I would like to thank AM Arthur, author of the recently released Young Adult title No Such Thing, as well as the Cost of Repairs series, for stopping by PBA to talk today.
Your latest title is No Such Thing. What can you tell us about it?
NO SUCH THING is the first book in new series that begins with Alessandro and Jaime’s story. Alessandro is a former foster kid with a troubled past that he’s tried to leave behind. Jaime is a bookworm with zero experience socially or sexually, and when the pair meet, unexpected sparks fly. It’s my take on the “experienced guy takes inexperienced guy under his wing with no strings attached” trope, with a little bit of a mystery added in. And angst. Always angst.
No Such Thing is classified as a Young Adult book – Is this your first published YA story? What made you decide to write about younger adult characters?
I would consider NO SUCH THING more New Adult than Young Adult, because the characters are 22-23, rather than in their teens. This is actually my third published novel with characters in this age range. WEIGHT OF SILENCE (Samhain) and WHAT YOU OWN (Dreamspinner) have main characters in the 19-24 age range.
I like writing about younger characters because they provide a unique challenge as a writer. Their perspectives on life and the events occurring around them are different than that of an adult. There is also the fun of discovery—not only of their sexuality, but of their place in the wider world. I enjoy writing characters who aren’t settled in their lives. Alessandro, for instance, doesn’t have a career, or really many prospects beyond waiting tables or working in mail rooms. Jaime is still in college, still waiting for his real life to begin, and the possibilities for both of them are endless. With older characters, they often know who they are and what their careers are, so the story is more focused on the relationship—which isn’t a bad thing, it’s simply a different kind of story.
I thought the evolution of Jaime and Alessandro’s relationship seemed very natural – Not love at first sight all tied up in a neat HEA bow. As an author, how do you decide the pacing of story lines? Or do the characters themselves help you decide as you are writing them?
The characters always have a hand in pacing the story. My books always begin with the two heroes. I figure out who they are, and then the story unfolds from there. Plot is very much influenced by the two heroes and what their main goals are. The majority of NO SUCH THING was a surprise. I knew that Alessandro would have to face the secret from his past, and I knew I’d have plenty of scenes of Alessandro teaching Jaime about sex, but they told me when things would happen. I’ve written over twenty novels at this point in my life, so by now a lot of it is instinct.
And I’m not always a fan of “a neat HEA bow” on books. Sometimes it works, sometimes it feels forced. And it always depends on the characters. But as in real life, relationships are complicated. I want to believe that the people on page are real people, and real people don’t get the fairy tale version of happily ever after. We meet, we fall in love, we move in together, and we do our best to make it work, but it isn’t always wine and roses. We have to work for it, change for it, sometimes even cry for it. Real people don’t slap a bow on it, and I want my fictional characters to seem as real as possible.
One of my favorite aspects of No Such Thing was the wonderful women characters who mother the boys – so vibrant, accepting and fiercely loving of Jaime and Alessandro. Did you model these characters after anyone in your own life?
Yes and no. I’ve been blessed to grow up with a very close family, and with some very strong female role models. And I really don’t like m/m novels that treat female characters like clichés (the fag hag bff, the harpy of an ex, the disapproving mother). Every character should be interesting and they should move the story forward in a positive way.
Of all the female characters I’ve written, Jaime’s sister Shannon ranks in at number two (Dixie from my COST OF REPAIRS series will always be first for me). Shannon blasted her way onto the page, this absolute force of a woman, and she shares some characteristics with my own sister—loving, loyal, a need to take care of the people around her, hard working to a fault. If I ever stretched my wings into writing het romance, I’d totally find a badass guy for her to fall in love with, because she’s a strong personality, and I love her.
Eunice is partially based on a lady I used to work with, who just mothers everyone. Eunice has a huge heart, she loves children, and even though losing her husband of forty years is devastating, she’s keeping it together for the two foster children still in her care. She doesn’t know how to do anything else, and her greatest pride is seeing her foster kids succeed. Maybe Alessandro isn’t a financial success, but he’s everything she could have hoped for in a son.
I just loved both Jaime and Alessandro, but thought that you wrote Alessandro to be especially uniquely wonderful. He’s supposedly the hardened tough guy, but he’s actually quite sensitive, decent, and has a vulnerability about him that reminded me of a hurt little boy at times. How do you develop such interesting and diverse characters such as Alessandro without making them predictable?
