One week in Paris. One chance with her childhood crush. And one lie that could ruin it all.
Before she was Dr. Celeste London, Astrophysicist, she was Mary Celeste Haverford: dork, loser, the geek formerly known as Hairy Mary. But she’d left all that behind—and left Ion Blackwell behind, nothing but an unrequited crush and the memory of a high school field trip, a night in Paris, and the words Celeste had never had the courage to say. She’d never expected to see him again…until a surprise encounter on a Parisian riverboat tour brings him back into her life, and gives her the opportunity to start over as someone new. Someone Ion doesn’t recognize, transformed from a social outcast into a polished, professional woman that Ion doesn’t realize is the girl he’s been longing for since childhood, the ideal he’s dreamed of his entire life.
Suddenly this vivacious (if charmingly awkward) “new” woman is teaching him that real love is better than any dream—but Celeste is hiding more than her identity. Hiding something that makes it hard to trust her increasingly erratic behavior, and her frequent secretive phone calls. When the truth comes out, the deception could shatter them both…unless they can give each other a second chance, and take a risk on love.
Only 99c during release week! (Banner is attached)
With a smile, Celeste leaned on the rail. She’d been a silly girl, heart on her sleeve, but she kind of missed that. Falling in love was never the same—never as light, as sweet, as guileless, the emotion not as raw or real when it became about work schedules and who paid for dinner and whether it was too soon to have sex. Mundane things took the romance out of it, when at sixteen it had been about wishing for that one perfect, breathless, magical kiss with that special someone who didn’t even know she was alive.
Now she just had a half-dozen ex-special someones who said she was an amazing friend, but a lousy girlfriend.
Her eyes stung. She should be standing here with…someone. People did that; they fell in love and took romantic trips to Paris, and cuddled on dreamy moonlit boat tours. But even then she’d have been worrying over her presentation for tomorrow, wondering if Ophelia gave their father his meds, pondering wind speed for Kelvin-Helmholtz instability in Jupiter’s Red Spot, picking out constellations…and never quite here with the imaginary boyfriend.
She really wasn’t cut out for relationships.
She lifted her gaze to the sky and picked out Venus. It hurt, when she smiled. “Guess I wasted a wish,” she whispered. “Do I get a do-over?”
The soft scuff of a sole against the deck warned when someone approached. She straightened, rubbed her eyes, and pulled her hoodie tighter around herself. Last thing she wanted was to ruin some happy couple’s romantic Parisian night when they stumbled on a single woman on the verge of a nostalgic crying jag. They’d probably think she was pulling a Rose, about to fling herself dramatically over the rail of the mini-Titanic.
The footsteps stopped at her side, barely a foot away. She caught a sense of height, masculine body heat, a quietly commanding presence. A low voice rolled over her, husky baritone like whiskey and silk.
“Belle nuit, n’est-ce pas?” he asked, softly accented inflections agonizingly familiar. Celeste looked up, her heart tumbling to the very bottom of her chest and constricting painfully tight.
Fathomless blue eyes looked over the water, set in an elegantly sculpted face: ten years older, more weathered, tanned complexion darkened by the shadow of stubble—but so distinctive she’d know him anywhere. She clutched the railing with fingers almost numb to the cool metal, blood draining to leave them rubbery. She knew him. She knew him, but there was no way it could be him. It was impossible. It was incredible. It was absolutely unbelievable, and she had to be hallucinating.
It was Ion Blackwell.
Winter In Paris giveaway:
Cole McCade is a New Orleans-born Southern boy without the Southern accent, currently residing somewhere in the metropolitan wilds of the American Midwest. He spends his days as a suit-and-tie corporate consultant, and his nights writing romance novels in between fending off Tybalt, his geriatric cat. And while he spends more time than is healthy hiding in his writing cave instead of hanging around social media, you can generally find him in these usual haunts:
Website & Blog: http://www.colemccade.com
You can also get early access to cover reveals, blurbs, contests, and other exclusives by joining the McCade’s Marauders street team at:
What was your favorite scene to write?
(Minor spoiler alert!) The night of the Versailles, after they leave the gardens. I just felt this sense of anticipation as I wrote them running through the rain, laughing, knowing that all this happy emotion would peak in this bittersweet, lovely pain of knowing it was almost over, and writing through those conflicted emotions just caught me up until I barely realized I was typing.
