Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Debbie McGowan and Raine O’Tierney for taking the time to talk with us today about their retro title from Beaten Track Publishing Leaving Flowers.
We are here today to talk about Leaving Flowers. What can you tell us about it?
Ro: Leaving Flowers has a very special place in my heart. It was my first collab with Debbie McGowan. I remember we talked about “possibly, maybe, collabing sometime” and “adding it to the pipeline of projects.” And then maybe two days later I’d sent her chapter one and she had chapter two back to me!
DM: Yep, pretty much what Raine said. 🙂 We’d briefly profiled the two main characters and shared some pictures to get a sense of how we saw them. The first chapter arrived, I read it, and right away the next chapter was there in my head. What else could I do but write it down immediately?
Please tell us more about our main characters.
Ro: Aidan is a lonely man with a heavy secret, trying to get over the death of the person he was closest to in life–his twin, Nadia. He’s moving through life like a zombie when he meets Patrick, a gorgeous Irish graveyard caretaker with a sweet smile and a surprisingly cheerful outlook on life.
DM: It’s very much a case of opposites attract in Aidan and Patrick’s case, and their complexions seem to reflect their personalities. Aidan has dark hair and grey eyes, and this befits his sadness and…mystery. He’s very mysterious at the start. Patrick’s a red-haired, green-eyed Irishman, although he doesn’t have the temper to go with it (I think he leaves that to his brother), but he is emotionally wide open, which is what Aidan needs. Probably.
What do you want to tell those who may be new to the series (if applicable)?
Ro: It was written with tons of love! And if you like your gents to have a gorrrrrgeous (and realistic! Thank you Ms. McGowan) Irish accent…this book’s for you. 🙂
DM: grins Also, you don’t have to read the stories in order (or read book 1 to understand book 2), as each one is complete in its own right and features different leading men. However, there will be spoilers for previous stories if you do read them out of order, so probably, you should just read Leaving Flowers and keep going.
What about Leaving Flowers makes you the proudest?
Ro: Oh! Probably that neither my closest friends nor my husband could tell who had written what part! It was really cool to work so seamlessly with another person. Debbie McGowan is an amazing collaborator.
DM: Yep, same from this side of the Atlantic. The story just flowed, and I loved that we totally understood each other’s characters from the get-go. What makes me proudest? Simply that we wrote this wonderful story.
What is next for these characters? Is there more to this series? If so who will we hear from next?
Ro: Leaving Flowers spawned the Seeds of Tyrone Series and IMO there’s more Seeds to be sown. (I bring the puns!) For example, I was driving down the highway with the country station cranked up and ideas for Chancey and Seamus (Book 2) were buzzing in my brain.
DM: And then…you get to meet Aidan, Patrick, Seamus and Chancey again in Christmas Craic and Mistletoe (book 3), as well as four other fine young chaps who were around in books 1 and 2 and kind of nudge-nudge-nudged (with readers’ encouragement) their way into the spotlight. So…who knows?
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Ro: Don’t stop! Don’tstopdon’tstopdon’tstop. Even when it’s hard to write. Even when you’re tired or you’ve been knocked down, even when people neg on you. There will be times when you’re literally the only person who believes in you. So carry on! Also, stay open and teachable. Learn all you can, when you can!
DM: I second that. Also, write for you, not anyone else. Some people will love what you write, some will hate it, some with ‘it was OK, I guess’ you in the face, but it doesn’t matter (eventually, once you’ve calmed down and moved on). So long as you love what you do, and you’re doing what you love, you’ll be just grand.
What is the nicest thing a reader has said to you in a review, email, in person, or on social media?
Ro: That I was able to capture the heart of what it felt like to be a soldier under DADT. That was truly the best honor.
DM: The most powerful was a reader telling us that Leaving Flowers helped them finally start to recover from PTSD. It’s amazing (and a bit scary) to know we authors can have such a tremendous impact.
What part of writing a book comes the hardest for you?
