Most people hate their job, but not Liz Crowe. That might have something to do with the fact that hers consists of brewing craft lager and writing steamy - occasionally gay-themed - erotic fiction. Some people have all the luck.
Crowe's latest book "Honey Red" was released digitally at the end of 2012. In this standalone story, she explores a three-way relationship between two men and one woman. This month, she launched a new book series, "The Challenge Series"; the first book, "Healing Hearts," came out New Year's Day.
Lucky is how most people would describe Crowe's career. But luck didn't really play much of a role. Like most successful people, Crowe knows a good opportunity when she sees one.
After living abroad for seven years, Crowe and her family returned to the States, making Ann Arbor their home. Ready to get back to work, she dusted off her realtor license. Using her strong background in marketing and sales, she found a way to make a successful career in real estate from 2004-2010.
In 2010 she was approached by Trevor Thrall - her neighbor and co-founder of Wolverine State Brewing Co. - to handle their marketing as they worked toward expanding from a contract brewer to opening their own brewery. Wisely, she said yes - but she wanted to do it as an owner. At the same time she was twirling her pen as a first-time writer and things took off from there.
"When they came to me and I agreed to do this, I began this blog called A2beerwench.com," she says. "In it, I chronicled my journey in craft beer: understanding, learning and becoming this beer wench by having beer school sessions, watching beer being brewed, doing everything I could to really understand it. Dovetailing with that, I was writing this story, this one story, which has become the Stewart Realty series."
After lots of rejection, she was able to sell a side story to a small publisher. Then, after breaking out the larger story into three parts, Crowe found a publisher who believed in her work enough to put some force behind making it a success.
"Essence of Time," the fourth book in the Stewart Realty series, is where things got kind of gay. For a married mother of three and self-proclaimed Kentucky girl, it was an exciting departure from the familiar.
"I wrote the forth book, which was my first experience writing any sort of gay romance at all," she says. "I had read a lot of it and it intrigued me. I've always been one of those people where to me love is love, but I never really thought about the dynamics of a love story between same-sex individuals. So, it was great. I loved writing that story."
"Essence" was born from Crowe's character and plot-driven stories. While the focus of the series is on two main characters, many secondary characters begged for their stories to be told as well.
"What I've done with it is I've created an entire community of people - a cast of secondary characters that had to have their story told. The woman (Sarah) has a brother (Blake) who is bisexual. I sort of had a one-off character: Blake's business/life partner (Rob). They just spoke to me. By the time I got to the third book and I was promoting it, I was like, 'I want to tell Blake and Rob's story really badly.'"
The topic of gay sex and relationships may seem out of step for Crowe's real life, but as she likes to say, "I make shit up." For Crowe, that's what it's all about - the story.
"I get a story in my head or a couple in my head," she says. "I get caught by that and I have to get it out there, to the detriment of my children who want to eat dinner and the dogs who need walking or the house that needs cleaning. It allows me to express myself."