March 2, 2022

Wine and sweet romance with Eliana West

Wine and sweet romance with Eliana West
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Eliana West is in the Steam Seat! Eliana never imagined being a writer. Originally, she was in retail. But when the economic collapse in 2008 shuttered her clothing boutique, she decided to do NaNoWriMo to “feed her soul” and she was hooked. (Fun fact: Her first book was handwritten!) There’s a ton happening in this ep! We talk about why she chose to write sweet vs steamy, then we take a wide turn to discuss Victorian erotica, before veering back to discuss her work with Writers for Diversity. Oh, and there’s wine! Come join us on this wild ride! 

Connect with Eliana online:


IG: @ElianaWestBooks

Writers for Diversity FB:


Grab a copy of her book The Way Forward, the first book in her Heart of Colton series, on Amazon.



Elle 0:01
Eliana West writes contemporary interracial romance her first book the way forward was published by tule publishing in 2020. When not writing a liana can be found exploring the many wineries in Oregon and Washington with her husband in their vintage Volkswagen Westfalia. Do I have that right? Yes. Named Bianca. I love you. I love that you named your Volkswagen Westfalia. She is the founder of writers for diversity. A community for writers interested in creating diverse characters and worlds. Welcome Eliana to CMC is I'm so psyched. You're here. Oh,

Eliana 0:34
thank you so much for having me.

Elle 0:36
Oh, this is gonna be so fun. Oh, okay. Wait, I have to ask about the Volkswagen. What's the Westfall? Yes.

Eliana 0:41
So it's a vintage Volkswagen camper van. Bianca was born in 1987. And it's a kind of you see driving down the road that kind of looks like a box, okay. And the top pops up, and it's got a sink and a stove and the it folds down and makes the bed and. And mainly, it's just a great way to tour wineries because we can like hit a whole bunch of wineries and then find a nice park and pop the tent and have a little lunch and take a nap. And then. So we have basically a very expensive way of getting to tour twice as many wineries that we normally would be able to do.

Elle 1:28
Oh my god, this is so cool. I love that you're living van life.

Eliana 1:31
We love van life. That's awesome. And we have we have a little piece of property over in eastern Washington that's along the Yakima River that we often on the weekends. That's where we go in the summer. And I always joke that yes, we actually live in a van down by the river. And it's awesome.

Elle 1:53
I read everything I know about Yakima. I know from iCarly. Yeah, so whoever says TV doesn't teach us things have never seen.

Eliana 2:08
I love it.

Elle 2:09
Okay, so I would love to know, when you realized you want to become a writer. Um,

Eliana 2:15
so, you know, what's funny is that I was writing for a while before I realized I was a writer, if that makes any sense, okay. I didn't. I didn't wake up and have this moment of like, I'm going to be a writer. My background is actually in retail. And I had a little boutique that I opened in 2007, just mere months before the economic crash, because timing is everything yay. And, you know, struggled to keep it open for five years. And eventually, just, I couldn't sustain the business. And I was standing in the empty shell of once was my cute little adorable neighborhood boutique, freaking out, really having like a kind of a just moment of like, oh my god, what am I going to do? And I happened to hear a story about NaNoWriMo. And I just thought, you know, I've always been a creative person, I so and I knit and I just was like, I need, I need a creative, I need to do something creative. I need to do something for my soul. That will help heal me from this really difficult experience. And I just wanted to sort of reset my mind. And so I thought I'm gonna do Nano, like, not having a clue about anything. And ever. I had no idea what I was getting into. And man, if I thought running the store was hard. I had no idea. And but I wrote 50,000 words, and it was fun. You did the

Elle 4:08
50,000 and a month. I did amazing.

Eliana 4:11
And I wrote it all by hand. Oh God, um, I know it's crazy. And so I just kept writing because it was fun and it was new. And I was just really enjoying the creative outlet and and that it wasn't, I wasn't making anything for someone. I was just doing it for me.

Elle 4:42
That first story, was it a romance? It was um, did it become anything or is it still tucked away somewhere?

Eliana 4:51
You know it I am looking at the spiral notebooks sitting on my bookshelf right now. Um, it's still sitting there. I do some Time to think that one of these days, I'm going to pull it out and see if I can make something out of it. Right. As we know, the first thing we write is often really awful. So I'm a little bit afraid to go back and look at it, but, but I still actually like the premise of the story. Yeah. So you never know. Never say never.

Elle 5:23
Right? Right. Oh my god, that's so cool. So the Okay, so you've, you've got your 50,000 you've done your novel like you like you've kind of proven to yourself that you can do it. Why don't you continue?

Eliana 5:36
Um, I think because that first story unlocked a whole world of stories that I had in me that I had no idea were lurking, all these characters were lurking in my head. And once I open the door, a crack, they push the door the rest of the way. I love it, and barged in and went, Hey, we're here. Guess what? Oh, and did you hear that this happened? You know, like, oh, and then this person said this, and that was it. I had to write it down.

Elle 6:10
That is really cool. So it had it through all of this have it? Has it always been the romance genre? Or have you dabbled in other genres?

Eliana 6:18
Um, it has always been the romance genre. And I wish I had a great reason why. I, I always kind of joke that just my characters seem to just want to have like, candlelit dinners, and Oh, yeah. And so I was like, Well, I guess it's a romance.

