We are very happy to welcome CJane Elliott to the Smoocher’s Voice blog today. Elliott’s latest novella Wild and Precious 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.
Jodi: Thank you, CJane, for taking the time to answer some questions for our readers. It is a pleasure getting to chat with again. Wild and Precious, your newest book, is a bit more lighthearted than Serpentine Walls and Aidan’s Journey, but still has the perfect amount of angst. What was your inspiration for this story?
CJane: Hi Jodi! Thank you for having me on the blog today. The idea for Wild and Precious came out of a prompt in a writing community which was to re-imagine a movie as an m/m story. I took the movie “Kissing Jessica Stein” and twisted the plot around. In the movie, Jessica is straight and decides to experiment with being with a woman. It works for awhile, but they break up and the implication in the movie is that Jessica’s “gay” phase was not going to be repeated.
In my story, Brent identifies as straight, although he’s wondered about being with men and when he does his experimenting in the story he realizes he’s gay. He has to deal with owning himself as a gay man, coming out to his family and friends, etc. The other theme in the movie, which I kept in the story, is that of being true to who you really are and pursuing what you’re passionate about. For Jessica, that was being an artist and for Brent it’s being a writer.
Jodi: So inquiring minds want to know, did you do research on Match.com and Grindr for this book?
CJane: Ha ha, not much. I wish I could say yes about Grindr but my reaction is that of Cody: *shudder*. I hope people don’t take it as I disapprove, because that’s not it, it’s just that I’m so private and it takes me some time to trust new people that I can’t imagine myself using it, even if I were a gay man. I have some friends who used Match.com and I did check to make sure it had a same-sex dating section, but that was the extent of my research.
Jodi: Brent is such an interesting character. He dates women and considers himself straight, but from the beginning, he is attracted to his boss. Tell us a little about what makes Brent tick.
CJane: Brent appears as an unassuming guy who isn’t too aware of his own attractiveness or talents. But he has dreams. What’s surprising about Brent is that he keeps charting his own path even when it veers from what’s expected of him. Brent grew up in a small town in Kentucky, with conservative and traditional values. Everyone went to church and everyone knew each other’s business. Brent had a high school girlfriend who everyone expected he would marry. His father expected that Brent would follow him into his insurance business. Instead, Brent broke up with his girlfriend halfway through college, decided to major in English, then moved away to the big city to work at the magazine. The story starts there and in it, Brent keeps stepping beyond his comfort zone to go for what he wants in life. One of Brent’s most admirable traits is his courage.
Jodi: When we first meet Graham, he is in a long-term relationship with another man. Graham seems very self-assured and confident, but also a bit vulnerable. Can you give us some insights into Graham’s character?
CJane: I love Graham. He’s talented and gorgeous and fun, and good with people. He’s generous and a great boss. But he does have a vulnerable side that he doesn’t let many people see. Graham is a self-made man who literally transformed himself into the attractive, confident person we see in the story. He was bullied in middle school and high school for being gay and he couldn’t get away from all of that fast enough. What got him through the hard times is his optimistic nature, sense of humor, and genuine caring for other people.
Jodi: The third wheel in this story is Cody. Cody proves to be a very important person in both Brent’s and Graham’s futures. Why did you decide to have Cody be the person that flips Brent’s world around even though it is clear from the beginning that Brent has feelings for Graham?
CJane: I’m a big believer in “transitional figures” – people who come into our lives when we need to learn something. These people don’t necessarily stick around. Cody is Brent’s “transitional figure” who helps him cross the bi-curious bridge (poetic, eh?). Cody even knows that he’s probably going to be a temporary figure in Brent’s life. It hurts him because he develops feelings for Brent, but he understands what they are meant to be for each other, and he lets Brent know that Brent has taught him things too. Cody’s a cool guy and I’d like to tell more of his story at some point.
Jodi: The concept of romance between younger and older men makes an appearance in a few of your books. Is this something you set out to do, or do the characters just develop that way?
CJane: You noticed that, huh? I’m not sure where that comes from. Daddy issues, perhaps. My Dad, who recently passed away, was an alpha male type who was charming and handsome and I dedicated this story to him. We had a great relationship from my thirties on, but as a child and young adult I was always trying to “make it” with him, as in get his approval and attention (I’m one of six children). It’s all very Oedipal, I’m sure!
Jodi: Tell us a little about your writing style. Do you outline your stories and plots or do they just unfold as you go along?