Ro: Sex scenes. I’m just… graaah! I either try to put them in too early or way too late and then when I get there… Sigh.
DM: The last paragraph. No, the last sentence. I can agonise for hours over it. I write it, go away and do something else (like sleep) and then come back and rewrite it in one go.
Do you ever abandon a draft partly written and just move on? Do you keep a file of plot ideas?
Ro: Well, “just move on” isn’t entirely accurate… I have abandoned drafts partly written. I’ve abandoned long drafts partly written. But they all haunt me… Like little draft ghosts. And I have the equivalent of electronic post-its (except not so cool) on my computer. I.e. There are story ideas spread EVERYWHERE.
DM: I have a fair few…partly written ideas, too. I’ve not yet abandoned any. Once the characters come to life, it’s very hard to kill them by formally abandoning their story, so I just pretend they’re sleeping or having a coffee or something, waiting for me to come back.
How important are secondary characters to your story telling? Do you actively try to have women characters in your M/M to balance the male focus of the MCs?
Ro: I personally make it a point to try and create interesting and engaging secondary characters. My worst writing comes when I stick my MCs in a vacuum where they don’t ever interact with anyone else. And yes, I definitely actively try to include women characters in my stories. Why? Because women exist in real life. I also try to create realistic women characters to complement my realistic men. Now, whether or not they seem realistic to the reader is the question. 😉 It surprises me how often people think their world experiences are the only world experiences.
DM: I don’t consciously think ‘oh, I need a woman in here’, but then, I rarely set out to intentionally write M/M. I also don’t believe men and women are especially different. I try to subtly challenge our societal assumptions about essential gender/sexuality by presenting balance in each character rather than male vs female. My biggest problem is way too many characters, but I’ve accepted this as a given fact. I avoid all the people in real life so I can cram as many as possible into my stories. 🙂
If you could be one of your characters who would you be and why?
Ro: I’d say I’m a lot like Autumn from Most Beautiful Words, but if I could be someone… I’d want to be Giordan Stone. He’s so damn sweet.
DM: Shaunna from the Hiding Behind The Couch series because…Andy. That is all. I’d also settle for time-sharing Chancey with Seamus. Actually, I’d settle for time-sharing Shaunna with Andy. Or, or, or…yeah, maybe I’ll just stick to being the author and then I get to be them all. 🙂
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
Ro: I might like to be able to say exactly the right thing in every situation. Sometimes I seriously step in it and hurt people. I’d like to be a source of comfort instead.
DM: I’m gonna go for broke and think big: the power to eradicate the world of greed and, therefore, poverty.
Do you remember a character talking about a particular food and it made you want to eat it RIGHTNOW? and if yes, what was it?
Ro: “MOOSHY” PEAS!
DM: LOL! And OMG, Tess and the exploding crisps! (That’s later, in Seeds of Tyrone #3.) Translation: potato chips. 😉 I don’t eat crisps often; I don’t much like them, but I may have eaten an entire six-pack during Tess’s Adventures with a Bag of Crisps.
Favorite lollipop flavor and which character in a fave book would you like to see suck on that sucker?
Ro: Ba-nananananananana flavor! (Always!) And… hmm… Chancey? Chancey. Chancey. Mmm. Chancey.
DM: Do you have Chupa-Chups in the US? There’s a creamy cocoa vanilla flavour one. It’s awesome. OK, so I have very graphic images in my head now of Chancey sucking a lollipop. I think…I’ll just…sigh.
RO: OK, I don’t know if it was the image of Chancey you put in my head or “creamy cocoa vanilla” but I now insist on finding a Chupa-Chup in my mailbox, please. 😉
DM: Sure! I’ll expect Chancey by return of post. 😀
What are you reading right now and what is next on your to-be-read list?
Ro: I just finished Lisa Kleypas’s Hathaway Series. Fun regency romances! And next on my to-be-read list…? Actually, I don’t know! I was looking at my TBR list on Goodreads and couldn’t decide.
