I ‘met’ today’s guest during my Facebook chat for the release of Purpose. Unlike most of the other visitor, Ashavan really peppered me with questions – he basically asked me to justify why he should plunk down his money on my book – politely of course. In the end I managed to convince him to read the book, which made me feel good because he clearly was/is picky about what he reads.

Then I saw his newest work – Loving Aidan – had been released, so I hunted it down. I’m not a ‘buy the book by the cover’ kinda reader, but the cover was pretty cool. I finally approached Ashavan about an interview and he agreed. So – with that, here’s today’s guest author.

Guest Author: Ashavan Doyon.

Welcome Ashavan, why don’t you start by telling everyone a bit about yourself.

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Thanks Andy. I’m a writer, and so I started as a reader. My mom instilled a deep love of reading in me from a very young age.Fantasy, mostly, though we read some science fiction, too. She read romance novels, which I didn’t get into when I was young because I never saw myself reflected there. I live in New England with my husband and our two pugs. They’re old ladies now, my two pugs, but I love them dearly. I work at a prestigious liberal arts college, where I work with students on their lives outside of the classroom. 

Let’s start by talking about your new release, Loving Aidan. First, I loved the cover art. It’s quite different.  What went through your mind when you first saw it? Was it the perfect match for your book?

lovingaidansmallWhen they sent me the cover art request it came with notice of which stock art sites Torquere uses and the suggestion of finding some models on those sites who resembled my characters. There were all these notes saying not to worry about it being exact, that it was just to give the artists ideas of what the characters looked like. But I scoured them anyway and I found two images that were just stunningly perfect. Because Aidan and Sammy being opposites was so important to the plot, I suggested putting the two together, half and half. So when I saw the art I was stunned. I’d been warned so many times that cover art was the discretion of the publisher and that they rarely used suggestions by the authors. But there it was, exactly what I’d asked for. I was very happy with it, because it is exactly the cover I wanted.

You got the cover back and  – bam – that was it? No revision, just love at first sight? I’m envious.

Well, I did ask them to make the rose red instead of pink. I got all my good karma with covers on the first book. It makes me worry for the next one. I’ve got my fingers crossed.

What inspired you to write this story? 

It’s funny because I’m inspired with stories all the time. I write constantly. It drives my husband nuts. But this story developed from the character of Aidan. He’s a sort of mix of the son of a friend and my favorite Quentin Crisp quote and a guy I knew in college and a bit of my own experiences as a student leader all mixed up. And when I had him I needed a foil, an opposite. And that became Sammy. I’m very character driven, the characters create the plot from their interactions, so I don’t start with a lot planned out. I find the characters have their own ideas about what they want to do and I try to trust them on that.

Did working at a college help you with some of the details to make it feel more real?

It helped me, but I think I tortured my poor editor. There were a lot of times I was told outright that what I wrote wasn’t realistic for a college setting. I can even see it. It’s hard sometimes being an insider, because a lot of what happens at colleges people just would never believe.

I’ve heard other authors that they’ve written a scene based on a real event and then gotten feed back from readers saying the scene wasn’t believable. Did you get any of those comments yet?

I think we all get those. There’s a scene after the violence happens on campus where one of the professors apologizes to Aidan for the attack on his community. I was told no professor would say that. It was something that was said to me, by a professor, after the attack on Matthew Shepard fifteen years ago. And there’s another scene where Aidan is on the balcony shirtless on his dorm floor with another guy. I was told no one would expose themselves that way. I used to walk in on people having sex on the analogous balcony at my University dorm at least once a week. There are a few other memorable ones, but they contain spoilers I want to avoid.

This appears to be your first novel length story – how different was it to write this from your shorter works?

I’m entirely comfortable writing at novel length. It’s the shorter pieces, honestly, that I have difficulty with. It’s really hard to squeeze a story into 15-20 thousand words! During editing I cut close to 12,000 words from Loving Aidan, though I also added about four thousand. I participate in National Novel Writing Month every year, and I credit it for helping me develop a daily writing practice and a comfort with lengthier works.

Hmmm, you sound like me. I can’t write hello in less than a thousand words it seems. What’s your secret to producing shorter works?

