We’re so pleased to have author Damon Suede back with us today to celebrate the official release of his new novel, Lickety Split. He’s here to give us a behind-the-scenes look at the book, and is also offering a great giveaway, so be sure to check out the Rafflecopter widget below.
DOWN HOME: behind the scenes on the Hastle hay farm
I want to thank Lisa and the entire Novel Approach crew for making me so welcome during the Lickety Split release tour. Y’all were where the tour kicked off, and now I’m back the day after the book dropped. Deep gratitude for helping me get the word out.
I think most people know that I plan pretty aggressively so the minute I decided to tackle a book set somewhere outside of New York City, obviously maps were gonna be involved. I’m pretty obsessive about details and erotic cowboy romance meant I was going to have to get serious about small-town East Texas.
I know that part of the country pretty well, because my mom was born in Beaumont and I spent a lot of time as a kid driving back and forth through that part of Texas. It’s a funny mix of remote acreage, pine stands, oil refineries, and scrappy townships.
Working in a northerly spiral outward from Port Arthur, Nederland, and Beaumont, I found a flat stretch on the east edge of the Big Thicket that seemed like the perfect balance for Patch’s journey and Tucker’s inertia…just close enough to bigger towns to know what they were missing and just far enough away they felt isolated and disconnected from the big bad world. The spot I chose was smack dab between Sour Lake and Honey Island, which again, were so perfect I felt guilty that I was the lucky author who’d noticed them on the maps. LOL.
Naturally I went ahead and designed Hixville (imaginary) and its part of Hardin County (real), because I’m nutty.
To make sure I got all the elements I wanted in the right configuration, I made up a whole community, from name to landmarks: the school, Ms. Landry’s law office, the farm stand, and the Rodmans’ Feed-n-Seed where so much happens.
80% of the story takes place on the Hastle farm where Patch grew up, where Tucker still lives and works, so getting that place operational was job one. I wanted Patch’s family to do something that felt slow and arduous, which is why the Hastles bale hay rather than raising horses or crops. Imagine a childhood waiting for grass to grow, and then stacking it in huge musty mountains you have to stack by hand.
That’s also why the farm is on Terrapin Road, because I wanted something that sounded like deep Texas, but also evoked the slowness and stubbornness Patch felt about his home town. A Terrapin is a kind of small, friendly marsh turtle common in the Southeast; I remember playing with them as a kid. Again, it felt like the perfect callback to the region and the themes of the book. Then I needed to design the farm itself, as well as the workflow that kept it running before and after Patch’s parents died.
I needed to know who the neighbors were, where the building sat, where the water flowed, and what roads the characters drove to get where they were going. That may sound like unnecessary detail, but when you deep inside a book the last thing you need to do is pause to figure out if the character needs to turn right or left to go home. H.P. Lovecraft once said that a story should be planned “with all the verisimilitude of a hoax.” I think he’s 100% right. The more real it feels to you as you write it, the fewer gaps in blind spots you’ll run into in moments of doubt or indecision.
Hay farms present a unique challenge. Thing is, my family owns a ranch and I know plenty about raising quarter horses and Tennessee walkers, but we didn’t grow our own hay. Once I knew what part of Texas, the Hastles had set up shop, I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to string a bale and what kind of hay grew best in that soil. That may sound crazy, but the truth is the more I know about how they live the more my characters can come to life.
So sure enough I talked to the foreman out on my family’s ranch about types of seed, about balers and tedders, about storage and delivery, and about the difference between rolls, two-string, and three-string bales. I learned what wuffling is and the difference between Bahia and Jiggs! LOL As fate would have it, our foreman had once run a horse ranch south of Nacogdoches so he knew the terrain well and the local economy. He steered me right…and Lickety Split is a better book for his know-how.
All this for a May/December erotic romance? Yep. That’s a habit I picked up working in movies and theater: know your story. I’m this way with every book I write, and actually I find it soothing because I never run into a question about the life of the characters I can’t answer with useful specifics.
I figured with that kind of wet, clay-heavy soil they’d need to rotate the fields, and I also knew that 870+ acres would be way too much for one man to run solo. I kept thinking about Tucker out there by himself after his friend died, trying to keep his head above water, with no idea whether he’d end up with a place to live. That seems so right for him: stuck in one place and slowly suffocating under piles of dead grass, trying to do right by his friend’s son after treating him like crap for so long.
The little man-made pond is based directly on a similar fishing hole my mom dug at our ranch so she could teach the grandkids how to catch catfish. And just like Patch, I used it for drinking, thinking, and screwing around as a teenager because it was both safe and private. That antique, tumble-down cemetery is real too as well as the worn gravestones inside the mott of beech trees, although I borrowed it from my uncle’s farm and I added the little parentheses angel because I knew Patch needed a friend out there, even one that couldn’t answer back.
As I was laying out the farm’s geography, I consciously situated the cemetery adjacent to the pond and put them both between the main house and Tucker’s trailer because they gave me a charged emotional space where collisions were inevitable. Patch and Tucker needed to intersect often and awfully. All that history and pain and longing, for both of them. And Tucker’s stolen trailer with its two rusted, Shoop-horsetrailer henhouses needed a little access road that looped back across the property towards a main road.
Ditto the back barn were Tucker stores all that mountain of hay for Botchy to climb. Our back barn isn’t that cavernous, but it is a legit clapboard antique and our barn dogs (including the real Botchy) love it. Again, it gave me where Tucker and Patch could meet for reason as they started to find their way to each other. Even the slow encroachment of Texaco is 100% real. We’ve had to deal with oil companies sniffing around our farm (because…hello, Texas.), and I know that acquisition gets even more intense closer to the Gulf ( and the refinery fields) where I put Hixville.
So yeah… Whenever you’re reading a book and you think I wonder if the author did that on purpose. In most cases the answer is “hell, yes.” We may get it wrong, but we probably did it for the right reasons with the best intentions. LOL
And somewhere in my heart of hearts, I like to think the farm I built for the Hastles and Tucker actually sits somewhere out on the edge of the Big Thicket waiting for me to come visit.
About Lickety Split
Lickety Split: love won’t wait.
Patch Hastle grew up in a hurry, ditching East Texas for NYC to make his name as a DJ and model without ever looking back. When his parents die unexpectedly, he heads home to unload the family farm ASAP and skedaddle. Except the will left Patch’s worst enemy in charge: his father’s handsome best friend who made his high school years hell.
Tucker Biggs is going nowhere. Twenty years past his rodeo days, he’s put down roots as the caretaker of the Hastle farm. He knows his buddy’s smartass son still hates his guts, but when Patch shows up growed-up, looking like sin in tight denim, Tucker turns his homecoming into a lesson about old dogs and new kinks.
Patch and Tucker fool around, but they can’t fool themselves. Once the farm’s sold, they mean to call it quits and head off to separate sunsets. With the clock ticking, the city slicker and his down-home hick get roped into each other’s life. If they’re gonna last longer than spit on a griddle, they better figure out what matters—fast.
About the Author
Damon Suede grew up out-n-proud deep in the anus of right-wing America, and escaped as soon as it was legal. Though new to romance fiction, Damon has been writing for print, stage, and screen for two decades. He’s won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year. Get in touch with him at DamonSuede.com, Facebook, Twitter, Newsletter, Goodreads