TNA: Hello, Jay, many thanks for being here with us today. We’re thrilled to have you visit.
Why don’t we start out by having you tell us a little bit about yourself: hobbies, interests, odds and ends things that make you, you.
Jay: Well… as well as writing, I also own an online retail business and run a choir, so juggling my time between those other commitments is a challenge. I have two school-age kids, so have to fit being a mum into my schedule too. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for hobbies. But I read a lot (of course) and try and make sure that I work out regularly because I need it for my sanity!
TNA: Have you always written M/M Romance, or is that something you began exploring only recently? What is it that compels you to not only read but write about M/M relationships?
Jay: I only started writing fiction about four years ago. I became interested in writing after reading fanfiction and felt inspired to try it for myself. My first story was m/f, but my second one was slash (m/m) and I never really looked back. It’s what I love to write. I still don’t really know why, exactly. I think the reasons are incredibly complex—for me anyway. I’d probably need several hundred hours of therapy to unpick it all *grin*
TNA: Speaking of reading, do you recall the first M/M book you ever read? What was it, and how did it influence your views on the romance genre?
Jay: I guess the first one I read in the modern gay romance genre would either have been Hot Head by Damon Suede, or maybe Scrap Metal by Harper Fox? I can’t remember which order I read them in. I loved both of them, although they’re very different writing styles. I was thrilled to find that there was stuff like that out there, because although I still love fanfiction I really enjoy the variety of original fiction in the m/m genre.
TNA: What is your concept of the ideal romantic lead? Do you feel your men need to be terribly flawed in order to be perfect?
Jay: Not really, no. I do like some flaws in a character, because it makes them feel more realistic, but I don’t need them to be really messed up. That’s not to say that I dislike flawed characters at all, but I don’t need that for me to be able to love them.
TNA: If you could go back in time to the moment you sat down to begin writing your first book, what’s the one piece of advice you’d give yourself?
Jay: Stay grounded and put your mental health before your writing. Take time to do things that make you feel good about yourself. Because when you’re stressed, exhausted and anxious you can’t write anything coherent anyway.
TNA: Let’s chat a little bit about your new book, Not Just Friends. Will you tell us about it and how you came up with the idea for the story?
Jay: The novel is very loosely based on a short piece of fanfiction that I wrote a couple of years ago. I wanted to go and back and expand on the simple trope of roommates to lovers. Once I started making notes on it and fleshing out the bare bones of the story, it was clear that it was going to end up as a novel. I find it really hard to say exactly where my ideas come from because sometimes it’s very hard to pin down. This story grew very organically in the planning stage, and once I started writing it just flowed.
TNA: Describe Lewis and Max for us, if you will. What are they like, and how does the relationship between them develop?
Jay: Lewis is fairly quiet and self-contained. He’s not super shy but is cautious in his dealings with others. At the start of the story Lewis still assumes he’s straight—he had a girlfriend all through sixth form at school and was happy to fit in and be what everyone expected him to be. His unexpected feelings for Max take him by surprise.
Max is very different to Lewis. He’s open about his sexuality and doesn’t take any shit from people. He’s also quite snarky and funny. He was a lot of fun to write.
Lewis is immediately drawn to Max and his crush soon develops into full on puppy love, particularly after he finally acts on his feelings. But Max is less sure at first, because he’s wary of being an experiment for Lewis.
TNA: Did either of them give you trouble as you were writing their story, not wanting to cooperate with where you saw them going? If so, which one and how so?
Jay: They both behaved pretty well for me. Lewis was very easy to write (the story is all written from his POV and he was quite predictable in his reactions). Max surprised me a little in just how vivid and ‘present’ he was. Right from the first bits of dialogue I felt that he was taking the reins and I was just going along with it. It was pretty cool actually. I have never felt that level of connection with a character before and Max holds a really special place in my heart as a result.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from the book with us?
Jay: This is a scene from the first night when the boys move into their student flat together:
Lewis sat back in his chair and looked around at the four guys he’d be living with for the next year. They seemed pretty cool so far, and he figured he could have done a lot worse. His gaze caught on the little black studs in Max’s ears, where they stood out starkly against the pale lobes.
Max’s lashes flicked up as he raised his gaze from the drink he was pouring and caught Lewis looking. Lewis looked away quickly.
“So how many girls have you shagged then?” The conversation had turned to sex and Dean cut straight to the chase.
Lewis’s ears burned hot as a blush flooded his face and neck. The question wasn’t aimed at him, but he knew he’d have to answer eventually. They’d already done the rounds for what age they’d lost their virginity, and Lewis had already seen how persistent Dean was about getting answers.
“My magic number’s five,” Dean continued, his voice loud and a little slurred from alcohol. “But I had a girlfriend for most of Year 12, otherwise there could have been more.”
Andreas answered three, Rob two, but neither elaborated on their replies. All eyes turned expectantly to Max, who was sitting on Lewis’s right.
He lifted his mug and took a mouthful of tequila before fixing Dean with a cool stare as he calmly replied. “Only two, but I didn’t really like it. I prefer boys, personally.”