I think I’m helped in that I’m a big believer that falling in love can happen fast. Sometimes very fast. But it happens in moments, discrete identifiable moments. When I write a short story I try to focus on those moments rather than building setting. Use a setting that the reader will supply automatically without needing a lot of description. Minimize the supporting cast. In The King’s Mate the cast of characters is tiny, consisting of the two lovers and the owner of the cafe and a small number of characters who they interact with and are in the story for a page.

Tell us something interesting that is not in the blurb?

Aidan’s ex isn’t done giving him heartbreak, but not in the way readers probably expect.

I’ve just gotten to that part of the book. You’re right. It wasn’t the heartbreak I’d have expected from the ex.

Aidan’s ex Michael is really a statement that love endures a lot. I really liked him. And it’s meant to take you by surprise, but also be something that someone who has endured heartbreak can relate to.

Have you ever based characters on anyone you know?

I try not to do this unless I have a friend who excitedly wants me to put them in a story. But bits and pieces of my favorite people show up as aspects of characters unintentionally sometimes.

What’s your favorite place to write? 

I have a recliner next to the pellet stove. My husband has recently usurped it, which is a troubling development.

Sounds like you need his and his recliners. Aren’t there any good thrift stores near you?

No room in the living room, sadly. What we need is to replace our current couch with something fancy that lets both of us recline or not individually and still leave room for the pugs in the middle. The current one sags so badly that it’s not comfortable to write in.

What’s your least favorite part of the writing process?

Editing. After a while you’ve read the story so many times you don’t even know what you’re looking at. And sometimes you have to cut something that is just beautiful and no longer fits. That’s really hard.

Maybe the beautiful bits you had to cut could be worked into a short freebie to entice readers to buy the book?

Well, there is a short freebie, though it’s only 500 words. I talk in the story about a scene in the past where Aidan falls for Sammy on move in day, and I did write it. It’s on my website. In the story there’s a triangle, and Aidan has to make a decision between two men. I cut a lot of material, beautiful scenes, with the person that loses out. I stand by Aidan’s decision, but it was a lot harder for the reader to accept with that material in the story.

Since there is always another story to tell, what are you working on now?

I have a modern fantasy piece titled NEM that is currently under review and I should hear back about from the first place I submitted it in about another month. I wrote a novella for a Christmas collection that the publisher chose not to take, and I really believe in the story, so I’m reworking it into a full-length novel and I’ll pitch it elsewhere. I’m also going to come back to Loving Aidan… Aidan’s ex has a story to tell too, and he’s itching to get me to write it down. That’s a lot of balls in the air all at once, but I think that’s most of them.

Writing a story from Michael’s POV would definitely be a different tack than writing Aidan’s. The emotions would be so different. How soon can you get it done? 😉

It’s on the list. I’ll probably write the draft for National Novel Writing Month this year.

What have you read lately that most people haven’t read but should? 

Well, it’s not gay romance, but I have to recommend The Hole Behind Midnight by Clinton Boomer. The man is a genius and the story is sick and twisted and just stunning. For gay romances, I would recommend Hunt and Pray by Cindy Sutherland. The story is a real departure for her, very different, and it had me at the edge of my seat reading it. I also, of course, read Purpose while I was vacationing over the summer. It’s a wonderful story, but it suffers, I think, from not having the degree of romance I think readers in the genre expect. I’d love to see a sequel, because I really felt that your characters had only just really found each other, and because it was also fantasy of a sort, they needed a book of world building and rule establishment before their personal relationships could really shine. I’d love to see that.

I could respond to the sequel to Purpose comment, but it might end up usurping your interview.  Right now, however, there are no plans for a sequel.

I really felt you wrote a story gay men could relate to. I think Loving Aidan struggles with that a little. Aidan’s choice I think is far easier to understand in the context of gay relationships than it is from a straight female perspective. And as you know, that’s our reader base for gay romances.

If you could meet any writer, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

That’s a really hard one. I want to say something cliche like Tolkien. But I think probably Mercedes Lackey. At a time when pretty much no one wrote gay characters, she made them her protagonists. And in fantasy, too!