Elle 6:41
Are you a big romance reader? Or were you a big romance reader before

Eliana 6:44
I was a big romance reader. And actually, the one of the first I mean, I remember the first romance I ever read, and it was the harlequin. I can't remember the title. But I remember I kind of remember what it was about. And it was when I was I was a little girl I was maybe I was a early reader and I was a voracious reader. So I was maybe nine or 10 years old, and we had a family friend who was my babysitter, and I found a harlequin on her nightstand one night when I was spending the night at their house and she was babysitting me and I and I remember sneaking it under the covers that night and reading it and and I was hooked that

Elle 7:31
and that was it that from that you were like okay, what what do you love about the romance genre?

Eliana 7:37
Well, I love a happy ending. Yeah, I love the idea that it sounds so cliche but love wins that you can overcome so many things. So many obstacles through compassion and passion. Okay. Love passionate about the person that you're with, and compassionate in helping them overcome whatever obstacles are in their path.

Elle 8:19
Oh, I love that. Oh, I actually love that compassion and passion. That's really cool. That's really really cool.

Eliana 8:28
I'm like, oh, gosh, I sound so like.

Elle 8:33
Okay, so you write sweet. I do. I'm sort of dying to know that first Harlequin that you read. Was that a steamy one? Or was that tame?

Eliana 8:45
No, it was tame. These were hard Quinn's I actually collect vintage harlequins. And I think it's because I'm forever trying to find that first book. And I think it was a harlequin presents. And it was probably from the 70s Okay, so it was pretty tame.

Elle 9:07
I don't know. When did they start getting racy? I feel like in the 60s and 70s there were they were all team there was no like they were

Eliana 9:13
very team. Yeah, I think it wasn't really honestly until the maybe mid to late 80s. Okay, I'm just guessing someone probably can dive into the history of Harlequin better than I can. Yeah, I

Elle 9:27
might do that myself because I just find the whole thing so fascinating. Cuz I have some old. I have, I don't know if they're harlequins. Actually, I don't think that they are. But I have a couple of old ones from like, you know, my grandmother's bookshelf. And, and they're all pretty tame. Like there's, I mean, there's, there are some, I mean, honestly, some sort of eye popping moments. Yeah. But still relatively tame compared, you know, compared to today.

Eliana 9:57
Well, and that's one of the things that I love about them and I have I have from, from the 50s through kind of the 70s is sort of my sweet spot. And I they're like these little time capsules of how we viewed the world and, and relationships between men and women and you know a lot don't age well.

Elle 10:26
No, they,

Eliana 10:28
there's a lot of shockingly, a lot of young Ward's who end up marrying their, their, the men who are in charge of them, which is a little like, okay, that's disturbing. But at the time, I mean, it like said even even just the way they're written the language is language that we just don't use anymore. And so it's kind of fun to go back and look through them and in in, be able to reflect on how far we've come in relationships between men and women.

Elle 11:06
I mean, Victorian pornography, which is like, wow, right? They had it's like eye popping Lee. Right? Yeah, it is so shocking. And you're just like, wait, what?

Eliana 11:19
And that's, and that's the thing, I think, underneath all of this very prim and proper, this veil of prim and proper, is all this other stuff going on? And it's fun to read between the lines. Yeah. Are you really trying to say we really want to have happen here? Because a lot of this is like, there's a lot more going on the way you're, what you're showing us

Elle 11:48
is, I mean, is that why you write sweet because you would prefer that your readers read between the lines of it or or you.

Eliana 11:58
Um, you know, it's funny, I didn't set out to write sweet part of it's just, that's that's sort of my, my style of writing, I guess, if you will, but um, I was just talking about with my sister about this and she's a librarian. She reads romance. She's an avid romance reader and and we were talking about the fact that it's, it's, um, we both and I read all across the spectrum of romance, but it's not about the sex for me so much as it is the the story, the push pull between these two characters. Okay. And so I think that's why I, I focus on that in my own writing.

Elle 12:52
Okay, so it's more about the push the push, pull the banter the I

Eliana 12:57
love the chase. I love Chase. Oh, there's a great, there's a wonderful old Jude Deveraux book, sweet liar. And it's all about the chase.

Elle 13:10
The chase is fun, isn't it?

Eliana 13:12
I love the chase. Yeah. It is fun.

Elle 13:16
I'm kind of curious. I have a curious question about where you find these, these old harlequins? Where do you find them?

Eliana 13:24
All vintage bookstores? Um, every once in a while. I will come across an eBay listing. And if it's a really good, I'm grouping and that I just can't resist them all. I might splurge just a little bit.

Elle 13:45
Oh, that's super fun. Are there any? Do you have any authors from that time period that may have been forgotten to hit the history that you're like, they're like, oh, this this, this writer is great.

Eliana 13:55
Well, you know what's interesting? And I can't speak to a specific writer, but a little known Hidden History of Harlequin is that a lot of these were actually written by men. Really, and a lot were written by gay men who vote under a pseudonym, and wrote these harlequin romances,

Elle 14:22
I had no idea, although I'm not surprised.

Eliana 14:25
And when you know that, it's sort of like, oh, well, that kind of makes sense. Now, some of the dialogue is like, Ah, yep, I get it. So it's really interesting. Um, but there are a lot of writers who so many writers who started as Harlequin authors, and I'm thinking of authors like Jude Deveraux. And, and, and I'm just drawing blank. I just had a moment and it just all flew out of my head. But um, but, you know, names that we're really familiar with now, but we've forgotten that they started as Harlequin writers.

