TNA: The Novel Approach is so glad to welcome Heidi Cullinan back today as she continues on the Special Delivery Blog Tour. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about Double Blind (Special Delivery #2), and then be sure to watch in April for Heidi’s return with Tough Love. We’re offering a chance for one lucky reader each to win an e-copy of either Special Delivery or Double Blind, so read on and good luck!
Heidi: Thanks for having me!
TNA: So, Heidi, let’s start today’s interview off with Randy, shall we? Some folks weren’t too happy with Randy when they met him in Special Delivery, were they? What makes him such a compelling character and redeems him enough in the end, do you think, to bring readers around to his side and makes them anxious, yet still somewhat reluctant, to read his story?
Heidi: Well, Randy is a bad boy, and bad boys have been popular since the first one winked at somebody across the room. Reformed rake is a big trope for a reason. Randy, though, really likes to push everybody to the edge, even readers. I suspect people fear if he’s that bad in Special Delivery, what in the world will he be like in his own book? Of course, my reply to that is, Randy in love is another animal entirely. As Nobby Nobbs of Discworld would say, “They hit him in the voonerables.”
TNA: Is he a fun character to write? If so, what makes him so interesting to explore?
Heidi: Randy is a party to write, though always dangerous. I never know what he’s going to do. When I wrote Hooch and Cake and he waltzed into the pharmacy, I kept thinking, “What the hell are you doing?” But of course, the only thing to do with Randy is ride it out and remember he always responds to safewords.
TNA: How much fun did you have setting this story in Vegas? Explain to readers, if you will, the ways in which poker is really a metaphor for life.
Heidi: It was all kinds of fun to set a novel in Vegas, though challenging because I haven’t ever really been there. Poker as a metaphor for life works really well, because basically everything we do is calculating risks and presenting bluffs. And placing bets, really. Flirting especially isn’t anything more than a game without cards. Plenty of stakes.
TNA: Again, you explore the kinkier side of sex in Double Blind, including ménage. What fascinates you about the dynamics of sex in a multiples setting, and how is writing ménage, and doing it so well, different from writing a sex scene between just two men?
Heidi: Well, the ménage in Double Blind wasn’t planned so much as a natural consequence of the setup in Special Delivery. My choices were to have Randy abruptly be monogamous, which I knew he’d try for Ethan but which would get in their way eventually—or I could write ménage. And really, a guy who’d let his lover sleep with a woman for a decade and some change wouldn’t get too upset about the idea of an open relationship. Honestly, this is a huge step up. At least now he gets to fuck the other people too.
Writing group sex is always tricky, but in Double Blind it really kept me on my toes. I find sex for sex’s sake boring to read and even more boring to write, but there was plenty of emotional landmine to keep things interesting. For Ethan it was always about cracking out of his self-imposed shell, and carefree sex with his lover and his lover’s friends was letting his hair down—but it was also a risk, because there was always the possibility he could be found wanting. For Randy having someone interested in him first and the others second was heady, his deepest desire laid out as a possibility before him. He wanted it, but sometimes that was the hardest part, thinking he might actually get that—but not being sure yet.
TNA: If you could describe in just a few sentences why Randy is perfect for Ethan, and Ethan is perfect for Randy, what would you say?
Heidi: Ethan acts like a mild-mannered good-boy, but he has a wicked heart and a desire to take risks and play big. Randy acts like a devil-may-care asshole who’d throw everything away on a dare, but at his core he’s a softie who more than anything wants someone to love who loves him back—a sure, sacred thing. I think they’re the space where the other one can be his secret self.
TNA: How satisfying was it to bring Mitch and Sam back in Double Blind? Did revisiting them after their own story had been resolved bring any new insights into their relationship and their characters? If so, what would those be?
Heidi: Well, I knew they had to be there, and the relationship would be a big thing to negotiate. But nobody’s ever done in any relationship, and with such a May-December thing going, they’d have more than the usual share to work through.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from Double Blind with us?
Special Delivery, Book 2
Randy Jensen can’t stand to just sit by and watch as a mysterious man throws money away on the roulette wheel, especially since Randy’s got his own bet going as to the reason this guy is making every play like it’s his last day on earth. The man’s dark desperation hits Randy right in the gut. Half of him warns that getting involved is a sucker’s bet, and the other half scrambles for a reason—any reason—to save the man’s soul.
