We are very happy to welcome Merry Farmer to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Farmer’s most recent novel Somebody to Love is self-published via Smashwords and available at most online book retailers.
Merry Farmer lives in suburban Philadelphia with her two cats, Butterfly and Torpedo. She has been writing since she was ten years old and realized one day that she didn’t have to wait for the teacher to assign a creative writing project to write something. It was the best day of her life. She then went on to earn not one but two degrees in History so that she would always having something to write about. Today she walks along the cutting edge of Indie Publishing, writing Historical Romance and Women's Sci-Fi. She is also passionate about blogging, knitting, and cricket and is working towards becoming an internationally certified cricket scorer.
You can read more from Merry Farmer on her blog at http://merryfarmer.net/.
Jodi: Thank you, Merry, for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. Please tell us a little about yourself.
Merry: Wow, there’s so much to tell, and at the same time not all that much. I’m a writer through and through. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing or dreaming or making up stories. It also means that I’ve always had an incredibly overactive imagination, which has gotten me into trouble more than a few times.
Jodi: What inspired you to write the Montana Romance series?
Merry: I’ve always loved the excitement and adventure of the Old West. Back in the day, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman was one of my favorite TV shows. I have always wanted to write about that unique time and place in our history. There was so much possibility and opportunity. I sometimes think that the average person doesn’t realize how progressive the Old West really was.
Jodi: What is the time frame for this series?
Merry: The series is set in the late 1890s. The first book in the series, Our Little Secrets, takes place in 1895 and each successive book is set between then and 1900. I also plan to write a second series involving the children of the characters from the first series, which will take place around WWI (about 1917 or so) with one intermediary book set in 1908.
Jodi: Somebody to Love takes place at the turn of the century (1900). Why did you choose to set the series during this time frame?
Merry: Because everything was changing in 1900. It was the dawn of a new century. Technology was leaping ahead so fast that people who had been born earlier in the 19th century hardly recognized the world they were now living in. Life was exciting and full of adventure, travel was easier than ever before, civil rights for women and minorities were moving forward (although they had a long way to go), and the world was full of possibility. Nineteen hundred wasn’t really all that different from the world we live in now in terms of the mood of the people.
Jodi: What type of research did you need to do for this book, especially around the issue of homosexuality?
Merry: I did far more research for this book than I have done for any of my previous books. I have two degrees in History and have studied the time period exhaustively, but I knew much less about the lives and conditions of gay men and women during this time. I sought out the advice of fellow M/M writers, who pointed me to a magnificent book, Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century, by Graham Robb. It is a fantastic, comprehensive look at the topic through primary source materials, such as journals, court documents, and official records. I learned SO much! Most importantly, that the kinds of prejudices gay men encountered in 1900 were not the same kind that they are faced with today and that life wasn’t as harsh as we might be tempted to think it was. I could go on about the history forever.
Jodi: Somebody to Love is the seventh book in the Montana Romance series, and it is the first male/male romance you have written. Is writing a romance with two male protagonists very different from a male and female protagonist?
Merry: I thought it would be, but in the end it wasn’t. The story is, first and foremost, about finding love and acceptance and being true to who you are. Technical details of the love scenes aside, those are deeply emotional themes that are true for all sorts of people and all sorts of relationships.
Jodi: Were you concerned that fans of the Montana series would not want to see a male/male romance enter into the picture?
Merry: It had crossed my mind, but in the end I was willing to take the risk for the sake of my characters. So far I have received nothing but the very best of feedback.
Jodi: What was your inspiration for writing Somebody to Love and for giving Phineas a romance?
Merry: I think I was inspired by Phineas himself. Phin is such a wonderful, kind, thoughtful man. I couldn’t imagine someone like that going through life alone. I knew right from the beginning of the series that he deserved to find love, but it wasn’t until later that I knew that I had to actually write that story.
Jodi: Tell us about your inspiration for the character of Phineas?
Merry: I’ve been blessed to have several gay friends in my life. Phin is sort of my tribute to them. He started out as being modeled on a particularly close friend of mine from high school, but very quickly he developed into his own person. But he still has my friend’s depth of character and hugeness of heart.
Jodi: What was your inspiration for Elliot?
