TNA: Hi, Clare, I’m so glad you could join us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell all of us a little bit about yourself, a few things we readers may not know about you?
Clare: Hi everyone, and thanks to TNA for inviting me over! I’m an author of gay romance, usually contemporary, often erotic, and sometimes with gentle humour. Just like life, really! I do actually live in London, England – it’s not just a pen name *g* – and I’ve been publishing since 2008. I haven’t been the most prolific writer on the planet recently, but I’ve just started working from home so I’m hopeful of more time and productivity.
I’ve also been on the organising committee for the UK Meet since 2011 and I love the way it’s grown in numbers and reputation, yet remains so welcoming. And I’ll be at GRL in October, with the hope of meeting lots of old and new friends.
TNA: What was your first published M/M title? If you could go back in time to the moment you began writing it, what advice would you give yourself now that you have the benefit of some experience?
Clare: My first book was the fantasy novel BRANDED, published by Dreamspinner Press. Shortly after that, I published my first contemporary romance, SPARKS FLY, also with Dreamspinner. In those early days I wrote quickly and fluently, and was blindly in love with the characters and telling their story, but of course I soon learned that’s not necessarily enough to get published! However, if I’d known how many craft issues I needed to address at that time, maybe I’d have ground to a halt and never finished!
TNA: Have you re-read the book since its publication? Would you say your writing has changed at all since? If so, in what ways?
Clare: My writing has changed a lot, and hopefully for the better. Partly this has happened because of changes inside myself – I’ve got older *sigh* and hopefully wiser, and I’ve read more books over the years including many in the MM genre, increasing my vocabulary and appreciation of fiction. I’m also better aware of what readers like, and how to reach them with my books. But another large part of the change comes from dealing with great editors and supportive publishers, which in turn has led me to learning more about the publishing industry and also the craft of writing. I was always good at English and expressing myself – yes, I do chat a lot *g* – but I didn’t necessarily know all the skills in telling a story effectively. I’ve been guilty of some clumsy writing, poor dialogue, boring description – but I’m getting better every day!
It’s a challenge but also a reward to learn new ways to make my fiction better. I still have my own style and probably some remaining dodgy habits – but I love writing even more.
TNA: Do you remember the first M/M book you ever read? Would you say the book might have been influential in your own writing career? If so, how?
Clare: My first MM reading was in fanfiction, and to be honest, it kickstarted my whole career! I genuinely didn’t know there was MM fiction out there until I stumbled on it through a fanfiction site. I believe there are plenty of readers out there still in the same position, with all the joys of MM fiction to discover. It encouraged me to enter a writing competition, then to host my own fiction site. And eventually I moved to writing my own characters.
The first full novel I read with a strong, primary MM relationship was Manna Francis’ Administration series. Has anyone read it? It’s wonderful, though a baptism of fire for a newbie LOL. I knew I might not be able to write that level of sexy, dystopian intensity, but it made me more determined to join the writing community. I then talked to a fellow author in one of the online original-MM-fiction journals – which are marvelous places to try out your writing – and she encouraged me to submit to an e-publisher. And I was on my way :).
TNA: As both an author and a reader, what’s your idea of a great protagonist?
Clare: My bio says I like strong, sexy and sympathetic characters. While bios are often rather glib! that does in fact sum up what I like in a protagonist. I like to read an original and plausible “voice” and really feel for his reactions. He doesn’t have to be heroic in the start of a book – in fact, I love bad boys turned good, or presumed losers finding their inner strength – but I like to see the character develop in light of meeting a challenge, a struggle – and of course, the love in his life! And like many a dating profile, I really rate a good sense of humour :).
TNA: Let’s chat a little bit about your new book, No Angel. There’s a fun paranormal twist to the romance between Felix and Mickey? What would you say you enjoyed most about writing this book?
Clare: I loved writing the threeway relationship, and how poor Felix copes with the two main men in his life. He’s always juggling his blossoming relationship with Mickey, and his cheeky, lecherous new “friend” Bryn. I enjoyed making this potentially awkward situation work, so that my main character has a sincere and monogamous romantic relationship, but is also developing a genuine friendship with another man. Lucky that Mickey is very easy-going and actually likes the way Felix often seems distracted or odd – little knowing the background reason why!
TNA: Would you classify No Angel as a romantic comedy? Do you enjoy writing a book that’s a bit on the lighter side, or you do you enjoy writing novels with a more dramatic tone? Why?
