Happy Saturday, everyone, and welcome to author Ingela Bohm. Ingela is here today to chat a bit about her new novel, All You Can Eat.
Bon appetit! 🙂
Xavier and Guy – When Opposites Repel
I blame the Hunger Games. I’d never written the kind of cocky, irritating character that Xavier is before I binge watched the first three films in the series over a weekend and suddenly had an irresistible urge to develop one of the characters. His face has haunted me for almost a year now, and since that first spark, Xavier has developed into something quite different than his inspiration.
Guy came to me much later, on the train. I work quite far away from home, so I have to spend four hours on the road each day. Perfect for writing, and for watching other commuters. One of them caught my attention because of his pout. He had glasses and was quite small, but that pout made him look like he had such attitude, and that paradox intrigued me.
So now I had my two protagonists. I only had to make Guy come to Xavier’s office for some reason, and then sit back and watch the sparks fly.
You could say that I’m using the classic jock/geek trope, but with a twist. Xavier has a deep need to help people, but he tries to conceal that by being arrogant. Guy may look like the typical bookworm, and he may be too sensitive for this world, but he still has a core of steel. He’s the angriest guy I’ve ever written. I had to censor half the things he said, and still I’m not sure he’s very likeable.
In fact, Xavier isn’t very likeable either. He has tons of prejudice, and can be quite as pig-headed as Guy. In fact, the main redeeming feature both of them have is that they fall for each other. More than in any other of my books, it’s love that saves them.
Because of their incompatible natures, there is a subtle power play between them. To begin with, Xavier is the obvious top dog, with his good looks and his professional authority. But that’s superficial, and quickly undermined by Guy’s refusal to give in, both as a patient and, later, as a date. For the longest time, these two guys didn’t even seem to want to be together, but of course I knew better. They were just so afraid – of rejection, of what others would think, of failure…
In the end, I had to sit them down and have a Talk.
Me: Xavier, you have to shut up and listen for once. It doesn’t matter that you have all this knowledge and good advice – that’s not what Guy wants!
Xavier: I don’t care what he wants. I know what he needs.
Me: Do you?
Xavier: Of course I do. *cocky grin* He wants to be like me.
Me: You’re hopeless.
Me: And Guy, you can’t go on pushing Xavier away, or this book will never be finished.
Guy: *crosses his arms* So?
Me: Well, I’d really like to publish this thing before I’m retired.
Guy: Well, boo-hoo. Why don’t you go write something else? That stupid Pax thing of yours, for example. I don’t need your help.
Me: So you want to be lonely and miserable for the rest of your life?
Guy: *sullen silence*
In the end, it was my beta readers who talked some sense into them. Both Xavier and Guy were too used to hearing me nag, but when other people criticized them as well, they pulled themselves together and stopped bickering. I’ll be eternally grateful for that help. Without it, these opposites would never have found their way to each other.
Blurb: How do you date someone who doesn’t eat?
Dietician Xavier Deniel is the poster boy for healthy eating. Toned and fit, he practices what he preaches, and his patients keep coming back just for the pleasure of seeing him. His spare time is divided between the gym and the other men who go there, and that’s the way he likes it.
Until Guy turns up. He is Xavier’s opposite in every way: mousy and awkward, sullen and frail. Worst of all, he carries a beast inside him, one that makes all human connection impossible. Lesser men than Xavier would recoil in disgust if they knew, and Guy is not about to reveal his true self to a bloody Frenchman.
But what Guy doesn’t know is that Xavier has stumbled on his half-forgotten blog, the one place where he has confessed all his secrets. When the truth comes out, will Xavier run for the hills – or will he be the one to finally force the beast out in the open?
Excerpt: Against his better judgment, Guy leaned against a tree. It was a seductive move, almost a challenge. Stupid. Stupid and dangerous. He shouldn’t be displaying his disgusting body for this stranger to take. He should be running for his life.
But at the corners of Xavier’s eyes, just next to his too-long lashes, there was something real. Something he didn’t even know about himself.
Guy looked away, and the bark bit into the back of his head. “So why did you become a dietician?”
He could feel Xavier’s surprise. “Because I wanted to… uh, help people.”
Guy snorted. “Uh-huh. Think you can help me, then?”
Xavier bit his lip: an irritated gesture. Guy was getting to him, the only way he knew how. Because if he could be nothing else, at least he could be a fly in people’s ointment. Disrupt their perfect little worlds.
“I’ll try if you let me,” Xavier muttered, no doubt kicking himself for letting his professional mask slip.
“Going to tell me to have breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a few snacks in between? To avoid saturated fat and simple carbohydrates? Don’t waste your breath.”
Xavier stepped closer, suddenly angry. “So why did you even show up? Why didn’t you cancel, let someone else have your slot? Someone who needs it?”
