Alex Kidwell, Dreamspinner Press

Sex? In Public? Go See Where Alex Kidwell Says He’d Do It… (How’s that for a catchy title?)

Today’s guest at The Novel Approach is Alex Kidwell, author of the utterly sublime After the End, which, if you haven’t read it yet, is a novel you ought to very much consider adding to your TBR and placing it right at the top. Just don’t forget the box of tissues you’ll need to get through it. :-P

So, go pour yourselves a cuppa, or whatever it is you like to drink, and help me welcome Alex to the show. :-D

Q.) How long have you been writing creatively, and is there one particular person you’d credit for fostering your love of storytelling?

A.) I’m actually a relative newcomer to creative writing. I’ve always made up stories, and my love of books means I’ve developed quite the daydreaming habit, but when I was younger I took most of my creativity out in theatre. I wrote plays and monologues through high school and college, but somewhere in the back of my mind I always wanted to write a book. About eight years ago, I tried my first short story. I still remember sitting there, tentatively poking out words, making my roommate read every sentence. It was nerve-wracking, it was terrifying, and I got hooked immediately.

I have somewhere in a hidden part of my hard drive my very first novel. It’s terrible and should never see the light of day, but it’s finished, and doing that proved to me that I could do it. It took me another six years before I tried again, but when Robin and I had the crazy idea to start Blood Howl, just knowing that I’d written something that long before and managed to complete it was huge.

There’s not one specific person, I think, who really pushed me into writing. More like a series of people – my dad, who gave me A Little Princess one Christmas, which is still my most cherished book, and who constantly was encouraging me to read new and different things; two friends that happened into my life and pushed me to try something terrifying and dare to be geeky and proud in my writing; Robin, who constantly makes me step up my game and who is a source of boundless inspiration – who have set up different stages of my road to becoming an author.

As for people I don’t know personally, much to my constant sorrow, I point to four writers as my biggest heroes – J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis who filled out my childhood with stories and places that formed my imagination, Madeline L’Engle who captured my adolescent angst for something more, and Rob Thurman, who was my inspiration to attempt to write professionally.

Q.) If I’m not mistaken, this is your first solo novel (without partner Robin Saxon). What made you decide to venture out on your own with Quinn and Brady’s story?

A.) The short answer is boredom.

Robin lives in Australia much of the time while I’m in the States. Visas are hard to come by for same-sex partners, so mostly we’re fourteen to sixteen hours separated. We write when we can together, but there would be large blocks of time when we’d be on our own, and we decided that we’d each try to write our own novels in our spare time. So Robin came up with The Royal Road, and I sat down to write After the End. It was honestly the scariest, hardest thing I’ve ever done, but what started out as a kind of experiment and a way to pass the time turned into characters I love and a story I am extremely proud of.

Q.) Speaking of After the End, tell us about the writing process for this book, because I don’t mind admitting I was sobbing before the end of Chapter One. How did the idea of writing a novel about death and grief and the whole process of recovery come to you? And please, be honest, how emotionally draining was it on you?

A.) The idea of After the End was to distill the emotion of grief and write a very simple, very pure story about the stages of it. It came from missing Robin one night and honestly feeling like I couldn’t move for how deeply I ached with that. We’re simply separated by distance; I started to wonder how someone could handle something more permanent, and the idea of writing through that developed from there.

When I write, I start always with the characters. Quinn came to me first, the idea of someone who’d had the love of his life, who had already had his happy ending, how do you go on from there? Actually, the original idea was to do a short story and Brady didn’t exist at all. It was just going to be Quinn dealing with his grief. But as I started to play around with Quinn’s character, I realized that I was writing a fairy tale; the flip side of one, where the happily ever after happened and then ended. Quinn was frozen, unable to force his way out of his own coffin. In order to really tell that story, I needed to find the person who would help him thaw. And so came the character of Brady. I always wanted to explore the idea of someone who had loved so completely figuring out how to live when that love was gone, and I felt, in the end, that having Brady there to support Quinn through his recovery – a recovery that happened not for Brady, or because of him, but that was helped by his presence – allowed for hope and for the promise that eventually you can live with your grief.