Are there certain types of scenes that are harder for you to write than others?
Purely happy scenes. Not because I’m a human Grumpy Cat, but because it’s hard to find a way to convey this happiness without being too spastic, too cheesy, or making them sound too manic. It’s easy to throw in a bunch of exclamation points and hope the reader gets it, but that can make your hero or heroine seem less like they’re happy and more like a toddler on speed. So I’m always struggling to find a way to write that quiet joy under the skin that doesn’t need laughter or smiles or bright proclamations to be felt at the deepest level possible.
What authors or books have influenced your writing?
Who are five authors past and present you would invite to dinner and why?
1.) H.P. Lovecraft, because I want to find out what the hell he was smoking.
2.) Brian Greene. Because conversations about string theory and dimensional physics make food taste better.
3.) Whitney Barbetti, because I want to see if she really is that tall.
4.) Lex Martin, because I have a feeling she’d get me drunk and one or both of us would end up on a table.
5.) Kobayashi Issa.
Yo no naka wa
Jigoku no ue no
In this world
We walk on the roof of hell,
Gazing at flowers.
I think…I would likely die of quiet rapture to be able to meet the man who wrote that.
What would you say to somebody just starting out on their writing journey?
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t pick a box and say “I have to stay inside this box or people will hate me and I’ll do it all wrong.” Screw with genre. Screw with POV. Screw with everything. Follow your ideas and see what happens. A good 75% of it will be shite, but even shite is good practice—and it’s part of the process. People seem to think of writing as building blocks, puzzle pieces you just move around until they interlock properly according to a set pattern. It’s really not. It’s more like evolution. Iterations upon iterations of methods and ideas and plotbunnies that branch and go in different directions where some wither, some flourish, and others veer back to meet and mate and give birth to the next generation of something new. So don’t stay in your box. Evolve. And don’t be afraid to follow paths that may fail. The weak paths may die off, but they’ll provide fuel for the stronger ones and push them forward.
Are any of your characters based on friends/family?
Oh god, Ophelia. My oldest sister may not be a pink princess, but she’s a pint-sized pixie with a gallon-sized attitude, and will dare you to challenge her authority—just like Ophelia. She mothered me the same way Ophelia mothered Celeste, too, even though our mother was around; just busy struggling to make ends meet as a single mom, so my oldest sister kind of fussed over the rest of us to keep us in line. I am six feet tall and that five-foot-one-and-three-quarters (no, you do not get to be five-foot-two) little monster will not hesitate to get me in a headlock and ask me—quite calmly and in a very ladylike fashion—if I have the balls to do anything about it.
Celeste’s father, too. Alan Haverford. Personality-wise, he’s not much like my father. But he has the same disease my father has…and I think he’s what I wish my father had been like, before Alzheimer’s made it impossible for us to ever have any kind of relationship.
Favorite Holiday and why?
Halloween. This may sound awful, but I like it because it’s not a family holiday. This may not endear me to some people, but I’m not close to my family. There’s a lot of hurt there and a lot of bad memories. So holidays where you’re expected to be close to your family just kind of leave me feeling grim, though happy to be with the family I’ve made for myself from my friends and those I love. Halloween, though? It’s less about family and more about just being silly, letting go, having fun. Letting your inner child out even if you’re too old to trick-or-treat. Indulging in spooky things and suddenly it’s not creepy and morbid, it’s just part of the fun. (Uh. Yes. I can be a little creepy and morbid and dark. I’ll be creepy and morbid and dark on the Fourth of effin’ July.) Plus I love horror movies and they’re on TV nonstop for weeks. Even more? I love the day after Halloween, when all the candy goes on sale.
Who is your book boyfriend?
*laughs* I have to wonder if I’m the only guy in the history of romance to ever answer this. Do I get to pick a book girlfriend, too? Hm…boyfriend. Oh. Brigham Langston from Nora Roberts’ Rebellion. Elegant yet strong, with the icy, aloof composure and manners of a lord laid atop the smoldering fire of a soldier.
And if I get to pick a girlfriend…Clare Morgan from Mary Jo Putney’s Thunder and Roses. She makes my fingers itch, this prim, lush, sweet thing just begging to be sullied, but she’s hardly a wilting flower and has enough willpower to stand up to anyone.
Favorite t.v. show?
