” Aurum whispered, barely able to get the word out past the tightness in her throat. Nicholas inundated her senses, heat pouring off him in waves along with that unbearably delicious aroma. He leaned closer to her, hands braced on either side of her thighs.
“What was that? I couldn’t quite hear you over the sound of that rushing river between your legs.”
“He abandoned us, Nicholas. You said so yourself.”
His jaw clenched and his irreverent, playful look vanished. “No … for him to have abandoned me, I’d have had to belong to him. But I don’t. You’re the one who does. Unlike you, I am free, for the first time in my life. Free to choose …”
He trailed off, and the flecks of green in his eyes seemed to burn with inner light, like his irises were a pair of opals filled with verdant fire. He swallowed thickly and swept his gaze over her again before shaking his head as if to clear it. He stepped back so abruptly, Aurum blinked in surprise. His eyes widened for a second, then he turned and crashed away through the brush, not even caring that there was an easy path not two steps away.
Aurum sat staring after him, her mouth agape and her pulse racing in her throat. She stood on wobbly legs, her vision swimming for a moment before she made her way out onto the sparring platform where her brothers and sister had stopped what they were doing to stare off in the direction of the ruckus of the huge ursa’s retreat.
“What the fuck is up with him?” Gavra asked. “Thought he still had a few rounds left in him. He has more energy than Kris on a good day.”
“I don’t know and don’t care,” Aurum said. “I need to fly. Are you three with me?” She spread her arms out and called on her powers to shift. Without waiting for the others, she launched herself into the air, aiming directly for the giant, glowing orb in the sky.
She closed her eyes and let the winds buoy her as she soared into the light. Nicholas’s voice reverberated in her ear, sending a shiver through her entire body, though her core heated even more. She inhaled the cold wind, seeking to flush the scent of him out of her head and the lust out of her body.
He wasn’t the one. So why couldn’t she stop thinking about him?
Many thanks to Ophelia for taking the time to do this interview. You can learn more about Ophelia and her work and/or follow her on social media using the links below:
Tumblr: http://opheliadragons.tumblr.com/ (NSFW)