Welcome my friend, the fabulous author of the Equals series, as she stops by the blog today to promote her new book Connection.
1. Have you ever used something, even a small funny moment with a friend, etc in one of your books?
You know, I would swear I have, but for the life of me I can’t remember right now. *laughs*
I absolutely do use emotional memories to make a scene more authentic though. Drawing from personal experiences of a similar situation can help deepen the emotion in a scene and I’ve done that a number of times.
2. Do you have another genre or subgenre you read? If so, do you read that more than, the same as, or less frequently than M/M?
It’s fairly rare that I read anything but M/M these days, which has more to do with a lack of time and a wealth of so many amazing M/M books on my TBR list, but when I do have the time, historical fiction and mysteries are my favorites.
The one author I will absolutely drop everything to read is Margaret Atwood.
3. Was Evan, from Connection, a character that just came through the ether as Equals series (which I absolutely love, btw) evolved, or was he a planned secondary whose story you knew you’d spin-off from the beginning?
Evan essentially appeared out of the ether and evolved from there. I had Partners basically written, but knew something was missing. The town of Putnam was coming across as much too flat and one-dimensional. If I remember right, I’d written this vague idea of a young guy who worked for the funeral home, but he hadn’t really coalesced into anything concrete and I had no real plan for him. Eventually, I realized his interaction with Russ could really fill that gap and his character began to evolve from there. By the time Partners was written, my betas were clamoring for Evan to have his own book and I knew he had a huge story to tell. It took longer for me to put the pieces together and figure out that Jeremy would be his partner, but once I had the thought I knew it was what needed to happen, even though on paper, Evan and Jeremy are so different.
4. I have to ask—because it’s one of those things that I love when other writers do but is super daunting to me—was it difficult writing 2 characters through 4 different books? Or was it easier to stay in that world?
It can be difficult writing the same characters through different books, but I found that on the whole I enjoyed it. It gave me a chance to delve further into their psychology and get to know them better. Stephen really evolved for me throughout the Equals series and I absolutely loved discovering where he came from and why he made the decisions he did. Some of his backstory was there in Equals, the first book, but it really clicked for me in Partners and that continued to develop in Family and Husbands. And then doing the spin-off of Connection where we see Stephen through Jeremy’s eyes was really fascinating. I guess I’d have to say that while it can be challenging, I enjoy that challenge a lot.
5. Did you have something that or someone who inspired any of your stories and/or characters as far as Russ, Stephen, Evan, or Jeremy go?
The inspiration for Russ and Stephen’s dynamic came from this photo.
I saw it and thought “Sexy older man, a little possessive of his younger partner” and bam, I had a story. As the story developed I found face cast pictures that matched the image in my head of each character. Ryan Guzman, an actor, and Michael Justin, a model, are very close to how I picture Russ and Stephen.
When I worked on Stephen’s history with his ex, Jeremy, I had a vague idea that I wanted Jeremy and Russ to be somewhat similar looking in that they both had dark hair, hazel eyes and were tall and fairly muscular. Jeremy’s personality was set but his actual physical look was fairly vague in my head until I started to do some searching and ran across a photo of the actor Brandon Quinn and it kinda clicked for me. Jeremy has some similarities to Russ, but overall has a more rugged look. Russ is a bit more of a pretty boy.
I knew what Evan looked like from the beginning. Tall, but very thin, very pale and someone who might get overlooked at first, but would grow into himself well and wind up attractive and interesting looking. The model, Andreas Sandby, took a long time to find, but he really was perfect for Evan. And those cheekbones are incredibly striking.
In the course of writing Connection I also ran across this photo which was absolutely perfect for Evan and Jeremy. It shows the dynamic of them as partners so much. They need each other more than any other couple I’ve written. There’s just so much vulnerability and hurt in both of them, and being together offers them the kind of security and shelter from the outside world that they both need.
6. What’s your writing process like?
Truthfully, it varies with every story. I often get a plot bunny long before I have time to write it, so I jot down whatever ideas pop into my head and stash the file away for a while as I work on something else. Occasionally, another idea will appear and I’ll add that to the file and put it away again until I am ready to work on it.
