Written by JJ Barnes
I interviewed on The Table Read, I interviewed authors Sandra Stachowicz and her collaborative partner Janet Brent about their careers, what inspires them, and the creative process behind their upcoming erotica book, Rebel Romance.
Tell me a bit about who you are.
I’m a book strategist, publisher and a six times bestselling author. I’m also the co-founder of DarkQuarks Publishing LLC.
I help visionary thought leaders, rebels, disruptors, coaches and healers become the most influential bestselling authors by teaching them how to turn their message into a global brand. But the difference is that my clients don’t sell their soul to the devil; they write their Wall Street Journal, USA Today or Barnes & Noble bestselling book in their unique voice without compromising on their message, their values or their creative rights (Sandra Stachowicz)
Janet Brent: I’m a book doula, five times bestselling author and creator and co-founder of DarkQuarks Publishing. I help visionaries, healers, disruptors, thought leaders, and rebels with a cause launch paradigm-shifting bestselling books that turn their message into a movement.
When did you first WANT to write a book?
I knew I wanted to write a book ever since I could read and write. Growing up, I devoured “Anne Of Green Gables” and re-enacted the scenes from the book with my 3 sisters (and yes, you guessed it, I usually played some boring male roles!) Under the author’s name I could see “translator”. I thought, they must be a very important person if they made it into the book as their name appeared just under Lucy Maud Montgomery’s. Years later, I moved across the sea and landed my degree as a translator in English, Spanish and German (Polish being my mother tongue). What I didn’t know back as a 9 year old is that I’d be writing books in a language that is not my mother tongue.
As a little girl, the only way I could wrap my head around is by becoming a “translator”. Intuitively, I knew who I wanted to become when I grow up at a time when my classmates wanted to become teachers, models, actresses and princesses (Sandra Stachowicz)
Janet Brent: Ever since I was a kid, I would write, draw, and create my own books. I knew I always wanted to be an author. The top three things I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer, artist, and teacher. I believe I am fulfilling all three with DarkQuarks Publishing.
When did you take a step to start writing?
I first co-authored a book with 13 other entrepreneurs. Back then, I didn’t even dream of becoming a published author and had no such plans. Yet, as often is with most things of substance, the opportunity to contribute a chapter in a book came out completely out of nowhere. I jumped on board without batting an eyelid.
In short few months, I was officially a published bestselling international co-author.
In hindsight, co-creating a book gave me the confidence to write my own solo book a year later which became a bestseller practically overnight. Dipping my BIG toe in to test the waters, equipped me with a newly found wisdom to write, publish and launch a bestselling book (Sandra Stachowicz)
Janet Brent: Truthfully, I kept journals and journals ever since I was about nine. My first steps at writing for an audience was blogging, which I took on in the era of GeoCities, Angelfire, then LiveJournal, and Blogspot. I really grew up with the internet as one of the early adopters in 1994. My coming-of-age through blogging lead me to entrepreneurship and I launched and co-authored my first book January of 2020.
How long did it take you to complete your first book from the first idea to release?
Back then I worked two full-time jobs and ran two businesses – my digital marketing and coaching companies and admittedly, it took me a little longer than I initially anticipated. The very little time I did have between my two jobs and enterprises, I put pen to paper. It was a blessing in disguise as I knew that if I didn’t make progress with my book in that time slot, I’d never make it in the business world. I used that time wisely and productively.
Writing my solo book took me about 3 months. I then stalled a bit when it came to publishing as I experienced burnout and panic attacks and made a decision to quit my two jobs shortly before the launch of my book. My subsequent books took me as little as 3 months from conception to bestseller.
I lost my dad when I was 15 and have a sense of urgency. Me and my business partner, Janet Brent, typically work with rebels, disruptors and visionaries who get the simple act of life that time is not guaranteed to anyone and coaches who know that the only time is now.
I knew I didn’t want to spend the next 2-4 years perfecting my manuscript only for it to end up in the depths of my drawers, never to see the daylight.
One of the basic human illusions is that if you write a book in 90 days or less, then that means that you need to compromise on quality. You don’t.
We each carry our book in our soul. That books that we’ve been dreaming up all those years is hiding deep in the crevices of your heart. It’s there. It has always been. It just needs a little help to come out.
That’s what we help our clients with (Sandra Stachowicz)
Janet Brent: I first had the idea to co-author and facilitate a multi-author book collaboration September of 2019. It was about 4 months from idea to launch.
How long did it take you to complete your latest book from the first idea to release?