I’m an emotional writer. If I don’t feel the story or the characters, I can’t continue. Needless to say, writing After the End meant I was very involved in the emotions that were happening. It was draining, yes, for sure. I think that writing a good story always is, in some ways. But this book felt personal for me; I wanted the readers to walk side by side with Quinn through his grief, through the numbness and the haunting agony of loss, and then come out the other side with a sense of hope.

Q.) When writing the book, did you find it difficult to strike a balance with Quinn, to keep his dark from becoming too dark?

A.) I think the character himself is really what keeps it from veering into totally dark. I mean, here’s a guy who has lost the biggest thing in his life, and he’s still pushing forward. His coping methods aren’t that great, and he’s shut down a lot of himself, but he’s trying, and I think that’s huge. We open the book with hope and we follow Quinn as he learns to accept that. I don’t know, I just loved writing him because while he might not be emotionally healthy, he’s at least trying to figure out how to get there. He’s so sad and so lost, and I think his question is really a universal, poignant one – how do you say you loved someone when you’re trying to move on.

Q.) Aaron Paterson is such a larger-than-life, tangible influence in the story, yet he never spends a single moment on the page. Did you purposely set out to make him such a forceful presence in the book, or did he simply turn out that way as the story evolved?

A.) The one thing I knew from the start was that I wanted people to fall in love with Aaron. For Quinn, Aaron was not the lesser choice. He wasn’t someone he settled with for ten years. He was the absolute, hands down love of Quinn’s life. They were happy, they were fulfilled, and losing him absolutely destroyed Quinn.

If Aaron hadn’t been that important, or if Quinn hadn’t really been that in love, then the moving on part wouldn’t have been as heartbreaking for Quinn. It was incredibly important to me that we could feel how much Aaron and Quinn had been in love, and that they be a couple you would root for in any other circumstance. Their love story is the central theme of the book, really.

Q.) Brady Banner is, hands down, one of the most romantic characters I’ve ever read. What’s the most romantic gesture you’ve ever made?

A.) I really would say I’m not that romantic of a person. The interesting thing to me about Brady is that I never intended him to be overly romantic, either. I do think he’s like Robin in the sense that both of their love languages are in actions. How people express love is often how they believe love should be shown, and so I think Brady’s actions, in this book, definitely speak for how he’s feeling, even when he doesn’t say the words.

Q.) Do you foresee there could be a sequel to After the End? Not that I’m pressuring you or anything. Unless begging would help, in which case, I am indeed begging and/or groveling. ;-)

A.) Actually, just the other day I sat down and mapped out the plot of the sequel! I wasn’t sure if I was going to. I felt like After the End was a fairly complete story and I didn’t want to tack something on that wouldn’t have the same emotional weight. But I can say now that I have found a plot I’m very excited about; we’re going to get the next part of their story from Brady’s perspective and I’m really looking forward to writing it.

Q.) Of all the characters you’ve created, do you have one who’s your absolute favorite? If so, whom and why?

A.) Oh, man, good question. While I love all my characters equally, I will admit to a special kind of pleasure that comes from writing Jed Walker from the Sanguis Noctis series. He’s this great mix of foul mouth badass and vulnerable good guy that I really enjoy. The things we have planned for him in the future are really going to stretch him way beyond his comfort zone, which is where I love him most.

Q.) Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A.) Totally depends. With Robin, we are hard core plotters. We have plotting documents that would rival novellas in length. For After the End, I had nothing written down. My current projects vary – the one that was just submitted had a few paragraphs, the one I’m in the middle of has a few pages. I’m unfortunately not very consistent with my process, but once I find what each story needs I get into my groove for that book.

Q.) What makes you laugh?

A.) Robin. Honestly, no matter how bad of a mood I’m in, no matter how much I don’t want to laugh, Robin can always make me.

Q.) If you could sit down to dinner with one famous person, past or present, fictional or not, whom would that be, and why?

A.) I am actually terrible at questions like this, because in a real life situation with someone I like or admire, I wouldn’t be chatty or brilliant or witty. I’d more than likely sit there with a big dumb grin on my face or fall down or burn myself on the soup. But I’d love to sit there and listen to J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis while they down pints and discuss theology and philosophy and the nature of fiction. I’d never be able to say a word, but I think that would be something magical.

