Today’s guest author is CJane Elliot. This was an interesting interview for me because she is quite entertaining to talk . . .email with. I think that comes through in the interview. She’s here today to talk a bit about herself and her new release – Serpentine Walls. So read on and feel free to drop CJane a note at the end.

Guest Author: CJane Elliott

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

Thanks, Andrew.  Hello everyone, I’m CJane Elliott.  I’ve been writing fiction for about 5 years now.  I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and teenaged son.  I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have had a private practice as a psychotherapist.  I’ve also traveled all over United States and Canada leading courses on communication.  I love music and dancing and have been certified to teach Nia, which is a dance/fusion fitness practice.  I’m a Scorpio and like to dwell in the deep waters… of the soul, the emotions, of what it means to be a human being.  But I also love a good laugh and being crazy.  You get to be my friend if you’re a little bit insane or off-the-wall yourself!

You’ve got a new book coming out – Serpentine Walls – but this isn’t your first published work.  Tell us a bit about those?

I’ve published three novellas with Dreamspinner: Electricity Sparks Through Me, Mercury In Retrograde, and Stay Right Here.

ElectrictyElectricity is a coming-out story set in a private high school in the D.C. area (which is where I grew up). Both of the MCs are teachers at the school. It deals with homophobia, theater and music geeks (both of which I was in high school), and the healing power of love.  The love that grows between the two MCs, Jack and Evan, supports Jack to deal with coming out to his parents and with his sister’s fragile mental health.

MercuryMercury is a humorous tale set mostly on a river rafting trip in Oregon.  It has a fun cast of characters and a kind of flaky MC, Alex, a Hollywood actor whose astrologer told him that he’s going to connect with the love of his life soon. He mistakenly thinks that this must be an old boyfriend who is along for the rafting trip and fails to realize until almost too late that it’s actually Ben, the hunky river rafting guide who is perfect for him.

I wrote a follow-up short story featuring Alex and Ben for the DSP Sexy Six Anniversary Series: http://dreamspinnerpress.com/blog/2013/05/22/sexy-anniversary-mercury-retrograde-cjane-elliot/

Stay Right HereStay Right Here is set in San Francisco, another place I have lived, and tells the story of two musicians who meet and fall for each other.  One of the MCs, Bryan, is living with an older man and has lost his creative inspiration.  When he meets Mark he’s instantly attracted to him but now in trouble because he’s already in a relationship.  Mark has been living a safe life and not taking risks with his own music, but that ends out of his meeting Bryan.  An earthquake shakes them out of their cautiousness and they take the actions to get to their happy ending.

So most of your stories are set in places you’ve lived. Does it make it easier to write the characters if you are more familiar with the location? 

SerpentineWalls_FInal2I don’t know about making it easier to write the characters, but I’m a visual kind of a writer.  That is, I’m envisioning the setting, seeing it in my mind, as I’m writing.  I think that placing my characters in familiar surroundings allows me to see the scene and the writing flows accordingly.

I love the cover art to Serpentine Walls, tell us a bit about your reaction when you got the final cover art?

Thanks, I love it too!  Serpentine Walls is set at the University of Virginia and there are these cool wavy brick walls that enclose the formal gardens on the campus.  They look like this:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/23/Serpentine_wall_UVa_daffodils_2010.jpg

At first I wanted the cover to have a serpentine wall on it, but what my cover artist, L.C. Chase, did instead is beautiful.  The columns that you see to the right of the two guys are called the Colonnades and are part of the main part of the U.Va. campus.  My characters walk along them in the book, going to and from class.

I love the colors, the guys, and the fact that it’s a real shot from U.Va.  It also makes clear that this is a story set on a college campus.

My reaction when I saw the final cover? I think I shrieked out loud… just a bit.

Okay, let’s talk specifics; tell us a bit more about Serpentine Walls.

Gladly!  Serpentine Walls is a coming-of-age contemporary story set at college. Most of the characters are in their early twenties (some in late teens).  The MC is Pete Morgan and he’s a typical college guy in many respects, still learning about himself.  When the story begins, Pete’s parents have just split up over his father’s affair with a younger woman.  Pete starts his junior year at U.Va. angry and disillusioned about love while at the same time he starts to have a slew of male admirers.  The sometimes clumsy ways in which he deals with his romantic adventures and misadventures, and how he learns and grows, form the core of the novel.