Clare: Yes, it’s definitely a romantic comedy. It’s not one of those joke-a-paragraph books, and there are moments of sorrow and fear. Plus the more lighthearted banter between the characters is balanced with a mystery and more realistic social comment. But I believe humour stems from character. Felix has a dry wit, Mickey can be mischievous in his own sexy way, and Bryn is just blatantly coarse. There’s *bound* to be humour from them bouncing off each other!
TNA: If you were to give us a thumbnail sketch of your main characters, how would you describe them, what’s the chemistry between them that will make readers believe they belong together?
Clare: Felix has led a careful, caring, sensible life, working as hard as he can and looking after himself and his brother Patrick after their parents died in a car crash. He’s cute-looking and honest and sincere – he just hasn’t had much time or opportunity to go out with someone seriously. His self-esteem issues are probably familiar to many of us, thinking he’s just too boring to be good date material. And did I mention he’s had a crush on his friend Mickey since school days? He most definitely deserves a break.
Mickey is sexy, handsome, charming and rich – and lonely. He’s confident at work and has always been popular, all the way from being captain of the school football team to becoming a successful salesman. But he’s remained friends with Felix since those school days and wants to be his boyfriend, even though Felix has been refusing him for ages! Mickey wants someone who’ll love him for who he is, not what he possesses – and someone who’ll bring plenty of challenge to the relationship. Mickey knows Felix sees the real man beneath the smooth exterior.
TNA: What would you say Felix and Mickey love most about each other?
Clare: Apart from finding each other really sexy? LOL
Felix finds strength in Mickey’s self-confidence, and the knowledge that Mickey is there for him in a crisis. Then Mickey also helps draw out Felix’s more playful and sexy side, and helps him let loose sometimes!
Mickey admires Felix’s loyalty and care for his friends and family. Felix’s no-nonsense attitude towards Mickey’s material wealth helps Mickey find comfort, affection and genuine love.
Most of all, I think they both benefit from being friends before lovers, and growing up together has bonded them even further.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from No Angel with us?
Claire: I’d be very happy to share an exclusive excerpt with TNA today.
Blurb: Felix’s life is full, juggling a supportive homelife for his disabled brother, a job as a care home assistant, a brand new boyfriend—and now he’s had his arse pinched by a lewd gay ghost on the late night bus!
If only that were the end of it. But Bryn the ghost follows him home and wheedles himself into Felix’s life. That includes sharing his shameless opinions on the patronising way Felix treats his brother, on how Felix should eat more food and put some flesh on his bones, and—worst of all—exactly how Felix should be getting down to it with his seriously sexy new boyfriend Mickey! And in between all that, Bryn finds time to leer at Felix himself and make outrageous suggestions on what they’d be doing if Bryn wasn’t…well…ghostly.
Felix considers he’s a tolerant guy. But the last thing he needs now is to get wrapped up in the mystery of a missing teenage girl, the inhabitants of a local squat, and conversations with a fire-and-brimstone old preacher. Yet with a nudge or six from Bryn, the help of his brother Patrick, and some cosy loving from Mickey, Felix starts to wonder how he ever thought his life was busy before!
Excerpt: Felix stumbled into his room and sat heavily on his bed. He’d been punched in his time, but never by a guy who didn’t even exist. Life was becoming more and more bizarre. He stared at his open doorway, feeling a strong desire to close the door behind him, maybe to escape what was going on, maybe for privacy. Ridiculous really, inviting some kind of lunatic spirit into a room like a real life guest, but he had some satisfaction in retreating to his own room, his own territory. As he continued to stare, the air shimmered like the heat off a pavement on the hottest summer day, and the door slid shut on its own.
::No,:: The Voice replied. It sounded bitter. ::No such luck. Else I’d magic myself back to life or…something. It’s just one of the things I can do, sometimes. Not always.::
“Like you can’t always touch people? Like you did to me on the bus.”
::Right. It only happens sometimes. Hasn’t happened for a long time, not until I met you. Now I find I can touch things, make them move, get around better. I can touch you, too.::
“Yeah,” Felix said. He clenched his hands tightly in his lap. “I gathered that. So what was that all about with Mickey?”
::Call it giving in to temptation. Call it mischief. Call it whatever you fucking well like, boy. I didn’t think you’d notice.::
Felix rolled his eyes. “That you possessed me when Mickey kissed me?”
