Once again, Erotica is not my genre for no particular reasons. But, I found deeply fascinating an aspect of it, and it’s how a Dom/Sub (I hope that’s how it’s shortened) relationship and mechanisms can heal wounds so deep. Also, read the content warning. The author is clear. I don’t want to read any one-star review for any of those reasons. And yeah, it happens. So. Many. Times.
Whip Smart (The Loft Book 1) by Siena Noble, narrated by Meg Sylvan, Everett Hwang released last month in the Erotic Romance genre.
Teresa Bodnar is desperate for a fresh start. Scarred by her relationship with her cruel, controlling, and so-called “dominant” ex, she escapes to her hometown of Pittsburgh. Determined to move forward, Tera makes a bold move: Founding the first club in the city to act as a safe haven where her most secret desires can be fulfilled.
But acting on those desires in the wake of the nightmare she left behind is something else entirely, especially when unexpected romantic entanglements complicate matters of business. Since the moment they met, the chemistry between Tera and easy-going Dominant Eric Yun has been undeniably scorching, yet Tera finds herself denying it at every turn. She has baggage to spare, and the high-strung submissive can’t afford to take any chances where her budding friendship with the sweet and dangerously seductive Eric is concerned.
Yet Eric has baggage of his own, and the more he chips away at her walls, the more Tera realizes it’s not just the drugging allure of his dominance that calls to her. She’s falling for him hard and fast, but if life’s taught her anything, it’s that the harder the fall, the worse the pain – a pain she’d do anything to save Eric from. But the harder she resists their magnetic attraction, the faster her resistance seems to crumble…
Note: This is the first book in The Loft Series and ends on a cliffhanger to be resolved in book two.
Content Warning: This audiobook deals with issues of anxiety, depression, and healing from past abuse. It contains mentions of emotional/sexual abuse and suicide.
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About the Author: Siena Noble
A proud Pittsburgher, Siena Noble has explored and inhabited all kinds of fictional worlds through her writing since age ten. When she’s not busy reading, writing, or re-watching Battlestar Galactica, Siena enjoys traveling, archery, and getting lost in the woods (also known as “hiking”). She and her better half/writing buddy live together in Pittsburgh.
Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
Turning Whip Smart into an audiobook was exciting, but a lot more nerve-wracking than I thought it would be! I was so eager to get the first draft audio recording back from my producer, yet when I finally did, I was suddenly too embarrassed to listen to my own words read back to me! I’m not sure if that’s something a lot of authors go through, but getting over my own self-consciousness was a challenge for me. Admittedly, some of it has to do with Whip Smart being the first book I ever published, and also the first novel I ever completed (you don’t even want to know how many unfinished novels I have that I may or may not ever get back to). While I’m still very proud of it and clearly plenty of people think it’s great judging by lots of positive reviews, I’ll forever be my own worst critic. To me, listening to it is weird, because the narrators are perfect at bringing the characters to life and convey all the emotions I was going for, yet it brings the things I wish I’d done differently to the forefront. Listening to some parts makes me want to high-five myself because it’s a passage I think I really nailed, while others make me want to curl up in a ball.
How did you select your narrators?
Finding the perfect narrator duo was a challenge, but I’m extremely grateful to have worked with an amazing producer who was able to streamline the process and connected me with narrators interested in auditioning. Finding the right narrator to voice Eric was something I was particularly concerned about early on; I wanted to be true to his character with an Asian-American narrator, which certainly narrowed our options, and on top of that, as a listener I can be pretty picky when it comes to male narrators, and on top of that, the voice in my head that I had for Eric more or less sounded like my own boyfriend’s. He had a tall order to fill: funny, laid-back and self-assured on the outside but hiding old, deep pain on the inside, and able to easily slip into the role of the panty-melting Dominant who commands a room.
The voice of Tera as well had to have a wide emotional range, needing to embody the weight of anxiety and trauma that she lives with every day, as well as showcasing her snarkier, more sarcastic side. She really carries the weight of this book in particular on her shoulders. I really lucked out when it came to finding Meg and Everett. The first time I heard each of their auditions, I knew almost instantly that they were the ones. Tera and Eric are really in for quite a ride in the next few books, so I’m super excited to hear them bring their continuing story to life!
How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
Honestly, I hadn’t given audiobooks much thought when I was first writing Whip Smart, so as a Pittsburgh girl writing a book that takes place in my hometown, I didn’t think much about throwing in a bit of the local “Yinzerese” dialect for flavor. So, it was a bit amusing having to explain words like “yinz” and “n’at” and how to pronounce them.
