Hi, Sedonia and D.H., and welcome to The Novel Approach! I’m so glad to have you both here with me today. Wahoo, a two-fer! 🙂 Before we get to the GIVE-AWAY!, let’s just start right off by having you tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Q. I’m going to jump into things and ask this question first because I absolutely adore the friends-to-lovers theme. How did the two of you come to the decision to team up and focus an entire anthology on that one particular thematic element?
Sedonia: The friends to lovers theme has always been my personal favorite as long as I can remember. I tend to write those anyway. I put that together with my desire to collaborate with Doug Starr because we make a great team and voila! 🙂
Doug: Sedonia snapped me up right at the start of my writing career. She saw what I was going for in my writing and pushed me to become a stronger story teller. She gets the emotional stuff I love so much and she isn’t afraid to push my thinking. When she approached me with this anthology, there was no hesitation before I said yes.
Q. How long did it take you to come up with the ideas for, then finish the stories included in the book?
Sedonia: The way it works with me is that I have an inventory in my head of stories that need to be written – I can already classify them into a genre and then fit them where needed and then write. It’s weird, I know, but for whatever reason, that’s what happens. As far as finishing the story I wrote, it took a few months to write it all down and then more time to go through and revise, have it beta read then edited and line edited. After that, I was STILL making improvements until I felt fully satisfied.
Doug: This project took quite some time and I have to thank Sedonia for her patience. Many of my online friends know how consuming my work is and outside of summer, I have to work very hard to make the time for writing. From start, when we agreed to do this anthology, to finish, the arrival of our work for others to enjoy, it took well over a year, but with major gaps of time when I put the stories aside. It was worth the wait for me though. I’m very proud of the stories and I think they tell a story everyone can relate to on some level.
Q. When did you decide that writing was going to become more a serious pursuit than a hobby?
Sedonia: Well, I’d begun writing seriously back in 1998 or so. I have also always wanted to work from home. So with the rise of the Internet and email, once I had a computer and could submit stories electronically, I was able to make writing more of a career. That, and I have the generous support in every way from my boyfriend and friends and family that enable me to write full time.
Doug: Back in 2009 I found myself unemployed like so many others. I’ve never been someone to sit around feeling sorry for myself, so I started reading…a LOT! And as I explored gay erotic fiction, I said, Hmm. My mind’s just as dirty as theirs and I’ve had a story kicking around in my head forever. Why not? So I wrote Wrestling With Desire, then Wrestling With Love, then Meant For Each Other. All three just flowed from me because I had the time to focus entirely on the writing, the characters, and the story. Let’s just say…IT WAS AWESOME!
Q. Have you always written M/M Romance/Fiction? If not, how did you find your way to it?
Sedonia: I have always written fiction with a romantic element. However, in the beginning I didn’t know about the rise of erotic romance which is more my way of writing. I was trying to write more “literary” fiction and it wasn’t working out. My boyfriend told me to stop trying to be the next Saul Bellow and write what is more natural for me. I did and in 2004 got my first acceptance with erotic romance (M/F). My writing career mushroomed, thankfully. Then, in 2006 I got an idea for spinoff characters in one of my M/F stories, to write an M/M because the character was a gay man. Well, I wrote it and got completely hooked and addicted to writing M/M. Now, it’s my passion.
Doug: Well, as a gay male, this is certainly a topic of interest for me. See, when you’re a man-whore like me, writing m/m erotica is like therapy! You get to live out all your evil little fantasies and somehow manage to seem normal by day. Okay, if you were buying any of that shit, I totally got you! I write erotic m/m fiction because it’s where my hopes live. Every character’s flaw, stress, elation…they are part of me and how my characters live out their lives…they open possibilities of what could be out there for me. Oops, did I forget to mention I’m a naïve optimistic guy?
Q. Of all the characters you’ve both created, who would you each say is your favorite and why?
Sedonia: Hmm, that’s a tough one. I love all of them. But I would say my absolutely favorite is Kiku Fujimara from my White Tigers series. I love him because he’s complex, incredibly sexy and very human all at once.
Doug: Oh wow! You’re putting me in a Sophie’s Choice situation here. My favorite? Let’s say I relate more to the submissive characters in my stories. Not necessarily sexually submissive, but emotionally. I’m talking about the home-makers. Sure, they may make lots of money, work long hours, have their own little stubborn streaks, ultimately, their goal is to make a home and to love their man. The dominant characters are super attractive to me because they don’t run around with their emotions dripping from their pores. They man up when they have to, but when it really counts, they can bare their souls to the one man who makes it safe for them to do so. Oh hum! Now I’m in fantasy land again.