::When you kissed him, more like.::
Felix flushed. The Voice was right. He’d been so eager for Mickey he’d barely recognized himself. It had been fantastic! He hadn’t felt a rush like that since his teenage years, desperate for any kiss at all and astonished that the captain of the football team had let himself be cornered behind the games shed and allowed Felix to touch his lips to him, so very quickly, so very sweetly and with such great, gorgeous fear.
::You should do that more often, boy.::
“What?” Felix felt as if he’d been caught in the middle of a criminal act. Felix Collins, the man who’d never even pinched a bar of chocolate from the corner store, even though his school mates had laughed at him when he backed off.
::You should let go more often. There’s plenty of passion in you, you just keep it strapped up inside. That’s how you should feel, every bloody time.::
“Back off.” Felix felt the anger returning, alongside his embarrassment. “You manipulated it. Somehow you…entered me, and kissed Mickey with me. It was outrageous.” He screwed up his face with disgust. “You used me.”
The Voice started laughing. ::Hell’s bells, the tender virgin!::
“How did you do it?” Felix despised himself for asking, but curiosity was pulling hard at his sleeve, demanding more details.
::I don’t know. It’s never really happened before. When I’ve been able to touch people in the past, it’s been different. I can hold things with them, feel the rain on their face, the boots on their feet, things like that. But not really the emotions as well.::
“What did you feel?”
The Voice was distracted, or maybe—unlikely?—embarrassed. ::I felt it all. All of you, from your sweet little mouth—I said it’d be a good kisser, didn’t I?—to the tug in your hot, hard cock. You were angry and you were amused by the stud, and you still had one ear out for bro, even though he caught you in the act in the end. You were gagging for it, boy, that’s what I felt. Gagging for a f—::
“Don’t you dare!” Felix snapped. The room fell silent again for a moment.
::So what’s the problem with you and the stud? You know you want him.::
“What?” Dear God, he was snarling at an empty room. “If you’re going to be obscene again—”
::No. I mean, it looks like you haven’t got down ‘n dirty yet. Why the hell not? He’s very hot. Needs to use less cologne, and more original dirty talk, but any man who goes commando with jeans that tight deserves to be taken in hand, if you know what I mean.::
“You saw that?” Despite his irritation, Felix found himself chuckling. “He always goes around like that.”
::You a virgin?::
“No!” Felix flushed again, he wished he had better control of his reactions. “Not that it’s any of your business. I just don’t like rushing into these things. We’ve only just agreed to try out as boyfriends. Plenty of time to get more physical.”
::You do a lot of that, do you?::
::Tell yourself bollocking huge lies.::
“You’re a bit of a prick, aren’t you?” Felix said bluntly.
The Voice laughed again, obviously not offended in the slightest. ::I mean it, what’s stopping you? Maybe HE’S a bit of a prick, right?::
Felix thought of Mickey in full sales mode at the agency when he was chasing a deal, or the time he spent styling his hair before going out, or his insane love of designer suits. Despite himself, he smiled. “All of us can be that sometimes.”
::Arrogant, too, eh? Body like that and money, too. I saw the car outside. Can’t think he’s heard NO that many times in his life.::
Felix felt an ache in his gut that had nothing to do with the earlier punch. “No, it’s not really like that. He’s a really decent bloke. I know he’s rich, but he doesn’t flaunt it too much. He’s worked hard for his own success, too. People think he’s arrogant but he can’t help looking so hot, and if he comes over as smooth, that’s just his way. He’s actually very—” He stopped abruptly, wondering where he was going with this.
::I see.:: The Voice sounded irritatingly smug. ::Just trying out the boyfriend thing, you said?::
Felix took a long deep sigh. “Okay. You made your point.”
TNA: Felix brother’s Patrick is physically disabled. Do you find it challenging to write a character with a disability? In what ways do you think Patrick is invaluable to the story?
Clare: Patrick is a character in his own right, but he also acts as an illustration of Felix’s strengths and weaknesses. There are the usual challenges that any siblings have, getting along together. Plus Felix and Patrick are each other’s only family, bonded more closely and needfully because of being orphans. Felix has been living partly for Patrick – but now Patrick’s striking out on his own!
