TNA: Hi, Renae, thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we start by having you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Renae: Hi TNA. Thank you for having me on your blog. I’m so excited I’m jumping in my chair. And yes, I’m always excitable.
A bit about me? I usually tell people “I’m just a mummy.” But don’t think I am trivialising the sheer hard work and determination that goes into that job. I think motherhood is one of the most important things we can be. Writing is just my part-time hobby, because it takes a big backseat to my children and husband. I have two “kidlets” – only 7 and 5 years old. So still babies needing their mother. The youngest isn’t even in full-time school yet.
I live in Perth, Western Australia. Locally known as Dullsville. I live simply – I love to potter around in my veggie garden, I sometimes find time to do some crafting (quilting or sewing usually), I look after my kids and husband – and when I find time, I write gay romance! Perfect, huh?
TNA: Be our travel guide for just a moment: tell us a few interesting things about where you live.
Renae: I live in the suburbs of Perth, Western Australia. Western Australia is 2.5 million square kilometres, which is more than 3 times bigger than Texas, and more than 10 times bigger than the UK. 92% of our population lives in the tiny south-west corner of the state. Wide open plains describes us to a tee.
Perth is the second-most isolated capital city in the world. (Auckland, New Zealand pips us at the post by less than 30kms). We are surrounded by desert and ocean, with our nearest neighbouring city nearly 2200kms away.To me, the isolation is normal, since I grew up here and have rarely visited other states and countries. That’s probably the most noticeable thing about Perth people – since it costs so much to travel to other places, we kinda just stay in our home state.
But Perth beaches are truly gorgeous – crystal clear water and pure white sandy beaches. We have undisturbed nature all around us – but you have to travel to find it. Travelling 200-300kms is nothing to us.
If you want to come to Perth, try spring or autumn. We have a mild winter (we don’t get snow) but it rains a lot. Summer is very hot, averaging over 32 degrees Celsius, and staying up in the high 30’s/low 40’s for weeks. (That’s over 100F).
One interesting item? The black swan is Western Australia’s state bird. You will meet a lot of black swans in my stories because they are common and beautiful, but also a favourite of mine.
TNA: 2014 has been a great year for you. Tell us a little bit about your journey to publishing Loving Jay. What drew you to the M/M genre? Was “Jay” accepted on the first outing, or did it take several tries before Dreamspinner ultimately accepted the manuscript?
Renae: My journey to publishing was a total dream. It really was. 2014 will be one for the record books for me.
I read my first m/m romance in late 2011. I’d picked up a book from my library that had a gay couple as a secondary romantic pairing. Their love was referred to as a “bromance”. So I searched for that term and Marie Sexton’s Promises popped up. I ordered it, read it, loved it and have never looked back.
I’ve always read romance books and the new genre fascinates me.
Back in January 2013, I read a book that made me long for a m/m book that was both funny and had a twinky/queen character as its main love interest. I couldn’t find very many. So I said to myself, “Fine! Write one yourself.” I’d never written anything in my life. Ever. I promised myself that even if all I did was print it off and read it myself, that I would love it.
I decided to write an m/f story first (to see if I could actually write), because I was scared of the big “gay sex” thing – after all, what did I know about gay sex? I wrote a little m/f romantic comedy that I loved. My BFF urged me on further. So in April 2013, I sat down to write Loving Jay. I finished it in June and sat on it, until one of my favourite authors, NR Walker, urged me to send it to a publisher.
I think having the guts to send it out to a publisher is the most courageous thing I’ve ever done.
I told myself I would keep going until I had 10 rejections. I had a list of publishers in my head, and I would take the first rejection, then send the story out to the second publisher on my list. I would go for 10 rejections before giving up. So I sent it off, and turned my attention to writing another book to keep me distracted.
I received a reply back from Dreamspinner 6 weeks later offering me a contract. I was speechless. I thought it was a mistake and they’d sent the email to the wrong person.
By that time, I was finishing up writing The Blinding Light, so I sent that one off to them as well. I couldn’t believe when they accepted that one as well!
I still laugh at every email I receive from them, thinking that a stay-at-home-mummy from Perth could never get a publishing contract.
