Today on the site, we’re welcoming JR Gray, author of the Unscripted series, whose second book, Rewritten, released on June 4th! He’s here to talk about writing mental health into his newest romance, a slow-burn Hollywood-set friends-to-lovers that’s a direct sequel of Unscripted (so read that one first!), but first, a little more on the book!
Movie star 102: The headlines are never what they seem.
Quellcrist wasn’t new to fame or the effect it had on a relationship. He’d been married in the spotlight for as long as he’d been famous. But that was before Hale. He knew it was going to test him but even he hadn’t known the toll that months apart would take on his fledgling relationship.
Long days of shooting, different time zones, calls every day dwindled to days without calls, and rumors were all over the rags. Through it all Quell had to battle his own worst enemy but he didn’t know how to win against something inside him. Depression ate him whole and pain took over.
There was so much more at stake than losing his boyfriend, he was losing his best friend. His lifeline, the love of his life. Was there any way to come back from the damage done?
The idea for Unscripted started when I was watching a television show, hoping beyond hope that I wasn’t being queerbaited and that I’d get this amazing love story building. We’ve all been there, shipping something on a favorite show but not expecting to ever get a queer ship. How many times have we all had our hopes up and had the creators ruin it for us. I enjoyed the actors so much I started to watch videos of them and I became obsessed with the idea of two actors falling in love while playing a couple on a television show. This led to me obsessively watching videos on people who played couples in movies or television shows and watching their chemistry. Some went on to be couples and others were just good friends.
But what if I could have both? What if I could write a story where the actors had an intense bromance and then fell in love. As soon as I started crafting the characters I was obsessed. I loved them more than I’ve ever loved any of my other characters. One of the reasons was because I put a lot of my experience with depression into Quell. I felt his pain, and his rejection and his loneliness.
The depression topics in Unscripted were something I’d never done before. I knew it was going to be an intense book. Personal experiences are hard. I had no idea how it would be received, which is always a terrifying moment because I know everyone’s experience with depression is different. I was blown away with the reception and how many people took the time to message me privately to tell me they’d never read a book that showed depression the way they’d experienced it. As soon as I started writing Quell I knew he was special.
I wanted to tell a story that showed how people can realize their sexuality later in life as well as work in one of my favorite tropes: friends to lovers. I wanted to build a safe space in the friendship between Quell and Hale. Something that would help bring Quell out of his loneliness and someone to be there through his dark times. I wanted their relationship to be intense and born out of friendship. I knew it was the only way Quell would open up and feel safe.
This was a massive undertaking. But the book poured out of me and I loved it from the beginning. I knew book two would be even more intense and harder to write because Quell would go darker with his and Hale’s time apart but I knew getting to the HEA would be worth it for these two.
Gray is a cynical Chicago native, who drinks coffee all day, barely sleeps, and is a little too fashion obsessed. He writes realistic and damaged characters because everyone deserves a happily ever after.
I’ve had the joy of recommending this book probably at least once a week since I read it, because fluffy f/f YA can be super hard to come by (as is also a running joke in this delightful rom com) and this is one of the cutest, sweetest, most fun ones you will ever read. Dating Sarah Cooper was written before the MTV show Faking It, but imagine that show had had an HEA for the characters instead and you’d basically have this book. Sound fabulous? It is. Best friends-to-lovers at its finest! (And as a bonus, you definitely want to get to know this author, who’s one of the best YA self-pubbers on the market and has a nice and affordable backlist!)
Katie Hammontree and Sarah Cooper have been best friends since the 2nd grade. Katie’s welcoming, tight-knit family is a convenient substitute for Sarah when her distant parents aren’t around, and Sarah’s abrasive, goal-oriented personality gels well with Katie’s more laid-back approach to life.
But when a misunderstanding leads to the two of them being mistaken for a couple and Sarah uses the situation to her advantage, Katie finds herself on a roller coaster ride of ambiguous sexuality and confusing feelings. How far will Sarah go to keep up the charade, and why does kissing her make Katie feel more alive than kissing her ex-boyfriend Austin ever did? And how will their new circle of gay friends react when the truth comes out?
