We are very happy to welcome A.M. Arthur to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. She has two new books available, Stand by You on Carina Press and Foundation of Trust on Samhain Publishing.
A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone's throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland. She's been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop. She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn't been coined yet back then) and "The Young Riders" with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories.
An avid reader of het romance, her first foray into reading published m/m romance (slash fanfic doesn't count) is thanks to a Dear Author review of K.A. Mitchell's Chasing Smoke. After devouring K.A.'s existing backlist, she dove headfirst into other authors. While she prefers contemporary, she'll occasionally sample an historical or SFF m/m romance.
A.M. wrote her first m/m stories in the guise of Kish fanfic (the Kyle/Fish romance from cancelled soap opera "One Life to Live”). As her stories were met with more and more positive feedback, A.M. was inspired to try her hand at creating original m/m romance. And the rest is history.
When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder. She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she's an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.
Connect with A.M.:
Jodi: Thank you, A.M, for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. Please tell us a little about yourself.
A.M.: Thank you so much for having me! I’m not sure what else to tell you after that lovely intro. Long before I was a writer, books were a part of my life. I’ve had books in my hands for as far back as I can remember. When I was in elementary school and into junior high, I devoured books at such a rapid rate that we’d drive nearly thirty minutes to another town’s library that had unlimited check-outs. Getting lost in a story is one of my favorite things, and even though I do own a Nook for digital-only releases, there’s nothing quite like holding a paperback in my hands.
Jodi: There are three stories, so far, in the Belonging series. Each of these young men has to overcome trials and come to terms with his past in order to be happy and successful. What was your inspiration for this series?
A.M.: I didn’t set out with any specific idea of how the series would shape up, or even how many books I’d write. It came out of wanting to write something New Adult and wanting to write a virgin hero. Once I figured out who Jaime and Alessandro were and what was up with Perch Creek, I began writing their book. The series started to take shape once they took their field trip to Pot O Gold. I knew once Ezra appeared that instead of Perch Creek, Pot O Gold was going to be the hub of this series.
Jodi: Alessandro in No Such Thing and Ezra in Maybe This Time are not looking for relationships or love. Both men seem a bit jaded regarding love and relationships. Yet when they meet Jaime and Donner, respectively, things change. As a writer, was it a challenge to portray the shifts in these relationships from simply sex to an emotional connection between the characters?
A.M.: Yes and no. The characters made it pretty easy for me to sense when the shifts were happening, but the challenge is always showing those things in a subtle way, rather than shoving it up the reader’s nose. A lot of the time, shifts in relationships happen in the small things. Making coffee while your lover is still asleep and bringing them a mug in bed. Buying them a case of Coke when you see they’re about to run out without being asked. Resting a hand on their knee while watching a movie. It also happens when sex stops being about getting off and starts being about creating a connection with your lover — being with them because you can’t imagine being with anyone else.
Jodi: Although all three books can be read as standalones and focus on different couples, Ezra seems to be a steady link. Tell us a little about Ezra and the inspiration for his character.
A.M.: It’s probably fair to say that Ezra inspired himself. I wouldn’t call him flamboyant, but he has style and confidence, and I’d never written a character quite like him before. There’s probably a little bit of Brian Kinney (Queer As Folk) in him, but Ezra’s reluctance to form attachments come from a place of deep hurt. He’s guarded, because he doesn’t see being vulnerable as having any lasting value, so when his new friendships with Jaime and Alessandro last longer than one night, it throws him off his game. I loved the idea of writing someone who is insanely loyal to the few people he chooses to love, but getting there takes a force of nature (or someone as steadfast and incredibly patient as Donner).
Jodi: In Stand by You, the third book, we learn more about Romy, who we met in the first book. Romy has had a difficult life, and he makes a lot of bad decisions. Why does he trust Ezra?
A.M.: Part of the reason that he trusts Ezra is the same reason that Ezra instinctively trusts Romy—they’re both hurt souls who need a kind hand once in a while. Romy is also one of the few people with whom Ezra has hooked up more than once, and Romy attaches to people too easily. So another part of that trust is his long-distance crush on Ezra. Writing their friendship in Stand By You was a pleasure, because it really illustrated Ezra’s incredible loyalty to the people he chooses to love, as well as Romy’s need for genuine affection.
