The lovely Erin and Racheline are BACK for another go at The Hat Party! (Thank you SO MUCH for returning!) Please don your new favorite hat and let’s get started with the party <3
How would you describe your style using song lyrics?
From “Counting Stars,” by One Republic, which has become a weird sort of anthem for us.
I feel something so right
By doing the wrong thing
And I feel something so wrong
By doing the right thing
I couldn't lie, couldn't lie, couldn't lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive
What made you want to be a writer?
Erin: Writing is, in a lot of ways, a thing that I just do, regardless of my career goals or business plans. I love stories, whether they’re in books or on TV or on the stage. I have seen and read some really amazing stories -- the kind that’s left me staring at the page or screen when it’s over going wow that was incredible I want to make things like that. The impulse to be disciplined and businesslike about my writing comes from that. I’d sit and noodle around with words every day no matter what, but books and scripts don’t come from that.
Racheline: My early schooling was sort of intense about writing. I had two-hour essay examinations in every field but math from sixth grade on, and regardless of subject style and grammar always counted. So I grew up with this very intense skill. Combine that with being an only -- and pretty weird -- kid, and it was just really important to me to make myself heard. I was lucky to be given the tools to do that early.
You won a unicorn in a poker game (nice hand!) Do you use it for good or for evil?
Erin: Well first of all, I’d make friends with whoever I won the unicorn from (assuming they aren’t super mad they lost) because someone who bet a unicorn in a poker hand is someone who has a lot of interesting things going on. But from my limited understanding of unicorns -- which, I’ll admit, comes pretty much entirely from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone -- they are beings of pure good. Trying to use it for evil would probably not end well.
Racheline: This assumes a unicorn is the top of the awesome food-chain. It also assumes I’m not a card shark who was taught how to play poker by her grandfather at age 5. If I bet the unicorn in the next hand, what’s in the pot? I think unicorns pretty much demand going all in.
What is your current writing ambition?
Erin: Racheline and I have kind of an epic to-write list for 2015. We’re currently working on Love in Los Angeles Book Four, and starting to look ahead to Book Five. We have a new series we’re hoping to have some exciting news on soon. And we have some script and screenplay projects we’re always working on that we want to bring to some sort of fruition this year. As always, we also want to get through the next month without dying, getting divorced, or getting fired.
You have 200 (MORE) words—Make. Me. Swoon. (AGAIN!)
While struggling through patch, Alex and Paul have a particularly good night at the premiere for Paul’s new TV show, Winsome, AZ:
Once they get inside, they make it as far as the foyer before Paul pushes Alex up against the wall and kisses him hard. Alex whimpers and lets himself be pushed, fisting his hands in Paul's hair.
"I realize this is a total cliché," Paul says breathlessly as he strokes his hands up and down Alex's sides.
"I don't know, night of your greatest triumph's working out pretty well for me," Alex manages, straining forward to keep kissing Paul or at the very least nuzzle his cheek. It's been months since Paul has touched him like this and he wants. "Upstairs?"
Paul nods but starts unbuttoning Alex's shirt instead.
"What are you doing?" Alex asks breathlessly. Paul's hands on him, even just doing that, feel so good he can barely keep his eyes open.
"What does it look like I'm doing?"
Alex digs his fingers into Paul's jacket and pushes him away. Paul looks devastated for a moment, but then Alex smirks at him. "Upstairs," he repeats and saunters toward the stairs.
Paul races after him.
What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
Erin: I have a horrific sense of direction. Between the two of us, I am always going to be the one who gets us lost. Which is weird and not something people expect, I think -- I’m super organized, and the one who keeps all our schedules and calendars, so navigation seems like a skill I’d have. Nooooot so much. I am really excellent at knowing what time it is without looking at a clock, though.
Racheline: I’ve kept some sort of public Internet presence since 1990 and there are pretty awesome naked photos of me online. I don’t think there’s anything people don’t know about me that’s conveniently factoid shaped at this point.
What story moment are you most proud of having written?
Erin: There is a lot of really difficult material in Doves, and there were a couple times we finished a scene and then had to get up and take a walk around the block. It’s stuff that’s been absolutely devastating for us to re-read when we’ve done edits and proofreading. Without giving too much away, I am very proud of the scene in Victor’s basement. Which I think readers will either love or be furious at us for.