This changes pretty often, for all that I rarely watch much TV. I just started watching Sirens on Netflix and it’s shocking me how funny it is, so right now it’s my favorite. Though I tend to always recommend Firefly, BBC Sherlock, and Arrow to people. Another really good one is Black Mirror, another British TV show—but it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a disturbing and provocative show that covers some seriously dark subject matter in shocking and unsettling ways that make you question society and your participation in it, especially with the advent of technology.
Would like an excerpt?
“Don’t.” She could hardly breathe; it took everything in her to pull away. Her chest constricted. “Don’t do that.”
He looked down at her, night casting him into planes of shadow and gold. “Do what?”
“This. Being warm. Comforting.”
A flicker of something that might almost be hurt darkened his eyes. “I can’t find you interesting. I can’t be attracted to you. I can’t offer friendly support.” He smiled with a touch of sorrow. “Doesn’t leave me with many options. Is there anything I can do for you, Celeste, or should I just stay behind the professional line?”
She knew what she should say: stay behind the professional line. Just cut him off cold—but she didn’t want to. God, she didn’t want to. She wanted him, with a deep-seated pull that had never died.
I want to be over you. I was supposed to be over you! I changed my name, I changed myself, I changed everything, but you still tear me apart. Why can’t I change how I feel about you?
And why can’t I let myself have you, for as long as I can?
She searched his eyes, looking for something to ease this sweetly painful need. Something that would make him less, somehow. Less than the man he was. Someone she could stop wanting, needing, craving. But she found only patient warmth in eyes like the midnight sky, dark and full of stars. Warmth, understanding…and a longing that answered her own.
She wet her lips and whispered, “You can answer this. If we’d just met tonight and would never see each other again, what would you say?”
(1) What do you do when you are not writing?
Reading. A lot of reading. And I go out to local bars that have open mic nights; I like listening to new artists and watching them get their first start in front of an audience. Uber and I like to go sit in the park at night and people-watch, especially in summer. Sometimes I bring a notebook and do little character studies in one or two sentences, trying to capture people’s stories in more than just how they look as they walk past. Or if we’re feeling lazy, we stay in and play MMORPGs together.
Oh, and there’s my job. Where I charge money to tell corporate executives the reason their company is failing is because they’re such arseholes that their employees hate them too much to put in the effort.
(2) If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?
No, I don’t think so. While there may have been some abrupt left turns taken on the path to get here, I think even the missteps had their benefits and contributed to where I am now.
(3) What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
1.) How do you get into the mindset of your characters?
Mostly by thinking about what they want most in the world, as that’s going to be what’s motivating them throughout the story. I think about what they want, and how it would feel if I wanted that so deeply that it influenced every part of my life. From that core of emotion I start thinking about how they would react to things differently than I might, because they’re different people with different experiences and different preferences; they might care about some things more than I would, or brush off something that would completely set me off. Then I take that and apply it to their feelings about what they want…and then I start thinking about what’s stopping them from having that one thing they desire, and how they feel about that. You combine yearning with frustration, and it gets you pretty deep into someone’s head.
2.)Describe how you write your story's plot line?
I can’t, because I don’t. I don’t plot. I don’t even pants, as at least pantsers tend to be a little linear. I just kind of fall and crash into these ideas and let them drag me around like a runaway horse. Scenes come in patchworks and I just write them and stare at them and try to figure out how to make them fit together in a way that makes sense, and why scene A would lead to scene E and what the hell is wrong with Character B and why does he keep doing that? It’s a tangled mess of intuition and instinct and random creative bursts that doesn’t even make sense to me. I can’t even write a linear story. I think if I tried to write a story from beginning to end without jumping ahead or jumping back I’d just print the pages out, set them on fire, and walk away.
3.) What is the best part of writing for you?
Losing myself in it for hours. I have to gear myself up to write as if I don’t want to do it, and those first few hundred words feel like pulling teeth. Then something happens, the engine shifts into gear, and it just goes, and I look up and the whole day has passed and I’m hollowed out and drained from feeling other people’s emotions and putting them on the page. It’s exhausting, but the best feeling.
4.) Describe what made you decide to write.