Q. Which part of a book do you think is most difficult to write: Fleshing out a compelling beginning, finding just the right balance for the middle, or coming up with the perfect ending?
Sedonia: The middle and end are the most difficult. The compelling beginning for me is the easy part. I often end up having to write middle scenes in disjointed order and sometimes even write the ending first and then fill out the middle. It depends on how easily the storyline falls into place in my mind first.
Doug: I find the endings are the toughest. The beginnings just come because I have my idea and when I’m ready to give myself about three hours to write, I just get going and the characters introduce themselves to me. The middle is my favorite part to write because I might have an idea of the story line when I begin the process, but the stories never turn out as I imagine. It’s once I’ve tortured my characters as much as I can with angst over that one character we know they should be with, figuring out how to wrap it up without seeming trite or rushed, or prolonged is difficult for me.
Q. If you could offer one word of advice to a writer just starting out, what would it be?
Sedonia: It’s hard to offer just one word of advice but I’ll try (and probably fail), lol. For a writer just starting out: be humble, willing to be tough on your writing and take constructive feedback, even if you weigh the advice against what you are trying to achieve. Read GOOD literature, a lot of it. The mind is very impressionable and if you read junk, your writing won’t be so good. If you read really good stuff, your mind will absorb the good stuff and it will uplift your writing. Don’t ever be a difficult, arrogant author to work with, even if your work ends up being profitable – always remember that the ability to write is a gift and that the other people who are helping you along the way are on your side.
Doug: Nothing more to be said. Bravo!
Q. If you could trade lives with any one fictional character, just for a day, who would it be and why?
Sedonia: I would trade with ANY of my White Tigers for a day as long as I get all the benefits of being in that character’s place. ROFL!
Doug: That one’s easy. I’d want to be Derek. What I wouldn’t have given to have my own Scott when I was in high school.
Q. Do you have a favorite quote or mantra you live by?
Sedonia: This is what I repeat to myself every day and was given to me by my teacher: I wish to surrender my mind to Truth, my heart to love and my actions to harmlessness.
Doug: Aw. That’s great Sedonia. Mine’s: Patience is a Virgin and I Ain’t been no Virgin for a LONG time!
Q. Have you ever read something and thought, damn, I wish I’d written that? If so, what was it?
Sedonia: Oh yeah! I wish I’d written Harry Potter or Twilight for sheer monetary reasons. I wish I’d written Siddhartha (Hermann Hesse) because it’s one of the most beautiful, deepest books ever written.
Doug: Sloan Parker’s book Breathe is simply stunning work. What she managed to do in those pages was nothing short of magic.
Q. If you had the opportunity to sit down to dinner with one famous person, past or present, who would it be and why?
Sedonia: That’s easy: John Lennon because he was a beautiful, amazing awake human being.
Doug: Oh God. I have NO idea!
Q. Where’s your favorite place to write?
Sedonia: The kitchen table.
Doug: Living room couch.
Q. How would you describe your sense of humor? What makes you laugh?
Sedonia: My sense of humor includes a great appreciation of irreverence and earthiness. For me, farts are one of the most hysterical things ever created, lol. And my boyfriend’s sense of humor is for me, one of the most hilarious because he will say the unsayable – things that just should not be uttered from human lips – I LOVE that.
Doug: I’d say it’s sarcastic and a bit sexual. I’m very open about being gay, but I’ve also been referred to as a straight man with a gay dick…which I found oddly complimentary for some warped reason. Anyhow, I digress. Sarcastic and sexual. And the thing that makes me laugh harder than anything is the Phone Taps Elvis Duran and the Morning Show does each morning as I drive to work.
Q. Do you have news of any works-in-progress you’d care to share with us?
Sedonia: I am close to finishing my next White Tigers book, Men of Tokyo: Forbidden Cravings. I am making my own foray into the taboo of twins, which I know other M/M authors before me have done. It’s been quite the interesting writing experience. 🙂
Doug: Oh my GOSH do I have stuff coming. I’m one of the authors in the Lost and Found anthology, put together in support of struggling gay youth and letting them know there are adults out there who want to help them. I got to write with the brilliant and beautiful Ms. Michele Montgomery and absolutely adore what we accomplished together. She wrote from the POV of the boy and I wrote from the point of view of the boy grown up to become a man. I have a story Perfect For Him coming out once I finish it through MLR (Kris gave me a deadline of 11/30 for final revisions so hopefully the wait won’t be too long). I then plan to write Meant For Him, a story which segues from the first book Meant For Each Other. In Meant For Him, Andrew, Jeremy’s ex from the first book, gets his happily ever after. I guess that’s enough for now.