She’s one of my favorites too. If you arrange a meeting, can you tell her you need to bring your sidekick [me] with you?

Magic’s Pawn was just brilliant. I’ll keep you in mind, you know, just in case she decides Loving Aidan is the best thing since sliced bread and invites me to meet. It could happen. I’m allowed unreasonable hopes and dreams!

What’s a fun – non-writing – day for you?

I play Dungeons and Dragons and have since I was about six years old. I still love it and play regularly.

Besides reading and writing, what else do you enjoy?

Playing with puppies cures all ills. I like to stroll. Not walk. There’s a difference. I play computer games, MMORPGs. Wizard 101 is probably my current favorite.

Last question is all yours – feel free to talk about anything you want your readers to know about you, your book, anything at all.

I love Aidan, but the character who shows the most growth in the story is actually Michael, which is probably why he’s pestering me to write a sequel. There’s an undercurrent in the novel about regret, and what regret means. I think most readers will start the novel really hating Michael. Because Aidan does. But he also loves Michael, and I think we really get to see a timeless quality in love in the relationship between those two, a real sense of regret and what it means to regret something that can’t be put right.

Thanks for being my guest, now it’s time to plug your work –

Blurb:

Loving Aidan

lovingaidansmallSamuel Riley is gorgeous – tall, muscular, and intelligent. The girls love him. And so does his roommate, Aidan Flemming. Secretly, of course, because even the out and proud Aidan knows there are limits to Sammy’s acceptance. Cursed to watch as Sammy dates half the co-eds on campus, a lonely Aidan spends his time writing, helping Sammy and his friends survive literature classes, and recovering from a disastrous love affair that left Aidan heartbroken.

But when happiness finally comes for Aidan in the body of his roommate’s fellow rower, all that changes. In Steven, Aidan finds happiness and romance. The rower, a blond, blue-eyed Adonis, makes Aidan feel desired and appreciated. But their very public courtship stirs up controversy and violence, and Aidan’s life gets very complicated.

Attacks rock the campus community, and in the middle of the upheaval, Aidan finds himself noticed by the last person he’d expect. Samuel Riley, his roommate, his impossible dream, and just possibly, a very jealous suitor. But the jealous suitor has a girlfriend. And she is not happy.

Buy Link: http://www.torquerebooks.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=97&products_id=3955

 

Excerpt: (some strong language)

“I’m so sick of being stuck!” exclaimed Aidan, slamming shut the lid of the laptop and pushing it away. His bare leg still rested half on the table. He’d discarded the pants hours ago, though he kept the billowy, white shirt and his customary formal, tight waistcoat. He never discarded those, except to sleep. Aidan ran a hand through his thick, wavy, black hair and adjusted the bold black rims of his reading glasses.

“You’re always stuck,” muttered Sammy, pulling the blankets around his broad shoulders as he lay in an institutional bed too short for his frame, the heavy, wooden dresser casting a shadow that kept his face in darkness. “Go to bed. Your professor doesn’t need it now, does she?”

“You can’t delay these things, Sammy,” said Aidan, slapping his bare knees in frustration before twisting his body to stand. He padded barefoot across the room to the tiny fridge and opened it, pulling out a tall, black can emblazoned with neon green letters, one of the energy drinks Sammy favored, and stepped toward the other man’s bed. “I’m taking one of these, ‘kay?”

Sammy growled in response, then pulled the blankets over his head.

“Thanks,” said Aidan, pulling the tab and taking a swig. He wrinkled his face in disgust. “You actually like these?” Aidan sputtered, but the disgust provoked a certain sense of wakefulness, so he grimaced and set the can next to the computer.

“You’re not!” said Sammy, as he heard the sound of can hitting desk.

“What?”

“Just go to bed,” pleaded Sammy. “The story will be here tomorrow. Along with classes, and we won’t be in any shape for those if you don’t go. To. Sleep.”

Aidan laughed and switched off the lamp even as he turned the computer back on. “Better?”

“It’ll do,” grumbled Sammy, burying his head under a pillow and pulling blankets back over his head.

