Sylvia Day: Why "Crossfire" TV Show Needs Explicit Sex
After an agonizingly long wait, fans of Sylvia Day will finally get their fix when "Entwined with You," the third novel in her "Crossfire" series, comes out June 4. While there are two novels left in the series, "Crossfire" has also been optioned for television. Bookish spoke with Day about the equal need to write strong heroines and hot sex scenes, and how both will factor in to the TV series. She also discussed her love for the classic clinch cover and which TV shows inspire her in her off-hours.
Bookish: How do you think readers will react to "Entwined with You"? What do you think they'll like most and least?
Sylvia Day: I think that readers are really gonna love it. ["Bared to You"] is really kind of a get-to-know-you book, with the two characters just starting the relationship. ["Reflected in You"] was really hard; there was a lot of angst to it, and it was a really dark book. People ended the book and were like, "I'm emotionally exhausted from reading it!" But with the third book, the readers will be very happy about where the story's moving along. A lot of things they're looking for, they'll find.
Bookish: What are you reading, watching or listening to for inspiration?
SD: I have things I watch in my downtime--I love "Scandal." I don't write political romance, so there's not a direct relation there. But it's something I do just to turn off the brain for a little bit, and just to relax and recharge. I'm a big fan of IMAX/3-D films; I love that whole experience. If I come out and I'm energized by watching [something], I'm usually excited to go home and write, whether it has anything to do with what I've seen or not seen. As for reading, I read a lot, but I have to. I've found that writers who don't read really can't write.
Bookish: How so--in terms of craft, or admiring others' ideas and execution?
SD: Just for the emotional experience of it. For a storyteller, when you finish reading somebody else's story and you have that feeling of "Oh my God, I wish the story would've gone on forever"--that's what got me to first start writing. I was 12 and read my first romance novel; it was a sweeping desert saga, and I got to the end of it and was like, "I want to go to back and start all over again!" That emotional response to the book and getting to the end of a story you love is what inspires me to write the next book.
Bookish: Covers are also key for you, right? You wrote an essay in "Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey" all about the evolution of book covers.
SD: I'm a big fan of the classic clinch cover because of the emotion that it gets across. I don't even care if the hair color's right or if the clothing's right--that doesn’t even bother me. But I like to get a feel for the emotional content of the book in the pose, the look on the models' faces and so on. That's been an interesting part for me with getting all of my covers redone into object covers because now, of course, there's no emotion there whatsoever. I fought for a long time to get couples on my covers, because I had just the guy or just the girl. I was like, "Can I get a couple, please?"
Bookish: You would think that with romance novels, that would be the intuitive thing to do!
SD: Even though I consider myself a hardcore straight romance author, a lot of my books focus on the heroine a lot, so I think they kind of want that as a mainstream look, having one person on there. I really like the few clinch covers I managed to get.
Bookish: Speaking of heroines, let's talk about Eva. On various fan sites, readers have expressed appreciation for the fact that she stands up to the possessive Gideon. Why was it important for you to write a female protagonist who's so strong on her own?
SD: In order to really connect with my heroines, they have to be women I would be friends with in real life. It's very hard for me to be friends with women who are not strong. All of my girlfriends are extremely strong women. Almost all of them are entrepreneurs. It's just a sort of female companionship that I'm attracted to. It's the same way with my heroines: I expect them to be confident in their business endeavors--almost all of them have something they're doing--and to be strong with the men they're with.
For me, it's very hard to buy into the alpha male being attracted to a beta female. It usually just doesn’t happen. Alphas are attracted to each other. I would have a hard time being friends with a woman who just let a guy run all over her. [laughs] I love J.D. Robb's "In Death" series. Actually, I love a lot of Nora Roberts's books; her heroines are all very strong. Nalini Singh's "Guild Hunters" series--of course Elena is usually strong, and all of the women who are in her series are strong women. Mercy Thompson [series] by Patricia Briggs--those are the type of series I gravitate to, because those are women that are respected and admired, and I want them to get to their happily ever after. It's terrible when you read a book and you're like, "Oh my God, what does he see in her?"
Bookish: Congratulations on the "Crossfire" series getting optioned for television!
SD: It's very exciting. I talked to the producers; they're big fans of the series [who have] been reading it since last year. They're really in love with the characters and the emotional dynamic between them [that] really drives them. Their goal in presenting the series is, of course, to have that emotional and psychological impact. Every time I talk to them, I get more excited because they’re on track with my vision and I see where they're going with it.
Bookish: How involved are you with the upcoming show?
SD: I'm an executive consultant on the project. Everything, to some extent, gets run by me. They're very determined that I'm happy with the series and how it turns out. I’ll consistently be in contact in the early development process. Then, of course, once it gets started, I'll be looking at the script and talking to the director and writers. I won't actually be writing [episodes] because that's not my forte, plus I have my own projects to write. [laughs] I can’t really spend time revisiting a project I've already written. I'm here in California, so it's very easy for me to meet with people in person. I'm also in New York a lot, which is where the story is set and where I expect a lot of filming to take place.
Bookish: Both Eva and Gideon have had to work through past sexual abuse, and they use sex as communication and reaffirmation of their love. How do you think the TV adaptation will handle the explicit sex in your books? Do you have any hopes when it comes to those scenes--either specific moments that you want to be included, or ways for them to be rendered?
