We are very happy to welcome Eli Easton to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Easton’s most recent novel The Mating of Michael, is available on Dreamspinner Press. The Mating of Michael is the third book in the Sex in Seattle series.
Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fanfiction writer, an organic farmer, and a profound sleeper. She is now happily embarking on yet another incarnation, this time as an m/m romance author.
As an avid reader of such, she is tickled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, three bulldogs, three cows, and six chickens. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.
Her website is http://www.elieaston.com
Jodi: Thank you, Eli, for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. I am a fan of your writing style. I have enjoyed reading all of your books, and I love the Sex in Seattle series. With this third book, the adorable Michael finally gets his own story. Tell us a little about your inspiration for Michael’s character.
EE: Like all characters, Michael grew from a bit of stardust. By that I mean, I have no idea! But I can recount some of the points of inspiration. In The Trouble With Tony, where Michael makes his first appearance, I knew I was setting him up for his own book later. I figured someone who was a male sex surrogate would have to be really a unique and compassionate person, because a lot of patients would not necessarily be attractive and a man has to be able to get aroused in order to perform in any way that might be necessary to the therapy. I had him flirt with Jack in book 1, to be drawn to the broken part of Jack, and he just was really sexy in those scenes! I guess I fell a little in love with him then. Physically, I was inspired by the model Isaiah Garnica when he was young. I loved his frailness and the emotion in his big brown eyes matched what had in my head about Michael’s personality. So Michael’s physicality was based on him. I knew Michael had to have a childhood where he was bullied somewhat, or he wouldn’t have such a need to help underdogs, so I figured he would not be a traditionally big, handsome, average Joe, but have a more eccentric look.
Jodi: What was your inspiration for the Sex in Seattle series?
EE: I had the idea for the first book – about a detective who pretends to be a patient at a sex clinic to investigate a murder. I thought it would be a funny situation for him to have to discuss sex so openly with a doctor/suspect. So that’s where it all began and it grew as a series from there. I do really like the sex clinic setting because it gives a unique opportunity to explore sex as a basic human need and right. And something like GFY, which is Daniel’s story in The Enlightenment of Daniel, can be explored in a more clinical and realistic way.
Jodi: In The Mating of Michael, James is a reclusive author. What was your inspiration for his character? Are there any autobiographical elements in his character?
EE: It’s interesting because I knew I was going to write Michael’s story, and he was a known character. But I went through a lot of ideas for his ‘mate’ before I settled on James. At first I thought about having a vet, but that seemed too close to Dr. Jack Halloran. I thought about doing more of a mentally disabled character like in Ethan Loves Carter, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to master that, and I felt like Michael needed a really strong partner, someone who could take care of him in a way. I also decided I didn’t want James to be one of Michael’s patients because I didn’t want to deal with a lot of ethical issues. I thought a man who was able to really appreciate Michael would need to be someone with a lot of imagination and inherent compassion towards others and thus someone who had suffered himself in life. All of that ended up being embodied in James, who is a science fiction writer who had polio as a child and is in a wheelchair because of it. Writing is his way of escaping his physical limitations and living a fuller life. It’s not really very autobiographical other than I know the profession very well!
Jodi: James and Alex Shaw, from Puzzle Me This, are both differently abled, and spend a lot of time isolating themselves from others. Although James is older than Alex, the two characters do have a lot in common. What inspired you to focus on characters with disabilities?
EE: I’ve always loved romances where one character is disabled in some way – Ethan who Loved Carter is one of my favorites. When I wrote Puzzle Me This, I wrote it for submission to an anthology, so I had a word count limit (it’s a novella). I just felt like I hadn’t ‘finished’ writing about an MC in a wheelchair so I wanted to explore that in a full length novel, be able to dig deeper. Also, I knew from the start that Michael’s love interest would have some kind of disability, because that’s who Michael is. He’s someone who loves despite those sorts of exterior factors.
Jodi: Marnie and James’ mother are foils for each other in this story. What was your inspiration for these women?
EE: I really didn’t plan it that way, but I wrote the last page of the book and I thought – Oh. Right. This novel is about mothers. It’s sort of interesting that it worked out that way. It’s not just Marnie and James’ mother Lynn. There’s also Michael’s mother, and Felicia, the woman who ran the home for disabled children, and also Tommy’s mother plays an important role. It’s cool, because The Enlightenment of Daniel really was about fathers—also unplanned when I started writing it. So I guess The Mating of Michael balances that out.
Inspiration for Marnie – maybe a bit of Harold and Maude. I just thought Michael would have a really unusual best friend and I loved the idea of a feisty old woman who wasn’t shy about talking sex! I always wanted the reader to see the ‘normal’ side of Michael’s nursing, not just the sex surrogacy side, so Marnie became a patient too.
Inspiration for Lynn – I knew that if James had contracted polio in this day and age, he didn’t grow up in the United States or get vaccinated. I also wanted him to have adored his mother. So Lynn is a free-spirited and very young single hippy mother who travels with James.