Jodi: Brendan and Romy are so different, yet they have similar needs. Tell us a bit about what makes Brendan tick.
A.M.: Brendan is the kind of best friend that everyone wants to have—steadfast, loyal, ready to help a pal in need, and incredibly generous. When I first introduced him in Maybe This Time I didn’t know he would end up with Romy. All I knew was that he was a big part of Donner’s life, and that he’d helped Donner get through losing his first partner Jacob. And I’ll tell you a secret: up until the moment that Brendan meets Romy for the first time (you know that scene), Brendan wasn’t even gay/closeted. Once it clicked, I went back and through the magic of editing, fixed what made everything right. And then Brendan started telling me all about his sisters, their significant others, his nieces and nephews, his mother, his childhood. All Brendan ever wanted to do was make his family proud of him and to take care of them, so when his hopes of a pro football career fell apart, he decided to take all of those feelings towards men and hide them away. His family is everything to him, and he was scared to risk disappointing, or even losing them.
Jodi: Romy trusts Brendan, but he is wary of getting into a relationship with him, especially since he is not even sure Brendan is gay? What makes him take that leap of faith?
A.M.: It’s Brendan himself that makes Romy take that leap. Brendan makes the first move, which makes it a little easier for Romy to put his trust in their relationship. He’s still wary at first, of course, because Brendan has to come out to both himself and to the other people in his life. But there is also something about Brendan that speaks to Romy on an instinctive level that he’s never had with someone before. As scared as he is to trust, Romy is just as scared to risk losing something potentially amazing.
Jodi: You tackle some difficult topics in this series: homophobia, rape, abuse. Was it a challenging writing about these topics?
A.M.: Absolutely. Other authors have tackled these topics, and in many, many ways, so I knew I wasn’t saying anything new. But I trusted my characters, and I hope I was careful not to use those topics as titillation or as a way to create artificial drama. I wanted to show the effects and aftermath of abuse in a truthful way that didn’t feel voyeuristic, but that was still honest. No one reacts to rape or violence in the same way, and I think it’s important to show that abuse victims aren’t supposed to act any one way. Recovery is a very personal thing, and everyone goes through it differently.
Jodi: Do you have a message for your readers, something you want them to come away with after reading the books?
A.M.: Treasure your healthy relationships and discard the toxic ones--it doesn’t matter if they are friends, relatives, or lovers.
Jodi: Foundation of Trust is the fifth book in the Cost of Repairs series. The books in this series are not as intricately related as the other series. What is the commonality in these books?
A.M.: The biggest commonality is location. All five books are set in (or in Foundation’s case, mostly around) the fictional town of Stratton, Pennsylvania. All of the books also feature a wide supporting cast of characters that weave in and out of the series. Samuel Briggs and Rey King (the heroes of books one and four) and local diner owner Dixie Foskey have appeared in all five books. I love the small town aspect of these books, and how much that atmosphere affects everyday life and personal decisions.
Jodi: In Foundation of Trust, Owen Hart and David Weller are reunited after four years. These men were just starting their lives together, when Owen and his son abruptly walked out of David’s life. Did you know Owen was coming back when he left?
A.M.: Yes. The scene in Charlie’s when Rey and David chat over beer (Acts of Faith) and David mentions Owen for the first time, I knew that this would be my “old lover returns to mend a broken heart” story. Except I had no idea why Owen left, or how on earth David would ever be able to forgive him. I mean, you haven’t even seen Owen on page, but from that scene you already kind of hate him, right? Redeeming him was tricky. Once I understood Owen’s back story, through, the novel started to come together.
Jodi: While reading the first book in the series, Cost of Repairs, I fell in love with Rey and Sam. What was your inspiration for these men and their story?
