Hi, I’m Pat Henshaw, writing to you from Northern California, where my Foothills Pride novella series is set. I’m a retired English composition instructor who’s had a lot of interesting jobs during my life, including reference librarian at a number of libraries, promotions person for a PBS TV/radio station in the Washington, DC, area, and book reviewer for a number of print and online venues.
My contemporary gay romance series is set in the fictional town of Stone Acres, California, and is based on a number of foothills communities where I know people. Even though the books are serial in that they all use the same location and many of the same characters, each book can be read as a stand-alone title. In October, the third in the series will be published by Dreamspinner Press, and in December, a totally unrelated story will be included in Dreamspinner’s Advent short story anthology.
Now, on with the interview
Can you tell me a little more about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
After what sometimes felt like centuries of teaching English composition at the junior college level and grading more essays than I can even imagine counting, I retired a few years back. At the time, I had to have a kidney operation—in which a very cute and very young-looking doctor cut me open, took out my kidney, scraped off threatening growth, put the kidney back, and sewed me up—before I could pursue my writing dreams. It took two years for me to completely recover. But after I did, I started writing. I gave myself this past year to get one thing published. As of the end of the year, I will have published four pieces—three novellas in the Foothills Pride series and a short story in a holiday anthology. I feel as if I’ve been very blessed and very lucky.
When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy?
I make dollhouse miniatures in quarter inch scale. Quarter inch means when I make buildings, furniture, and decorative items to complete the buildings I use a quarter inch to equal a foot in reality. This means the structures are usually around 6 inches or so tall. The ice cream cones I’m making these days look like they’re made from seed beads, but they’re actually molded from air-dry clay. What intrigues me about quarter inch scale is that it relies a lot on illusion to make the viewer believe the object is real. It’s not as pinpoint accurate as one inch scale can be, but more smoke and mirrors—a lot like creating a fictional story actually.
What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?
I just finished Sutphin Boulevard by new author Santino Hassell, which I highly recommend. In fact, I’m eagerly awaiting the next one in his series. I also loved Heidi Cullinan’s Lonely Hearts in her excellent Love Lessons series. I recommend it as well as her Dance with Me, a go-to read for me, which I use when I’m feeling down and need something to cheer me up. I’d also recommend new author Roan Parrish, whose first novel, In the Middle of Somewhere, I just loved. I wish I’d written all of these books.
When writing series, what measures do you take to keep track of those annoying little details – eye colour, car type, name of ex-spouse’s dog – that are so easy to drop into text and so easy to forget about?
Funny you should ask this since I’m currently grappling with it. I wrote my first book, What’s in a Name?, with no idea about writing another about the characters or creating a series. But after it was accepted, one of the characters, out-and-proud designer Fredi Zimmer, cried out to have his own story. So I said okay to Fredi and wrote Redesigning Max, which I submitted and was pleased to have accepted.
Well, like Fredi, a character in Redesigning Max cried out to have his own story told. I loved building contractor Abe Behr from Fredi’s book and wrote his story in Behr Facts. I hope you’re keeping up with the progression here and have noted that other than make a list of characters’ names, I kept no records at all.
After the Behr book was accepted, I panicked. I’d created a community and had made very few notes other than a name list, but I was working on the fourth book, celebrity chef Adam de Leon’s story, When Adam Fell.
Fortunately, my editor, the marvelous Erica Orrick, came to my rescue and sent me her series notes list. At least I had a start to making sense of the fictional town of Stone Acres, California. A couple of weeks ago, I sat down and drew a map of the community and the buildings I’d mentioned as well as those characters I’m writing about in the fifth book in the series.
At least I’m a little more organized now. But if readers find discrepancies, know that the mistakes are all mine and not my editors’ faults.
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. What sort of villains are in your series?
Unfortunately, in my books, the villains are based on real people, the prejudiced people we know and sometimes we love. Coming out and being gay seem to be magnets for bigots and homophobes. And while I’d love to be able to create colorful and fictional villains based on imagination, the real ones are much more harmful and need to be unmasked for who they are.
I’m particularly repulsed by two groups of haters: those whose job is to nurture and protect young men, people like their parents, grandparents, and other family members; and those who say they are friends of the young men prior to their coming out and then can’t abide them afterward as if the young gay men are not the same people they were moments before.
So my stories are horribly contemporary and don’t feature strange creatures or situations who are battling the protagonists, but the forces that make up the world in which we live today. I think it’s important to hold the looking glass up to what’s actually going on around us, so that everyone can recognize and stop the villains.
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.
Oh, no, I love to share what I’m working on. I just sent the fourth Foothills Pride novella, When Adam Fell, the story about celebrity chef Adam de Leon, who’s in all three previous books as a minor character. In it, Adam left the love of his life in San Francisco when his lover got strung out on drugs and started selling all their belongings to feed his habit. Years later when the lover turns up at Adam’s door, Adam must decide whether his lover is clean—and they possibly have a life together—or not.
After sending Adam off, I’m currently writing the fifth in the Foothills Pride series, tentatively called Cookie, about Adam’s sous chef, John, a young man who’s five foot two and has come from a horrific past in San Francisco. John’s villains come calling and try to derail his romance with nurseryman Zack during the Christmas season. I’m not excited about the tentative title, so anyone who can suggest a better one will have a heartfelt thanks on the dedication page.
