Evie Hunter and The Pleasures of Summer

Writing.ie | Magazine | Interviews | Women’s Fiction
the pleasures of summer evie hunter, pengiun, caroline mccall, eileen gormley

By Vanessa O'Loughlin

Evie Hunter’s The Pleasures of Winter, the Irish Fifty Shades, was an immediate success when it came out last autumn, with sales of over 50,000 copies and international interest. With The Pleasures of Summer hitting the bookshelves, I spoke to the not one, but two talented writers, behind the Evie Hunter phenomenon, Caroline McCall and Eileen Gormley, who met at a creative writing workshop in Dublin in 2010.

Eileen Gormley grew up in the midlands of Ireland.  Within a couple of years of leaving college, she started writing articles for local papers and graduated to becoming a full-time freelance journalist for the Irish National newspapers, specializing in court and crime reporting. Her first novel, Don’t Feed the Fairies, made it to the quarter-final of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award and was published by Ragz Books.

Caroline McCall lives with her partner, and several spoilt, ungrateful felines, on the windswept east coast of Ireland. Raised on a diet of romance and science fiction, Caroline turned to writing time travel and paranormal romance. A mild mannered paralegal by day, Caroline spends most of her evenings and weekends dreaming up alpha males and feisty heroines.

On discovering that they shared a passion for erotic fiction, they became the best of friends. In early 2012 they got a chance to co-write a series of erotic novellas for an American publisher. When they completed the second one without killing each other, they decided to take on something bigger – and the Pleasures series was born.

Hotly tipped to be an even bigger seller than The Pleasures of Winter,  The Pleasures of Summer has a cracking storyline as well as plenty of steamy bits. Think The Bodyguard movie meets Fifty Shades and you have it in one. In this book we meet Summer O’Sullivan – rich, beautiful, headstrong – and in mortal danger. Her father has powerful enemies who are targeting his precious daughter. Until the threat passes, Summer must tolerate a bodyguard. Into Summer’s gilded cage comes former army ranger, Flynn Grant. Flynn is just as unenthusiastic about the assignment – minding the spoiled daughter of a billionaire is his idea of hell. Unsurprisingly, the sparks fly between them…

The Pleasures of Summer, starts with a great opening scene that gets us straight into the story – it’s a hot night and Summer is on the way home from a party when she realises her car is being followed – then she is attacked. The Pleasures of Summer is high on tension and mystery and I asked Caroline to tell me about plotting this book – who came up with the story and what had the writing team learned from plotting The Pleasures of Winter that they applied to Pleasures 2?

Caroline explained, “Eileen and I start each story with a brainstorming session over a couple of glasses of wine or a pot of coffee. We decide what shape the story will take and where it will be set.  If you spot us in a café armed with a pen and a napkin, look for a table as far away as possible!

the-pleasures-of-winter-by-evie-hunter‘In The Pleasures of Winter, we wanted to explore the phenomenon of virtual relationships, so Abbie and Jack spent quite a lot of time online, but once we started, we realised that it’s hard to write an erotic romance novel where the hero and heroine are apart for extended periods.  We had to be very creative to keep the sexual tension simmering.

‘Also, we hadn’t considered the possibility that there might be a sequel to Winter and we pretty much plotted ourselves into a corner when Abbie finally said yes to Jack in our short story sequel A Touch of Winter.

‘So this time around, we were a bit more savvy about leaving things open-ended.  For The Pleasures of Summer, we threw away the technology, put the brooding bodyguard and his spoilt client in a remote cabin and waited for the fun to start.”

And one thing you cannot miss when you meet Caroline and Eileen is how much fun they have collaborating on the writing. But when it comes down to crucial decisions like developing those essential characters, there must be tensions. I asked Caroline if creating character was as easy as the plotting process – she told me, “Readers absolutely loved Hollywood bad boy Jack Winter but for Pleasures 2 we needed a hero who was a little bit different.  Initially, we considered writing Flynn Grant as a hot Scot, but compromised by making him half-Irish.” Caroline laughs, “Eileen is a bigger than me and she’s very bossy!” she continued, “While Jack was a hot-headed actor, Flynn epitomizes self-control and calm under fire.  And he needs every ounce of it when he meets his client – Summer O’Sullivan.

‘We had great fun developing her character. On the surface, she has everything a girl could want – wealth, beauty and fame. But she is constantly hounded by the paparazzi, hasn’t had a date in months and everything she does ends up in the tabloids.  Despite her bitchy exterior, Summer has a vulnerable streak a mile wide – something that Flynn discovers when he gets to know her. The character of Summer was pure invention.  We looked at how the cult of celebrity ruins people’s lives and gave it our own slant.” Caroline paused, opening her eyes wide, and started me laughing when she said meaningfully “Flynn was inspired by a number of real people – thanks guys.”

