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2019 Golden Heart Finalist Claire DeWolf on the Book That Surprised Her

Today we’re welcoming another Omega, Claire DeWolf, a 2019 Golden Heart Finalist whose book LOLITA’S MUSE is a finalist in the Mainstream with Romantic Elements category.

Claire DeWolf (seen below in her role of Golden Heart Finalist and Hollywood wife) is a former actress turned editorial writer and community organizer. The mother of a grown son, she lives in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu with her husband, a forty-year Hollywood veteran. When she’s not attending Hollywood functions or traveling with her husband, you will find her in her home office working on her next book.

The real Claire DeWolf behind the scenes wears braids and walks her dog around the neighborhood in her writer’s uniform—t-shirts and zany yoga pants. She is a consummate foodie and believes that crafting a debut novel is like making fine jam. Use the best ingredients, craft it carefully, and then cook it down to its essence without too much sugar.

Claire and her husband of 33 years just adopted a two-month-old mini red poodle puppy named Bingley. (Named after Mr. Charles Bingley of Netherfield Hall.) Young Bingley, like the man for whom he was named, is an affable gentleman with a true heart. He loves to play with toys, give everyone kisses and cuddles, and is a good boy until he pees in the house. Mr. DeWolf will be very grateful if his wife would potty train Mr. Bingley before she goes to RWA Nationals. Claire is making no promises.

Here’s the awesome Elevator Pitch for LOLITA’S MUSE:

Lolita’s Muse is an over-fifty ménage à trois that explains why #metoo had to happen in Hollywood. With Tantric sex.

And here’s the full back-cover blurb:

Blacklisted as a young screenwriter, Liz Attwood hid behind pen names and her husband’s legend to become Hollywood’s top script doctor, only to lose it all when he died. Grieving, near bankrupt, and unable to write the romance novels that pay her bills, she goes to the sensual yoga retreat that had sparked her spicy Lolita Yardley novels to find inspiration. Instead, she finds two muses who spark her inner Lolita.

 Together, Jake Daggett and Marcus Faraday embody everything she wants in a lover and a muse, and she wants to keep them both. But when scandal threatens everything, Liz must choose between hiding behind another man, or facing her crippling fears and step out from behind her husband’s legend to claim her rightful place in the spotlight.

When life gives you two choices, take both.

Now there’s a spicy mantra you can live by—“take both!”!! LOLITA’S MUSE sounds terrific, and I love that it’s “an over-fifty ménage à trois!” Can’t wait for this to be out!!

 Folks, Claire DeWolf is here today with a guest blog about the surprising origins of her Golden Heart book, and how a book she never meant to write came to be far more meaningful than she expected.

 Take it away, Claire!

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The Surprise Book

Once upon a time, I swore I’d never live in LA. Later, after I’d had a child and became an avid romance reader, I swore I’d never write a romance novel. Writing romance was hard. I didn’t understand the beats and my dream was to write historical fiction. (Yeah, I know. I can be boneheaded.) Once I learned a lot more and I started writing romance, I swore I’d never write about the film industry. Especially not the ugly side I knew too well.

But in 1985, I moved to LA and met and married the love of my life. In 1995, I joined the Orange County Chapter of RWA and found my tribe. And in 2014, out of my fingers came a book about the film business. That book became Lolita’s Muse, my Golden Heart Finalist.

The first two swear-breakers happened because of rational decisions. I came to LA after earning my SAG and AFTRA cards. I’d never spent any time in New York City and I had family here. I still didn’t have an Actors Equity card and I figured that it was better to starve than freeze and starve.

I joined OCC-RWA back when I started writing that historical fiction saga set during the Napoleonic Wars. I had been told that the best way for a woman to publish historical fiction novels was to add strong romantic elements and publish it as a romance. And I had glorious dreams of being the next Diana Gabaldon. (Yeah, still boneheaded. My friends at OCC and LARA have taught me a lot since then.)

Setting Lolita’s Muse in the film business wasn’t a conscious choice. I was pantsing with a deadline and a vague idea of what needed to happen and the evolution of the book came as a complete surprise. It started as a palate-cleanser after finishing the rough draft of a long historical novel set in Naples in 1802 about British spies and blackmail and the secrets of a notorious sex club. (There were lots of sex clubs amongst the bored aristocracy before and during the French Revolution. I know people like to think that the Marquis De Sade was an aberration. He was not. He just took the self-indulgence to the grotesque extreme. But I digress.)

