I wrote a post recently about, among other things, the lack of originality in M/M romance. The reason I mention this post is that the following essay by Lisa Henry and J.A. Rock shows what the authors in this genre are capable of writing, which goes counter to much of what I read in a lot of books. This essay is so quirky, unpretentious, fresh, extraordinarily funny and just freaking warm that I’m very pleased to profile it and the authors’ upcoming book on the site.
That sounds like an excuse. But, officer, it wasn’t my idea! So how about this:
Co-writing a book with J.A. Rock was a great idea, but it wasn’t mine.
I’d wanted to try co-writing with someone for a while…but I had no idea how to go about it, and didn’t really know anyone well enough to ask. So when J.A. approached me and asked, I dived right in.
Yes! Absolutely! Let’s do this thing now! Let’s do it YESTERDAY!
But writing a book together, it turns out, is like a relationship. And just like a relationship, it’s probably a good idea to take your time and figure out some goals instead of just going home with the first whatever-the-writing-equivalent-is-of-a hot-guy-with-a-nice-ass-and-a-cheeky-smile you see.
We went through all the stages of a relationship.
Lisa Henry: We’d flirted for a little while. You know how it goes. My second book was out the same week as her first, and we exchanged a few emails.
Hey, nice book. I really, um, I really liked it and stuff.
Did you, really? Tell me some other stuff you like about me. I mean my book.
(insert giggling and hair twirling here)
Um, Wanna Go Out With Me?
J.A. Rock: Co-writing was definitely not Lisa Henry’s idea. In fact, she was merely a pawn in an elaborate game I started playing sometime last year when I noticed a lot of romance writers write together. When I decided I wanted to co-write with Lisa, I did what any young romantic hero would. In the tradition of Romeo, Troilus, and Christian Grey, I stalked her. I learned everything about her—her dog’s name (Cleo), where she eats every Tuesday at 11 (Outback Steakhouse. I’m not just saying that because she’s Australian.), and what lives in her toilet (a tree frog. Seriously.) I studied her movements with an intricate wiretapping system that made Claire Danes’s setup in Homeland look like a couple of kids on walkie talkies. And then, when the moment was right, I made my move.
Lisa Henry: I have never been to an Outback Steakhouse. But the frog thing is true.
J.A. Rock: Okay, fine, maybe I wasn’t that ballsy/creepy. Maybe I’d been thinking for a while about co-writing, and maybe I was a big fan of Lisa’s work, and maybe I thought her interests as a writer/writing style seemed compatible with mine. So I sent her an e-mail while I was on vacation. You know how you can do things when you’re on vacation that you can’t do in regular life? I thought if I asked Lisa and she said “no, you freak; why would I want to do that?” it would hurt less because stuff that happens on vacation isn’t real. Same reason the document I received from the Danish police and still have in my box of keepsakes doesn’t bother me. I was on vacation.
Lisa Henry: Anyone else want to know more about what happened with the Danish police? Specifically, did they cuff you?
J.A. Rock: Anyway I sent the e-mail in a coffee shop, then immediately ran away from the computer and ordered a what-have-I-done? green tea. The intense fear of rejection was definitely comparable to asking someone out—right down to the part where I told my mom I wanted to ask this really great writer to write with me and that I was afraid she’d say no, and my mother did whatever the text message equivalent of a cheek pinch is and said nonsense, who wouldn’t want to co-write with her daughter?—I mean, look at me!
I’m not sure what Lisa did during the course of our penpal flirting that led me to believe that her rejection, if it came to pass, would be replete with open disgust and boundless contempt. But she was really nice when she accepted, and I have a feeling she would have been equally friendly if she hadn’t.
Anyway, moot point, because she said yes, and I hurried out and bought a prom dress and waited for her to pick me up in the limo her wealthy parents had hired.
J.A. Rock: After a lovely first date, which included a 60,000 e-mail attempt to answer the question “what do you want to write about?”, some canoodling, and a not-so-subtle hint that I might be into some really kinky sh**, I invited Lisa up to my place for a drink. One drink became two, and pretty soon, we were brainstorming a book. Right there on the floor.
