My guest today is a man I have known for over a decade – I even used to beta read for him way back in the dim and distant past before his first runaway successes in M/M romance.
Elin: Can you tell your readers a little about yourself? For instance, do you have to have a day job as well as being a writer?
BG: I have an Evil Day Job! OMG! I’ll write a novel about the place someday. Let’s leave it at that and talk good stuff. I live in Kansas City—that’s Missouri and not Kansas—with my husband. We’ve been together over fifteen years, two of them legally married. I have a grown daughter and two wonderful little dogs (my daughter is pretty darned wonderful as well).
I love to read, just about every genre you can name, including fantasy, horror, science fiction, adventure, mysteries and of course, romance! I came to the last late though. My Mom read Harlequin and Silhouette Romances all my life, but I never read them. It was as an adult that a friend introduced me to a wonderful book called A Knight in Shining Armor—a time travel romance novel—by Jude Deveraux, and boy, I was hooked!
Growing up and reading all those genres, especially literature, had a heavy influence on my romance writing. I am a pure romantic, believe me. But I come to romance as the natural life of the novel rather than the Harlequin angle. Not that there is a darn thing wrong with those romances. They give so much hope. But I’m ignorant of the formula. It means some people love my stories, and some wish for a little less…angst! LOL!
I also write about gay men. I write what I know. My gay men do the things that gay men do. And again, sometimes people love that, and some wish for a little bit more…Harlequinism! LOL!
Elin: You’ll have to define Harlequinism for me some time. I’ve always assumed that gay men do things like pay their taxes, walk the dog and do laundry, in between, in the stories I read, being incredibly heroic under trying circumstances. Maybe we read different types of book? What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?
BG: Two books actually (I do that a lot). Janet Evanovich’s Plum Spooky, a very fun mystery, and John Inman’s most recent Belladonna Arm’s novel, Ben and Shiloh. Delightful! Loving it! I don’t have a lot of time to read between writing and working all the hours I do at my Evil Day Job, but I have discovered Stephen King’s advice is absolutely true. “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.” So I find time to read. Reading has made me the writer I am today.
Elin: 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?
BG: With each book I write, I make what I called a “concordance.” As I write, I jot down the car and its color, the dog’s name, etc. I learned a long time ago I had to do that. Otherwise I made all kinds of mistakes. Once a character was an only child in the first chapter and had a sister in chapter nineteen. We caught in the galley weeks before it went to print! Learned my lesson there.
And with Winter Heart being a part of a four book series—Seasons of Love—and with each book being quite thick, I had to keep extensive notes. There was a lot to keep track of. And I still forgot stuff. I am thankful for beta readers with minds like steel traps!
Elin: Did you find it hard to maintain character voice and keep it true over the whole series. Especially bearing in mind that it’s several years since book one came out?
BG: You know it really didn’t. I mean, they are all pretty distinctive. I forgot a few of their little quibbles or gestures (who was it that waggled his eyebrows and who was it that could raise only one) but I would often go and read the first chapter of the preceding books and that is all it took. Each book of the series begins with what the four best friends call “Porch Night.” It is the night that no matter how busy they are, they promise to never miss getting together. They carry on and camp it up and have a general good time. Reading that would always toss me right into character with a snap. And the more I wrote about them, even though it has been over two years since I wrote that first book, the books are thick. I really came to know them. It was a pleasure to keep going back to them. And I hope it is for the reader too!
Elin: Heroes are great, and they ar what the majority of readers are reading for, but I have to admit to a great fondness for secondary characters. You can tell a lot about a hero from how he treats people he isn’t hot for! Which of the secondary characters in your series is your favourite?
BG: That’s a hard one. Because quite a few of those secondary characters later wind up being the love interest of a main character’s, making them main characters as well. For instance, the young Samoan named Peni who is a friend of Scott’s in the first book, Spring Affair, winds up becoming the love interest of Asher in the third book, Autumn Changes.
Then there are characters that I create originally more as tertiary (or do they create themselves?) that really do take on a life all their own. For instance, Blue—one of the “bad dates” in my novella Bianca’s Plan—has wound up showing up over and over again. He insists! I’ve come to love the little guy, and I’ve gotten quite a few requests to write his story.