Elle 15:23
Okay. Oh, that's so interesting. That's really interesting. It's kind of like when you have like an actor on a soap like a date. Yes. Hope that breaks out. Yes. Yeah, that's sort of, you know, like, this was kind of almost their training ground. And then that kind of breakout, which is really cool.

Eliana 15:39
Absolutely. That is a great way to put it. Oh, absolutely.

Elle 15:43
I love it. Okay, so have you ever written a steamy scene? Like, did you ever try it?

Eliana 15:48
I have tried to write steamy scenes, and I'm really bad at it.

Elle 15:54
Now, are you just self censoring? Are you being like, overly self critical here?

Eliana 15:58
No, I'm really bad at it. Here's my problem, I am a descriptor, I will spend, if if if unfettered and just allowed to let you know, fly free, I will spend 3000 words describing the vase that the flowers are in, I love to describe the things. And I get so caught up in my head of I'm also very much a visual thinker. And so I'm picturing in my head and I'm trying to write it all and I get so caught up in the Will his hand the hand in then what and in it. And what happens is, I am so caught up in the in the mechanics that I that I lose the passion.

Elle 16:57
Right, right. I know, some authors, and I'm kind of this way where I do get caught up in sort of the choreography of the of the of the action and sort of this goes here and that goes there and you know, what's being crossed and lift and whatever. But then I sort of have to go back and start to build that layering process.

Eliana 17:17
Yeah. And I've tried it and it just for me. I just haven't quite gotten it right yet. It doesn't mean I haven't stopped trying. I definitely would like to get to that point. I I'm just not. I'm not there yet. And I also feel like for what I write, there's so much going on, and they're a little bit angsty. And they're kind of complicated. Topics that putting in a detailed sex scene in the middle of it is sort of like one thing too many. Okay, fair, if that makes sense. You know, it really does. Yeah, it's just like, oh, and wow, okay, and now we're gonna go over here, and we're gonna do in a whole bunch of other stuff just happens.

Elle 18:12
And now we're gonna go have sex. Yeah, we're gonna

Eliana 18:15
go have sex really? Like, you know, yeah. It's too much. So

Elle 18:24
I'm glad that you brought this up, because I did want to talk about your books, because you are writing about some very complicated situations. I am, you know, and these are pieces. These are situations that are rooted in very real histories. Yes. And sort of looking at how that history can have contemporary ramifications. Yes. And like your books, I'm like, sign me up for the whole stack. Oh, sweet thing. I loved reading about them and like looking through the reviews, and everybody is getting so much out of your work. So I want to want to talk about this a bit. What are you writing about?

Eliana 19:01
Um, well, so I I'm writing about race. I'm writing about history and race and families. And it's, it's complicated, right? I mean, nothing is nothing is really straightforward anymore in particularly when it comes to race in this country, and I'm biracial, I grew up you know, at a time when I didn't see a lot of kids like myself, and where we got stared out a lot. We used to joke when we would go out for dinner my parents and I that we were like we were the floor show at the restaurant, because inevitably we'd be seated in the middle of the restaurant and everybody would just stare and You know, these are real situations. And I wanted I personally as a writer just couldn't pretend like it wasn't there. Right? That's not the kind of writer I am. I can't just not. not have it be a part of the story. Right. And I wanted to, because I have this. My family was very involved in the Civil Rights Movement. And I have a pretty special family history. And so people often say like, why do you write romance? You should write about your history, your family, you know, write nonfiction and, but I love the idea that I get to take on these serious topics share my family history, but in a genre that inspires hope.

Elle 20:56
Hmm. Yeah.

Eliana 20:59
Like, what a special what a special privilege. Yeah, that I get to do that.

Elle 21:04
That's kind of I love that. I absolutely love that. I mean, just to sort of you I'm going to be the same you sent me was from your book the way forward. From the heart of the heart of Colton series. Yeah. On the first book, and so we'll be reading into that, but just to sort of take a look at that. At that book is sort of, you know, he was a bully. Yep. Dax was a bully to Kayleigh and and he was raised by a family of racists. Yep. And yeah. When I did that. This is called Mississippi. I mean, that is deep South, right?

Eliana 21:46
Yeah. So so my, my last name is West, and I am a west from the town of West Mississippi. So Colton is inspired by my own hometown. I'm the first member of my family that wasn't born on what was the plantation. My sister and I are the first members of our family. And I spent every summer there growing up. And and again, it's complicated. There are in the whole idea behind the series, is that just like, in my real hometown, there are there are so there are white West's, and there are black West. And some of us are related. And some of us aren't. And it's, you know, it's a complex portrait of, of America. Yeah. And, and so that was sort of the premise for the town of Colton is that there are white colons and black colons and, and they share a history and and that his history is not always convenient. History doesn't always fit into the boxes that we want to put it in. Right. And sometimes it makes us a little uncomfortable, and sometimes it's squishy, and sometimes it's um, but is there, can we you know, it's about exploring those ideas of can we over? Can we can we overcome our history? Because it's our history, but can we? How do we move forward? Yeah, way forward. How do we, how do we, but how do we? How do we take what we've learned from the past? And what do we do with that? In our, to make our future better?

Elle 23:52
Right. And, and I think woven throughout is going to be this really beautiful love story. And I think that, I mean, there are a couple of things sort of like going on in my head right now. So just bear with me, because I don't think you're writing and then love saves the day. Like, know what you're doing. You know, I just want to make that point that that, that what you are doing is something a lot more. It's a lot more complicated than that and really a lot more beautiful.

