Hello and welcome all to another Genre Talk here on The Novel Approach Reviews! Let’s give a big welcome to DSP Publications author Lina Langley who’s here to talk about her scifi-ish/paranormal-ish release, Welcome to Crash
Here’s a bit of what the book is all about:
At first, Damien feels lucky to land a job at an influential art studio, but it soon becomes obvious that something’s not right. His gorgeous boss, John, is interested, and he’d be the perfect man for Damien—if Damien wasn’t already in a relationship. It isn’t long before Damien is at the center of a love triangle, forced to choose between hot, punk John and his secret affair with his professor, Levi. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because something impossible is happening to Damien—and it’s having a drastic effect on his health as well as his perception of reality.
Each time Damien goes to work, things grow more bizarre, starting with Sam—an artist who has been dead for years and now somehow… isn’t. Damien’s unusual circumstances also free him from the restrictions of monogamy—or so he thinks. Levi, who cannot believe Damien’s claims, fears for his sanity. John also has strong doubts when Damien reveals knowledge of a catastrophic event looming in John’s future. Whether the men he loves believe his wild claims or not, neither can deny Damien is languishing, and if they cannot save him, he’ll be lost. More importantly, they must convince Damien to save himself.
Elizabeth: Tell us a little about your genre.
Lina Langley: I have no idea what genre my book is. I don’t, readers don’t, nobody does. Even the most seasoned writers I know have told me that they have no idea what my book is. That’s great, in some ways, because it means I managed to create something interesting and unique, but it also makes it hard to pitch the book when I want someone to read it. It’s kind of speculative fiction mixed with magical realism (which, incidentally, I greatly dislike but this story needed) and then mixed with romance and a healthy serving of angst.
In other words, honestly, I have no idea.
Elizabeth: We want to hear about Welcome to Crash.
Lina Langley: This is the book that I’ve always wanted to write. It took a long time to get Damien’s voice quite right, because it wouldn’t work without his voice. The plot is strange and complex, and it’s hard to explore without the proper character voice. I have tried many times. It wasn’t until I stumbled into Damien’s voice, which is totally different from any voices I’ve written so far, that it finally clicked. Damien has a lot of issues as a character but they are necessary for the plot to work. It was important that there was a synergy between Damien’s decisions (not his traits, his personality or his experience as a character, but specifically his decisions) and what happens in the plot. Once I had Damien’s personality down, the plot, which is very out there, started to make perfect sense.
Elizabeth: Tell us a bit about the book’s setting
Lina Langley: The city that the story takes place in is an incredibly important part of Welcome to Crash. While the city is called Hexham, which is a real market town in Northumberland, it’s mostly based on a place called Newcastle Upon Tyne.
The city, which is thousands of years old, has developed in a way that allows for the story to happen naturally. I actually thought about setting the story in America, but after pondering it, I decided that it absolutely had to be set in England. The plot wouldn’t have made sense if it was set in America. None of the characters would have been the same if they had been American, either, which was important because it informed their personality and their interactions with each other.
The fictional city of Hexham is very similar to Newcastle Upon Tyne in terms of its culture and make-up. Like Newcastle, it’s also made up of a lot of students from all over the continent, along with many working class and middle class people whose families have lived there for many generations. Northeast England changed completely after Margaret Thatcher and that is clearly visible in Newcastle Upon Tyne and its fictional counterpart.
Like the real Newcastle, the city in Hexham no longer has shipyards or miners (or if they exist, they are few and far between.) The public sector began to expand and the university started to become one of the most important and prevalent things in a relatively big historic city. In many ways, the city works to preserve it historic past. Art museums and galleries are housed in landmark industrial buildings. That doesn’t mean that the city hasn’t been gentrified, but rather that there has been an effort to keep some of its history even while the city continues to change.
That’s the framework for the story: A currently thriving city, which was once going through economic depression, houses an art student that is completely unaware of all the history that surrounds him.
As a person who grew up in the fictional city of Hexham and wants to study art, Damien takes his environment for granted. There are many things about it that are interesting and unique, and while Damien is vaguely aware that he’s in a privileged position to be able to study art in one of the most important artistic cities in England, perhaps even in Europe, to him, it’s just a happy coincidence. While it can’t be said that the city has been designed with students in mind, it definitely takes them into account, which means that Damien’s surrounding life is convenient.
One of the most important elements in the entire story is the metro. It’s such an important part of culture in England and in the Northeast, in particular, that it seemed important to include it. I can’t tell you why the metro is important–though I’m sure that if you read the book you’ll figure it out–but the metro plays a pivotal part in the story.
