TNA: Hi, LE, 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: hobbies, interests, things we might not know about you but should? Your love of practical jokes, for instance. What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled?
LE: I say prank…you say “Grand Theft Auto.” There was the time we had to “liberate” a vehicle during a party in order to convince the owner to get down off the roof… there was the time the guy I had just started dating thought I stole all his dirty clothes and stinky running shoes when I went to visit him out of town and moved him to a larger room while he was working (the strange man in the shower upon his return was a nice touch)… and the time I kidnapped and threatened all his ties…(they were horrible and needed to be set free).
Honestly I don’t know why people get so upset over these things…you don’t see me whining about getting short-sheeted and left with a rubber shark in my bed on my wedding night, do you? (Come to think of it the same man got the short sheeting as well.)
TNA: Have you always written M/M Romance, or is that something that came along later in your writing career? What is it that drew you toward wanting to explore gay relationships in your writing?
LE: I was a prolific writer all through school, raised by very highly educated, liberal parents in an isolated town in the desert filled with other highly educated people spending their careers developing weapon systems to kill people efficiently. It was very surreal. The town was so homogenous that the differences in people were what made them interesting, not scary. I had a number of high school friends who are gay and in reflection one might even have been considered flamboyant…except it never occurred to me to think of them in terms of labels – fat, white, gay, female, curly haired, Asian, black – I honestly never sorted out the people I knew that way. [Full disclosure: if you were the walking stupid or the smug assholes tossing milkshakes over the wall at my friends the drama geeks (yes, you clichéd jocks and cheerleaders) you had my savage teenage contempt.]
Moving to San Francisco for college was exciting and everyone was exotic and attractive in their own way, but I never learned how to view people through the lens of race, gender, age, or sexual preference…however, social justice—that, I learned at my dad’s knee. California may be a liberal state for national elections but there are very conservative pockets that have promoted some very very ugly things. The Prop 8 horror show really underscored that it was time to make it clear who I stand with. Raising a daughter who is both color blind and orientation neutral is the most important thing I’ve done. Writing about members of a community under siege for an audience who needs a fresh perspective is the next best thing. If I can tell stories in a way that is intelligent, respectful, entertaining, and persuasive then I’ll done my job.
TNA: Do you remember the first M/M book you ever read? If so, what was it, and what about it made the most lasting impression upon you? Did it inspire you to write in the genre yourself, or in any way inspire you to write differently?
LE: When I came back to writing after my daughter turned 10, I wanted to practice on a familiar genre so I picked romance and did some research (i.e. loaded up my kindle) and stumbled upon the m/m romance genre which frankly was so much more interesting (and for those of us who love men…hot). Jade Buchanan’s “Nut Cream” was the first one I stumbled across. Damn. It inspired so many things – was also a first shifter book for me.
TNA: How would you describe your books to someone who hasn’t read them yet? Do your characters share common qualities? What’s your idea of a great protagonist?
LE: My stories touch on more universal themes of the human condition – love being the most basic. The search for love or human connection… Love lost. Love betrayed. Love redeemed. As for my characters, they seem to be sharing a similarity in snarky/quirkiness as they go about it.
TNA: Tell us a little bit about your latest production, Can This Be Real. A Celebrity Chef and a detective who doesn’t exactly hold food in the highest regard—without giving away spoilers, what makes Christian and Andrew click? Is it their differences that give them the best chemistry?
LE: Their journey is a little unique – they both have to change how they relate to each other before they can even contemplate having more together. I think the chemistry is there immediately – but Andy’s indifference to Christian’s calling as a chef makes Christian go a little crazy as he tries bringing Andy around to his point of view. I really like Andy in this story, he’s willing to stand his ground and risk losing out on the man of his dreams if he comes with false expectations.
TNA: Would you care to share an excerpt from the book with us?
BLURB: Chef Christian De Guisse can’t trust a man who doesn’t love his food, Detective Andrew Simmons won’t let any man close who thinks he’s broken—somewhere between these two points, love is possible, but only if they get real.
