We’re so pleased to welcome author Ingela Bohm today, on her promo tour for her newest novel Not Safe for Work. Enjoy Ingela’s guest blog, then be sure to click on the Rafflecopter widget below for the chance to win an e-copy of the book.
Socializing for introverts
It is a truth universally acknowledged that writing is a solitary activity, but that’s not the whole story. From idea to finished product, a book is influenced by many different people, and the writing process can be seen as very social indeed. I certainly know that without the input of a bunch of wonderful people, Not Safe For Work would never have seen the light of day.
To begin with: the spark. For a story to take flight, inspiration is vital. For me, that spark always comes from other people: friends, coworkers, people on the news or on web forums. In the case of Not Safe For Work, it started with fandom. Through writing fics, I met one of my best friends, and she sowed the seed to Jakob and Leo’s story just by being her awesome self.
You see, after years of writing in solitude, I suddenly had an audience, and that made all the difference. I dropped everything and just wrote, for the sole reason of sending it to her. Now there was someone who waited for the next instalment, and if I went too long between emails, guilt set in. She sent me her gorgeous stuff in return, and it all became a positive spiral that drove me onward and finally opened the door to m/m romance.
I guess you can see Not Safe For Work as my declaration of love to fanfic. Of course, like any cultural expression, it’s not without its drawbacks, of which Leo and Jakob are made painfully aware. In the story, Jakob discovers steamy stories about him and Leo on Tumblr – all untrue, but it looks as if Jakob is the one who’s written them. It doesn’t take long for the phenomenon to become viral, and the whole thing gets really out of hand when other bloggers start writing their own stories about the two of them. The opportunity to deny it all recedes in Jakob’s rearview mirror while he’s reluctantly drawn in by the crazy world where he and Leo are lovers. After a while, he hardly knows what’s real and what’s not.
This, too, reflects how social writing can be. Fan fiction and blogging highlight the fact that nobody writes in a vacuum, because the audience is invited to interact with the original product. Sites like Goodreads offer a platform for writing reviews and connecting with other readers and writers, and there’s hardly a website without a comment field anymore. We’ve become accustomed to a social way of consuming culture – so much so that sometimes when I watch a movie on TV, I almost miss reading the flame wars on YouTube.
Of course, there are parts of writing a book that can be quite asocial. Just ask my husband how his attempts at conversation are received when I’m in the clutches of my muse. But when you think about it, even that process is dotted with interactions. What is research, after all, but communication with people who have precious information on my topic? What is intertextuality but a conversation with earlier generations of thinkers and authors? And of course, a big part of writing a book is collaborating with beta readers and editors. This is especially true for Not Safe For Work. At times, I’ve been so stuck that I would have abandoned ship but for my wonderful betas who cheered me on, told me what to cut and nitpicked the text until it spoke to me again.
Finally, writing a book feels like talking to my future audience. In this case, gentle readers, even my characters talk to you. That’s the reason why I’ve used the much maligned present tense, first person POV. Some people don’t enjoy reading or writing that kind of story, but for Leo and Jakob, it was absolutely essential. More than anything else, these guys need someone to talk to. Their whole world is turned upside down by the strange situation they find themselves in. Unable to confide in each other like they usually do, they reach out to the reader, begging to be heard and understood. Through the first person POV, they can directly address that special someone out there who wants to listen. Now that Not Safe For Work is published, they have that listening ear, and I can get some peace and quiet for once.
To bring the social wheel full circle, the feedback I get from sales and reviews is the motivation I need to write the next book. So in conclusion, even though I may come off as a hermit when I’ve got my headphones on and I’m rattling away on the keyboard, what I’m really doing is talking to the whole world.
Blurb: It’s Jakob’s birthday, and boy is he getting a surprise. His best friend Leo has posted a picture of the two of them kissing on Facebook, and a link to a blog full of steamy stories. Identity hijacked, his fictitious relationship with Leo laid out for the whole world to see, Jakob is beyond shocked. But when he contemplates officially denying it all, something makes him hesitate. Is there a grain of truth in the stories Leo has written – and is that why Jakob is unable to stop reading?
Excerpt: I feel the red hot build-up in my thighs and groin. I’ve had it with fragile. I don’t want any more beautiful. Feathery touches can’t convince me that he’s mine. I need the raw pounding, the eclipsing of the self.
He senses my hesitation and props himself up on his elbows. The look he gives me is full of reproach. “I’m your best friend first.”
I know what he means. What am I doing, keeping him in the dark? We’ve always told each other everything. I release his cock with a sigh and sit up. My hair hangs in apologetic wisps in front of my face, as if to filter what I know I have to say. “Leo…”
“You want something else.”
“Yeah, I…” I gesture limply, afraid to name it.
