TNA: Hi, Suki, thanks so much for being here with us today. Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself? In your author bio, you say you lived an unconventional childhood. Would you care to expand upon that?
Suki: Well, I always thought my childhood was normal until I told people about it. When I was around 8 months old my parents bought a beautiful old wooden fishing boat and we lived on board, travelling between England, the Isle of Man (a small island between England and Ireland where my mum is from) and France. When I was around three, my parents decided to travel to New Zealand but we were shipwrecked on some rocks off the coast of France. The boat sank and we lost everything we had (I have some very damaged photographs of when I was a baby but that is all). After that, we lived in different places in France for a while, and my parents couriered boats between the South of France, Spain and England.
TNA: What has the journey from submission to signed contract to editing to cover art to publication been like for you? How did you celebrate when you got the email saying your story had been accepted? Do you think it will get easier with each book?
Suki: Nerve wracking 😛
When I received that first email saying Harmony Ink Press were interested in publishing my story, I’ll admit to re-reading it quite a few times.
I have loved the whole publication process so far, don’t get me wrong, but emotionally it’s pretty terrifying. I hope it will get easier in that respect but, knowing me, I doubt it.
Champagne featured heavily in my celebration–any excuse to drink champagne, and this was a pretty good one!
TNA: With your debut novel This Is Not a Love Story, you not only bypassed adult fiction to delve into YA but also wrote about some very weighty issues. Tell readers, if you will, about the title. Is it a warning for readers not to expect a fairy tale romance, or is there a deeper meaning for Romeo and Julian in the title?
Suki: I write romance. I’ll admit I try to write romance with an original story line as I can, but they are always love stories at the end of the day.
Now, the title is something of a misnomer, in the sense that it* is* a love story from start to finish, but there is a reason behind it. See my answer to the next question 😉
TNA: Speaking of Romeo and Julian, what correlations, if any, can be drawn between them and Shakespeare’s tragic couple? What influenced you to invoke that famous couple’s presence in the naming of your own characters?
Suki: My initial premise for the story, was a very vague Romeo and Juliet-ish take on the story of two homeless boys living on the streets of London. And I mean vague, because apart from their names, the Romeo and Juliet part of the story didn’t really come in to until the ending. But it was all about the ending.
I’m sure many people are familiar with Shakespeare’s story of Romeo and Juliet. It’s a tragic love story and at the end Juliet drinks a potion that makes her appear dead, Romeo see her and thinks Juliet is actually dead and kills himself, Juliet wakes up sees Romeo dead and kills herself. Happy stuff huh?
Without giving too much away about my plot, I wanted to make a point of Romeo and Julian’s love story not ending in tragedy like that, so (bear with me and the way my brain works :P) that is where the title comes in…their story is not a love story like Romeo and Juliet’s, and it just sort of stuck.
Initially This is Not a Love Story was a novella (Part One within the novel) and this is the storyline the title particularly refers to.
TNA: I know this is sort of like asking you to name your favorite child, but if I asked you to choose which character’s head it was easier (more pleasant?) to live in as you wrote, Romeo’s or Julian’s, which would you choose and why?
Suki: Well, the story is told from Romeo’s perspective, so he is easy for me, but Julian, well Julian would be painful but ultimately more rewarding…he makes mistakes, but he tries so hard not to he breaks my heart a little.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from This Is Not a Love Story with us?
Blurb: When fifteen-year-old Romeo’s mother leaves one day and doesn’t return, he finds himself homeless and trying to survive on the streets. Mute and terrified, his silence makes him vulnerable, and one night he is beaten by a gang of other kids, only to be rescued by a boy who pledges to take care of him.
Julian is barely two years older than Romeo. A runaway from an abusive home, he has had to make some difficult choices and sells himself on the street to survive. Taking care of Romeo changes him, gives him a purpose in life, gives him hope, and he tries to be strong and keep his troubles with drugs behind him. But living as they do is slowly destroying him, and he begins to doubt he can be strong enough.