After I’d finished that draft, I signed up for one of my OCC chapter-mate’s on-line classes on writing erotica. I figured the palate cleanser would give me some sex scene practice. There weren’t any sex scenes in the Naples book. The heroine was too young. But there were more books to come (I’d actually written a later book first) and as the heroine progressed through the series there would be lots of sex. I wanted to be ready.

Like all books, Lolita’s Muse started with a seed. A question that I wanted to answer for my main character. As usual that seed came from real life. A neighbor of mine lost her husband to Alzheimers, and that event got me thinking about what it would take for a widow to keep her house in West LA where a small two-bedroom dump is worth millions with a commensurate mortgage. Since it was an erotica class, the book needed lots of sex, so I sent my heroine, Liz, (named after my friend) to Maui to attend a Tantra retreat. Why she went, what happened there, and what happened after the threesome returned to LA became the story.

But because I was pantsing this book, and I’d set part of it in modern day West LA, I wrote the world I knew—life inside the film business. The nitty-gritty stuff most people don’t hear about—the egos, the compromises, the misogyny. But also the good stuff—the truly talented people who loved movies, the long, hard hours they put in during production, and the years of dedication and sacrifices they make to make wonderful feature films.

The story changed as I wrote it. But it wasn’t until I read the first draft that I knew there was a deeper story than an erotic romance about a widow overcoming her grief with two lovers at a Tantra retreat. I tried to write a shy woman, but Liz came out feisty and outspoken. I tried to make her less of a force of nature than her famous husband, but she was so much more.

By the time I finished that first read, I knew there was a deeper reason behind Liz’s decision to hide her screenwriting career behind her husband, Charlie. It wasn’t her fear of fame that caused her to hide. It was something both more prosaic and awful that fed her worst fears. Something that happens to women far too often in Hollywood. A powerful producer tried to rape her as a young screenwriter. And then, after she fought him off, he blacklisted her. This was the event that made Liz hide, and hiding set up the hurdles that she needs to overcome to get her career back and earn her happily-ever-after.

As I dove back into the book to bring out the #metoo side of Liz’s story, I talked to many industry friends. Almost all the women had their own #metoo stories. Stories of Hollywood dreams that put them in the crosshairs of a sexual predator. Some were in the wrong place at the wrong time like the women who got into the back of a limousine with the wrong man. Others had stories like Liz’s. Women pimped by others—or enticed by their own ambition—to take business meetings with men who had the power to make their careers. Men who believed that her sexual favors were his by right and that sex was the price she must pay to gain success in Hollywood.

In the early days of Hollywood many women felt they had no choice and paid the price for career advancement. But women of my generation had grown up as feminists. We believe in standing up for our civil rights and our personal autonomy. A world view that clashed with male prerogative.

Then as now, the women who said no paid the price of their careers. That’s how my Hollywood career ended. That’s how a lot of women’s careers ended. Even some with famous names. But there are also women who succeeded despite the blacklist and the psyche-crushing aftereffects of assault. Women who hid, or moved out of LA, and somehow persevered in the industry. These are the women Lolita’s Muse celebrates.

I had never expected to write a #metoo story, but it was the story my subconscious insisted I tell. And I believe it’s a story that needs to be told. I’m honored that the Golden Heart judges agreed.

That also came as a big surprise.

If all goes well, Lolita’s Muse will be available for pre-order by the 2019 holiday season and available world-wide by the 2020 Oscars.

Is there something in your life that you swore you’d never do—or write about—only to find out that it was your destiny?

 

30 responses to “2019 Golden Heart Finalist Claire DeWolf on the Book That Surprised Her”

  1. Becke Turner says:

    I’m buying this book. What’s not to like if you’ re a woman? The older I get, the ornerier. I’m also delighted it will be available. Well deserved congratulations! Honored to be in the Omega class with you. I’m the perfect bonehead sister!

    I’m sure at one time I’ve made a profound statement about something I wouldn’t write. However, nothing comes to mind.

