Q1: The first book in your Spy VS Spook series leaves the reader wanting more. Was it always planned as series and did you know even in the very beginning that you were creating a world that was so rich, you would be able to spin off characters to tell their own story?
Thank you so much, Marc! I’m more pleased than I can say that this universe has drawn you in. Back in 2002, I wrote a piece of fanfiction based on the TV show, JAG. Happy Birthday, Baby was a birthday gift for a very good friend, (Dr. Morse, the vet in Pick Up the Pieces, is named for her) and it was supposed to be just that one story, no sex. I had no intention of creating an entire world, since at that time I was busy slashing classic movies. As you can see, it didn’t stay that way very long. That story led to the Mind Fuck series. When I decided to post it on CRVBoy and Nifty, I reworked it into Mann of My Dreams, and when I submitted it for publication, I changed the title one last time to Spy vs. Spook. (This is actually the name of the WBIS in-house newsletter.) So no, it was never planned as a series, and I had no idea the secondary characters would demand stories of their own. But you know what? I can’t seem to let them go. Forever was supposed to be the last of Spy vs. Spook, but then I wrote the prequel, The Start of a Beautiful Friendship, and another sequel, If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going, and there are at least two more books down the road, Things Happen that Way and Complications. All from one story, no sex. *laughs*
Q2: The enemies-to-lovers trope is very popular in the M/M genre. What attracted you to the idea of letting your MCs in the Spy VS Spook books start off as ‘enemies’?
Mark Vincent and Quinton Mann are two very strong men who are like tinder and a match. When they come into contact, there will be sparks, and I wanted to see how brightly the fire those sparks ignited would burn. I also wanted to show how Mark would react when he finally realized how much Quinn meant to him. As readers of the series know, Mark fought his feelings for Quinn for quite some time. (And I had a huge amount of fun writing his internal dialogues. If anyone other than his subconscious spoke to him in that manner, he’d have no problem erasing them!) I had even more fun (although please don’t tell him I said that!) determining what a man like Mark would do once he realized he wanted more from Mann than a night in bed.
Q3: Mark and Quinn experience their story in very different ways. It is interesting to get into both of their heads and ‘hear’ their individual perspectives on events. Was it difficult to develop two versions of the same story and is there a master story outline you use, where all the events are listed without the subjectiveness of the characters, so that you don’t lose sight on what is really going on?
I want to tell you, writing alternating POVs is tough! How much of the previous dialogues do I want to include? (Keep in mind what’s included has to be verbatim.) How much new stuff do I want to add? (I go on the premise no one remembers the exact conversation they’ve had with anyone.) Have I gotten it to mesh smoothly? As for a master story outline, I’m what you might call a “seat of my pants” writer. I’d have a rough idea of where I want to take the story, and then I’d sit down and start writing, and let the characters tell me their story. The original Mind Fuck series was written like that. However, once I’d decided to send the series to CRVBoy and Nifty, I had those stories to fall back on, as well as the Soundbytes (stories of the secondary characters). That helped me expand Mind Fuck to Mann of My Dreams, and after Mann was accepted for publication and became Spy vs. Spook, I had that to make sure I included everything. However, I’m an inveterate fiddler: until the galley proof is sent back to my publisher, I continue to make changes. The first chapter of Houseboat on the Nile, Just Another New Year’s Eve, is original to that book and won’t be found anywhere else. Now I make a list of incidents that need to be included, but I started that simply to keep track of my word count. I.e. Mark is still in LA, so Quinn has dinner at Raphael’s with DB. Quinn asks Mark to spend Mother’s Day with Portia. Jameson gets hit by a bus. *cough*
Q4: In your Spy VS Spook series, there is a lot going on behind the scenes in the respective agencies of the two MCs. How much research went into the story and how important do you think authenticity is for a story like this?
I think authenticity is very important. The last thing I want to do is throw a reader out of the story because of a gaffe that could have been avoided by a little research. (For instance, will a character wind up on 21st Street by exiting the lobby of the Lisner Auditorium in DC?) Having said that, the WBIS is purely mine, so I can do as I like with it. (Can you picture any government agency not having a heart attack to learn its employees are gay? Well, back in 2002.) I have pages and pages of information I’ve copied and pasted into files on both my computers and in numerous flash drives, as well as bookmarked sites. The series is as realistic as I can make it. I often think of Louis L’Amour’s words: “If I write of a spring, that spring is there, and the water is good to drink.” I’ll never be an Ian Fleming or James Patterson (or Louis L’Amour *laughs*) but I’d like to think there’s a strong measure of accuracy in my stories.
Q5: While the main attraction of your Spy Vs Spook series is the explosive chemistry between Mark and Quinn, You also included some really great supporting characters that added a lot to the story. How important are secondary characters for you?