Pete has liaisons with three men in the story: Aidan, Jed and Matthew. (Oh, yeah, I forgot George – he’s Pete’s old boyfriend from high school and they also have a few hook-ups when Pete goes home for vacations.)  As it says in the blurb, Aidan is glamorous and amazing but not really open for a commitment, Jed is a nice guy who would like more from Pete but Pete keeps it “friends-with-benefits”, and Matthew… ah, Matthew is perfect but he’s got his own issues and it takes him and Pete a long time to get to their happy ending.

I went to ShutterStock.com to look at models that represented each of the main characters and here’s what I came up with.

This is Pete:

Pete

This is Matthew:

Matthew

This is Aidan:

Aidan

And this is Jed:Jed

Along with Pete and his various romantic interests, we have Pete’s group of friends who help each other and Pete out through the story as they go through various crises.  We also have the nefarious Professor R, who is skeevy and hits on male and female students and with whom some of the characters get ensnared.

Where did the inspiration come from for these characters?

I tell this story in my Author’s Note:  I first wrote a short story with the same characters to submit for Dreamspinner’s Higher Learning anthology.  When it wasn’t accepted for that, I got some feedback and realized that my characters came off as pretty shallow (and I discovered how hard it is to write short stories well). I expanded the story and deepened each of the characters, especially Pete and Aidan, and the novel is the result.

Most M/M Romance books rarely seem to deal with the phenomenon of Friends With Benefits (FWB) or F- Buddies, did doing something different like that scare you?

I didn’t even think about it, to be honest.  It just seemed true to the character of twenty-something Pete, who still hasn’t worked out what he really wants in the area of relationships, that he would try out a FWB relationship.  He thinks he’s sworn off “true love” and as he says in the book, “sex is sex and he isn’t going to pass up a chance at getting some.”  One of the ways that Pete grows and matures in the story is by finally realizing (with help from roommate Angie) that he’s hurting Jed by continuing to use him as a sex and videogame buddy, when Jed is attached to him and wants more.

Tell us something(s) interesting that is not in the blurb?

Pete’s best friend, John, is a psychology major and serves as a stand-in for my therapist side.  He talks to Pete about his dreams, about “animus projections” and about how Pete is protecting himself from being hurt.

Is this your – I’m writing myself into the story – moment?

Ha ha, probably, in the sense that I’m having John talk about what I myself am interested in exploring.  But I could say that about many things in every story that I write.  And John isn’t anything like me as far as personality.  I also “wrote myself into the story” with the way I described Pete’s anger and feeling of displacement when his parents divorce because that happened to me, although I was a few years younger than Pete is when it happened.

Have you ever based characters on anyone you know?

There are some similarities to people I know but no one is based on a real life person.  I did have an experience with a Professor R type when I was in college, so his character is not completely made up.

Let’s hope you wrote him in a favorable way or else, be sure he never reads the book. 🙂

Oh, he’s not written favorably at all, but I doubt the “real” Professor R would ever read the book.  If so, “hi there!”

What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

One of my favorite parts is when something from an earlier part of a story comes back later in a way that I hadn’t planned for.  For instance, in Serpentine Walls, Matthew is helping Pete make his first film.  They talk about movies a lot and sometimes quote lines from films.  When I have them finally kiss, this came out of my pen:

Their eyes held, and everything became quiet inside of Pete. It felt like being on a precipice. Screw it, he thought, and before he could lose his nerve, he reached out and took Matthew’s hand.

“What are you doing?”

“Um, holding your hand?” Pete winced as the suave line he could have said if his life were a movie ran through his head: What I should have done long ago….

I love how that ties together all the stuff about movies from before, but it wasn’t in the outline – it popped out of my head as I wrote.

What’s your least favorite?

Not having enough time to write.  I work 32 hours a week as a social worker and so writing is confined to lunch times and then my 3-day weekends.

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

I am working on a follow-up story, this time featuring Aidan as the main character.  I wanted to know two things: why he got involved with Professor R, and why he is such a man-whore.  And I wanted to show how he gets free of both situations.  I’m happy to report that I’ve just written the scene where Aidan walks out on Professor R for good.  But now I have the second half of the book to write, where Aidan moves to New York City to pursue acting and has his happily ever after with some nice fellow (still to be invented).

After I’m done with the Aidan novel, I plan to write another one featuring Jed.  He deserves a happy ending too!

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

I don’t know if many people have read David Levithan’s new YA novel, Two Boys Kissing, yet but everyone should.  It’s gorgeous and heartrending and hopeful.