Another important part of the story is the art studio, Crash. Unlike the fictional city of Hexham, Newcastle Upon Tyne doesn’t have–or at least, I’m not aware of it having–any legendary art studios. Crash is meant to be a lot like Andy Warhol’s studio, The Factory. Crash is known to be a hangout for stars, Sam Riordan groupies and bands. Unlike Warhol, Sam Riordan is extremely secretive about his work, and he doesn’t usually throw incredible parties, but like The Factory, Crash is a legendary place, one which takes on an almost mythical existence by the time that Damien has arrived. It has become part of the cultural fabric of Hexham, another in one of the many things of historical and cultural significance than need to be preserved for the future.
The city in Welcome to Crash is another character in the story and it affects the way that each character interacts with each other, with their environment and with what is happening to them. Hexham, in Welcome to Crash, might be a fictional city, but it’s based on a beautiful, thriving and incredible real one, which mixes history, progress and art in one of the most stunning and seamless ways that I’ve ever personally experienced and I hope that you, as the reader, get to experience a little part of it when you read the book.
Elizabeth: How would you define “diversity” in your writing, and how you explored it in this book?
Lina Langley: I think, at this point, authors have to go out of their way not to include diversity in their books. The characters in Welcome to Crash are racially diverse, because the people in my own life are racially diverse. Some of them are sick, some are healthy, some are bisexual, some are gay, and I think a few of them are straight. I’m not going out of my way to include diversity, the characters just develop the way they do because people are varied and interesting. I was also very lucky to have amazing sensitivity readers who helped me work through the book and my own biases and preconceptions. I learned so much and I can only hope that I did a good job when it comes to diversity in the book.
Elizabeth: Welcome to Crash is being published through DSP Publications, Dreamspinner Press’s imprint for genre novels that don’t necessarily focus on or even contain romance. Tell us about the relationship in Welcome to Crash and why it doesn’t fit the accepted definition of Romance in the M/M genre.
Lina Langley: Welcome to Crash has a lot of romance, but that’s not what the book is about. Ultimately, the book is entirely about Damien’s journey as a person, and his relationships are fundamentally tangential to his development. They’re important because they serve a purpose, but unlike a romance, the purpose isn’t to find love. The ending can be taken in several different ways and its open-endedness is a departure from the romance genre standard. Yes, there’s romance in the story, but there’s cheating too, and the story definitely doesn’t follow the general MM path that a lot of them do. Damien needs to find himself before he can even think about finding love, in my opinion. When people ask me which team I am, I always tell them I’m team “Damien, sit the fuck down and reevaluate your life choices.” I think that’s pretty different from the standard in M/M!
Elizabeth: Lightening Round!
What do you do for fun? Do you have a pet who supervises your writing?
Lina Langley: What’s fun? I’m joking, kind of. I work a lot. When I have time to relax I usually binge watch TV shows or play The Sims. I like swimming and going to the gym, too and spending time with my husband. When I’m not working on a book, I’m usually working on a game, so I guess game developing is something else that I do.
Elizabeth: How has your writing changed since you published your first book?
Lina Langley: I think I’m a lot more confident in my writing. Partly because there’s a huge weight lifted off your shoulders once you publish your first book, because suddenly you realize “wait, I can do this.” I write a lot more now (partly due to my day job as a ghostwriter, which would have never happened without my first published book!) and I have a stronger grasp on what I want to do before I dive into a project. I’m also not afraid of editors anymore. Okay, not as afraid of editors anymore.
Elizabeth: Do you write in different genres and if so how difficult is it to do?
Lina Langley: I write in a couple of different genres, but mostly, it happens naturally. I write romance a lot because I enjoy romance, I like a good happy ending, but I don’t like to be constrained by romance as if it was the only genre. If I’m writing a romance and it goes in a different direction, I’ll let it go there. Genre doesn’t dictate a story, a story dictates genre, and I’ll let it take me wherever it might.
Elizabeth: What sort of research did you need to do?
Lina Langley: I had to do quite a bit of research. The most important bit of research I had to do was related to epilepsy, how it presents in different people and even the development of the treatment through history. The second one was about art. The book centered the art scene and it was important that I had some working knowledge of it, though I’m sure I’m lacking.
Elizabeth: Thank you, thank you to all our wonderful readers for joining us today! It’s time for us to learn a bit more about Lina Langley. There are some buy links and of course, Lina Langley’s website and social media links.
Oooh, and there’s a giveaway!
Lina Langley is a first-generation immigrant. She currently lives in sunny Florida and spends her time slashing hot strangers while getting coffee.
Her past is haunted by spies, thieves, tyrants, and murderers. A resident of the world, she’s lived on three different continents. She first saw a radiator when she was twenty-two years old, and one time she followed a cat instead of going to a house party.
She likes to read, watch TV, and play video games when she’s not developing them. The rest of her free time is spent recreating her own characters in The Sims and hoping that people don’t look at the back end of her games.
Be sure to come on back on October 10 when J. Scott Coatsworth brings us more sci-fi goodness!
Now, enter the contest!