Buy it: Amazon (ebook and paperback) * B&N (paperback only)
Today on the site, we’re celebrating the re-release of (Un)Masked by Anyta Sunday and Andy Gallo, a gay paranormal NA romance, which was previously published by Dreamspinner Press but now has new editing and a new cover! Here’s the blurb:
Walker has two wishes: to perform the play of his dreams alongside his best friend at Wellington’s Tory Street Theatre, and to meet that special someone. Someone he’d go to the ends of the earth for. Someone who might only exist in fairy tales.
When Jay meets accordion busker Lethe Cross, it’s like living a dream come true. Lethe’s music captivates Jay, and he resolves to meet the man who plays so beautifully. But then he discovers Lethe’s life is more like a nightmare. The phrase “down on his luck” can’t begin to cover it. Determined to help, Jay does some snooping for answers—and winds up on the wrong end of a centuries-old curse. The good news is there’s a way to break it. The bad news is it might cost Jay his life.
But wait, there’s more! Check out this (long!) exclusive excerpt!
From the sidewalk, I spied Lethe cutting strokes through the rippling water. The gray glow of morning made it look as if he swam through satin waves. A cool breeze reminded me just how cold those satin waves would be. I zipped up my jacket, dropped the bag with my towel in it, and perched on the concrete wall.
His arms arched over his head in firm strokes, his head twisting for air on every third stroke. He stood up suddenly, whipping the water from his hair and running a hand through it. He searched the length of the beach several times before he caught sight of me.
He beckoned me over. Each move of his hands pulled me toward him.
“You’re here,” he said.
“Gristle just about killed me for waking him up so early. You always up at this time?”
“The beach is deserted now.” He glanced toward the sea, worrying his bottom lip. “Who’s Gristle?”
“Flatmate,” I blurted a little too quickly. “My best mate.”
His shoulders loosened and he looked at me. “Did you come to swim or watch?”
I stripped down to my swimming trunks and tiptoed into the sea. “I should have stuck to watching.”
Lethe laughed and kicked water at me. “You would deprive your other senses of all this?”
I stared at the gently lapping water and not the rivulets of water dribbling down his bare chest. “This is quite the sensory feast.”
“Dive in before I pounce on you.”
“I’m not sure you understand how threats work, Lethe.”
“Who said it was a threat?”
My breath caught, and I waded toward his soft, beckoning smile.
When I reached him, Lethe kicked onto his back. His gaze flickered to me before landing on the clear sky above. His green eyes glittered. If one could see a soul, then his was deep, haunted yet determinedly hopeful.
It reminded me of Gristle at the zoo, living life to the fullest because he claimed death danced in his shadows.
I dove under the water, letting the shock of it numb a sudden shiver. I came up under him and tackled his waist.
Lethe twisted under water with me, bubbles bursting out of his smiling lips.
We messed about in the water for only a few more minutes before Lethe dragged us out. I’d grabbed my stuff and drifted to his towel.
Lethe scrubbed his face. “Haven’t done that for ages.” He smiled at me. “Thanks.”
I choked on my own thanks. I’d not had so much fun with anyone other than Gristle for, well, I couldn’t even remember when.
“Maybe we could do this again?” His voice wavered, and he vigorously rubbed at his hair.
“I am all about indulging in sensory feasts.”
Lethe grinned. “On the discussion of feasts. What about breakfast?” He gave me a once over, lingering at my scrawny waist. “You shouldn’t skip breakfast.”
I forced a laugh and hurriedly pulled on my top and pants. Grabbing my bag, I twisted the street. “See you, then.”
He clasped my shoulder and steered me back around. “I think it came out wrong.”
I raised a brow.
He looked at me, gaze flickering nervously from my eyes to my shoulder. “Will you have breakfast with me?”
* * *
I arrived earlier than the four previous mornings, in time to see Lethe wading into the sea. His muscles flexed with each step, and once he hit waist height, he dove under.
Dropping my bag and towel next to his, I followed after him. My body exploded in goose bumps as the first cold waves cuffed my ankles. Sand sank underfoot as the water dragged itself back in. I quickly dunked into the water and gasped from the cold.
Lethe caught sight of me and waved. I swam over. A hand glided over my back, and I jerked upright, treading water.
“Morning,” Lethe said, smiling, as he circled me. “What brings you here so early?”
You. “I wanted to repay the favor, so I made us breakfast this time. It’s more a picnic, but I wasn’t sure of your schedule. How long do you have?”
Lethe flipped onto his back. Water rippled around him, and I threaded my fingers through the tiny waves. “Have I told you the perks of working as a street musician? Other than the stellar pay?”