Make them real. It sounds trite, but it is kind of that simple. Make them real, and stay away from clichés by doing something the reader might not expect. Alessandro could have been a walking, talking cliché: foster kid, in trouble as a teen, non-white, wannabe badass. He could have grown up into a foul-mouthed, bitter jerk who resents the world, and who needs a sweet, innocent guy to take his wild side. I flipped that on its ass by giving him loving foster parents who taught him values, who loved him unconditionally, and who made him want to be better. He tamed himself before he even met Jaime, even though his temper does remain an issue for him (no one is perfect).
Jaime, too, could have been the clichéd, blushing virgin. And for a little while he was, but then whoa boy! He’s got a very kinky side that was so much fun to explore (Ezra’s apartment, anyone?).
In addition to the romance between Jaime and Alessandro, No Such Thing includes a very well written accompanying story line about extremely serious issues, including homophobia and rape. Why did you decide to have your characters deal with such serious and life altering subjects?
Because they still exist. I grew up in a very conservative household, and I spent a lot of my teen years believing homosexuality was a sin, and that God hated gays. I could have been those kids Tony hung out with, spewing their crap. I’m not proud of it, but I am proud to say that in college I began to think for myself. I stopped believing what other people told me about gays and abortion and women’s rights, and I am now a firm believer in equality. What’s that old joke? Jesus lived with twelve guys in the desert for years, and his best friend was a hooker?
Most of my books touch on, or at least brush up against a serious subject, because they need to be talked about. Homophobia affects teens and adults every single day, and gay teens are still committing suicide because of rampant bullying. A woman is sexually assaulted in this country every seven minutes. Some people may want to keep harsh subjects like this out of their romance novels, and that’s fine. I don’t. And I’m glad that you think I’m treating these things with the respect they deserve. There are kids out there like Jaime, who are minding their own business and are still targeted by bigoted jerks. There are date rape victims living in silence because someone thought it was okay to take advantage of their inebriated state. And that’s not okay.
The day these harsh violations no longer happen in real life, I will gladly stop writing about them. Until then, the conversation needs to continue, even if it is in fiction.
You’re planning to write the second part of Jaime and Alessandro’s story. When will this be published and what can we expect in this continuing story?
MAYBE THIS TIME is the second book in this series, and it will be published in July. Jaime and Alessandro are featured in several scenes (yay!), but the focus shifts to a new couple. Ezra Kelley introduced himself in a big way during the Pot O Gold dance club scenes, and his story was one of the most difficult books I’ve ever written and it’s all Ezra’s fault. After I finished up NO SUCH THING, he jumped up and down and demanded his own book. And then he sat down and refused to talk to me, just like he refuses to talk to anyone, including the hero who finally gets through to him, Donner Davis.
Jaime and Alessandro have remained friends with Ezra, and one of my favorite Jaime/Alè interactions happens in this book. We also see a bit more of Romy. But mostly we’ll see an emotionally damaged, closed-off bookstore clerk butt heads with a big-hearted bartender who thinks Ezra’s worth more than a one-night stand. Oh, and there’s also dumpster diving, and a German Shepherd named Lex Luthor.
If you could have a conversation with any famous author, who would you want to get writing tips from and what skill of theirs would you like to emulate?
Do they have to be famous? Because I want to get all kinds of fan-girly and say I’d love to chat with K.A. Mitchell. She is the author who drew me into m/m romance, and I adore all of her books. I would love to be able to write the kind of emotional, hawt, melt-the-pages sex scenes that she writes. Have you read COLLISION COURSE? *fans self*
What are you currently working on? What is next?
Right now I am prettying up “Cost of Repairs #6/Untitled Spinoff Series #1” to send to my editor at Samhain. I also have two other books in various stages of progress. The third book in the “No Such Thing” series is on my Carina editor’s desk (not yet contracted, so keep your fingers crossed, because this is Romy’s book and I adore him to pieces).
As for upcoming works, FOUNDATION OF TRUST (Cost of Repairs #5) is due out this year from Samhain. It’s David Weller’s story, and some parts of his backstory are the most personal of anything I’ve ever written. I also have UNDERSTANDING JEREMY coming this summer from Dreamspinner, and this is a companion/sequel to UNEARTHING COLE. It follows Cole and Jeremy’s developing relationship, and it’s something fans of theirs have been waiting for.
Where can readers find you and your books?
You can find me online (http://amarthur.blogspot.com/), as well as on Twitter (http://twitter.com/am_arthur), Tumblr (http://www.tumblr.com/blog/am-arthur), and Facebook. Email me at email@example.com to compliment, complain, or generally comment on my stuff. My books can also be found digitally at all of the major retailers, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and ARE.
One lucky commenter will win their own eCopy of No Such Thing.
Contest ends 21 Feb 2014 @ 11:59pm.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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