Firsthand Research by Anna Denisch Genre: Erotic Romance
A sweet and sensual friends-to-lovers erotic romance about finding self-love, overcoming childhood traumas, and learning to go after the future you want in this world.
They say you should write what you know, but popular romance novelist Alice has never had a problem writing about love when she herself has always been single. Yet her newest writing venture, an erotic romance, is proving to be more challenging than she expected.
Enter Tony, the ‘playboy’ grandson of her publisher. After being kicked out ‘for his own good’, Tony’s looking for a place to stay and a job where he can prove himself. And what better use of his skills is there than helping Alice as her erotica research assistance?
In an exchange that works in both of their favors, Tony agrees to work as Alice’s writing assistant and Alice agrees not to tell his grandmother what he’s up to. But once Tony gets a real job at a rival publishing firm, his grandmother’s response threatens their newfound peace. If they want to preserve their futures, Tony and Alice have to come to terms with their feelings, both for each other and themselves.
A true learning to love yourself story where friends-turned-lovers-turned-romantic partners find their own peace in a world that’s designed to tear them down.
“What about that dress off to the side?” Tony asked. He craned his neck to see it better.
“Oh, no,” Alice said. She stepped over, blocking Tony’s vision with her body. “I couldn’t. It, er, it doesn’t fit.”
“Then why did you bring it?”
Alice chuckled that nervous chuckle of hers and turned around, closing herself back in the closet as she changed once again. Tony checked his watch, glad they had started this an hour before their reservation. She never answered his question.
“Alright, it’s either this or I’m wearing jeans.”
Alice emerged again. This time she sported a blue button up shirt laying gently over a pair of tan pants that seemed to have a permanent wrinkle to them. Tony squinted, looked at the pants, then looked at Alice.
“Jeans it is!” she declared. She threw her hands in the air in defeat and turned back to the closet.
Tony jumped up and raced over, beating her to the door, holding it open. “C’mon,” he said, leaning over her. “Just try it on.”
“It doesn’t fit,” Alice insisted. She crossed her arms and challenged him. Tony never was one to back down from a challenge.
Smiling at her, Tony reached behind him and felt around for the dress in question. He pulled it off the rack and held it up to her. So that was the real problem. The dress was an off-white top, sheen in places where it didn’t count, with slits running down the sides from the shoulders to the elbows, allowing the perfect peek of skin to show through. It was attached with a small bow to the skirt of the dress, a tan and white tartan style that rose to well above the knees. And with a neckline that swooped down below the collarbone, Tony knew exactly why Alice didn’t want to wear it.
“Doesn’t fit,” Alice said again, her voice shy and uncertain.
Tony held the dress closer to her, tilting his head. “Looks like it would fit to me.”
“Well, looks can be deceiving.”
Alice snatched the dress out of his hand and ducked under his arm, stepping into the closet. Tony frowned and let her close the door. He wandered back to the bed and plopped down, trying to imagine what Alice would look like in that dress. You’d be able to see the delicious curve of her thighs, the smooth texture of her skin, the delicate structure of her neck. She would look divine, especially with a necklace, gold, draped around her, something like a jewel fitted right between her breasts.
The door opened and Alice started to say something, but just kind of squeaked a bit. Tony sat up, his head spinning. Not because he had sat up too fast, but because the image he had just made in his head was nothing compared to the reality of it standing before him.
Alice was beautiful. The dress hugged her curves in all the right places and left just enough to the imagination. It was, obviously, something a little outside of her comfort zone, given the way she was hunched over a bit, arms scrunched forward, fingers picking at the hem of the skirt. But even in a non-confident pose like that, Alice was an image of pure beauty.
“See?” she said, not looking directly at him. “It...it doesn’t fit.”
“What are you talking about?” Tony asked. He surprised himself with how easily he found he could talk. “You look…” he struggled to find the right word, sputtering and mumbling because no word had been invented that described it.
“Awful?” Alice suggested. “Trying too hard? Not dressing for my body type?”
“Stunning,” Tony offered. It wasn’t the perfect word, but he wanted her to stop saying such terrible things.
Alice frowned and turned to look in the mirror that hung on the back of the closet door. “You’re lying,” she said.
“I’m really not.” Tony stood behind her, itching to reach out and touch, to place hands on hips, run fingers over arms, press legs to legs. But he held his hands behind his back and resisted the urge. He looked at Alice in the mirror as she did. “You’re beautiful.”
“You’re just saying that.” Alice relaxed a little, her shoulders no longer hunched, her head held a little higher. With every bit of confidence, she looked even more amazing in the dress.
