Interview with author M.J. Duncan

Who or what inspired your latest novel Heist?

 

A tumblr post, actually. There was an article in Smithsonian Magazineabout a wealthy collector known as “The Astronomer” who hired thieves to break into a London warehouse to steal rare books for them. My Muse took that idea and added, “Let’s add lesbians!” so yeah. That was how it all started.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Mostly short stories, like most kids who dabble with words, but I wrote my first novel when I was still in high school. It was a totally cringe-worthy attempt at becoming the next Patricia Cornwell—whose stuff I was obsessedwith at the time—but it was words on the screen of a brick of a laptop and I was quite proud of it at the time. I then went on to become a Creative Writing major in college, which meant I got to write a lot of words and learn a lot of B.S. theories about what makes “good” writing that I completely ignored. Then life happened and writing kind of took a back seat for a while, and I eventually fell back into it with fanfiction. That was great because I was playing in someone else’s sandbox and could just refocus on finding my voice again, and then I eventually thought “why not?” and started working on Second Chances.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

 

God, that’s like asking me which child I love the most! I love all of my characters for different reasons, but I’m definitely the most attached to Bryn Nakamura from Spectrum.Her whole path-to-self-acceptance/awareness very much mirrors my own, so I feel very protective of her in a way that I don’t with my other characters who all start their stories knowing that very important part of themselves.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

 

Most start with an idea for a particular scene. For Heist, it was that first robbery in Paris. Characters are next, because my stories are all very character-driven. I’m not a fan of drama, I avoid confrontation like the plague in real life, and to me the “real” story is the two characters falling in love—everything else is just shit that happens to them in the course of that journey. Anyway, once I have the characters, I come up with a very, very rough idea for the arc of a story that feeds into/incorporates that scene I mentioned above, and then I start researching the shit out of everything about the world/careers/lives of my characters that I don’t know. Honestly, this is my favorite part of the process. I love learning new things and putting them to use to make my stories (hopefully) more believable, but then when the story is done I can move onto something new. Once I feel like I have a working-knowledge of everything important, I cobble together something that looks like at least the skeleton of actual story arc in Scrivener and start hacking away at it all.

 

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

 

I know I said my characters drive my stories, but the story also dictates what I will need from each character to make the whole thing work. In Heist, for example, I needed Parker to have a reason to know the less-than-honorable skills that she knows, as well as a reason to have to use them. The key points in Sheridan’s personality were born of the same need—she had to have a reason to resist falling for Parker. Everything else, all the little details and quirks that make them real, flow from there as the story progresses.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

 

I have a great little office in the basement, but I do pretty much all my writing at the kitchen island because my dog Hunter doesn’t like going downstairs (he’s a big dude, 140 pounds, so he’s not exactly built to manage stairs). Every time I do try to go downstairs to work, he’ll grudgingly follow me down there, rest his head on the desk so he’s staring at me, and cry until I give up and go back to the kitchen. At this point, I’ve basically given up on using the office, but maybe someday I’ll get back to it. Or maybe not. It really is convenient working right next to the kettle and snacks.

 

What is your writing process?

 

Besides what I said already? It’s pretty much: open Scrivener, look at where I left off the day before, and try like hell to hit my word count goal for the day. Oh!, and try to not get distracted with shiny new ideas. Some people can have multiple projects working, but I’ve found that I work best focusing on one story at a time.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

 

I’m definitely getting better at plotting chapters for the story. I went at Second Chanceswithout any kind of a plan besides getting Mac and Charlie together and pretty much just winged the whole thing, but I’ve learned to see the helpfulness of actually planning further ahead. Switching from Word to Scrivener helped with this, too.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

 

Definitely Scrivener. It’s seriously the best large-project writing program I’ve ever come across.

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

 

I honestly treasure every nice comment anyone has ever said about my work. But the messages I treasure the most are the ones where people reach out to tell me that a particular character touched them in some way. Writing is a very solitary process for the most part, so whenever I get a message like that it’s like, “Okay, I’ve done something good.”

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

 

I don’t know if there is one book that has really influenced my life. Or, at least, there isn’t one that immediately comes to mind that I can point to and say, “Yes, that one.”

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so, what are they about?

 

Eventually, yes. I am still working on finishing up my latest story, Pas de Deux, but my goal is to have it out in March. It’s another LONG one, though, so we’ll see if I can swing it. *sighs* I really need to learn how to write shorter stories. Anyway, it’s a kinda-sorta-not-really sequel to Symphony in Blue.Kinda-sorta in that it’s in the same universe, but not-really because this time the story is about Mallory moving past everything that went down in Symphonyand finding her happily ever after. There are two people in every failed relationship and two different stories about how the relationship got to that point, and while she was painted as the necessary villain in Gwen’s story, she wasn’t in her own and I hated leaving her where I did.