TNA: What are some things you’ve learned about writing and publishing in the months since Loving Jay was released? As both a new and now multi-published author, what advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Renae: I have learned A LOT. I mean I am a TOTAL newbie to writing. I nearly failed English Literature in high school. My university degree was in the sciences. Despite being a prolific reader, I always held the belief I couldn’t write.
When I wrote my first story, I had this little idea in my head to keep plugging away at writing until I had learned the skills I needed and had sold something. I gave myself a timeline of about 2 years to get something published, whether it be a short story, novel or even an article in a magazine. I thought I would have time to learn about the non-writing part of being an author – instead I was caught off guard.
I had to throw myself into the world of social media – website building, Facebook, Twitter, blogging… I didn’t do any of that stuff before now. But as an author, we really need to put ourselves out there to the public forum.
My editor has been teaching me some technical terms for things I know instinctually about writing (I think I’ve learned through osmosis and all the books I’ve read), so with each book I write, I hope to improve on the technical side of things. You could say that in the last 18 months, I’ve not only been given a crash course in writing, but I’ve also learned a mountain of information about promotion.
Luckily, the genre of m/m has a lovely crowd of authors with a lot of willing help to show you the ropes.
For someone starting out, the first piece of advice I would give is: It’s possible. Look around. Most authors are just people who didn’t give up. I barely passed my English exams at school, so I never thought that being an author was possible for me, but I am. I’m no one special, but I didn’t give up writing that story. If you want to write, then write. Learn from each piece you do. Borrow books from the library about how to write. Send your story to friends and take their honest advice. But don’t give up.
The second piece of advice is: Write what you want to read. Don’t try to write like another person. Write like what you would want to pick up as a book and read. I was told by several people before Jay was published, that it wouldn’t sell. Twinks don’t sell. Humour is a poor cousin to angst. No one wants to read a story based outside of the US. Too bad – it’s what I wanted to read and I took a chance. It’s worked wonderfully for me.
The third piece of advice is: Keep it simple (in the beginning). Don’t try to create a world like where hobbits live. Don’t put too much into your story. A simple story is often easiest until you get the hang of it.
TNA: From Loving Jay to The Blinding Light to The Shearing Gun, and now to Safe in His Arms, not to mention your short story in A Taste of Honey, you’ve created a host of characters. Hypothetically speaking, could you see any of your guys with any of your characters from another book? Who would be most likely to feel a spark of attraction to each other, if they’d met first? What would draw them to each other?
Renae: *laughs* I don’t really keep the same type of characters, do I?
I was chatting with another Australian author the other day, and we were discussing themes of authors. If you pick up a novel by xxx author, you know you’re going to get angst. This author does muscle men. This author does kink.
For me, I would like to think that someone picking up my book knows that they are going to get (a) Australian settings, (b) humour, and (c) “real” characters. I try to make all my characters someone you could meet on a train, or who moves in next door, or even who is cleaning your house. I think sexual attraction would exist between many of them. But the ability to live with each other, and love each other like my couples do, is another issue.
Liam (from Loving Jay) wouldn’t be interested in any of the others, because he didn’t even realise he was gay until he met Jay.
And I think Jay would send Jake (from The Blinding Light) around the twist within fifteen minutes. *laughs* Jay would also be sent packing if he ever met Patrick (from The Blinding Light) or Hank (from The Shearing Gun). That boy just cannot shut-up!
What makes Liam and Jay’s romance so beautiful, is that they are just perfect for each other.
I think what would be an interesting combination would be Patrick and Elliot (from The Shearing Gun). Elliot’s caring personality would be a good starting point for Patrick’s blindness. Both men are extremely intelligent and broadly educated. I can see them being a good fit. But they wouldn’t have fun. They would just be a soft, caring relationship.
Jake would be great buddies with Liam, if they ever met, as would Casey (from my newest release) and Jay…. *thinks hard* Do you know what? I think we’re going to have to have these boys meet up… *runs off to write down ideas*
TNA: While we’re on the subject of your characters, what are some qualities you feel make a great protagonist?
Renae: Realism is very important. I think that authors need to create a character that readers can relate to. All of my characters have flaws – either physical or emotional.