“I’m telling the truth,” Tony argued. Alice turned around to frown at him. He couldn’t hold it back anymore, reaching out to gently cup her cheek. “You always look beautiful.” He dropped his voice to a whisper, feeling an electric heat between them, like the last time he had helped her pick out an outfit. “But in that…” he let his gaze wander, drinking in the full sight of her. “...You’re the most beautiful woman in the world.”
“Is that what you tell all your dates? It’s a very good line.”
Tony’s attention snapped back up. Alice was looking down at her feet. Tony had told a lot of men and women a lot of things. But this one he meant. He moved his hand from Alice’s cheek to her chin, lifting her head back up.
“This isn’t a date,” he reminded her. Then he shrugged with a smile. “What reason would I have to lie?”
Alice pouted a bit and turned back to the mirror, studying herself. “You-you’re sure?” she asked. “I... I look okay?”
“Better than okay. Perfect. Amazing. Wonderful.”
Alice bit her lip and hummed and hawed for a bit. “Well, I suppose...I suppose I could. I-I have been meaning to wear it for a while now…”
“You are free to wear whatever you want,” Tony said, stepping away. “But I meant what I said.” He held his hands out to her. “Stunning.”
Anna Denisch was born and raised just outside of Baltimore City, but she has never called it home. When not traveling around the world or daydreaming about dragons, she spends her time looking at books she wants to read without actually touching them. She received her M.F.A in Creative and Professional Writing from Western Connecticut State University and considers daily if she is just insane enough to take her family’s sometime suggestion of getting a PhD.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Okay, honestly my biggest pet peeve is modern adaptations of Shakespeare plays that still use the old language. I just…I get it, because the writing is like, half of the deal but like…if you’re gonna modernize it, MODERNIZE IT
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
I am a very stubborn and spiteful person who would 100% spend my last day trying to prevent it from being my last day. (With the people I love, of course, just in case).
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Stubborn, Spiteful, Storyteller (that’s the title of my one-day forthcoming autobiography, ya know, once I hit it big and famous)
What inspired you to write this book?
This was a very personal project for me. I kind of wanted to write the love story I always wanted to live, it just so happens that that story is apparently a sexy version of a classic Hallmark Romance.
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Firsthand Research?
Alice is 100% a self-reflection, not even gonna try and hide that cause anyone who knows me will see it easily. Tony is a conglomerate of all the guys I’ve had hard-core crushes on (both real and fictional). He’s the mish-mash of real people that made the perfect love interest. I hope others find him as loveable as I (and Alice) do. And I really hope he magically becomes real (next book idea, perhaps?)
I also wouldn’t lie if I said that some of the side characters weren’t based on some real people I know, both good and bad. Writing is therapeutic, after all.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I mostly enjoyed being able to share it with my friends as I was going about the process. Writing can be a very lonely venture, and it’s hard for me to keep at it without that external validation (I’m working on it, though). Having my little online community eagerly absorb each chapter, provide valuable feedback, and keep urging me for more took out a large chunk of that imposter syndrome.
How did you come up with the title of the book?
Okay, fun story time! The original title of this book was 10,000 Hours. It was called this because of a love song by the same title that I listened to on the radio while writing the first draft, and I just went ‘hey, that song fits these characters pretty well!’ The problem, however, (as was pointed out by one of my early readers) is that the title made perfect sense in my head, but I never actually went and connected it in the book itself. And I couldn’t find a way to do it naturally. The song talks about how it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill/know something etc. and how that’s how long the guy is gonna spend getting to know the girl and all that. Which relates to the two main characters getting to know one another on the deeper levels.
But since that wasn’t really landing without the explanation, I asked my friends for some ideas on alternate titles. That’s why I really must give full credit of the final title to my friend Faye. I might keep 10,000 Hours around as a series title if I decide to actually write the next idea I had for them.
Who designed your book covers?
The lovely and amazing Arka! You can find them over at https://arkawidya.site/
They are an amazing and wonderful artist who does both cover art and interior layouts! They also do commissions for other art like prints and have commercial pricing available built into the packages. If you ever need anything art related, I highly recommend them!