Jodi: There are a few subplots going on The Mating of Michael. Was it difficult to create James’ back story and subsequent anger in such detail?
EE: I researched polio—read a few autobiographies of people who had gotten it as children. And those stories of how that happened and what it felt like were so powerful, I just couldn’t leave it out. It gave me a good nudge to really delve into James’s background, how and where he got the polio, how that felt for him, and what happened subsequently. It made him a much stronger, more fully-bodied character and put some obstacles in Michael’s path for him to overcome.
Jodi: The sex surrogacy scenes in the book are very detailed. How did you research the sex surrogacy aspect of Michael’s job?
EE: Well, Google is my friend! Also, I read the autobiography of a sex surrogate and watched a documentary (the details are given in my acknowledgements). I found it fascinating the sorts of deep issues people can have around sex and intimacy, and how slowly the surrogate has to go sometimes. So that was the inspiration for Lem. I thought it was important to show what Michael did, that being a sex surrogate involves real therapy; it isn’t just a glorified prostitute position. It takes a lot of patience and compassion and also it’s not just – jump to anal sex at the first session, and it’s not about getting off. I wanted to show why Michael is so good at it, why he’s unique. In order for James to ever be able to accept it and not see it as ‘cheating’, the reader had to be able to accept it first.
Also, one of the things I really love about reading is getting to experience different lifestyles, places, and professions, so, hell, if you’re going to have a sex surrogate MC, you’d better damn well show me what that’s really like! lol
Jodi: The excerpts from the science fiction story, James’ background, Michael’s jobs, and Tommy and Lem’s stories add a lot of depth to this novel. Do you outline the details in your stories before you write? What is your process for developing the subplots in your stories?
EE: I am a plotter, but I kind of go back and forth between outlining and really just diving into a scene (before the full novel outline is done). I get impatient to write sometimes. And also, I try to keep my plot fairly high level and let stuff happen organically within the scene.
Jodi: Will there be more books in this series? Will Lem and John have their story told?
EE: If Michael does well, there may be another book or two down the road for Sex in Seattle. It’s not on the schedule currently, but it’s a universe that could go on indefinitely. There are no plans to tell Lem and John’s story, but who knows? Maybe as a short story at some point.
Jodi: You have a number of books published, but this is the only series? How does writing books in a series differ than the standalones? Which do you prefer writing?
EE: I plan to do more series, I just haven’t gotten there yet! There’s something comforting about returning to a known universe, like the Expanded Horizons sex clinic in Sex in Seattle, and being able to check up on old characters. I’m not sure I’d say I have a preference for writing either though. It’s more about what’s right for the individual story and if it lends itself to a series or not. I’d like to return to Clyde’s Corner from A Prairie Dog’s Love Song and do a novel set in that universe.
Jodi: Have you always been drawn to the romance genre? When and why did you decide to write exclusively in the m/m genre?
EE: Yes, I’ve been a romance reader for a lot of years. I read m/f romance for many years—a lot of regency like Eloise James, and also cowboy stuff like Pamela Morsi or Maggie Osborne. I got into m/m through fan fiction actually. Once I’d read a bunch of that I started seeking out published m/m romance and found there was a whole genre out there. That was about two years ago. I just decided to try my hand at writing it (I wrote thrillers in the past but never het romance) and really enjoyed it. Since then, I’ve been writing it exclusively.
Jodi: I know you probably love all of your characters, but do you have any favorites?
EE: I really love Dr Jack Halloran—he’s such a hardass. And Michael, of course! I’m quite fond of Mick and Fielding from Blame it on the Mistletoe and Joshua from “A Prairie Dog’s Love Song”. Also, um, Jordan and Owen from Superhero. Yeah, it’s hard to pick just one. ;-)
Jodi: What is your next project?
EE: I try to keep my ‘coming soon ‘page on my website up to date with my current projects if you ever want to check (http://elieaston.com/work-in-progress/). I recently finished a murder mystery/romance set in Amish country and I’m currently editing/lengthening my historical “The Lion and the Crow” for publication with Dreamspinner. Next up is my 2014 Christmas story, which I’m really looking forward to digging into!
The Mating of Michael
Sex in Seattle: Book Three
Everyone admires Michael Lamont for being a nurse, but his part-time work as a gay sex surrogate not only raises eyebrows, it's cost him relationships. Michael is small, beautiful, and dedicated to working with people who need him. But what he really wants is a love of his own. He spends most of his time reading science fiction, especially books written by his favorite author and long-time crush, the mysteriously reclusive J.C. Guise.
James Gallway’s life is slowly but inexorably sliding downhill. He wrote a best-selling science fiction novel at the tender age of eighteen, while bedridden with complications of polio. But by twenty-eight, he's lost his inspiration and his will to live. His sales from his J.C. Guise books have been in decline for years. Wheelchair bound, James has isolated himself, convinced he is unlovable. When he is forced to do a book signing and meets Michael Lamont, he can’t believe a guy who looks like Michael could be interested in a man like him.
Michael and James are made for each other. But they must let go of stubbornness to see that life finds a way and love has no limitations.