Eliana 24:22
Thank you. Yeah, I mean, love, love certainly helps. But, um it takes a lot, you know, I just I just celebrated my 30th wedding anniversary with my husband and we congratulations, you we were out for dinner and we were just talking about you know that. Um, you know, there's that passion when you first meet in that you can't get in now and then and then and then there's time together and that in that passion changes and grows and morphs and sometimes There's more and sometimes there's less than, and, and it takes out a fundamental respect and trust of each other to make a partnership that's gonna go the distance.

Elle 25:18
Yeah. Yeah, it's funny because it kind of connects back to when you were talking about, you know, you love the sort of push and pull. And will they won't they that the chase, right, you love the chase. And I think that's the thing that sort of gets all our heart race racing at the beginning of a relationship. And that's why we always write about, you know, nobody's writing a romance about, you know, a 30 year marriage. Yeah. Although I would really love to, but

Eliana 25:51
I'm trying to write romances that are laying the foundation for that. When you finish the book, maybe you know that in 30 years, Callie and DAX are still going to be sitting on the porch having a slice of seven up cake. Watching their grandchildren run around in the yard. Right. Right. I'm trying to give you that base, that solid foundation, right or,

Elle 26:15
but And it's sort of but the process through the book, I feel like is it? Is it their growth? Yeah, although I feel like Jack's showed up, sort of grown out of Yeah, what I mean, terrible things. He was sort of dealing Yeah,

Eliana 26:30
ducks arrived, ready to make amends. He just doesn't realize. It's not as easy as go as walking in to a situation right and going. I'm gonna make amends. Because what if someone doesn't want your apology? What if someone isn't ready? Right? You might be ready, but they're not. And and also in his case, he does not expect to see this is a person that he didn't expect to apologize have to apologize to. He wasn't expecting to see her there. So he's really thrown for a loop that he's confronted with a part of his past that maybe he he felt like he had come to terms with but then when faced with this person realizing oh, yeah, haven't really done the work that I thought I had done. Right, it

Elle 27:31
got a little bit more work

Eliana 27:32
to do that a little bit more work

Elle 27:33
to do. Yeah, yeah. Awesome. Very cool. Can we tie out? Can we talk about it seems like a good time to talk about writers for diversity. Oh, yeah. Um, you know, talk about what that is, and also why you found it.

Eliana 27:52
I'm sure. So writers for diversity is, um, first and foremost, we're a community of writers who come with a common purpose to create diverse worlds and in and characters. And really, it stemmed from having friends in the writing community, that I sort of, I'm not sure how but sort of became the, the resource person where people would approach me and say, Hey, I'm thinking about writing this character, I have a question. And what really became apparent was that people people want to be more inclusive in their work, but they were afraid. And, understandably so and, and so it really became, honestly, I started the group as just if someone couldn't get ahold of me for some reason, or didn't see me at a writers group meeting to ask me a question. I thought, you know, I'm just gonna start this Facebook group. And, and that way, if someone has a question, they can just ask it in the group and we'll circle back around it, I also kind of wanted to open it up and make it more of a dialogue. And, um, and I thought, like, a dozen of my friends would join. And, you know, now we're coming up on it'll be four years here, coming up in the spring and 1500 members and growing and, and really engaged in dynamic community and it really comes from my belief that when we're learning something new, we can sometimes be Listen, we're not always good at it. Right. And, and when we're learning a new skill and having, again, that safe space to come and ask questions, and, and maybe when we're first off Asking questions where we are sometimes maybe in artful in how we approach a topic because we're new and we're learning and I wanted this to be a place where nobody was gonna say, oh my god, I can't believe you. How dare you, I'm so offended that you asked that. And instead of sort of being a welcoming environment, where we can say, hey, that's a great question. Let's talk about it. Let's talk it through. Let's figure it out.

Elle 30:31
I kind of like I, I think that we need more spaces like this, to be honest, I think that there's a lot of, well, I mean, let's face it, it's such a can be so heated and triggered, and upsetting. Yes. You know, um, and, and, and rightfully, shut really, like, rightfully so, you know, because, you know, people's lived experience can be traumatic and horrifying. Right. But I do think for the most part, you know, sometimes people plow forward, and they don't mean to say the wrong thing. Right? They just do. They just do.

Eliana 31:08
Yeah. At the end again, it's because you're learning because you don't know and if you if you don't know, but you want to learn, but you can't ask questions. Yeah. How do you grow? Yeah, yeah. And so I really come from this I, there's a I had the privilege of hearing Stacey Abrams speak. years ago, she's amazing. And, um, she said this thing, and it was so funny, when she said it, I sat I bolted upright in my seat, and my husband, who knows me, so well, very quietly reached into my handbag, and pulled out a pen and a piece of paper. He was like, I know that like, and, and I wrote it down. And I, I put it on journal cards to give to people and I have it on my bulletin board. And I say it probably way too many times in the course of the day, but what she said was, perfection is impossible, but space to grow is always possible.