Oh, this is a weird story. I mean, I’ve been writing since I could pick up a pencil. All kinds of odd little tales, including Dolores the Hamster (don’t ask, just fucking don’t). But I never thought of it as something I could do, even though in school my AP English teachers were always praising my creative writing and fighting to get me to consider majoring in Language Arts in college instead of where I was determined to go, technology and neuroscience, before I ended up in computer animation and graphic design (among other things—I changed majors so many damned times). But my first job out of college, I ended up a data analyst for a major international corporation. And somehow I ended up editing technical manuals, and everyone was like “Wow, he’s such a good writer, he should write this.” So I started writing them, and accepting that maybe I was a decent writer who can maybe string a sentence together and should possibly try it when it’s about something other than oilwell drilling systems. And on the side I’m drawing these little illustrated stories but never thinking about writing them, but slowly it starts coming together that I could finish a book much faster than I could finish a comic, and really I was a better writer than artist anyway, so…that was how that seed got planted, and it just bloomed from there.
5.) Do you have any suggestions to beginning authors?
Don’t ever assume your readers are stupid. I’ve seen people talk with contempt about how they have to strip this or that out of a story, or dumb it down, because readers are too stupid to get it. No; no, they’re really not. Readers are probably the most intelligent people you’ll encounter because, hey, crazy idea: readers learn things from the books they read. I wrote about astrophysics in A Second Chance at Paris and didn’t even hesitate to include things like Kelvin-Helmholtz instability, because I knew even if my readers didn’t know the specific science, they would get the idea from context and if they were interested enough, go look up the details. And so far people have loved the science. In a romance novel. Because readers are not stupid, and they can tell when an author is talking down to them as if they have the IQ of a dung beetle, and it will annoy them enough to put your book down and never come back.
Most romance writers are women. What do you think you bring to the genre that is different from the female writer?
I don’t. That’s not the point of this; not at all. I’m not tromping in here all “Hurr durr durr, I are man, let me show you how man do dis book ting.” I write romance novels out of love for the genre, not to show people how a man does it. That means that I read, I learn, and I strive to capture the voice of the genre in a way that appeals to readers—rather than in a way that gratifies my ego as a man. And considering the people I’m learning from are women, all I’m bringing is what they’ve taught me from the great examples they’ve set.
How did you come up with the idea to write to write A Second Chance at Paris?
There’s actually a grain of truth in there, and no, Ion is not based on me. He’s actually based on someone I knew in junior high. In 7th grade I was just figuring out that I might be bisexual, and there was this tall gorgeous dusky-skinned boy who just pulled on me like nothing else and made my heart stop every time I looked at him. That year my gifted and talented class went on a field trip to Paris, and…well…he was there. And the whole trip was just one big daydream for me; I think I missed most of the sights for watching him and wishing about what-ifs. There was a night on a riverboat, watching him, just the two of us looking out over the water. I always wished he’d say something to me, but it never happened. But I never really forgot how I felt back then, either. And while I’m not really pining for him or anything—Google says not only is he straight, but he grew up into a douchey disappointing dudebro—there’s still that part of me that wonders “what if.” And that part of me grew into Celeste, while the idea of that lovely golden boy became Ion.
Who or what inspires you?
That’s hard to say. I’ve answered this in other interviews as far as what motivates my creative process and gives me my ideas, but when you throw that “who” in the question takes on a different slant. And I keep thinking about how so often my characters seem to be an embodiment of someone’s quiet desperation. I watch people a lot. People I know, people I don’t know. And there’s always something that they regret. Something they ache for. It’s written on their faces like a map of their lives. And I think it’s those regrets that inspire me to write people who find a way to reach for what those other people missed.
What is the one book that you tell everyone they must read?
Cheryl Rainfield’s Scars. Without a doubt. It’s painful and emotional and raw and real, and that’s what makes it beautiful.
Would you ever consider writing in another genre? If so which one?
I do already, actually. I have a few projects in the works that are all kind of…they’re science fiction, but with a dark supernatural twist influenced by East Asian mythology. Like sci-horror with yāoguài and a splash of Lovecraft and a touch of fey magic.
So pretty much any dark anime, if you think about it.
Where to you get your inspiration from?
The everyday minutiae of life. It could be a random conversation or the way someone’s hair drifts across their jaw as they turn their head; a story flashing by on the news or tripping and hitting my shoulder on the doorframe (if I’m lucky enough to catch myself and not faceplant into the wall). It could be someone discussing something they didn’t like in one book, or something they loved in another. It could be a lighting effect in a film, or nature’s very real lighting effects in how lightning turns a city so many colors in the moment if flashes. Everything accumulates. Layers upon layers that seem like nothing until you pull back and see they’ve formed this bigger picture of an idea.
