I got to sit down with MJ Roberts to talk Playboy, rock music, and her current series, Hard Rock.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was ten. Before that (and still) I wanted to be a famous rock and roll star. When I was ten I started writing stories and decided that was easier. (HA!) I looked up what magazines were buying stories and who was paying the most. Playboy was paying the most so I wrote a story about breasts for Playboy. (I never sent it. I felt my ten-year-old perspective wouldn’t be appreciated.)
What has been your best experience as an author so far?
Meeting J.R. Ward at a writer’s conference!!!! I think she’s the best metaphor writer on the planet. I expected her to be the broody silent type, but when I met her I found out she was just like me!!! Quiet at home, but funny, playful, and approachable out in public.
What sort of challenges have you faced as a writer? How did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge is getting my story in front of enough readers. My stories have interesting twists and hot sear-your-toes-tingling sex scenes, but they also have really deep messages that help anyone who reads them, so I want everyone on the planet to have a copy.
Have you learned anything really cool or interesting while researching your books? What’s been the weirdest research you’ve ever had to do?
I did a series set in Montana. I’m from NYC originally and have never even been to Montana, so I learned a lot of things about that state, especially about farming and ranching, things like growing seasons for flax and cherries.
What’s been the weirdest research you’ve ever had to do?
Without a doubt the weirdest research I’ve done is about gay male sex scenes. As I’m not a male, or gay, writing realistically from the gay male perspective meant I really had to know my stuff. I know stuff about gay male sex I never knew existed. While not everything I’ve learned appears in my books, there was definitely a ‘holy shit, people do that?!’ learning factor. It would be pretty hard if someone were looking over my shoulder and I’d have to say, ‘No, no, really. I’m not into that. That’s just dry academic research! Really!’
How do you research and plan your books? Do you find outlining helps or hinders your process?
I’m not a big planner, as I tend to go by the seat of my pants a lot. I show up, the muse tells me what to write, and I take dictation.
I have a 4-act chart that I’ve made up that’s an extension of Gwen Hayes’ chart and Eric Edison’s chapter beats. I put up the chart on a ‘notes’ file on my computer. (It will have general things like ‘first kiss’, ‘break up seems impossible to resolve’.) Underneath my chart I put another table that’s a monthly calendar. I’ll look at the first chart and when I get to a beat I’ll put that in the calendar. (Ex: Thursday, August 12, first kiss under the stars at the planetarium.) Sometimes I’ll fill in a few of the specifics in the calendar before I’ve written that page in the book, and move them around on the calendar if necessary. I type the calendar in black ink and turn the writing to light brown after I’ve written that scene.
I find this “chart” and “calendar” outline system is extremely helpful.
Still, I’m more of a dream it up, see it like a complete movie person than an outliner. The heavy hitting outliners like JR Ward and Debbie Macomber probably produce more because of their intense outlining practices, but the idea of heavier outlining makes me ill.
I generally only do in-depth research AFTER I’ve written a book. I don’t want to get swallowed down the Internet whole chasing info I might never use.
Tell us a little about your writing nook! Favorite tea/coffee/writing snack?
Unless I’m on vacation, I always write in my office. My desk is huge, crowded, messy, as is my office. I’d love a neat office! How come I don’t have magical office elves that clean everything?!
As soon as I sit down to write, I’m hungry!!! I don’t want to write—no, no, no, I must go eat something instead! Anything. The kitchen table leg will be fine. I take a deep breath and remind myself that this is just resistance. I tell myself, ‘Write for 15 minutes, if you’re still hungry you can get a snack then.’
Generally, mint tea, cherries, and Rise Real Food protein bars carob coconut flavor are my favorite snacks. I’m also unreasonably fond of avocados with salt and pepper sprinkled on them. I cut an avocado in half, season it, and eat it right out of the skin.
If you watch first seconds of this video of Nicolas Cage acting as writer Charlie Kaufman from the film Adaptation, you’ll get my snacking mode. RESIST. No snacks until after four pages.