(Lemme ‘splain, people, that the next three questions were submitted by Rhys Ford, and one of them made me blush so I wasn’t going to ask it, but then she told me to put on my big girl panties and ask anyway. Oh yes. The gauntlet was thrown and I accepted her challenge, and dear Alex had this to say: “I am an open book, my dear, and no question is too naughty.” :-P So, here with go…

Q.) If you were on death row and were down to your last meal, what would you order?

A.) Something that counteracts poison. (Hah.) Seriously, though, probably a turkey dinner. I’m a big fan of simple, homey meals, as my cooking skills are sadly lacking (I think the Food Network is a magic show). Turkey, my mom’s cranberry orange relish, which is my favorite food ever, stuffing, gravy, potatoes, and a peach pie for dessert. I’d just nap through my execution.

Q.) Where’s the most romantic place you can imagine having sex in public, without that pesky risk of worrying about being caught? ::blushes::

A.) I think half the point of having sex in public is that thrill of possible discovery. But if I got my choice, I am a huge fan of the idea of being under my partner’s desk, slowly teasing them with my tongue, completely undoing them while they’re having to pretend nothing at all is going on. ::Oh myyyyyy:: :-D

Q.) What’s your favorite swear word, and why?

A.) Fuck. God, I love the word fuck. I was never allowed to curse as a kid and I think I overcompensate now – I have a mouth like a salty sailor.

Q.) Do you have any Works-In-Progress you’d like to share a bit about?

A.) I have a few that I’m really excited about. The first one is Bloodlines, which is the third book in Robin’s and my Sanguis Noctis series. In it, we’re delving hardcore into the lore of that world. Jed and Redford are getting tangled up in a brewing war, we’re introducing new characters, and we’re really exploring this idea of wolves within the supernatural community. In it, Jed and Redford are having some growing pains, which is both fun and heartbreaking to write. The book is basically about family – what it means to be born into one and what it means to choose your own – and I have to admit, it’s my favorite one so far.

I just submitted a solo novel called Gumption & Gumshoes. It’s extremely lighthearted, which is a nice change, and I had a blast writing it. It’s the story of August, an overweight underachiever who gets to pursue his dream of being a detective like in the film noir movies he loves so much. Oh, and he’s also a chinchilla shifter.

Sam is a gruff, bitter divorcee who is also the landlord for August’s detective agency. Together, they fight crime! (**ETA: Gumption & Gumshoes is scheduled for publication with Dreamspinner Press in August/September 2013!**)

What I’m working on now alone is The Women in the Water. It’s a murder mystery that, I hope, will be an homage to the likes of Agathe Christie. It’s set around an isolated lake town with a serial killer on the loose, two characters who alternate between suspicion of each other and outright dislike, and a snowstorm that traps them all. It’s a very different type of thing than I normally write and I’m finding it to be a very thrilling challenge.

And then there’s Happily After, which is the sequel to After the End. I won’t give away too much, but as I said, it will be from Brady’s perspective as he and Quinn start to make a life together. There will be heartbreak for them, of course, but I really hope to be able to capture the hope and love they have together as well.

Q.) Will you share an excerpt from After the End with us?

A.) Here’s a snippet from Brady and Quinn’s first real date. They’ve gone to the movies and are now off to get a piece of the infamous peach pie:

“Pie?” Brady asked, tugging my hand lightly. “Come on, I know this great diner. The coffee is strong enough to hold up a spoon.”

“Sounds like my kind of place.” Our steps matched as we wound our way through the evening crowd. “So, this is kind of embarrassing, but other than the fact you’re a party planner who hates overly fussy cocktails and enjoys fried cheese—”

“Which, by the way, is what makes America great,” he interjected with an impish grin.

I huffed out a laugh and nudged his shoulder with my own. “Fine. Besides the fact you’re a good American cheese-loving man, I don’t know much about you.”

He opened the door for me, a bell chiming lightly to announce our entrance. There were tables scattered around a long counter, the clank of dishes and hum of quiet conversation, and the delicious aroma of coffee. We got seated, and I ordered the promised peach pie, Brady adding a scoop of ice cream to his order.