Elle 32:14
Oh my god, I love

Eliana 32:16
and that is really become my mantra for this diversity work that I've it's, it's, it's funny, that, that that moment in the empty shell of my store, yeah, has so become a purpose, that sort of filled an empty shell inside of me and I didn't, that I didn't know was there. And, and I'm so lucky. And, and, you know, it's funny, I in a weird way, I'm carrying on my data, my grandpa's legacy of civil rights work, right. That's how I look at it. And, and, um, it's really led me on a journey to become, you know, to do a certification in in dei work and, and educate myself and continue to give myself space to grow. And, and it's really a wonderful thing. And I And and, and we do need these spaces, and we do need these communities and, and we need places where you can come to learn, that aren't based in sort of a Brene Brown Brown calls it hate and shame activism. And I think, yeah, you know, so we in the group, we engage in what I call thoughtful and respectful dialogue. Okay, you know,

Elle 33:50
and that's definitely something that is missing, particularly online, I guess, it is so much easier to sort of go on the attack, it seems when you're just sort of like doing it at your keyboard, right? You know, whereas you would never sort of go after so, you know, you would just sort of gently say, hey,

Eliana 34:09
right, not not quite. Right. And I also what I also see happening is a lot of engagement where someone will ask a question, and someone says, No, absolutely not. You can't do that. Without any educational component of it, you know, hay. A reason to consider not using food as a descriptor is you know, for, for someone, someone like me, who comes from a legacy of, of, of having ancestors who were sold as a commodity, using a commodity to describe someone. It's a little icky. You know, to provide context. And to put it in terms of, you know, great, I understand what your intention might be for writing this the way you wrote it. Let's talk about what the impact what potential impact there is, you know, to have it again, to have the to have this be a dialogue and to have this be a discourse, instead of just a person shutting down the conversation. Yeah. And making the person asking the question, sort of curl up and hide away, and maybe not write anything at all? Yeah,

Elle 35:41
I think, Oh, my God, I first of all, I just learned something. So thank you. I had no idea and that just a mess. And I was like, oh, yeah, of course. Um, so thank you for that. Oh. But I just, I think that there is something. Yes. So that because I really am cognizant that I want to write about what our world looks like right now. Exactly. And our world is not all white and straight. In fact, I think I think at this point, like, majority of this country now is is non white,

Eliana 36:17
right? Majority of people in this country identify as multiracial. Yeah, in some way. Yay.

Elle 36:25
Right. So but, but it is this sort of way it can I can I write that I want to write a diverse, a diverse world, but I'm not sure. But can you know, I don't want to say am I allowed? You know, but how do you know how do I do that? How I how do I do that sensitively? How do I do that? And okay, higher diversity in diversity reader, and great, but, but I don't. But I'm not even sure how to write that. Like, I'm not even sure how to get to that point where I'm going to be my favorite city reader to look at what I'm writing.

Eliana 37:02
Right. Yeah. So we talked about, you know, doing doing, we say do the work, right. But it's often that work begins with ourselves, right? And examining our own bias, our unconscious bias, the types of bias that we have I, I refer to it as your your default setting, you know, you're that knee jerk reaction, that first instinct reaction that you have, right, yeah. And and then taking them taking a moment taking a breath to sort of go Hmm, now why is it that I think that way? Or why is it I feel that way about a certain person or certain group of people? And what do I really know? And, and doing some research, and I absolutely agree that a particularly younger readers, and I always share this story about my daughter who is also by she's, she's my daughter. So she's a she's, we say she's a mix of a mix. And, but she was watching the Gilmore Girls. And I and I, I've never seen the show, and she was kind of binge watching it. And I was in and out of the room. And at one point, I stopped. I was like, What is this show about? And she looked at me and she said, Oh, you know, it's small town, white girls doing small town, white girl things. And I kind of laughed. But here's the part that's important, she said, but it doesn't matter, because it's not real anyway. And I think particularly younger readers, if you aren't writing a world that sort of reflects the real world we live in. It doesn't read. Authentic. Yeah, younger people, I think are having a harder time relating to the sort of, you know, this, the so one of the things I say in my workshop is if, like, maybe you're not ready to write a diverse character, maybe that's not your comfort level. But if you're writing a small town, you are in, you know, there's the little church at the end of the block, but is there also a little mosque or a little synagogue, right? Or is there a little halaal grocery store? Because a lot of small towns now have those things right? And so there is a way to be more inclusive in your work, just by creating neighborhoods that reflect the neighborhood you live in.

Elle 40:01
perfect, absolutely love that. Thank you.

Eliana 40:05
You're welcome.

Elle 40:06
I'll get back to the dirty talk.

Eliana 40:10
And now back to the SEC.

Elle 40:12
Now back to the sex, which I know that's why everybody's here. But okay, but you don't right. Well, Oh, God. Okay, well, I'll dig into it with your scene. And so we're going to, we're going to go there. Now, before we go into your scene, I'd love to, to define intimacy with you what into intimacy mean to you?

Eliana 40:36
Right. So, I mean, certainly, there is a physical component to intimacy, obviously. But for me, being intimate with someone, it's really about feeling comfortable enough with that other person to bear all of the things that make you you. Um, I think, again, going back to what's the default setting, we think of intimacy, and we think of sex, but I think of intimacy. And I think about, you know, the first time that I really shared details with my, with my husband about, you know, a abuse that happened in my childhood. I mean, that is a intimate, it's a deeply intimate moment. Yeah. Right. And then, and the many layers of comfort that can be offered. In that moment. Right. Um, so for me, intimacy is, is it's not in the details. It's in the feeling.

