Our lovely Wave has asked me to talk about the way Horn Gate happened and why I’ve taken a little authorial detour to write about enslaved sex demons instead of closeted first responders. The truth is, this paranormal story took hold of me and wouldn’t let go… and my new year’s resolution for 2013 was that rather than dictating what the Muse does I’m trying to meet her with wide ears and open heart.
2012 was a wacky year for me on every level. Serving on the board of the Rainbow Romance Writers and an organizer of GayRomLit ate up most of my spare time…while my anxiety about getting Hard Head as perfect as possible completely kicked my ass. :sceptic: I didn’t want to let anyone down and the pressure became excruciating. I stopped sleeping and eating for a long stretch there, and though I wrote every day, I became increasingly mistrustful of everything I wrote. The whole reason I started writing romance was because it was so liberating and somehow I’d managed to cripple myself with anxiety over disappointing my fans and colleagues.
Note to self: don’t postpone joy.
Right before GRL2012 in Albuquerque, I had worked myself into a full lather about a reading I’d scheduled back when I thought Hard Head would manifest as swiftly and easily as Hot Head. The truth is, I’ve written 258k words of Hard Head, but it’s nowhere near ready because Tommy is a slippery critter and the book’s themes are intense and tricky to navigate. It’s been…well… hard. I want that book to honor the world established in Hot Head, and was trying to retain what shreds of sanity remain to me. :nuts:
Anyways, one week before GRL kicked off, Heidi Cullinan and I had a long talk about what I would read aloud in Albuquerque and she forbade me to read any of Hard Head because of the hideous knots into which I’d tied myself. Cullinan threw down a gauntlet: write something completely new for GRL… except because of my travel schedule I only had 12 hours to do it. Luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to write.
See… back in September a couple of passionate fans had traveled into the city to have dinner with me and inadvertently planted a seed that had started to sprout. The more I thought about reading at GRL, the more something fresh felt like the right thing to tackle. I plunked down and wrote the first half of an opening chapter for Bad Idea, a new contemporary romance about a reclusive comic book artist and a reckless FX makeup designer.
I had a blast. :hurrah:
Like Hot Head, this story just poured onto the page, clocking in at 18 pages by the time I was done. Raw as it was, I read a fat slice of that critter in Albuquerque where the audience seemed to dig it as much as I did. I felt like I could breathe freely. I came back from GRL2012 (where I finally got to meet Wave for the first time!) all pumped and ready to write this novel. After twelve months of struggling in quicksand, I set Hard Head aside and dove into Bad Idea‘s world of comic books and creature design.
Now, I’ve written for DC and Marvel and I’ve worked in film for 20 years so the goofy landscape built itself quickly. As these two fellas fell for each other on the page, my main character decided for the hell of it that he was writing a racy homoerotic comic about a sex demon called Scratch that would jeopardize his entire career. As I dug further into the story, that “very graphic novel” ended up being the way the hero worked through a lot of painful issues about his identity and sexuality. Then, one of my betas who’s an obsessive comic fan asked if I’d consider writing Scratch’s saga for real and I realized I had a cool opportunity to do exactly that: write my hero’s comic book as a separate novella.
So Horn Gate is actually a story within a story. Creating Scratch’s escapades let me experience his story the way his fictitious author might… and also do some groovy things with emotional projection and transference. As I wrote Horn Gate, the introverted hero of Bad Idea gained texture and pathos because I was essentially writing the story in character. As Scratch took shape, I realized that he had a story to tell as well, more than enough for a series of paranormal novels. The Muses spoke; I listened hard.
What started as a fun contemporary single title had spawned two interconnected storylines that seemed to be writing themselves. Out of crippling anxiety and one fabulous dinner with beloved fans, a virtual litter of romances was born!
The “Itch” series will be about a series of ambitious artists wrestling with prejudices and sexuality, both their own and the public’s, as they bring this NC-17 incubus to life in mass-market media: comics, videogames, movies, and beyond. And as the embedded story, the “Scratch” series relates the ongoing adventures of my demon and his mortal lover as they use magic and seduction to investigate occult crimes and explore a relationship that bridges morality and mortality. 👿 My boyfriend calls it “Scooby Doo with boners.”
As it happens, a lot of paranormal readers don’t read contemporary romance and vice versa. I thought it would be cool if I wrote both narrative tracks so they could be read separately or in tandem. I get to have a lot of fun with thematic overlap without forcing either group of reader to follow a plotline that doesn’t interest them. Folks who love the Itch books can find out what their characters are working on. And folks who dig Scratch can find out the inner workings of the characters who are shaping the character’s storyline and the way it reflects their journeys. Rey Arzeno, the insanely talented artist who painted Scratch for me has already asked if I’d be willing to write Scratch as a literal comic alongside the fiction series….so who knows what’s gonna be unleashed? 😉
I have lots of other books to write; Hard Head awaits, as does Spring Eternal and more besides, but my big beautiful sex demon has helped the joy in my writing to possess me again. I didn’t even have to sell my soul, because he gave it back to me.