Book Name: Ordinary People
Author Name: E E Montgomery
Author Links: You can contact E E Montgomery at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @EEMontgomery1, or at her web site and blog: http://www.eemontgomery.com/.
Cover Artist: Maria Fanning
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
We are very happy to welcome EE Montgomery to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Montgomery’s most recent novella, Ordinary People, is available on Dreamspinner Press.
E E Montgomery wants the world to be a better place, with equality and acceptance for all. Her philosophy is: We can’t change the world but we can change our small part of it and, in that way, influence the whole. Writing stories that show people finding their own “better place” is part of E E Montgomery’s own small contribution.
Thankfully, there’s never a shortage of inspiration for stories that show people growing in their acceptance and love of themselves and others. A dedicated people-watcher, E E finds stories everywhere. In a cafe, a cemetery, a book on space exploration, or on the news, there’ll be a story of personal growth, love, and unconditional acceptance there somewhere.
Jodi: Thank you, EE for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. Please tell us a little about yourself.
E E: I always find this sort of question difficult. There are so many things I could tell you, I don’t know where to start or what you’d like to hear. Today I think I’ll focus on some idiosyncrasies—they’re so much fun.
I tend to live my life in my head. I enjoy things that stimulate my brain. I read a lot, I study a lot, I choose jobs that challenge me or help me learn things, I choose friends who do the same. I don’t consider myself a social person. I had a hearing problem when I was young so missed a lot of that social development stuff. I still have problems hearing with background noise, like at a party. You’ll usually find me standing to the side happily watching people. If I’m talking to someone at a party, I’m probably very close to sitting in their lap so I can hear them.
Nearly every school report from my childhood has a phrase like “tends to daydream”. It’s not that real life and real people aren’t interesting, it’s more like something someone said has triggered something in my brain and I need to explore that before I can rejoin the conversation. I’m getting better at ignoring those interesting bites in my brain if I’m with someone.
I’m perpetually optimistic. I consider every day I wake up alive a good one (there’ve been times in my life when that wasn’t a surety). I have a tendency to prepare for the worst so I know the best will come out of it. I have a fire plan, an emergency plan (like if a plane drops on the house), a home invasion plan, a funeral plan. Once the plans are in place, I forget about them and get on with living.
Jodi: Why did you decided to write exclusively in the m/m genre?
E E: I haven’t ruled out writing in other genres, but the m/m genre seems to call to me. There are several reasons I write in this genre:
§ I see a lot of prejudice and bigotry which is almost impossible to address with logic. Most bigoted people I’ve met aren’t interested in logic and few of them would ever consider changing their minds. I decided to attack the situation from the other direction: trying to show those discriminated against that it’s the bigots’ problem, not theirs.
§ A lot of books show only m/f relationships, perpetuating the idea that combination is the only acceptable form. The m/m genre shows another norm and is growing. It’s normalizing relationships other than m/f in people’s minds, even if they don’t read any of the books. I know several people who’ve gone from ‘eww’ at the idea of m/m books, to ‘whatever’. I call that a win.
§ I find m/f romance books difficult to read, even the good ones. There are very few that don’t fall into stereotyping the female character in some way. I find I do the same thing in my writing, and it annoys me. Even the strong female characters all seem to become submissive once they hit the bed. Two men can just be men; they don’t need to adopt any hetero-normative roles.
§ I like seeing couples happy together. I like knowing that two people can find happiness together against all odds. I like knowing life isn’t always going to be hardship and loneliness. Everyone should have an opportunity to find the person who will make their life shine: even if they’re fictional.
Jodi: What was your inspiration for writing Ordinary People?
E E: The idea of Ordinary People began at a writers’ retreat, the product of a story starter exercise. I can’t remember the actual exercise now, but I had one paragraph written. The last sentence was: How do you explain what happened to him last Thursday?
That gave me a lot of scope and I started asking ‘what if’ type questions.
Jodi: Although you describe Vinnie Canterbury as being ordinary, he really is not. What was your inspiration for his character?
E E: Vinnie isn’t ordinary, but he believes he is, and a person’s belief in himself is often more important than the reality. I needed to find out why there was that discrepancy with Vinnie.
The opening scene helped me find out who he is. He’s found in a dinghy hotel room, naked and on top of a dead man. The man’s throat has been cut so there was blood everywhere, ranging from bright scarlet through all variations of red and maroon, to dried brown flakes. Vinnie’s white skin provides a stark contrast to all that darkness. Vinnie’s personality had to be the same light in amongst the darker shades of life. He had to shine.
