But life interfered and schedules didn’t mesh and then S.A. Meade – Sue – got busy. As in she connected with the marketplace in a meaningful way. For that reason, peeps, I’ll be asking her the kind of questions I’d generally save for seasoned novelists.
Jan: Welcome from your home in deepest Wiltshire, Sue! I always believed you’d sell because of the quality of your writing and your voice, but it took a while to find the intersection of your gifts and commerce. Can you explain?
SA Meade: Hi and thanks for having me here.
It did take a while! I’ve been diddling about with writing for years but really only got serious back in 2008. I had an idea for a historical novel set in England during the First World War. I did some research, found some characters and wrote the first draft in about 3 months. Then, because I loved the place I’d created so much, I wrote another one set during World War Two. That one was better. By then I’d seriously caught the writing bug. The WW1 book tanked with agents and I can’t say I blame them, it isn’t very good at all and it’s too long. The WW2 book is still hanging in there. I’m fixing it up or I will if I have some time.
As for ending up writing m/m erotic romance – it was an accident. I took up a challenge on the Absolute Write Forum to write a thousand word scene in a completely different POV and perspective than I normally would write. As my previous books were narrated by female MCs, in close third, it made sense to write a scene from a man’s POV in first. It was a scene where the narrator’s best friend confesses that he’s loved him for years. They have loads of frantic sex. It was a lot of fun to write. Not only that, but people liked it! After that, the characters just wouldn’t leave me alone.
Why do you think you found your commercial voice when writing m/m erotica versus historical fiction? Specifically, was there anything different you brought to the page?
In short, I have no idea!! I love writing from a man’s POV. I love men and I love trying to get into their heads. It’s a challenge to create new characters and try to make them real. I’m most comfortable writing my m/m stories in first person because then I really have to work harder to find the character’s personality and make it realistic.
Many authors have persisting themes or questions they return to recurrently to examine during their writing. What questions or themes tug at you? Why those in particular?
I never set out to write with a particular theme in mind. The theme always seems accidental and I’ll finish a story and …boom…there’s a theme I hadn’t even considered when I started. I seem to have gravitated to the hurt/comfort side of things. I love writing angst, I just adore it. Having said that, when I start writing, I have characters and I have their occupations and that’s about it. I really struggle with plots. I’m not comfortable with writing ‘action’-type stuff, so hurt/comfort seems to be my fallback because I can really play with the characters and make them very real. We’ve all had our hurts and I know when I read books with that theme, I think “This story works for me because I’ve been there.”
One of your strengths is a voice which evokes a sense of yearning, regret, poignancy. Because you write in first person or deep third, I imagine you’re feeling the emotions alongside your character. When it’s time to set the writing aside, do you find it difficult to transition to the real world? Have any tricks you can share?
I don’t find it hard to crawl back into the real world at all. I seem to be able to compartmentalize things. I can wallow in angst while I’m writing and then talk to my husband about his working day, or nag my son to do his homework. There are no tricks, it’s just the way I’m wired.
Many writers would envy your productivity. Can you describe your process? And you seem to spend little or no time fretting about your worthiness. How do you cope so well?
I hinted at it above. The characters always come first. I get a sense of their personalities and what they do for a living. Their occupations tend to point me towards a vague plot. I have a setting, a beginning and where I want the story to end. I may have a few key scenes scattered through the book and so I start writing and use those key scenes as milestones. I never outline, although I may jot down a few bullet points and I never write out of sequence.
I do fret all the time about my worthiness. Whenever I submit a story to Rebecca, my editor, I’m always afraid that she’ll come back and say “Ewww, no. This doesn’t work.” Or… “This is nowhere near as good as other stuff you’ve written.” It hasn’t happened so far. Once I’ve submitted a story I try and put it out of my head and get on with the next one. It doesn’t always work that way and I have to busy myself in other ways like cleaning the house or playing Angry Birds.
We’ve all heard stories about erotic-romance writers who are vilified by their workplace, neighbors, and communities. Has that been true for you? If not, any idea why not?
I live in a small village. My husband is far more sociable than I am and enjoys a pint or two at the local pubs. He’s told everyone he knows what I do. Absolutely no one is horrified or disgusted. Most are mildly interested and some are downright fascinated. When people ask me what kind of books I write, I confess I can feel my cheeks burn and it’s hard for me to find a ‘gentile’ way of saying what I write about. The best I can come up with is “I write erotic romances about men who love each other very, very much.”
You were nominated for not one, but three Goodreads awards for Stolen Summer. Obviously that means good things for you in terms of sales, but I have a sense the nominations had personal significance. Can you elaborate?
I belong to the M/M Readers Group on Goodreads. It’s a HUGE group, over five thousand members, most of whom are voracious readers of the genre. They know what they like and don’t like. I never expected to be nominated because there are so many good and well-known writers out there who’ve written great books. Stolen Summer was nominated for: Best Debut Book; Best Hurt/Comfort Theme and Best Gay/Out for you Theme.
The Best Debut Book nomination blew me away. I mean, my mucky little book is in the same category as Damon Suede’s ‘Hot Head’ which came third in the 2011 Goodreads Readers’ Poll in the Best Romance Category. So to be considered in that kind of company is a real honour. I didn’t win in any of the categories but I really don’t mind at all!
Sue, tell us about the premise for Stolen Summer?
Well, as I said above, it all grew out of that one scene. It’s basically about a journalist, Evan, who has a bit of a rootless existence. He has a girlfriend, but more out of habit than anything else. When his best friend, Colin, confesses that he’s always loved him, it’s something of a relief to Evan who’s been wrestling with impure thoughts about Colin. He’s more than happy to explore where things could go with Colin. Their relationship is fairly physical but they’re very comfortable and easy with each other because of that friendship they always had. Then things go bad when Evan runs into a spot of trouble in Pakistan. The rest of the story is about Colin giving unquestioning support and unconditional love to a damaged Evan and how their relationship is affected by the aftermath of that summer.
And you have more publications coming out with Total E Bound this year. Tell us about those?
Orion Rising released this week. I like to tell people it’s a low rent, m/m version of ‘The Day after Tomorrow’, without the big budget or special effects. It’s about a statistician and a scientist, there’s back-stabbing politics, bad weather and lots of sex…an awful lot of sex. It’s about half the length of Stolen Summer, but don’t let that put you off! I’m so in love with the cover art I can’t stop staring at it.
Mourning Jack comes out in six weeks. It’s a contemporary m/m. It’s another hurt/comfort theme novel but there’s also a lot of talk about food because the main character, Ade, is a chef. When it’s released, I’m thinking of doing a series of recipe posts on my blog, to tie in with the dishes Ade prepares in the book.
Any sense of where you want your career to be in five years’ time? What would success look like for you?
I’d like to have a nice back list, a long trail of rave reviews and regular readers. I’d love it if the release of one of my books generated some ‘Oooh, S.A.Meade’s latest is out!’ vibe.
Let’s see what we can do about that.
Peeps, if you would like to be eligible to receive a copy Sue’s latest release, the e-novella Orion Rising, answer this question in the comment section below:
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