I laughed. “In that case, sign me up.”
Lethe splashed water on my face and pointed to the fountain. “Want to race?”
I kicked off, taking my advantage and swiftly made it to the fountain, not too far behind Lethe.
“You’re improving,” he said with a smile. “Another couple weeks, and you’ll be a match for me.” He ducked under the water, only to pop up on my other side. He sliced the top of the water with his hand so it sprayed in my face, then whacked my upper arm. “You’re it.”
I lunged after Lethe, managing to jump on his back halfway to shore. I dunked him under the water.
A rueful grin quirked his lips when he came up gasping for breath. Barely two steps away, Lethe leaped onto my back. His knees locked around my sides and hands pressed my head under water. He didn’t hold me under long, letting go with a little tap to my shoulder. Breathing out a bunch of bubbles into the water, I came up. Lethe remained jammed against my back, his chest expanding against me as he breathed.
When he loosened his grip, I twisted and faced him. Water dribbled down his hair, over his scar, plopping on his lips. I pulled my gaze away from his mouth and combed a hand through my wet hair, pushing the locks off my face. “Up for another race?”
He stared into my eyes and my heart exploded into a gallop. I imagined him leaning in, brushing his lips against mine with the murmured words I like you too, Jay.
I slammed my eyes shut and water stirred as Lethe backed up.
He stroked toward the fountain, and I followed, the ghost of his touch still curved against my back.
“You look hopeful.” Lethe stroked over to where I clung to a jutting edge in the fountain base. He latched a hand on the same edge and pulled himself closer.
Although salt water dominated my sense of smell, I detected a hint of something peppermint and spicy coming from Lethe’s hair.
Lethe tilted his head, watching me. “Really hopeful.”
I dipped my head forward and lightly pressed my lips against his. The taste of salt flowed into my mouth; he felt softer than I’d imagined.
It lasted less than a couple of seconds before I pulled away. “Really, really hopeful.”
His breath caught and he grabbed my arm and kicked a leg around mine. His mouth met mine again. Our lips parted, and a gentle tongue flicked against mine. A gasp left me, and Lethe’s lips curved into a smile.
I let go of the fountain, wrapping both arms around Lethe, and deepened the kiss. We sank under the water, limbs entangled, gripping at each other. Salt stung my eyes as I looked at Lethe underwater. His hair swirled upward around him and light glowed around him. We broke our kiss and stared at each other. A cloud of bubbles burst from Lethe’s mouth as he laughed, and it sounded like music.
We pushed our way back to the surface and both hauled in air. I sucked in a good third breath, and Lethe splashed water in my face. I spluttered and coughed. His merry laugh taunted me and I chased after him, dunking him under when I got a good hold.
“We’d better go in.” Lethe looked back toward the shore, a frown forming between his brows. “We’ve stayed out here too long.”
Grabbing our bags and towels, we dashed for the outdoor shower. Lethe hurriedly scrubbed seawater from his hair.
I stepped under the spray with him and tentatively touched his chin, lifting his head. Water beaded at the ends of his eyelashes and trailed over the tips of my fingers. “What’s going on?”
Lethe bit his bottom lip. “Nothing.”
“Nothing doesn’t hightail out of the water every morning.”
“Which eyebrow is my scar?”
I gently drew my thumb over the cut in his eyebrow and he sighed and leaned into me.
“What are you running from, Lethe?” I whispered into his ear.
Anyta is a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. She loves to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love. Some of her favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries.
Anyta writes a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy. Her books have been translated into German, Italian and French.
Andy Gallo’s stories capture how he wished he’d spent his formative years, instead of how it really happened. Unfortunately for his characters, they find themselves infused with some of Andy’s less noble qualities.
A hopeless romantic, Andy writes seated next to a hundred year old Smith Brothers typewriter he inherited from his grandfather. He also dreams of superheroes and wizards and sees no reason why two men with superpowers can’t fall in love just like everyone else. Although not all of his stories have a paranormal bent, a touch of the supernatural never derailed a good read in his mind.
Married and living his happy every after, Andy helps others find their happy endings in the pages of his stories. He and his husband of more than twenty years spend their days rubbing elbows with other parents as they raise their daughter. Embracing his status as the gay dad, Andy sometimes has to remind others that one does want a hint of color even when chasing after their child.