 

How do you take your coffee?

 

Like Maeve Dylan, I prefer my coffee to not taste anything like coffee. Usually a splash of flavored creamer (it’s peppermint mocha season!) and milk is enough, but I’ve also done the hot chocolate mix thing that I gave to Maeve.

Review of Heist by M. J. Duncan

Heist

When I saw that M. J. Duncan had a new book out, I was ecstatic. She’s one of my all-time favorite authors. Heist was a little different from her other books. It kept me on the edge of my seat wanting to know how the book would play out.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Life is full of choices. Some are easy, others are more difficult, and then there are the ones that aren’t really choices at all. For Parker Ravenscroft, helping her brother always fell into that last category—risks be damned. All that changes when Sheridan Sloan re-enters her life. As their relationship grows from friendship to something more she’s forced to choose between her brother and her own happiness. Picking one over the other isn’t the end of things, however, because the ghosts of her past choices have the very real power to destroy the future she so badly wants.

 

I was sucked into this book from the beginning. It reminded me a bit of a mystery novel in some respects. The way that Sheridan was looking for the thief while Parker was trying to hide her involvement in the heists. I also liked Parker’s motivation for stealing the books. She wasn’t doing it for the thrill or the money like a lot of thieves. Parker was doing it to help her brother. When he got too greedy, she knew when to step away.

 

The romance aspect of the book was phenomenal. I’m a sucker for a slow burn and this book delivered. The chemistry between Parker and Sheridan was electric. Even though Sheridan was an FBI agent and Parker was a criminal they fit together perfectly.

 

Kelly was one of my favorite characters. The way he gently teased Sheridan about her relationship with Parker really made the book for me. Also, the way he constantly was getting bested by the women in the FBI.

 

The one problem that I had with the book was the way that the conflict ended. It was kind of swept under the rug. Never really brought up again. I wish it had played out more and they were forced to deal with the consequences.

 

I would recommend this book for anyone who loves a slow burn romance.

 

Heist is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Review of Forbidden Melody by Magnolia Robbins

Forbidden Melody

 

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I would like Forbidden Melody by Magnolia Robbins. I am not a huge fan of teacher-student relationships. I always found the power dynamic a little creepy. But this book made change my mind.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Emma Harvey is a brilliant and gifted young pianist, accepted into one of the most prestigious music conservatories in the country and prepared to do whatever it takes to accomplish her dreams of playing professionally. With a renowned jazz musician for a father and a world-famous mentor growing up, she is convinced her path is easy. Until her world is suddenly silenced when she loses her hearing.

 

Juliet Hamilton is a prodigy violinist. First chair for nearly fifteen years in the New York Philharmonic and a professor at the conservatory, she is engulfed in her career with no time for distractions. Especially not a beautiful young graduate student with a spirited personality that challenges her every step.

 

When Emma and Juliet’s paths cross in the classroom, their connection is undeniable. When their music comes together, it is unstoppable. The bond they begin to form threatens to challenge more than just their opinions of music. Friendships, ethics, and careers are tested as Emma and Juliet find themselves lost in a concerto of fiery passion and heartbreak.

 

I enjoyed the book from the beginning. The opening scene pulled me in and made the mystery surrounding the women appealing. Juliet was a bit of a trip at the beginning of the book. She was very unlikable. She was full of herself and thought that she could do no wrong. It really turned me off.  But all of that changed when she met Emma she brought the good out of her. It also allowed the reader to see the more sensitive side of her that she hid from the world. Juliet’s relationship with Kira was touching.

 

Emma was my favorite character. I loved her view on life. Even though she was handed a shitty hand she made the best of it. Her loss of hearing never slowed her down she was still able to achieve all of her music-related dreams. She also was able to share her love of music with Kira who was also deaf.

 

The woman’s struggle to be together was very interesting. Between the struggles with the teacher-student relationship, there was also family drama. Juliet’s father was a piece of work. It seemed like he would do anything to ruin any chance of happiness for Juliet. I don’t know if it was because of her being gay or just because he liked to be in control.

 

The sex scenes in this book were amazingly done. The chemistry between Emma and Juliet was hot. I would consider it to be a slow burn.

 

My one fault with this book was the editing. Towards the end of the book, the editing quality seemed to slip. Normally something like this wouldn’t bother me but it happened on quite a few occasions.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a slow burn romance. Or anyone who loves forbidden love romances.

 

Forbidden Melody  is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Interview with debut author Lou J Bard

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Who or what inspired your latest novel There’s A Possibility?
Actually, it was a Patrick Dempsey movie called Made of Honor and I loved the plot so much, but of course I wanted to see how you could twist it to be gay. This has been in the back of my mind ever since it came out in 2008. I’m glad it’s finally out of my head and on the pages!