Guy stared up at him lazily. He was right, of course. Guy just couldn’t bring himself to care. “You’ve got it all in those books of yours, haven’t you?” he goaded him. “Right there, at your fingertips. Nutrient tables, diagnoses, threshold values… but how many people have you actually cured?”
Xavier was trying so hard to keep calm. It was all Guy could do to suppress his laughter.
“It’s my job to try. It’s what I do. What Doctor Stenlund referred you for. If you don’t want it, we don’t have to book another session. I’ll just tell him that you weren’t responsive.”
Guy’s answer stuck in his throat. Responsive. Damn. Why did he have to use that particular word? He felt his cheeks fill with blood, and his abdomen clenched a little. Just like that, he’d lost the upper hand and the opportunity for a fling.
But it was what he wanted, wasn’t it? To fuck off home and never see Mister Perfect again. Because however rudely he’d put it, it was true: there wasn’t a damn thing Guy didn’t know about nutrition.
At a loss, he looked away. “Yeah,” he shrugged. “Sounds good.”
Xavier made a movement that looked involuntary. “So I can go back to my office, then? You’ll find your own way to the underground station?”
“Sure.” Guy straightened up, stuck his nose in the air. “Bye, doc.”
He turned to go, but something made him stop. A sound, perhaps? Something deep in Xavier’s throat, like a protest. Guy glanced over his shoulder, and for a moment, Xavier looked completely vulnerable. Wounded pride, no doubt: another failed consultation.
But it got to him. Hell, it hit him in his weakest spot, right there beneath his ribs where the hunger sat. And from one moment to the next, his mind was awash with images of his lips brushing Xavier’s temple, his cheek, the corner of his mouth – of his hands sampling the softness of that perfect throat, that hair. Right here in the fucking forest, among the swaying trees.
And before he could stop himself, Guy went back and rose on his toes to reach Xavier’s lips. It wasn’t even a kiss, barely a touch, but as messages went, it was unambiguous. He expected Xavier to recoil, like most of them did, but instead he was frozen to the spot, unbreathing. A moment passed, and another.
And then Guy heard the rustle of clothes as Xavier leaned forward. Before he knew it, Xavier’s mouth was covering his and he was making tiny sounds of surprise and desire – pure, unadulterated desire – desire for the intimate touch of someone he’d just met. A Frenchman, for God’s sake.
But damn, he wanted this. Raising his hand, Guy hooked his fingers around Xavier’s neck and hauled him in for a longer, deeper kiss. Their tongues met, and the strangeness of it all shot through him like lightning. It singed his insides, set fire to everything in its path. His moan was smothered by Xavier’s lips – he was licking up the sound of him like honey – and fuck, it turned him on. Xavier’s hand even slipped down between Guy’s legs and came to rest on his crotch. Warmth radiated through his jeans, made him tingle and swell…
When Xavier suddenly pulled back, Guy’s lips felt too cold. He opened his eyes, and his vision filled with Xavier’s black pupils, with the questions haunting them. “This is a really bad idea,” he murmured in a weird voice.
“No, it’s not,” Guy whispered. He didn’t say don’t stop now, I’ll die if you fucking stop, don’t fucking give me a spoonful of sugar and then put the packet away – and since he didn’t, Xavier would never know.
Stepping away so quickly that Guy almost swayed in the draft, Xavier put a hand to his forehead. He looked positively nauseated. “Jesus Christ… I’m sorry.”
For what? Guy was the one who’d done it. That would be Xavier’s comfort when he got back to his minimalist apartment with its one vase filled with fresh flowers: that he hadn’t done anything. His professional record was unsullied, because it had been a surprise attack. He hadn’t had the time to defend himself.
As Xavier stood there, visibly debating with himself, Guy felt saliva pool under his tongue. He wanted to grab Xavier and push him against the trunk and crush his lips with his mouth. He wanted to shove a hand down those designer trousers and jerk him off roughly and messily. He wanted them to stain.
But Xavier was already out of reach. Shooting Guy a drowning look, he croaked, “I have to go.”
And just like that, he was gone.
About the Author: Ingela Bohm lives in an old cinema, tucked away in a northern Swedish forest where she can wander around all day long and dictate her books. She used to dream of being an actor until an actual actor asked, “Do you really need to do it?” That’s when she realized that the only thing she really needed to do was to write. She has since pretended to be a dietician, a teacher, a receptionist and a cook, but only to conceal her real identity.
Her first imaginary friend was called Grabolina and lived in her closet. Nowadays she has too many imaginary friends to count, but at least some of them are out of the closet. Her men may not be conventionally handsome, but they can charm your pants off, and that’s all that matters.
Ingela’s more useless talents include reading tarot cards, killing pot plants and drawing scandalous pictures that no one gets to see. She can’t walk in heels and she’s stopped trying, but she has cycled 12 000 miles in the UK and knows which campsites to avoid if you don’t like spiders. If you see her on the train you will wonder what age she is.