We are very happy to welcome Lou Sylvre to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Because of Jade, the fifth novel in the Vasquez and James series, was released on May 23 from Dreamspinner Press.
Lou hails from southern California but now lives and writes on the rainy side of Washington State. When she’s not writing, she’s reading fiction from nearly every genre, romance in all its tints and shades, and the occasional book about history, physics, or police procedure. Not zombies, though. Her personal assistant is Boudreau, a large cat who never outgrew his kitten meow.
Lou plays guitar (mostly where people can’t hear her) and she loves to sing. She’s usually smiling and laughs too much, some say. She also loves her family, her friends, the aforementioned Boudreau, a Chihuahua named Joe, and (in random order) coffee, chocolate, sunshine, and wild roses.
Check out her Web site at http://sylvre.com/.
First here is a little background about the protagonists in Lou’s series. Reclusive weaver Sonny Bly James controls every color and shape in his tapestries, but he can’t control the pattern of his life. Luki Vasquez, ex-ATF agent and all-around badass, turns James’ world upside down. The mutual attraction is immediate, but their road to love is not easy.
Jodi: Tell us about your inspiration for this series?
Lou: My inspiration was really the characters themselves, primarily. Luki and Sonny planted themselves in my brain, originally as characters in a completely different story. They’ve evolved a great deal since then, and in the process, I’ve entertained all sorts of possible stories for them. Then, I decided that their romance should be told in the setting of suspense, and that simplified my plans. It also proved fertile ground for Luki and Sonny to develop into the characters introduced in Loving Luki Vasquez.
A further source of inspiration is the incredibly diverse and beautiful region that I live in, and particularly the Olympic Peninsula, which is lush and rugged, has artsy towns and small marinas, and borders the Juan de Fuca Strait with its San Juan Islands. When people say ‘rain forest,’ South American jungles immediately spring to mind, but this region is home to one of Earth’s last surviving temperate rain forests. I want people to know that, to understand the treasure that it is — every bit as important ecologically as it’s tropical counterparts, and almost gone. And, along that line, I’ve always loved novels where there is a wonderful sense of place, and I hoped to create one of my own. My landscape is not quite a character, but it is interactive and important in the story.
Often, when people ask why I wrote this series, they expect I’ll say, “to stand up for equality,” or something similar. But, as much as I value and support equality and an end to hate related to the LGBTQ communities, that wasn’t part of my thinking at all. These stories, like all the stories I’ve written, are driven by the characters as people – their hearts and their lives. That’s what inspires me: the story they need told.
Jodi: Sonny and Luki are so different from each other when they first meet. Actually, even after 10 years, the differences are apparent. What is it that ultimately draws them together?
Lou: Well, what initially drew them together was sheer physical attraction. They are both beautiful men. But almost immediately, I think they each sensed in the other something special. The fact that they both refused the idea of romance early on, in my opinion, probably drove them toward each other, because human hearts and minds tend to rebel against “no, you can’t.” Just try telling yourself you’ll never again eat your favorite food. J
Beyond that, the more they got to know each other, themore they began to see through the façades. And truthfully, I think that especially for Luki, part of what he needs from Sonny and gets is the ability to break that façade down, to revert in a sense, and be in part the Luki he would have been if he hadn’t had such an extraordinary interruption in his life at thirteen, followed by his father’s exacting solution.
The same is true of Sonny in a different way. He, like Luki, is confident and accomplished in his chosen career, and he’s made a life for himself that nobody would have expected given his beginnings, but his independence is a bit of a camouflage. He has so much to give but has become afraid to give it — Luki lets him do that, with great joy. But also, Sonny wants to feel coveted and protected — protected even if he doesn’t need to be, even though he can take care of himself.
So they see these things in each other, and although it’s a bit rocky, they hang on to each other for dear life.
Jodi: Are these characters completely fictional or are they based on real people?