The main characters can’t be on the page all the time. The secondary characters aid in telling us what the MCs don’t see or can’t express. (Quinn could hardly tell what an amazing son he is, but Portia has no trouble with that.) I absolutely love bit players who have a walk-on part, wind up with a recurring role, and finally become feature players who get their own story. This is what happened with Sweetcheeks. He had a very minor role in one of the early chapters of Mind Fuck, as did Mark’s trainee, Matheson. It didn’t take long for them to both have larger parts, and before I knew it, they were involved with their own affair.
Q6: Portia really enriches the Spy VS Spook series. She is a great supporting character and I think it was awesome that you gave her a spin-off to tell her very own story in “Where the Heart Chooses”. But it must have been a big risk to write a m/f spin-off for a m/m series. Can you tell us a bit about the book and where the idea to write it came from? How were the reactions and has the risk paid off?
Thank you, Marc! Portia is my favorite female character. I didn’t want to end the series, so I started writing (fairly) short novellas about Quinn’s family. Portia’s story was originally called Blue Velvet. My husband thought I should try my hand at writing f/m, and since that was the only story I had available, I decided to expand it. It went from about 25k to over 100k, and I learned things about Portia and Nigel I hadn’t known. For instance, although he was called Mr. Freeze and she was referred to as the Ice Queen, together they were highly combustible. I was fortunate in that JMS Books was willing to give Portia a home. Readers who followed Spy vs. Spook expressed an interest in her story, so while it hasn’t sold as well as Spy vs. Spook, I’m pleased with how it was received. I had to sell a certain number of e-books in order to have a print run of Where the Heart Chooses, and I’m delighted to announce that in February, (just a few weeks now!) it will be available in paperback.
Q7: “Where the Heart Chooses” gave a lot of background information on many characters from the SVS series. Does your M/M spin-off reveal a lot about characters we know from the books as well or will it be more of a separate entity in the same universe?
Pick Up the Pieces and its sequel, Foolish Me, is the story of Theo Bascopolis, who was the rent boy, Sweetcheeks. Mark Vincent comes in and out of the story, first as the rent boys’ tenant and then their friend, and there’s a brief cameo by Quinn (blink, and you’ll miss it! 😉 ) Theo has no idea what Mark really does, thinking he works for Huntingdon, which fronts for the WBIS, so it’s fun to hear him say things like, “He wouldn’t hurt a fly.” An incident in Foolish Me leads to Mark’s POV of what happened in If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going.
Q8: Will new readers be able to read and fully enjoy the spin-off, without having read the SVS series or is it necessary to start with the main trilogy?
Since this is primarily Theo’s story, I’m hoping readers can enjoy it without having read the series. Of course those who have read the series will get the little in-jokes, such as Theo being so certain Matheson actually is a computer troubleshooter.
Q9: The M/M spin-off that will be released this Spring, used to be available for free under the name “The Light in Your Eyes”. What was the most difficult aspect of getting it ready for publication? And are there any major differences between that version of the story and the one you will present to your readers, soon?
The original version had on-page underage sex with a man who was twice Theo’s age. This happens to kids who are thrown out like so much trash, but it’s against Dreamspinner policy, so it all had to be removed, although it could be alluded to. My editor was a tremendous help with that, but I’ll never offer another story that contains underage sex for publication. That’s not to say I might not write it, but this has been rough. What I may do is put the first two uncensored chapters up on my site if anyone is interested in seeing the differences. Other than that, The Light in Your Eyes ran 148k. Pick Up the Pieces and Foolish Me combined are over 217k. The main plot line remains, and in addition to the removal of the underage sex, I took advantage of the rewrites to alter the nightmare Theo has at Christmas in Foolish Me to actual phone sex with Wills. Then I included a run-in with a pair of dirty cops, a meeting with another rent boy who wanted to use him as an enticement for votes, and a confrontation with someone who was visiting the ladies downstairs as a way to explain Theo’s insecurities when it came to Wills. And there’s the Easter visit with Wills’ family as well as Theo’s, and a few other things I won’t reveal to avoid spoiling. So you can see, a lot has been added.
Q10: You have created a very rich and intriguing world; is there any hope of you writing another Spy VS Spook novel are spinning off any other character?
Absolutely! As I mentioned, I’ve already finished Book 4, If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going, (that’s a Winston Churchill quote) and I’m waiting to hear back from Dreamspinner. This picks up a few weeks after the events of Forever, and while it only covers a short period of time, that time is jam-packed with action. Things are heating up at the WBIS, and Quinn will have to watch Mark’s back, because Major Jonathon Drum II is getting up to his old tricks.