Today’s sunny addition to the site is none other than the lovely Chelsea M. Cameron, New York Times and USA Today bestselling Romance author and general f/f enthusiast. Chelsea’s got a lot of different projects going on these days, some a far cry from the cishet allo Romances she broke into the industry with, and she’s letting me pick her brain about all of it, so please welcome her to the site!
You initially made your name with an allo cishet Romance called My Favorite Mistake, which was actually one of my very first NA. Now that you’ve added f/f Romance to your repertoire, beginning with Style, what kinds of differences do you notice in the publishing experience?
Oh, wow, the publishing landscape is SO different now. MFM came out in late 2012, during the “gold rush” of contemporary new adult. I honestly had no idea what I was doing back then. It was SO different. Timing and luck played a lot into the success of that book. I also feel as if there were certain bloggers who, if they promoted a book, that was almost a guarantee of success. It’s not so much like that anymore. Everything is different and I honestly feel like I’m learning every day. Promotion is not what it used to be. Basically I’m saying that I have no idea what I’m doing. The one thing that is great about writing f/f is that the people who read it are SO enthusiastic. I get more messages and emails and so forth on my f/f books. And I feel like they mean more. I know they mean a lot to me when I write them.
The Violet Hill series of novellas is your newest f/f endeavor. What can you tell us about it and how the individual stories link up? Any word on when we can expect the third installment?
That was something I sort of decided to do on a whim, which is usually how most of my favorite projects start. I’d written a series of m/f novellas and really liked the format and the way you can tell a complete story in about 20-25,000 words. The first book, Second Kiss, features two former best friends who crash back into each other and sparks fly. The main way the books are connected is that they’re all centered around the Violet Hill Café, which is a queer-run and owned café in a fictional town in Maine. I wanted to write a series that focused on a place where queer people could feel safe and loved. The second book features one of the waitresses at the café and a traveling photographer. The third book, Second Chance, will feature the cousin of the waitress in the second book who seeks refuge with her for the summer and runs into an ex. I’m hoping to release it in June or July.
I know you’ve got a seriously ambitious to-write list. What are your dream projects?
Right now I’m working very hard on my queer, modern Jane Austen story about Mary Bennet and Georgiana Darcy getting together. I’m LOVING it. My ultimate dream is to write the f/f fantasy that’s been burning a hole in my brain for over a year. I’m sort of stuck in the world-building stage right now. It’s so hard! I’ve been writing contemporary for too long, haha. But I’m going to make it happen because these characters will NOT leave me alone. I just want to write a massive amount of queer books so I have a recommendation for everyone. I joke about wanting to be the Nora Roberts of f/f, but it’s totally what I’m going for.
I love how many authors are embracing Patreon these days, giving readers ways to get more snippets of work while we wait. What kinds of stuff do fans get from yours?
I do a little bit of everything, I think. I post first chapters of my new work, original short stories, writing advice, random awful writing I find that I did in college, essays on queerness, and all kinds of things. I also have a tier that includes a motivational email a month, and one that includes an ebook per month. All kinds of fun stuff!
If I recall correctly, you share my intrigue with anthologies. If you were putting one together, what would the theme be and why? What kind of story would you love to write?
Haha, yes, I am obsessed with them and I want to be in one SO BAD. It’s like not being invited to sit at the cool kids table. I’m also always coming up for ideas for them, but I don’t the organizational skills to actually put one together. I would LOVE to have one with all stories about queer women, by queer women. I’d also love to do one with essays from people who came out later in life (20 or older). I never really thought I could do short stories, but now that I’m doing them on my Patreon, I find that I really like them! I just wanna write a massive amount of queer love stories, basically.
As someone who was relatively late to coming out, what kind of role would you say LGBTQIAP+ books played in figuring out your sexuality, and what would you recommend to someone who’s questioning, especially in their 20s?