Merry: You know, I’m not really sure. Elliott is one of those characters that just sort of snuck up on me and demanded that I love him. I mean, who could resist? He’s gorgeous, charming, a little bit flawed, and passionate about everything he does.
Jodi: When Elliot first meets Phineas, he plans to seduce him, but his thoughts about a simple seduction change once he gets to know Phineas better. What was the thought process behind your showing this change in his character?
Merry: I wanted to show the process that someone goes through when they’re ready to put the wild days of their youth behind them and try for something real. In his heart, Elliott wants to find a home and love and acceptance more than anything else. I wanted to show him reaching the point in his life where he has to change or be forever a wanderer. It’s really a growing up process for him. I think we all go through that at some point in our life, especially when we meet our soul mate.
Jodi: Charlie and Michael seem very open-minded and accepting regarding Phin’s sexual orientation. Have those characters accepted Phin since the beginning of the series? How do they discover his secret?
Merry: I actually do deal with their reasons for being so open-minded in the first book in the series, Our Little Secrets. Michael and Phin have been friends since their school days. Phin stood up for Michael and helped him at a time when nobody else would. I can’t remember if I actually talk about this in the book or not, but Phin was upfront with Michael from a very early stage of their relationship, and because of his own issues with acceptance and inclusion, Michael was able to accept Phin for who he was in spite of popular opinion. Charlie had a similar experience with a family member who she was close to, an uncle, who was eventually forbidden from seeing her, which hurt her deeply.
One of the things I encountered in my research was that for the vast majority of people in the 19th century, there was no concept of what “gay” was, and since people didn’t talk about what went on in their bedrooms at all, the fact that someone was gay wouldn’t even cross their mind, which meant it wouldn’t impede their friendships or business relationships unless it came out.
Jodi: Elliott Tucker is a strong character, and he seems to be pretty adept at hiding who he is. Was it a challenge to write two very different characters – one hiding his homosexuality and the other not wanting to lie about who he is?
Merry: Ah ha! That was the most fun part of writing the book! I was very interested in showing the contrast between these two methods of dealing with being so different from everyone else. Phin never lies about who he is, but he doesn’t go around advertising it either. The conflict of these two approaches is where so much of the tension of the book comes from.
Jodi: Do you plan to explore more of the relationship between these two men in future books in this series?
Merry: They will definitely be in future books in the second part of the series, but they won’t be main characters. I may get to find a way to explain how people in Cold Springs feel about the two of them still being “single” and living together 20 years down the road.
Jodi: Do you have any more male/male or possibly female/female romances planned?
Merry: Yes and no. I would love to write another M/M series, but at the moment I don’t have one rattling around in my brain. I’m sure one will pop in there eventually, though. I do have a sort of dystopian futuristic series that involves a multiple partner relationship (which is way, way simplifying that world), as well as a historical series with a gay main character, but it’s not a Romance.
Jodi: What is your next project?
Merry: My newest series is actually Science Fiction, with just a little bit of Romance. Grace’s Moon is a series that follows the survivors of a crash on a habitable moon in the middle of nowhere after the destruction of a transport ship taking colonists to Earth’s first extra-planetary colony. It’s kind of more of a History novel, believe it or not, as these people have to revert back several ages in terms of technology to a more primitive lifestyle. The first two books, Saving Grace and Fallen From Grace, are out July 15th, two more will be released before the end of the year, and really, the series could have any number of books as life on Grace’s Moon rolls on.
Somebody to Love
For Phineas Bell, love has not only been out of reach, it has been impossible. In a world where men who love other men are anathema, he has poured his love into his work, his town, and the friends who accept him as family. But when a handsome new lodger takes over his home and his heart, breaking all his careful rules, Phin must choose between playing it safe and letting love in.
War hero Elliott Tucker is the answer to Cold Springs’s prayers for a sheriff worth his salt. But with every single woman in town throwing themselves at him, Elliott has eyes for only one person: Phin. The sparks are hot between then, but in spite of Elliott’s best efforts, Phin’s heart proves the toughest nut to crack. A love that starts with fire threatens to burn them both…
… until a shocking abduction throws Phin and Elliott together on the trail of ruthless kidnappers. Will their efforts to save a child wrench them apart or will it prove that at last they’ve found somebody to love?