This is the story of their struggle to find a way off the streets and stay together at all costs. But when events threaten to tear them apart, it is Romeo who must find the strength within himself to help Julian (and not let their love story turn into a Shakespearean tragedy)
Excerpt: Malik opens the door, holding back the dog by her collar. Julian waits until everyone is inside and only when Malik takes the dog into the kitchen does he grab my hand and pull me swiftly down the hall.
Food is handed around on disposable plates, mainly bread, with a bitter savory drink that’s barely warm. We all sit on the floor in our loose little groups shoveling food in our mouths like hungry animals. We don’t talk or taste, we just consume, because we know food is not something to be taken for granted. Even if most people in this country wouldn’t have a fucking clue what it’s like to be hungry and not know when you’re going to be able to eat again. This is what we’re reduced to when everything else is taken away.
After I’ve eaten I carry on with my drawing. I never take this long over anything I draw, but I want this to be the best thing I’ve done. For him.
I even draw the bloody cut on his lip, because it’s there, and there is beauty in truth so bright and shining it makes everything clear.
I love him because of his flaws not despite them.
This is what I’m terrified he’ll see when he looks at the drawing, and at the same time, this is what I long for him to understand.
Phillippe curls on his side away from us. I think he’s trying to give us some privacy.
“Can I see yet?” Julian whispers.
I bite my lip and shake my head.
Hesitantly, he shifts and gently lays his head in my lap, soft, honey-colored hair falling every which way.
He looks up at me—his face at once so open and vulnerable it makes me want to confess my soul to him, every fucking thing—and he lifts his hand as if he’s going to touch my face, but for some reason changes his mind and lays it back down.
Fuck, I think helplessly, my heartbeat skitter-scattering.
It uses all my self-control to carry on drawing. I’m so fucking confused. If anyone else were looking at me like this, I know what I’d think: I’d think they were going to take my hand any moment now and lead me away somewhere more private so we could relieve some of this unbearable fucking tension.
I’m so crazy about you, Julian.
With that thought circling desperately round my head, I finish his drawing and tear it out. I get up after I hand it to him, and just about run away down the hall praying the bathroom is empty so I don’t have to see what he thinks about it.
Maybe ten minutes later I walk back and see Julian is still just staring at his picture.
The lights are dim now and, even though it’s early, all around the room everyone is settling down.
How fucking easy we are, I think hopelessly.
Without looking up, Julian reaches out and pulls me down. He doesn’t say a word. He just holds me. I’m grateful. I don’t think I could look at him anyway.
TNA: I saw on your Goodreads profile that you list Poppy Z. Brite as one of your influences, an author I’ve also read and loved. In what ways did Poppy influence you and/or your writing?
Suki: Poppy Z Brite’s Lost Souls was the first gay themed fiction I read. I was 15 and it blew me away, opened my eyes to a genre I didn’t even know existed. I re read Drawing Blood more times than I can remember, and I’ll always count it as a favourite.
Without PZB I perhaps would not be writing gay romance today.
TNA: What’s your idea of a really great protagonist? Give us some examples of heroes/heroines you wish you’d written yourself, and what makes them so.
Suki: I love flawed heroes/heroines. I like them to make mistakes and have huge struggles be they physical/mental/environmental to overcome.
As for heroes/heroines I wish I’d written myself…when I think of my favourite characters I’m always glad I didn’t write them, as they retain a certain mystery and allure for me that way—I can never know them completely. But I do remember when I was quite young reading Clive Barker’s Imagica and wishing the self-sacrificing, gender fluid character of Pie was my own, and wondering how you went about creating such a wonderful character.
TNA: Would you care to share a little bit of information on any of your current WIPs with us?
Suki: Currently, I’m working on polishing up a spin off to This is Not a Love Story with Crash (one of the secondary characters).
I’m also working on a contemporary YA gay romance with an autistic main character.
TNA: And finally, would you share with us all the places we can find you on the internet?
The Giveaway: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED