Genre Talk with Carole Cummings and DSP Publications Author Andrea Speed
It’s Wednesday, which means Lisa has once again allowed us to invade TNA. This time, we’re coming on like a virus with the woman who’s made the word “infected” into something gripping in the best sense of the word. The fabulous Andrea Speed is here today to talk about her DSP Publications upcoming (February 24th) release Infected: Paris!
Roan is working a frustrating stalker case, with no shortage of suspects and little solid evidence, when he comes across a startling eyewitness living in his car across the street from the scene. A tiger-strain infected, the only one Roan’s ever met, Paris Lehane is a former Canadian golden boy who suffered a breakdown after becoming infected in college.
While Roan’s ex, Diego “Dee” Cole, warns against falling for the infected Paris, a man doomed to die, Roan struggles with his attraction and the knowledge that no happily ever after is possible for them.
But is the knowledge enough to discourage him from following his heart? Roan helps Paris out of homelessness, and maybe a special hospital can help Paris with the infection, but Roan’s got his hands full with this case, and there’s no end in sight.
You’ll find buy links at the end of the post, so sit back and let yourself succumb to this most virulent strain. (See what I did there? *nudge nudge*)
Carole: The book sounds like a great addition to an already well-loved series, Andrea. For those who haven’t tried it yet, tell us about the genre of this latest.
Andrea: You know, I have a hard time picking a genre for this book. I would guess it’s mystery, with a hint of science-fiction and horror. And I love all these genres! Murder mysteries are just fun to read, at least for me. Same with science fiction and horror. In fact, I will beat the drum for all genre writing over “mainstream” or “literary” writing, for the simple fact that the holds are not barred in most genre writing. Almost anything can happen, and I think that’s amazing. Also, you can talk about contemporary or constant issues, but in coded ways, and it often makes it easier to take for the audience. Nobody wants to be lectured at. But dress it up as, say, an orphan wizard learning his place in the world, and you have something that tastes great, and yet never seems preachy.
Carole: So, why M/M?
Andrea: Why not?
Carole: I know, right?! Okay, so let’s get to the meat of things—tell us about Infected: Paris.
Andrea: This isn’t your typical shapeshifter book. The virus in this story – and there are different strains of cat (cougar, leopard, tiger, panther, lion) – is terrible. You are not consciously aware when you’re a cat, and it hurts. In fact, it ends up killing you, and if you’re really unlucky, you may kill other people as well on your way there. Being infected makes you a pariah. Society is learning to deal with this new thing, and while it has to some degree, it still has a long way to go. Except for the cult that worships the virus as divine, but that’s still not ideal.
And the virus is the only fantastical element of this story. So if you’re expecting vampires or some other urban fantasy stuff, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not. I try and treat the virus as realistically as possible within the context of the story.
Carole: Infected: Paris is being published through DS PPublications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for non-romance genre novels. Tell us about the relationship in Infected: Paris and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Andrea: While the relationship between Roan and Paris is very much the bedrock of Roan’s humanity and continuing sanity, it’s not really front and center. It’s the spine of the book, but not the meat. That’s devoted to establishing the characters, the world they live in, and the mystery. So while it’s clear they love and depend on each other, there just isn’t any on page sex.
I kind of thought it was odd that Infected: Prey was originally published by a romance publisher, because it isn’t really. It’s an alternate universe mystery, where the relationship is important, but it’s not the most important thing going on. In a way, this is my homage to the hard boiled mysteries of Raymond Chandler (but gay) and the gay mysteries of Joseph Hansen. Although I doubt I belong in their company. But it’s something to aspire to.
Carole: Oh, I think you’re doing just fine. 😉 Now tell us about the evolution of this story. What was its earliest incarnation as a concept and when did it begin to take the form of Infected: Paris?
Andrea: Well, I first started thinking about this story after reading an article about gene therapy. I thought it would lead to interesting complications if someone decided to use a live virus for the hell of it, or to prove a theory, or build a better person. First I thought of werewolves, but I didn’t want to write about them, so I changed it to werecats. Then I wrote the novel, wasn’t happy with it, and set it aside for a year or two. I eventually figured out the story didn’t work because I had the wrong character in the lead. So I rewrote it, and this time Roan showed up, and that was that. I wrote out the plot before I had the character. I’m just lucky he showed up when he did.
Carole: As are your fans, no doubt. So with all that in mind, why did you feel this story needed to be told with the M/M dynamic?
Andrea: Roan is an outsider in many respects. He’s an orphan turned foster child, turned medical pariah, as most virus children – kids born infected with the cat virus – are too damaged to survive or function successfully for long. But Roan was a one in a million, because he was born not physically or mentally deformed, but then no one knew what to do with him. He wasn’t like other virus children, but he wasn’t a normal child either. He had no known family, and the medical establishment wasn’t sure what to do with him. He grew up in hospitals as well as the few foster homes willing to take him (there weren’t many of those), and he was treated like medical waste with a short shelf life. When the character occurred to me, I knew he was gay right away, because of course he would be. His life has been defined by narrow odds, and I have a hard time imagining him being in any kind of majority group. He’s very punk rock, and he learned early on to revel in his misfit role, and of course there’s something in him that just loves to fight. Roan just wouldn’t be Roan if he were straight, or even bi. That would be a different character entirely.
But I also knew that having a human connection was very important for him, beyond even that of your average person. Roan has always longed for a permanent home, but not one made of bricks and mortar. Home to him is a person, someone he could love and trust, someone who wouldn’t let him down as so many people and things have done in his life. So he would have a relationship, and a pretty solid one at that, especially if he found someone he could trust. And Paris is definitely a man he can trust, a man who helps keep him emotionally grounded. Roan is very much a character who needs someone else in his life. Because his fighter impulse could spin out of control if he didn’t have a solid reason to hold it back.
Carole: Sounds great, Andrea, and I know fans of the Infected series are looking forward to this latest addition. One last question before we go. If you could give out only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Andrea: Be yourself. Which is a bland, blah sentiment, but I goddamn mean it. If you want to be a writer, painter, cartoonist, professional knitter or curler, go for it. What’s holding you back? You’ll be ridiculed/you’re not good/there’s no way you’ll make enough money at it … so what? You shouldn’t let that hold you back. Nor should the “everything’s been done” thing either. So what? It hasn’t been done by you – that alone makes it different. Life is very short, and you can’t keep wishing you would do something while putting it off for one reason or another. To hell with that. If you have a passion, pursue it before it’s too late. Do it now!
Carole: Excellent advice, Andrea. I hope all those creative souls out there take it to heart. Thanks so much for being with us today, and best of luck on your upcoming release!
Andrea Speed was born looking for trouble in some hot month without an R in it. While succeeding in finding Trouble, she has also been found by its twin brother, Clean Up, and is now on the run, wanted for the murder of a mop and a really cute, innocent bucket that was only one day away from retirement. (I was framed, I tell you – framed!)
In her spare time, she arms lemurs in preparation for the upcoming war against the Mole Men.
Viva la revolution!
Preorder Infected: Paris HERE.
Be sure to stay tuned for the March edition of Carole Cummings’ Genre Talk with DSPP author A.J. Marcus.