Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Where stories meet: Shira Anthony Talks About Coming of Age and Adult Romance

Shira Anthony is my guest today. Not only is she a knock-your-socks-off writer (I love, love, love her Blue Notes series), but shes a lovely person who says nice things about me. :D  And thats all the intro she needs.

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Thank you, Tali, for hosting me on your blog!  You are truly a joy: an amazing writer, a wonderful woman, and someone I’m happy to count among my friends. And even though I look forward to seeing more of you in person, thank you for inviting me for this virtual visit and for letting me explore some of my inspiration behind my new release, Encore.  And for those of you reading this post, be sure to check out the Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour Giveaway link below.  You could win a Kindle loaded with lots of wonderful books, as well as a bunch of other great prizes.

For those of you not familiar with my Blue Notes Series of music/musician-centered gay romance novels from Dreamspinner Press, each is a standalone story, and can be read in any order.  The exception?  Symphony in Blue, which will be released on Christmas Day, 2013, and is a holiday novella and sequel to the first four books in the series. Encore, the 5th book in the series, is also chronologically the first.  So if you haven’t read any of the other books, this might be a place for you to start! Encore shares themes in common with the other Blue Notes books: music and musicians, a heavy focus on character development, and long-term, committed relationships. 

Encore, unlike the other books in the series, tells the story of a relationship over a more than 30 year period, from when Roger Nelson and John Fuchs meet in high school, until the present day. One of my friends called Roger and John “modern star-crossed lovers.” They are.  Do they get their happy ending?  You bet, since I won’t write a romance without one.  But it’s a very long haul.  One of the benefits of writing a relationship over such a long period of time was that, in a sense, I got to write 2 different books: a coming of age story, and a mature, adult romance. 

When Roger and John meet, Roger is a violinist with a very promising future and John is an aspiring conductor.  In this first half of the book, the two boys are at very different places in their lives.  It’s the early 1970s, and being gay in the US was so much more difficult than it is now. John has already figured it out.  He’s not “out” or “proud” in any sense of the word, but he knows who he is and he’s accepted it.  Roger, on the other hand, has not.  And it’s his struggle that is probably the most difficult to write and to read.  I know I personally wanted to take him by the shoulders and shake him—make him realize he was meant to be with John and stop pretending he was someone else.  But the reality of the 1970s was that there were many men like Roger who had a vague sense that something was wrong with their lives, but didn’t want to face the truth: that they were homosexual. Being gay meant a lifetime of ridicule, hatred, or worse.

The adult romance comes when, after Roger and John had been separated for a long time (they’ve stayed best friends throughout their lives), Roger finally comes to accept himself for who he is.  By then, John is a superstar conductor and a bit of a playboy.  There’s only one man he wants to be with, and that’s Roger, but he’s afraid Roger will break his heart again.  So the mature, adult romance part of Encore is all about self-acceptance and trust.  A very different sort of relationship. 

The youthful and adult relationships, however, share much in common.  When Roger and John get back together after being apart for many years, they have to re-explore some of the same things they explored before: emotions and sexuality.  They’ve been friends, but they need to become lovers again.  I hadn’t planned on creating that parallel.  As often happens, my characters “told” me to write it that way.  It felt right, and it felt honest to have that rediscovery after so long.

The lesson I learned here (and one I hope will help inspire my own interest in writing young adult romances at some point down the road)?  Relationships are driven by human beings.  By their flaws, their quirks, their hearts and minds.  Sure, youth plays a role in how a relationship grows, but not as much as you might think.  Long-term relationships, like Roger and John’s, are about coming to understand and learning to live with another person’s soul.

Looking for sexy hot romances with fluffy scenes?  I think you’ll like the Blue Notes books.  But if you’re also looking for something more—for something more real than Cinderella and her prince? I think you’ll enjoy these stories about real men in real relationships.  You can find all of my Dreamspinner Press books by clicking here.  Want to read more about me and about my books, including free fiction and excerpts?  Check out my website, www.shiraanthony.com

Don’t forget to enter the Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour giveaway by clicking here (Rafflecopter).  There are plenty of ways to enter, and you can enter more than once by commenting, tweeting, buying books, and liking pages.  I’ll be drawing winners on New Year’s Eve at midnight!  Good luck! –Shira

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Blue Notes Holiday 2013 Blog Tour Info