I tried to give Meg and Everett as deep an insight into the characters as possible. There’s a lot of detail to Tera and Eric’s backstories in particular that I spoke with them about that doesn’t get much attention in this book, but a lot of it becomes relevant later in the series. In any case, all of it is relevant in some way to this book, since even the things we don’t hear or read about on the page has helped shaped them into the people we meet in Whip Smart.
Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
A few of the side characters are loosely based off of people I know in real life–childhood and college friends, cousins–though each these characters mostly combine traits from multiple people, rather than being based off of one particular person. But the biggest inspiration by far for Tera’s struggles with post-traumatic anxiety and depression comes from my own life. I’d never go so far as to say she’s a self-insert, but my own experiences grappling with anxiety and the difficulties it poses in terms of self-love and healthy relationships were a huge influence in crafting her character. While I can’t perfectly relate to every trauma she’s experienced in her life, a lot of her inner turmoil over expressing her feelings for Eric and worrying if she’s worthy of him or capable of having a functional relationship with him are taken from my own experiences. She can be very frustrating at times, which I know all too well because I’m a lot like her in that regard! Many times as I was writing I wanted to shake her and tell her to just own up to her love for him already. But writing such a brutally honest portrayal of someone like me was also cathartic in a lot of ways.
How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
With great difficulty, unfortunately, especially given the current times. The Loft series and my other upcoming books contain some pretty heavy and emotionally charged topics, some of which have personal significance to me, so it’s hard not to feel drained from that occasionally. It helps me to have multiple projects or ideas going at once–at least one thing on the back-burner that I can take a break from my main project to work on for a while, especially if it’s something a bit more lighthearted. It doesn’t necessarily help me get books done faster, but it is sometimes necessary. Plus, if I’m dealing with writer’s block, working on something else can help clear the cobwebs, or at the very least get an annoying “plot bunny” out of my head and down on paper.
Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
I didn’t used to be. It was only in the past year or so that I gave audio a chance, thanks to my boyfriend who’s an avid audiobook listener. Now, I can’t seem to get enough! I listen to audiobooks just about as often as I read ebooks or physical books, and frequently I’ll buy the same book in both ebook and audio. If I’ve already read a book before trying the audio version, I find it interesting to hear how the narrator interprets a character, and how their performance differs (or doesn’t) from what I imagined. I like being able to feel the emotions that a great narrator puts into their performance. And of course, they’re great for long drives or for listening to while working out or doing chores!
Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
Hmm, hard to say, but the two moments I’d have to go with would be Eric and Tera’s first kiss, and the part where she finally opens up to him about her relationship with her ex.
How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
I typed the last word of Whip Smart at around 4:00 a.m., so the first thing I did to celebrate was go to bed! I had to get up for work just a few hours later, but I crashed so hard the next night that I wasn’t sure how I dragged myself out of bed in the morning. But that weekend I celebrated with a nice, quiet date night and a bunch of cocktails.
In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?
Stand-alone pros: 1) Don’t need to think twenty steps ahead to how something in book one will affect things in book three or four; 2) Don’t have to worry about frustrating any readers with the dreaded cliffhanger; 3) The satisfaction of wrapping things up in a neat bow. Cons: 1) I can never seem to write them!
Series pros: 1) Being able to revisit the characters in the next book like old friends; 2) Watching the characters evolve over longer periods of time from book-to-book. 3) The thrill of crafting new challenges for them to face in each installment while also having the satisfaction of giving them a mini happy ending in each one before the ultimate conclusion. Cons: 1) Maintaining momentum/reader interest across multiple books; 2) The possibility that the story might get away from you and grow in a different direction than you’d originally planned.
What’s next for you?
Book two of The Loft, Strictly Business, should be out in audio soon, though unfortunately it was delayed due to current events. As of the time of this writing, the ebook and paperback editions of book three, Tangled Love, are coming soon, and are probably already out as you’re reading this. Outside of The Loft, I have soon-to-be-released duology, the Risky Business Duet. These two books are particularly exciting for me not just because they’ve been a long time coming, but because you’ll get to dive deeper into the decadent and dangerous world of the Wakeham family that we only get a glimpse of in Tera’s backstory. There’s a whole web of decadence and deception that I’m attempting to weave that will eventually tie back into Tera and Eric’s ongoing story; it’s complicated and tantalizing and I’m really hoping I can pull it off! But not to worry, each of these series can be enjoyed on their own, despite my excessive fascination with the idea of a shared universe.