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?
I’ve been writing since as long as I can remember. I think the first time I ever realized fanfiction was a thing, I’d already been writing some for Pokémon! LOL

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

Oh wow. I guess I’d have to go with Nymphadora Tonks from Harry Potter. She was always a badass in my opinion. Youngest Auror of her time AND a Hufflepuff. Fun colored hair. She was my idol when she appeared in the books.

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

Character sketches! My absolute favorite part of the story is understanding my characters and where they come from, what their purposes are and where I think they’re headed.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

Mostly everyday people I live around and myself. I think I put a little piece of me into all of my characters. I try to write what I know.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

If it weren’t for my cat begging for my attention all of the time, I’d saythat it was my living room couch with lots of pillows and blankets and a hot cup of coffee. But I generally find myself at Starbucks to avoid distraction (go figure).

 

What is your writing process?

See the thing. Plot the thing. Write the thing. Get blocked by the thing. Cry over the thing. Write more of the thing. Send the thing to Editor and then cry when it returns looking like a crime scene. Finish polishing the thing. Cry again over the thing because it’s finished. Cry more over the thing when people enjoy the finished product.

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I think it made me more aware of how I write, definitely with my use of adverbs and how I use the words “that” and “like” a LOT and how I need to correct it both in my speech and in my writing.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My editor. Claire works miracles with the shite I send her! LOL.

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

Everything from my readers is memorable. Even if it’s not a stellar review, I am happy that someone took the time to read what I wrote and at least gave it a shot. Of course, I love the great reviews, but I take all of them in stride.

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

Am I lame if I say Harry Potter? It was the first real set of books I ever fell in love with and have changed the way I look at books for the rest of my life. I may never be as great as Ms. Rowling, but I certainly thank her for giving me the gift of loving the written word and the magical places it can take you.

 

Do you have any new books coming out? If so what are they about?

My next book is called The Sound of Silenceand it’s about a young woman who has been mute for over half of her life, falling in love with one of her caretakers and her caretaker trying to defend her own emotions against the world that thinks they are wrong.

But that’s as far as I’ll tell 🙂

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How do you take your coffee?

Cream and sugar with a splash of black coffee. Or just a soy caramel macchiato from Starbucks.

 

Lou’s upcoming book The Sound of Silence will be available on Amazon Kindle August 31st. It is available for preorder now by clicking here.

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Review of There’s A Possibility by Lou J Bard

There's A Possibility

I’m a sucker for friends to lovers romance novels. There is just something so sweet about two women who are already best friends realizing how much they truly love each other. There’s A Possibility by debut author Lou J Bard shines.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

My name is Diana Sheridan and I think you’re my soulmate!”

Diana Sheridan has been in love with Penelope Bennett since the fateful day that they met in their grade school library. The only problem?

Penelope is straight.

Penelope Bennett has been picking up the pieces of Diana’s failed and flawed flings since high school and wants for her best friend to find happiness; but is certain that it is not with her.

A two-month long overseas work excursion puts twenty-four years of friendship to the test when Diana returns home with more than just a new cultural experience and Penelope must decide once and for all if there’s a possibility for more between them.

 

I really liked the relationship between Diana and Penelope. They pushed each other’s buttons in a playful and silly manner. The way that only best friends can. From the very beginning, you could see how much Diana loved and cared for Penelope. The opening scene was my favorite it truly showed Diana’s character. Penelope was my favorite character I loved how instead of saying God she would call out the names of other Gods such as Athena.

 

I thought overall the book was well written. The sex scenes in this book are super steamy be prepared to blush in public. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this novel and look forward to reading more from them in the future.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves friends to lovers romances.

 

There’s A Possibility  is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Review of To Boldly Go by Em Stevens

To Boldly Go .jpg

I read To Boldly Go by Em Stevens for the Lesfic Book Club hosted on the Lesfic Readers and Writers Slack group. I really had no idea what I was getting into with this book, but I was pleasantly surprised. It made for a great summer read.

 

Here is a short blurb about the book:

Taryn’s trip of a lifetime is finally happening. She’s saved money, researched, planned, and created an itinerary that will allow her to travel Italy…and finally tell her best friend that she’s in love with her. But those plans are ruined when she wakes up alone, her crush gone. Her plans did not include being alone and stranded in Milan.

 

Now Taryn’s dream vacation is a nightmare.

 

Enter Holly, a fellow traveler: young, full of life, and comfortable traipsing off the beaten path. Holly feels a connection with Taryn and wants to salvage her trip. After all, they’re in freaking Italy! But their radically different travel styles and age differences make for rough terrain.

 

Together, they boldly go into unexplored territories of the heart, and may just discover love.