“Well,” Brady said, sprawled out on his side of the booth, looking good in his tight black sweater. Not that he wasn’t perfectly aware of how he looked. His deep brown eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled at me, and he drummed his fingers on the back of his seat. “I’m a middle child. I went to school for biology for three semesters before I realized I couldn’t stand it, dropped out, and started working catering.”

“Wait.” A smile curled up my lips. “You were a science geek?”

“A very handsome science geek,” Brady shot back, poking a finger at me with a haughty look that only lasted through the beginnings of his laugh. Rubbing a hand through his hair, he shrugged. “I like knowing what makes people work. But now I use that knowledge for creating beautiful moments instead of cutting open frogs.”

Our coffee and pie came out and I dug into the sweet fruit. As promised, Brady reached over to steal my crust. I batted at his fork with mine, but he triumphed, grinning. I didn’t mind at all.
“How about you? Tracy mentioned something about a store?”

Shifting a bit, I fussed with my coffee, adding cream, keeping my eyes down. “Uh, yeah. I own a comic book store.”

People had different reactions to that. Mostly, I got laughed at. Yes, the grown man still spent his days talking about comic books. And Brady did laugh, yeah, but it wasn’t an unkind sound.
“Really? That’s kind of adorable.”

My eyes lifted to find him smiling at me. Something tight lifted in my stomach, a soaring kind of lurch, and I fiddled with my fork. “Adorable?” I murmured, quirking up an eyebrow.

“Yeah.” His hand stole across the table to find mine, that smile still doing weird flippy things in my chest. “Cool. Adorable. Kind of awesome. Take your pick of adjectives.”

“You really shouldn’t be this sweet,” I managed, kind of abruptly, though maybe it just felt that way because my cheeks were all red and I was barely able to keep from stuttering. “I just…. You’re the first person I’ve done this with in a really long time. And Aaron….”

And Aaron. Wasn’t that always the coda in everything? The start and the end and the fucking middle. And Aaron. Only there wasn’t any and anymore.


Q.) Thanks so much for that, Alex! Where can we find you on the internet?

A.) I am all things and everywhere. The internet is in my blood.

Robin and I have a website:

I’m on facebook:

Occasionally I tweet @KiddingAlex

And Robin and I are on Tumblr, where we reblog incredibly geeky things and give anonymous love to strangers as saxonandkidwell

We are both really friendly and I hardly ever bite, so if you’d like to drop me a line about books or writing or how amazing Doctor Who, Sherlock, or Hannibal are (seriously, we are huge geeks), I am always up for a chat.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer all these nosy questions, Alex! It’s been a pleasure having you here and getting to know you a bit better. :)

And thank you! I had a wonderful time answering these.

Brita Addams, Dreamspinner Press, Guest Blogger, Noble Romance

In Which Brita Addams Discusses The Research And Shaping Of A Historical Romance – And There’s A Giveaway Too!

I am thrilled to be a permanent guest blogger on A Novel Approach. As I told Lisa, I will attempt to provide scintillating commentary each month.

For those who don’t know me, I am a writer of historical and a limited number of contemporary romances. Writing historical romances are my favorites and I’ve written them in a couple of periods, with the intent of writing still others.

That brings me to this month’s topic—Research and the shaping of historical romance.

Before I started writing, I devoured historical romance with a voracious appetite. I love history and romance, so you can see that the combo is a natural. As I read more and more, I got the itch to give it a go and Brita Addams was born.

To write anything with authority, one must do their homework. Even contemporaries require research. Unless you are creating an alternative universe, research is an important key to a successful novel. As an author, I would do my readers a great disservice if all I did was make mention of a cravat here, a horse and carriage there, but didn’t set the scene firmly in the time period.

I read a lot of historical romance, in all time periods, and nothing will stop me cold faster than the feeling that the author simply gave a nod to history. I want to feel that I am transported to another time and place. To do this, an author needs to know the way people dressed, what they ate, the style of furniture popular at the time. Dress the characters appropriately, arrange the rooms as they might have been, convey the formality of sitting down in a mammoth dining room with thirty of the host’s closest friends. Meals lasted upwards of three hours in those days, with many courses.

As part of research, I watch a ton and a half of period-set movies and documentaries, to get a feel for the language, the clothing, the attitudes, the politics, topics of conversation, manners. I take tons of notes—phrases used, toys, food, books, and hairstyles. My books have sticky notes and index cards stuck between the pages, lest I forget anything that might enrich a scene.