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
That more people (at least people within my online community) relate to the main characters than I thought. Much like Alice, I worried about sharing some of the parts of me/my characters because I figured it just wouldn’t land with most people. But a lot of early readers either had similar experiences as the MCs or just could understand their struggles/points of view. Which is why books/movies/entertainment of any kind are so meaningful! They show that, no matter what, we’re all human and we are not alone and that there are others out there that can share your feelings and expressions. So, I hope that some readers can also learn that they are not alone in their experiences as I did <3
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
Funnily enough, I actually had control over this story?? Which is weird because normally my characters just do whatever they want and I have to keep up! I don’t know if it’s just because the characters were more personal, and thus more aligned with what I wanted, or if, for once, I started out writing exactly the story that they all wanted told. The only character who threw me for a loop was Nana Ash (a.k.a The Big Bad). And it wasn’t really until the ending/epilogue that she let me in on her ideas and plans. Much like a character in my book, she played me like a well-tuned fiddle ?
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
(In no particular order)
Markus Zusak – The Book Thief, The Messenger
Andy Weir – The Martian, Artemis
Claire North – The First 15 Lives of Harry August
Cat Sebastian – The Queer Principles of Kit Webb
Emily Skrutskie – The Abyss Surrounds us
L. A. Meyer – Bloody Jack Series
How long have you been writing?
Since I could hold a pencil. But I’ve been telling stories since I could speak semi-coherent sentences.
What do you think about the current publishing market?
I think it’s highly saturated and yet unnecessarily gate-kept. There are a lot of writers and fantastic books that should be published but that aren’t because mainstream publishers only want the next hit that will appeal to as many people as possible. And since indie or self-publishing continues to have such a stigma to it, niche topics just aren’t making the market.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
I used to read a LOT but then I got a degree in fancy reading and decided that I would apparently not read ever again (mostly). When I can be bothered to read, I usually go for SF/Fantasy or, surprising even to myself, non-fiction on the memoir/self-help end of the spectrum.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
If you could see the number of WIPs I have right now….
I usually have a bunch of half-strewn about ideas and pages, but when it comes to actively working on books, I tend to focus on one for a short amount of time and then shift to another. That’s kind of how I ended up with three finished manuscripts all in about a few weeks of each other.
Pen or type writer or computer?
I am mostly a computer writer because my handwriting is awful, and I think too fast for my wrist to keep up. (My fingers are much better at the pace I set). However, whenever I’m traveling, I love nothing more than having a notebook(must be hardback and spiral bound) and pen ready to go, even if it’s easy enough to use my laptop.
A day in the life of the author?
Wake up. Lay in bed and daydream about books you’re working on. Get out of bed and eat an easy to make breakfast because people who have the energy to actually cook in the morning scare you. Do your day job (blog writing, wa, hecking, hoo). Complain about your day job to your roommate when they get home from work (night-shift nurse). Procrastinate doing your day job as you fiddle on your phone/play around online. Eat lunch and finally finish your gosh darn assignments for the day. Tell yourself you’ll work on your other freelance projects, but really just read or do some light housekeeping instead. Get the fear-spiration halfway through the afternoon and do some other freelance work. Eat dinner, also something easy because, honestly, people who have the energy to cook at all are terrifying and should be feared. Tell yourself you’ve done a lot today and sit down to either watch TV or play a game. Decide at 9 or 10 at night that it’s the perfect time to actually work on your own writing. Don’t get enough done. Rinse, wash, repeat.
Do you have any advice to offer for new authors?
Don’t listen too well to anyone’s advice (even mine! Yes, this one right here!) Everyone has their own style and format, and anyone offering advice on writing will be inflicting their own judgement (including me, who is a writer that disagrees with many so called ‘writing advice’ posts I see all the time).
The only advice you should follow with 100% devotion and intensity is as follows:
Keep writing, and don’t give up.
Describe your writing style.
I have a very sparse, quick style. I think it probably stems from my ADHD, but I’m not a reader that enjoys a lot of descriptions or anything like that. In fact, I tend to just blow through most of it and just get on with the story. I think physical description is good if it lends to the plot or character development, otherwise, a) what does it matter? And b) I want to let the reader imagine their own world/setting, not tell them about it.
This is a very unpopular writing style/opinion on writing and reading, even among my close friends and family.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I think a lot more readers want your originals than may be expected. The way I see it, there’s an audience for every book, so why write for a different audience when you can fill that one’s needs just fine.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Well…the longest book took me…7 years.
The shortest took a month.
(First drafts anyway)
Do with that what you will.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
I believe in writer’s being blocked. But I don’t think there’s any one surefire way to get around it or that it’s something that can’t be dealt with. I think writer’s block is a big term that covers a lot of issues creatives face on a daily basis. But it’s easier to just say you have writer’s block so people leave you alone to deal with it.
Follow the tourHEREfor special content and a giveaway!