That was literally the impetus for me figuring things out. I was reading these books in preparation to write a f/f book (that I didn’t end up writing, actually) and I was COMPLETELY OBESSED with them. As in, I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was just reading Siera Maley and you, and Kristen Zimmer and I couldn’t figure it out. Fortunately, I was in therapy at the time, and my therapist helped me figure it out. I would highly recommend those authors (you included) as well as Of Fire and Stars, everything by Malinda Lo, The Abyss Surrounds Us, and, if it’s not to gauche to mention my own books, uh, mine. There’s a lot of YA/NA f/f out there and I think those stories focus a lot on coming out and figuring yourself out. I really want to write/read more stories about older queers, and also people who have been out for a while. Basically, I want to write/read as many varied experiences as I can.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ media that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
Something that I have a hard time with is how vagina-centric a lot of f/f media is. As someone questioning their gender (still working on that one, but I think demigirl is working for now), and someone who loves a trans person, I don’t feel included in a lot of it. The first time I was like IT’S ME! IT’S ME! was when I read 27 Hours by Tristina Wright. I cried a lot while reading that book for the first time. It was just so wonderful to see so many queer people in one book. That’s another thing that bugs me about media. Is that there is one “token” queer person and if there’s another queer person, they’re most-likely dating. As if we have so few options, we have to date/marry the closest queer in proximity to us. So annoying.
What are you still dying to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?
EVERYTHING. I want so many options that I have a rec for every situation. I know things have gotten a LOT better in recent years, and for that I am so grateful. I want rep where everyone can point to it and say YES, THAT’S ME! I want all readers to get that moment. Especially readers who are queer and also marginalized in other ways. I want an ace, biracial, trans teen to be able to pick up a book and see themselves portrayed in a way that isn’t harmful. I want them to have MULTIPLE books to choose from on the bookstore shelves. I would also love to see more f/f where one or both of the women is trans. That’s something very close to my heart and that I want to promote. My biggest dream is for a lush fantasy world with multiple POVs where literally everyone is queer. Like, a trilogy or even more. I’m hoping to write my own, but I want MORE. Always more.
Thanks for stopping by, Chelsea! You can learn more about the author and buy her books at chelseamcameron.com, and/or follow her on Twitter at @chel_c_cam.
Psyched to have Romance author Amy Jo Cousins on the blog today, who’s not only one of the most prolific, supportive, and delightful people in all the land, but also wrote my #1 recommendation for “I need something short and absurdly hot.” (I’ll give you a minute to buy “Callie, Unwrapped.” You’re welcome in advance.) She’s got a brand-new m/m Romance out called HeartShip (more on that below), and a whole lot of wisdom and recommendations to share, so please welcome Amy Jo!
You’ve pulled off something incredibly rare in having a New Adult series (Bend or Break) with m/m, m/f, and f/f titles. What responses to that have you seen among your readership?
The response has been terrific, mixed with a dollop of “Ugh, what?” But that’s okay! New things always get a bit of a side-eye, right? And when the series first came out, very few people were mixing it up with different pairings in their series. It was a philosophical decision for me, though, to include all kinds of relationships in my series under one pen name. I wanted my writing to reflect my life and my community, and in my world, friendships and relationships and social circles are complicated and expansive and full of beautiful and every-changing variety. So yes, I occasionally get protest emails from readers who don’t like that I have a m/f or f/f books included with m/m stories, but this is more than just my writing. It’s my life. So there’s always going to be the full rainbow! The vast majority of readers I speak to are 100% supportive, especially my fans who are gay men. They read it all and love Cash and Steph as much as they love Tom and Reese or Vinnie and Bryan, which just makes me happy beyond all words.
Excitingly, you also just got the rights back to that series, and rereleased it with some beautiful new covers. What’s that process been like?
Well, the process of arguing with my publisher was rather exhilarating. We’re all normally so polite and professional that I got a bit of a charge out of going to the mat for myself and my intellectual property rights, not to mention those of my peers who were in the same situation. Not gonna lie. It was exciting. But also supremely frustrating, because of the thirteen months of waiting that passed since the original closing announcement. I have more stories to tell in this series, but everything was on hold! Now I’m back in business and so very excited about everything. Getting the whole series rerelease has been a joy, and I’m so in love with the updated covers Lexi at Romance by the Cover made for me! They’re sharp. 🙂 And getting The Belle vs the BDOC to match the series visually now too was a pure delight. I just started working on a story about a secondary character from Nothing Like Paris for an upcoming anthology, and I’m pretty much always thinking about what comes next for Tom and Reese, because those guys would make awesome foster dads, and I can’t wait to see that…
If I recall correctly, you’ve got a gay baseball romance coming up! (And I realllly hope I’m recalling correctly, because that sounds amazing!) Please share absolutely everything about that, sparing zero detail.