You can go back to any point in your life to give your past self a pep-talk. How old is your past self and what do you say?
Racheline: Second grade. I thought I was really bad at being like other people, instead of -- like everyone is really -- just different from other people. I really needed to know that my weirdnesses were a superpower and one to hold onto until I knew how to use them. So, “You are not like the other rats. Keep this secret, keep this safe.” I would have liked that, being a secret weird rat.
Erin: High school. I used to think that the only way to be successful was to be “good,” and that if I ever failed or if anyone was ever mad at me, it was definitely my own fault. So I spent a ton of time feeling immensely -- occasionally cripplingly -- guilty if something didn’t work or if I ever upset someone. Even if, somewhere in the back of my mind, was this faint sense that I was the one being wronged and small anger at the people who were blaming me. I just had no idea what to do with that feeling. So I’d tell 14 year old me, “You anger is more justified than your guilt. Use it.”
And finally, you’ve just inherited a dachshund farm, what do you do now?
Erin: Quit my dayjob. It’s hard enough to get out the door in the morning when I have two kittens’ worth of cute to contend with. An entire farm of dachshunds would be entirely beyond my ability to withstand. Also, they’d probably need me to take care of them, unless they come with an adorable dachshund-farm-keeper?
Racheline: Learn to drive! I figure it’s not an urban farm, and those dogs probably need transporting. They aren’t going to drive themselves! and I’m sure they will come with a busy schedule of Dachshund shows and celebrity animal reality show tapings to attend. Maybe I’ll even get to meet Grumpycat.
~ ~ ~
The ties that bind...
Two years after the events of Starling, Cinderella story and star of The Fourth Estate J. Alex Cook is living happily ever after with his boyfriend, television writer Paul Marion Keane. But when Paul’s pilot, Winsome, AZ, gets picked up, the competing demands of their high-profile careers make them question their future together.
...Can tear you apart
As Paul becomes increasingly absent from their relationship, Alex tries to regain control of his private life and establish a career path independent of Fourth's enigmatic, and at times malevolent, showrunner Victor. But the delicate web of relationships that connects Alex, Paul, and their friends — including Alex's excitable ex-lover Liam and his no-nonsense fiancée Carly — threatens to unravel.
With the business of Hollywood making it hard to remember who he is when the whole world isn’t watching, Alex is forced to confront major changes in the fairytale life he never wanted as he discovers that love in Los Angeles often looks nothing like the movies.
Excerpt: Alex and Paul stay closer to each other than they normally do. Usually it's Alex who curls into Paul's side whenever he can, at least when they’re not in public, but tonight it's Paul who keeps their legs pressed together under the table. More than once Alex sees Paul's mother watching them as they bend their heads together to talk quietly, but Alex has no impulse to pull away or remove his arm from low on Paul's back.
They're sitting out on the verandah together with Paul's family, watching sunset creep across the fields, when Alex's phone rings again. This time, it's Margaret.
The whole conversation is ridiculous on any number of levels, but at least she's not shouting. Her calm, competent crisis-management mode is somehow even more frightening than Victor's wrath, and now Alex's reception of it isn't numbed by terrible stories. The liberals are furious that their sweet Indiana farmboy has the temerity to know his way around a gun. The right suddenly has to deal with the fact that their new if inadvertent poster boy is Hollywood's pet twink. No one is happy. Even beyond the fans who feel betrayed that J. Alex Cook would do something so terrible as shoot beer bottles (he'd made Paul show him some of the choice replies on Twitter), many, many people are angry.
"The NRA called," Margaret tells him.
"I'm on vacation," Alex moans.
"Have you talked to Paul's family about what happens when things like this happen?"
"Do things like this actually happen that much?"
"Are you planning on maintaining dangerous and politically-sensitive hobbies?"
"I'm not going to defend a sport I like and I'm good at because it makes people who say flyover nervous. I shoot targets, not animals, and I'm also not interested in being a spokesperson for a bunch of freaks who think the government is coming for their Jesus. Can't I just be a person who does stuff?"
"I'm taking that as a yes."
Alex swears. And then reluctantly explains that yes, he and Paul have had conversations with Paul's mother, sister, and brother-in-law about some of the realities of a relationship as public as theirs. Everyone has been gracious, but as welcoming as this family has been, Alex knows he's making everyone's lives harder than they have to be just by existing in a relationship with Paul.