Liam is disabled but just a pretty average guy. Jay is wildly flamboyant, but he just can’t be quiet. Jake is too honest about what he sees, while Patrick is blind and hiding from the world. Hank is deep in the closest and has problems with his temper
But the point of a story is the journey of growth. Without flaws, our guys can’t grow.
A great protagonist is someone people can relate to. You need to make the flaw real, relatable and something that the character struggles with. After all, we all have flaws.
TNA: Let’s talk a little bit about your newest novel Safe In His Arms. Tell us a bit about the story and characters, and we’d love an excerpt if you wouldn’t mind sharing one with us.
Renae: In Safe In His Arms you’ll meet two polar opposites, each with huge problems in their past, and each running away from life.
Lon is a big guy – all over. (He’s the guy on the cover). He has a tragedy in his past, and for eight years he’s shut all connections off. He lives in a temporary home. His life revolves around working and going to the gym. He has no other interests. He failed to protect his family from harm, so he doesn’t want to want someone like Casey who is so needy.
Casey is younger than Lon by thirteen years. He was a victim of child abuse and has moved state to get away. He’s in therapy. He has nightmares. He’s barely holding the threads of his life together. But inexplicably he finds relief, shelter and safety with Lon.
The best thing that I love about these guys? They keep their sense of humour. Even when things around them are crappy, they still manage to have a laugh together, as shown in this scene.
Blurb: In the late-night quiet of the caravan park shower room, Lon Taylor washes away the filth of the Western Australian mines. He’s not looking for anyone, but when Casey offers, Lon doesn’t turn him down.
Welcoming the young man in his big, hairy arms, Lon provides a safety to Casey that he has never known, and Casey wants to stay forever. Still reeling from the breakup of his family years ago, Lon’s not sure he’s ready for the responsibility of the comfort and security Casey craves.
But perhaps Lon can risk opening his heart again and hoping for a brighter future. Casey has some pretty big skeletons in his past to deal with. And Lon wonders what Casey will do when he finds out how badly Lon failed at protecting the ones he loved eight years ago.
Excerpt: “Are you still staying over tonight? I thought you were coming over at six?”
With amusement he watched the blush rise up the younger man’s neck and spread across his cheekbones. “Yes, I was planning on staying if you let me. I just couldn’t wait until six. Blame my hormones if you want, but I’m blaming the fact that you’re too sexy for me to wait another hour and a half.”
That made Lon smile, and he wolfed down his meal. “You wanna head down the beach again? It’s still fuckin’ hot.”
“No.” The blush bloomed red on Casey’s cheeks again. “I’ve cleaned up and I don’t want to get salty again.”
“Oh. It’s damn hot in here, though. What did you want to do?” Lon scraped his plate and pushed the dish away from him. “We could catch a bus to Freo for a movie or head to the pub for a beer?”
“Do you really want to know what I want to do?” Casey decisively flicked the magazine shut, got to his feet, and stood less than four feet from Lon. He affected a fake brow wipe and smiled playfully. “Oh, wow. It’s just so hot in here. You really have the right idea about stripping down. You don’t mind if I do the same, do you?”
As he pulled up his shirt to show his flat stomach, Lon’s grin turned to a leer. “No. I don’t think I mind at all.”
The cotton was discarded and Casey placed his fingers inside the waistband of his shorts, teasing by pushing them down a couple of inches and no more. “It’s way too hot for these as well, but if I take them off, I don’t want you getting the wrong idea.”
Lon’s cock had all sorts of ideas. “No. I won’t get the wrong idea at all,” Lon promised.
Casey kept his mocking, nonchalant attitude, but joy shone from his eyes. “I mean, just because we’re both naked we don’t have to do anything, right?”
With a meaty paw, Lon scratched at the bristle on his chin as he considered it. “No. I don’t think we do. But how about you get naked so we can test this theory out?”
“Are you sure you’re alright with me being naked? I don’t want to offend you or anything.”
“I’ll try to keep the maidenly blushes down. Do you need some help?”
“No, thanks. See? These pants come off nice and easy. Now, don’t be upset about my boner. It doesn’t mean anything.”
“It looks to be a very nice one too.”
“Thank you.” Casey giggled, something that Lon wished he could do. But a big, hairy guy giggling like a girl was not really the sexiest look.