This blog tour is to celebrate TWO Blue Notes Series releases:  “Encore” (Blue Notes #5) on November 11, 2013, and “Symphony in Blue” (Blue Notes #4.5) on December 25, 2013 (Christmas Day).  “Symphony in Blue” is my 10th Dreamspinner Press release!  I’ve put together a special prize list to celebrate. 
Blue Notes Series Holiday 2013 Giveaway:

  • Begins on release day for “Encore,” November 11, 2013
  • Ends on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2013, at midnight
  • Drawings are open to both U.S. readers and international readers, but physical prizes (Kindle, necklace, book, and t-shirt) are for U.S. readers only. I will award a virtual set of the first 4 Blue Notes Series books to one winner from outside the U.S.
  • Prizes (U.S. Only):
    • Grand Prize: A Kindle loaded with the first 4 Blue Notes Series books and some of my other back titles
    • 1st Place: A sterling silver music themed necklace
    • 2nd Place: Winner’s choice of one of my back titles in paperback (i.e., not including the 2 new releases)
    • 3rd Place: Blue Notes t-shirt, cover of the winner’s choice
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[Tali here…] How about a lovely EXCERPT from Encore?

 Roger watched the snow fall outside the window of his apartment before glancing over at the clock. It was nearly 9:00 p.m., and John should have arrived an hour before.
“Promise me you won’t come if the snow gets too bad. You know how I-23 can get,” he’d told John that morning over the phone.
“I’ll be fine,” John had reassured him. “With the opera rehearsal schedule and Professor Menard’s vocal performance class, I’d never get to see you if I waited for perfect weather.”
Now, an hour after John was supposed to be here, Roger was pacing the apartment. Worrying. Imagining John’s car somewhere in a ditch. Or worse.
He pulled a beer out of the fridge, popped the top, and resumed his pacing. Ten minutes later, the phone rang.
“Hello!” he practically barked into the handset.
“Oh, hey, Mom.” Fuck. “How’re you doing?”
“Fine.” She paused, and Roger tried to think of something to get her off the phone. If John needed to get a hold of him, he didn’t want him to get a busy signal. “I’m surprised you’re around on a Saturday night. You usually aren’t.”
“I’ve got an exam on Monday,” he lied. “I can’t talk long.”
“No, of course. I wouldn’t want to keep you from it.” She’d been thrilled when he’d told her he planned on finishing school in three years. He hadn’t told her he planned on moving to New York, where John had already been accepted to do his master’s in conducting at Juilliard.
“Thanks, Mom.” Roger pushed back the curtain on the window in the kitchen with his foot—the long telephone cord didn’t go quite that far. From here, he could see the parking lot. A blanket of white covered the stripes on the asphalt. No John.
“… aren’t you?”
“I asked if you were coming over on Monday for dinner.” She sounded irritated.
“Oh, yeah. Right. Sure. I’ll be there.” He had to get her off the phone. “Look, Mom. I gotta get back to studying. I’ll see you Monday, okay?”
“Are you sure everything is all right, dear?”
“It’s great, Mom. I really need to go.”
Her huff was audible through the handset. “Of course.”
He hung up the phone before she could say anything more, and opened the drapes a bit farther. There had to be at least six inches of snow outside. He pressed his nose against the cold glass like he had when he’d been a kid, then closed his eyes. A moment later, the buzzer to the apartment sounded.
Thank God!
Roger scrambled over to the door and opened it to find a disheveled John smiling back at him. “Had to ditch the car over by the Woolworth’s. Forgot my keys. The ploughs haven’t made it this far yet—”
Roger grabbed John and pulled him inside. He was soaking wet, his shoulder-length hair curled at the ends, but Roger didn’t care. He drew John against him, wrapped his arms around his shoulders, and just held him.
“You okay?” John’s voice sounded muffled against Roger’s cheek.
“I am now.”
“Can I take this backpack off?” John asked with a soft laugh. “It’s a little heavy.”
“Oh. Shit. Sorry.” Roger grabbed the pack off John’s shoulders and kicked the door shut behind them.
“You were worried about me.” Not a question, and the way the edges of John’s mouth edged upward, Roger could tell he was teasing.
Roger was tempted to lie, but he was so relieved, he just sighed and said, “Yeah.”
John stared at him in surprise. “You really were worried.”
“Fuck, John, I—”
John kissed him. He tasted of snow and Coca-Cola. Roger closed his eyes as their tongues skirted each other in a now-familiar dance. God, he loved John! More than he could get up the nerve to admit.
