So Liam, my lovely, here you are again, and with a story published! So...
What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always written various things for as long as I can remember – pen portraits of teachers, poetry, a diary since 1998. However, I got into writing to be published when I was telling my friend Louise about wanting to write a novel, and she just looked at me and said, ‘You should just do it.’ And so I did. That was Best Friends Perfect, the first part of the series will be published by Wilde City Press in spring 2014.
What does it feel like watching your first book fledge and leave the nest?
I didn’t think Christmas Serendipity would be the first thing I’d written to be published, to actually *be published* and for that reason it feels strange. It’s all very new to me, and I’m learning things every day, but I’m fortunate that I’ve know a group of friendly and helpful writers from UK Meet, the RNA’s London chapter, and my local writers group.
Are you character or plot driven? What do you do if one of your characters starts developing at a tangent?
I think I’m a bit of both! Now I’ve written more stories, I’ve revised my original answer to this. I will normally start with an idea about situation, or an event, and have a pretty good idea of the characters for that. Then I will write character biogs in pen – no idea why but that seems to work better than typing – then I get out my trusty A4 paper, post it notes and pencils and plot out the story scene by scene, often moving bits about as I go. If my characters go off at a tangent while I’m actually putting finger to keyboard, I will let him/her, as long as I think it fits with the story’s overall theme/message I’m exploring.
If you were in a tight corner and had to rely on one of your characters to save you, which would it be and why?
From Christmas Serendipity, it would have to be Cathy. With a mobile phone and some internet she could definitely take on the world. I think at this point it’s worth confessing that the character, Cathy is heavily based on one of Charlie’s daughters, Cathy, who I’ve met twice at the UK Meet. I’m very original with choosing names as you can see. I’ve confessed before to both Charlie and Cathy about this. I think Cathy is a great character, and she’s exactly what Christian and David need, when they need it.
If you had no constraints of time and a guarantee of publication, what book would you write?
I would still like to explore how people who are living with HIV & AIDS are treated by friends, colleagues, society in general, as I think this is an area as yet unexplored. Generally as a society in the UK, we seem pretty relaxed about issues which were taboo years ago, but I’m often surprised at how awfully people I’ve spoken to have been treated when they tell others they’re HIV positive. I began to explore this with one of my other novels, but I don’t want to say which one as it gives away the story somewhat.
Is there a classic book you started and simply couldn't finish?
There are many, I’m afraid. I can’t abide Dickens – too much flowery description and not enough dialogue to move things along. Hardy – same as Dickens. I’m sure somewhere when I utter this, a romantic fiction fairy will die or something suitably dramatic, *whispering* but I did try to read Pride & Prejudice, and I really wanted to love it - I’d seen *the* Colin Firth adaptation - and loved it, but I’m afraid I just didn’t get on with the book. *looks around for fiction fairies dropping from perches*
What’s your favourite gay romance/other genre book? And why?
It’s not really a gay romance, but it is gay – I loved Jo Orton’s Diaries. They were perfectly of the time, he writes so well, and also he got up to all sorts. His trips to Morocco with his boyfriend Kenneth Halliwell and their friend Kenneth Williams make for particularly salacious reading. In terms of other genre books, I loved Lace by Shirley Conran, as well as Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susanne. I think if you’re going to read trashy women’s fiction you need to do it unashamedly with both arms open, and the cover proudly showing, which I think I did. I’d read a lot online about both books, so decided to try them.
What's your next project?
I’m working on quite a few different projects at different stages. I’m doing edits of the first Best Friends Perfect book at the moment. I have a fairy tale story, called Frangipani Kisses in an anthology due out 2014. My second novel, And Then That Happened, is with beta readers now, and I will revise and submit that during the early part of 2014. I wrote a story called Guardian Angel for my first Nanowrimo which I will edit and sent to beta readers in early 2014. I also planned another story, called The Wrong Room, while on holiday, so that’s currently at the A4 paper and post it notes stage, waiting for me to write it in 2014.
Thank you for having me, Charlie.
Just before the Christmas holiday, in a snowy small town in England, refugees of Christmas bad luck, handyman, plumber Christian and office worker David find themselves thrown together at miss Organiser, Cathy’s non-family Christmas.
Christian thinks the world has ended as his parents get used to him being gay, and disinvite him to their Christmas. David has just been fired from his waiting job, and is still getting used to the fact that he has dumped him. Although David’s ex was a useless cheating, money grabbing waste of space, he was at least, David’s useless, cheating, money grabbing waste of space. And now David doesn’t even have that. He’s not in the mood for a night out with his best friend, camp Tony, just before Christmas. Instead they retire to Cathy and Tony’s place, to find a quiet Christian.
With Cathy’s organizational skills and enthusiasm, these four spend a non-family Christmas together, making the best of it. Together they drink, eat and play their way through Christmas, surprising each other at how it turns out, and how well they all get to know one another during the short break.
Refugees of serendipity and luck, David and Christian realize that spending the holiday season together may be just what they both needed, when they both needed it. They find that apart from both just escaping from awful relationships, they also have much more in common.
We talked late into the night, moving onto Cathy’s special Christmas spirits. “Only to be drunk at this time of year,” she explained. She appeared with a tray of snowballs—yellow advocaat and lemonade, foaming with a little red cherry perched on top of each one. “This’ll send us to sleep,” she advised.
We took it in turns to throw more wood onto the fire, until we ran out. Cathy announced she was going to bed. She’d made up the spare room for Christian, and she pointed to the sofa in the corner for me.
I looked at her, feeling slightly light-headed from the alcohol, and started to ask if she’d show me how to make it up. Before I could say anything more, somehow she’d managed with just one hand, to turn it into a bed and cover it with perfect duvet and pillows.
“Thanks, Cathy. Night.” I stood up, a little unsteadily.
She kissed my cheek. “Night boys.” And she made her way up the stairs.
Tony followed, waving goodnight to us both.
And then there were two. I’ll admit I did consider, for a brief moment, just following Christian to his room. But I decided he wasn’t that sort of boy, and really, neither was I. So instead, I opted for an awkward goodnight hug/kiss, standing over the remains of the Indian takeaway in the middle of the floor. The gentle glow from the fire and a few candles around the room gave the only light. He kissed my cheek and I his, before lingering for a moment too long on his neck, holding the hug as long as I could manage without seeming creepy. I felt his breath on my neck and I felt myself responding in my boxer shorts. We both pulled back and stared into each other’s eyes, his warm breath mixing with mine as I breathed in and out. He smiled. I stared into his deep blue eyes and kissed him again, this time with our tongues exploring each other’s mouths. He gently bit my bottom lip and a jolt went to my groin. I felt his hand on my bum, trying to pull me towards him, despite our legs being a few feet apart, separated by the takeaway. We fell onto the sofa, his small frame landing gently on my muscly chest. He sat astride me, leaning down and continuing to kiss me. His hands caressed my pectoral muscles under my T-shirt, tweaking my nipples, harder and harder.
Maybe he was that sort of boy, and maybe I was too.