Please help us welcome author Xavier Axelson to TNA today on the virtual tour for his newest release, Lavender, from JMS Books. We’ve got a great post to share, all about scent and inspiration, and there’s also a chance to win an e-copy of the book, so be sure to check out the entry details below.
The process behind writing anything (for me) is usually a combination of inspiration fueled by the need to tell a story. My latest novella, Lavender, is inspired by a lavender farm I visit about twice a year (sadly, I never am there when the lavender is blooming, I always miss it) but the place is tradition to me and whomever I am dragging along for the ride. The ultimate destination is a pig sanctuary run by a dear friend I met during my life as a pot bellied pig dad…long story.
Each time I visited the farm I would take photos, look around, make notes and soak up as much of the evocative atmosphere as possible. The time I decided to write a story centered on the farm, there was a single man working there and when we left, I told my sister I was going to write a story about the farm. A few minutes later we stopped at a local sports field to stretch, and there was a soccer team practicing, and loving unlikely but possible pairings, I imagined what would happen if this soccer team, on their way to practice, stopped at the lavender farm.
Writing is always external for me, the story and the characters are outside, and all I have to do is listen. The stress of writing, or any artistic venture for me, is hoping I get the idea out as it’s being given, that I’m honoring whatever creative force is tapping me on the shoulder. Lavender went through a long process. The initial publisher I hoped would publish the story folded. Another rejected it. Then I came against a bizarre roadblock—Something I can only describe as gender-scent assignment. The idea that the smell of lavender is feminine and usually not associated with eroticism but with “old ladies”, and may reflect poorly on the masculine natures of the characters.
I write what comes and don’t waste a lot of time on such things as predetermined ideals of gender, sexuality, or what is masculine or feminine. I don’t have time for labels. Labels are in place to make people feel safe. Fuck safety. I’m writing to write and honor the story. Never did I think I would come up against this kind of ideal. Then again, I don’t assign gender to scent. I’ve worn a “unisex” fragrance called Green Tea by Bvlgari since I was sixteen. Who determined what is/isn’t a masculine or feminine fragrance? I’ve torn samples out of Vogue without even looking at what they are, and used them just because I like to try different things. I’m never thinking, “what if someone thinks I smell feminine…” That kind of thinking is beyond my realm.
The other thing I came up against was the revelation that lavender is a scent people either love or hate, and when they hate it, they HATE it. I had no idea this would be something to consider, again because I am not the kind of reader who would shut a book because I don’t like a certain smell. I like the smell of roses. Do I love it? No, and if I read a book called ‘Roses’, I would be able to distance myself enough from the characters to understand that some people love the smell of roses and could get behind the idea that a character could indeed love that smell.
Lavender has its fans and its detractors. Seriously, many people can’t stand it. In my mind I didn’t see the issue, because while the lavender is an element in the story, it’s not entirely revolving around the plant and enough people like it, and even those who hate it can imagine why some might like/love the smell of lavender…it’s not that much of a stretch. I wasn’t writing something called ‘Horse Shit’.
But now maybe I will…Ha!
You never know what challenges you’ll come up against when you start on a creative journey. Lavender started years ago and is now out in the world. Oddly, now that reviews are coming in, I’m finding it’s not the smell of lavender or the setting that people are struggling with, but the sex! I had no idea it was that rough!
I like bending rules for my own personal need to shock and surprise myself, not other people. How far can I go within my personal creative bubble? I don’t like being held in place by ideals that don’t really exist. Sometimes my husband wears this really heady blend of rose and something else blended by a perfumer friend, and it smells amazing on him. Sometimes he wears his signature scent, which is definitely more woodsy and spicy, and it smells just as wonderful…or nothing at all and that works too.
Bottom line: Anyone can wear any scent they want and if it works for them, even better. Scent is genderless in my world; so is color. I can wear pink, black brown, purple…but it still makes me smile when people are surprised.
About the Book
Following the sudden death of his father, Lawrence “Law” Crow must not only comfort his bereaved mother, but also find the strength to continue running the family business, a local and beloved lavender farm in the mountains of northern California. At first, consumed with his own grief and struggling to find meaning in life, Law indulges in his vices, mainly by surrendering to his sexual urges with numerous men, all in a desperate battle to forget his pain and to end the emotional turmoil tearing him apart.
But when a stunningly handsome and passionate Spanish soccer player named Garbi suddenly crosses his path, Law discovers light in the possibility of love. Does Garbi have the ability to heal Law’s shattered heart, provide him with purpose, and help him fully embrace the joy of living once again amidst the beautiful and fragrant lavender fields?
About the Author
Xavier Axelson is a writer and columnist living in Los Angeles. Axelson’s work has been featured in various erotic and horror anthologies including Best Gay Erotica 2016 Volume 2, Best Gay Erotica 2015, Men of The Manor from Cleis Press, The Bears of Winter from Bear Bones Books, Tricks of The Trade from Bold Strokes Books and First Time Dead from May December Publications.