Ethan Ellison has no idea what he’s going to do with himself once his last dollar is gone—until Randy whirls into his life with a heart-stealing smile and a poker player’s gaze that sees too much.
Randy draws Ethan into a series of wagers that leads to a scorching kiss by midnight, but he isn’t the only one with an interest in Ethan’s vulnerability. Soon they’re both taking risks that not only play fast and loose with the law, but with the biggest prize of all: their hearts.
“Do you head-shrink all your friends? Or is it how you lost them all?”
“Most of my friends aren’t as beautifully bottled as you are. They also don’t bet their last dollar on black like some dogged idiot. You’ve captured my attention.”
“You keep bringing that up.” Ethan glared down at him. “Why is it so stupid to bet on black?”
“Roulette sucks. There’s no way to beat it. You never, no matter what you do, have the best of it. In fact, the bit we did with your ring was the first time I’ve ever had an advantage on the wheel in my life, and I only played it at all because I didn’t give a shit about the outcome. I won no matter what.”
“But if it had landed odd, you wouldn’t have gotten the ring.”
“I wouldn’t have gotten it if it had landed on green, either. But I didn’t want the ring, Slick. I wanted you.”
Those three words unraveled Ethan’s edges a little. Which, come to think of it, had probably been the real reason Randy had said them.
“For the bet, yes. But it doesn’t explain why I was stupid to bet on black.”
“You were stupid to play roulette. It’s the same screwy thinking that brought you to the table which had you insisting it would eventually come around to you.”
“The law of averages—” Ethan began, but he stopped when Randy laughed and shook his head.
“Don’t, Slick. Don’t quote that shit to me. You’re smarter than the idiots who come to Vegas because of the fucking law of averages. The law of averages is a fancy phrase that sounds like math but actually translates to wishful thinking. I will admit there is such a thing as karma, but do not talk to me about the fucking law of averages. It is not the case that if you let a scenario play out over a period of time it will work itself out. If you spin a wheel full of red and black, it is not obliged by a sense of nicety to be balanced or to rotate politely between one pole and the other.”
Randy rode right over Ethan’s objection. “A roulette wheel is random. It is designed—and regularly, rigorously tested—to be random. It can be red all fucking night. It can be red once in an hour full of black. It can hit the same number six times in a row. It can do anything, because it’s random. It’s a goddamned wheel. It doesn’t know who you are, doesn’t care that some guy was a complete asshole to you, or that you won big at craps. It’s a wheel, and a ball lands in it. You can’t guess where. You can’t guess the color or the type of number. Well—you can guess. But you can’t know. You can’t even get into probability. You can’t, Slick.”
They’d stopped walking, and people were starting to stare at them. Ethan glanced around awkwardly. “Why are you yelling at me?”
“Because you’re better than that.” Randy stepped in close, those intense eyes boring into Ethan’s gaze. “I watched you, and it drove me nuts. You thought, ‘It’s due for black.’ It’s not due. It’s never due anything. What you were thinking, Ethan, is it owed you. You humanized the wheel. You made it the guy who should have treated you better. You decided this was the moment the world would do you right, and you rationalized it was fair to ask for special treatment, because all you wanted was five bucks. You wanted one win. You wanted to feel heard. You wanted someone to notice, so you asked black to give you a little loving. And it hurt like hell when even black let you down. For five bucks.”
It was getting difficult for Ethan to breathe. “Stop talking.”
Randy stepped so close Ethan couldn’t just smell him, he could taste him. “I ride you, Slick, because you’re smarter than that. Don’t fucking go to roulette, where you can’t get the best of it.”
Ethan felt raw and turned inside out. “Where am I supposed to go then? You?”
Randy’s grin could have corrupted a saint. “No. You go to poker, baby.”
It wasn’t right, the way the world melted when Randy looked at him. “I don’t know how to play poker.”
“By the end of the night, Mr. Ellison, you won’t be able to say that anymore.” Randy tucked Ethan’s hand in his and nodded across the street where the Golden Nugget stood waiting. “Get your notebook, because school is in session.”
TNA: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Heidi!
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED
Heidi’s Bio: Heidi Cullinan has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When Heidi isn’t writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, knitting, listening to music, and watching television with her husband and ten-year-old daughter. Heidi is a vocal advocate for LGBT rights and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state with full marriage equality. Find out more about Heidi, including her social networks, at www.heidicullinan.com.