Oh! And I adore Peter Wagner. He first showed up in The Boy Who Came in from the Cold, and he’s popped up several times since. He has been in my head since I was about eighteen and it was wonderful when he finally found himself in print. God, he holds a special place in my heart. I can’t wait for him to show up again.
Elin: I think Peter was a strong and benign presence in the first story you showed me, way back in 2003!!
Villains are incredibly important in fiction, too, since they challenge the main protagonists and give them something to contend with beyond the tension of a developing relationship. But there are all kinds of villains besides the mainstays of M/M romance – evil exes or scheming, predatory women. Your heroes may have to contend with the cruel sea, a serial killer, society itself or your hero may have inner demons that threaten his happy ending. What sort of villains do you prize?
BG: When this question started, Howard leapt to my mind. He was certainly a villainous presence in Wyatt’s life through my Seasons of Love series. But by the time of my new novel, Winter Heart, he is mostly gone. But then you finished your question and it turned very interesting indeed. Yes! The villain doesn’t need to be a specific person, or even a human at all. In Winter Heart small town life is a villain. A crazy father. Religion, when it turns wrong. Fear. Sickness. And a blizzard. And in the long run, that’s the villains I prefer. Because most of the time, when the villain is human—they don’t perceive themselves that way. And they can change. And that is what I find very interesting indeed.
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?
BG: I don’t want to talk about something that I am actually writing, but I can tell you what you can expect to see from me next. For instance, a few years ago I wrote a novella called Trust Me. I love that story, but… It wasn’t what I wanted. I was limited by a word count on that book and there was a lot I wanted to do and say that I didn’t get to. When the publisher that bought that story from me went out of business—and that was a sad day—I was very pleased when Dreamspinner Press picked it up. But more than that, they gave me the word count I originally wanted. I didn’t think that story was bad, but I was very happy that I got to metamorphize it into the book I had always wanted to write. Now it’s called Do You Trust Me? and I am very proud of it!
Before that you will see my very first co-authored story which is coming out for Christmas. It’s called Mele Kalikimaka and I wrote it with an up and coming young author named Noah Willoughby. He’s going to be someone to watch out for. The whole process went surprisingly smoothly and I can’t wait to see what people think.
And then after that? Why don’t be surprised if you see a little novel called Blue!
Elin: I remember beta reading Trust Me. I’m glad you had the chance to expand it. Now, could we please have an excerpt of something?
BG: You sure can! In the following scene we see Wyatt get an unexpected call from his sister where he finds out his past is sneaking up behind him….
Wyatt wasn’t home a half hour when his cell phone rang. When he saw who was calling, he froze. It was one of his sister’s two annual phone calls. He took a deep breath before he answered it. “Feliz Navidad,” he said cheerfully.
“Merry Christmas to you too, big brother.”
“Thank you, little sister.” He closed his eyes. The familiar conglomerate of emotions were swirling through him: love, hurt, loyalty, shame…. It was always this way.
“And how are you doing today?” she asked. Her voice was cheerful-as usual. Seemingly genuine. And despite everything, he believed she was being authentic. They’d been nearly inseparable as kids, and surely that was what really mattered. Not what came later.
“I’m pretty good,” he answered, deciding to tell her how he felt in this moment, and not the general feelings that had ruled over him the last few months. “Just got back from Sloan’s house. He and Max had me over for Christmas dinner. You should see the T-shirts they got me.”
Which she wouldn’t approve of, but what the shit.
“You mean your… Howard didn’t make his big dinner this year?”
There it was. Already. But at least she’d said his name. It was more than his parents had done-when they still spoke to him. They. Meaning her. His mother. His father hadn’t spoken to him in, what? Ten years? When his old man had said he’d been right all along. That Wyatt’s evil ways had led him to hellfire. To homosexuality. And worse. Thinking that he could find love with another man.
Might as well get it over with. Get it done.
“I’m-” His throat locked up.
It wasn’t going to be that easy.
“I’m… I’m not with Howard anymore,” he managed and found himself once more wrestling his grief back down into its place deep inside that room he’d made for it.