When Chef Christian De Guisse accidently outs Celebrity Chef Jordan Slayer during a fight in front of The Times entertainment reporter—it only gets Christian ex-boyfriend status and a one-way plane ticket to culinary exile in Oregon. But a fortuitous meeting with Detective Andrew Simmons at the Portland airport keeps De Guisse and his collection of exotic herbs out of the hands of homeland security, starting the chemistry simmering between them. Andy isn’t much of a foodie and for a chef who communicates love through his cooking this may be one hurdle too high until they’re finally ready to get real with each other.
“You fucking bastard!” Christian slammed through the door to Jordan’s office without knocking. The executive suite was built on a mezzanine overlooking the dining room and faced with an entire wall of glass that revealed a private chef’s table at one end and Jordan’s desk at the other. From the dining room floor the executive suite always reminded Christian of a giant aquarium; Jordan’s relentless pacing mimicking the school of piranha circling their tank at the NY Aquarium.
“Chris, what the hell? I’m in a meeting with the network, this is completely inappropriate!” Christian barely spared a glance at the room full of suits before blasting back.
“You want to know what’s fucking inappropriate? It’s cheating on me with some twat while I run your goddamned restaurant making you look good to all these pretentious assholes!” Christian swept a hand out, gesturing to those seated behind him with the paper still clutched in his hand.
Jordan lost all color in his face as Christian slapped the newspaper down in front of him. The pages were folded back to reveal a cozy photograph of Jordan, arms wrapped around a statuesque blonde in a tiny silver micro dress as they left a trendy SoHo eatery.
Page Six had spent several column inches speculating that perhaps Jordan had met the future Mrs. Happy Monkey, given the number of times he’d been seen escorting her around town over the last six months.
“Christian, you’re overreacting—”
“Fuck you, Jordan. If anything I’m underreacting here. How long have you been sneaking around?”
Jordan froze and then seemed to pull himself together after a quick glance at the startled faces around them. For the first time Christian focused on the other occupants in the room. Among the seven suits seated, Christian recognized Mickey Nichols, Executive Producer for Jordan’s shows, along with Melissa Halprin, entertainment reporter for The Times. While the others were studiously trying to avoid eye contact, Melissa had the glazed look of someone witnessing a car wreck as she clutched her recorder in one hand.
“Back off, Chris!” Jordan snapped, every inch of him channeling his “Jordan Slayer, TV star” persona. “I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing but this is none of your business, and for the record I’m not gay.”
“Not gay? I find that incredibly unlikely since you had your tongue shoved up my asshole not three hours ago. In my experience, that’s usually a line a straight man won’t cross!” Christian would have been more satisfied by the horror on Jordan’s face if the view weren’t ruined by a sucker punch to his jaw.
The blow knocked him backwards into the glass wall, panels shuddering and pinging. Mickey jumped up to grab Jordan, pulling the cheating bastard out of harm’s way, while the sting of his mouth dissolved the last bit of Christian’s self-control.
“You can deny it all you want but there’s also the fact you’ve been inserting your cock into every orifice of sufficient size on my body since I was seventeen—you’re just one blowjob away from winning the award for World’s Most Prolific Cocksucker, Jordan!”
The mention of underage sex and blowjobs seemed to light a fire under Mickey. He shoved Jordan into a chair and started hustling everyone else out of the room. Melissa was no longer being shy about her interest and was furiously jotting notes into a small notebook—lingering as long as she could—Mickey finally shut the door in her face and turned the panels to opaque before making his own escape.
“Seventeen?” Jordan spluttered, shock ripping away his façade. “I thought you had to be eighteen to apply to the CIA?”
Jordan was probably thinking back to all the times he’d dragged Christian into an empty supply closet or the guest quarters at the venerable cooking institution during that long weekend eight years ago.
“Yeah, Jordan. You were so hot to get in my whites that you never slowed down long enough to ask, not that it took very long as I recall. You know, I never could tell if it was my tight ass you loved more or my perfect sauces. I guess it’s a moot point now.”
Christian couldn’t stop the memories from surfacing, overwhelming his pain. As an undergraduate attending the Culinary Institute of America, Christian had been assigned to help Jordan prep for a cooking demonstration; to say they’d hit it off would’ve been an understatement. In fact, upon graduation Jordan came calling, luring Christian into hitching his professional career to Jordan’s star. Bile rose in Christian’s throat at the choices he’d made.