Q11: Have you always known you wanted to become a writer and how did you ever stumble into this genre? 😉
I’ve loved writing—and especially dialogue—all my life, but I never thought I would actually be published. (Have you tried typing a manuscript on a typewriter? Difficult! Very, very difficult!) Computers are so much easier, with simply copying and pasting to remove/add what you need to. As to how I found this genre, until 1999, I had no idea there was such a thing as m/m. (I know, I’m so clueless it’s embarrassing.) A friend found it online, and we began reading it. There’s a movie, Love and Human Remains, and she challenged me to slash it—not difficult since the main character is already gay—and I wrote my first m/m, a story called Poor Little Rich Boy. And yes, it’s still out there on the Net.
Q12: Are there any other subgenres like Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Steam punk or BDSM that you would consider exploring in the future?
I ‘m not sure if I could do Steampunk or BDSM justice, but I’ve already written a Sci-fi novel. Portal to Eden has also been published by JMS Books, and the heroine is bisexual. I have a follow-up in mind for that universe. And once I’m done with the edits for Foolish Me, I’ll get back to the Western I’ve been working on. This is an actual Western, which takes place in 1870.
Q13: Okay, I just have to ask (and hope you don’t mind), but the name Tinnean T’Leyte sounds so exotic. Where did it come from?
I hope this doesn’t come across as lame, Marc. The same friend who introduced me to m/m suggested we use pseudonyms for our writing. I had one for m/f, but I needed another one for m/m. Have you ever seen Jaws? Quint does the “sinking of the Indianapolis” soliloquy, and in it he says they were coming back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. I always loved that scene. Anyway, being just barely computer literate at the time, I didn’t think to Ask Jeeves (this is how long ago it was) about the spelling, so I went with the phonetic: Tinnean. Facebook insisted on a last name, so I chose T’Leyte, taking out the “o” in To and replacing it with an apostrophe. And there you have it. 😉
Q14: Can you tell us about your current WIPs and the future projects you have planned? Could you share a little teaser for one of them with our readers?
I actually just finished a WIP I’d been working on for the past six years. For the longest time I had no title for it, so I called it the gay vampire story, and it’s about a vampire who’s… well, you get the idea. In the world he inhabits, so-called normals have no idea they share the planet with other beings. And I’d like to make this a trilogy, vampires, werewolves, and dragons. It’s a strange, strange world they live in, Master Jack. Then there’s the Western I’ve been mulling over for more than a year (are you seeing a pattern here?). A young man, who was a drummer boy during the Civil War, drifts through the West, and he meets up with an interesting trio: a young woman with two younger brothers. Need I say they’re not exactly what they seem? I plan a follow-up to Greeting Cards, where we’ll get to know a little more about Rick, who’d broken Ben’s heart. I always figured people never saw themselves as bad or weak, and neither does he. I’m about halfway through Greater Love Hath No Man. This takes place in Great Britain from 1948 to 1975, and would you believe there’s a tie-in with Where the Heart Chooses? When Portia’s brother Jefferson goes missing, James Trevalyn looks into it for her. And of course there’s another Spy vs. Spook, Complications.
Now the future projects: Book 5 of Spy vs. Spook: Things Happen That Way. Yep, I jumped from 4 to 6. I mentioned the companion piece to Portal to Eden, where we meet another one of those people who doesn’t believe he’s a bad person, only Jacob Forrest happens to be right. I’d like to do a sequel to Call Me Church, which I’m thinking of calling Once More into the Fray. They return to the island where Chetwood found the saber tooth and go on a treasure hunt. And there’s the possibility of sequels to The Best and Two Lips, Indifferent Red.
(Is that enough?) Okay, on to the snippet, and this will be from Complications. If you remember Black Coffee, from Not My Spook!, the second Spy vs. Spook novel, this is what happened afterward. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you August 31, 2002:
Babe was shaking as she watched the man cross to the trash container, easily dodging the seven- and eight-year-olds running wild on the sugar rush from ice cream, soda, and birthday cake.
This hadn’t been a good idea. But she wanted her boy to have some kind of a childhood, one that didn’t revolve around always being on the run and constantly changing names.
“John,” she said so softly only the boy could hear her. “Let’s go.”
Most kids would have objected, whined that they wanted to stay for the face painting or the goody bags, but John was not like most kids.
He was quiet until they left the McDonald’s. “I’m sorry, Ma. I don’t know what it was about him….”
“It’s all right.” She could hear the tears in his voice, but she knew if she glanced at him his eyes would be dry.
“No it isn’t!”
“We’ll talk about it when we get home.”
In spite of how shaken she was, she stayed alert. Things weren’t going to end well for her; she’d accepted that fact from the day she’d taken the baby from his Isolette in the medical facility where she’d worked. But she was going to make sure this remarkable little boy survived.
She’d had help; how could she have managed otherwise? The girl who became Delilah Carson had been in the foster home Jeanette had been shunted to, and they’d grown to be the sisters they didn’t have in real life. “You’re a babe in the woods, aren’t you?” Del had observed, and the nickname stuck.
