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Title: Too Close
Author: R Phoenix
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Gay Romance
Release Date: 12/30/2016
Skylar Orion’s life has been complicated ever since his mother abandoned him and his sister Evie. Making ends meet seemed impossible until Tate Chandler took them in — his knight in shining armor who promised to make life about more than just surviving. But Tate is not the man he seemed to be, and even his whispered I love yous and generous gifts do little to soothe the pain he causes. Knowing he can’t give his sister all that she deserves without Tate, Skylar stays with him, relying on bad puns and a worse sense of humor to keep up the charade.
For his sister he will do anything, even if that means acting the responsible adult and going back to his old high school to meet Dexter Weston, the hot math teacher who can make even algebra interesting. Sparks fly between the two of them, but with his dependence on Tate, Skylar isn’t free to follow his heart. He wants what is best for Evie, but can he pass up the chance to find love that heals instead of harms?
Warning: Graphic Domestic Abuse and Violence.
Recent Release Spotlight with R Phoenix
We are here today to talk about Too Close. What can you tell us about it?
First and foremost, I want to warn for potential triggers regarding domestic violence. These scenes are not particularly gentle, and they include physical, emotional, and financial abuse. There were certain things I wanted to capture, and it meant delving deep in some places. That being said, there’s also humor, as my main character relies on his sense of humor to get him through a lot of these events.
Too Close is a book about difficult situations and what people do in those situations. For better or for worse, their decisions guide the course of their lives. Sometimes, people come along who make us reconsider what’s going on in our lives. This can be a good thing, and this can be a painful thing.
It’s also about love, but not necessarily in the traditional sense. What Skylar does, he does for his sister most of all. He loves, and he loves deeply, and this is one of the things that makes his predicament that much more difficult for him. In Too Close, love is a catalyst rather than a solution.
Please tell us more about our main characters.
Most of all, Too Close is Skylar’s story. He dropped out of school to take care of his younger sister, Evie, and every decision since then has been made with the goal of supporting and helping her. His own happiness comes second, but he’s found ways to cope with his situation. Inevitably, something has to give, and it might be Skylar himself…
When they meet about his sister’s failing grades, Dexter and Skylar instantly hit it off. Dexter has been alone for a while, but there’s something about Skylar that has him instantly intrigued. But he sees past the sense of humor that’s masking a big secret, and he has to decide what — if anything — he can do…
Tate should’ve been Skylar’s white knight, but their relationship is not all it seems… or all it should be. He gives Skylar everything he thinks he and Evie could possibly need, but is the price too high?
What about Too Close makes you the proudest?
Abuse isn’t easy to understand. Why people stay, why people abuse, why no one steps in… All of these are difficult to explain. A lot of times, people who have gotten out of abusive situations are reluctant to discuss it because of the stigma surrounding it. There’s this pervasive thought of, “Why doesn’t s/he leave?” followed by, “I would never let that happen to me.” But it’s not that simple.
When people say that they understand it a little bit better after reading Too Close, I could not possibly be prouder of this book. That’s more than I ever could’ve hoped to accomplish.
What is next for these characters? Is there more to this series? If so who will we hear from next?
Well, I’ve pretty much been dared to write Sky/Dex fluff, and I have a hard time backing down from a challenge… (SIGH.) So something short might be on the horizon, but I promise nothing! I’ve had some requests to write Tate’s story, and it’s something I’ve put a lot of thought into. The answer to that is: we’ll see.
If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?
It’s apparently okay to tell people that you fully intend to rip out their hearts and try to make them cry. It still makes you a sadist, but if you’re a writer, that’s expected. 😉
What one story made you lose sleep as a kid?
Do y’all remember those ‘Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’ books? Holy crap. To tell you the truth, I can’t even tell you what most of those were about, but I remember the illustrations. Scared the hell out of me. If I have to say an actual story, though, I once read this one about a spoiled kid who did something or other to make himself unkillable/immortal… and somehow or another, he ended up having a cement slab and building put up over him. Eternity. Unable to die. Encased in concrete. I still get chills. (And I can’t find the book it was in…!)
What’s the best thing you’ve ever had someone say about one of your books in an email or review?
A little earlier, I mentioned what makes me proudest of Too Close, and that’s pretty much the best thing I could ask for. The comments about the book — reviews, e-mails, other messages — have been astounding and flattering, and I’ve been touched by the stories people have chosen to share with me.
However! Since I already said that earlier… My second favorite thing is when people react to Elias Ivers, a character from my paranormal series. I get entirely too much pleasure out of seeing how polarizing he is. People seem to either love him or hate him, with not much room in between. I have people who message me to demand that I kill him, and I have others who ask me for more scenes with him. I think my favorite comment was Meredith King’s (Diverse Reader), when she essentially said that if Elias was on fire and she had a glass of water, she’d drink the water.
But anyway, it’s this amazing feeling to know that people care about some of my characters like that. Skylar and Elias in particular are the two I hear the most about, and I am truly honored that people find them memorable. (Even if they are polar opposites and some people want me to kill one of them. Ahem.)