When writing a new book, what usually comes first- characters or story line?
What's your favorite beverage to drink?
What inspires you to write?
The fact that I would lose my mind if I didn’t. Seriously, all these stories in my head—I have to get them down on paper so they will leave me alone and allow me to function in society without drifting off all the time.
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
I can be facetious or I can be technical, but the answer boils down to the egg. Chickens evolved from something else. Whether you think that something else is dinosaurs or not is up to you, but the point is there were egg-laying avians that evolved into chickens, so at some point there was a non-chicken bird-creature that laid an egg and the thing that came out was a chicken. Or at least some degree of chicken, with each successive generation gaining higher degrees of the quintessential essence of chicken.
Who are your inspirations?
Pretty much anyone breathing. You would be surprised at the things I take away from conversations with people—with strangers, with friends, with family, with the T-Mobile CSR trying to talk me into buying a new phone when I just want to add a data plan. Characters on TV. Characters in books. Talk show hosts and news anchors. I like to listen to people, watch them, watch how they act and react and interact. Especially if they don’t realize they’re being observed. It’s fascinating to learn about people that way, and somehow learning about people becomes telling stories about people. Everyone living or dead has something beautiful in them, even if it’s beautifully and horrifyingly ugly. I try to see that, both the light beauty and the dark, and write about it.
1. What will draw people to your book--Why will they become obsessed with reading this story?
I think that deep down there are a lot of people who miss how it felt to fall in love when you were in high school and everything was simple and you really thought your fantasies just might come true in that teen movie if you were just in the right place at the right time and the Hot Hunk / Pretty Girl noticed you. Even if in reality, that scenario ended in disappointment…the bright, sweet, wonderful feelings of anticipation were intoxicating. Practically a drug. And it’s not the same when you’re older, but I think many readers read romance to feel that again. That exhilarating, perfect sense of falling in love without all the mundane complications. Just magic and an intensity of emotion that we’re told is improper and immature to feel as adults. And that’s kind of what Paris is about; about finding that again with the boy of Celeste’s dreams, and getting to have that magic as an adult. So I think it will draw readers looking for that feeling, and wanting to recapture those memories.
2. What authors do you obsess over and how have they influenced your work?
I can’t really say I obsess over authors. I’m a book gigolo and I can’t settle down. I love too many genres, too many styles, too many authors to devote so much to just one or two, even if I do have a few favorite rereads I’ll fall back on when I’m not in the mood for anything else. But each new book, each new author I read gives me that feeling of falling in love all over again, and I can’t compare it to the ones that came before or the ones that came after to pick one to obsess over, because they’re all unique experiences that I crave.
Because I read so widely, it’s hard to pick any one author who might be an influence on my work. They all are, in micro and macro ways, constantly teaching me about different storytelling styles, characterizations, plot devices, POVs. I absorb all of it and grow from it. I am an omnivore. I WILL DEVOUR ALL.
3. Which character did you obsess over the most? Did they become your most or least favorite?
In A Second Chance at Paris? It’s hard to say; I think I stayed pretty balanced between all of them. I think it would be actually not someone from Paris, but from the side story, Zero Day Exploit, with Ion Blackwell’s younger sister Zoraya. Her love interest, Evan, was inspired by the night that Uber and I met. That’s a long story, but he’s a very odd character, very complex, and sometimes he’s such an arsehole I can’t even stand him, so I was always worrying about whether or not he was too much, if he was saying something that would take things too far for the reader and maybe make them doubt Zoraya for forgiving him. But I ended up liking him in the end, and he kind of became one of my favorites just for the difficult struggle it took to get him through his growth arc and pull him out a bit less of a douchebag on the other side.
1. Can you tell us about your book A Second Chance At Paris?
It’s kind of a book about finding yourself, and a book about getting over yourself, too. Celeste London used to be Hairy Mary Haverford, an awkward outcast teenaged geek who thought that young Ion Blackwell could never see her for who she was and love her for the amazing heart of a young girl full of dreams…so when she meets him as an adult—after leaving that girl behind, thinking she didn’t need her—she lies about who she is so he won’t hate her for what she was. For her it’s about finding out that who she was then is who she is now, and that person is and always has been worthy of love; for him it’s about realizing that no matter how many characters and ideals he creates and idolizes, there’s nothing better than the truth of who someone really is.
