For my last Male Monday post in March, I am excited to welcome Sarah Madison whose book, Boys of Summer, was an early favourite of mine within the M/M genre. I feel really lucky that since I read the book in December 2013, she is one author whom I have continued to keep in touch with and I have enjoyed following her obsession with anything Agent Carter related! 🙂
This is one of the reasons why I couldn’t resist asking her which superhero powers she would love to have! I hope you enjoy the interview:
KV: If you were a superhero, what would your powers be?
SM: I have given this question a lot of thought because it’s different from asking what superpower would you like to have? That’s how the question is usually phrased: If you could have one superpower, which would it be? Which would be tough to narrow down, but I’d probably want superhealing, because then no matter what happened, I’d be likely to pull out of it.
I’m reminded of a story I read once in which a hapless young man is sent by a wizard on a dangerous quest, and he asks if the wizard can give him a superpower or spell to aid with the quest.
“What would you have me give you?” The wizard asked.
“I dunno,” said the hero. “Maybe a cloak of Invisibility?”
“My dear young man,” said the wizard, “you’re a nobody. You don’t get any more invisible than that.”
To answer this question, though, I have to decide what superpowers I’d exhibit if I was one of the Avengers, and to be honest, I think I’d probably have the ability to talk to animals. Just like Dr. Doolittle. I can see where someone might think that’s kind of a lame superpower, but just wait until the bad guys chase you down a dark alley, and you call all the sewer rats and street cats to your aid! (Dang, I need to write this down…)
KV: Which one, current author, do you find inspiring?
SM: Oh my! So many! Seriously, so hard to narrow that one down. Many of my favorite authors are deceased—I spent a lot of time re-reading stories from the Golden Age of Mystery—books written in the 1930s and 40s. So I guess that doesn’t count as current. J
If I had to pick a current author that inspires me, it would have to be Tasha Alexander and her Lady Emily series. Alexander (who is also a Dorothy Sayers fan, like myself) decided one day to put her money where her mouth was and write the novel she’d always said she was going to write. And Only To Deceive was written in a two month time period while Alexander was raising a toddler. Now that’s impressive! Not only did she write the first of a bestselling historical mystery series, but it’s one of the best stories I’ve read by a contemporary author that I’ve read in a very long time. And that’s saying something!
KV: What is your least favourite part of the writing process?
SM: Ah, that was pretty easy to identify. I hate it when a story is ripping along and all the sudden I hit a brick wall. Sometimes, it’s a plotting problem I need to sort out. A scene that refuses to go in the direction I want it to go because that would be all wrong for the story, and though I recognize that on some level (hence the block), I haven’t yet internalized it.
Worse, however, is when the problem is self-doubt. I begin thinking every sentence is utter crap, or I am wasting my time thinking I could ever be a ‘real’ writer. Instead of staring at the blank page, I find myself going in endless circles around my favorite social media sites, wasting hours piddling around instead of writing. That usually adds fuel to the fire, as well, when I see how successful everyone else seems to be.
I’ve learned that I will feel this way at least once during each new project—usually at about the three quarter mark, where the end is in sight but I’m sure the whole thing is a mess and no one will ever want to read it. Thankfully, recognizing that this is all part of the cycle allows me to push through and finish the draft, which is when the fun begins—the tweaking and the polishing.
KV: Who is your favourite literary character, and why?
SM: I thought this would be hard to answer, but the first character that came to mind is Lord Peter Wimsey. What is there not to love? He’s a wealthy aristocrat with a nose for crime, who is scarily intelligent yet tends to play the fool in public. When we first meet him, he’s taken up solving crimes as a kind of antidote to recovering from shell shock after WW1. Over the series of books, Sayers takes him from being a kind of paper doll that she plays with on occasion to solve pretty puzzles to making him a completely three dimensional character. Lord Peter shaped most of my ideas about what a healthy adult relationship should look like (having read him at a formative age). That your lover and partner should respect you as a person, should want to protect you from harm but be willing to let you make your own choices. And if putting yourself in harm’s way is your decision, then by God, he’ll teach you how to defend yourself in a dirty fight. Lord Peter is the man you’d invite for tea because of his lovely manners and entertaining stories, and the man you’d call in desperation when someone you love has been accused of murder.
One of the best scenes I can recall from the LPW books is a discussion he is having with mystery writer Harriet Vane over one of the characters in her work in progress. Essentially, his suggestion over changing the character makes Harriet aware that she will end up putting a lot of her own feelings on the page. Lord Peter’s response was a bit ruthless, saying what difference did it make as long as it made for a better story? It was ruthless and accurate and damn good advice.
I really kind of feel sorry for the young women growing up thinking Edward Cullen is the ideal man. I really do.
KV: Tell us a fun fact about your WIP?