Conversational language was different in the Regency era. No shortcuts in courting. Language and actions were stunted and somewhat formal. I write with that in mind, in my own version of archaic English. If I wrote as they truly spoke, no one, including me, would understand it. However, I’ve devised a way for my characters to speak that has its own brand of authenticity.

I don’t want two noblemen having a brandy and speaking as though they are at the corner bar in the neighborhood. I actually read a Regency romance once with the line, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back.” Sadly, the book now languishes in my “Didn’t finish,” folder on my Kindle. Though the phrase could have been used, it is too common today for it to ring true in a historical context.

It takes work to set the tone of a story. A writer has to do that at the outset, or the reader won’t have a world to nestle into. For Regency-set books, I do this using a variety of sources, including Jane Austen’s works, which were contemporaneously written. I have an extensive library of books concerning England’s Regency era, 1811-1820. BTW – the Regency era denotes the period in history when King George III was incapacitated due to mental illness and his son, George, the dissolute Prince of Wales, assumed the king’s duties as Regent. When his father died in 1820, the Regent became King George IV. There was no extended Regency as some purport. A Regent serves as such until the death of the person in whose stead they have served or, in the case of an underaged child, his mother or other assigned person might serve until the heir is old enough to assume his duties.

Research tells us that social mores were such that a woman could compromise herself by the simple act of speaking to a gentleman unchaperoned. Doing so could render her unmarriageable, the theory being, I suppose, that when the cat’s (chaperone,) the mice will play. Young women had to be virgins upon marriage. Widows, of course, were not held to such a lofty goal, but then everyone would know of their prior marriage.

As a writer, I tempt my characters into compromising situations, but I always keep in mind the penalties, should the wrong parties discover the principal’s activities. The death penalty for homosexuality in England existed until 1861. Until 1885, the men could get two years in jail and time on the pillory. Sexual acts between two males was made legal in England and Wales in 1967. These facts must be reflected in m/m historical romances by use of character circumspection and not a little fear. My guys don’t refrain, but they are cautious. :)

In the third book of my Sapphire Club series, a young woman waits for the main character in the man’s carriage, not to place them in a compromising position, but to try to convince him to take her to the Sapphire Club (she’s one of those feisty chits.) When he does the honorable thing and returns her to the party from which she stole away, they are caught and she is compromised.

Duty, driven by inbred honor, for Phillip, the Duke of Thornhill, was very clear and he ended up marrying the chit, despite the fact that he had his designs on someone else entirely—a man. Therein lies the rub!

In historicals, and in the time period, a man’s duty and honor was paramount. A nobleman in line to inherit had a duty to marry well and produce an heir, all to assure the perpetuation of the title and the fortune. There was no equivocation, no hedging. I maintain that that is the reason there were so many unhappy marriages and the mistress trade flourished. The downside—a man could have a dozen children with a mistress, but none would inherit, as they weren’t legitimate, and never would be, even if the nobleman married the mother.

Divorce was all but unheard of during at this time in history. Should a divorce be granted, the shame would finish the woman for her lifetime. Rules were such that a man could do pretty much as he pleased and the woman could do nothing. As an extension of her husband, she was stuck in a bad situation.

Certainly, I write heroes and heroines who “buck the system,” and do so because readers tend to read with today’s values in mind. However, a writer can only go so far and still stay true to the spirit of the historical genre. I’ve seen bad reviews for Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer’s works, because people judge them through a prism cast on today’s attitudes and mores. To understand history, in all its nuances, helps a reader better understand the attitudes and actions in historical romance.

I research such things as what fabrics were used to cover buttons, what type of furniture would you find in a fine home, and conversely, what did the poor folks live like?

For my April/May release from Dreamspinner Press, Tarnished Gold, the novel is set in old Hollywood and covers the years between the 19teens to 1930. I’m a huge old Hollywood fan and it was a joy to read and research the period, the stars, watch so many old movies, and finally, get to know my characters. Hollywood wasn’t all speakeasies and fun. There was an insidious pall poised to creep over our hero, Jack Abadie, one that took the livelihood of many a gay actor. At one time, being gay in Hollywood was a plus. Then it wasn’t.