Could we please have an excerpt of something?
Absolutely. Here’s the setup and a tiny excerpt from my first book, What’s in a Name?, told from the viewpoint character barista Jimmy Patterson:
What’s in a Name?
“Okay. How’s this for a deal?” He put down his knife and fork and leaned into the table, stabbing me with his eyes. “I’ll give you a week to guess my name. Seven chances. Every day you can ask a few questions, then come up with what you think my name is. If you’re right, I’ll buy the best bike for you and teach you how to ride it.”
“And if I’m wrong?”
“You owe me a kiss.” He leaned back in satisfaction.
“A kiss? One measly kiss?”
“Oh, I don’t want the measly ones. I mean a real, God of Love kiss. Something to set my ass back a couple a notches.”
Now I really laughed. Right. Me, giving him a humdinger of a kiss? Right. Who were we kidding? Oh, well. Didn’t matter because I was going to accept his challenge.
Stonewall was chaos when I got there. Guy and another bartender were mixing drinks as fast as they could. I squeezed in at the end of the bar near the hatchway and sat on an abandoned stool there.
I didn’t think Guy had seen me come in, so when there was a lull in the frenetic pace and he was nearly within arm’s reach, I called out, “What’s a guy gotta do to get a drink in this place?”
Guy looked up, grinned at me, and yelled back, “Fuck the bartender.”
A slim man sitting next to me perked up, gave Guy the once-over, and yelled, “Okay!”
Guy’s startled gaze met mine, and we broke out laughing.
The man next to me sighed and slumped over his beer. “I knew it was too good to be true,” he mumbled.
I patted him on the shoulder.
“Maybe next time,” I commiserated with him.
“Right,” he answered glumly.
And here’s a short snippet from the second book, Redesigning Max, told from viewpoint character, the out-and-proud designer Fredi Zimmer:
I’d spied the much-too-handsome Max around town a time or two, but hadn’t known his name. If Courtney knew him, he must be someone prominent in the community. I hadn’t lived here long enough and hadn’t taken time from my busy schedule to explore the local business scene. If nothing else, this job would let me break into the local hierarchy. Yay, me.
I stopped by my banana-yellow hybrid. “I’ll follow you. Which one’s yours?”
He stood by my car, looked down at it, then back at me with a slight smile upending his lips. The corners of his eyes crinkled, and his dimples peeked out from behind his mustache. His cuteness factor went off the charts. Little Fredi wanted to jump him right there on the sidewalk.
“Uh, better ride with me,” he purred. “The road’d kill that thing.” He flicked a finger at my car. “I’m over there.” He pointed to a monster truck.
Well, howdy. I’d never ridden in one of them before, but I’d certainly fantasized about what could be done in them. This would be a new experience and definitely enrich my bedtime fantasies.
After hauling myself as delicately as I could into Max’s behemoth truck and fastening the seat belt, I looked around, scoping out all the nooks and crannies where someone could climb over the driver or the driver could grind into the passenger. Yeah, monster trucks had it all.
With a shake of my head while Max fastened his seat belt, I rebooted and settled into interior designer mode. I’d done so many vacation home makeovers it was second nature. Somebody says “I want to remodel” and the professional me usually takes over my mind and body. Today? Not so easy staying on track.
What’s in a Name?
Barista Jimmy Patterson thinks it’s a good idea to get rip-roaring drunk on his birthday after he’s dumped by his boyfriend. When the burly owner of Stonewall’s Saloon rescues Jimmy, the night starts to look up.
Now Jimmy just wants to know the bartender’s first name since he’s worn a different name tag every time Jimmy’s seen him. “Guy” Stone gives Jimmy seven guesses, one for each night he takes Jimmy out on a date.
While Jimmy’s trying to come up with his name, he’s distracted by the destruction of his coffee shop and what looks more and more like a hate crime.
Renowned interior designer Fredi Zimmer is surprised when outdoorsman Max Greene, owner of Greene’s Outdoors, hires Fredi to revamp his rustic cabin in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Fredi is an out-and-proud Metro male whose contact with the outdoors is from his car to the doorway of the million-dollar homes he remodels, and Max is just too hunky for words.
When Max comes on to Fredi, the designer can’t imagine why. But he’s game to put a little spice into Max’s life, even if it’s just in the colors and fixtures he’ll use to turn Max’s dilapidated cabin into a showplace. Who can blame a guy for adding a little sensual pleasure as he retools Max’s life visually?
Max, for his part, is grateful when Fredi takes him in hand, both metaphorically and literally. Coming out is the most exciting and wonderful time in his life, despite the conservative former friends who think they’re saving him from sliding into hell.
To buy Redesigning Max go to:
Amazon UK – Amazon US – Amazon OZ – B&N
Dreamspinner Press and everywhere eBooks are sold online.
You can follow all Pat’s writing news and more at:
The blog, PatBooked: http://patbooked.blogspot.com
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pat.henshaw.10
On Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6998437.Patois
On Twitter [occasionally]: @PatHenshaw