Wyatt heard a small intake of breath from the other end of the phone. He didn’t know if he really heard it or if it was just his imagination.
“I…. Wyatt, I….” Then a moment of quiet. Because what was she supposed to say? She was sorry? Because she wouldn’t be, would she? She wouldn’t be allowed to be. But then she surprised him. “Wyatt, I’m so sorry. Are you okay? How long has it been?”
“A couple of months,” he said, his voice miraculously not trembling. “He left me.” Kicked me out is what he did.
“Why didn’t you call?”
Why hadn’t he called? Really? “And hear you say, ‘Well maybe now you can find a nice lady and settle down and have a family’?”
“Oh, Wyatt.” She sighed. “Like that’s ever going to happen.” Long pause while Wyatt tried to figure out what to say to that. Then just before he could: “Although nothing’s impossible through our Lord.”
“Oh really, Wendy?” Wyatt laughed. It wasn’t a feel-good laugh. How many nights had he cried himself to sleep begging God to make him straight? Hundreds? And when He hadn’t done what Wyatt had prayed for, it was the final straw. It was what made him finished with his family’s religion forever. “Don’t even think it.” After all, you knew I was gay before I did. Which wasn’t entirely true. She was just the first to say it out loud.
Another sigh. Then she asked, “So is Sloan your new b-boyfriend?”
B-boyfriend? She could hardly say it. And she was the one who had thought it was so cool to have a gay brother. And could she be his best “person” if he got married? And wouldn’t it be hil-arious when their parents found out? “You’re supposed to carry on the family name,” she had said.
As it turned out, it hadn’t been hil-arious at all. Wyatt had always known that. It was part of why it had taken him as long as it had to admit to himself he was gay.
“Sloan is just a friend.” Well, hardly just a friend. “He’s my best friend in the world.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” she said. “We all need best friends. What did that movie say that Mom liked so much? In a cold world, you need your friends to keep you warm? Or something like that?”
The Big Chill. Except his mother only watched it when his father was out of town and couldn’t walk in on her. She wasn’t quite old enough to have been a teenager in the sixties. But her older sisters were, and they had played the music on their record players when she was little. She’d lived the sixties vicariously through them.”
“The Big Chill,” he said aloud. Then asked about her husband—the bastard—and her kids.
“Oh, goodness, Mary! She just got straight As. Can you believe it? A child of mine? Miss C Average Wendy Dolan? And my kid is making straight As?”
“That’s nice, Wendy.”
She sighed. “And then there’s Norman Jr. He’s in and out of trouble. Second grade and a terror. Sometimes I don’t know what we’re going to do with him.”
“You’ll think of something.” She was born to be a mom, if not a wife. And why wasn’t she mentioning her husband? “And Norman Sr?”
“Ummm… Norman is Norman, you know? His job at the dam is stressful. There was so much rain last year, and the lake was higher than it had been in years. It’s calmed down a little with winter, but you know….”
Wyatt didn’t know. Didn’t have a clue. He’d toured the dam, of course. What with Mountain Home, where he went to school, being so close to one of the biggest lakes in the country, there was no way to avoid school field trips there. Plus the fact that the little town where he grew up was so close he could walk to it. But what the workers actually did there had always been sort of a mystery to him. So no, he didn’t know what Norman did. Then there was the fact that he’d never met the man. He hadn’t met her kids either. And he figured he probably never would.
“He’s leading the men’s prayer group on Thursdays, and he’s applied to be a deacon. I’m sure he’ll get it. I can’t imagine them turning him down.”
“That’s nice,” Wyatt said, not thinking so in the least. The only thing he could think of that sounded worse than being a deacon in the Baptist church he was raised in was maybe being the guy who drove that truck that vacuum-sucked the shit out of the porta potties at Camp.
“He really likes it, Wyatt. He says it gives his life purpose. Oh, and now he’s doing outreach at the prison in Calico Rock. He goes once a week and leads a prayer group there too. He says it’s a wonderful thing to help those men turn from their criminal ways and seek the Lord.”