“Now, I don’t want you to get upset about my boner either, okay?” Lon said. “It’s just something that happens sometimes. How about you bring your boner over here and we can prove it doesn’t mean anything together.”
TNA: Do you remember the first M/M book you ever read? What was it and what made it memorable?
Renae: Oh yes! Promises by Marie Sexton.
If you haven’t read it, I recommend it. If you have a friend who is not quite sure about m/m? Recommend this one.
As an introductory to gay romance, it hits all the right spots. The character of Jared is openly gay, but isn’t your “typical gay guy” – he’s rather sporty and boring. He loves football and beer, and mountain bikes better than any other guy in the district.
Matt is straight. So finding out that Jared is gay is a bit of a shock to him.
When Matt discovers he is attracted to Jared, the reader is taken on this step-by-step learning curve with him, as Jared shows him there is nothing to be afraid of or ashamed about being gay. Oh, man. You feel for the big guy and his turmoil of “what will others think?”
I was hooked!
TNA: What’s the one book you’ve read in your lifetime that you can honestly say you wish you’d written? Why did it leave such a lasting impression on you?
Renae: I have been following Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changling novels for a while now (it is m/f – so sorry to all the m/m fans). I’m fascinated by the depth of her worlds that she builds. Although I haven’t really liked her last couple of books in the series, I’ve loved the journey. Unfortunately I have to keep re-reading the previous books to remember all the little gritty details she has about the world. Her head must be so full of all this imagination and fictional world.
For those who don’t know the books, there is this alternate reality to our world, that began changing significantly to what we know in the 1970’s. Three different types of people live in this alternate reality – Humans, Changelings and Psy. Changelings are animal shifters – all types of animals from wolves to snakes to deer. They are physically stronger than humans, but ruled by their baser selves. Psy are cerebral beings. Physically weaker than humans, but possess powers such as telekinesis, foresight, teleportation, empathy and medical abilities. They rely on their brains and must be connected in a telepathy web called The Net. Humans are somewhere in between.
In this book, in the 1970’s, a separation began of what was once a cooperative world, where all types of people worked, loved and married within the others. The three races become isolated and at war with one another.
I’m fascinated with the parallels to our world, yet the differing rules Nalini Singh brings to these books. You can just immerse yourself in these books.
TNA: This is a multi-part question and just for fun. You’re going on a road trip:
1.) Which three of your characters would you choose to go with you? Why would you choose them?
Jay because he would keep me amused. Liam because he would keep Jay in line. And Jake, because he takes no bullshit, and I often need that in my life.
2.) Of the four of you, who would insist on driving, who would call shotgun, who would be the backseat driver, and who would be the first to ask, “Are we there yet?”
Jake would drive. Liam doesn’t have a license, I can’t be bothered driving, and Jay would talk too much to concentrate.
I can see Liam going all “alpha” and insisting on shotgun, but halfway there he would insist on swapping with me so he could be with Jay in the back.
I would be the backseat driver. I’m a stickler for obeying the speed limit (I hate giving away my money on speeding fines) so I would mention every time Jake went over the speed limit.
“Are we there yet?” would be muttered by Jake, about the first time that Jay stops to take a breath, which would be about 35 minutes into the drive.
3.) Which of you would be in charge of the radio? What would you listen to?
If we ever got Jay (or me for that matter) to shut up, Jake would want the radio to his music. If Jay wasn’t talking, I would assume that he and Liam would be kissing in the back, so neither of them would care what we put on.
For a road trip, Jake would insist on classic rock – Bruce Springsteen, AC/DC, Metallica, Dire Straits.
4.) Who’s mostly likely going to sing badly at the top of his/her lungs? What song would s/he belt out the loudest?
ME! I would be singing to every song I know, using my fake microphone and drumming out the beat on the dashboard.
5.) Who would mostly likely complain the entire trip, then at the ends say, “That wasn’t so bad”?
Liam. He’s the only one who doesn’t bear grudges.
TNA: Thanks for being such a great interviewee, Renae. It’s been lovely having you here with us. Would you tell us where we can find you on the internet?
Renae: Thanks for having me. I’ve had a blast with these questions.
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