My guest in the Comfy Chair today is a multi-talented fellow-Brit with more than one string to her bow. Susan Mac Nicol has a successful string of titles to her credit including het romance as well as M/M.
Welcome, Susan. Thanks for coming.
Elin : Can you tell me a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
Susan : I’ve had a day job all my life apart from the last month when I was made redundant from my last position. So now I’m actively looking for a new one. Writing is wonderful but I need a salary cheque at the moment 😦 One day perhaps I’ll be able to focus on writing as a full time, lucrative occupation.
Elin :When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
Susan : There isn’t much else I do -writing is my release, my passion. I walk the dog, socialise, love going to movies and theatre and days out in London or at the coast, but I have no other real hobbies. I enjoy going to the countryside on weekends, walking down the pier, or just browsing the antique of craft fairs, as there are a lot of beautiful old places here in England to do that. I really enjoy taking photographs too, as a reminder of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen.
Elin :What are you reading? Fiction or non-fiction? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?Susan : I read fiction, never having developed the taste for nonfiction. I prefer escaping into the imaginary worlds, losing myself for a while rather than being in the real world. I used to read mostly thrillers, horror, detective and psychological novels, from writers like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Jonathan Kellerman and Phil Rickman. Now though, since getting hooked on M/M romance, it’s about all I read. There are so many great authors out there in this genre that there just isn’t enough time to read them all. One book I really enjoyed and wished I’d written is a book called ‘Billy’s Bones’ by Jamie Fessenden. It’s dark, gritty, emotional and simply superb.
Elin :In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?
Susan : I generally get an idea for a story, then look at the characters who are going to write it. Note I say my characters write the story as they have this overwhelming tendency to tell me exactly how things are going to work :). I don’t do much plotting at all. I have perhaps a half a page of a story line, a page full of the two main characters and perhaps a few support ones, with relevant physical and emotional details and that’s about it. One thing I do insist on doing is keeping a timeline of events as things happen within the story. There’s nothing worse than writing something like ‘He had only known Sam three weeks’ to find out actually the way you’ve placed it, it’s been longer/shorter than that and in fact a whole season has come and gone! I prefer this to re-reading the story trying to find out exactly how much time has elapsed between important scenes.
Elin :Do your characters arrive fully fledged and ready to fly or do they develop as you work with them?
Susan : I have a very good idea how I want my characters to be when I start out, but the honest answer is, as I mentioned previously, they tell me how they want to develop. They slyly nudge me in the right direction, putting words in my mouth and placing a warm hand on my back as they let me know how they want to develop. Sometimes I manage to rein them in with a gentle word but boy! They can be damn bossy….
Elin :Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
Susan : I have very much a mental image of them but they certainly do get under my skin emotionally. One of the ways I write, and how I used to study at school, is via visualisation. I’m a very visual person, seeing scenes in my mind eye as I write them, knowing exactly what the bedroom/lounge my characters are in looks like even as I’m typing away. It’s one of the things I have to be careful of. I know what I’m seeing but my reader might not and sometimes I assume they see what I see in my head and forget to give enough description. I normally am inspired by people I see when I start a character’s physical profile, such as the English actor Benedict Cumberbatch for my MC of Bennett Saville in my contemporary romance Starlight series, or the sexy Jared Padalecki from Supernatural as the character of Nick Mathers in my latest WIP, ‘Worth Keeping’. It makes things real to me when I’m writing the story.
Elin :Is there any genre you would love to write, ditto one you would avoid like a rattlesnake?
Susan : I’m already writing in my chosen genre of M/M romance. I just love it. There’s something about writing the tale of two strong men coming together as lovers and friends that makes my heart leap with excitement and my creative side of the brain go crazy. It’s extremely rewarding, and the possibilities are endless. The one genre I doubt I could ever write is historical romance. I take my hats off to the authors who do this with such apparent ease. The research involved must be phenomenal, the attention to detail incredible and the love that these authors have for their chosen genre is apparent in every word they write. I doubt I would have such dedication and feel I wouldn’t be able to do it justice. So I write something more familiar, like contemporary romance.
Elin :Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?
Susan : As I’ve written mostly romance so far, I have to say that there is a certain structure to writing in this genre. It’s very loose but for my publisher, it would involve a definite happy ever after, if you’re writing a series, each book should stand alone-no cliff-hangers – and generally there are committed relationships in play- if I write about two men falling in love, then generally these men should be faithful to each other for the duration of the book while they are in their relationship. Of course, sometimes you may wish to introduce the aspect of infidelity as a sub plot, providing it ends HEA. It might sound like a formula which it isn’t, as this is basically it. Anything else goes -multiple partners falling in love,(ménage) any setting, any scene, any idea, controversial or not. I guess this isn’t something that applies to crime writers, or even historical authors. Romance is an under lying theme in these cases.