P1030455I read hundreds of heartrending stories of actors forced to hide who they were for the sake of their careers. I combined real names with characters for the story, along with the places and things that made up that golden era. But research was mandatory and it took six month’s worth to get me to the point of confidence at starting the book, then another six months to write it.

Now, I’m writing a series of books that will trace the lives of generations of one family over the course of one hundred years. I am from upstate New York and I want to write the story of those everyday folks who served and endured what the wars brought upon them.

The first book begins in 1754, during the French and Indian War. In the area of New York State where I grew up, Abenaki Indians, allies of the French, came down into New York, and often raided farmsteads. They killed whole families and often kidnapped women and children as well as some men. My heroine in that one was kidnapped, and lived several years in the Saint Francis village of the Abenaki, until the famed Roger’s Rangers raided the village. The story tells just a bit of the years spent in the village before we go into the aftermath and the romance begins.

Some of the stories I will write are inspired by my own genealogical history. Before I started writing, I spent years as a genealogist. For the series, I did a serious amount of research on every aspect of the period. At this time, I have 75k written and the story could likely exceed 100k before I’m done. I have a long list of books and websites I’ve used to research, to say nothing of the movies and documentaries I’ve watched.

I admire those who can create an alternative world, where there are no rules, but I can’t do that. To place my characters in the settings I do, I have to paint that world as it existed.

See you next month.

Hugs, Brita

Newest releases:

SerenitysDreamFinalAreSerenity’s Dream – Lucien and Serenity


Serenity Damrill has returned to her husband, Lucien after a ten-year absence. She carries with her a secret that could destroy her life and possibly all that Lucien has built.

Lucien was quite happy in his life running the Sapphire Club and has no need for the frigid wife who deserted him the day after they were married.

Can Lucien teach Serenity that her fear of the marriage bed is unfounded? Will Serenity’s secret be the death knell for their marriage?

ForMenLikeUsFShiresFor Men Like Us


After Preston Meacham’s lover dies trying to lend him aid at Salamanca, hopelessness becomes his only way of life. Despite his best efforts at starting again, he has no pride left, which leads him to sell himself for a pittance at a molly house. The mindless sex affords him his only respite from the horrors he witnessed.

The Napoleonic War left Benedict Wilmot haunted by the acts he was forced to commit and the torture he endured at the hands of a superior, a man who used the threat of a gruesome death to force Ben to do his bidding. Even sleep gives Ben no reprieve, for he can’t escape the destruction he caused.

When their paths cross, Ben feels an overwhelming need to protect Preston from his dangerous profession. As he explains, “The streets are dangerous for men like us.”

About Brita:

Born in Upstate New York, Brita Addams has made her home in the sultry south for many years. Brita’s home is a happy place, where she lives with her real-life hero, her husband, and a fat cat named Stormee. All their children are grown.

She writes, for the most part, erotic historical romance, both het and m/m, which is an ideal fit, given her love of British and American history. Setting the tone for each historical is important. Research plays an indispensible part in the writing of any historical work, romance or otherwise. A great deal of reading and study goes into each work, to give the story the authenticity it deserves.

As a reader, Brita prefers historical works, romances and otherwise. She believes herself born in the wrong century, though she says she would find it difficult to live without air conditioning.

Brita and her husband love to travel, particularly cruises and long car trips. They completed a Civil War battlefield tour a couple of years ago, and have visited many places involved in the American Revolutionary War, with more to come in September of 2013. In May, 2013, they are going to England for two weeks, to visit the places Brita writes about in her books.

A bit of trivia – Brita pronounces her name, B-Rita, like the woman’s name, and oddly, not like the famous water filter.

Please visit my website, blog, say hello on Twitter or Facebook. I love to meet new people:

Fan Page

Hey, remember that giveaway I mentioned in the title? Well, here’s the scoop. Brita is giving away an ecopy of any book from her backlist-Winner’s Choice! All you have to do is leave a comment on this post sometime between now and 11:59pm Pacific time on February 15, 2013, and you’ll automatically be entered in the drawing for a chance to win! Good Luck!

**Note: For A Complete List Of Brita’s Work, Just Click On The “Bookshelf” Link Above.**