Ha! I do indeed. All of my Samhain chaos put my writing on hold, as I’ve worked to republish those books and release a bunch of self-pub books I’ve had mostly completed for a while, in order to fill in the gap, earnings-wise. But I should be wrapping up the first book of the series in short order, and I’m in love with this whole team.
I’m writing my idea of a fantastic baseball organization, which is of course heavily influenced by the kindness and sense of play driving Joe Madden and my beloved Cubs, with the added influence of my imaginary team having the owner’s lesbian daughter in a power position in operations. She’s all about acquiring hot talent that other teams have passed up, especially if it’s because the player is queer. So we’ve got two gay rookies in book one coming up from the minors who’ve been best friends and rivals since they were kids, the rebellious rock star pitcher and the not-quite-good-enough for the majors utility player who’s brought up with the rock star to keep him in line. Of course, they start crossing all of their personal friendship boundaries immediately, both publicly and privately and the pressure creates all kinds of chaos for them.
Then I’ve got a center fielder who’s got issues with the journalist breaking stories about the various players’ private lives, the rising star sports agent who can’t stop arguing with the team owner’s daughter even while she’s flirting with her, the near-retirement catcher and the young guy eager to replace him, and a first baseman who’s a total player on the social scene who gets in over his head with a movie star and his brilliant wife. Sooooo, yeah. 🙂 I’ve got some awesomeness coming!
I love how prolific you are, not just with full-length novels, but novellas and short stories, too. How do you decide on the right length for a story, and what are some of your favorite of your contributions to anthologies?
Deciding on the right length for a story is mostly a function of the plot, and also the constraints of whatever I’ve agreed to do. Which has occasionally meant that a story I planned on writing for an anthology doesn’t work out, because it’s just too much story for a short form. Or the short story I write has a very HFN ending, as opposed to a HEA, which is fine, of course! HFNs, especially for stories about younger characters, are frequently what I write. But then I’m always tempted to revisit them down the line and give them a more solid HEA.
When I write about people in their early twenties, I almost always feel as if, when the story ends, I’m giving them the happiest ending I can and hoping they make it in the long run. Because it’s not a given that a relationship that starts at that age lasts forever. I mean, it’s not a given for relationships at any age, right? But especially when people are still exploring themselves, their lives, and their worlds. So I really do enjoy revisiting characters like Tom and Reese, who had 100k+ words in Off Campus to get their relationship settled! But they were still finishing up school, and hadn’t met any challenges of the “real world” yet, so adding a 45k novella to their story (in Real World) and getting them settled for good with a solid HEA was important to me.
I just released a book called HeartShip too, which started as an 18k word short story called “The Christmas Ship” in the Wish Come True charity anthology. That story covered forty-eight hours, and was sweet and lovely, but it was just the jumping off point for those two after their long internet friendship! So turning that beginning into a longer novella that gives them a more solid relationship in HeartShip was fun. Mostly I think I don’t like letting go of my characters. LOL. So I’m always thinking about what’s happening to them now and when readers nudge me to write more, I’m terrible at resisting the temptation.
If you were helming a new anthology or series right now, what would the theme be and who would you love to bring on board as contributors?
As it turns out, I am working on a new story for an anthology that just came together a few days ago via the magic of Twitter. A bunch of us who are pretty passionately into politics started joking around about rogue park rangers/White House tweeters, and who you might confess your love to/bang athletically if you seriously thought the world might be ending soon, and all the romance that could happen in The Resistance. Now we’ve got a cover and a tentative production schedule, so you should keep your eyes peeled this summer! We’re having the most fun.
You’re an avid supporter of LGBTQ Romance, which is so wonderful. What are some authors and titles that are always on your rec lists?
Oh, so many! I’ve been rec’ing Kris Ripper nonstop lately, because I love how ze writes these big, beautiful queer communities with the same mashup of relationships and friendships that I enjoy writing in my own. Zir Queers of La Vista and Scientific Method series are my favorites. KJ Charles is always on my rec list for gorgeous m/m historical and paranormal. EE Ottoman’s steampunk Mechanical Universe series is lovely, as is Alexis Hall’s Prosperity series. Both involved amazing worldbuilding and deeply realized characters. I’m also constantly rec’ing Santino Hassell and Annabeth Albert’s contemporaries, Solace Ames’ kink, Josh Lanyon’s mysteries, Keira Andrews’ Amish series, JA Rock’s everything, and Lyn Gala’s SFR. In 2017, two of the best books I’ve read, Peter Darling by Austin Chant and A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson, are also topping my rec list.