Elin :Put together your ideal team of men/women – drawing from all and any walks of life, fictional or non-fictional – who you would want to come to your rescue if menaced by muggers/alligators/fundamentalists?
Susan : I’d want said Jared Padalecki to be my ‘bodyguard’. Sexy , strong, tall and just downright tough. The amazing Benedict Cumberbatch could serenade any would be attackers with his gorgeously English voice, like a siren on the sea luring them to their doom. I wouldn’t mind having Cassie Wallace, one of my female characters, by my side as my BFF, as I really think we’d get on together and she could swing a handbag as well as I would. And just to be on the safe side, Eminem could be there, with his street wise talk and his uncompromising attitude to knock the hell out of the bad guys.
Elin :Villains are incredibly important in fiction since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. The cruel sea. The serial killer. The bigotted society. What sort of villains do you prize?
Susan : I’ve written some really cruel villains into my stories. ‘Cassandra by Starlight’ featured a female celebrity stalking man rapist who turned Bennett’s world upside down. ‘Stripped Bare’ has a homophobic father and his side kick, both whom, from the book reviews I’ve seen, were universally hated and reviled. (My work here is done, she cries!) My latest WIP, ‘Worth Keeping’, has an emotionally and physically abusive ex boyfriend. And in my paranormal M/M romance series, ‘Double Alchemy’, there are two villains- a power hungry, nasty Warlock on a mission and a fifteen year old Witch Hunter with murderous tendencies. Not to forget the chilling Blair Malcolme, a bisexual yet charming serial killer in another WIP, my erotic crime romance ‘ Born Human’. So I prize damaged and flawed human beings, people who perhaps have black and white views of the world and aren’t prepared to be tolerant. It’s a bit of a personal hobby horse of mine, as I don’t believe in persecution of any sort whether it be colour, gender or beliefs.
Elin :What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.
Susan : I’ve actually got a publishing schedule that’s pretty gruelling. I’ve just submitted ‘Worth Keeping’ to my publisher, and I hope they like it. Next I start work on revising my two book paranormal series, ‘Double Alchemy.’ It’s the story of Quinn Fairmont, powerful Warlock and book collector, and Cade Mairston, anthropologist ,with a supernatural secret of his own. It’s so secret, even he doesn’t know about it….
It’s only thanks to Quinn that Cade’s true nature in the Fey world becomes known. Both these books were written as M/F with Cade actually being Kate. So I begin the process now to ‘male’ up the books and change them completely to make them M/M as this, after all, seems to be where I’m headed. The same is happening to every other book I have written that’s in the pipeline, of which there are currently another two. So that should keep me busy for a little while.
Elin :Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Susan : Absolute pleasure! Here you go…
Alex had just taken a sip of coffee and at Sage’s words he laughed and spluttered his coffee all over his chin and the keyboard in front of him.
Sage came over to him, chuckling at his predicament, taking his shirt out of his jeans and offering it to Alex as a cloth. “Sorry about that.”
Alex accepted the oddly intimate gesture and dabbed his mouth with Sage’s shirt tail and glimpsed Sage’s naked torso as he wiped his mouth.
Alex definitely liked what he saw.
Taut stomach muscles and the indentation of Sage’s hip bones in their V shape as they disappeared into the waistband of his jeans, a line of hair down to his groin that looked very inviting for either his hand or mouth to trail down. The man had an amazingly sexy torso. Alex’s cock moved in his pants like a small animal trying to get out. He was glad he was sitting down, hidden from view.
Sage said teasingly, “I can take the shirt off if you like and you can wipe down the computer?”
God, had he seen him looking?
Alex found his voice. “Sage, I think that might be taking it too far, as much as I’d like that. I’ve got tissues somewhere in the drawer; I’ll use those.”
He scrabbled around in the desk drawer, becoming aware Sage had gone quiet. Alex looked at him and saw Sage regarding him with eyes that suddenly looked quite sultry.
“Really?” Sage’s voice was now an even more pronounced soft Irish lilt that turned Alex’s bones to jelly. “You’d like to see me with my shirt off? Is that an invitation?”
Alex swallowed, not sure what to say. This sudden openly uber sexy and flirtatious Sage was someone he wasn’t sure about although he was causing havoc with his nether regions.
Sage moved around to Alex’s side, taking the tissues from his clenched hand and slowly wiping the keyboard free of coffee. Alex leaned back in his chair, breathless. The pressure between his legs grew in intensity. Sage was so close to Alex he could smell his aftershave and see the dark hairs on his arms at his wrists. Alex could also see the hardened ridge of Sage’s own erection lying against his leg in his tight jeans.
God, he must be able to smell how bloody aroused I am. And he feels the same about me, obviously, if that monster in his pants is anything to go by.
They were both aware of the effect they was having on the other. Alex saw it in the slight smile on Sage’s face and the way he deliberately moved closer to him as he used the last of the tissues.
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