2. What was your favourite scene from the book?
Without a doubt the lovemaking scene from the night at the Versailles. It’s so painful and sweetly emotional, so charged and heavy with this anticipation of loss and yet lovely desperate need to hold on to everything beautiful they’re feeling in that moment.
3. Which character from your book A Second Chance At Paris has been the most challenging to write?
Alan Haverford, Celeste’s father – if only because it hurt. He’s nothing like my father, but they share an affliction. Alzheimer’s. And writing about what he was losing, and how Cel felt about her father’s disease, made it a struggle sometimes to get those words on the page when it forced me to remember what my father has already lost, and the missed chances we’ll never have.
4. What was your inspiration for writing this book?
A childhood crush that never went anywhere, and a field trip to Paris with the first boy who ever made me realize I just might be a little bit bisexual. He never even looked at me, but some part of me always remembered a midnight boat tour on the Seine, and how he looked standing against the bright-lit Parisian city skyline with the night wind in his hair.
5. Can you tell us about some projects you are currently working on?
Right now I’m working on Book Two in the Bayou’s End series, Third Time’s the Charm – the story of Cel’s sister Ophelia and her tangles with Brent Logan, an infuriating and snarly Aussie businessman turned Tai Chi instructor. But there’s also The Lost, which will be the first book in my Cole McCade: After Dark branded imprint of darker erotica, all loosely interconnected standalone stories set in the fictional modern-day metropolis of Crow City. The Lost is about Leigh, a woman who’s sort of deliberately lost herself in the back alleys of Crow City, seeking something she can’t find in one man’s bed after another, and so desperate to be free that she’d rather sleep on the streets than let herself be tied down. While it started off as erotica, it’s turning into this darkly haunted, quiet story that I love, with a certain feel to it that’s hard to explain. But I’m listening to a lot of Meg Myers, Melanie Martinez, and Marilyn Manson while I write it, so that should tell you something. Other than that apparently I like musicians with M.M. initials.
1. If you could be book character, who would you be and why?
Gerald Tarrant from C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy. You’d have to read the books to understand, and you’d probably look at me sideways forever after and hope you were never alone in a dark alley with me. Unless you’re into that. And some people are.
2. What's the first book you remember reading that has stayed with you and why did it have that impact?
Interstellar Pig, by William Sleator. It’s YA, but it is…that book is fucked up. And disturbing. And while I learned to love reading on much more innocent things such as collections of folklore and the Dragonbard series and all things Anne McCaffrey and C.J. Cherryh (that goblin on the cover of The Goblin Mirror was my first wet dream and it gave me a little thrill that the heroine in The Rowan was brown like me), Interstellar Pig kind of jolted me awake to the idea that there are books out there that will screw with your brain and make you question your sense of self and reality, and make you deeply uncomfortable in a way that’s somehow profound. I didn’t even know books were for that, until that point. I was young and innocent and just thought they were for escaping thinking about homework and experiencing wonderful and breathless things.
3. What inspires you to write--are you a visual person? Music? Something else?
I’m an everything person, and everything inspires me to write—but music is absolutely essential. I have mild synesthesia, so music kind of pushes me in odd ways. It has colors and tastes and physical sensations, and I link lyricism to the flow of a narrative in writing, and all of that comes together in bizarre ways coupled with all the sensory impressions I absorb throughout the day (everything from color of the smell of the neighbor’s food cooking to how the color of daylight at a particular time of day sounds inside my head) to become ideas, concepts, inspirations, feelings, experiences that I’m trying to capture in a particular set of words.
4. What's the most liberating, the most challenging, the most frustrating, and the most exciting thing(s) about writing and the writing process?
I think it’s the fact that you can do anything, to answer all of those questions with one response. You can do anything. The problem is convincing other people that there’s a market for anything. Getting them to try it out. It’s like those sample tables in the grocery store. Even if a new food looks delicious, some people are just going to shy away because it’s different and they might not like it. Knowing that can make it very frustrating to try writing something new, because even if it’s exhilarating to experiment and branch out and try to do something wholly unique and different, there’s that voice in your head saying “you can build it, but they won’t come.” It can stymie you and you’ve got to learn how to ignore it—and remember that there are no limits and you have that freedom, so use it. Though even that has its pitfalls, because when you can do anything it’s hard to focus on just one thing.
