Lisa: Today we’re so pleased to welcome author A.J. Truman to The Novel Approach, on the tour for his new novel Out on a Limb, book two in the Browerton University series.
Hi, A.J., thanks for sitting down to chat with me. Why don’t we start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got your start in writing?
A.J.: First off, thank you having me today! I’m a thirty-something, cat-loving gay male living in the Midwest, and I’ve been writing in some form for most of my life. That’s always what I’d been good at, and starting this year, I made the leap to full-time writer. I only write in my pajamas until around 9. Then I get dressed. Like Cameron, I wanted to be a screenwriter and moved out to LA to pursue my dream. But while out there, I discovered books and fell in love with life as an author. With movies, the director is king. (and I use king because the majority of them are men, sigh.) With books, authors rule. I moved back to Chicago a few years ago and put my focus into writing novels.
Lisa: The Browerton U. series obviously has a New Adult focus. What do you find appealing about writing a romance set during those pivotal years between leaving childhood behind and entering adulthood?
A.J.: This part of life is rife with conflict and drama and self-discovery. For many, college is the first time you’re on your own. You’re trying to be an adult and find your way. I also love the idea of getting a second chance. Whatever happened in high school, whoever you were, is in the past. You get a fresh start in college. In my books, my characters are always trying to escape their pasts. College provides a physical distance, but not the mental.
For gay men, including myself, college is where many of them come out and had their first gay experiences. There’s a different maturation curve for gays and lesbians in college because we didn’t get to experiment or have the same experiences our straight counterparts could in high school. Many of us were either a) closeted or b) the only openly gay person in our school. So we find ourselves making up for lost time, trying to catch up.
I talk about why I love gay new adult in more depth HERE
Lisa: Do you have a favorite character in the series, or one you had a particularly fun time writing? If so, who is that character and what made him/her such a great character to create?
A.J.: I loved writing Cameron, the main character of OUT ON A LIMB. He had so many funny lines, and I enjoyed making a cynic about love the lead in a romance. He was inspired in part by Amy Schumer in Trainwreck and Adam Sandler in Big Daddy – two irresponsible hot messes who find themselves dating a mature gentleman and parenting a small child, respectively. And of course, there was a lot of myself in Cameron, too. I got to relive all these memories from my senior year in college, when I had blinders for LA and I was so darn optimistic everything was going to work out perfectly. That’s the key part about writing someone younger. They have their whole lives ahead of them and are excited about The Future, whereas when you get older, you have less to look forward to.
Lisa: Tell us a little bit about Cameron Buckley and Walker Reed, your MCs in Out on a Limb. What makes them work together as a couple?
A.J.: Opposites attract is the most entertaining type of couple to write. Cameron is very much a 22-year-old – sarcastic, optimistic, energetic, unorganized, happily unattached, party all night/sleep all day. And Walker is the responsible adult. Cameron awakens Walker from the slumber of his daily grind, while Walker breaks through Cameron’s cynical exterior. This will probably sound weird, but Cameron and Walker are both based on me from different times in my life. Cameron represents me on the cusp of graduating college. Walker was inspired by my years in a cubicle job questioning the direction I had taken my life. So I guess this is a book about me screwing myself. 🙂
Lisa: Would you consider sharing a short excerpt from the book with us?
A.J.: Sure thing! This comes from a scene after Walker and Cameron first meet.
No looking back. That’s the motto of college senior Cameron Buckley, whether he’s kicking his latest hookup out of bed or plotting out his future as a hit screenwriter. With only a few weeks until graduation, he’s ready to put Browerton University in his rearview mirror and start the life he’s been dreaming of ever since he was a kid. But a chance meeting with a sexy stranger in a bar throws a wrench into his Hollywood plans.
For Walker Reed, no looking back is hard to do when you work minutes away from your alma mater and share child custody with your college sweetheart. Almost fifteen years after graduating from Browerton, he can’t stop wondering how he got here. He has an ex who can’t stand him, a five-year-old son he can’t connect with, and a dead-end job he can’t escape.
When Cameron and Walker first meet, they know the rules. They know their friendship has an expiration date, yet it begins changing them in ways they never expected. As graduation looms, they both know things can’t go anywhere, but they can’t keep denying the feelings pulling them closer, even as an offer from Hollywood threatens to tear them apart forever.
OUT ON A LIMB is a gay new adult romance filled with humor, heart, and hot guys. It’s the second full-length book in the Browerton University series, but can be read as a standalone. The book is intended for readers 18+ as it contains sexual situations and explicit language.
Cameron Buckley woke up in an empty bed. A very comfortable bed, with a thick, billowing comforter, smooth sheets that caressed his skin, and pillows his head sunk into like marshmallows. But an empty bed nonetheless.
And he was naked. He looked under the sheets to double check. Yep, naked.
He squinted at the sharp rays of sunlight streaming through the bedroom windows. Cameron surveyed his surroundings. He died and went to Crate & Barrel. He marveled at the details of this well-decorated room. The off-white walls and curved floor lamp in the corner. He ran his fingers across the mahogany night table. He stared at himself in the mirrored sliding closet door at the opposite end. His hair stuck up at all angles, and he was still naked.