Eventually Margaret talks him down from his pitch of righteous anger -- he retreats around the corner of the verandah to keep Paul's family out of earshot as much as possible, because dumping all of this on them just seems rude -- and lays out a reasonable strategy for dealing with it which amounts to much the same as Victor's: Do nothing, and do not do a whole lot of somethings.
"Hey, can't you just say you're trying to get me an action movie deal or something?" he jokes as the call winds down.
"I could," Margaret points out, "if we knew what the hell was going on with your show."
And with that, Alex finally gets why Victor was pissed. Because on top of everything else, they all live in some sort of crazy world where a tweet can be strategy and betrayal.
After he hangs up with Margaret, before Alex can even walk back round to the front of the house, Victor calls again. There's less yelling, and the timing is less awful, but by the time that call is over and Alex has finally slumped back into the chair next to Paul's, Alex is ready to never answer his phone ever again.
Which is when Paul's phone rings.
Paul looks scared. His mother looks like none of this is terribly out of the ordinary. Alex wonders if that's just because she's used to Paul's job or if her life transcended strange and scary a long time ago.
"Answer it," Alex hisses, because he knows this is one of the two calls they've been waiting for and the one that will go a long way towards telling them the shape of the next year.
Paul answers it, and Alex watches him closely as he nods and says yes and thank you a number of times, but he's so damn even Alex can't tell if the news is good or bad.
When he clicks off, he just stares straight ahead breathing for a moment, and what Alex would have once taken as shock or admired as an even disposition now just seems learned in the most unsettling of ways.
"Well?" he finally asks.
Everyone is leaned forward in their chairs on the verandah staring at him in the bug-filled twilight.
"Thirteen episodes," he says softly. "Option for another eight. And then we pray for season two."
The reaction is loud from Paul's family, but Alex just sits there, still bent towards Paul and holding his hand, waiting for the moment to actually connect. When it does, Paul is out of his chair in a flash, hauling Alex up with him into a crushing hug.
"Oh my god, this day," Alex says in his ear.
Paul laughs in utter delight. "So will you marry me now?"
*What inspired you to write Doves?
We started writing Doves almost before we had really finished Starling. We certainly knew we were going to have a sequel from pretty early in the Starling process. We write and brainstorm by essentially telling each other stories, and perpetually asking each other the question “and then what happens?”
This was another case of us wanting to explore things everyone thinks are wonderful -- fame, success, marriage -- wrecking havoc on a social circle.
*Is there anything special you’d like us to know about your book?
Doves is a furious book. We were angry about a lot of things when we were writing it -- the winter of 2013-2014 was not a good time for either of us -- and a lot of that feeling is present in the story. I think we only became clear just how angry it was -- at the media, at the hundred and one grossnesses of the film and television industry, at the difficulty of living a public life, at relationship structures, at the world that doesn’t like women telling stories -- during the editorial process. We have a lot of gratitude to our publisher for letting us make it as challenging and dark a book as it is. So yes, Doves is a romance, with multiple HEAs for multiple couples. There is sex and a wedding and plenty of I love yous. But the ride it takes to get there definitely goes through a heavily wooded path.
*What are your hopes for this title?
Racheline: I hope it gets people talking. There’s a lot in there about being your own person before you can be with someone else, and what sort of promises it is and isn’t reasonable to expect from other people. This book is a bit of a rough ride, and I hope it makes people feel like they’re more resilient than they’ve realized -- just like the characters discover that too in the course of it.
About the Authors: Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese are authors of the gay romance series Love in Los Angeles, set in the film and television industry (Starling (September 10, 2014), Doves (January 21, 2015), and Phoenix (June 10, 2015)), all from Torquere Press. Their gay romance novella Midsummer (Summer 2015), about a summerstock Shakespeare company, is from Dreamspinner Press. Racheline is a NYC-based performer and storyteller; Erin is a writer and blogger based in Washington, D.C. They write stories and scripts about the intersection of private lives, fame, and desire.
Where you can find them: Joint Blog | Joint Facebook Page | Erin’s Twitter | Racheline’s Twitter | Erin’s Goodreads | Racheline’s Goodreads
Erin & Racheline are giving away away an e-copy of Starling, Love in Los Angeles Book One, drawn from people leaving comments on this interview :) Contest ends January 31st @ 11:59 CDT. Make sure to leave your email address!