That’s what shaped Vinnie. He is not only light amongst the darkness, but is a study in light and dark as well. Through his history and into his current life, there’s light and dark. His childhood was defined by the darkness of his father’s judgmentalism and his great-grandmother’s unconditional acceptance. His working life is a contrast of his skill and lack of close colleagues. The shadow of his foster mother’s illness and his loneliness contrasts with his devotion to her and his determinedly upbeat personality.
Like the hotel room scene, it takes a person with keen observation skills and compassion to unravel the story that is Vinnie. That’s where James comes in. He’s observant and protective and caring, and looking for someone who’ll give his life a sheen.
Jodi: Did you need to do research to write about Vinnie’s reaction to the drugs he was given and for law enforcement procedures?
E E: The first draft of Ordinary People was a hodge-podge of made up rubbish. Once I knew what I needed to know I started asking questions. Some of those questions didn’t get asked until after I’d contracted the book and it had gone into editing. I’m grateful to Dreamspinner staff for their keen eye and dedication.
Luckily I have friends in the Health Department: a couple of pharmacists and nurses set me straight about how Vinnie would be affected by the drugs and for how long, also how the hospital would treat him without any identification and how long they’d keep him.
The law enforcement questions required a couple of visits to the local police station. They were extremely helpful and kind, but I’m sure I heard a guffaw or two as the door closed behind me. I seem to get different people every time I go in there. I’m not sure if that’s because they see me coming and share me around for fun or if there are just different people on duty.
Jodi: James Laramee seems to be a by-the-book police officer. He seems to fall hard and fast for Vinnie. What is it that intrigues him so much about the young man?
E E: James is comfortable in his own skin. He’s where he wants to be at this time in his life. He’s a protector and has chosen his career to feed that need. That doesn’t mean he isn’t lonely and wants someone special in his life. He’s attracted to Vinnie at first because he obviously needs protecting. Then he finds out a bit about Vinnie’s personality and his past—his foster mother, his one friend, his insecurity—and his heart strings tug. The thing that ties him to Vinnie, though, isn’t Vinnie’s weaknesses. It’s his resilience. Vinnie can handle anything life throws at him and, if he has the right person backing him, will show the world how extraordinary he really is. James intends to be that person.
Jodi: This is such an intriguing story and plot. Do you plan any more stories with these two men?
E E: I’ve been thinking about it. There’s still more to tell with James and Vinnie, and I have a few ideas. They need to percolate for a while before they become more than that. I’ll write a few different things first then visit them again.
Jodi: Okay, I do need to ask about the eyelash flutter … did someone give you that advice?
E E: The eyelash flutter is pure Great-grandma and probably reading too many regency novels when I was young. It fit Vinnie, and when I added the drugs to it, turned into a hilarious image in my head. I couldn’t leave it out.
Jodi: Ordinary People, which is your most recent book, is very different than your last novel The Courage to Love. Do you prefer writing historical or contemporary romances?
E E: I’m a character-driven writer. My first idea with any story I write is always a character, whether they end up being the primary character of one of the secondary ones. The story builds around them and the setting comes from that. It sounds a bit backward when I explain it like that, and probably explains why editing is the bane of my life, but that’s the way it works. I don’t go into a story thinking “I’ll write a historical today because this era interests me”, I start by thinking “I need to know what happened to David”.
Jodi: What was your inspiration for writing The Courage to Love and choosing a post-World War I time frame?
E E: One of my critique groups is very active in promoting writing and ideas within the group. We plan a yearly retreat together and a couple of times a year go on other outings. One year, we had a picnic in a cemetery. Our task for the day was to choose a decade of the twentieth century, find a headstone we like and write a short story on it. My decade was the forties but I didn’t find a headstone that resonated with me. What I did find was one from 1915. I stood in front of that grave for over an hour because I couldn’t leave. That’s where Between Love and Honor came from. The Courage to Love grew from that because I simply couldn’t let David go to war and die. He had to find happiness. I didn’t want to write a war story, where David found another love during war time only to lose him too. That would have destroyed him. I needed David back home and safe so he could grieve properly for Carl before he found another love. That put us after the war.
Jodi: Did you research PTSD or Shell Shock?
E E: In a past life I’ve typed university assignments and theses for people. One of those theses was about PTSD in children but there was a lot of resource material as well on PTSD in adults. That gave me the basics of causes, impacts and symptoms. At the time, I had no intention of writing a story about PTSD, but the topic has always interested me so I noted down some of the resources used. Library databases added to it, as did family stories. My grandfather was in WWI at Gallipoli and France and my father (India, Burma) and uncle (Changi) were in WWII. They all suffered PTSD in varying degrees although it wasn’t called that then. The nightmares and violent reactions (violent for him, not me) to sudden movements were part of my childhood.