“Christian?” Jordan broke into Christian’s reverie.
Staring at him, Christian barely recognized the man he’d thought he’d spend the rest of his life with. For Christian, their early professional partnership had quickly become personal— in Jordan he’d found not only a mentor but also a partner and friend.
They’d done everything together. And even though Christian spent all his nights at the loft with Jordan, except for the late weekend shifts, Jordan had always resisted Christian’s overtures to make it official by moving in together. Now he knew the reason why. Just the thought of it made a red tide of rage rise once more.
“I can’t believe I never recognized what a low-life, no-talent, has-been, cheating scum you really are…” Christian shook with emotion, the words snarled, hands clenched at his sides and jaw throbbing.
Jordan appeared tired and defeated sitting with his head in his hands, but the look he gave Christian as he rolled his head to the side was mostly pissed.
“You’re fired, Chris. Get the fuck out of my restaurant.”
TNA: We recently had the opportunity to chat about the importance of librarians and libraries as crucial allies in helping to get LGBT YA books into the hands of young readers, something I’m a huge supporter of. How do you suppose we take this from a hope to a reality? Does it begin with publishers or authors? Even parents?
LE: There was a powerful keynote speech given by Marilyn Harris of the Seattle Public library last year at the Gay Romance Northwest Meet up 2013. In the speech she said the most effective action a reader can take is to find your local library’s website and look for the link to request a book-it’s usually at the bottom of the screen in the small print-just click on it and complete the form. When libraries do add these books to their collection, it’s important to actually check them out to prove there is a demand. I encourage everyone to go online and see what’s already available, you may be surprised, and then check something out. Keep checking out books and requesting new ones, and spread the word.
TNA: One of the issues addressed was that of teens who aren’t out to anyone yet, let alone to their parents. Is there an easy solution to getting LGBT themed books to them? I hate the likening of this to the magazines in plain brown wrappers, but are inconspicuous covers a solution to help them feel more comfortable reading?
LE: That’s an interesting question. I hope the GRNW 2014 will have a YA panel to explore this in detail. Again this speaks to developing broad access to these books – safe places to find the material they want and give teens space to read them by making sure that GLBT centers have adequate libraries and book lists. I know we have a robust community of publishers, authors, and readers who would rally around individual programs that request help expanding their libraries. Covers are an interesting issue and I’d love to hear from the teens themselves.
TNA: I know this is sort of like asking you to name your favorite child, but of the books you’ve written thus far, do you have a favorite? If so, which and why?
LE: It has to be Six Days to Valentine, published by Wilde City Press. It was the first novella I completed once I started writing again and I love the characters – particularly Nick. We have similar personality traits I think. He’s kind of an ass on the outside and he uses humor and snark to relate to people, but inside he’s a kind soul, a romantic. (The last part isn’t autobiographical; I’m still just a pain in the ass.)
TNA: If you could bring one of your characters off the page and into the real world, whom would you choose, and why?
LE: Fat Boy Newman. Hands down. He’s smart, flies under the radar, and he’s funny as hell in an unexpected way. He also muscled his way into the story when originally he really was just the bouncer. I like being surround by people who act independently and use their powers for good not evil.
TNA: Would you care to share a little bit of information on any of your current WIPs with us?
LE: This is the year of the sequel. I’m working on the novel length follow up to my short story Snow Globe published by Dreamspinner, and a series of novellas following the developing relationship between Nick Valentine and Davis “FatBoy” Newman that began in 6 Days to Valentine. There’s also the sequel to Prodigal Wolf, co-written with Sara York that’s on the schedule.
TNA: And finally, would you kindly share with us all the places we can find you on the internet?
TNA: Thanks again, LE, for stopping in. Now, how about some giveaway information?
THE GIVEAWAY: LE has some Can This Be Real and LE Franks swag she’d love to give away to one lucky reader! See the gorgeous cover Rhys Ford designed for the book, and LE’s logo? Check out the Rafflecopter link to find out how you can win some goodies that bear those images!