We are very happy to welcome L.B, Gregg to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. L.B.’s latest novel There’s Something About Ari is available on Riptide Publishing. There’s Something About Ari is the second book in the Bluewater Bay universe.
When not working from her home in the rolling hills of Northwestern Connecticut, author L.B. Gregg can be spotted in coffee shops from Berlin to Singapore to Panama--sipping lattes and writing sweet, hot, often funny, stories about men who love men. www.lbgregg.com
Connect with L.B.:
Jodi: Thank you L.B. for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. Tell us a little about what inspires you to write in the m/m genre.
L.B: I’ve been writing gay romance for years now, and I guess, this has always been where my voice lives. I love men. What can I say?
Jodi: Many of your books are part of series. What are some of the benefits of writing in a series instead of just writing standalone books? Which do you prefer?
L.B: Overall, readers seem to prefer series and they sell well. My two best selling books to date are the stand alone, How I Met Your Father from Riptide, and the first Men of Smithfield book, Mark and Tony (formerly Gobsmacked) from Carina. But I don’t have a preference. I just want to be inspired when I’m writing and not feel like deadline outweighs quality.
Jodi: The Bluewater Bay universe is different than your other universes. Was it a challenge to write for a collaborative universe?
L.B: Initially, I didn’t know what to expect, or which direction to go. Then I started writing and I realized I just needed to be true to my own voice. People buy my books because they like my voice. There are some truly gifted authors in our series, and I think people will enjoy touring the town with all these different guides.
Jodi: This novella has a lot of depth, and the characters are intriguing. Are the characters created collaboratively or are Ari and Buck your own creations?
L.B: Ari and Buck are 100% L.B. Gregg. We each added our own characters and I wanted to write a New Adult. I felt a teen wolf would be a great addition to cast of Wolf’s Landing, although we experience the town through Buck’s point of view.
Jodi: Is this your first experience collaborating with other authors? How much of the stories are collaborative?
L.B: I’ve worked on anthologies, where thematically we hoped to achieve something special. For Bluewater Bay, I wrote alone in a word created by others. It was a challenge, but the guidelines were clear, and we all share an editor, so her job is to make sure the vision is cohesive. All mistakes are hers. Please don’t tell her I said that.
Jodi: Tell us a little about Ari and what makes him tick?
L.B: Ari is that kid in grade school who couldn’t sit in his chair. The one who dropped pencils and made weird noises. Hyperactive, but sensitive. He struggled academically and came from a troubled home, so he relied on his charming personality to get by. His friendship with Buck and Buck’s family provided stability. As he got older, charm couldn’t get Ari through high school and he and Buck drifted. He hit rock bottom at eighteen and managed to turn himself around.
Some of his more challenging traits as a youngster became his best assets as a professional actor.
Jodi: Buck is forced to become a responsible adult when his parents die and he needs to take care of his younger brother. His reaction to Ari returning to town seems to be a combination of hurt, anger and unresolved love. Is he also resentful of Ari?
L.B: I don’t think he’s resentful. He’s embarrassed. Buck’s decision to raise his brother was the right one, but it’s still difficult for Buck to see Ari’s Hollywood success story when Buck had to give up every opportunity and is still serving coffee at Stomping Grounds. He’s not resentful— he’s human.
Jodi: It is interesting that neither Buck nor Ari tell the other he is gay when they are teens, although, they both make that self-discovery. Why do they not communicate with each other when they are supposed to be best friends?
L.B: They’re very different people. Buck isn’t a talker. As high school progressed, Buck focused on being a good kid to get his scholarship. And, like most teenagers, he was uncomfortable in his own skin. He was afraid that if he told Ari he was gay, it would change their friendship. Of course, not telling Ari meant they drifted apart.
Ari went wild. He dated and had sexual experiences with girls, and when he finally came out, his life was in the crapper.
Jodi: Both Ari and Buck are so wrapped up in their own teenage angst and issues that they never see what is happening to the other person. What essentially causes them to grow apart?
L.B: Buck’s awkwardness was debilitating. And Ari’s shame over his home life and his mother’s mental illness issues put a wedge between them.
Jodi: Why is Buck so oblivious to what is happening to Ari? How does Buck not realize Ari is homeless and why does Ari not confide in him?
L.B: High school. I have been through myself, and later with three children, and most of the time, teenagers are wrapped up in their own drama. Yes, they care about others, putting social concerns ahead of school, but not Buck. Buck received a full ride to go to college, and Ari was scraping the bottom of the barrel. They’re on different trajectories in their last year of school.
Jodi: Why does Ari return to Bluewater Bay?
L.B: Well, the Teen Wolf gig is a dream come true!
Jodi: Was it difficult for you as a writer to develop Buck’s character? He seems so angry throughout most of the book.
L.B: He’s not. He’s cautious because he’s been deeply hurt. He’s frazzled. He’s embarrassed. Buck’s not willing to suffer another loss—and because of Ari’s checkered past, Buck’s not willing to allow someone into their lives who could jeopardize custody of his brother Charlie.
Jodi: Why is Ari so patient?
L.B: Ari has always had a sunny disposition. He’s a survivor. He’s clean and sober because he reconnected with his father. He’s loved. Ari understands how difficult things have been for Buck.
Jodi: I have to say that I loved the prologue for this story. It is descriptive and endearing, and you do a great job painting the scene. Did the prologue set the scene for this story in your creative process or was it the other way around?
L.B: It set the scene. I have always been a sucker for romances that begin when the couple meets as children. I love the idea that some people are meant to be together. Ari was a ray of sunshine for Buck, and Buck is a rock. They balance each other.
Jodi: What is your next project?
L.B: I’m working on the short story, “Waiting for Winter,” which is part of the Comfort and Joy anthology with Josh Lanyon, Harper Fox, and Joanna Chambers. My story is set in Vermont where ex lovers get stuck, alone, for Christmas. I’m shooting for hot, funny, and sweet.
There’s Something About Ari
Buck Ellis’s future seems pretty damn bright. With a full college scholarship in hand, he’s going to ditch Bluewater Bay and pave the way for his kid brother Charlie to do the same. The only fly in Buck’s ointment is his ten-year addiction to his best friend since second grade, his true love, and his Achilles heel: Ari Valentine, Mr. Least Likely to Succeed.
But then Buck’s mother dies, changing everything, and five years later, his future is still on hold. It’s a struggle to keep food on the table, a roof over their heads, and Charlie on the straight and narrow. Buck can’t afford any temptation, especially in the form of the newly returned, super hot, super confident, super successful television star Ari Valentine.
ADHD poster-child Ari Valentine left for Hollywood and lost everything, including his bad reputation. Then the breakthrough role of his career lands him back in Bluewater Bay, to the stunned disbelief of, well, everyone. But there’s only one person Ari longs to impress—the only person who ever really mattered to him, the person he left behind: Buck Ellis.
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