DM: I’ve just finished reading Between Ghosts by Garrett Leigh (full-on chomped through the last 30% and got NO sleep). It’s a tough read, and hawt. It’s about a bisexual soldier and a gay journalist in Iraq, both of whom have significant ghosts to exorcise. It’s excellent. Next: ooh, decisions, decisions. I’m still in that post-awesome-read limbo. I have a ‘read next’ shelf on Goodreads, so I’ll either go with Julie Bozza’s Apothecary’s Garden, or one of the 65 books (65? Yeah!) in my ‘Misc to Read’ folder on my Kindle.
Rapid Fire Time:
Rain or snow?
Classical or Electronic?
RO: Classic rock but current electronica!
DM: Classical, but classic rock, really.
Beach with a book or Hike in the woods?
RO: Hike in the wood <3
DM: Beach+book (if it’s the right kind of beach – I want desolate shoreline and crashing waves)
Starbucks or small cafe?
RO: Conceptually? Small cafe. In reality? Neither.
DM: Small café. Alas, I keep ending up in Starbucks. :/
Tea or Coffee?
RO: Fancy, chocolate-swirled iced coffee!
DM: Coffee all the way.
Love or Lust?
RO: Love <3 Sweet, sweet love.
DM: Lurve 🙂
UK Football (soccer) or American Football?
DM: Ooh! Hm. American football (ideally without appendicitis).
Sweet or Savory?
RO: Sweet, sweet, sweet!
DM: Cheese 😉
Hat or No Hat?
RO: Despite the Hat Party closing this year… HAT!
DM: No hat. I look ridiculous in a hat.
What are you working on? What is next?
Ro: LOTS of things! (As ever!) I’m working on a story about a former rockstar, I’m revamping my half of Christmas Craic & Mistletoe (Book #3 of Seeds of Tyrone), I’ve got an F/F YA rattling around in my head, and maybe…just maybe…
DM: Right now, I’m writing The WAG and The Scoundrel, which is a white-collar crime/romance (M/M) as well as Reunions (Hiding Behind The Couch #7). Next, I need to write The Making of Us, which is Jesse and Leigh’s story in Checking Him Out series. And then there’s a story sitting in a DMRO Collaby folder on my computer, which I believe needs our TLC.
Title: Leaving Flowers
Author: Debbie McGowan and Raine O’Tierney
Publisher: Beaten Track Publishing
Cover Artist: Debbie McGowan
Rating: of 5 Stars
Genre: Contemporary, Gay Fiction, Gay Romance
Shy and awkward since childhood, Aidan Degas is now a man lost. His twin-Aidan’s other half, Nadia-died tragically young, leaving him with nothing to get him through his days but his job at the prestigious Grand Heights Luxury Apartments and the flowers he lays upon her grave. When Aidan is assaulted on the job by a tenant, it’s the graveyard he turns to for strength and solace. Patrick loves being assistant groundskeeper at the sprawling cemetery where he tends graves and offers a bit of comfort to mourners. When he sees a sad young man lingering over an old grave, his curiosity is strangely piqued for reasons he doesn’t understand. He’s never done this-struck up a friendship with a mourner. But soon that friendship blossoms into romance. It’s not going to be easy for the pair. Aidan is so damaged, like petals crushed in an angry fist, and even with Patrick’s warm heart and Irish charm, it might not be enough to bring him back from the edge.
“It was almost four months ago now. I’d gotten off shift and I was about to go to my room when Ms. Ashmore—she’s one of our tenants—she asked if I would sit and talk with her. So I did. And she was already a little tipsy, probably from the rooftop bar—”
“You work in a place with a rooftop bar?”
“Yep,” Aidan said. “But in case you think I’m livin’ it up, my apartment is under the stairs and it’s about as big as two of this car.”
“So what happened?”
“I helped her to her room. She invited me inside. I don’t know, Patrick. I guess I felt…sad. For her. For myself. And then she was pouring me wine and—it’s all sort of a blur. I don’t remember much. She got my virginity, I got fifty dollars.”