SD: [The producers are] on board with me, too, as far as the actual emotional, pivotal points of the story [which] happen while [Eva and Gideon are] having sex. That's the way it is with any true erotic romance. If you try to pull the sex scenes out of the story, the whole story falls apart. Usually, protagonists in erotic romance have difficult times communicating verbally, so the way that they get their feelings across--whether it's anger, happiness, love, lust, all of it--is during the sex scenes. You really couldn’t do a PG version of "Crossfire!" It just wouldn't work. They have that in mind. We're all on board with the fact that it would need to be premium cable, on which recently we've seen a lot of wonderful book-to-film adaptations: "Game of Thrones," "Dexter," "True Blood."
The very first time they have sex, which is in the back of a limousine, is a hugely pivotal moment in the book. Eva takes control, which is something Gideon's not used to. It wrecks him; it almost wrecks the whole relationship. There's also one [scene] that happens in a hotel that Gideon owns, that again almost destroys their relationship. Talking to [the producers], their expectation is that they'll follow the storyline as I wrote it. They don't have any expectation to deviate from it in any way. So, I'm sure we'll see a lot of that translated to film, which should be interesting and hopefully not too hard on the actors.
I'm really excited. And of course, it's Lionsgate, which has "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight"; they’re working on "Divergent" right now. This is a studio that is very familiar with book-to-film adaptations and doing them really well and staying true to the stories. I expect no less with the "Crossfire" series.
Bookish: Which TV shows or movies depict sex in ways that you admire and could help inform how sex is handled in the show about your books?
SD: There are so many of them! There are, of course, some that are explicit and yet, not necessarily is it pivotal to the story. "The Tudors" did a really good job with the sex; they used that to show characterization and also had some really lovely romantic sex scenes with various characters. I don't think we have anything along the lines of "Crossfire" yet--as in, taking a novel that's erotic women's fiction and translating it to film. Usually it's a different genre's book that just happens to have sex in it, like "Dexter" and "Game of Thrones" and so on. So, it'll be interesting to see how that adaptation works.
Film-wise, I think we probably have seen more than what we’ve seen on television. "Unfaithful" did a really beautiful job of it, with Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez. You see Diane Lane unraveling through sexual interaction with this guy. I think in the film medium we've seen it and, of course, we're not seeing that so much with film anymore, [so] it's kind of turned over to television.
Bookish: Which actors and actresses can you see playing Gideon and Eva?
SD: I don't have real-life people in mind when I write my characters; in my head, they’re totally unique people. But, you know, the readers have [created] literally dozens of casting videos on YouTube that are really beautifully done. Fan favorites are Henry Cavill from "The Tudors," who’s also the new Superman; Matt Bomer from "White Collar"; David Gandy, who’s a model; Ian Somerhalder's another one. The readers have their personal favorites--of those, Henry Cavill would be my choice. He's the right age; having seen him on "The Tudors," I think he'd do a beautiful job of it.
But I have no hand in casting. They may come up with something totally different, but the producers are very aware of the "Crossfire" fandom. They watch the videos, they listen to the interactions on Twitter and Facebook; they're very plugged in to what the readers want. 'Cause they know, of course, in order for the [TV] series to work, the existing fanbase has to be committed to the series as well.
Heroine-wise, I think Scarlett Johansson would do a fabulous job. She's beautiful, she's very curvy like Eva is, and she gets that emotional vulnerability across very well. She even managed to get that vulnerability across in "The Avengers!"
Bookish: It's funny--Cavill, Bomer and Somerhalder have all been put forward as candidates to play Christian Grey in the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movie. (Though, at this point, who hasn't?) They’re all actors who have a good sense of humor.
SD: I find it so funny that the same actors are mentioned with Gideon and Christian, because they look obviously very different. Christian is a redhead with gray eyes, then you have Gideon, who's [got] long black hair! You couldn’t find two men who are more different, and yet the same actors come up for it. It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.
Bookish: I think it's probably something to do with the sexual magnetism of both characters. Sure, Christian Grey is distantly based on Robert Pattinson as copper-haired Edward, and yet what people are attracted to in someone like an Ian Somerhalder is that great, smoldering gaze. I imagine they see that same energy in Gideon.
SD: That goes back to my thing about the clinch covers--I don't even care if the hair color or eye color is right, as long as you're getting that emotional resonance across. And if that happens, I don’t think it really matters what the actor looks like, if he can nail the actual emotional component of the character.
Sylvia Day is the #1 New York Times and #1 international bestselling author of more than a dozen award-winning novels sold in 39 countries. She is a #1 bestselling author in 15 countries and a reader favorite across several genres, with millions of copies of her books in print. She has been nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Author, and her work has been honored as Amazon's Best of the Year in Romance. She has won the RT Book Reviews Reviewers' Choice Award and been nominated for Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award twice. She is currently president of the Romance Writers of America, an association of over 10,000 writers. She recently inked a deal with Cosmopolitan magazine and Harlequin to launch the Cosmo Red Hot Reads from Harlequin series later this year. Visit her at www.sylviaday.com and follow her on Twitter @SylDay.