We are very happy to welcome CJane Elliott to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Elliott’s latest novel Aidan’s Journey is available on Dreamspinner Press.
After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.
CJane is an ardent supporter of gay equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories.
In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her husband and son support her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.
You can read more about CJane on her website.
You can also find her on: Twitter: https://twitter.com/CJaneElliott and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cjane.elliott
Jodi: Thank you, CJane, for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. I recently enjoyed read Serpentine Walls and Aidan’s Journey. What was your inspiration for this series?
CJane: Hi there! I’m glad you enjoyed the books. I actually started out with a short story version of Serpentine Walls, which I submitted to a Dreamspinner Press anthology of college stories. It was not accepted in that form, for which I’m now grateful because I ended up making a novel out of it.
For Serpentine Walls, I drew on my experience of attending University of Virginia. Some of the things going on in the MC Pete’s life in Serpentine Walls, like his parents’ divorce, are similar to what was happening to me when I was in college.
Aidan’s Journey happened because I and many of the readers of Serpentine Walls wanted to know more about Aidan, and why he ended up being a seemingly shallow cad with some hints of a nice guy peeking through.
Jodi: I was enthralled with your psychological treatment of Aidan in Aidan’s Journey. What were some of the challenges you encountered in developing his character?
CJane: I fell in love with Aidan as I wrote his early years and realized what a tender guy he was underneath all that razzle dazzle. There’s something despicable he does which is told in Serpentine Walls and I struggled with figuring out why he went so far, given he’s actually a decent guy. The other challenge was simply to be with Aidan’s journey and all the hurt and pain he goes through. It was like giving birth – it hurt a lot in the middle but there was no going back. I had to keep writing until it was done.
Jodi: Your bio notes that you are a psychotherapist by training. What type of research did you do for both Aidan and Rodney’s characters?
CJane: I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have had a therapy practice. I also have led courses that delve into the human psyche. So I’ve spent years studying human nature. I didn’t do specific research on the psychology of Aidan and Rodney, but their characters are informed by my interest in what drives people and how they sabotage themselves.
Jodi: Are these characters based on real cases or people?
CJane: Aidan is not based on a real person. Professor R is loosely based on a professor I had in college who did sleep with his students and was handsome and charismatic.
Jodi: Aidan’s Journey could be classified as a coming of age story. Was it a challenge to get into Aidan’s head and write in first person point of view for this story?
CJane: The challenge was to start the story because I’d never written anything in first person POV before. But once I got started, I found that Aidan’s voice flowed easily. It’s like being taken over. In fact, I was just looking at a journal entry when I was in the middle of writing the book and I wrote, “I just told Aidan to ‘shut up’. He keeps talking in my head.”
Jodi: Readers meet Aidan in Serpentine Walls, which is the first book in the series. Although Pete seems to feel bad for Aidan, Aidan is not a very sympathetic character. Did you plan to write the second book as you were writing the first one?
CJane: No, I had no plans at first to write a second book. But as I continued to write Serpentine Walls, Aidan’s character got more and more dimensional and I could see he had a heart and a lot of pain under that gleaming surface. I started to wonder why he was the way he was and what had led him to be involved with Professor R. I also wanted to see him get free of that relationship. That’s what led me to write Aidan’s Journey.
Jodi: Serpentine Walls is told from Pete’s perspective, but it is written in third person point of view, so the reader does not really have the opportunity to delve into the minds of Pete and Matthew as we do with Aidan in Aidan’s Journey. Why did you decide to make this change in writing style?
CJane: Aidan was talking to me. I could hear his voice so clearly and something told me that I needed to write the second book in first person. I was intimidated by that idea but went with it.
Jodi: Rodney Montgomery is suave and sophisticated. He is a professor at the University of Virginia, and a bit of a predator. Without giving any plot secrets away, can you give some insights into why he is able to get away with seducing students for so long without getting in trouble?
CJane: I’ve seen it happen in real life. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. Rodney is good at manipulating situations so he ends up on top (literally and figuratively). I would hope colleges today would respond more quickly to reports of abusive teachers, but Rodney gets away with it for far too long. From the students’ perspective, many of them would not see consensual sex with a teacher as a form of abuse. They might feel very cool and adult about the whole situation until looking back on it later, when they might realize that the teacher took advantage of them.
Jodi: Was it difficult for you as a writer to develop the multiple sides of Aidan’s character: the naive, romantic, compassionate man combined with the psychologically abused sex god who uses people?