    Even old dogs learn new tricks. Bingley is precious and house training is hard.
    Good luck.

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  2. The bonehead sisterhood rocks. We should make up a secret handshake.

    I’m honored to be Omega class with you too. Looking forward to meeting you in NYC.

    I’m proud to announce that Bingley has learned how to use the doggie door–for the most part. We still have accidents, but not many.

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Awesome, Bingley!!! Our 15-week-old golden puppy learned to use the dog-door, too, and it was a godsend. Totally housebroken! And then she got a UTI and regressed….sigh. Now that the antibiotics are kicking in, she’s back to using the yard again.

      Now we just have to work on getting to her to sleep a bit later than 6 a.m.. (Or my teenager to go to sleep earlier than 1 a.m. so I can get eight hours in a row somehow.)

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  3. Hi Claire–

    I love that your heroine is older and not just in her thirties. 🙂 I know so many women who would read this for that reason alone.

    I look forward to meeting you in NYC!

    I swore I’d never live in Houston. I’m from Oregon originally and moved to Austin after college for a boy. (Definitely a bonehead move but I married the boy so it worked out.) He is a Texan born and bred. We lived in Austin (which is lovely and reminds me of Portland) and Fort Worth (which has a working man’s feel to it) and now the Houston area (where he’s from). The weather here is, well, gross, and the traffic is gross. It’s sort of like living in a wet gym sock with about a million other people. But here I am and have been, for the last ten years. It certainly wasn’t by choice so it has to be destiny.

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    • Did the bonehead reply button move again, Sharon. I did reply but it’s below Tracy’s comment. Did I mention that other than being a bonehead, I’m also a Luddite? Still learning how this works. 🙂

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Honestly, I know SO many women north of forty who would be thrilled to read an erotic romance with a 50-something heroine!!

      And, LOL, Sharon…living in a wet gym sock for a guy…it really must be love!!

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  4. Tracy Brody says:

    Claire, I’m also a fan of heroines out of their twenties. One of my favorite romances was a Lavyrle Spencer reunion story with a couple in their thirties.

    Hollywood and its casting couch past needs a major overhaul and some powerful women to say “NO! and you’re an asshole.” Your book sounds like a relevant “#metoo story aimed at things that need to be changed.

    Hmm, I never stories. I said I’d never write a book where the H/h meet in a bar, have a drunken hook-up that leads to an HEA. Yes, my first book pretty much had that only at a party. However, that book was the learning/practice book that will not be published and if I do a total rewrite, that is not going to be in it. Guess I’ve learned that things change and it’s better not to say I’ll never____. 😉

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    • Tracy, Sometimes I think our I never statements are a test. For us and our characters. In the best books, they always swear they will never do something at the beginning only to end up doing it at the end for a good reason. Half the fun of reading the story is finding out how and why they change their minds.

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      • Elisa Beatty says:

        “I never” statements certainly reveal a lot about what’s important to us, what our boundaries are, how we perceive ourselves.

        If it weren’t an important limit line, we wouldn’t use the phrase.

        Growth and transformation take place around limit lines, of course.

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  5. Looking forward to meeting you too, Sharon.

    Isn’t it funny how those kinds of things work out? I think Karma laughs at us.

    I’ve never been to Austin but I’ve heard it is a wonderful city. My only experience with Texas is Fort Worth. I spent three months there with a toddler while my husband was on location working on a film. Not an easy thing to do when you don’t know anybody. But the people there were so open-hearted. The first night, I met a woman with a little girl just six months older than our son and she became my play date buddy. Don’t know what I’d have done without her. And the Japanese garden. My son and I spent a lot of time there feeding the koi. Beautiful place.

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  6. Robena Grant says:

    Wonderful, Claire. Love your story, and the promises we make to ourselves and how the universe intervenes. Congratulations, and good luck in NY.

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  7. Elly Kate says:

    Your book sounds amazing! I can’t wait to read it.

