The day that Tawna Fenske's cat died was the day that she started her career as a romance novelist. It was Fenske's 32nd birthday, and her publisher called to tell her that her first book's publication had been canceled. She had already spent her advance on a trip to Australia, her day job was threating to fire her, and, keep in mind, her cat was dead. It was then she realized she could find humor in just about anything.
"Eat, Play, Lust" is the local author's latest web-novella, a blend of lusty romance and sexual humor. The story follows the misadventures of a paddleboard yoga instructor, a profession that could only be fictionalized into an erotic story by someone who lives in Bend, Ore.
"People ask me if I made that up," explains Fenske, the author of three published romance novels and a Bend resident for the last 16 years. "I tell them 'no, here's a picture of me doing it.' "
Her latest short eBook is available on Amazon.com, next to suggested reading like "Take Me," the story of a professional womanizer who accidentally marries a stripper in a drunken Vegas debacle; "Lovers Unmasked," a Halloween night sexcapade among friends; and, "Wicked Heat," which, I'll admit, I'm a little lost on the plot of this one, but I think it has something to do with having sex with strangers in an airport. All the books sport shirtless muscle-clad men on the covers.
But Fenske doesn't write typical throbbing romantic fiction. She specializes in making even the most mundane and unsexy situations into opportunities for unexpected romance and humor. She developed a love for romance novels while studying more formal literature in college.
"They were the guilty pleasures of a lit major," explains Fenske. "After my term was over, I would buy a garbage bag of romance novels and devour them."
You might recognize her more practical, less risqué writing from VisitBend's website, as she often blogs for the tourism group. While that pays the bills, her true passion is writing fiction.
"I have two separate identities, it is like separation of church and state," said Fenske.
After careers as an English teacher in South America, a journalist and a marketing expert, she now writes for three different publishers (and maintains a part-time writing gig for VisitBend), including three books with Sourcebooks Inc. and an online interactive fiction series for Coliloquy called "Getting Dumped."
"If it were a movie, it would be in the rated-R ball park," says Fenske. "There are certainly sex situations some foreplay. It's risqué sex based humor."
One of the projects is a choose-your-own-adventure type romance. An e-book where readers can digitally determine the actions of characters and outcome of the story.
"In the first episode, there was one choice point between three different guys. I get aggregated data about what readers choose," Fenske says. This data helped her determine future editions of the story, keeping characters around who got the most web traffic. "Most readers read all three, but one reader read the same scene seventy-seven times. She was fired up for Collin."
Seventy-seven views is a testament to the readability of Fenske's work. Perhaps this is because she's not trying to be the next Faulkner. She's just trying to entertain.
"Generally speaking, we [romance authors] are not trying to write the next great American novel," said Fenske. "We aren't the gourmet entrée, we're your desert. There's nothing wrong with being escapist."
Thursday, Sept. 26
COCC Redmond Campus, 2030 SE College Loop.
Get Into Lit
The Nature of Words is offering several classes this fall in preparation for its literary festival, Nov. 7-10. The annual festival will bring notable authors including Oregon's former Poet Laureate Lawson Inada, young adult author Karen Finneyfrock, and artist and author James Prosek for guest lectures and workshops. Get involved pre-festival with these fall workshops.
"The Garden of the Finzi-Continis."
Mondays, Oct. 7, 14th, 21st 6 pm
The Nature of Words, 224 NW Oregon Ave.
$65 (book not included)
Oregon State University-Cascades literature instructor Ellen Santasiero will discuss "The Garden of the Finzi-Continis," by Giorgio Bassani. This 1962 historical novel explores complex personal relationships during the rise of fascism at the start of WWII. There are few things that go better with Italian books than Italian wine, so the discussion will be accompanied by a tasting from the Emilia-Romagna region where the novel is set. Night one covers the first 100 pages of the novel. Register by calling the NOW office at 541-647-2233, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blogging for Writers
Wednesday, Oct. 16, 6:30 pm
The Nature of Words, 224 NW Oregon Ave.
Lessons for the typewriter bound. Active blogger and travel writer Nicole Meier brings prehistoric writers into the ever-expanding world of blogging. The workshop focuses on creative voice, design text and imaging as well as use of social media to help increase traffic and exposure.
Meier's blog, Have Tote Will Travel, received honorable mention from the Source as best Central Oregon Local Blog.
Register by calling the NOW office at 541-647-2233, email@example.com.