Of all of your own characters, who would you most want to date?
ALL OF THEM!!!! Seriously, they’re awesome. My guys are tormented, alpha sexy guys with kind hearts. My women are funny, fierce, innocent and horny real people! I have a soft spot for Ryder Chord of Rock Hard: Chord Brothers, Book 1, because he’s the first guy of the Rock Hard series and I love it so much. Also, he’s a drummer and I definitely have a thing for drummers. (So much so, I married one.)
What project are you currently working on?
I’m working on book 6 of the Rock Hard series, and I’m working on turning book one of Rock Hard into a screenplay to sell it as a series.
What’s next for you?
RITA award? Amazon Prime series? Caribbean vacation?
What are some things your fans might not know?
I read an average of about four hours a day. I teach five creative writing classes including Superheroes: Epic Battles of Good and Evil, that uses superhero scripts to teach budding writers how to write lovable characters and kick-ass action scenes.
I’m an audiobook narrator. I’ve worked with some of the best actors in the business to narrate books that have a male and female point of view. So if you want to get your book turned into a great audiobook, hit me up! I love voice acting and novels, so this is a win-win.
M.J. Roberts is the author of seventeen novels, including the popular Rock Hard: Chord Brothers series, and over twenty short stories; she’s won six literary awards including first place in the Literotica Summer Lovin’ Contest 2015 for Risk Your Heart and the April 2019 gold medal from Literary Titans for Rock Hard: Chord Brothers, Book 1.
M. J. Roberts is a writer, editor, songwriter, audiobook narrator, and professor of creative writing. With more than two million copies of stories in circulation worldwide, Roberts is well-loved for creating characters who feel as real as your most cherished friends.
M. J. Roberts works to diligently to create believable, lovable characters, witty dialogue, prose ripe with metaphor, exciting plot twists, fast-paced action that keeps you on the edge of your seat, and romance scenes that sizzle.
Roberts also writes under the names Mariah J. Roberts and Natasha Action. Roberts is originally from New York but lives in the southern United States for the purpose of endless comic material. A modestly humble egomaniac with a penchant for superheroes, she’s married to an awesome professional musician (a.k.a. The Rock and Roll God). She is too busy tormenting imaginary characters, watching them fall in love, and counting her blessing to pursue her longtime goal of rock n’ roll glory herself. A self-proclaimed nap expert, in her dreams she’s a rock star.
via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
or at MJRobertsWriter.com
About the Book
Tell us a little about your new release!
The Rock Hard series. These are rock and rollers on tour. The series starts with Ryder, who had an extremely tragic trauma in his past that he never got over. There’s a through line in the first three books, where all the brothers have experienced the same trauma as teens, but they all have a different relationship to it, and different vices they’ve used to cope and not deal. Now that they’re older they’re ready to face it and step up with the help of the women they fall for.
Where did your inspiration for the book come from?
Part of it started from reading Lauren Blakely’s Big Rock series. This is about a series of friends (one of whom works at a jewelry store) in Manhattan. I thought, wait, what if I did a book like that but with brothers who are rock and roll stars on tour? I’m married to a professional musician so I know the life probably better than any fiction writer out there. The next thing that came was a one-liner for each brother, telling about his addiction but rationalizing away the behavior. This made me think, ‘What happened to these guys to make them so traumatized?’ and ‘How are they going to get over it?’ After that I was off to the races, writing faster than ever before.
Did you outline the story, or dive right in?
I dove write in.
How did your characters come to life?
Really easily. But it wasn’t too hard as I have so many guitarists, bassists, singers, and drummers in my life, it was easy to take playboy man-whore traits from one, and witty one-liners from another.
Did you do any cool or interesting research for this story? What did you learn?
There’s a LOT in this series that’s right out of my husband’s life. Every time he comes home from a gig, there’s fresh material. One day in the middle of summer he came home and said, “John was wearing a wool hat today.” When I asked why my husband said, “His girlfriend bit part of his ear off.” What? “What can you expect, bassists, they never listen.” Excuse me while I write that down.