Elle 42:05
Oh, I love the Yeah. Because i That's why, you know, when I sort of talk about, you know, we're talking about intimate scenes on this podcast, and that's where I've struggled to get sweet romance, Romance Writers to talk to me, there is that default of, well, intimacy, when you're talking about intimacy is the physical act of sex. It's about getting, you know, baring yourself physically to another person, but really, I think it's about baring your soul.

Eliana 42:32
It's about baring your soul. And, you know, as a as a, as a person who identifies as as, as both mixed race and, and certainly my blackness is a huge part of my identity. You know, intimacy can be you know, the first time that I let my husband see my hair curly.

Elle 42:59
Oh, wow. Yeah.

Eliana 43:01
The first time I let him touch my hair, yeah. You know, that's a very intimate moment. And, and there is a level of trust that needs to be there before you get to that moment.

Elle 43:21
Right. Love that. Okay, so you're seeing

Unknown Speaker 43:29
Yes, is nervous.

Elle 43:33
Don't be from the way forward with this from first book in the heart of Colton series. Now, why did you pick this particular scene? What is it about this scene?

Eliana 43:44
Um I think what I loved is that not to spoiler alert, but that, that he walks away.

Elle 43:58
Oh, oh, okay. What what is that? What is it about that, that he walks away?

Eliana 44:07
I think this is a person that has taken things for granted his whole life. And he doesn't. He's not going to take this for granted.

Elle 44:18
Oh, okay. So set this up for us. Where are we in the story? Oh, gosh, that's

Eliana 44:26
a great question.

Elle 44:30
I'm sorry, I know I probably be the same way. I'd be like, I have no idea

Eliana 44:34
what's going on? No. Um, so DAX returns to Colton. He runs into this woman that he bullied when they were children. And he is. It talks about the push pull He is horrified. And he is. And he sees her for the first time as a woman. And he is attracted to her. And she is at a crossroads of trying to decide if she can let the past go. Yeah. Can she let it all go? And it's just a beautiful moment on her front porch in the rain. Have a good it's just in it's just kind of this. Again, it's it's to me, it's incredibly intimate because they are vulnerable in that moment and showing themselves fully.

Elle 45:59
Who I did this. It's such a gorgeous scene. But anyway, okay. I have a quick like, sort of like rules question for you. Because spoiler alert, they kiss in the scene. We do have we have a little action guys?

Eliana 46:12
Yeah, there's a kiss. Whoo.

Elle 46:15
I know that there are some sort of like rules of sweet romance. You only kiss once. Is that do you follow that? Do I have

Eliana 46:23
those? I have never been a rule follower. Okay. I have to tell you that. I didn't even like people are like, Oh, you wrote a bully romance. Oh, you wrote a sweet romance. I was like I wrote I wrote. I told the story that I wanted to tell. Okay, I don't put it in any. Yeah, it's just it is what it is. And I don't follow. I've never been a good rules are like suggestions for me. Right. Right. You know, I might take the suggestion or I might not.

Elle 46:59
Okay, cool. I was just kind of curious that because I was reading like, okay, they cast on it. Yeah, but it depends who you talk to you but I do know one of the rules. Oh, they only and even then maybe they don't catch it's like maybe the promise of because I'm like, Okay, that is just a bridge too far.

Eliana 47:14
I like writing I love it. Now I you know, I don't like necessarily, or I don't feel like I'm good at writing beyond the kiss but I love a good kiss. All we can kiss all day.

Elle 47:28
Okay, so let me let's give this a read. They faced each other on her porch. She looked into his brown eyes and her heart hammered at the intensity and his expression. For a minute the rain disappeared and it was just the two of them. His face was suddenly so close to her as she could see the tiny drops of water that clung to his eyelashes and lips. Without thinking. Kelly opened the door reach for DAX pulling him inside. Another flash of lightning illuminated the sky bringing another day lose his wet t shirt, hugged his muscular hug his muscular shirt, and little raindrops slid down his jaw. Just a minute she ran into the bathroom and came back with a large towel shoving it Adam DAX took it from her but instead of using it on himself, he reached over and began to wipe her face. Callie closed her eyes. She felt his breath on her cheek and then his lips brushed against her damp skin at the corner of her mouth. She wasn't sure if he shifted or she was the one who gave that fraction of an inch and brought them together. The only thing she did know was that she had never been kissed before. Sloppy kisses from timid boys in high school and the college boys who wanted to show off their skills were all forgotten. When his lips met hers. She gasped from the wonder of it all of it. And his tongue slipped inside. He reached up caressing the back of her neck. Her knees would have given out if he hadn't pulled her closer and suddenly she found herself pressing against him wanting more. She cupped his cheek reveling in the feel of his whiskers against her fingertips. He moaned and the knowledge that she had the power to make him do do that went straight to her head. She placed her hands on his chest and could feel his heart beating and time with hers. He started to pull away but she grasped his shirt and held on. He covered her hands with his and pried them away but continued to hold them his gaze searching her face. I know I shouldn't but I couldn't help myself. I'm Kelly closed her eyes. Don't say you're sorry, just don't. He ran his thumb across her cheekbone wiping away a tear or a raindrop. She wasn't sure. He pressed his forehead against hers. I should I need to go. Kelly swallowed and nodded. The right thing would be for him to leave. There was a time when the safe thing for her was to run away from the boy. But that time had passed and she wanted to stand with the man holding her so gently now. I'm not afraid she whispered to herself as much as das DAX want to know what happens that

Um, first of all, I want to say the the the use of weather. Yeah, like, I love it. I know it like I know some writers do it and do it. You do it so well. Oh, thank you. Um, you know, and I would love to do of course, my books are set in Los Angeles where there is no weather. So that is my excuse. So, but yeah, like, it's so gorgeous with the lightning and the fact that he's soaking wet and the raindrops sliding down his jaw. I mean, wow. So beautiful. And that really, sort of, that's where the intimacy really started to drive home there.

