Lisa: I’m so pleased to welcome author Avery Cockburn to The Novel Approach today to chat a bit about the Glasgow Lads series, a series that I personally happen to adore, along with the men and women who make up the Woodstoun Warriors LGBT football team. And, of course, the men who love the men who love the football.
Welcome, Avery. Would you like to start with the introductions and tell readers a bit about what makes Avery Cockburn tick?
Avery: Hi Lisa! Thank you so much for inviting me to your wonderful blog, and thanks especially for sharing the Glasgow Lads with your readers.
What makes me tick? That is such a deep question. I guess what drives me most, what gets me hopping out of bed at 6am with a smile on my face (yes, I’m one of THOSE people—what can I say, I love my job!) is the chance to transport myself—and eventually readers—into the minds and hearts of people who fascinate me.
I mean, I’m a big fan of reality, but it could use some improvement, right?
Lisa: Before we get to the nitty gritty, I’ve been told I absolutely must ask you about the cover art for the series. Who does your covers? Did you collaborate quite a lot with the artist during the creative process?
Avery: My fabulous artist is Grady at Damonza. That company has some of the best designers in the business. Their cover-design form asks questions to get a feel for the kind of story you’ve written. Then they present you with 2-3 choices of a first draft. From there you give feedback and they do as many drafts as it takes until you’re happy.
I try to give my artist as much freedom as possible, because frankly, I’m just the writer. My job is to create a great story, then step back and let a designer help me sell that story. What I love about my covers—about all Damonza covers—is that they fit the genre and yet stand out at the same time.
It’s not enough for a cover to be gorgeous. It has to tell readers at a glance what sort of story these are: sexy and gritty, but with a shining beacon of hope. You know a Glasgow Lads cover the instant you see it!
Lisa: All right, now let’s get to the business of your Glasgow Lads. First of all, why Glasgow? Why was it important to you to set the series in this city in particular?
Avery: We’ve all heard the saying, “Write what you know,” but that’s rubbish. I believe in writing 1) what you love and 2) what you want to know better. After visiting Glasgow, I did NOT want to leave! Sadly, my visa (and my family) said I had to, so I decided to start living there in my head.
Glasgow doesn’t get much positive attention. It doesn’t pull in tourists like London or Edinburgh. It’s a lot like Chicago. The people are hard, proud, have a distinctive accent—and they love their sports and crap food. But there’s so much beauty there as well. Glaswegians are a fantastic mix of tough and tender. Also, they’re possibly the funniest people on the planet.
Lisa: In keeping with setting the series in Glasgow specifically, Scotland in general, what sort of opportunities did that open up for you, creatively speaking?
Avery: Today’s Scotland provides so much drama, it’s a crime to relegate it to historical romances only. Whether it’s the sectarian divide in Playing for Keeps, the independence referendum in Playing to Win, or the more personal, my-best-friend-is-moving-up-in-the-world class/education divide in Playing With Fire, there are a million stories waiting to be told. (Hint hint to other authors. 🙂
Lisa: Why an LGBT football team? Why was it important to create these men and women not only as athletes but to also have a team that represents such diversity?
Avery: You mean as opposed to a gay football team? It’s the one area in which I’ve “fudged” reality. There are few if any British mixed-gender football clubs. Unlike in the US, where soccer is considered a gender-neutral sport, football in Britain is very macho. (This is slowly changing. I was SO thrilled to see the success of England’s national team in last year’s Women’s World Cup, and Scotland’s national women’s team has risen from nearly nothing to a very high rank—higher than the woeful men’s national team.)
Also, there’s a tendency in M/M romance for women to be invisible or to be relegated to bit roles, even if unintentionally. And there’s also a serious scarcity in the genre of bisexual, lesbian, and trans characters. I wanted to have a more interesting cast, and for me, that means diversity.
In the future I’d like to expand that diversity to include more ethnicities and abilities. Having portrayed a bisexual character in Playing With Fire, I look forward to someday giving the lesbian and trans Warriors the center stage.
Lisa: The characters in this series are all in their early 20s, some just barely out of their teens. Why was it important to you to create the series around a younger group of characters?
Avery: With all the changes happening in contemporary Scotland, it makes a great backdrop and mirror for characters in their late teens/early twenties who are going through massive changes themselves.
Also, for the Warriors to be a realistically competitive football club at their level, the players couldn’t be too much older. 🙂
Lisa: You’ve explored a variety of social, economic, and political issues so far in the series. Which was the most challenging conflict for you to write thus far, and what made it most interesting to explore within the framework of the romance?