CJane: No, because that’s why I wrote the story – in order to understand how Aidan got to being a callous ‘fuck ‘em and leave ‘em’ guy. And because I started at the beginning of his life and went from there, it was easy for me to add the layers of his character as I went along.
Jodi: Tell us a little about Patrick Jaymes.
CJane: Patrick is a fellow actor who Aidan met in New York in an Actors Workshop. He is from Seattle and his parents kicked him out of his home when he was seventeen for being gay. Patrick is a self-made man and has made a life despite having no family support. He’s handsome and sweet and a great guy. Patrick is interested in Aidan right away, and wants to get to know the “real” Aidan underneath the glamorous exterior. He is there for Aidan even when Aidan is too messed up to handle a relationship, and stays his friend until Aidan is emotionally able to become his lover. Patrick ends up getting a role as a leading man on a soap opera by the end of Aidan’s Journey and he and Aidan are making plans to move into their own place.
Jodi: Why does Patrick think Aidan can be redeemed, even when it looks like he cannot?
CJane: Patrick sees beyond Aidan’s surface personality to the man inside. The first time they sit and have a real talk, Aidan tells him about what he’s been through with his father and with Rodney, and Patrick is moved by Aidan’s courage. So when things get dicey later on in the story, even though Patrick is hurt by being temporarily shut out of Aidan’s life, he still believes in him and loves him.
Jodi: One of the most intriguing ideas in Aidan’s Journey is the relationship pattern that has been ingrained into Aidan by his parents. Aidan hates what he sees in his parents, and yet, he repeats it in grand fashion. So, how does Pete escape this same fate?
CJane: The difference between Pete in Serpentine Walls and Aidan is that Pete’s upbringing is relatively normal. Both of his parents love him and express their love for him and his siblings. While his parents do divorce, their relationship isn’t terrible and Pete’s father isn’t a serial philanderer like Aidan’s is. Yes, his father does leave the marriage for another woman, and Pete is hurt and cynical because of it. But because Pete’s father is proud of Pete and has given Pete love through the years, Pete doesn’t have that yawning emptiness inside that Aidan does, and his process of letting love in proves much less arduous than Aidan’s.
Jodi: Will there be more books in this series?
CJane: Yes, I have at least two more books planned and a possible fifth book. My next novel in The Serpentine Series will be about Jed, the nice guy that Pete has a friends-with-benefits relationship with in Serpentine Walls. I wanted to give Jed a chance to shine and have his own happy ending, because he ends up being crushed by Pete’s indifference. Jed has an older brother, Kent, and Kent has an intriguing roommate, Tucker, and there will be a book featuring them after the Jed novel is done.
Jodi: What is your next project?
CJane: Besides writing the Jed novel for The Serpentine Series, I have a novella coming out from Dreamspinner Press at the end of December. It’s called Wild and Precious and is set in Washington, DC. It has the requisite tall and handsome man, Graham, who is the editor of an arts magazine, his cute employee Brent, who is an aspiring writer trying to figure out his sexuality, and a sexy bisexual musician guy, Cody, who’s helping Brent with his explorations. Although there are three main characters, it isn’t a ménage story, but a coming of age and happily ever after romance.
Reeling from the news that his parents are divorcing, Pete Morgan starts his junior year at college cynical about love and commitment. Although his new openness to one-night stands does wonders for his sex life, fighting his romantic nature proves harder than he’d anticipated. He soon finds himself pining for a glamorous senior, Aidan, who doesn’t mind taking Pete to bed but shows no interest in commitment—at least not with Pete. And Pete’s attempt at a “friends-with-benefits” relationship with sophomore Jed leaves Pete feeling empty.
One bright spot in Pete’s year is Matthew, an easygoing graduate student who assists Pete in making his first film. Matthew has some baggage too, and has sworn off relationships and sex altogether, so Pete feels safe to enjoy their friendship. But he falls for Matthew anyway, not able to fight his growing conviction that Matthew is the perfect guy for him. Even if Pete can accept that he made a mistake when he turned his back on relationships, that doesn't mean Matthew will feel the same. With a few life lessons under his belt, Pete’s ready to take a chance on love. As he finds the courage to bare his heart to Matthew, he can only hope that Matthew will take a chance with him.
October 14: Love Bytes
October 15: Amanda C. Stone
October 16: MM Good Book Reviews
October 17: Wicked Faeries Reviews
October 22: Cate Ashwood
October 24: Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words
Rafflecopter Prize: eBook of one of my previous titles, including novel Serpentine Walls, or novellas