My guest today is Kate Sherwood, intrepid horsewoman and multi-talented author of M/M and M/F romance who is just dipping into some YA projects as well. She is here today in celebration of her new release, The Fall, which will be available tomorrow!
Welcome Kate and thanks for visiting today.
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?
Kate : I do have a day job – a fairly demanding one. But it has good vacation time, so I get to catch up on my writing then! And I stopped watching TV a few years ago – it’s amazing how much time that freed up for writing.
Elin : When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?
Kate : I think gardening is pretty creative, or at least it can be, and I enjoy that. I think it’s an interesting contrast to writing, because writing is really pretty controlled – I know some people talk about Muses or their characters “doing what they want”, but for me? My characters do what they’re told, and my Muse is me getting my butt in the chair and typing. But the garden is a lot harder to control, and I think that’s good for my humility. I don’t use chemicals, so I just have to accept that there will sometimes be some bug damage, and that’s fine. And sometimes the weather won’t cooperate, and that’s fine too.
I started deliberately planting milkweed a few years ago to feed the monarch butterflies, and every time I see a hole in one of their leaves, it’s a triumph, not a problem. A novel I can finish and walk away from, but a garden is a perpetual work in progress.
Elin : In that crucial inspiration stage of a new story which comes first? Plot, situation or character?
Kate : Characters and situations kind of work together for me. I guess maybe because the conflict in my novels is so often internal, the situation the character is in really determines the nature of his character. In The Fall, (coming December 16th from Dreamspinner!), one of the main characters is going through a big change in his life and that’s making him question who he is – I can’t really separate the character from the situation for him. The other main character is determined not to change, and that determination comes from his situation.
Plot, though? Plot just comes as I write. I know who my characters are and where they need to get to in order for the book to have a happy ending, but I don’t really know how they get there until they’re well on their way.
Elin : Do you have a crisp mental picture of them or are they more a thought and a feeling than an image?
Kate : I’m a frustratingly non-visual person. When cover artists ask me what I want, I’m, like, “I guess the title should be on there somewhere…”. So, no, I don’t really know what my characters look like. Of course, to complete the frustration of the poor cover artists, I seem to have a pretty clear idea of what the characters don’t look like, so I’m happy to reject models without actually being able to provide any suggestions for what would be better. Yeah, I’m a joy to work with.
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 society itself. Your hero’s inner demons. What sort of villains do you prize?
Kate : My main conflicts are almost always internal. There may be “Bad Guys” as well, but they aren’t usually the central problem the characters need to solve in order to be together. I guess a lot of the time the external conflict came in the past – some trauma, a bad experience, or an evil character – and then during the time of the book, the characters are working to overcome the aftereffects of the past, not the past event itself.
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.
Kate : I’m actually just wrapping up a novel based on a short story I wrote for one of the Goodreads m/m group events. The short story was called “In Over His Head” and the working title for the novel is “In Too Deep”. It’s interesting to see how the story changes in the long version. The events of the short story were meant to be the climax of the novel, but as I wrote the backstory I found I was actually more interested in what happens after the events of the short story. So I’ve changed almost everything about the short except for the basic premise and the characters. It’s been fun!
Elin : Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Kate : Absolutely! The Fall is coming December 16th, and in it spoiled city-boy Mackenzie goes to live in the country and runs into laconic cowboy Joe. After their first meeting, Mackenzie chats with his elderly neighbor about it all:
It hit Mackenzie almost like a slap. He’d thought he was prepared for small-town attitudes toward his sexuality and had absolutely considered homophobia as a possible barrier to setting up his wedding chapel somewhere like Falls Creek. But he couldn’t believe it was being treated so casually. “You’re saying he was rude to me because I’m gay?”
Lorraine looked startled. “No. I’m not sure I’d call it rude, but the way he acts? Distant, kind of? I always figured it was because he’s gay. You know, he’s always been a bit different, so he’s never really tried too hard to fit in. He just hangs out on his ranch, being a lonely cowboy….” She trailed off and fixed her gaze on Mackenzie. “But you say you’re gay as well? I mean, I can’t say it didn’t cross my mind. But it seemed rude to ask….”
“Joe Sutton is gay.” Mackenzie had always prided himself on being able to read people and certainly on being able to pick up on that little spark from a man who was noticing Mackenzie’s undeniable charms. But he’d gotten none of that from the cowboy brother. “That’s confirmed? Or you’re just guessing?”
