With just a few short months to go before GayRomLit 2016 in Kansas City, we’re pleased to continue the countdown today with Featured Author CJane Elliott.
Hi, All! I want to thank Lisa and The Novel Approach for having me on the blog as part of the GRL 2016 Blog Tour!
This year will be my second year at GRL and my first as a Featured Author. Featured Authors were given the option to sign up for a Q&A or a Reading, and I opted for a Reading. I noticed that there were a lot more Reading slots available than Q&As! Authors are an introverted lot and public speaking can be daunting.
Although I’m fairly introverted myself, I have an extroverted side. Far from being afraid to speak in public, I’m a ham, and I come by it honestly: my parents were both actors in college and met on a college musical theater production. I performed in high school musicals, was in college choral groups, and worked for many years leading courses in front of groups up to 200 people. I also used to teach dance classes. So I enjoy being on stage and in the spotlight. Now my only dilemma is what to read!
I was thinking about my Serpentine Series of New Adult novels set at the University of Virginia. There’s a lot of performing arts in these stories, which stems from my deep love of theater, film, music, art, and dance.
I’ve got MCs who are film makers, actors, graphic artists, and singers. Along with acting and film, music plays a big part in the books: several characters are in a men’s chorus at U.Va. and the whole gang loves to sing karaoke at house parties and in clubs. So does dance: the kids in the third book are forever going out dancing.
Pete, the MC in the first book, Serpentine Walls, is a film maker and part of the plot revolves around him making his first film, with one of his love interests, Aidan, acting in it and the other one, Matthew, mentoring him in the writing/directing. That was so much fun to write, even though I know next to nothing about film making. Luckily, one of my nieces is in graduate school in film and she also went to U.Va. as an undergrad, so I was able to draw on her expertise.
Here’s an excerpt from Serpentine Walls. The scene takes place during the actors’ first read-through of Pete’s film script.
“I’m not sure how Gregory is supposed to be feeling after the parents leave.” Parker frowned at the script in front of him. “I mean, he doesn’t get the approval he’s looking for, but on the other hand, he finally comes out.”
“Yeah, it’s a mishmash of emotions,” Pete started but was interrupted by Aidan.
“A mishmash! I like that.” He turned to Parker. “You’re brilliant at playing mishmashes.”
Pete stuck his tongue out at Aidan, who laughed and lounged farther back in his seat, the picture of ease. And hotness, Pete thought.
“Cease and desist,” Parker told Aidan with a smile.
“I think he’d be sad about his parents,” offered Brooke, who was playing the mother. She was a friend of Matthew’s and had a thoughtful way about her. “But he wouldn’t be surprised.”
“But happy, or—maybe ‘happy’ isn’t the right word. Proud. Proud of himself for telling the truth.” Parker wrote something on his script.
“As I read it,” Matthew said, sprawled in the seat next to Pete’s, “the entire thing is like a coming-of-age story. Each time Gregory faces down one of his dragons, he claims more of his power.”
There was a silence as the seven cast members seated around the table absorbed this.
“What he said,” Pete added, and everyone laughed.
“That’s very Jungian,” John commented from his seat in the corner, where he was taking notes for the production end of things.
“Huh?” Kyle’s handsome face wrinkled in confusion. He was playing the father. Pete wasn’t sure who had recruited him, but he seemed like an okay actor, if not all that bright.
“Don’t mind him,” Pete said to Kyle. “It means he likes it.”
In the second book, Aidan’s Journey, we get the full story on Aidan. Aidan is a bad guy in the first book. He fascinated me because he’s really not rotten and I had to know why he was being so callous and such a manwhore. Aidan’s Journey is a psychological study more than it’s a classic romance novel, although Aidan gets to his happy ending. And because Aidan has been an actor since he was ten, I got to write about plays, acting, actors, directors, through the whole book. Sooooo fun!
Here’s an excerpt from Aidan’s Journey. It’s a part from an audition Aidan goes on after he moves to New York City to make it on Broadway. The audition is a bust but Aidan meets Willa, who becomes a close friend.
On a sweltering July day a few weeks after Lee left, I went to an audition in a rundown theater in Midtown. I walked up the sidewalk from the subway, sweating already and doing my breathing exercises to keep down the discouragement that was threatening to choke me.
Five minutes into the audition, I knew it was a bust.
The director was a pretentious asshole who fancied himself the next Bob Fosse. He gathered the group of about forty hopefuls around and began to share his grand vision for the play. “I’m not just looking for another pretty face,” he said, directing a disdainful glance at me.
The hackneyed line, “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” ran through my mind. I endeavored to keep my pretty face neutral as the pompous windbag went on.