Wyatt shifted from one foot to the other and found himself thinking about eggnog and whiskey. Was he tipsy enough to listen to any more of this? He went to the kitchen to see what he had to drink. “I….” Wyatt coughed. “I would imagine that adds to his stress, though.” He looked around the kitchen. Oh, thank the gods. Some tequila was on the floor next to the stove. But what did he have to drink it with?
“I think it relieves his stress actually,” Wendy said.
“All that soul-saving,” Wyatt managed without choking. He didn’t have anything in the refrigerator that would go with tequila. Certainly not milk or the eggnog. Did the eggnog have whiskey? He didn’t think so. Did he have any Country Time lemonade?
“Yes,” Wendy said, and then there was a long pause.
Yes? Yes, what? He couldn’t remember what he’d asked her. Wyatt found a couple of single packets of Crystal Light pink lemonade. It would have to do. In the meantime he opened the bottle and took a slug of the tequila. He winced, shuddered. Gods! Blech! He coughed. Shuddered again. Cleared his throat. Began to make a glass of the Crystal Light. Tried to build up the courage to ask the question.
Thankfully Wendy took that out of his hands. “Momma and Daddy came over for Christmas dinner.”
“Wow,” Wyatt said. “You guys didn’t go over there?”
“Ahh…. No, Wyatt. Not this year. Mom helped, but Daddy…. Well….”
Well what? Wyatt wondered.
“Daddy’s been a little… funny lately.”
“Funny?” Wyatt asked. The last thing he had ever considered his father to be was funny.
“Well, they think he had a little stroke.”
Wyatt jerked. Almost knocked his glass over. “Wh-what?”
“A little one,” Wendy said quickly.
Wyatt’s heart was rushing. “A little one?”
“Yeah. He…. Well, the other day he got up and almost fell over. He said everything was… tilted. He was having trouble walking. And he was having a little trouble talking. Slurring his words, you know? Mom wanted to take him to the hospital, but he wasn’t having any truck with that. Until he did fall, that is, and we insisted. They couldn’t find anything at first, but then they thought he might have had a very minor stroke.”
Wyatt found he could hardly move. Strokes. Were they ever minor?
“His doctor said he should have gone to the hospital right away because there are drugs they can give you to help, but it’s got to be in the first three or four hours. But as Daddy said, I don’t know what good that would have done since they weren’t even sure he had one.”
Wyatt shook himself. “Is-is he okay now?” He reached for the tequila and added a good bit to his glass, put the bottle down and took a hefty drink before stirring. It was a mistake and he began to cough. Whoa! Strong!
“Anyway, that’s why they came to our place. Norman was a little mad at first. Until Momma said she’d already bought the turkey and everything so he didn’t need to buy anything. I just ran to Damview and picked up everything from her place. We didn’t have to buy anything except some Stove Top. You know Norman likes that better than the homemade stuff.”
Wyatt didn’t know that either and thought it sounded crazy. How could anyone like that boxed shit when they could have his momma’s stuffing?
He quite suddenly found himself missing that stuffing, even though he did a fairly good knock-off. He’d even made a change or two through the years: sage from Sloan’s mother’s garden and a can of black olives, chopped up real fine. Howard had loved it, anyway. And what the fuck was he doing thinking about black olives?
“H-how did he act?” Wyatt asked her suddenly. Gods. Why was his heart doing that little dance?
Unbidden he saw his father-clearly, as if he were right there—standing over him. Tall. Hair and thick mustache going gray. Those intense blue eyes-like they were chipped from a glacier. And how that mouth could smile… or frown. You didn’t want to see the frown.
“He seemed fine, though he got tired fast. He wanted to help drain the turkey-you know he always does that for Mamma—but with Norman here, there was no sense in that.”
“No. Of course not.” Wyatt took another drink of his pseudo cocktail-drank it slower this time. But it was a big drink.
“I think we can all breathe a deep sigh of relief,” Wendy said in seeming conclusion. “God is taking care of things. He always does.” But why didn’t she sound like she believed what she was saying? “At least now Daddy will pay attention. Dr. Shelvy insisted that he get to the hospital immediately if any symptoms reoccur. Counseled us all on what to watch for. Gave us literature and everything.”