Lou: That is such a tough question. I know a lot of authors find photographs and build characters based on them, or an actor, or even someone they see in the grocery store. I’ve never done characters that way, so as far as conscious choices, they are not based on real people. In the case of physical type, they are both based on types I know and admire, and I will admit
Jodi: Do you have a favorite book or character in this series?
Lou: Well, yes. I love them all for different reasons, and of course like any author I look back and think there were things I could have done a little differently. But my favorite is definitely Because of Jade. Here, their love has matured and yet the romance has only intensified. They know each other so well, but not quite perfectly — they still surprise one another. And when Jade comes into their life, it’s a new quest, so to speak, and they see each other through new eyes. They’ve aged but they’re still sexy, Sonny’s still... Sonny, and Luki’s still a soft-hearted badass. And the events of the story tie together the entire series, not the least the novella, Yes. And I gave them the biggest, grandest romantic sequence ever, which made them very happy, and me too. J
Jodi: Do you plan to have additional books in this series?
Lou: No, Because of Jade is the cap. Luki and Sonny will still be around, however, as they’ll be showing up in a series of spinoffs which I’m thinking of as “Vasquez Security, The Next Generation.” J The first is Jackie and Brian’s story, and it’s well underway. Who knows, I may also give the old guys a short story or something sometime...
Jodi: Because of Jade is different from the other books. Although there is tension and drama in this book, this story is more domestic, for lack of a better word. Sonny and Luki have been together 10 years. Was this book easier or more difficult to write now that the two men are married and more settled?
Lou: It was surprisingly easy to write. It was easy to find where their love had come to on its journey so far, to see them as older and more at ease with themselves (for the most part) and each other. The hard parts were writing in the pain that came along with the story —in several forms. But Luki and Sonny have a rare kind of relationship, the kind I think most of us want in our hearts, and it was a real pleasure to write it for them.
Jodi: I guess it is okay to ask this since the information is given away in the spoiler, but did you have any reservations about killing off Jade’s parents?
Lou: Not reservations, per se, because I knew it had to happen for the story. But it wasn’t easy, and I did try to talk myself into other solutions. The only thing was the other solutions were even more tragic, so I gave it up and did the dirty deed. I did properly mourn them, though, right?
Jodi: Yes, you did. J One could say that Jade saves Luki’s life in the novella Yes. Did you plan that she would ultimately become so pivotal in the James Vasquez household at the time?
Lou: No! Ruthie and Jade were a surprise to me in Yes. I don’t remember where the idea for them first came from, but I had written Luki into a very desperate spot, and he needed a miracle. It came in the form of Ruthie and her unborn, Jade. I never envisioned any sequel to Yes at all. I thought Yes would kind of just be hanging out there all by itself —which is one of the reasons it was so wonderful to be able to bring it all home, so to speak, in Because of Jade.
Jodi: Luki has changed a lot over the course of this series. Although he is still a badass, he is not the same man he was when he first met Sonny. What are the major catalysts for this change?
Lou: Oh, you do know how to ask the tough questions! ‘Life,’ first and foremost. No one who actively engages in life is the same man at 50 that he was at 40. ‘Love’ comes in the closest second. Luki had thought he would go through life alone and unforgiven (yes, unforgiven), but he accidentally showed himself to Sonny, more and more as time went on, and Sonny’s artists eye was true, saw Luki revealed and loved him — all of him. Luki’s cancer certainly changed him, partly because of more of the same. Sonny loved him through that very difficult time, but also because he faced death square in the face in a brand new way, a way that he could not overpower, and he recognized in himself the ability to be at peace with it. PTSD changed him — he finally faced a lifetime of terrible events down, put them in their place, and accepted himself as human but not evil, not bad, not less. Final chapter, Jade changes him in big and beautiful ways.
Jodi: Do you feel that Luki has changed more in the course of the series than Sonny has?