Aidan bit down hard on his lip. He should have just told Patrick it was a wild date. Did he really have to get into the whole virginity thing? And the money? At least he’d kept the doubt he’d been feeling lately to himself. Had he tried to stop it? It danced just out of his memory. And Ms. Ashmore wasn’t even the one who had given him the hickey.
“It doesn’t matter, I—”
“She tipped you for the sex?”
“Maybe.” Aidan’s cheeks really were burning now. “I figured she thought I was a prostitute or something and—”
“And you gave the money back immediately and told the woman where to stuff it?”
“That’s the problem,” Aidan sighed miserably. “I didn’t. I haven’t. Then rumors spread, and now Mrs. Wright also thinks I’m available for the right price and, y’know.” Again, he gestured helplessly at the hickey. “I didn’t ask for this, though, Patrick. I didn’t want it and when she started, I got away from her. But I’m in a tight spot and I don’t really know what to do. I could lose my job over all of this.”
“Quit, then. It sounds a horrible place.”
“I can’t quit.” Aidan closed his eyes and left them closed, letting out a long, low breath. “The Grand Heights is all I have.”
He felt Patrick move, felt as he shifted across the center console, close into Aidan’s space, but he did not open his eyes. He was expecting the hug—longed for it even—and as Patrick’s arms wrapped around him, Aidan melted into the feel and warmth and smell of Patrick. Then he felt Patrick’s lips on his neck, so gentle he almost wasn’t certain he felt it at all. He was tenderly kissing the spot where Mrs. Wright had left such an ugly mark.
“I wish I could make it disappear.” Patrick’s voice was hypnotizing, the sound of rain on a tin roof. Aidan turned his face, just a little, so that Patrick’s lips caressed his cheek.
“All of it.”
Their lips met and Aidan died a little, right there, in the parking garage. It was nothing at all like when he’d awkwardly kissed his prom date goodnight, his teeth knocking against hers. Nor was it like Ms. Ashmore and her almost suffocating kisses. And it sure as hell wasn’t Mrs. Wright clawing into him, sucking on his neck like a vampire.
“I’m sorry,” Patrick murmured against his lips. “I don’t know what I’m thinkin’, kissing you like this. I just can’t stand to see you sufferin’, Aidan Degas.”
“Oh.” Idiot, Aidan berated himself as he pulled back. He inhaled deeply and let it out on a chuckle he hoped sounded natural and not hurt. He’s feeling sorry for you. God, you always read so much into everything. “Well, I am feeling much better now.”
Patrick didn’t look convinced.
“I promise,” Aidan said, way too brightly, and turned back to the window. “I wonder if we’re ever getting out of this garage.”
About the Author
About Debbie McGowan:
Debbie McGowan is an author and publisher based in a semi-rural corner of Lancashire, England. She writes character-driven, realist fiction, celebrating life, love and relationships. A working class girl, she ‘ran away’ to London at seventeen, was homeless, unemployed and then homeless again, interspersed with animal rights activism (all legal, honest ;)) and volunteer work as a mental health advocate. At twenty-five, she went back to college to study social science—tough with two toddlers, but they had a ‘stay at home’ dad, so it worked itself out. These days, the toddlers are young women (much to their chagrin), and Debbie teaches undergraduate students, writes novels and runs an independent publishing company, occasionally grabbing an hour of sleep where she can.
About Raine O’Tierney:
Called “Queen of the Sweetness” (well, two or three people said it anyway!) Raine O’Tierney loves writing sweet stories about first loves, first times, fidelity, forever-endings and…friskiness? When she’s not writing, she’s either asleep, or fighting the good fight for intellectual freedom at her library day job. Raine believes the best thing we can do in life is be kind to one another, and she enjoys encouraging fellow writers! Writing for 20+ years, Raine changes sub-genres to suit her mood and believes all good stories end sweetly. Contact her if you’re interested in talking about point-and-click adventure games or about which dachshunds are the best kinds of dachshunds!
Raineotierney [at] gmail.com
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