 

The book took me a little while to get into. I found Taryn to be a little annoying in the beginning. But she really grew on me as the book progressed. I liked that she kept her type A personality but was willing to accommodate the needs of others. Holly was my favorite character. I liked how she was willing to roll with the punches. She also accepted Taryn just like she was and accommodated her needs the best way she could. I was a little shocked by Holly’s backstory. It wasn’t what I was expecting but I feel like it really added to her character.

 

My favorite part of the book was the descriptions of Italy. It made it feel like you were there with the characters. The talk about food in this book made me hungry the whole time I was reading it. I also enjoyed all of the Star Trek references splatted throughout the book.

 

I would recommend this book to anyone that likes destination romances.

 

To Boldly Go is available on Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Interview with Hildred Billings

 

Who or what inspired your latest novel Not for Sale?

 

I honestly don’t remember. I think I was contemplating the fact that my apartment complex was now on their third manager in as many years and, wondered what it was like being a property manager. Everything kind of built from there. All I know is that Kimberly was always Korean-American from the beginning, and that I wanted to set it in a small, middle-class condominium complex on the Oregon coast.

 

Who or what inspired you to start writing?

 

I’ve been writing since I was old enough to mimic words out of picture books. So, it’s hard to say where the urge to write began. One of my earliest memories is writing and making up stories about my grandmother as a teenager. I was about four years old. I was also encouraged to write stories in first grade. I think I wrote a picture book about a turtle. It was always a constant presence in my life – I wrote my first full-length novel, complete with three acts and character developments, when I was in fifth grade. (Of course, it’s not terribly good, and no, nobody is allowed to see it!)

 

Which of your books was your favorite to write and why?

 

I’ve had a couple books I would describe as “fever dreams.” The ones where I sat down and day in, day out wrote about five to ten thousand words a day until the behemoths were complete. Where my brain refused to let me work on anything else until this thing was finished. Under Hildred, that book is definitely “Love, Yumi.” Being written in first person definitely helps. It’s a lot more stream of conscious that way.

 

Who is your favorite character from your books and why?

 

I think out of my lesbian romances, the character I get most excited about is Eva Warren. If she’s appearing somewhere, you know some trouble is about to begin. It tends to follow her like the scent of her made-to-order French perfume. And we authors LOVE troublemaking characters!

 

How do you approach writing a new storyline?

 

I consider what kind of tropes it will have, who the characters are, and what is the main thing keeping them apart. (Assuming we are talking about romance here.) As a publisher, I also consider the marketability. I schedule the books I write and their release dates to ensure that at least every other book is one I can market to an awaiting audience.

 

Where do your inspirations for characters and their lives come from?

 

The easy answer is “well, some of them are spin-offs of books I’ve written before, where I followed a side character and realized they would make an amazing lead character for their own novel!” The harder, more boring answer is, “literally whenever my brain thinks it’s a good time to deliver a new story.” I could be watching a commercial, have a random thought about something the voiceover said, and ten minutes later I have the next novel I’m going to write ready to go. I think I naturally create stories out of mundane things.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

 

The well-lit room of my favorite teashop in Portland. I’ve written thousands of words there over the years, and I’m still not sure the baristas know what the hell I’m doing in that corner.

 

What is your writing process?

 

Sit down, shut up, and write until it’s finished for the day. Then I get to play video games!

 

(I’m afraid there is nothing interesting or glamorous about my writing life. It simply exists like a typical office job. I even dress like I’m going to the office.)

 

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

 

I don’t think anything changed, especially for the first book. I had already written a ton of books before I published my first one (a lot of real duds, let me tell you.) But the main thing that’s changed over the years is becoming more familiar with the world of “what readers want” and trying to deliver. Having to set aside my own tastes and sometimes, even what might make the book “better” in an artistic sense… well, I’ve never put out a book I wasn’t happy with. But there are some that I would have ended differently or made a character more realistically unpleasant (like I imagined them,) or set somewhere else if the fact I need to make a living wasn’t an issue. It’s what happens when you do art for a living. You just find a way to make it work with your creative vision.

 

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

 

Bookbub, c. 2015 I’ll be paying the taxes on it for years!

 

 

What is something memorable you have heard from your readers/fans?

 

I have a defunct (she’s dead, y’all) lesbian erotica pen name that used to get some straaaange fanmail back in the day. But I think the sweetest one, which I think about a lot, came from a man who said he and his wife really loved my work and they used to read it to each other before they went to sleep. Sometimes, I feel like I failed them when that pen name died… but let’s be real, they either split up or moved on!

 

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

 

I don’t know what one book overall has. But this year I have been really influenced by Keven Kwan. Not just him setting the bar on how over the top I can make my rich-asshole characters, but his omniscient style of writing helped me out of a huge bind when I was writing my fantasy novel and trying to figure out how to make the point of view work. Thanks, Kevin, or showing me I could get away with it!

 

How do you take your coffee?

 

I don’t.