My process for writing a book has changed some in the last few years. I am trying to be less of a pantser and more of a plotter, so I try to make a rough outline of where I’m going and fill in scene ideas as they appear in my head. Sometimes that changes quite a bit as I write, but at least it gives me somewhere to start.
7. What’s the thing you find most challenging about being a writer?
Time management is one of my biggest challenges. When I was working full time, I would jam writing into every free second I had, but now that I have eight hours a day to write it’s taking a little bit of time to get used to the idea of having every single day free. I don’t have the stamina to do it all day, so I am trying to break it up into chunks and slowly acclimate. It’s something I know I can do better at, so I am constantly working to improve my organization and time management skills.
8. Did something in particular inspire you to just GO FOR IT and go from “hobby” writing to “I want to publish”?
I’d been flailing around most of my life trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up and the more I wrote the more I loved it. So many people had been telling me I should publish and the more people told me that the more I wanted to, but my confidence wasn’t quite there yet.
I had been working at a hospital doing patient registration. I didn’t love the job, but it was relatively easy work and I had good pay, good benefits, and great co-workers. I had several managers over the years, but in the summer of 2013 the one I had was awful. Truly, truly awful. She turned the job from something that was relatively enjoyable into something soul-sucking. I came home from work one day in tears and said to my (now ex) husband, “I can’t do this anymore, I want to be a writer.” I submitted a “Pain Management” to Dreamspinner Press a few months later, and it was published in the “Dr. Feelgood” anthology that next spring. In the meantime, I also began exploring self-publishing.
It took a couple of years (and my divorce) to actually have the opportunity to focus on my writing full-time, but that horrid boss really did give me the kick in the pants to decide that I wanted to take my writing seriously. I am grudgingly grateful to her for that. *laughs*
9. When you put down the “pen” (so to say) and step back after typing The End, what is it you hope people take from your writing?
That my characters are complex, flawed people. They (as am I as a writer) are works in progress. The interesting thing is not that they end up together as much as how they get there. And that love is always worth the journey, no matter how difficult it is to get there.
10. What’s up next for you?
More Evan and Jeremy! I am finishing up the second half of their story, which will be called “Trust” and I am aiming to have that out in late November/early December if possible. Here’s a little teaser.
Sweat trickled down the back of Evan’s neck as he shoved the covers away. He shifted, his bare leg brushing rough, stiff fabric, which made him frown in confusion. Reaching out, he blinked sleepily, trying to put the pieces together. His hand met sold, warm flesh and his lips curled up in a smile, remembering Jeremy’s hand stroking him through an orgasm. Jeremy had stayed. That’s why he felt so warm.
Jeremy was sprawled on his back, and when Evan squinted, he could see Jeremy’s face turned away. Carefully scooting closer, he wiggled until he was wedged between Jeremy’s arm and torso. He gently rested his head on Jeremy’s shoulder, letting out a sigh of contentment. Jeremy wasn’t hugely built, but his chest and shoulders were wide, his arms solidly muscled. He made Evan feel safe.
A faint memory of falling asleep on Jeremy’s chest after his orgasm tickled through his mind, and he winced when he realized Jeremy hadn’t come. He hadn’t meant to be a jerk and fall asleep but it had been the best orgasm of his life. The first one with another man. He felt so comfortable in Jeremy’s arms, so content and cared for. For the first time, he felt like he belonged somewhere. Like he mattered.
Evan untucked his hand from where it rested between their bodies and tentatively settled it on Jeremy’s chest, who stirred a little, letting out a quiet sigh, but settled immediately back into sleep. The steady rise and fall of his breathing was comforting.
Evan squirmed closer, his cheek rubbing again Jeremy’s shoulder, his fingertips wandering a little. He explored the firm planes of Jeremy’s pecs, the warm, smooth skin tempting him to touch. When he’d asked Jeremy to take him to the club that night, he’d never imagined they’d end up in bed together. His plan had been to get over Jeremy, meet someone else and move on, but this was so much better. This was what he’d wanted all along. He’d never wanted to be with anyone else, he’d just never dreamed Jeremy would give him a chance. But Jeremy had seemed different tonight, more relaxed and open. And the way he’d looked at Evan? Oh, it took Evan’s breath away. It made his heart pound and little shiver skitter up and down his spine. And to have gone from thinking that nothing would ever happen between them to this? He hardly knew what to think.