Of course Del, being the older, was booted out about a year after, but they’d stayed in touch, and when Babe found herself in this situation, who else was there to turn to?
Del came through for her. She made sure funds were delivered to her every month. The boys… young men, really… would pass her on the street and slip an envelope into her hand or her pocket or into the stroller she’d pushed in the early days, when John… his name was Thomas then… was still an infant.
It continued, even after Del had been murdered last winter. Babe’s lower lip quivered. She knew what Del did for a living, but Del had assured her it wasn’t that bad. Most of her clients were sad and lonely. “I’m like a therapist, Babe.” And she’d winked and hugged her.
Del hadn’t deserved to die that way, cut to ribbons.
Had it been the result of helping her and the boy? God, she hoped not! She didn’t think she’d be able to live with herself otherwise.
She and John climbed the stairs to the third floor of the rundown apartment building she’d found in Anacostia, and walked quietly down the corridor.
She stared at the door of 325 and began shaking again. The jamb was splintered.
“What’s going on here, Ms. Little?” The landlord was hovering nearby.
“Oh, hello, Mr. Murchison. It’s… uh… it’s a nice day, isn’t it?”
“Not for you. You didn’t answer me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. John and I were at a party for one of the little boys in his class, and we’ve just come home.”
“I’ll tell you what I’m talking about, missy. The three big men who broke that lock to get into your apartment. And who did this.” He curled back his lips, revealing the fact that two teeth were missing. She shied back, barely tightening her sphincter in time to keep from pissing her pants.
Oh, God. Oh, crap. “Oh,” was all she allowed herself to say. How had they found her? She didn’t bother asking what they’d wanted. She knew: the little boy who stood so silently beside her. “What… what did you tell them?”
“It could be I didn’t answer any of their questions. Or… it could be I told them no one fitting your description or the boy’s live here.”
She knew better than to trust the way he phrased that, but she had to ask. “Did you?”
“Why would I, when by doing that, it could have put not only my life but the lives of all my tenants in jeopardy?”
“Which of course is of the utmost concern to you.”
“You bet your ass, cutie.” He grinned around a mouthful of dried blood. This hadn’t happened too long ago. Could the men have spotted her and John as they entered the apartment building? But she hadn’t seen anything—car or people—that looked out of place.
“What did you tell them?”
“That you were out of town but would be back by Tuesday when the brat had to go back to school. I’ve bought you a couple of days. You can see what I was willing to do for you. So, little lady. What will you do in return?”
Jesus, she’d never had to, never thought she’d have to…. She forced a smile. “I haven’t seen your apartment, Mr. Murchison—”
“Harv. Call me Harv, why doncha?”
“Harv.” She upped the wattage on her smile as she’d seen Del do and fluttered her lashes. “Why don’t you show it to me?” She signaled to John behind her back, hoping she’d remembered the correct hand signs.
“What about the kid? I don’t want no kid watching us going at it hot and heavy.”
“Of course not, stud.” She stroked the landlord’s cheek with the backs of her fingers. “He can wait for me in our apartment.”
“Right. Heh, heh, heh.”
She looped her arm through his and leaned into him. He smelled of cabbage and sweat, his breath had a sweetish, coppery odor that turned her stomach, and… did he just fart? It was all she could do to keep from shuddering. “You were so brave to face those men. Let me take care of your mouth for you.”
She didn’t look over her shoulder at the boy. She knew he’d be gone, hiding down in the basement. It was damp and musty down there, and she’d give almost anything to be there with him.
Q15: Can you tell us a little about yourself and provide us with links to contact you and buy your book?
I’ve been writing for what seems like all my life, and while I don’t have the epic poem my bio mentions, I do have the magazines my stories appeared in while I was in Andrew Jackson High School. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that some of stories from seventh and eighth grade were fanfics. (I loved Shane, didn’t want to see it end, and wrote myself into it. *g*) I’m a transplanted New Yorker (although deep in my heart, I’ll always be a New York gal), and my husband and I have lived in SW Florida for the past 13 years. We’ve got three fantastic kids and three equally fantastic grandkids, although we lost our first little guy when he was about 9 weeks old. Up in NY, we had our own Faster Pussycat (he appears in Pick Up the Pieces), as well as the black Lab Deety is based on. And the Hemingway quote in my sig line? Once writing has become your major vice and greatest pleasure, only death can stop it. I believe this more than I can say.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tinnean
And the books can be bought at:
Tinnean has kindly offered 1 lucky commenter an eCopy of their choice of a Spy VS Spook novel OR a pre-order for “Pick up the Pieces”.
Contest ends 5 Feb 2014 @ 11:59pm. Must be 18 or older, etc
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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