Marks down new book to add to his already too long TBR list.

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

Probably Jane Austen, because based on her books, she seems like a clear-eyed observer of human nature, but one with a sense of humor.  I envision us having tea at the Pump Room in Bath and making up stories about the rest of the people in the room.

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

Going to my Nia dance class, hanging out with a friend at a local coffee house, listening to my son play his guitar, kissing my husband, and ending the day watching a movie with a glass of red wine at my side.

Besides reading and writing, what else do you enjoy?

I enjoy finding out about people and what makes them tick.  My mother used to call me “nosy” and being a therapist/course leader/social worker is my chance to be nosy and get paid for it.  I LOVE dancing.  I love music in all forms.  I love movies and harbor a secret fantasy of writing a screenplay.  I love spending time with friends and family telling jokes and laughing.

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

Wow, I feel like I’ve said a lot already.  If anyone wants to know more, I’ll be taking over the Dreamspinner blog tomorrow, October 30th, which is not only the release day for Serpentine Walls but is also my birthday!  So come on over for virtual cake, more about the book and for a chance to win a free copy of any of my previous e-books.

Happy early birthday and release day!

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

Thanks so much, Andrew.  It was fun to answer your questions.

Blurb:

SerpentineWalls_FInal2Reeling from the news that his parents are divorcing, Pete Morgan starts his junior year at college cynical about love and commitment. Although his new openness to one-night stands does wonders for his sex life, fighting his romantic nature proves harder than he’d anticipated. He soon finds himself pining for a glamorous senior, Aidan, who doesn’t mind taking Pete to bed but shows no interest in commitment—at least not with Pete. And Pete’s attempt at a “friends-with-benefits” relationship with sophomore Jed leaves Pete feeling empty.

One bright spot in Pete’s year is Matthew, an easygoing graduate student who assists Pete in making his first film. Matthew has some baggage too, and has sworn off relationships and sex altogether, so Pete feels safe to enjoy their friendship. But he falls for Matthew anyway, not able to fight his growing conviction that Matthew is the perfect guy for him. Even if Pete can accept that he made a mistake when he turned his back on relationships, that doesn’t mean Matthew will feel the same. With a few life lessons under his belt, Pete’s ready to take a chance on love. As he finds the courage to bare his heart to Matthew, he can only hope that Matthew will take a chance with him.

Buy Link:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4336

Excerpt:

[This scene is Pete’s first sexual encounter with Jed.  Pete’s shallowness at this point in the story is pretty evident.]

Pete and Jed lay on Jed’s narrow single bed in his dorm room, the smell of sweaty gym socks permeating the air. Jed smiled shyly at him and kissed his neck, his erection pressing into Pete’s thigh. Pete tried not to think too much about Aidan’s big bed with its silken sheets as Jed fumbled his way down Pete’s chest, dropping kisses here and there. He wondered what Aidan was doing right now. Or who.

Jed put a hand on Pete’s hip, breathing heavily, and Pete tried to get his head back in the game, staring at a Baltimore Orioles poster on the wall while Jed inched his way closer to Pete’s half-hard cock. He winced as the room started to spin, realizing he was drunker than he had thought. Maybe he shouldn’t have chugged that last beer.

“Jed,” he said, lifting his head and then lowering it as it started to pound.

“Huh?” Jed paused the slow nuzzling he was doing in the crease at the top of Pete’s leg. At the rate he was going, Pete could count on a blow job by tomorrow.

“Um, nothing, just I’m pretty wasted, so….”

“Yeah, me too.”

Pete was about to suggest they sleep it off when he felt Jed’s mouth surround his cock. Oh. Okay. Pete closed his eyes as Jed began to give him an inexpert blow job. It felt pretty good. Yawning, he started to drift….

He woke up to sunlight streaming through the window, Jed snoring beside him. He tried to remember what had happened, but all he could recall was falling asleep in the middle of sex. Feeling bad that he had done that to Jed, he kissed him awake.

“Huh? Oh, hi.” Jed smiled and rubbed his cock against Pete’s with a low humming sound.

“Mmm, yourself. Sorry I fell asleep on you last night.”

“S’okay. You’re awake now.”

Morning breath wasn’t too bad as long as there were mutual blow jobs involved, Pete decided later. He had declined Jed’s offer of breakfast afterward, though. He didn’t want Jed thinking this was going to be more than it was.

Author Bio:

After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.

Social Media Links:

You can find me on my website: www.cjaneelliott.com and on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CJaneElliott