A.M.: Cost of Repairs was my first contemporary m/m novel, and I was terrified to tell their story. I was devouring m/m romance, especially series romance, and I wanted to do something set in a small town. And the best way to introduce an audience to a new location is to have someone new arrive in town, so all of the sudden I had this cop who’d lost his partner, and who was fixing up an old house while he grieved and learned to move on. And while he wasn’t technically in the closet, he hadn’t announced his sexuality to anyone. The town needed a watering hole of sorts, the kind of place where (wait for the cliché) everyone knows your name. Instead of a bar, though, I came up with a twenty-four hour diner named Dixie’s Cup, and naturally Samuel’s future love interest worked there. Except Rey was so stand-offish and had a funny name, and I had to know why, and once Rey’s back story fell into place, I was so eager to tell their story. And I was very excited to revisit their relationship again in book four, because I adore these two and one aspect of Rey’s life was still waiting to be resolved.
Jodi: Sam and Rey both face adversity and need to come to terms with their pasts in order to move into the future. What were some of the challenges you faced as a writer making these two characters both strong and vulnerable at the same time?
A.M.: Making any character both strong and vulnerable is always a challenge. It’s an extra challenge when they’re the alpha male cop that is Samuel Briggs. He can be tough as nails on the outside, but you also have to be able to show hints of that soft, gooey center because that’s the part of him that holds tight to the man that he loves. When they first meet, neither man is looking for a relationship and for very different reasons. No strings sex sounds like a good plan to both of them. In some ways, Rey always had more to lose because his life was hectic enough without adding in a boyfriend. But even though he tried to keep Sam at arm’s length and keep hammering away at life, Rey’s overall weariness with life gave away that he wasn’t as tough as he wanted to be. Vulnerability doesn’t have to be excessive to be noticeable
Jodi: What is your next project?
A.M.: I have several things going on at the moment. I have two new series debuting in early 2015, and both are spinoffs to these two series. The Truth As He Knows It is still set mostly in Stratton, but will also feature a younger set of characters and take readers into Harrisburg more often, as well. Getting It Right is Tag’s story, and it will tell the stories of his group of friends. I’m also working on Ethaniel’s book (Foundation of Trust), as well as some new proposals. I am not bored, believe me.
Foundation of Trust
Cost of Repairs, Book 5
David Weller thought he had it all—a loving partner who gave him a ring, a steady job he didn’t hate, and so much hope for the future. But in the wake of a devastating diagnosis, everything he thought was solid and real lay in pieces at his feet.
Four years later, he’s still sifting through the rubble of his life. His catering partnership occupies his days, while his nights are filled with dangerous sexual hookups and very bad decisions. Then the last person he ever expected to see again walks back into his life.
Owen Hart’s single biggest regret is the way he was forced to leave David behind—no explanations, no chance to make it right. Until now. Finally free of eight years of lies, Owen’s back for the only man he’s ever loved.
An incendiary encounter in a club proves that time hasn’t weakened their physical connection, but David’s wounds run deeper than Owen’s deception. And if David can’t first forgive, Owen doesn’t have a second chance in hell.
Warning: This book contains an Australian transplant with a head full of secrets, a party planner with enough baggage to sink a battleship, and a surly teenager who just wants them both to get over themselves.
Stand By You
Belonging, Book 3
Three months after his rescue from an abusive boyfriend, twenty-two-year-old Romy Myers has landed his first legitimate job, bussing tables at his friend's new coffee shop. The job has brought him some stability after years of abuse have left him feeling damaged and broken. He's working hard on his panic and social anxiety, and those things are often tempered by the big, burly presence of Brendan Walker.
From the moment ex-football player Brendan helped rescue Romy from his ex's abuse, he's wanted to protect him. And he does, from a distance, with joking text messages, a new gym routine to toughen him up and a genuine friendship. So far it's been easy, but Brendan's feelings aren't just friendly anymore…
When an argument spirals out of control, a hot and heavy make-out session causes Romy's friendship with supposedly straight Brendan to reach a new level. The last thing Romy wants is to fall for another guy who could potentially shatter him, but Brendan also wakes up a part of him he thought had been destroyed by violence, his heart.
11/5: Havan Fellows
Rafflecopter Prize: PDF copy of Foundation of Trust