Dean choked on the brownie he was currently chewing on. Andreas smacked him between the shoulder blades, a little overenthusiastically, and in the ensuing confusion he knocked over the bottle of tequila, which thankfully had a lid on at the time.
Lewis shot a sidelong glance at Max and saw his perfect face lit up with a grin that was pure mischief.
“Are you really gay?” Rob asked him. “Or are you just messing with him?” His tone was interested rather than shocked or challenging.
“I’m really gay.” Max shrugged. “But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to make Dean inhale his brownie. And in the spirit of equality, I’ll answer the question anyway. I’ve had sex with two girls, and with several guys, depending on what we’re counting as sex for this discussion. I know you straight boys are all about penetration. But I’ve had penetrative sex with four people.” He grinned. “Does that mean I win?”
Dean had just about recovered now, and he looked grudgingly impressed as he wiped his watering eyes. Lewis chuckled along with the others. Max had definitely won that round.
TNA: I know this is sort of like asking you to name your favorite child, but of all the books you’ve written so far, do you have a favorite? If so, which and why?
Jay: I would have to say this most recent one—Not Just Friends—for some of the reasons that I’ve already mentioned above. The story was so much fun to write because it flowed well and I never really got stuck.
I also felt I did the best job I could with it. It’s only my third book, but I learned a lot through the editing of my first two stories and I hope that the result is something even better this time. I’m really proud of it, so I hope it will hit the spot for readers too.
TNA: If you could bring one of your characters to life, who would you choose, and why do you think s/he’s someone who should exist outside of your imagination?
Jay: Well, Max seems like an obvious choice because he’s so much fun and is utterly adorable. But I’ve already talked a lot about him, so I’ll give one of my other favourite characters a mention. Jamie in Nothing Serious is another character that I’m particularly fond of. He’s a gentle giant, sweet and passionate, yet very modest and lacking in self-confidence because of his dyslexia. A lot of my readers loved him too and wanted a Jamie of their own.
TNA: What would you say are the best and worst parts of the writing process for you?
Jay: The best part is when it’s working: the story is flowing, the characters are talking to me and I almost feel as though they exist somewhere outside my imagination and I’m just bringing them to life. That feeling is pretty much the best thing in the world for me as writer.
The worst is the opposite. On a bad day I feel blocked and stifled and every word is a struggle. Then even if I manage to crank some out I usually hate them.
Luckily I have more good—or at least in-between—days than the bad ones!
TNA: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Whichever you are, why do you feel that method works best for you?
Jay: Over the years I’ve experimented with both, and have come to the conclusion that I’m more of a plotter. I get too stressed out when I try and pants (Can that be used as a verb? It can now!). I’m far more likely to abandon a story if I don’t have at least a clear outline.
Having said that, I’m always happy to veer wildly away from my outline if my characters drag me off course. But overall I find that I’m more productive and get a story written faster if I have a fairly clear idea of where it’s going.
TNA: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Jay: I’d like to be able to dematerialize and appear somewhere else. I love travelling, and I have friends all over the world and am always frustrated that it’s so expensive to visit them.
TNA: If time travel were possible, would you do it? If so, where would you go and why?
Jay: I’d like to see real dinosaurs—but from a safe distance please. I have a son who is a dinosaur geek so I’d have to take him with me.
TNA: Would you care to share a little bit of information on any of your current WIPs?
Jay: I have just completed and submitted another novella, but I don’t want to say too much about it until I know it’s going to be published in case I jinx it! I also have two short stories in the pipeline that will be published in anthologies from Dreamspinner Press. One will be in the Juicy Bits anthology in April, and the other will be in the Not Quite Shakespeare anthology in June.
I’m at the planning stage for my next project at the time of writing my answers to these questions, but hopefully I will have started by the time this blog post goes up. That’s the plan anyway, the goal is to get it drafted by the Easter holidays.
TNA: Many thanks again to Jay for spending some time with us.
THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED
BLURB: Leaving home to go to university is an exciting phase in anyone’s life. One that’s full of new places, new friends, and new experiences. But Lewis is not prepared for the sudden and intense crush he develops on his out-and-proud flatmate, Max—given that Lewis had always assumed he was straight. Max starts dating another guy, and Lewis’s jealousy at seeing them together forces him to confront his growing attraction.
When Max’s relationship goes awry, Lewis is the one to comfort him and one thing leads to another. But after a night together, Lewis is devastated that Max wants to go back to being just friends. Lewis tries his best to move on and their friendship survives, but the feelings he has for Max don’t go away. He faces other challenges as he deals with coming out to his parents, and needs Max’s support more than ever. But Lewis isn’t the only one who’s conflicted. When Max finally admits he cares for Lewis too, Lewis must decide whether he dares risk his heart again on being more than just friends.
Not Just Friends is available at Dreamspinner Press
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jay lives just outside Bristol in the West of England, with her amazing, occasionally ridiculous husband, two noisy-but-awesome children, and two cats.
She comes from a family of writers, but she always used to believe that the gene for fiction writing had passed her by. She spent years only ever writing emails, articles, or website content. One day, she decided to try and write a short story–just to see if she could–and found it rather addictive. She hasn’t stopped writing since.
Jay’s books: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/index.php?cPath=55_953