Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Comfortable Outside the Comfort Zone

I'm so very excited to be hosting Cathy Pegau this week. As a writer, there's almost nothing more exciting than having your first book release and that's what we're sharing with Cathy. Her daring f/f novel Rulebreaker is breaking all the rules at Carina Press. Let's hear it from her about what it took to write.

When I started Rulebreaker, I knew from the get-go the person who could challenge Liv’s personal rules had to be smart, sexy and conflicted. In other words, standard romantic interest fare. A second later, R.J. “Zia” Talbot was born in my brain.

Rulebreaker by Cathy Pegau
While the revelation had me blinking at my muse for a moment, it also felt right. Her physical attributes, her personality, how her gaze made Liv shudder (in nervousness or in pleasure, depending on the moment ; ). Underneath Zia’s professional, aloof, executive exterior there lurked a vulnerable and sincere woman. One who would turn Liv’s world upside down.

The only problem was I’d never written intimate scenes with two women before.

Part of me wondered why I wasn’t panicking; this was not within the parameters of “write what you know.” But I could see Liv and Zia as they dance around each other the first days and weeks of their working relationship. The heated looks, the rapid heartbeats, the conflict each felt for their own reasons. It didn’t matter that they were two women. They were two people who found one another attractive. Interesting. Sexy.

Hmmm. Well, okay. What did that mean? What would I need to do to show their budding physical and emotional relationship?

There would be some flirting. Some touching and kissing. And an eventual love scene. Research and careful choreography took care of the physical aspect, but with Rulebreaker being first person, I had to show what Liv was feeling as she acted on her attraction to Zia. To do that properly, I thought about what it might be like in her shoes. I had to push the boundaries of my comfort zone, and not only my personal zone but as a writer too.

As a writer seeking a sale, I knew the F/F niche was going to be a tough one to break into. I could have shifted gears and changed Zia Talbot to a man. But no, because in my heart, Zia was a stunning woman. No matter how much easier it would have been to make her a him, I knew it wouldn’t work.  I wrote the story I wanted to write. The one that challenged me to push myself in ways I’d never tried before.

I didn’t step outside my comfort zone, I expanded it.

When have you found yourself stepping outside your comfort zone? How’d it go?


An excerpt from Rulebreaker:

“And you are?” asked a smooth alto on my left.

My head snapped up from the screen to face R. J. Talbot. One slender, dark eyebrow was cocked in query over her steel-green gaze. Her wide mouth pressed into a hard line, she stood with her arms crossed under her breasts. A perfectly tailored winter-white dress buttoned almost to the throat fit her trim form.

Chestnut tendrils had loosened from her upswept hairstyle, softening the angles of her cheekbones, but that was the only thing soft about her. Talbot was more attractive than the pictures and vids on the data stick had shown. Attractive in an intense, “I’m used to getting what I want and no one will stop me” sort of way. Up close and in person, she made my stomach flip and my palms sweat.

“Olivia Baines.” I rose and wiped my palms on my skirt. The VP was only a few centis taller than me, putting us almost eye-to-eye. “Your new assistant.”

I stuck my right hand out and waited while she looked me over. Despite knowing R. J. Talbot liked women, there was nothing sexual in her scrutiny. It was a purely clinical assessment, and I tried not to squirm while I wondered what she thought of me. Once again, I felt like a used air car.

Finally she brought her eyes back up to mine and grasped my hand. Hers was cool and strong with blunt, beautifully manicured, unpainted fingernails. “You’re the third one in as many weeks,” she said as she released me. “I hope HR got it right this time.”

Good thing I’d worn a jacket, because there was a distinct chill in the air.
Determined to do my best—at both jobs expected of me—I nodded once. “You won’t be disappointed, Miss Talbot.”

“Mm-hmm.” Her tone more than implied her doubt as she gave me another quick appraisal. “Get acquainted with what’s on the SI and in the desk. I’ll be back in an hour.”

She was leaving me alone? On my first day, my first minutes on the job? What kind of boss did that to an untried assistant?

Talbot walked to the door, her hips swaying with authority. She wore heels a bit higher than mine, which actually made us about the same height. But somehow, R. J. Talbot seemed taller. Much taller.
She left the office without a backward glance.

I sank down onto my chair. Willem expected me to charm and seduce her? I’d be lucky if I made it through the day without her tossing me out like week-old take-away.


Leave a comment! One random commenter will win a PDF copy of Rulebreaker! A winner will be chosen on Friday, August 12, 2011.

Buy Rulebreaker at Carina Press, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.  Drop by for a visit at my blog, website, or Facebook page, or say hello on Twitter!


  1. Cathy,

    I understand the hesitation with a a F/F novel, especially with a debut. That said, a good story is a good story. Thanks for visiting, and much success to you.


  2. Congrats Cathy, looks like a win for your publishers. Your clear and to-the point style has me identifying with Olivia and liking her!

    Best of luck with Rulbreaker and many more to come.

    Jilly Van Warren

  3. Hi Cathy, Great to know the inspiration behind "Rulebreaker"! I can picture Zia already (maybe the image on the cover has something to do with it too, since it's lovely)! ...

    Fab excerpt and the story seems like a hot read!

    Would love to be included in the giveaway. judimello AT gmail DOT com.

  4. Congratulations on your new release! Sounds like an interesting read. Please enter me in your draw. lornel@xplornet.ca

  5. Very heartfelt post. I have not written F/F, but I discovered (when prompted by my characters) that I needed to be able to write BDSM sex - and that was a similar process. Thanks for your honest look and best of luck with the resulting story.

  6. I loved the instant tension. I also liked how her known preferrence for women doesn't immediately factor into her work place demeanor. I find it rude when "straight" folks automatically assume gays and lesbians are always on the make.
    It is hard to write what u have never experienced, you have to open and reveal a part of yourself for inspection and introspection. Kudos on a job well done and being true to the story.

  7. Thanks for all the kind words and well wishes, everyone! I really appreciate it : )

    The winner of a copy of Rulebreaker is...Ju Dimello! Congrats! I'll be sending your copy later today.

    Thanks for having me, Louisa, it's been great : )