But he already knows. “Look, when I said I wanted you to use your mouth… I mean, I do, I want that, but fuck it, Jakob… I’d like to really seal it, you know?”
I nod, completely in tune with his thinking. “Mark the beginning,” I translate. “Make it real.”
“Yeah.” His cheeks are flushed, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “So who should… I mean…”
I laugh a little. “Who should fuck who?”
He rolls his eyes and then grins cockily. “Well, I’d offer, but we both know you’re the asshole.”
I move a stiff hand to minimize the window. “I think that’s enough for now.” I sound completely exhausted. Perhaps I am. I don’t know. I don’t know anything.
Merethe looks up with glistening eyes, surfacing as if from a dream. She looks like she’s waiting for something. My confession? My shamefaced confirmation that this is in fact completely real, exactly what happened? Jesus. This is so fucked up. Seriously, psycho fucked up. I’m letting her read Leo’s fake post about his sexual escapades with me? In my name. We’re nowhere near that level of friendship.
“It’s well written,” she says, and I know it’s her way of asking how it can’t be true: something that beautiful just has to be real. She’s always been romantic like that.
“Emphasis on ‘written,’” I mutter, but my voice grates against dry vocal cords and doesn’t sound very convincing. “Written, as in fictitious.”
She doesn’t grace that with a comment. She’s the literary theory buff, I’m the linguist. She believes everything she reads, especially if it’s well formulated. As if an adage is automatically true because it sounds good. While I doubt everything, and suspect lies at every turn.
“It is kind of romantic,” she says.
I want to explode at her, but I don’t have the energy. I just shake my head in despair. “Romantic? Are you completely bloody insane? What’s romantic about hijacking someone’s identity and rewriting their whole life?”
Merethe bites her lip. “In the beginning was the word…”
I roll my eyes. Trust her to believe that. Now she’s going to tell me that writers lie to tell the truth, that Jules Verne predicted the future and that nothing is real but what we clothe in words. The very thing I said to Dahlberg today.
She sighs, looks like she’s going to say something more, but then swallows it down. A minute of silence, then she cocks her head. “Want some coffee?”
“Huh?” I stare at her. She’s strangely out of focus.
“Coffee.” She smiles. “You seem to need it.”
I don’t reply, so she just takes an old mug from my desk and goes to fill it, leaving me a moment to gather my fraying wits. I should be grateful, but I just don’t know where to start. I try to go back to this morning, pick everything apart from beginning to end. Why did I read that blog post in the first place? What made me browse the #nsfw tag today of all days? My dream comes back to me through a fog of confusion. The image of that welcoming smile, the reddish hair, the plea to take me… And then Leo’s text, gatecrashing my embryonic jerking session. As if he knew…
Drawing a hissing breath, I lean my head in my hands. I’m being completely insane. He can’t read my mind, and he doesn’t know what I dreamed. Christ, I’m being paranoid! How could a secret dream ever be related to a spoof blog post? A Professor Dahlberg question if ever there was one. Can he have hacked my computer somehow, seen my Internet history and put his crazy story on the very website I frequent most often?
He probably could do that, actually. But hacking a computer is very different from magically controlling someone’s dreams. No, that was just a coincidence.
Although Leo does have kind of red hair.
“There you go.” Merethe plonks the mug in front of me and I grab it instinctively. Too hot, I remind myself. Take it easy. She watches me while I blow on the coffee, being very careful not to spill it.
After a minute, she sighs. “Okay.” She’s scowling now, radiating disappointment. “I believe you. He made it up, fine. I mean, you’re here. Not in London.”
“Although that photo could have been taken anywhere.”
She makes a face. “Well…”
Clenching my teeth, I reach for the mouse to go back to Facebook and show her: look, for fuck’s sake, there’s a big whopping Westminster Abbey or whatever in the background – but my finger slips and the Tumblr page refreshes, tossing up a new post that actually makes me drop the mug. Like you never do in real life: the kind of shock-limp hand that makes trays of porcelain crash in romantic movies. Coffee splashing everywhere.
I stare at the screen, heart in my mouth. There’s a video. A very real-looking video of me and him, as if we’re part of a game, and this is the promo clip for it. And it’s obvious from the still what we’re doing. What is this? What is this? my brain keeps shrieking at me, and the answer is as inevitable as it is frightening.
It’s ultimate fucking proof.
And I do mean that literally.
Author Bio: Ingela Bohm is a sucker for music and words, and whenever the two go together, she’s on board for the long haul. Every story she tries her hand at turns into a love story at some point, but that’s just her sentimental nature making itself known. She occasionally pretends to be a human being (as long as there are no dogs present), and she spends an obscene amount of time in front of really well-made TV series, trying to riddle out how the hell the bastards do it. Her current projects include a vampire dystopia and part four in a series about the rock band Pax Cymrica.