The last one took us about a year as we massaged it and made love to. All our books are different, and some take a little more time to come out, whereas others, take us as little as 90 days from book idea to bestseller (Sandra Stachowicz)
Janet: I first had the idea of Rebel Romance months ago. While yes, it takes about 90 days to write and launch a bestselling book, especially our book anthologies, Rebel Romance came as a name I dropped into for months before I felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger. When it dropped in, I wasn’t even sure it would be a book. But the more time passed, the more I realized this was our next book anthology collaboration. Then, the more I sat with the book anthology, the more I realized it would be an erotica. From idea to incubation to action and its projected release in January took me about 9 months.
Focusing on your latest release. What made you want to write Rebel Romance?
In the past, we focused on transformational, how-to, self-help and business books. I think we both knew we needed to challenge ourselves to grow and expand, not just emotionally, mentally but also spiritually.
When my business partner first suggested we release our first erotica series I looked at her as if she had 12 noses. I was hesitant to say the least.
The more I toyed with the idea of launching not only fiction but erotica at that, the more I warmed up and have since been on fire ever since I decided I was fully onboard. It almost feels like the more I grow into our “little project”, the more it grows on me.
I’ve never been excited about any of our upcoming projects as much as I have been about “Rebel Romance”. I’ve grown, changed and evolved and witnessed our clients and contributing authors do the same.
It’s been an extremely humbling experience.
In hindsight, I was surprised how much demand there is for this type of books that not only break paradigms of what love out loud stories are, challenge our pre-conceived ideas of love and romance, but also help us heal and are deeply cathartic and therapeutic.
I realized very early on that contributing a chapter in erotica series is not a “nice to have”, a frivolity or a luxury, but rather a necessity, a transformative once in a lifetime adventure where we get to re-write the story of our life, whether it’s by mixing fiction with non-fiction, where the line between truth and lies blurs.
We’re already planning our next erotica series (and I never thought, something like that would come out of my mouth). (Sandra Stachowicz)
Janet Brent: I had an erotica blog that I wrote in the past, and I used erotica as a creative healing tool during my two-year vow of celibacy after breaking up from a toxic relationship. Erotica helped me get over my ex. Erotica helped me as a creative muse. I was able to channel and process my emotions in a positive way. I’ve always been interested in the intersections between sensuality and spirituality and this is what I like to explore with erotica. For anyone who thinks it’s just about sex, or frowns upon it, they are missing an opportunity for deep transformation. One of my past partners, himself an atheist, said sex was the highest form of prayer. This is what I want to explore with Rebel Romance. The sacredness.
The nature of erotica has brought upon an inner ‘wildfire’ within me and our clients. Connecting back into your passions and the passion for life. Being tapped into a life force energy.
We have never felt this excited for our publishing business and our book project as now! I’ve been getting more downloads and ideas, I feel more tapped into creative energy. Our book project has helped me become a more embodied leader. I have no doubt that it will be transformative and life changing for myself and all our co-authors.
What were your biggest challenges with writing Rebel Romance?
I’m yet to write it so it remains to be seen. I have a few great ideas and will likely base the story on my own early sexual experiences and weave fiction with non-fiction. The story I write will break paradigms, stereotypes and any pre-conceived ideas of what “love out loud” rebel romance is by re-defining cliché and presenting it in a non-cliché way.
Some of the stories “Rebel Romance” features include strategically cheating on your future husband with a Paralympian athlete as a tool to strengthen rather than break a bond, using BDSM as a tool to heal after rape, prison romance, as well as age-gap and interracial relationships that should have never happened but did anyway (and resulted in 4 kids and 20 years of marriage).
Janet: I have not started writing yet. The biggest challenge is always starting!
Who or what inspired you when creating your Protagonist?
What inspired me is life itself. Life writes the best stories. Most of my stories are based on real life. “Rebel Romance” is the only exception where fiction and non-fiction blends, where we get to write under a pen or real name. Where anything goes.
My character in the book is a real person. Me. Character names may have been changed to protect their identity.
Janet: I am inspired by writer and performance artist Miranda July. Her books are not erotica, though she has written a screen play that delved into sex work. What interests me about her characters and character development is that there is always a quirky side to it and feeling the connectedness of human nature in a heartwarming sort of way.
What is the inciting incident of Rebel Romance?
The inciting incident of my book is the moment when I know I’m about to have one of my very first times. I’m both scared and excited. Naïve, yet feisty at the same time. Worst yet, the anticipation is killing me.
Janet Brent: My particular story may be based on my experiences but delve further into fantasy. I do have an erotica novella that’s been on my mind to write for years, so I’m sensing that this will be the beginning of that. The premise is alternative relationships that don’t end in a happy ever after, but are still meaningful in the moment.
What is the main conflict of Rebel Romance?
Our upcoming book “Rebel Romance” is our first ever erotica series. Our main focus in on sharing paradigm-shifting love out loud and out of the box tales, such as mind-blowing age-gap relationship that should have never stood the test of time (but did anyway), polyamorous, interracial, LGBTQ+, prison romance, BDSM as tool to heal after rape and many more..
