Hi, Rick, thanks so much for being with us today to chat about your new novel The Couple Next Door. It’s always great to have you here for a visit.
And it’s always great to be here! I’m so excited to share my new release with you guys and your readers! THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR is certainly a roller coaster of emotions—mysterious, romantic, thrilling, and ultimately a love story about overcoming almost impossible odds to be together.
There are two things that leap out at us readers in the blurb for the book, the first being that it deals with the subject of domestic violence. Do you feel that domestic abuse of men is more prevalent than we may realize, and how did you come to the decision to tackle such a weighty subject?
I do feel that domestic abuse of men is a very real and prevalent thing. Studies show that it occurs as often in LGBT relationships as it does in straight ones.
As I’ve said before, when I write a book, I am completely a pantser. What that means, if you don’t know, is that I write pretty much from the seat of my pants with a general idea of the story and the plot arc. It’s my characters that really take me on a journey. When they become real in my head, which is a necessity for me, they consistently lead me to new and unexpected places, which is part of the joy of creation for me.
With THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, my first image of the two men who would become my love interests in the story was one of domestic violence. Often it’s a simple image that comes to me and shapes how I write the rest of the book. In this case, I first had the idea of an almost light romantic comedy opening, when my main character, Jeremy, comes home from yet another disappointing date. Then I do a 180 and throw the reader into shocking territory—he sees a man flinging another man down the front stairs of Jeremy’s apartment building. Here’s the scene:
I open the front door, and that’s when everything changes. My life turns upside down. I go from bored discontent to panic in a split second.
The first thing I hear is someone shouting “No!” in an anguished voice. I look up from the lobby to see two figures on the staircase above, on the second-floor landing. One is a guy who looks menacing and so butch he could pose for a Tom of Finland poster. An aura of danger radiates from him. Aside from his imposing and muscular frame, he’s even wearing the right clothes—tight, rolled jeans and a black leather biker jacket with a chain snaking out from beneath one of the epaulets. His high and tight buzzed hair gives him a military—and mean—air. He has his hands on the shoulders of a guy who looks a bit younger and much slighter, making me want to call up the stairs, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” The smaller guy, blond and clad only in a pair of pajama bottoms, struggles with his attacker, looking terrified. Their movements, clumsy and rough, would be comical if they weren’t so scary. The smaller guy is panting and batting ineffectually at the bigger one.
“Please! No! Don’t!” the smaller guy manages to get out, his voice close to hysteria.
I have never seen either of these men before. In fact, the whole scene has the quality of the surreal, a dream. The danger and conflict pulsing down the stairs makes my own heart rate and respiration accelerate, causing feelings of panic to rise within me.
And then the worst happens. The big butch guy shoves the smaller one hard, and all at once he’s tumbling heavily down the stairs toward me.
The fall is graceless, and it looks like it hurts. It’s over so fast that I’m left gasping.
I look up to see the leather-jacket guy sneer down at his mate, lying crumpled and crying at my feet, and then turn sharply on his heel to go back into a second-floor apartment that had been vacant yesterday. He slams the door. The sound of the deadbolt sliding into place is like the report of a shotgun. Both slam and lock resound like thunderclaps, echoing in the tile lobby, punctuation to the drama and trauma of this short scene.
I switch into Good Samaritan mode and drop to my knees at the sniveling, crumpled mess of a man lying practically at my feet.
That scene brought out the nurturer in me, as well as my main character, Jeremy. I hope it brings out the same sense of protectiveness in readers and will make them want to root for Shane, however mysterious he may be on the surface.
It was interesting for me to get inside the heads of all three players in this triangle of abuse, the protector, Jeremy, the protected, Shane (and he has all the low self-esteem earmarks of the abused, often blaming himself for the abuse instead of his abuser), and the man with whom Shane lives, a very enigmatic figure to say the least.
How does all of this plays out and how it results in a very poignant and real love story? I leave that for the reader to discover…
The second thing that stands out, then, is that Cole may display signs of multiple personality disorder—or, at least he’s more than just Cole. Was it fun to write a character who presents so atypical in personality? How easy or difficult was it to get in Cole’s headspace, and what did you do to prepare yourself for letting loose your darker side?
It was really interesting writing a story that had elements of multiple personality disorder, or dissociative identity disorder, as it’s called today. It was fun, in an evil way, to write Cole/John/Vera because the character is so multi-faceted and so enigmatic. Is he good but damaged? Or is he evil and plotting? These are the kind of questions I think readers will be scratching their heads and asking about him as they wind their way down the twisted pathways of my story. There are plenty of switches and shocking revelations, so that once a reader is comfortable with who they think Cole/John/Vera might be, I pull the rug out from under them. That might seem cruel, but this is the kind of book I like to read—one that has an element of romance, but one that keeps me turning the pages so that I can discover what happens next. I think readers will be surprised by the twists and turns the story takes, especially where Cole/John/Vera is concerned. As the tag line says on the cover, “Things aren’t always as they seem.”
This would be a good time to give a shout out to readers and reviewers and plead with them: PLEASE DO NOT REVEAL ANY SPOILERS. This book, more than any other I’ve written, has unanticipated twists and turns that I hope readers can come to without expectation, so they can have the appropriate emotional reaction.
As far as letting loose my dark side…. Well, it doesn’t get nearly enough play. When I write, this is my chance to let out my twisted side, the one people who’ve met me are always surprised that I have. After all, I’m so quiet, mild-mannered, and a real sweetheart. Right?
BLURB: With the couple next door, nothing is as it seems.
Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants—someone to love—seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.
Jeremy would never go after another man’s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully—it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he’s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.
So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.
About the Author: Rick R. Reed is all about exploring the romantic entanglements of gay men in contemporary, realistic settings. While his stories often contain elements of suspense, mystery and the paranormal, his focus ultimately returns to the power of love. He is the author of dozens of published novels, novellas, and short stories. He is a three-time EPIC eBook Award winner (for Caregiver, Orientation and The Blue Moon Cafe). Raining Men and Caregiver have both won the Rainbow Award for gay fiction. Lambda Literary Review has called him, “a writer that doesn’t disappoint.” Rick lives in Seattle with his husband and a very spoiled Boston terrier. He is forever “at work on another novel.”
Enter to win an e-copy of Rick R. Reed’s TRICKS
Blurb: Tricks can mean many things: sex partners, deceptions, even magic—or maybe all three.
Arliss is a gorgeous young dancer at Tricks, the hottest club in Chicago’s Boystown. Sean is the classic nerd, out of place in Tricks, but nursing his wounds from a recent breakup. When the two spy each other, magic blooms.
But this opposites-attract tale does not run smooth. What happens when Arliss is approached by one of the biggest porn producers in the business? Can he make his dreams of stardom come true without throwing away the only real love he’s ever known? This question might not even matter if the mysterious producers realize their dark intentions.
Tour Stops and Dates:
The Novel Approach
Prism Book Alliance
MM Good Book Reviews
The Fine Print:
*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Some residency restrictions may apply
*All comments must be relevant to the author’s prompt to be eligible (when applicable)
*The Novel Approach will not be held liable for prize delivery unless otherwise specified
*Void where prohibited by law