You cannot read The Pleasures of Winter without realising how important location is as a key to the plot  – reporter Abbie Marshall needs to escape Honduras and a private jet carrying Hollywood A-lister, Jack Winter, is her only way out. Then the plane nose-dives into the remote rainforest, and the real heat begins. I wondered if location was as important to The Pleasures of Summer as this is fast becoming a theme in the whole series. Caroline nodded, “Absolutely!  Scotland is one of my favourite places in the world. When we decided that the story had to have a Scottish angle, we created the (fictitious) glen of Turlochmor – a setting that was both remote and beautiful.

‘In Pleasures 2 we wanted to force Flynn and Summer to take a good hard look at each other. By putting them somewhere without electricity they couldn’t hide behind technology, they had to work together and talk to each other.  Their time at the croft allowed their relationship to develop and explore their true selves. We’ve added some of the lovely images which inspired the glen are on Evie Hunter’s Pinterest pages – but be warned, there are also (ahem) some images which should not be opened in the office.”

Caroline McCall
Caroline McCall

Writing as a duo seems to come easily to Caroline and Eileen, but it must come with it’s own complications and constraints – I wondered how much of the novel was plotted and how much space the authors have to write organically – to be led by the characters. Caroline explained, “It’s very much dependent on the story. At the early stages, we prepare an outline for our publisher, Penguin, setting out characters, plot and the emotional arc. Having said that, a lot of our material is organic – especially the dialogue between hero and heroine. We write back and forth on Yahoo while we are in character, so it ends up being much like a real conversation. Although we occasionally wander into the wilderness and have to cut it back.

‘Every Wednesday, we meet to plot out the details of what we are going to do that week. There is a lot of, “What if he did…” with interruptions of, “Oh, wait, she could…” and a lot of, “We can’t do that, or the bad guy would catch them.” We have been known to do this on the bus, and by the time we get off, the entire bus is listening in…”

And probably everyone in the cafe, they are meeting in to discuss the plot!

The Pleasures of Winter was written in a three month marathon session over last summer; I wondered how the pair had fared with this book. Caroline told me, “Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luxury of locking ourselves away for an extended period for Pleasures 2, except for the editing part just before we submitted to Penguin. This time Eileen moved in with me and I drove her nuts.

Eileen Gormley
Eileen Gormley

‘Eileen is mega busy.  She has three teenage children and writes in McDonalds for peace and quiet. I am a night-time/weekend writer because I work four days a week in a highly pressurised legal office. We’re very different! We send ‘the lump’ as we call our work in progress, back and forth each day.  That way, we keep the story moving. Generally, we set a weekly target of words to be written and stick to that.

‘We found that writing boy/girl split point of view worked well in The Pleasures of Winter and this meant that the main characters had very distinctive voices, so we stuck with that this time around. Working this way also means that sometimes we surprise each other with the way the characters behave.”

Getting the facts right though, is very important to the girls. In the middle of last summer, while their intensive write was underway, Eileen took a break to talk to me on the phone, revealing that she had an appointment later that afternoon to talk with several of the staff of Ireland’s BDSM club. I wondered how much research was required for The Pleasures of Summer (and what sort!) Caroline giggled,  “Tons!  You have no idea. We are blessed with a talented, sexy, devastatingly handsome and downright kinky bunch of friends we can pump for information on every subject imaginable.

‘Apart from the writing, we also split the research.  Eileen is a former journalist, so she does most of the physical research – how things work, what is possible and the choreography of action scenes.  She also did the weapons research. Come to think of it, she’s quite bloodthirsty.

‘I love doing the visuals.  I’m a Pinterest addict, so I create the storyboard for each book – what the hero and heroine look like, where they live and other images which fit the story.  This means that both of us have the same sense of place and describe the characters in the same way.

‘We also love sound tracking. The music that your character listens to says a lot about them and their thought processes.  I usually have a song or an album for my character, which drops me into their head when I settle down to write.  I’m a jazz girl.  Eileen is more of a heavy rocker.”

The duo have obviously divided the roles well – but I wondered what effect suddenly selling 50,000 books had had on the two of them,That many? Yay!  To be honest, it hasn’t really hit us yet.  We are still writing like crazy – three novels and two novellas in a year hasn’t left us with a lot of time to appreciate the fame bit! We don’t get chased down the street by crazed autograph hunters, but Eileen’s children are watching sales figures and adjusting the type of smartphone they want as a result!

‘The writing of Autumn is well underway (click here to find out more!) but it’s scary to see it advertised already.  This is a different book, with new locations and a very tight plot, as well as lots of hot kinky stuff.”

And Caroline reveals an exclusive Autumn spoiler for www.writing.ie: “We’ll be bringing back some of the secondary characters from The Pleasures of Summer and our next hot hero is a Dub!”

“As to what comes after Autumn? It’s too early to say yet.  We have both written other books which are with our agent, Madeleine Milburn and have plans for more.  Eileen writes Regency and I love writing paranormal romance. We’ve plotted out some more erotica novellas as well. We just need to find the time to write everything. But there is always Spring..!

The Pleasures of Summer is available in all good bookshops and online. If you missed The Pleasures of Winter, check it out here, and Evie Hunter’s e-novella A Touch of Winter, is available here.

Read Sally Clements interview with Caroline and Eileen about The Pleasures of Winter and co-writing here.

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