Eliana 50:42
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think the rain also just sort of Yeah, it the rain is washing away. The years of stuff between them. And in that moment, like, that is kind of, I think, the first moment where they're both in the present. Right. There is no

Elle 51:13
it's is this kind of like a moment of realization between the two of them in terms of their feelings?

Eliana 51:18
Yeah. And I think Well, I think I think for Callie, for sure she is she is. You know, she's like, Okay, I'm, I think I'm ready. I think I'm ready to I mean, this this is the boy who gave her nightmares. Yeah. And we're gonna learn why and understand all of those things, and she's gonna learn why understand and then and then she has to, she has to decide is the why enough.

Elle 51:54
Right. Right. And what that journey towards forgiveness, I guess, but but like,

Eliana 51:59
yeah, and what that journey for forgiveness is not as simple as, oh, I forgive you, and then everything is okay. And, you know, you can forgive someone but you still have that past experience that brought you to that place of forgiveness is still part of who you are. It's been incorporated into your, into your beaten.

Elle 52:29
Yeah, and it's sort of molded you somehow or, you know, it has impacted you in a certain way.

Eliana 52:35
Yeah, absolutely. And, and, and sometimes, it's sometimes we choose not to forgive. Right, and what does that look like? When do we say, you know, no, I've had enough. I don't I don't forgive what you did. Yeah. And um, yeah, I just, I just I love it's so funny. I like it. Yeah. Okay. I love this story. I all three books. All the first three books in this series, I think are just Yeah, I put my I put my heart and my soul and my history into them. So that is another kind of intimacy. Right? I'm sharing with you a little bit of my real history. In the story.

Elle 53:33
It was this your first series.

Eliana 53:35
This is my first series. Yep. The way forward is my debut as an author. And I'm really excited i there the book. I'm I'm working on book four right now. So there will be a book four in the series. And then I have a new series coming out from Tooley that I described as an interracial Romeo and Juliet set in a vineyard, but nobody dies at the end. Oh.

Elle 54:09
That's excellent.

Eliana 54:12
Really, it's just an excuse to do. I'm using air quotes research, which just involves drinking more wine and visiting more wineries and Bianca, but you know, if a book comes out of it, too, then Hey.

Elle 54:28
Well, I do want to sort of ask you about the wine thing, because I spoke with Kilbey Kilbey blades was last episode that released and she is a sommelier, which I was wrong. I think I got that right. Hopefully proud of me. And and we sort of talked about how that influenced her writing. And so I want to ask that, but I had a quick again, sort of almost mechanic question for you. On the scene where, you know, her knees would have given out if you hadn't pulled her closer and suddenly she found herself pressing against him wanting more this Some tantalizing details going on here.

Eliana 55:03
I like my details.

Elle 55:06
And I was gonna say like, where do you draw the line with your steam? And how do you know where to draw it since you are not writing?

Eliana 55:13
That's a great question. That's a great question. Um, I draw the line of, I usually try. I usually put them in, in just right up to the moment of interest, intimacy, and then I like to think of it as like, I'm showing you everything, you know what's gonna happen. Listen, you're, you're a grown ass person, you know what's coming. I have to tell you, because you're gonna, you know, so that selects. So let's slowly creep back out of the room and close the door and give them some privacy. Okay, that's how I think of

Elle 55:53
it. All right, that's really cool. I like that. Okay, so Wine. Wine per second. Have you know, you've started this new series? Correct.

Eliana 56:02
I have the first book is the first book has been written. Yes.

Elle 56:06
Okay. So how the, the wine? Yeah. And it's so sensual.

Eliana 56:15
Wine is so. Oh, it's such an amazing, it's a living breathing thing. And it's glorious. Yes.

Elle 56:25
How did that influence your writing of this book?

Eliana 56:28
Um, well, you know, it's funny, this first book in the series is inspired by my dad. And, and he was a Marine in World War Two. And I just had this idea of, so there's sort of a running backstory throughout the book of two soldiers in World War Two, that are actually part of the Italian campaign. So, and one of the soldiers is a black man from Mississippi. Big surprise. And, um, but the other soldier is a first generation American with Italian immigrant parents. And he's, he's so he is born in America. But he's in Italy, this place that he's heard stories from about his whole life and his, his family owns a vineyard in California. And he is and as they are traveling through Italy, Antonio is teaching Henry about wine. And they are learning about each other. Through having this experience of sharing a glass of wine.

Elle 57:52
Oh. Oh, boy. I love that.

Eliana 57:56
And yeah, and I think I spend a lot of time in vineyards around in we live in Washington state and we have a ridiculous amount of McCarren sand. And actually, I'm lucky enough that there's a urban winery in my neighborhood, like five minutes from my house, and I go very cool. And I pester the guys that own the winery with questions for the books, but I also I also go in and I, I work the crash when the when the harvest happens, like go out and actually harvest the grapes and bring them back to the winery and put them through the D stemmer. And do all the work that needs to be all the stages that oh my wine.