Q. Where can we find you on the internet?
Sedonia: You can find me in all the usual places: www.sedoniaguillone.com, www.sedoniaguillone.com/blog, Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sedonia.guillone Twitter: @SedoniaGuillone and Goodreads (which I love): http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/915705.Sedonia_Guillone
Doug: You can find me at www.dhstarr.com, http://www.dhstarr.blogspot.com/, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/doug.starr.10, Twitter @dhstarrontwtr, and Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4422750.D_H_Starr
Q. Would each of you be willing to share an excerpt from one of your stories in Friends to Loverswith us?
Sedonia: Of course! I’m a show off. Lol. Here is a tid bit from “Blind Love” in which samurai Hirata is desperate to get back his childhood friend Sho. Sho was blinded by illness and then sent as an apprentice to learn the healing arts of massage. He disappeared but Hirata promised to search for him and won’t rest until they’re back together again. However, for reasons of his own, Sho is not making it so easy…for a while.
A line of rope tied to a pole stretched the distance, parallel to the path, ending at another pole at the river’s edge. Hirata assumed it to be a line to hang washing to dry since Sho stepped out beside him, undressed and slung his kimono over it. “Leave your kimono here,” he told Hirata. Hirata undressed and slung his clothing next to Sho’s on the line. But then Sho grasped the rope with one hand, Hirata’s in the other and took a step. The rope was Sho’s guide between the river and the house.
“Come.” Sho gently tugged Hirata’s hand.
In halting steps, Hirata let Sho, also clad only in his loincloth, a washrag slung over one shoulder, lead him toward the water’s edge. Inwardly he grumbled at his own weakness. Weren’t normal samurai able to sustain such an injury as he’d received without needing so many days’ rest and nursing? Did he have to be so different in every way possible?
Glancing up he watched Sho’s fingers slide along the guide rope. His testy feeling intensified. As a child, Sho had adapted to his blindness seamlessly. As an adult, he’d gained even more skills. In addition to being an accomplished healer, he was as deadly a human weapon as any samurai or ninja. Hirata couldn’t help comparing himself to Sho and to every other human being he’d ever encountered. Everyone else seemed to fit somewhere in this world except him. Until two nights ago, at least, before his horrible conversation with Sho, he’d held onto the belief that the fire of love and loyalty burning in his heart for Sho distinguished him as a samurai in the true sense. Now, that too, seemed a paltry joke.
They reached the riverbank and Sho released the guide rope whose end was tied to a pole a mere few steps from the river. “The water should be nice and warm.” With Hirata’s hand in his, Sho inched down the bank, toward a large rock protruding from the water. The surface of the rock reached from the water to the grassy slope, its edge an arm’s length from Sho’s guide pole and serving almost as a kind of makeshift platform. Ichi-san had apparently set everything up for them perfectly, Hirata thought with a touch of bitterness. No sighted people needed.
Sho took the first step into the water. “Ahh, it’s beautiful.” He tugged Hirata’s hand. “Come, let’s have a bath, then I’ll wash your hair.”
Hirata followed Sho into the river. Admittedly, the sun felt glorious on his back while the cool water enveloped him up to the waist. In his heavy mood, he didn’t want to allow these things to give him enjoyment, but he couldn’t help it. He’d never been truly able to shut the wonder of life out, even in the depths of missing Sho.
Releasing Hirata’s hand, Sho dipped under the water, remained under for several seconds then came back up under a curtain of cascading water. “Wonderful,” he said with an uncharacteristically wide smile. “Go on, Hirata, wet your hair.”
Hirata paused, caught himself staring at Sho. Sunlight made the droplets of water clinging to Sho’s skin shine. Water beaded down Sho’s chest and abdomen, making small rivulets in the furrows between his muscles. Truly he appeared some sort of god in human form, standing there, the water lapping at his waist.
Sho’s smile faded. No doubt he felt Hirata’s gaze on him. “What are you waiting for?” He smoothed one hand over his closely shorn head. “Go under.”
