The incomparable Geoffrey Knight had the honor of asking the inimitable Anne Brooke a few questions about her first Wilde City publication, The Beginning of Knowledge, her upcoming release Taking a Chance, her contributions to the WCP poetry collection Falling Awake, and a lot more. What came of it is this, an interview you won’t want to miss!
Happy Birthday, Anne!
GK: First of all, a big thank you to Lisa and everyone at The Novel Approach for having us, and Anne, thanks so much for joining in the fun of Wilde City’s week at The Novel Approach. Lisa from TNA has told me she’s a big fan of yours and has read everything you’ve written, so I’m very pleased to let her know that we’ll soon be publishing a new short romance from you titled Taking A Chance. Why don’t we start by chatting about that, because I think everyone is going to love Taking A Chance.
AB: The cheque’s in the post, Lisa – again … Seriously, what a lovely woman you are – thank you very much! It’s fabulous to be here. Yes, I’m really looking forward to getting Taking A Chance out there. I’ve a real soft spot for people who make sudden dramatic decisions that have the potential to change their lives. It’s an incredibly brave and liberating thing to do. Which is just what my hero Benjamin does in the story:
The moment model and part-time actor Benjamin spots the sexually alluring David outside his local restaurant one Friday night, he’s determined to get to know him better. Much better. So he takes a chance and pretends to be Timothy, the blind date David is waiting for. Soon he realises it’s not just an ordinary date, but something way beyond his experience is actually going on.
When David asks him about submission, safe words and spanking, Benjamin knows the sensible thing to do would be to make his apologies and leave. Funny then how his body keeps telling him something different, and instead he finds himself strangely eager to know more. Will it be a date to remember and if David discovers his deceit, could he ever be persuaded to take any kind of a chance on Benjamin?
Many years ago, one of my husband’s friends went on holiday to Spain, met a man out there – and married him, all in the three weeks of her holiday. When she came back, everyone who knew her was totally shocked (she was really a very sensible kind of a gal) and they all said it would never last. I thought it was amazing, and a huge well done to her (and the man concerned). Well over twenty-five years and three children later, they’re still going strong. Sometimes your whole life has the potential to change in a moment if you just have the courage to believe in yourself, and that’s the kind of dilemma I wanted Benjamin – and David – to have. I hope people will enjoy the read.
GK: The thing I love most about your writing is that, no matter how short or long a story is, you thrive on characters with complexities, even if you only hint at them or we have to dig to find them. Even when the plot seems to control the stakes in the story, it’s actually the depth of character and their reactions that steer things. How easy or hard is it to come up with your characters?
AB: I’m endlessly fascinated by people and what makes them tick – which is something of a family trait as my grandmother could sit on park benches for hours, watching people going by and making up stories about them. She was an odd one, was Grandma! I always loved to hear what she came up with – and it’s probably from her that I learnt the truth that people are always a thousand times more complex than you think they are. Everyone’s capable of great saintliness and great horror in their lives, no matter how straightforward they might look on the surface, and there’s no end to the actions we all might do at any time. Even when we think we know someone incredibly well, we most definitely do not – people are like onions in the sense that there’s no real end to their layers. It’s that kind of mystery I like to convey in my stories, in the best way for the particular character I’m writing about. Sometimes the most important thing about writing is to stand aside – as far as any writer can – and let the character run with the text. It’s the hardest thing to do, but always the most satisfying.
GK: Your first story with Wilde City is The Beginning of Knowledge, published under our Charlie Harding Presents banner. As a porn star who knows how to turn up the heat, Charlie publishes books that are highly erotic, but also strong on story and character. We were lucky enough to publish The Beginning of Knowledge, which is dark and edgy and hot, and ticks all of Charlie’s boxes. Tell us about the story and what compelled you to write it.