Our characters were originally called Shy, Asshole, and Dom, and we dressed them up in all kinds of pretty subplot outfits, like paper dolls. There were lots of locational blanks and only the barest outline of a plot. But hey, there’s always some fumbling your first time together, right? Before you figure out what you’re doing. Before things get hot.
Negotiating our Limits
Lisa Henry: Relationships can be trickier when kink is involved, right? And that part where you have to negotiate your limits? Awkward. So when J.A. sent me an email that basically said: “What do you want to write about?” I had one of those heart-stopping moments where you want to be honest…but also you don’t want to send your potential partner running screaming into the hills.
I think I opened with spanking. Spanking is hot, right? Then I waited anxiously for J.A.’s response. Yeah, spanking is hot. We were okay with spanking. And from there? Well in that crazy initial flurry of emails there were a lot of things we talked about: spankings, gags, chemical play, canes and floggers, puppy play, breath play, fear play, public play…actually, there probably wasn’t a kink we didn’t discuss. Some of it made it into the book, but some of it didn’t.
It also turned out that most of our kinks matched up nicely: even the purely writerly ones. Planning? Planning is for other people! Let’s fly this thing by the seat of our pants and see where we end up!
And if there’s a writerly equivalent of a safe word, we didn’t need it. Although maybe our awesome editor Antonia had to step in a few times to make sure we weren’t too out of control…
J.A.: My only hard limit is limits.
Lisa Henry: That’s true, you guys. She’s hardcore.
The Morning After
Lisa Henry: And then, suddenly, we’d made a book! And it was so much fun that I want to do it again. hint, hint. J.A., I said HINT HINT!
J.A. Rock: Unlike most hook-ups, I didn’t regret this one once I was sober. I was worried afterward that I’d miss the passion and the heat of the writing phase. That I’d be lying there smoking a cigarette, and Lisa would be hastily tying her shoes, like “I have to go. I just remembered I have a thing.” “Okay,” I’d say. “Well…call me.” And she never would. Or she would, but we’d never quite figure out how to rekindle that flame we had in the beginning.
But I forgot that a book doesn’t end when the writing stops. There’s still revising, editing, promoting, coordinating blog posts, etc. To convolute the metaphor even more, it’s like we had a kid. And even if we get to the point where we’re barely speaking anymore, where she thinks I don’t know what she’s really doing when she’s “working late,” and I know she knows that I don’t really “have a headache” each night—we’ll always be bound by what we created. Gotta hold it together for the kid.
But hopefully that won’t happen. Hopefully we’ll just keep poppin’ em out like Mel Gibson and Robyn Moore. Do you even have to hint, Lisa? I have an idea I’ve been dying to tell you about but I thought I should wait until we’d finished the first book. I didn’t want to seem too eager. Gotta play hard to get, you know. But if you’re down let’s DO IT AGAIN RIGHT NOW.
If you all will excuse us, Lisa and I have something to “discuss”…
Lisa Henry: * fans self * At this point I don’t even care if she’ll still respect me in the morning; I want to do that again!
Introverted college student Lane Moredock is in a bad place. His mother has been arrested for securities fraud, his father is on the run, and everyone, including the SEC, suspects Lane knows where the missing millions are. Lane, with no money and nowhere to live, makes a desperate deal that lands him in trouble and leaves him unwilling to trust a so-called Dom again.
Photographer Derek Fields lost money to the Moredocks, and is as sure as anyone that Lane is guilty despite his claims. A chance meeting with Lane shows him there might be something more to the young man than arrogance and privilege, and Derek wonders if Lane might be just what he’s been looking for: a sub with the potential to be a life partner.
As Lane slowly begins to open up to Derek and explore his needs as a submissive, the investigation closes tighter around him. Lane might be everything that Derek wants, but first Derek needs to trust that Lane is innocent—and Lane needs to trust Derek with the truth.
Lisa Henry’s contact information
J.A. Rock’s contact information