“That….” Wyatt’s voice caught. Dammit! “Th-that’s good.”
“He’ll be fine, Wyatt. I’m sure he will be. Trust in Jesus.”
Trust in Jesus? Had she really said that? She wanted him to trust in Jesus? Wendy was blind and deaf and who knew what else. She would never learn. Never. Never see him for who he was. Chose not to.
And now the tears wanted to come. Fuck that!
Wyatt picked up the bottle again and took a swallow. He shuddered but didn’t cough. It didn’t stop the tears, though. At least these were caused by the booze, he told himself.
“What?” Wendy called out.
“Yes. I’m on the phone. Yes.”
Wait. She wasn’t talking to him.
And then she was. “Look, Wyatt. I need to go.” And, “Yes, it’s my brother.”
Wyatt closed his eyes and leaned heavily against the kitchen counter.
“Wyatt, I’m sorry. I have to cut this short. Merry Christmas, big brother.”
Wyatt sighed, forced back his body’s traitorous desire to cry. “And a Happy New Year, little sister.”
“Yes, Wyatt. And that too.” Then, with no preamble, she hung up.
Wyatt stood there a long time without moving. Then he made a second cocktail with the last of the Crystal Light and took the full glass and the one he’d already drunk half of and went back to the living room.
He watched Friends. The episode called, “The One with Phoebe’s Dad,” and let the six people he was getting to know sweep him away. Who knew? Maybe Chandler and Joey would finally get it on. That would be hot!
That night he didn’t dream about Howard.
Wyatt wound up staying up just past midnight, having watched eight episodes that first night. They made him laugh. He needed to laugh. It was strangely better than beating off, and didn’t make him feel lonely when he was done.
Tonight he had just started watching a Christmas episode, “The One with Phoebe’s Dad”—second season, third?—when the doorbell rang. He looked at the front door in surprise—Phoebe was just commenting about the size of Ugly Naked Guy’s Christmas balls—then shrugged and got up to see who it was.
Seasons of Love: Book Four
For over ten years, Wyatt Dolan defined himself as the lover of Howard Wallace. Howard made sure Wyatt’s self-worth depended on that role. So when Howard dumps him, he is lost at sea in a storm without a rudder. If it wasn’t for his supportive friends, he doesn’t know what he’d do. Finally, after a series of disasters, he escapes to Camp Sanctuary—a sacred place to him—where he can be alone, try to put his past behind him, and find a new direction for his life.
Kevin Owens is a lonely man. He is very intelligent—several apps he created have gone on to make him a comfortable living—but he is also quite shy and is uncomfortable making conversation. The death of his dear friend and former lover after a long illness leaves him grieving, confused, and adrift. Then a dream guides him to Camp Sanctuary, only to find that the one cabin with a wood-burning stove has already been reserved. And worse, by a man he’s had a secret crush on for years—Wyatt Dolan.
When a snowstorm knocks out power at the Camp, Wyatt and Kevin must share the same cabin to stay warm, and very soon, magickal things begin to happen.
B.G. is a novelist and blogger. Every day last year he made an entry in his blog, “365 Days of Silver,” where he found something every day to be grateful for. You can find it right here: https://365daysofsilver.wordpress.com/
B.G. loves romance, comedies, fantasy, science fiction and even horror—as far as he is concerned, as long as the stories are character driven and entertaining, it doesn’t matter the genre. He has gone to conventions since he was fourteen years old and has been lucky enough to meet many of his favorite writers. He has made up stories since he was child; it is where he finds his joy.
In the nineties, he wrote for gay magazines but stopped because the editors wanted all sex without plot. “The sex is never as important as the characters,” he says. “Who cares what they are doing if we don’t care about them?” Excited about the growing male/male romance market, he began writing again. Gay men are what he knows best, after all. He submitted his first story in years and was thrilled when it was accepted in four days.
“Leap, and the net will appear” is his personal philosophy and his message to all. “It is never too late,” he states. “Pursue your dreams. They will come true!”
Visit his website and his author blog at http://bthomaswriter.wordpress.com/ where you can contact him. He loves to hear from readers and is always quick to respond. You can also find his Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bgthomaswriter