AB: The Beginning of Knowledge is a story about passion and power, and how it can change our lives for the worse as well as for the better. A lot of my stories focus in one way or another on the issue of obsession, especially sexual obsession, as I think it’s a very powerful driver, and it’s always fascinating to explore people living life at an extreme edge. The blurb is:
When University administrator Alan Castleton meets temporary worker and talented pianist Luke Milton, he doesn’t expect to become obsessed with the handsome young blond. But soon he is heavily involved in a passionate and angry affair, and exploring the dark shadows of his own personality in a way he’s never encountered before.
The more Alan tries to break free from his obsession, the deeper it entangles him. The dangerous split between his reason and his sexual desires threatens his peace of mind and, when the crisis point comes, he must decide once and for all the kind of life he should lead.
It started out as a very different story which simply wasn’t working and I couldn’t think why. Then it came to me that I was skirting round the issue of the heat and passion between Alan and Luke, and trying to make it something it wasn’t – ie by focusing on the business setting where they’d first met, rather than on the erotic relationship. I wasn’t really listening to either character’s story as they understood it – which is always a fatal mistake for any author to make, of course! Once I’d given up trying to fit them both into my idea of what they should be and started really listening to them, the whole story just came alive and was a thousand times easier to write. I did scare myself though with how much I enjoyed writing angry desperate sex. Funny – I think my husband might be hiding right now, hmmm …
GK: You write both sweet romances and scorching hot erotica, not to mention you’re able to pen laugh-out-loud comedy, heart-wrenching drama and dark, dangerous thrills. Is there any one genre or sub-genre you prefer?
AB: Oh heck, that’s really tough. It honestly depends on what mood I’m in – as I go with the genre which fits my feelings about life at the time. Which probably goes to show – rather too well for comfort – just how unstable I can actually be! I do enjoy writing the comic fiction, but I suspect the dark stuff sits more naturally with the way I am underneath. Strangely the scenes which I find easiest to write and I tend to be able to do without a lot of editing afterwards are the sex scenes (well, I’m only human …) and the scenes involving violence and pain. I did explain this to my husband some while back and, worryingly, he didn’t look that surprised but just smiled and walked backwards out of the door whilst calling the Police for help. I made that last bit up – no, really I did!…
I think this is part of the trouble I have with actually selling books – people don’t tend to know exactly what genre I’ll be writing in this time whenever they pick up one of my stories – so they can’t always instantly tell if it’s going to suit them or not. I suspect it’s easier being an author these days who only writes in one genre, as then everyone knows where they are. On the other hand, I get a big kick out of writing in different moods and formats as it just seems more honest a way of doing things, certainly for me.
GK: I’ve asked you this before when I interviewed you for Why Straight Women Love Gay Romance, but I love that you as a person contradict what many perceive to be the norm. You are a straight, married woman and devout Christian living in the English countryside. Yet you have struck this amazing balance between being true to your faith and writing gay male romance and erotica, and even better, you’re not afraid to discuss your views and fight for them.
AB: Ha! Thank you – I loved your questions for that book, and am really proud to be part of it. You did a brilliant job and I can thoroughly recommend it to everyone. I think in many ways every one of us is contradictory and that’s something that should be celebrated rather than questioned. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually met a normal person – or maybe I’m not moving in the right circles (as it were)?…
On the other hand and at a deeper level, I see nothing wrong and everything right with being a happily married Christian and a gay romance and erotica fiction writer – I believe very much that this is part of God’s “calling” to me, and all I need to do is fulfill it the best dang way I can – it certainly helps me to be able to express the powerful male voice in my head that’s been with me as long as I can remember. And, besides, as I’m sure I’ve said before – to you and many others! – God invented sex and romance as part of being human and we should celebrate these gifts. Goodness me, even Christians have sex – but only on Sundays and out of sight of the vicar, naturally (hmm, now there’s a plot line – no, stop right there as I’m scaring myself!)… Anyway, I do find it funny how many people question writers of erotic fiction as if they’re very strange indeed – but nobody ever thinks to question writers of crime fiction. Murder is much odder than sex, after all, and certainly less desirable!