Wordlessly, Hirata obeyed. He went under and opened his eyes. In the clear water, he had a perfect view of Sho’s legs, of his sloping thighs and calves, full of power. Sho had worn his loincloth into the water, but Hirata still caught a glimpse of the bulge in front.
Air ran out of his lungs and he surfaced. Since he’d taken the tie out of his hair before leaving the house, his now wet hair hung heavily over his shoulders. He pushed it back, off his face, his heart beating rather hard. A memory flashed in his mind, of the kabuki actor, Aoki, in sexual congress with Sho, riding him as if astride a horse. Hirata cleared his throat, dispelling the erotic image and its painful contrast to his own experience. “You were right.”
Sho’s smile returned. “Of course I am.” He dipped the washrag into the water and stepped toward Hirata. “Neither of us was ever one to stay indoors for any length of time.”
Before Hirata could answer, Sho was right in front of him. “Now, stand still and let me wash you so you don’t keep lifting your arm.”
Sho lifted the washrag and sloshed it over Hirata’s back. Up, down, around, with the same caring touch he’d used in all his ministrations. Hirata tensed, in spite of how good the cloth felt against his skin, down his arms, under his arms then…over his chest and abdomen. Down below, his musuko stirred in his loincloth. The more Sho washed him, the more it hardened, rising until it pushed uncomfortably against the cloth. The sensation made Hirata feel oddly wild, abandoned, rather than uptight, as sexual desire usually made him feel.
Sho slung the washrag over his shoulder again and shifted around so that he stood once again at Hirata’s back. “Dip into the water once more time. So I can get your scalp clean.”
Again Hirata obeyed and then rose up again. When he did so, Sho reached up. Burrowing his fingers into Hirata’s wet hair, he began to rub Hirata’s scalp vigorously in small circles.
Immediately, Hirata’s whole body relaxed. He closed his eyes and let his head loll back a bit. Sho’s touch was heavenly. And…he thought, feeling wanton again…he wanted it all over his body. Everywhere. “What about the rest of me?” he asked.
Sho’s hands stilled. “Excuse me?”
“The other parts of me, below the water. Don’t you wash them, too?”
“You don’t need to raise your arm in order to wash there,” Sho answered. “You can do that yourself.” He fell silent and resumed his work on Hirata’s scalp.
Sho’s response made that testy feeling resurge. Hirata’s misery redoubled. Like a cloud over the sun, it blocked out the pleasure of Sho’s fingers on his scalp, the sun on his skin, and the beauty of Sho’s bare physique. “If I were Aoki,” he mumbled, “you’d gladly wash my nether parts.” The words flew from him, beyond control. After all, Sho had spoken frankly and with brutal honesty the other night. Why shouldn’t he do the same now?
Sho’s hands left his hair. “Would I?”
Tension returned, gripping Hirata’s muscles with such force, his neck began to ache. “I believe so. I saw you and him with my own eyes.”
The water churned with Sho’s step back, away from Hirata. “So, because I lay with Aoki, that means I would do whatever anyone bids of me? Is that what I am? A manservant?”
“No! That’s not what I meant.” Blood rushed hot into Hirata’s face. It flowed through his veins like liquid fire. The erection in his loincloth tightened yet more.
“Then what did you mean?” Sho’s cheeks bloomed with red and his nostrils flared.
“I meant that…I meant…” Hirata couldn’t finish. The fight left him suddenly, and the burn of anger turned to the burn of shame. His own words spiraled in his mind. Unseemly things that reminded him of the way Sozaemon had spoken to him that night in his bedchamber as he forced himself onto Hirata’s struggling form. He hung his head. “I’m sorry, Sho. I’m being cruel. I didn’t mean anything. Forgive me.”
Sho was quiet a moment. “No, I’m sorry. Perhaps the way I bathed you made you feel…” He cleared his throat. “Teased.”
Doug: Sure. This is a snippet from “It Was Always You”. In this scene, Caleb, who’s been in love with his best friend Kevin for as long as he can remember, is walking away from Kevin and his new man, Jason. Devastated he’d waited too long, Caleb goes to get a drink and take a moment to recompose himself.
Just before he was swallowed by the crowd, Caleb turned back to face Kevin and Jason. Their heads were close together, both deep in conversation. When Kevin looked up and saw Caleb looking at them, he immediately placed his arm around Jason’s waist and pulled him closer.