Avery: By far the biggest challenge was the Scottish independence referendum in Playing to Win. Nearly everyone in the UK had a passionate opinion on the matter. I feared I’d alienate people on one side or the other. By the time the book was finished a year later, enough time had passed and emotions had cooled enough that I could understand and empathize with both the pro- and anti-independence folk. It’s easy in politics to pick a side and then villainize your opponents, but that’s bad faith AND bad writing.
Twitter makes political divides much worse because it creates an echo chamber where you only hear people you already agree with. That’s why Twitter was such an important element in Playing to Win. (Come to think of it, social media and mobile tech are pretty huge in most of my books—Facebook in Play On, Grindr in Playing With Fire—because they play a big part in the lives of people that age.)
Lisa: I know authors probably hate this question more than just about any other, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Do you have a favorite character and couple in the series? Who’s the most fun to write?
Avery: My single favorite character…ooft, it’s probably a draw between John and Liam, for their sense of humor. John’s is bright and impish, while Liam’s is a strange mixture of childlike and caustic that probably most matches my own. (Two words: Ned Kilts.)
But my favorite couple is probably the same as most readers’: Colin & Lord Andrew. They had the hugest obstacles to overcome, and they brought so much inherent conflict to their romance. Put an angry, dirt-poor, tattooed footballer and a poncey, social-media-addicted aristocrat in the same room together, add overpowering lust, and BOOM—so much fun to write!
Lisa: The next novel in the series will tell Evan and Ben’s story, which, I have to say, I’m more excited for now than I thought I’d be. Do you have more books planned beyond that? If so, do you have a rough idea of how many more we can expect?
Avery: I think Evan’s dark secret will surprise everyone—his teammates, his ex-boyfriend, and especially readers! I’m keeping details of this one under wraps for now to avoid spoilers, but I can tell you that neither Ben nor Evan is exactly what he seems to be. Also, there’s a butt-ugly cat named Trent.
Glasgow Lads 2016 schedule:
Spring, Colin & Andrew followup short story
Summer, Evan & Ben novel
Autumn, Liam & Robert followup short story
Then next winter I’m introducing a VERY exciting new character who will be the love interest of a Warrior we already know who hasn’t had much screen time yet. He’ll get a prominent role in Evan & Ben’s novel, of course.
So that’s at least four more installments in the pipeline. At this point, I have no plans to stop writing the Glasgow Lads series. I adore it and readers seem to love it too. Plus there’s so much still to cover. I mean, the Warriors need to win themselves a Cup trophy and maybe make it to the amateur premier division. And as I mentioned, the lasses need their stories told as well.
Lisa: Where do you go after the Glasgow Lads? Do you have any other series ideas in mind? Any one-offs in the works?
Avery: Honestly, the Lads keep me too busy to think of anything else. I’m not a fast writer, so two novels and two short stories in a year is a challenge. I could probably write faster or edit less stringently, but I don’t believe in putting out anything but my best work. I also have traditionally published books under another name, which has gone dormant whilst I got Glasgow Lads off the ground. At some point I should probably see how she’s doing, lol.
I also have a nonfiction project percolating. I hope to fit it into my schedule this year around my fiction, which will always always always come first.
Lisa: If you could sum up in a few sentences what the experience of writing and publishing this series has been like so far, what would you say?
Avery: It’s a case of faith bearing fruit. When I started writing the Glasgow Lads in 2014, a few writer friends told me that it would be tough to sell contemporary romance with a non-US setting—unless it was a glamorous location like London or Paris or a tropical island.
But I knew I wasn’t alone in my love for gay romance and Scottish heroes, so I kept writing and editing for a full year before I even published the first book. By the time Playing to Win came out in September, the series had found an audience. Though I wasn’t surprised—I mean, come on…KILTS!—I was and still am gobsmacked by the reception from readers.
Lisa: It’s been such a great pleasure to chat with you, Avery. Thanks so much for taking the time to be here today. Would you like to tell readers where they can find about more about you and your books on the internet?
Avery: The best way not to miss anything is to sign up for my mailing list, which gets you LOADS of exclusive Glasgow Lads bonus material (including deleted scenes, development diaries, links to videos I used for research or inspiration, and sneak previews of books to come) PLUS—and this is the best part—advance copies of all short stories.
Sign up here or just http://www.averycockburn.com/signup/ or visit my website’s main page.