GK: Both in terms of time and headspace, how do you manage to juggle writing, marriage, a job at the university where you work, your dedication to the Church and your fabulous baking! (Yes, I’ve seen the posts on Facebook and my mouth waters every time you bake a cake!)
AB: I hate being bored. No, seriously, I really hate it. I love doing a lot of things at once, though these days (I’m 49 years and 2 days old by the time you publish this on Sunday!) I find I have to factor in sleep as well, or I get rather too angsty for sanity – mine and everyone else’s. I believe also that you always make time for the things you’re passionate about and all those things you mention above are a huge part of who I am and who I see myself to be. Marriage, writing, my faith are all vital and I couldn’t be me without them – and I thoroughly enjoy working for the Uni and once a week pretending to be a Domestic Goddess in the kitchen. Mind you, don’t forget you only see the cake successes though – I’m too embarrassed to post pictures of the disasters, and also you can’t tell what they actually taste like, which occasionally is definitely a blessing. Of course my husband is far too much of a gentleman to be anything but complimentary about my baking…
GK: Poetry! There’s just not enough of it in the world today, which is why Wilde City decided to give poetry a chance and publish our first collection from various Wilde City authors titled Falling Awake (which is the title of one of your poems in the collection). Best of all, it’s Free! Why did you jump at the chance to be in this collection, especially knowing that nobody was going to earn a penny in royalties? What is it about poetry that seems to awaken our senses?
AB: I think all poems should be free and there for everyone to enjoy – as if you get the right poem at the right time for you, then it just sings and can speak to you in a way nothing else can. That’s the magic of it. Sometimes people tell me they hate poetry – when actually they’ve not met the right poem or type of poetry for them just yet. I also think that people actually speak poetry and rhythm every time they open their mouths. It’s the way we’re wired. Nobody speaks in prose, ever. Listen next time you go to the supermarket or the bank – you’ll hear the lilt and song of everyday speech all around you. Truly magical indeed.
GK: Do you have a favorite poem in the collection?
AB: I think Falling Awake maintains an incredibly high standard throughout and I’m thrilled to be part of the anthology. If I absolutely had to pick a favourite and you were twisting my arm for an answer (cruel man!), then I’d say I truly LOVE Exchange by Hank Edwards which makes me gasp each time I read it for the way it tells a whole relationship story just in two perfect verses. Then again (and I know you don’t want me to mention yours, Geoff, but, sorry, I’m going to anyway …) Pedestal is just brilliant and I smile each time I read that one. It says it all in such a short space and I dang well wish I’d written it. Curses, foiled again …
GK: What’s currently on Anne Brooke’s WIP list?
AB: I’m currently working on a gay fantasy, The Taming of The Hawk. It started out as a short story, then it became a novella and, heck, it’s still going. Oh heck, anyone for a trilogy?? It’s all very rough at the moment so it’ll need a load of editing when the first draft is finally all on the page, but I’m enjoying the ride.
At the same time, I’ve just started a new short story (which will definitely remain a short story, I’m – almost – sure of it) called The Frozen Heart. It’s about a man physically terrified of touch – for good reason – and his relationship with a young hooker. This one’s in the early stages for now, but I’m looking forward to getting more of it down over the summer. Weather permitting!
GK: Anne, thanks so much for chatting, I love a good chat with you. One day we’ll do it over scones and tea! And one of your cakes! :-)
AB: Thanks so much for letting me be part of Wilde City Press – I’m loving the location and the company. And thanks again to Lisa for letting us take over her site for a week-long party – we’re all very grateful. And we promise to leave everything tidy when we go, honest. Meanwhile, in terms of cakes, I’m already getting my apron on and my spatula out, Geoff (as it were …). Naturally, my door is always open to you!
Thanks so much, Anne and Geoff, for closing out our Wilde Week on such a great note! It’s been an honor to host Wilde City Press and all the authors who’ve contributed their time and talents to making it stellar!