For two years they’d stolen every moment they could, working around John’s busy schedule and Roger’s mother. Miranda suspected something. Roger was sure of it. She’d even shown up at the apartment early in the morning on the weekend. John said he was sure she was trying to catch them together. It made things a bit more difficult, but they’d worked it out. John stored his things under the bed, and the bedroom closet was big enough that he could slip inside and hide. They’d left a few pillows behind Roger’s clothing, as well as a flashlight and a few books.
“Don’t worry about it,” John had said the first time he’d hidden there. They both knew Roger needed his parents to pay tuition—at least they hadn’t threatened to stop when Roger announced he was getting his own apartment. “It’s just for a little while.”
Roger came back to himself and realized John was shivering. “Shit, John. You’re freezing your ass off.” He took John by the hand and led him into the bedroom. In the light, John’s cheeks looked pink in contrast to his pale skin. Roger unzipped John’s wet jacket and pushed it off his shoulders. “Stay right there,” he said before stepping into the bathroom to retrieve a towel.
John smiled as Roger dried his face and hair. “Feels good. I like it when you fuss over me.”
Roger’s cheeks heated. “Your pants are soaked,” he said in an effort to mask his embarrassment. He reached for John’s belt, undid the buckle, and unbuttoned the waist of John’s pants. The room was silent except for the sound of the zipper and Roger’s heart pounding in his ears. His hands shook as he pulled John’s pants down—he still hadn’t quite moved past the sinking feeling in his gut that had lodged itself there when he’d worried something had happened to John. He could handle a lot, but the thought of losing John terrified him.
“Are you okay?” John was studying him with a strange expression.
“Yeah.” I am now.
Roger focused on helping John step out of the cold, damp pants. He knew if he met John’s gaze, everything he felt would be obvious. It wasn’t just that he was embarrassed. What he felt was something he’d only begun to understand: vulnerability. The feeling you get when you realize your entire world would come to a screeching halt if the certain someone in your life were to vanish.
John shivered again.
“Get under the covers. I’ll be there in a minute.” Roger watched John pull the warm comforter over himself as he got undressed. He joined John underneath and skated his palms over John’s cold thighs until they warmed to his touch.
“Feels good.”
“You’re still cold.” Roger wrapped his body around John’s and held him. John’s skin was slightly damp against his own.
“I’m fine.” John tucked his chin into the space between Roger’s neck and shoulder. “Really.”
Roger just held him tighter.
“You okay?” John pulled away a bit and looked at him with obvious concern.
“Talk to me, Roger. What’s up?”
It was Roger’s turn to shiver. “I told you. I was just a little worried.”
“About me?” John reached for Roger’s face and pulled it gently so that Roger had no choice but to look at him.
“Yeah.” He didn’t want to talk about this. He just wanted to hold John and reassure himself John was safe. He looked away again.
“Hey.” John rolled onto his side so his face was next to Roger’s. “You can tell me, you know. I’m not going to laugh or anything.”
“I know.” Roger hesitated another moment, then said, “It’s just that I feel like an idiot.”
“Worrying about me doesn’t make you an idiot.” John leaned in and kissed Roger’s nose. “It makes me feel good.”
Roger’s breath stuttered. “I kept thinking back to that night… the accident. I kept imagining you in a ditch somewhere. Hurt…. Shit.” He grabbed John and buried his face in his chest. “I dream about that night sometimes, except in my dreams, you’re….” He clenched his jaw and blinked back tears. He’d had a lot of those dreams—nightmares, really—since John had started driving down from Ann Arbor to stay with him. He dreamed he woke up in the hospital and instead of John being all right, the doctor told him they’d done everything they could, and then he was standing in front of a headstone and he knew, he just knew whose headstone it was.
“I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you,” Roger whispered. “I’d lose my mind. I love you so fucking much, I don’t know what I’d do.” It took him a moment to realize what he’d just said.
John leaned over and kissed him again, this time on the lips. In the semidarkness, Roger saw John’s eyes sparkle. The edges of his mouth curved upward in a tentative smile as the kiss broke. “You love me?” he asked.
Roger could only nod.
“Thank God. Because I don’t know what I’d do if I was the only one who felt like that.”
“You love me too.” He said the words as though he didn’t believe them.
“Always, Roger.”

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Pre-order Symphony in Blue here:

1 comment:

  1. I love how many facets there are to the series, and it looks like there are so many in ENCORE itself!