I often tell my husband. “Everything you say can and will appear in print.”
The research I’ve had to do for this series was PLACES because each day is in a different city. All the guys in the band go sightseeing before load in. So I’ve learned all the tourist attractions in major cities all over the world.
What was your favorite part of working on this story? What was the most challenging?
I always say, my favorite part was writing those two delicious words, ‘The End’. I think on every story my favorite part is snappy dialogue. The most challenging is probably convincing myself that writing sex scenes is okay. Part of my brain still asks, ‘Why do you write that?’
What’s next for this story – is it part of a series? When does it come out?
Books 1 – 4 of Rock Hard are currently available on my website (and everywhere else). Book 5 is completed, but will need a few more rounds of editing. Book 6 is halfway done.
When I’m halfway through every book I have the same thought, this is the book I won’t be able to finish. I’m at that point now. Pray for me, because you want to meet these guys.
At about 2:19 AM I finally fall asleep. At around 3:30 there’s a soft knock on my door. I’m fully awake in an instant. Remembering how Lexi needed me when water was dripping on her head I jump up, run to the door and throw it open.
“Lexi, what’s wrong!” I put my hands on the side of her face. I search her expression, which seems, I don’t know, slightly scared, worried. Which makes me worried.
“Lexi, what is it?” I ask.
But she doesn’t say anything. She just stares up at me. She’s wearing a short, silk burgundy-colored robe I’ve never seen before.
“Lexi, what is it?” I ask again. “What do you need?”
“You,” she says.
I blink. I stare down at her, and my brain refuses to understand. My tongue plasters to the roof of my mouth. Lexi reaches up and touches my biceps, and the spell that has me frozen is temporarily broken.
“Ryder? Ryder, say something.”
I blink again.
“Lexi. I’m not sure what you mean. I’m right here.”
Her voice is soft. So soft I have to bend down a little to hear her. I’ve been playing drums long enough that I have a bit of hearing loss.
“I can’t sleep without you. I haven’t been able to sleep since Detroit.”
I straighten up. “Sure you have,” I say like an idiot. “You don’t toss and turn. You don’t get up.” I think of myself, the hours I spend staring at the ceiling of my own bunk.
“But I don’t really sleep, not well. Not deep sleep. Not like I slept when I was with you.”
Lexi takes a step closer, and the smell of bursting orange blossoms wafts up.
“Ryder…” she says softly.
She opens the sash of her robe, and it reveals a mostly see-through, burgundy-tinted babydoll nightgown that barely reaches the top of her thighs.
“Lexi, we can’t.”
She closes that last inch between us and plants a tiny kiss on my chest. The barest of touches.
And I snap.
I grab her, haul her up my body, and smash our lips together. In two giants steps I’ve got her pressed against the wall, her legs wrapped around me, all the pent-up need and want I’ve been so good at keeping caged in, tethered, is pulsing out into her. I fist her hair, tilt her head, and plunder her mouth.
Fuck. God. She tastes so good. Incredible. God. Fuck.
“Lex…” I say as I break away.
“More,” she breathes.
“We shouldn’t,” I manage.
“Right,” she says, but then she kisses me again, and fuck, I don’t give a damn, because, yes, this is Lexi, and all I can think about is tasting her again, more, yes. How soft her tongue is and how out of control I am. I carry her to the bed and part of me tries to reel it in, take it slow, but I don’t want to. Not even a little.
I want to devour her. Every single inch.
Lexi. My Lexi.
Then I’m on top of her and nothing has ever felt more right in the whole world. The blood is pounding in my ears, and I kiss down her neck and then my hands are on her breasts, God, her breasts. I can’t think, everything becomes a haze of pure lust, heat, a throbbing sound of need, the contrast between hard and soft, and the perfection of our rhythm together.
I manage to break for a second. “Lex, are you sure?”
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