Elle 58:48
Oh wow. So you've gone through the whole winemaking process. I

Eliana 58:51
have gone through the whole winemaking process even bottling, I've worked the bottling line I've I've done pretty much every single job you can do in a winery. I have done that. And I and I love it and I start having a vineyard fantasies of like honey, we could buy a vineyard and just kind of looks to me he's like just just keep writing just writing a book about it. So he just put it in the book. He's like hey, great. Now put that in the book that's excellent. I'm, I'm I love the idea that is again all the stages of growth of the vine and budbreak and and and the life cycle and then and then you open this bottle of wine and the minute you open a bottle um and in oxygen hits the the wine it, it changes again, and we talk about a wine Opening you know, it opens up its flavor profile changes at once you open the bottle in the course of however long it takes to drink that bottle and in when it weird, it's kind of like people, right? We go through the stages and we go through these changes. And just like people wine is a living breathing thing. It has history, it has complexity. It's not just a simple. Yeah, it's a great, but it's so much more.

Elle 1:00:37
It's funny, because I feel like I heard somebody say somewhere and I was like, oh, no, this that's wrong. You can't be but the idea that like every bottle of wine tells a story. Yes. And it sort of tells a story from the dirt that is good. The grapes are grown and to the sun that is you know, that hits it. And you know, like there's a story in every bottle of wine. So I'm not making that up in my head. It probably somebody did say that

Eliana 1:00:59
to me. i And I think that's so true. I think there is a story and it is about, you know, where, where was the fruit grown, who grew it, even and one of the vineyards that really inspired the vineyard that in one of the vineyards in the book is a vineyard here in Washington state called Red Willow. It's the easternmost vineyard in the state and actually part of the Yakima reservation land and run by a master grower. This guy named Mike Sauer and I mean, if I could, I would just go follow him around the vineyard all day. Talk about why he's amazing. And but there's so much history there. Yeah, there's so much history in this land. And, and the people who who work there and and in the every bottle is, is generations.

Elle 1:02:14
Yeah. And

Eliana 1:02:17
I can I'm a romantic at heart, so maybe I'm over romanticizing it, but I just and I and you know, one of the and there's a psalm out here who does, um, wine education classes, and she gave the best description about talking about when you taste wine, and people say, Well, what is this tastes like? And people say, Oh, this has notes of whatever. But it's, I always say what does it remind you of? We need to take that first sip. Does it remind you of USA? Well, it tastes like grapes. What does it taste like? You know, or it tastes like strawberries? Well, does it taste like warm strawberry jam on a summer day? Does it taste like fresh strawberries? Does it taste like that strawberry in a strawberry pie? What is it remind you of? What is that memory of strawberry? That that taste evokes?

Elle 1:03:26
Oh, I love that. I think that's a much more approachable way to show for people.

Eliana 1:03:31
Yeah, yeah. When you start framing it in what does it make you think? Oh, yeah, because we'll go Oh, yeah. Oh, and then I taste this and this? Because it's about sense memory. Yeah, wine. tasting wine is about your sense memory.

Elle 1:03:48
Because I think when they say what are the flavor notes, you're like, oh, I don't want to get this wrong. Like it's like a quiz.

Eliana 1:03:55
And that's the hidden secret there is no wrong. Oh, fascinating. Because it's your memory. Ah. So there it can be whatever it at least in my opinion, I think there's a new way of thinking sort of the old song school and like the new song school is sort of like no, it can be whatever you want it to be. It's your experience. You're the one drinking the wine. I'm not going to tell you what you're tasting is wrong.

Elle 1:04:24
How How cool. Cuz we're just being extra service sound steam sans today was so cool. We're learning a bit about wind. I love

Eliana 1:04:35
always good to learn about wine.

Elle 1:04:39
Okay, so that's coming from tool in 2020 to

Eliana 1:04:42
2022 spring of 2022.

Elle 1:04:45
Okay, great. And the third book in the heart of Coltrane series the way beyond. As we're recording this, it's coming out in like two weeks.

Eliana 1:04:54
It's coming out on September 13. Very excited. I've been dying To tell Jacob and mace story since the first book, so I'm very excited. And and. And they gave me as much trouble as I thought they would.

Elle 1:05:14
Yeah, and it looks here we've got an FBI handler and yeah, political intrigue a little bit. Yeah. Maybe a little political intrigue. So this is the sounds really good. I'm excited to really dive into the series, because it's absolutely, um, you know, what I've read of it is so wonderful.

Eliana 1:05:33
So thank you. Thank you so much.

Elle 1:05:35
Where can people find you on the internet? Where do you hang out? Sure.

Eliana 1:05:39
Um, so I hang out on Facebook, Ileana West, and the Facebook group writers for diversity. And I am also on Instagram, and Liana west on Instagram. You might find some pictures of wine. I think there might be a couple of pictures of Bianca on there too. And then you know, some book pictures because technically that's what I'm supposed to be doing. Right? And yeah, and my website, Ileana And for writers for diversity, it's writers for

Elle 1:06:15
Excellent. And I will have all of this in the show notes so that people can, you know, don't have to scribble things down or if they're driving, they don't have to do something unsafe. Oh, yeah. Thank you so much for doing this. And for being here. This was really great having

Eliana 1:06:29
Oh, thank you so much for having me. I had a great, great time. It was a lot of fun.

Elle 1:06:34
Come back, come back and we'll talk more about wine with the last areas.

Eliana 1:06:38
Yes, let's do that. Well, thank you. Thank you.

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