Thank you so much again for having me, Lisa, and thanks for all you do for LGBT books! You’re amazing. 🙂
Meet the Lads
Play On: Duncan Harris is on the edge. Scandal has shredded his LGBT soccer team’s history-making season, and now the once-unflappable striker is lashing out. Only one person can tame Duncan’s rage and make him feel like himself again…
Bullied by schoolmates in his wee village, Brodie Campbell lurked deep in the closet before coming to the city of Glasgow. Here at university he’s out and proud, but the years of abuse have left him emotionally paralyzed. Can flatmate Duncan help Brodie escape his past and heal his wounded heart?
As the two lads grow closer, Brodie can’t forget how athletes like Duncan once tortured him. When Duncan attacks an opponent who threatens Brodie, the situation escalates. Soon Brodie doesn’t feel safe anywhere—especially in Duncan’s arms.
To defeat the bullies who’ve wrecked his life, his mind, and his ability to love, Brodie must find the strength to fight his own battles. And Duncan must find the strength to let him.
Playing for Keeps: Fergus Taylor is damaged goods. Reeling from a brutal breakup, he’s determined to captain his LGBT soccer team out of scandal and into a winning season. For that, he needs strict rules and careful plans. He does NOT need a brash, muscle-bound lad messing with his head and setting his body afire.
John Burns has a rule of his own: Don’t get attached. Boyfriends are for guys with nothing to hide. Nobody—not his university mates, not the men he beds—knows his family’s shame. Now his double life is starting to unravel, thanks to a certain Highlander whose storm-riddled eyes turn John inside out, who wears a kilt like he was born in it.
Fergus is the first man John wants to share his secret with—but he’s the last man who could handle it. John knows the truth would shatter Fergus’s still-fragile heart. But how can he live a lie when he’s falling in love?
Play It Safe: “Fancy a game of hide-and-seek?”
After living together for three months, Fergus Taylor and John Burns have come to love each other’s quirks, and the bond between them is starting to look permanent. But when John wants to take things to the next level, Fergus balks, haunted by the betrayals in his own past.
John knows if he’s not careful, he could lose Fergus. If only he weren’t so bad at being careful.
To overcome his fears, Fergus must embark on an epic journey, a journey that will test his faith, his trust, and his ability to keep a cool head in a hot, hot place.
Playing to Win: Colin MacDuff has nothing. Growing up in a Glasgow slum, he learned never to trust, never to cry—and never EVER to be at the mercy of anyone, especially rich men. So how did he end up half-naked at a rave with Scotland’s hottest young aristocrat?
Lord Andrew Sunderland has everything. From ancestral castle to posh prep school, he’s spent his life wrapping others around his wee finger. With a social circle full of celebrities and politicians, nothing can stop Andrew’s rise to the top. Nothing, that is, save his desire for a dirt-poor, wolf-eyed footballer whose scars and tattoos tell unbearable tales.
Colin and Andrew come from different worlds, believe in different worlds, want different worlds. Yet every time they touch, all worlds fall away.
Set amid the fiery Scottish-independence struggle, this searing gay romance tells the story of two men who must lose everything to win each other’s hearts.
Playing With Fire: “I don’t want options. I just want you.”
Robert McKenzie has a secret. As the only straight player on an all-LGBT soccer team, he’s known to fans as “McWhataWaste.” No one would guess Robert’s actually bisexual. At twenty-one, on the verge of a brilliant career in video game design, he’s finally ready to be his true self. The only thing keeping him in the closet is…his gay best friend?
Liam Carroll has a problem. His gorgeous pal and teammate wants to kiss him and touch him and…everything with him. But for how long? With Robert embarking on a bright future—far from their rough-and-tumble East End streets—Liam may soon be left behind. He can’t risk falling in love with a man he can’t live without. His solution? Keep things casual, “see what happens.”
Aye, right. After a single camping trip, the bridge back to mere friendship is well and truly burned. Now Robert wants more than sex, but diehard cynic Liam won’t drop the barriers around his heart. These two tough center-backs must find a way forward as lovers, or their lifelong bond—the heart of the Warriors team—will rupture for good.
Because I’m so in love with this series and these characters–seriously, you don’t even know how much–I’m putting the entire series up for grabs, not once but twice. Two winners will receive an e-copy of all the books in the Glasgow Lads series, that’s all three novels and both novellas. Yaldy!
The books will be gifted to the winners via Amazon.com (no physical file will be emailed), so you must have an Amazon account and Kindle compatible reader/app in order to experience the love yourselves.
And that’s it. Now all you have to do is do the Rafflecopter thing to enter. Good luck!
The Fine Print:
*Entrants must be 18 years or older to qualify
*Giveaway is sponsored by The Novel Approach. TNA is fully responsible for prize delivery.
*Void where prohibited by law