The fact that Jeremy had stayed tonight said everything. Evan rubbed his cheek against Jeremy’s shoulder again, breathing in his scent, wanting to imprint every moment onto his memory. For so many years he’d felt alone and unwanted. Falling asleep in Jeremy’s arms two nights in a row softened the bad memories, replacing them with something new and wonderful. They filled up the hollow ache that had been inside him for as long as he could remember.
Sleepily, Evan continued to stroke Jeremy’s skin, thrilled with the opportunity to touch him. Last night they’d both been fully clothed but feeling their bare skin pressed together was so much better. He’d wake Jeremy in a while, maybe with a handjob if he was feeling brave. Evan bit his lip at the thought. He wanted Jeremy to feel as good as he’d made Evan feel earlier. He explored lower on Jeremy’s abdomen, feeling the firm muscles under his fingertips. He traced the shallow line down the center of Jeremy’s abdomen, dipping into his navel, the soft hair that began below tickling his fingertip. Holding his breath, he traced it to the edge of Jeremy’s jeans. Jeremy stirred, shifting on the bed, and Evan followed the edge of the fabric until he hit a strange spot where the texture of Jeremy’s skin changed. Evan explored it for a second, curious, trying to figure out what it was, too dozy and sleep-muddled to put the pieces together. His thumb smoothed over the spot, and it had just registered that it was probably scar tissue when Jeremy sat upright, shoving him away.
“Don’t fucking touch me,” he roared.
Evan fell back on the bed as Jeremy scrambled off the mattress, swearing loudly. Stunned, Evan groped for the lamp beside the bed and turned it on just as Jeremy’s face twisted with pain. He skin went grey as he hobbled toward the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. Bewildered, Evan sat there for a moment, his stomach churning with anxiety as he tried to understand what had happened.
All he wanted to do was touch Jeremy. Be close to him.
He froze as he finally put the pieces together. Jeremy was sensitive about his scars, hell, he’d told Evan that before. And Evan had touched them without asking. Dazed, Evan sat on the edge of the bed. Shit, he had fucked this up. Horribly.
He heard a retching sound from the bathroom and winced, anxiety twisting his own stomach in a sympathetic response. Jeremy had probably hurt himself in his hurry to get off the bed and get away from him. Shit. Double shit. How in the hell am I going to fix this? he wondered.
I also plan to spend most of November writing the second book in the Midwest Series, which will follow Brent and Lowell, a totally mismatched pair who get set up by their friends to take a road trip together. It’s definitely a hate/lust type of situation and getting them together is going to be FUN. It won’t be super angsty, but it will be a lot of fun.
I also have a series I am collaborating with another author on. It follows a couple of very wealthy men living in Manhattan who, over the course of about fifteen years, struggle with their sexuality and their feelings for each other and have to choose between their families/inheritances/social standing and being together. I am really excited about it and we have been working on it for a couple of years. It’s nearly done and we’re hoping to submit it to publishers in the near future.
In January, my plan is to get started on a plot bunny that has been hanging out in my folders for a while now. It’ll be a rather dark story and I am still working through the details of the plot. The story begins with Chris, standing over the grave at his brother Cal’s funeral. Across the casket, he sees Elliot, who he later learns is his (previously straight to his knowledge) brother’s boyfriend. Chris and Elliot develop this very complicated relationship as they mourn Cal’s death and there’s a lot of guilt they both have to work through in order to be together.
It’s going to be a busy and exciting couple of months!
After a lifetime of being told he’s worthless, shy, sheltered Evan Harris is forced out of the closet and kicked out of his home. Friends in Atlanta give him a place to stay while he gets on his feet, but despite his eagerness to explore the city, it isn’t exactly what he expected.
Physically and emotionally scarred from a devastating car accident, Jeremy Lewis struggles to reconcile the brash, outgoing man he used to be with the social recluse he’s become.
Loneliness draws them to each other, but a strong mutual attraction isn’t enough to overcome their pasts. In order to be together, Evan must discover his own worth and Jeremy must trust someone to see past his scars.