The main conflict is the constant push and pull between our desires and religious, cultural and societal dogma, of the “right and “wrong”, what is morally accepted and what is considered socially unacceptable. The breaking out of the mold and the unbecoming. The raw, the uncensored, the unedited.
Like who gets to decide what is good for me?
What if BDSM helps me heal and see the unseen, hidden aspects of me and heal after rape?
What if strategically cheating on my future husband before the BIG day strengthens the bond rather than break it?
Who said we’re monogamous creatures or that pre-marital sex is a sin?
This and many other moral questions are what “Rebel Romance” endeavors to answer. We don’t hand out the answers on the silver platter. We throw the questions out in the open to make the reader think and make decisions for themselves.
We’re on a mission to break stereotypes and move away from the “damsel in distress” archetype where women are being pictured as helpless, powerless victims that need saving (and are swept off their feet by a knight in shining amour) or the cliché of “poor woman fresh out of college meet a rich billionaire” or a submissive, professional people pleasing female protagonist meets the man with a dark past along the lines of “Fifty Shades of Grey”.
For some, re-writing their stories is a deeply healing, cathartic and therapeutic endeavor, albeit a playful one at that too. (Sandra Stachowicz)
Janet Brent: The main conflict is the journey of indoctrination and then rewilding yourself back to your own inner truths and soulful love. There is no one-size-fits-all and no boxes or labels here. This is finding yourself and coming home to divinity in a fun, sensual, and playful—but still very sacred way.
Did you plot Rebel Romance in advance, or fly by the seat of your pants and write freely?
In my personal opinion, life is the best “plot twister”. I did toy with a few different ideas beforehand. I’m more of a fly by the seat of your pants and write freely type of girl and not much of a planner.
Janet: I fly by the seat of my pants, go with the flow, and see what life experiences want to weave its way into the story, and what my heart wants to say.
Did you get support with editing, and how much editing did Rebel Romance need?
I hired a professional editor who edited four of my books. I consider myself lucky as I’ve previously worked with her and knew exactly what I was getting. This meant I didn’t have to go out on a hunt to find the right editor. My editor specializes in copyediting, structural editing and proofreading (not many editors do all three) and on top of that formatted the e-book version ready for Amazon submission.
We decided to work with a different editor this time round as we needed something extra special. Something who’d not only get copyediting, was a gifted writer himself but was into kink and erotica too. We’ve found just the right person.
Janet: Sandra has found the perfect editor for this piece and I could not be more excited!
Can you give me a hint about any further books you’re planning to write?
We’re already planning another erotica series. Now, I wonder what my business partner Janet is going to say about that as we haven’t discussed this yet. I’m pretty sure she’ll be like “I’m IN!”.
We’re also in the process of writing our solo book, just me and Janet, on how to write a paradigm-shifting legacy book.
Janet: I have an inkling about “Powerhouse” and I’m sure this won’t be our last erotica series. Aside from our solo book we are writing together, I’m also writing a memoir about my own life and journey to entrepreneurship.
And, finally, are your proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?
I really am. “Rebel Romance” sold out before we knew it and we’ve since had to increase the number of contributing authors to accommodate for the increased demand (and have since opened up a few more spots). We’ve had people message us they’ve really been called to join (and tell us how much sharing their love out loud stories means to them) or share some of their deepest, most intimate moments with their significant other (that transcends any labels).
I found all these private conversations that we don’t necessarily “want the whole town to know about” deeply healing and therapeutic.
I feel like I have grown (and keep growing) as a result of this creative writing project and am no longer the same person. I’ve embraced and now embody pleasure and playfulness that I felt was missing (running a business can very quickly become all about being serious, uptight and deadlines – who needs any of that?!)
The conversations I’ve had with contributing authors about how they’ve let themselves go “wild”, unbecome and step outside religious dogma after they grew up in conversative Christian background where marital sex was revered and put on a pedestal and only seen in the content of procreation (and everything else was considered a sin) and now, really and truly enjoy their sex life without shame or apology…
I think that’s more than I could ever ask for with this project….
Janet: Absolutely! I feel this is the next expansion for us as authors, publishers, co-facilitators, and coaches. This is a co-creation with ourselves, each other, our clients, and the universe. The demand for this project has been amazing, we have life-changing results from current clients, and I feel this project has really challenged me to embody this self-love and pleasure journey. The downloads keep on coming. I’ve witnessed a shift in both Sandra and myself. Even though we are ocean’s apart, this project has changed the both of us.
Pop all your book, website and social media links here so the readers can find you:
Join our upcoming book “Rebel Romance” first ever erotica series, launching in January 2022
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