5. If you had a crystal ball, what would your future look like in 6 years?
Solar-powered bamboo treehouse with a rooftop garden, a water catchment system, and a waterfall redirected through the supporting trunk, and every day spent on the balcony writing while surrounded by the quiet of the wind through the trees.
What authors have inspired you to write?
I’m going to answer this very carefully without actually naming any names, because the inspiration here is actually kind of negative. There’s an author that was once deeply beloved in her genre, but is now basically a general laughingstock. I’m not criticizing her at all; I could take or leave her books, and have nothing really negative to say about her myself. But. There’s a community that exists just to discuss the downfall of her work, and I stumbled across it by accident. What happens in that community isn’t as ugly as you might expect. It’s valid discussions from readers about what bothers them, what they love, what stands out to them, what doesn’t. Not just general griping and “oh well this is my opinion” but informed, intelligent, literate, objectively critical discussion. As a writer it’s a great learning experience to listen and contribute to these discussions. So in a strange way this author inspired me through her former fans.
I could name a long list of authors that I love to read, but none of them have really inspired me to write. I think it would bother me if they did, because I would worry that I was copying their ideas or absorbing their phrasing or something like that. I’m happy to instead simply feel a deep and lasting appreciation for what they do, and to take complete and utter pleasure in setting aside who I am as a writer to just be a reader and love their work when I’m losing myself in the pages.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
I am severely anal-retentive about page layout. Whether I’m working in Word or in Textroom, I have to get my pages set up in just the right way for how I picture this book in my head. That means going through title fonts, body text fonts, sizes, colors, page colors, background images, margins, page sizes, drop caps or no drop caps, page numbers, headers. I cannot start until the theme of it looks absolutely perfect or I can’t keep myself in the mood and headspace of the story. I get really grouchy about it, too. If it’s not right it can derail the whole story because my brain isn’t in the right space.
When you're writing a book, where do you start - beginning, middle or the end?
I start wherever the book damn well feels like it. Whatever pops into my head. What usually happens is I get snatches of conversation and I have no idea where they even go and only half an idea who’s saying what, so I just write it all down and arrange the snippets in a vague order while they start to flesh out into something more. Then I start turning them into little mini-scenes. And finally I feel like I have enough of those scattered at random points in the story that I know what I’m doing, so I sit there and stare at the first page until the perfect opening line comes, and then I dive in.
Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
That I appreciate you giving me the benefit of the doubt. I know there’s been a hell of a lot of skepticism that a guy could even come tromping in here and do this without it being crude and having that giant stamp all over it that says “I HAVE A Y CHROMOSOME AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT WOMEN WANT TO READ, BUT I SURE AS HELL AM GOING TO TELL THEM ANYWAY.” I’d be nervous in the face of that, too. But you gave me a chance. You tried out my stories. And I appreciate that you took that leap with me, so…thank you. Whether you like what I do or not, thank you for giving me a try and a fair chance.
What influences you?
Everything. Conversations, movies, books I read, random things that happen in my life, the news, things that I notice in a shop window in passing as I walk down the street. Life is nothing but constantly cataloguing data and stringing together seemingly unconnected ideas until they make something new and often completely unrelated to the source.
What made you want to be a writer?
Well, I’ve always been a storyteller. Seriously. Always. Making up stories to tell my cousins as a kid, writing down some weird little thing about being a boy in a purple track suit who saved other kids from Saddam Hussein, something about June beetles that could talk and grant wishes with their shimmery wing-dust…I don’t know. I don’t remember that one that well. But I was always writing and drawing; it just took some nudges later in life to push me into pursuing it as a career.
How do you cure writers block?
…yyyyeah that’s not happening. No. Nope. That is an immovable wall for which there is no cure except pushing through it. There’s no magic trick to make writer’s block go away. Butt in chair. Words on page. Even if they’re shitty words you don’t want to write, at least they’re there. It’s like that bad neighborhood you drive through to get to the good one. Just get through as fast as you can until you see the light, because no wishing or tricks or shortcuts will get you to the other side faster.