Aidan let himself grin. How the two had been paired together, that was a mystery the housing office had not managed to explain. They were opposites: Aidan white, Sammy black, Aidan a night owl, Sammy up before dawn to row, Aidan queerer than a three dollar bill, Sammy as straight as they came, Aidan a poetry and creative writing genius, Sammy a jock and a science nerd wrapped up in one. And yet, oddly, it worked.

The only periods of stress between the roommates were the occasions in which Aidan came home to a tie hanging around the door knob. Sammy getting lucky. He’d been kind about it, at least, trying to make those times as unobtrusive as possible, but he was an attractive man, Sammy, lithe and muscular and tall and prone to being shirtless all the time, much to the private delight of his roommate. But those good looks meant a lot of co-eds staying over.

It wasn’t the sex so much that troubled Aidan as the constant staying over. Nights he’d spend at the diner twenty minutes north of campus, sitting at his laptop, typing away. Nights he’d send texts every hour or so asking if it was safe to come home only not to get an answer. He knew what that meant. Bastard had fallen asleep in some girl’s arms leaving Aidan stuck out all night because she was uncomfortable being intimate with Aidan in the same room. Not that he blamed her for that. The idea of that happening just feet away between Sammy and a girl twisted his stomach. He didn’t like to admit why.

He’d been blessed, or perhaps cursed, with frequent insomnia, so from that standpoint, perhaps the pairing was even better. Sammy slept and fucked, and Aidan sat and ate omelets and typed, his thin, long sleeved turtlenecks and dress shirts, always covered by a waistcoat, attracting their own fair share of ladies. Ladies who doted on him, swooned over him. Ladies who eventually tried to seduce him. Aidan chuckled. No chance of that; he’d never gotten over the idea that sex with girls was just… ugh. Ick.

Aidan glanced at his roommate, the only part of Sammy not covered by heavy blankets a muscular arm dangling off the bed. He shook his head, put on his headphones, and began to type as the music blared into his ears.

He didn’t really notice as the dark of the room became lighter through the crack in the industrial plastic pull shade over the window. He didn’t really notice anything past the intense glare through his glasses from the screen. He was leaned back against his own dresser, one leg on the table, the laptop balanced precariously on the other as he typed. He felt the swat against the top of his head though, turning to see the glorious sight he was so often afforded.

Sammy was beautiful. There was no getting around that. He was tall, for one thing, slim all the way up to his broad shoulders. His torso was muscular like a swimmer or a dancer, and his arms and legs bulged as he flexed them unconsciously.

Aidan stifled a swallow, not wanting Sammy to get the wrong idea, and pulled off the head phones. “Yes?”

“You stayed up all night, didn’t you?” asked Sammy, casually scratching the scarce millimeter of tightly twisted black hair on his head.

“This surprises you why?”

“Fine. Just don’t expect any sleep tonight,” said Sammy. “Caroline is coming over, and I am not missing getting my hands on that hot bit of ass just ’cause you were an idiot and didn’t sleep.”

Aidan fixed him with a glare. “You could go to her room.”

“No, we can’t,” said Sammy, with a single shake of his head. “Her roommate is having Steven over. Why, I don’t have any idea.”

Aidan knew why. Sarah had said it often enough, gushing to her friend about her new romance. “He has muscles,” said Aidan glumly. “Really nice muscles.”

“Serious?”

“Hey, if he’d let me, I’d fuck him.”

“Aidan, man, if you’re looking at him, it’s no wonder you never bring anyone home.”

Bio:

Ashavan Doyon spends his days working with students as part of the student affairs staff at a liberal arts college. During lunch, evenings, and when he can escape the grasp of his husband on weekends, he writes, pounding out words day after day in hopes that his ancient typewriter-trained fingers won’t break the glass on his tablet computer. Ashavan is an avid science fiction and fantasy fan and prefers to write while listening to music that fits the mood of his current story. He has no children, having opted instead for the companionship of two beautiful and thoroughly spoiled pugs. A Texan by birth, he currently lives in New England, and frequently complains of the weather.

Ashavan loves to hear from readers and can be found on the web at ashavan.weebly.com

Website: http://ashavan.weebly.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ashavan-Doyon-Writer/307605309383614

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ashavandoyon