Turning away from the happy couple, Caleb forced his way through the tightly packed room. More than one hand ran across his back or landed on his ass along with a few cat-call compliments, but Caleb was too focused on what he’d just heard and seen to gather any pleasure from the attention.
Elbowing two larger guys to the side, Caleb placed his glass on the table with greater force than he’d intended, causing the bartender to turn from the register. “Just a minute, hon.” He then turned from Caleb giving him a glorious view of a well-rounded ass pushing mercilessly at the fabric of worn-in jeans. The guy was shirtless and his back muscles undulated under smooth skin. The line running down the middle of his back was bordered by long ropes of muscle which rounded into square shoulders. All he could see of the man’s blond hair was the tight, stubbly buzz cut. As the man moved, the symmetry of his body drew Caleb’s eyes in like a magnet.
When he turned around, the bulge in the front was just as prominent as the rear view. “What’ll it be, doll?”
Caleb had to forcibly drag his eyes from the sizable bulge he’d been staring at. Unfortunately his eyes had to pass over a rippling torso until they rested on deep brown eyes. The guy’s smile revealed he was entirely aware what Caleb had been doing. Heat flooded Caleb’s cheeks, which must have amused the bartender since he reached across the bar and placed his hand on Caleb’s face for a moment. “Don’t be shy, babe. You’re a hot piece too.”
“Uh, er, thanks.” How long had it been since someone had flirted with him?
They continued to stare at each other until Brown Eyes broke the silence. “So, what can I get you?”
“Right. Sorry. Could I have a Stoli-O Madras?”
“Sure thing, sweetie.” He turned to the bar, and Caleb’s eyes fell directly back to the ass he’d been admiring moments earlier. This guy was hot. Really hot. And he was flirting with Caleb. Come on. He’s a bartender. That’s how he makes his tips.
It had been far too long since Caleb had been out in the scene, surrounded by men. Long enough he’d forgotten that he could still turn a few heads his way. What with the looks, the gropes, and the flirting he’d experienced in the past few minutes, there was no telling what lay ahead if he put himself out there. Maybe that’s exactly what he should have been doing all along. Clearly Kevin wasn’t waiting around for him.
The bartender returned with his drink. “Here you go. What’s your name? I can’t keep on calling you doll, honey or sweetie.”
This couldn’t be happening. A hot bartender wanted his name? “It’s Caleb?”
His response was greeted with a heartfelt laugh. “Are you telling or asking?” As he slid the drink across the bar, he encircled Caleb’s hand with his own, the slender yet strong fingers cool against Caleb’s hot skin. “My name’s Josh.” He pressed a slip of paper into Caleb’s hand. “And the drink’s on me.” With a wink, Josh moved to the next person, flashing his wide smile.
Taking a sip from his drink and one last look at Josh, Caleb turned from the bar and headed back toward Kevin and Jason. He glanced at the slip of paper. Josh had written his number and a request. Call me. It had been too long since someone had shown Caleb this kind of attention. Too long since he’d felt attractive and desired. For once, Caleb took notice of the eyes of club-goers turning his way. Flirtatiousness and stray hands continued to greet him as he walked, each interaction boosting his self-esteem.
With each step, he could feel his feet landing more confidently on the ground, his shoulders pulling back, his head lifting. The recognition he was receiving, something he’d given little thought to over the past few years soaked into him like water into a dry sponge. What perplexed him is how he hadn’t even known he was craving this kind of attention. How had he allowed himself to sink to a place where Kevin’s behaviors defined whether he was happy or not?
By the time he reached Kevin, he’d almost forgotten about Jason. One look at the two of them standing next to one another, leaning together, clinking their glasses and laughing and Caleb’s confidence blew out of him like a balloon deflating. No matter how many men found him attractive, no matter how many hands groped him, they were strangers. There was only one man who held any real attraction for him.
Thanks again very much for being here today! I hope you’ll come back and visit again soon! 🙂
Sedonia: Thank you so much for having me here!
Doug: It was my pleasure. Thank you.
Now, here’s your chance to win a copy of Friends to Lovers! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post – please include your email address so we know how to reach you – and you’ll automatically be entered to win. One lucky fan will be selected by random drawing and contacted for prize delivery at the close of the contest. Good luck!
**Entry deadline is 11:59pm Pacific Time (2:59am Eastern) on Thursday, November 8, 2012.**