As I may have mentioned a thousand times, I’m a huge fan of Callie, Unwrapped, and I’m delighted to see there’s more coming with those characters! Can you give us some idea of what’s to come in the Play it Again series?
I am finishing up final edits/proofreading on book two as we speak! Or, you know, type. Email. LOL. Callie focuses on some serious kink exploration to avoid feeling how instantly reactivated her attachment to Gabe was by the night she spent with him and Kate. But despite her intentions, Gabe ends up…shall we say…intimately involved in those explorations. And this is going to bring up a lot of conflicting emotions for Callie, who is trying to reconnect with her sexuality and her sense of adventure, not turn around and immediately fall for the guy she couldn’t find a happy ending with all those years ago. And then I meant to wrap up Callie #3, which pulls everything together, but it turns out that I’ve got a Kate story almost complete instead. Because Kate walked away from that night with Gabe and Callie with a serious crush on Callie that made Kate think, for the first time, that maybe she’s more into women, romantically, than she thought. So she takes a Gabe-break and tries to figure that out. My current working title for that ms., with massive subtlety, is: Kate Likes Girls.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
Just the amazingly wide range of stories we have to celebrate these days. I started reading LGBTQIAP+ stories in SFF and mystery, then literary fiction, back in the ’80s and ’90s. Now I also read them in romance and YA, of course. For so many years–for most of my life–almost everything I read that featured queer characters was tragic. Beautiful books, but so unbearably sad, almost always. I remember reading Rita Mae Brown’s Venus Envy in college in 1993 and just being so damn happy that the lesbian lived! And had a new girlfriend, and her family (almost all of them, at least) loved her! That was great. But still, most of my non-romance LGBTQIAP+ reading still featured a lot of unhappy endings. So when I finally found queer romance novels, I was beyond thrilled. Happy endings galore! Thank. God. Because I needed those HEAs, man. Like water, or air, I needed them. Now it gives me constant joy to see the genre expand its boundaries so all kinds of readers can find themselves in stories. We’ve still got plenty of work to do, but I love that we’re seeing a lot more trans and ace/aro and demi and bi characters. Yay for all the stories to come!
What can we hope to see down the line from you that I haven’t covered yet?
I just started reading this fun interactive fiction (The Eagle’s Heir) from Choice of Games after a reader recommended it to me on FB. Then I ran into a lovely representative from CoG at the NECRWA conference and learned a lot about their company (which prioritizes LGBTQ and nonbinary diversity, yay!) and the whole interactive fiction market. So now I’m getting all sorts of ideas about some fun story ideas that might work for that kind of narrative that allows so much reader participation. It’s fascinating! Who knows what could happen…
Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series again.
In the last month, I’ve been asked a lot for recs of happy LGBTQIAP+ books, and this is probably the #1 I’d found to my dismay that most people still hadn’t read. This book is hilarious and adorable, and it’s also thoughtful, and it’s also fun and joyful and angsty too. I don’t know how to make more people read this one, but I’m gonna keep pushing it until everyone does!
Eighteen-year-old Castaway Planet fans Brandon and Abel hate bad fan fiction—especially when it pairs their number-one TV crushes of all time, dashing space captain Cadmus and dapper android Sim. As co-runners of the Internet’s third most popular Castaway Planet vlog, they love to spar with the “Cadsim” fangirls who think Cadmus will melt Sim’s mechanical heart by the Season 5 finale. This summer, Brandon and Abel have a mission: hit the road in an RV to follow the traveling Castaway Planet convention, interview the actors and showrunner, and uncover proof that a legit Cadsim romance will NEVER, EVER HAPPEN.
A Brandon and Abel romance: also not happening. Brandon’s sick of his struggle to make “gay and Catholic” compute, so it’s safer to love a TV android. Plus Abel’s got a hot new boyfriend with a phoenix tattoo, and how can Brandon compete with that? But when mysterious messages about them start popping up in the fan community, they make a shocking discovery that slowly forces their real feelings to the surface. Before they get to the last Castaway Planet convention, Brandon’s going to find out the truth: can a mechanical heart be reprogrammed, or will his first shot at love be a full system failure?