“Good morning.” Walker charged back into the bedroom wearing nothing but a towel. He had given Cameron such a hard time last night about being older, but the guy was in better shape than many of the unkempt slobs that roamed Browerton’s campus.
“Did you sleep okay?” Walker asked.
“I think so?” Cameron rubbed at his temples and realized that he was hungover.
“I have Advil if you need it. My head is pounding.”
“I’ll be fine.” Cameron had had worse hangovers. It was a good thing he worked at a coffee shop. Did they really drink that much last night?
Walker scrolled through emails on his phone. While Cameron’s inbox was usually filled with Gap coupons and random newsletters, Walker’s emails looked serious.
Cameron eyed the floor and the dresser, but he didn’t see his clothes anywhere. He also didn’t see any discarded condom wrappers.
“I have to ask you something,” he said, his stomach swirling with something other than alcohol. “I can’t believe I’m asking this question. I’ve never had to ask this question, but I really need to know the answer.”
Walker put a hand on his shoulder. “Nothing happened last night.”
“Oh thank goodness.” Cameron fell back into the mountain of pillows. He only had two pillows on his own bed; this guy had six! “Not that I wouldn’t want to, but I’d want to be able to remember it.”
“I’m not in the habit of sleeping with unconscious men.”
“That’s a wonderful quality to have.” Cameron breathed a sigh of relief, then bolted back up. “Wait. Then why am I naked?”
“Because you wanted to play Naked Twister.” Walker removed a pair of boxer briefs and socks from his slick dresser, which matched both nightstands.
“What’s Naked Twister?”
“You don’t know? You seemed like an expert last night.”
“We played Naked Twister?”
“I don’t know. We were walking back to my place, and you kept saying that you wanted to play Naked Twister. You ran inside, tore off all your clothes, jumped onto my bed, and yelled ‘Naked Twister!’ at the top of your lungs.”
Cameron clamped a hand over his mouth. He was going to melt into the floor.
“I did not do that.”
“Oh, you did. I have it on video.”
“Kidding.” Walker put on his boxer briefs under his towel. There’s a naked guy in his bed and he’s being modest?
Cameron took a deep breath. “And what happened next? After I yelled…” He gulped down hard. “’Naked Twister.’”
“Then you passed out.”
“And I put you under the covers, turned off the light, and stayed on my side of the bed.”
Warmth spread through Cameron. He got lucky, and not in the way he originally thought. He had fallen into bed with a total gentleman. Thanks to the gentleman’s tight black boxers, he got to see what he almost had. Cameron smiled to himself.
“So why are you naked?” He asked Walker.
“Because I showered.”
Lisa: What do you like about this particular scene?
A.J.: I had a blast writing this. It flowed so easily for me and still makes me laugh. The scene is a perfect encapsulation of who these characters are. While writing it, I kept thinking of the pilot for Grey’s Anatomy.
Lisa: What do you find most gratifying about being a writer?
A.J.: I love receiving messages from readers about how much they love my books. After Out in the Open came out, I received emails and Facebook messages from people all around the world. My books have gone to countries that I only dream of visiting. Writing can be very solitary. You put your work out there and hope for the best, so it’s quite wonderful when you discover that there’s actually people out there reading what you wrote and liking it. As I say at the end of all my books, feel free to shoot me a message. I always respond!
Lisa: If there were any author you were given the opportunity to sit down and chat with, living or dead, who would that author be and why him/her?
A.J.: Tom Wolfe is my favorite author. He writes these sprawling literary tomes that can define a city or a decade, like Bonfire of the Vanities and The Right Stuff. I love the way he writes. He started as a journalist and because of that, he brings an objectivity and level of detail to his writing. He’s 90, but maybe there’s still hope for me to meet him and get any bits of wisdom he can spare. And I’m so curious how he manages to keep his white suit so clean!
Lisa: I think everyone who loves books can look back on our childhoods and name a book, or series of books, that sparked our love of reading. What were some of your favorite books to read as a kid, and what made them your faves?
A.J.: I wasn’t a big reader growing up. I was big into movies and watching TV. A total couch potato. Most of the reading I did was required for school. But the books that I adored that I read for fun were The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney, and Killing Mr. Griffin and I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan. I read the latter book because I was too scared to see the movie. (Spoiler: the movie wasn’t that scary, as it turns out.)
Lisa: Would you like to share a little information on some of your upcoming projects and current WIPs with us?
A.J.: I don’t like to talk too much about future projects just in case they don’t pan out. But I’ll give you the codename of what I’m expecting to be my next book in the Browerton U series: When Harry, Met Harry…
Take from that what you will.
Lisa: Thanks again so much for taking the time to visit today, A.J. Will you tell readers where we can find you on the internet?
You can find me on Facebook, Goodreads, and my website. If you want to be the first to find out about my next project, and get cool perks like exclusive content and members-only contests, then become an Outsider today.
Lisa: And where can we buy Out on a Limb?