“Well, I haven’t been there in the room with him and another fella,” Lorraine said with an arched brow, “but it’s general knowledge. He’s never tried to hide it, not that I ever heard of.”
“Maybe he just couldn’t be bothered to speak in order to deny it. He doesn’t seem like someone who cares a whole lot what other people think about him.” Mackenzie was trying to figure it all out. He wanted to find a mirror and make sure he still looked like himself. First Nathan had dumped him for that twenty-year-old, and now a man living in what must surely be a gay desert had crawled right past Mackenzie’s bountiful oasis?
“You could ask Nancy Yeats’s nephew, if you wanted. Trevor something or other. He lives over in Darton, and I guess the two of them were seeing each other for quite a while.” Lorraine’s grin was a mix of curiosity and mischief. “If you’re interested, I can find out if he’s seeing anyone right now. I haven’t heard of it, and usually that’d be a good sign that it isn’t happening, but like I said, Joe’s a bit different. A bit more private than most folks.”
Private was not a good enough excuse for failing to pay attention to his surroundings or, more importantly, failing to pay attention to Mackenzie. But none of that needed to be shared with a woman who clearly gossiped as a way of life. He smiled brightly. “Oh, no, I’m not interested. You know, not like that. I was just curious. I wanted to know what kind of people I’d be doing business with if I had the Suttons do the work on the church.”
“The best kind,” Lorraine said firmly. “You couldn’t do better.”
Lorraine started telling a story about the Suttons helping out some poor family that had lost everything in a house fire—well, of course the whole community had chipped in, but the Suttons had done the biggest part—and some people might say that’s because they’re blood, but really, they’d be third cousins at best—because it was Susan Sutton’s grandmother? Yes, grandmother, Maggie Johnson—she was from out in Newfoundland, back before it was even part of Canada, and she’d carried that accent with her for her whole life….
Mackenzie tuned out. Joe Sutton was openly gay. And Mackenzie was a model, for Christ’s sake. Maybe his career hadn’t quite taken off, but that was because Nathan hadn’t really liked it. He hadn’t been rude enough to try to forbid it, but he’d be grumpy for days before and after Mackenzie went out of town for even a couple days, and there just weren’t enough shoots in Toronto to propel someone into the modeling elite. The first time Mackenzie turned down a New York job, Nathan had leased him a silver Mini convertible as a reward. Mackenzie had been thrilled by the symbol of Nathan’s affection and by the adorable new wheels. But being a good boyfriend had made it a bit difficult to be a good model. So, no, it wasn’t as if Mackenzie had set the world on fire as a model. Still, he must be a tastier piece of ass than Nancy Whoever’s nephew!
Mackenzie forced himself to pay a bit more attention to Lorraine’s chatter, but the biggest part of his brain was still focused elsewhere. He was not going to be ignored by some desperate hick pretending to be a damn cowboy. No. Joe Sutton was about to get his world rocked. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” he muttered to himself, and then he smiled when Lorraine shot him a quizzical glance. “I’ve got to go,” he said without trying to explain. “But thanks so much for catching me up on all this. You’ve given me a lot to think about.”
He beat a hasty retreat inside and went to sit in the sanctuary of the church. A lot to think about. And a lot of things to do, things actually based around the important points of building a successful business and keeping himself out of the poorhouse. But his mind kept drifting back to the tall cowboy who’d told him he had bats in his belfry. And then ignored him. What the hell was Joe Sutton’s problem?
The Fall by Kat Sherwood
Blurb: Every relationship leaves something behind. Dumped by his sugar daddy, part-time model Scott Mackenzie somehow ends up owning an abandoned church in rural Ontario. He dreams of using it for gay weddings, even if he’ll never have one of his own.
Joe Sutton is trying to keep his family together after his parents’ deaths. Between the family ranch, his brother’s construction company, and commitments around town, he doesn’t have time for a relationship. But Mackenzie is hard to ignore.
As both men fight their growing attraction, challenges to Mackenzie’s business threaten their relationship. If he can’t make it work, he’ll have to crawl back to the city in defeat. But the only solution involves risking the ranch Joe loves, and each man has to decide how much he’ll sacrifice for the other.