Jodi: David and Bernard are such complex characters. What was your inspiration for these men?
E E: David grew from the headstone in the cemetery. He was the loving friend who could only identify himself by initials. He had to hide but couldn’t let his Carl go without acknowledging the deep love they felt. David’s fight for identity and fear of discovery grew from that.
Bernard just appeared. He didn’t exist until David knocked on Mrs Gill’s door after leaving his mother’s house. That’s when I realized David couldn’t have his old room back. He had to take Carl’s room to force him to acknowledge that Carl was gone and he was still there and had a life to live. I gave David’s room to Bernard. Bernard was so damaged by the war he brought out all of David’s protective instincts. Bernard was sensitive like Carl, but he was a much stronger personality. Carl was perfect for David in their pre-war personas, but David needed someone different after the experiences he’d had ‘over there’. Bernard was created to be his own person, but also to respond to what David needed to be happy.
Jodi: Your bio notes that you want to make the world to be a better place, with equality and acceptance for all. Both Ordinary People and The Courage to Love seem to project that message, even though they are very different books and have different themes. What is the message you want readers to take away from your books.
E E: My life mantra is unconditional acceptance. If we can all accept others as they are: differences, similarities… purple spots, there’d be a lot less hate and violence in the world. We need to live by our standards, not judge others by them. If my writing can bring even a one person one step closer to that ideal, I’ll call that a win.
I also want people to enjoy reading. If a reader gets nothing more from my stories than a fun few hours reading, that’s also a win.
Jodi: What is your next project?
E E: I’ve just submitted Just the Way You Are, the fourth story (and, I think, the last) of the Just Life series to Dreamspinner. Hopefully they’ll like it enough to contract it.
I’m in the final editing of a SF story I’ve been working on for a while. It’s set on a planet that’s basically the garbage dump of the universe. Starr grew up there in a horrific situation and is spending his adulthood trying to make sure other children can have a better life. I’ve had to change a lot of things since the story was actually finished because it wasn’t working the way I originally wrote it. I had to change Starr’s sexual orientation so his responses as an adult confuse and challenge him even more. I’m still not happy with my main female character. Freema’s a very strong character but ends up giving up her career because of discrimination. Her employer isn’t who she thought it was and she doesn’t want to work for them but I have to make sure that works properly or change it before I can call it finished.
I’m half-way through writing another SF book. It’s based around terraforming planets and the ethics of it. There’s a romance that has physical and moral ties to the terraforming, which I’m really enjoying writing. I thought I had this one planned out beautifully and was writing it chronologically but then discovered a few weeks ago that each of the ten chapters I’ve written have gaps between them so I need to go back and write those ones. So much for trying to reduce my editing. *sigh*
When Queensland Police Force Constable James Laramee raids a hotel room, he finds Vinnie Canterbury on top of a naked, dead man, covered in blood. Vinnie promptly vomits all over James’s shoes.
Thanks to a cocktail of horse sedatives and Hendra vaccine, Vinnie’s memories of his ordeal are fractured. Finding the culprits and the reasons behind his abduction will be a challenge. With his apartment trashed, his building set on fire, and his clothes, phone and wallet gone, Vinnie needs a place to stay. To his surprise, James not only takes him in, but also lets him cry on his shoulder. It must be true love. Vinnie has plans for his future with James all mapped out, and he hopes he can get James on the same page.
His bed was stripped to the mattress. The shredded mattress. Foam stuffing bubbled up between the slashes like pus weeping from an infected wound. He tore his attention from the bed to find his sheets and duvet scattered all over the floor. In pieces. He whimpered.
“I just bought that set.” He pressed his fingers against his lips. Even in his shock he recognized the inanity of his comment. His gaze was drawn to the freestanding full-length mirror beside the windows. Black writing marred the polished surface.
NEXT TIME DO WHAT YOU’RE TOLD FAG OR THE SAME WILL HAPPEN TO YOU.
He turned to see Laramee beside him, his hand again clamped on Vinnie’s arm. “What was I told?” he whispered. “I don’t know what I was told.”
It was too much. He flung himself at Laramee, buried his face in the warm, slightly harsh fabric of his uniform, ignored the button digging into his forehead, and burst into tears.
“I don’t even know your name. I can’t sob all over you if I don’t know your name,” he wailed.
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7/3 – Emotion in Motion
7/10 – Smoocher’s Voice
7/17 – Prism Book Alliance
7/24 – MM Good Book Reviews
7/31 – Velvet Panic
8/14 – Decadent Delights
8/14 – Hearts on Fire