Lou: Luki has changed in more obvious and sweeping ways. But Sonny has grown immensely, partly because he has come to see himself in Luki’s eyes and knows now that who he is has nothing to do with the horrors of his youth, except insofar as those events made a kind of crucible. He now knows himself as someone valuable, someone with so much to give, and even realizes that when he forgets that truth, he can accept Luki’s honest love and be restored. For Sonny, too, Jade brings about change, almost epiphany.
Jodi: Homophobia makes it presence known in many of the books. It is an interesting contrast to the fact that Sonny and Luki refer to each other as “husband” as often as possible. Why have you chosen to make this issue a constant in the series?
Lou: Sonny usually calls Luki ‘husband,’ but not as often the other way around. Sonny does it because he’s Sonny, and because he knows it makes Luki extraordinarily happy — even though Luki thinks Sonny doesn’t know that. It really doesn’t have much to do with the homophobia content.
I never set out to make homophobia an issue in the series. I dislike fiction that is fashioned as a soap box. The things that happen to Luki and Sonny are simply the way their lives unfold, and homophobia is involved for Luki more than Sonny. This has to do with the fact that he is of a generation that spans a huge change inattitude, but not that much of a change in behavior, unfortunately. Also, his profession is one where he has to be aware of the bias that exists.
However, if you look closer, homophobia isn’t really the crux of conflict or obstacle in the stories. Luki’s experience at thirteen is the single unadulterated important incident of homophobia for either main character, and then there is Jackie and Josh’s father’s behavior for a second example. Luki’s father is an example, but with a twist: his father truly loved him. Most of the incidents reflecting homophobia (which I think is a bit of misnomer, truthfully) happen in small ways — on the streets of Paris, for example — just as they continue to happen to non-heterosexual people every day in even the most enlightened places. But, well, I don’t want to give away whole plot, but in terms of major antagonists, most are clearly not homophobic, and some might be different from how they first appear. J
Jodi: These books are written in third person point of view. Does writing in third person point of view provide more opportunities to explore each character’s personality than it would if the books were written in first person?
Lou: I don’t think so, really. I write in third person most of the time in novels, though I’ve written a fair number of shorts in first person. I think either can do the job of exploring and developing the character. I admit I do like the contrast between narrative, inner dialogue (or monologue), and actual dialogue that exists when I write in third, and I like not being quite as limited in language as when using first person POV. Primarily, though, it comes down to how it works best for the character — how they want their story told, you might say.
Jodi: Do you have any new series planned?
Lou: Yes! As I mentioned, the spinoff from Vasquez and James is underway, and will entail the interwoven stories of several characters introduced in the original series, as well as some new people. I’m also co-writing something completely different, a Scottish quasi-historical with magic, with Anne Barwell. I have a series of contemporary novellas planned and started, but taking rather a back burner. Some other projects I won’t go into at the moment, but I’ll definitely be busy writing for the foreseeable future. Thanks for asking!
And while I’m at it, thank you Jodi, and Smoocher’s Voice for the opportunity to blather on in response to your thoughtful questions.
Jodi: It is our pleasure, Lou. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your insights and characters with us.
Because of Jade, released on May 23, is available on Dreamspinner Press
Luki Vasquez receives the news he’s still cancer free after five years, and he wants to celebrate with his whole family. He and his husband, Sonny James, take a road trip south, intending to gather at the home of his nephew Josh, Josh’s wife Ruthie, and Jade—a little girl who was still in the womb when she and her mother helped Luki beat lung cancer.
Halfway to their destination, Luki learns Josh and Ruthie have met a tragic death. The horrible news lays Luki low, but he pulls himself together in time to be the family’s rock and see to the dreaded business of tying up loose ends. The most important business is Jade, and when Luki and Sonny head home, they take Jade with them.
Luki and Sonny must combat self-doubt and fear and help each other learn to parent an unexpected child—and they must also nourish the love that has kept them whole for the past ten years. A relative’s spurious claim to Jade threatens the new family, and even if they prevail in court, they could lose their little girl unless they can rescue Jade from evil hands and true peril.
**Come back tomorrow for Jodi's Review of Because of Jade**