“I’m looking for people who have lived. What is going to be communicated in this play, far beyond the surface, is the lives of the actors.” Eyes shining, the director leaned forward. “I’m going to do the modern equivalent of Chorus Line. This is revolutionary, people. Prepare to rip yourselves open and be more authentic than you’ve ever been. It’s going to be gritty and real. This is only for the bravest amongst you.”
I noticed a tall blonde girl standing across from me. She gave me a subtle eye roll, and I smirked back at her. An hour later, as I was being herded out of the room with the others who hadn’t made the cut, she fell in beside me.
“I’m devastated that I didn’t make it into his revolutionary play,” she quipped. “I was so looking forward to the grittiness.”
“Oh yeah, for sure. And the ripping ourselves open.”
We laughed, and she bumped her shoulder companionably into mine. She was almost as tall as I was, and her hair was the same color. If her eyes hadn’t been gray instead of green, we could have been mistaken for twins. “You wanna get some coffee and bemoan our shallowness?” she asked.
I glanced at her, assessing whether or not this was a come-on, but she wasn’t being flirtatious, just friendly. She’d figure out soon enough that I was gay. “Lead the way.”
The third book in the series, Sex, Love, and Videogames, veers off a bit from theater, as the MC Jed is a jock and on the university rugby team. He’s more interested in playing videogames than in performing. But Charlie, the guy he ends up with, is an artist and Charlie’s cousin Morocco sings in the church choir and befriends a bunch of drag queens when she goes to Richmond for school. This book also has lots of dancing, as Jed discovers at his high school prom that he loves to dance and his best friend Myesha drags him out dancing at every opportunity.
Jed and Charlie come from two different worlds and the excerpt shows how those worlds collide on the dance floor of a club in Charlottesville, the city where Charlie grew up and where Jed attends U.Va.
Haven was jammed, which it always was on Friday nights, according to Jed. Charlie had never been to Haven. It seemed like a white person/student hangout, neither of which he was. They had to show IDs and have their hands stamped to indicate “no alcohol.” Haven strictly monitored for underage drinking, Jed explained, which was how they managed to stay open.
As soon as they were inside, Myesha plunged toward the dance floor, dragging Jed and Charlie with her, and then she broke away and started boogeying. The room, pulsing with a techno beat, was so dark Charlie could barely see. Flashes of purple and white light came from the ceiling. He looked up. Disco balls. What am I doing here? He got his answer when Jed’s hand closed over his and Jed swung him around so they were face to face.
Charlie glanced around to see if any other same-sex couples were there, but couldn’t tell in the darkness. He didn’t want to get bashed by some U.Va. assholes for being both black and gay.
“Come on, guys!” Myesha grabbed both of them, hustling them farther onto the dance floor.
Okay, this Charlie could do—dance in a little group of three. Myesha and Jed were already grooving, so Charlie joined in, although all he wanted to do was stand there and gape at the incredible dancing the two of them were doing. Charlie could dance well enough, having had Morocco for a teacher, but Jed and Myesha were truly inspired. What was it they said about white boys can’t dance? Because this white boy could. Jed was tearing up the place, rolling his hips and shaking that ass, moving his buff body. Lord. It was fucking sexy.
Charlie decided it was good they couldn’t drink because he wasn’t sure he’d be able to resist pouncing on Jed if he had alcohol in him. Jed kept turning him on, teasing him with his eyes and his mouth and the way he was moving so close to him.
Charlie finally grabbed Jed’s hips and stilled him. “Stop.”
“Why?” Jed put his arms around Charlie’s waist, pulling him against him, and started a slow gyration. Charlie felt Jed’s hardness rubbing up on his own stiff cock.
Holy shit. He darted his eyes all around to see if anyone saw or cared, but no one paid any attention. Myesha was dancing with some white guy who looked like a student. “I-I-I….” Oh, great. He broke out of Jed’s arms and backed up.
Jed’s face fell.
Desperate to explain, Charlie tried again. “Y-y-you’re so, uh, s-so… fuck!” His hands formed fists and he wanted to bash his head into the wall with frustration.
But Jed seemed to get what Charlie was trying to say. His expression cleared, and he put his hand on Charlie’s arm. “Hey. It’s okay. You want to go outside and cool off?”
Cool off. That sounded good. “Yeah.”
“Let me tell Myesha we’ll be back.”
Charlie watched Jed weave through the crowd on the floor, and tried to calm down. Okay, he told himself, this thing with Jed is happening, so stop freaking out and go with it.
I’ll have all three paperbacks from the Serpentine Series at GRL for sale and signing. Here’s the link to the series at Dreamspinner Press.
I’ve also published two short stories and six novellas for Dreamspinner, including my Wild and Precious series (which – surprise! – has musicians, poets, actors, and drag queens).
If you’d like to take a look at all my titles from Dreamspinner, go HERE.
To order any of my titles from Amazon, visit my Amazon author page.
I look forward to seeing you all at GRL 2016!