SM: Well, I don’t know that this is a fun fact so much as it is a bit of a heads up. I’m currently working on the next installment in the Sixth Sense series—in fact, by the time this is posted, it will most likely be done and submitted to the publisher! Books one and two (Unspeakable Words and Walk a Mile) are written in from Agent Jerry Parker’s POV in the limited third, but when it came time to write Truth and Consequences, I realized many aspects of the story would be better handled from the first person point of view. I know people either love or hate first person POV, especially when it comes to M/M romances! But truthfully, it’s been fun writing in this POV (a first for me) and I’ve been enjoying Parker’s dry humor and sly personal observations as a result.
KV: Is there a certain type of scene you find it harder to write? Love, sex, action etc?
SM: You know, if you’d asked me this question when I first began writing, I’d say there wasn’t any particular scene I found harder to write or dreaded writing. Lately, it has become the sex scenes. Not because I’m squeamish about sex. I love sex. I think sex scenes belong in romance stories because for the most part, sex (either in its presence or absence) is an important part of any romance. One of the things I loved most about discovering M/M romances was that finally I felt as though I’d come across adult romantic fiction written just for me! Little to no purple prose, very little hearts and flowers, sex that was real and passionate, without silly euphemisms. All of that is very important to me.
However, I tend not to have very many sex scenes in my story. One or two major scenes, with some minor ones or perhaps some alluded to. I don’t feel the need for a sex scene in every chapter—it limits the story I can tell in the space allotted. Because I write such few scenes compared to the genre standard, I feel the pressure to make them stand out, to be memorable. Frequently it seems like there is a demand for sex scenes to conform to some sort of Olympic standard, with people judging the performance and expecting that each subsequent scene be more athletic, more steamy, more erotic.
I finally had to accept that I don’t write those sorts of stories very well. I like to think, however, I write stories that stick with you after you turn the final page, something that you’ll read over and over again because you love the characters as much as I do.
To date, Sarah Madison has written 5 full-length novels, 4 of which have been published by Dreamspinner Press.
Although the individuals in these novels range from vampires to gargoyles to FBI agents and pilots, at the heart of them is the strong M/M Romances. The Boys of Summer was beautifully written and a fantastic example of how Sarah Madison creates character-driven stories.
Special Agent John Flynn is everything that Jerry Parker is not: dangerously handsome, coolly charismatic, and respected by his peers. Special Agent Parker is dedicated and meticulous, but his abrasive personality has given him a reputation for being difficult. When new information on a cold case appears, Parker is assigned to work with Flynn, and sparks fly as their investigative styles clash. Contact with a strange artifact changes everything when it bestows unusual and unpredictable powers on Flynn…and the two men must learn to work together before a killer strikes again.
He sensed Flynn’s presence behind him before he heard him speak.
“Something smells good in here.”
Jerry turned to say something offhand but then completely lost track of what he’d intended to say. Flynn was standing in the doorway to the kitchen, wearing a towel slung low around his hips so that his hipbones showed. The hair on his chest was not too much, just right in fact, tapering down his long torso until it disappeared beneath the towel. He was drying out one ear with another towel, his hair standing up in startled spikes. On the chain around his neck, he wore a simple, tiny silver cross, the kind that a preteen girl might wear. His left shoulder bore the ugly, puckered mark of a bullet wound, the shiny scarring of skin suggesting that the wound wasn’t all that old. Jerry knew from his record that Flynn had been shot in the line of duty about six months ago, but the record didn’t say much more than that.
Flynn had shaved, but his jaw still held the suggestion of a beard. It was probably as close as he ever got to being smooth-cheeked. A hint of soap and the smell of clean, damp skin and aftershave wafted in Jerry’s direction before being lost to the smell of coffee and bacon. The combination of odors struck Jerry viscerally with a little bolt of lust that surprised him.
“Breakfast will be ready in a minute,” Jerry said tersely, turning away to get a second mug down from the cabinet.
“You didn’t have to go to all this trouble,” Flynn said, slinging the towel in his hand around his neck.
Jerry shot him a look. He wondered what kind of game Flynn was playing here. He obviously was aware that Jerry had checked him out; it was evident in the little smile that played around his lips. Was this his way of saying he was so secure in his sexuality that it didn’t bother him? Jerry suspected that was the case.
“Oh. Right. Never mind. This is how you always start the day. What’s in the oven?” Flynn looked amused, something subtle in his eyes that suggested it was at Jerry’s expense. He also looked completely comfortable there in his stupid towel with his hairy legs and his bare feet.
“Frittatas,” Jerry said crisply. He blamed the heat of the oven for the flushing of his face.
“That’s some egg thingy, right?”
Jerry found his gaze drawn to a single bead of water dripping from one of Flynn’s sideburns, making its way in a crooked line over his collarbone. He swallowed before speaking. “Philistine. Yes, some egg thingy. Best eaten hot. You’d better get dressed.” He cleared his throat.
Flynn gave him a little half smile and left the room. Jerry watched the way the damp, soft terrycloth of the towel clung to his ass as he walked away. He took a sip of coffee and made a face as he realized he’d forgotten to add cream. Yep. It was going to be a long day.
About the Author
Sarah Madison is a veterinarian with a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and a very patient boyfriend. She is a terrible cook, and concedes that her life would be easier if Purina made People Chow. She writes because it is cheaper than therapy.