I had no particular plan to include a disabled character per se – Patrick just happened *g*. But I do look at the different people around me in real life, and how so many of us live with unique characteristics, whether they can be called disabilities or eccentricities or just part of a person’s looks. Patrick’s injury isn’t life-threatening, but it was shocking at the time and has an effect on the rest of his life. That’s inevitably another reason that Felix tries to protect him. I really enjoyed writing that dynamic.
TNA: I know this is sort of like asking you to name your favorite child, but of all the books you’ve written, do you have a favorite? If so, which and why?
Clare: Like many authors, it’s usually the most recent. And I have several other favourites, depending on the genre. I suppose for contemporary romance it would be the novel TRUE COLORS, for fantasy it’d be BRANDED. For a humorous short read I love HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVES, for gentle British romance it’s JUST-YOU EYES, and for out and out horror it’s PERFECTION!
TNA: How about a favorite character. If you could bring any one of your characters to life, who would you choose and why?
Clare: It’d be Freeman from the book FREEMAN that I re-published with Wilde City Press late last year. He’s a strong and compassionate man, but one who isn’t good at communicating his feelings, with a habit of being so secretive even his nearest and dearest don’t know what’s going on in his head. But his sense of integrity and justice is unassailable, and when he meets the headstrong young man Kit, Freeman shows that he *can* express himself when needed. I’d love to be part of his life in reality, he’d be an excellent friend. He’s very dear to me, as his author!
TNA: Would you care to share a little bit of information on any of your current WIPs?
Clare: I’d love to :). And I share other teasers and discussions on WIPs over at my new Facebook group Clare London Calling.
I’m currently working on a series of romance novellas with my friend and fellow novelist Sue Brown. They will feature the owners, staff and customers of a rather unique alcoholic ice cream shop in the middle of London. Each book will be self-contained for one couple’s story, so the readers will have a whole host of new and exciting characters to meet! We’re hoping to release these regularly over the next year. Watch our websites for news and excerpts! In fact, here’s a small snippet of my first story for you…
Eduardo thrust his handful of money at the driver with all the confidence he could muster, and scrambled out of the cab. The uneven cobbles tripped him, and he bumped into a couple of tourists as he tried to right himself. Now he needed to scarper, and fast, before the cash was counted and the shortfall discovered. In his mind, he saw himself turn and run like the wind, like the Chariots of Fire opening sequence, though not in slow motion, of course, and without the benefit of proper sports clothing because he was in his audition gear, that is, trousers a little too tight since Christmas, and a linen jacket that was always going to be too hot for this time of year –
The cabbie’s hand landed on his arm before he’d taken the first leap forward from the imaginary sound of the starting pistol.
“It’s not enough,” the man said.
Eduardo looked into deep, dark brown eyes set under heavy brows. The driver’s skin was dark, his jaw line and upper lip covered by similarly dark hair. Eduardo couldn’t get away from the dark theme, and he wasn’t thinking of his preferred type of man. The grip on his arm was tight and the man obviously wasn’t letting him go.
“I’m late for an appointment,” Eduardo said. That wasn’t a tremble in his voice, was it? “You must let me go. At once.”
“No,” the man said. His voice was strangely calm, but the deep tone made it sound so much more assertive than Eduardo’s. Eduardo felt a warm, roiling feeling in his gut. He was trapped! It was like one of the new breed of police thrillers, the hero chased to the end of a dark, dank alley, then turning to face his erstwhile attacker with nothing to defend himself except…
Eduardo tightened his grip on his messenger bag. As if that were going to protect him, as if his copy of The Complete Stanislavsky Toolkit could be used as a club, as if a selection of emery boards or his smartphone stylus could possibly morph into his own personal Excalibur. No, he was trapped, alone, defenceless, and hidden in the depths of gangland –
Except, actually, he was pressed back against the side of a London black cab in broad daylight in one of the most populated tourist areas. Even so, the trapped feeling persisted. The cabbie’s chest was broad and his biceps bulged out from under a tee shirt that had obviously shrunk in the wash. His throat was sinewy, and hair from his chest curled up and over his low neckline.
With a further frisson of shock, Eduardo realised he was forced back against a flat surface by a positive bear of a man.
TNA: Where can readers find you on the internet?
Clare: The best place is at my website, and here are all my other links:
And I’m on good old-fashioned email if anyone wants to chat over anything else, I’m always thrilled to hear from readers! email@example.com
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