How do you choose names? If you decide to change a name, do you feel that it alters your perception of the character?
I open up behindthename.com and start flipping through. Usually I look at the most popular names for a given year and start about a third of the way down, then write down some I find interesting. Then I start looking at meanings, and I go from there. I get very attached to the names, and I’m reluctant to change them. I did change Tate’s name from Gabriel because of some things, and I do think it changed how I felt about the character. Names take on a life of their own.
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?
A few months ago, I got slapped on the wrist by a friend for neglecting my secondary characters. She fussed because I put so much time and thought into my main characters, and blah blah there was a lecture or something… 😉 Anyway, I’ve been working on improving that since. I started to work on it in Refraction, the sixth book in my Ripples in the Status Quo series, and it’s factored heavily into the rewrites I’ve been doing. It’s something I focused on when I was writing Too Close.
I’m very character-centric, and I don’t often have a lot of secondary characters as a general rule. This means that there aren’t many opportunities for women in the books. However, I’m very much dedicated to involving them and avoiding the stereotypes as much as I can. I actually have a spinoff book from my series called Gifts, which is MMF/MF. The best compliment I’ve received is that Callia is not like a typical female character in the MM genre in particular. She’s strong, ruthless, confident, and I put considerable time and thought into making her a solid character instead of a token female.
If you could be any Disney character who would you be, and why?
Mulan! She’s such a strong character, and she accomplished so much on her own merit. We are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for, but sometimes it’s difficult to see. We can do more than we realize. A friend shared something with me the other day, and I’d like to share it here…
“i want to apologize to all the women i have called beautiful
before i’ve called them intelligent or brave
i am sorry i made it sound as though
something as simple as what you’re born with
is all you have to be proud of
when you have broken mountains with your wit
from now on i will say things like
you are resilient, or you are extraordinary
not because i don’t think you’re beautiful
but because i need you to know
you are more than that”
― Rupi Kaur
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?
Brandon Sanderson is pretty much my hero. His world-building and character development are phenomenal, and the way his books connect in ways you’d never even imagine… It’s just incredible. In my favorite series of his, the Stormlight Archive, he manages to introduce this world with elements so different from our own seamlessly. It took me some time to even realize he was using fictional flora and fauna, because he has that deft of a hand. I would love to have that skill.
If you had to throw a Stephen King book out the window, which would you choose?
The Stand. Not really because I have anything wrong with it, but because it would make a viable weapon.
What are you reading right now and what is next on your to-be-read list?
A Practical Guide to Computer Forensics Investigations >.> Next up, though, are Sloane Kennedy’s new book and a reread of the first few chapters of the Flesh Cartel. (Could those be any more different?)
Rapid Fire Time
- Underwear and socks: folded in the drawer or tossed? Folding is witchcraft. Period.
- Tardis or DeLorean? I shun anyone who says anything else…!
- Tennant or Smith? I had to think about this for like… a millisecond. Tennant!
- Music or TV/Movies?
- Call or text?
- Shifters or Vampires? Vampires!
- Cook or eat out? Totally not making a sex joke here. Nope. Moving right along…
- Twinks or bears?
- World of Warcraft or Everquest? World of Warcraft.
What are you working on? What is next?
Right now, I’m working on edits/rewrites on my paranormal series. I’m about to be starting my next contemporary book. Alas, this one will probably be pun-deficient. 🙁 It’s a sad, sad world.
Thanks for reading my rambles! <3
About the Author
R Phoenix has an unhealthy fascination with contrasts: light and dark, heroes and villains, order and chaos. She believes that love can corrupt and power can redeem. Her muse is a sadomasochistic slavedriver who thinks it’s terribly amusing to give her the best ideas when she just got comfortable and warm in bed, and she passes on that torture to her readers.
If she had it her way, she would describe the books in her “Ripples in the Status Quo” world as: “Supernatural creatures take over the world and turn humans into pets and food. There’s some sex between guys. And… um… fucked up things happen.” It’s probably a good thing she has people around her to remind her that she actually wants people to read her books. (They should really be more diligent, especially when they know she’s writing her author bio.)
She’s an author, stay-at-home mother, housewife, second time college student, and duck herder extraordinaire. She’s learning how to cook without burning the house down, her garden is somehow neither drowning nor drying up, and one day she might remember what that mythical thing called “free time” is. She’s starting to wonder who thought it was a good idea to write bios in third person.
She also tries entirely too hard to be funny, and she mercilessly inflicts her terrible sense of humor upon anyone who speaks to her. Really, it’s not you. It’s her. All the same, she’d love it if you’d say hello, because it makes her day to hear that someone read something she wrote. If they enjoyed it, there’s usually an awkward happy dance and embarrassing sounds of joy to accompany it (no, not that kind of sound, you perv). If all of that hasn’t scared you away, please say hello!
One random commenter with thoughtful, relevant comments will win a $25 gift certificate each month in 2016.
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