    I think my whole life has been made up of things I swore I’d never do. Honestly, it’s like as soon as I say I’d never do something, the universe cackles and the next thing you know… 🙂

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  8. Claire, your book sounds amazing – and necessary. And this post really resonates with me. I spent about fifteen seconds in the film industry in New York in my twenties and left when I realized I wasn’t sure I wanted to become the person I thought I would have to be to succeed. Recently I’ve actually been very tempted to go back – but I’m a different person now. And as for swearing I’d never write something? Oh my goodness yes. I thought I could never write paranormal – that was my first book to sell. I thought I couldn’t write short – and that first sale was a novella. All those times I told myself I couldn’t, I was an idiot. But I’m glad I wised up and that you broke your swear-to-yourselfs and wrote that amazing GH book. Congratulations! And good luck in New York!

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    • Vivi/Lizzie (Not sure which to call you.)

      A lot of women had to make that decision. Men too. And not just in the film business. You have to want to put up with a heck of a lot of BS to succeed in the arts of any kind. And it can be soul crushing. You made the right choice for you in your twenties. And if you want to work in the industry again, you are much wiser now and will be able to navigate the shark pit without getting bitten.

      As to swear breaking, good for you. I love paranormal.

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  9. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks so much for being with us today, Claire! (And sorry to get here so late! I got out of bed late after getting up early with the puppy…trying to negotiate the broken sleep thing.)

    This is such a fabulous post–the way story of how you came to tell the story you NEEDED to tell, and such an important story!

    I think our best writing comes when we confront the most complicated and difficult things in our lives, and we need these #metoo stories to be told.

    Can’t wait to read LOLITA’S MUSE!!

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    • Elisa,

      Don’t apologize. Ever since I read about your puppy’s UTI on Alice’s post I knew why you weren’t the first post this morning, and I’ve been worried. Glad she’s doing better. (Dog doors are a gift from the Gods.)

      Thanks for your comments about Lolita’s Muse. I feel like the universe is pushing me to publish this book. #MeToo is important and since romance is women talking to women I believe it is a conversation we must have.

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  10. Susan Berger says:

    Great story,Claire. Yes. I have four things I swore never to do.
    I swore I’d never get married, never have children, never have a divorce, and never vote Republican. I think one out of four isn’t bad

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    • Sue, my darling, you always make me laugh.

      Thanks for coming by. And check out some of my Omega sister’s blog posts here on the Ruby’s website. We have some great debut novels coming out soon.

      Wish you were going to be at Nationals with me. xo

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  11. Jilly Wood says:

    Love the sound of your book, Claire! I love insider stories, and powerful backstory, and characters who are much more than they seem. All this, plus older characters and a heroine who not only survives a corrupt system but triumphs? With bonus tantric sex? Feeling sad I can’t buy this now 🙁

    Things I swore I’d never do. As a child of northern English working-class parents, I swore I’d never quit a job unless I already had another one lined up. But when the time came, I did. It was scary but it worked out just fine. And that gave me the confidence to take other big risks 🙂

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    • Confidence and the chutzpah to take risks is such an important life lesson. I think we all need to learn it. (and sometimes more than once.)

      So honored to be your Omega sister, Jilly. Can’t wait to meet you at Nationals.

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  12. Lisa Heartman says:

    Claire, I loved hearing about your book when we walked the mall at the OCC birthday bash, and I love it still today. I’m so excited that you entered this in the Golden Heart contest.

    I wanted to write contemporary romance. I tried really, really hard. Finally, after this romantic suspense was bugging me, I had to write notes to get it out of my head and before I knew it I had 4 chapters of my GH finalist book written. You need to trust your instincts, your own muse. She knows what she’s doing.

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  13. I was so thrilled when I found out you were my Omega sister, Lisa. Isn’t it amazing how a genial walk with a new friend can have such resonance into the future?

    Sometimes I think the hardest lesson for writers to learn is to get out of the way of their muse. So glad you did. I love romantic suspense. Can’t wait to read it.

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  14. Sara Whitney says:

    Can’t wait to meet you and read this story, Claire! I’m so glad it demanded to be told. 🙂

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  15. Janet Raye Stevens says:

    Great post, Claire! Congrats on your GH final and getting Lolita’s Muse out there — can’t wait to read it. I was a broadcast reporter (radio) years ago and boy were there #metoo moments.

    As for my never-write, I write mostly paranormal/historical mystery and always said I would never write contemporary romance. Except for last year when I did, and it won its GH category! As you said, never say never!

    See you in NYC!

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