CJane: I outline the plot before I start writing. Sometimes I don’t know how the story will end (that happened for Aidan’s Journey; my initial outline ends with “so this is all resolved at some point.”). And often the story deviates from the initial outline. I keep the outline in a Word file and update it as I go along.
Jodi: Do you plan the length of the story when you begin – novella vs. novel?
CJane: I didn’t use to and all my early published stories are novellas. Serpentine Walls actually started as a short story I wrote to submit to a Dreamspinner anthology. I expanded it to a novella and then got feedback that I was shortchanging my characters by skipping over scenes (I had done that to keep it within short story length in the original story and hadn’t noticed it was still that way as a novella). That’s when I made the decision to have it be a novel. I’m planning each book in the Serpentine Series to be novel-length.
Jodi: Will these men show up in any future stories?
CJane: I believe so! I think Cody will have his own story. Also, it would be fun to have the Serpentine guys and Wild and Precious guys interact. They all live in the same general area. In fact, I just wrote a scene for Amanda Stone’s blog, per her request, that shows Brent meeting Aidan.
Jodi: That would be awesome to have the characters interact. What is your next project? When will the next Serpentine series book be released, and can you give us a sneak preview?
CJane: I’m working on the third novel in the Serpentine Series now, with a projected release date of August, and hope to have a fourth one out by the end of this year. The third one has Jed Carter from Serpentine Walls as the main character. At first I was going to have his love interest be Tucker, the sexy college roommate of Jed’s older brother, but Jed was getting lost again in being this less flashy, kind of boring guy in contrast to Tucker. So I changed the love interest to Charlie, who is a “townie,” which is what U.Va. students call kids who live in Charlottesville and don’t go to the university. Not only is Charlie a “townie” but he’s biracial and he and his family are part of the black community in Charlottesville, with church being a large part of Charlie’s life. Charlie’s cousin, Morocco, is transgender and she has her own storyline going on.
Keeping in mind that this is from my first draft and not even edited yet, so it’s subject to change, here’s the scene where Jed and Charlie first meet. Jed is in his first year at U.Va. (so this predates the events of Serpentine Walls) and Charlie works at the local video arcade, Lucky’s.
Jed changed course and headed to Lucky’s. He was tired of U.Va. crap, fraternities, homophobia, and all the rest, and needed a videogame fix. Kent said they had the best selection in town. The wind picked up, carrying with it a hint of snow. He pulled his coat closer around him and started a slow jog, relieved to be leaving the Grounds and the parties behind.
Ten minutes later, Jed reached Lucky’s. He was breathing hard but feeling more centered as he pushed open the door. He stopped to survey the scene, having never been there. The place was hopping, people eating, drinking, playing pool and pinball, and there against the far wall were huge screens and sofas for gamers. He went over to the shelves of videogames and started perusing.
“Let me know if I can help you with anything.”
A handsome black guy stood next to the check-out counter. He gave Jed a shy smile and Jed smiled back. Zing. Jed had never thought about having a gaydar but this guy set something off in him that said they were playing on the same team.
“Do you have any suggestions?”
“D-depends.” The guy came to stand next to Jed. He was a couple inches taller and he smelled nice. Plus he had greenish-brown eyes that were a striking contrast to his skin tone. His nametag read Charlie. “W-what’re you into?”
You. The answer that came into Jed’s brain caused his cheeks to warm. Damn stupid blushing. “I like Halo, Mass Effect, stuff like that. But I also like fantasy games. I was way into Oblivion in high school.”
Charlie picked out a game and handed it over. “You’d l-like this if you haven’t p-played it. It came out this year.”
“Dragon Age: Origins. Yeah, I haven’t played this one. Thanks.” He followed Charlie back to the counter. “You go to U.Va.?” Jed wasn’t usually this forward in striking up conversations but something about Charlie – his obvious shyness, his slight stutter – made Jed want to put him at ease. To Jed’s dismay, his question seemed to embarrass Charlie.
“N-no.” Charlie shut his mouth in a grim line as he rang up Jed’s rental.
“Oh.” Jed was casting around for something else to say when a bunch of high school kids rushed the counter, clutching games. Charlie handed over Dragon Age but didn’t meet Jed’s eyes and turned to his new customers. “Thanks.”
Jed left Lucky’s, game in hand, puzzling over Charlie’s response. So he’s a “townie”. So what? Oh well. The guy hadn’t seemed all that interested in Jed anyway. He shook his head and lost himself in reading the videogame jacket.
Tour Dates: December 31, 2014 – January
Rafflecopter Prize: E-book copy from CJane’s backlist