AB: Loved your blog on the first time you became aware of the fact that men can fall in love. How long have you been reading mm?
LH: Probably only a few months before I started writing it, to be honest. I read an m/f/m book that I quite liked, and then it occurred to me that it would have been better without the heroine. I picked up a few m/m titles and never looked back.
AB: You seem to have suddenly burst onto the scene back in February 2011 with Tribute. Had you been writing anything else before that? Fan fiction?
LH: I’ve written for as long as I can remember. Every notebook I have from school turned into a creative writing book, with stories sandwiched in between whatever the subject was supposed to be. My geography workbook was at least 95% epic high fantasy novel. I failed geography that year. The high fantasy novel was pretty bad too. When I was a teenager I wrote a bit of fan fiction, but never put any of it online.
In another life I’m an aspiring non-romance novelist. I actually wrote Tribute after getting a rejection on a historical mystery from a fantastic agent, and I decided then and there that why the hell not try erotic romance? I was reading enough of it. So I wrote Tribute to make myself feel better about that rejection, and sent it away with absolutely no expectations, and it was the best decision I ever made.
LH: I remember reading J.P. Barnaby’s The Forbidden Room, and staying up way too late at night to finish it. I was just enthralled by the journey of Jayden, who starts off as Ethan’s roommate and becomes his sub. It was a fascinating insight into the needs and the mindset of a sub. I particularly loved it because Ethan wasn’t a magic mind-reading Dom. He made mistakes, and he made some big ones.
AB: What prompted you to join forces with J.A. Rock?
LH: She did. I’d been thinking about co-writing for a while, and J.A. and I had sent each other a few emails since we both had books released at the same time from LooseId, and both liked the other’s books. Then, out of the blue, she sent an email asking if I’d be interest in co-writing. Hell yes. And it turned out we worked really well together.
I think I was worried that our styles wouldn’t gel, or that we wouldn’t even get that far and the whole thing would fall apart before we started. But the best thing about working with someone you don’t really know, is that you kind of have to stay polite and professional.
We fight a lot more now we know each other better. Mostly about American spelling. Which, as you know, is plain wrong.
AB: Are there aspects of writing you find difficult which are easier with a co-writer?
JH: Having a co-writer forces me not to give up when I hit a roadblock. Which is what I constantly do, and probably explains why my single author stuff takes so much longer to write. Also, a co-writer might take things in a direction you never even saw coming, which is fantastic. There is some negotiation involved, like if I suggest a plot point that she might not like, so we sometimes have to look for a third way of doing things. And usually that third way is something I’d never even considered, and it turns out to be better than what I originally had in mind.
Also, enthusiasm. It’s fun to write with someone, and get immediate feedback on what you’ve written, even if it’s just a smiley face or a “LOL” in the comments. I’m all about the instant gratification.
LH: J.A. and I discussed this when we started The Good Boy. Neither of us had co-written before, and had no idea how to approach it. So we winged it, like with everything. We’re both very laid back. I started in Lane’s POV, she started in Derek’s, but we never wanted to “own” a character each. And we sort of tag teamed after that. If I ran out of steam in the middle of a scene (sometimes in the middle of a sentence) she’d pick it up from there, and vice versa.
AB: What strengths do you feel you bring to the co-writing table?
AB: J.A. says I’m the organised one. Which only shows how disorganised she must be. I think she’s better at sex scenes than I am: I tend to retreat inside a character’s head a lot and rely on what they’re feeling rather than what they’re doing, whereas she choreographs scenes beautifully. And spankings. She is the queen of spankings.
AB: You’ve explored a few different avenues so far, contemporary BDSM, slave fiction, historical fiction, science fiction and military fiction. Do you have a preference?
LH: This is actually what I love about writing romance. It’s a massive umbrella, and as long as the focus is on the relationship, you can set it absolutely anywhere. I have no preference at all, really. I’ll just give my characters whatever setting I think works best for them. I like sci fi a lot because that lets me do my own world building. On the other hand, I love history, so even though historicals take longer because of all the research involved, I really enjoy writing them.
LH: That’s a tricky question! I think every relationship has aspects of power exchange, whether we acknowledge them or not. And I love to explore them. Probably the most vanilla relationship I’ve written so far would be Brady and Cam from Dark Space. I don’t think that Brady is a sub, but he definitely needs Cam in the same way that a sub might need a Dom — to keep him grounded.
Mark and Deacon in Mark Cooper Versus America are both new to BDSM, and although we establish that Deacon prefers spanking to being spanked, he’s not a Dom. And Mark would make a terrible sub. He doesn’t take direction very well. At all.
AB: Which of you is most interested in BDSM and D/s relationships?
LH: J.A. definitely has more formal experience, but we both love exploring the power dynamic of a D/s relationship. I think that in every new relationship there is always this fear of revealing yourself to your partner, and this is magnified in a D/s situation. At the end of the day, it’s not the kink that counts; it’s the trust.
AB: What is it about BDSM that attracts you to write about it?
LH: The power dynamic, definitely, and the amount of trust it takes to reveal your needs to your partner. Sexuality is a fascinating subject. It’s such a basic human need, in all its wonderful variations, and yet most of us are conditioned from a very young age to think of kink, especially, as wrong or weird. I think J.A. and I explored this most in The Good Boy where Lane literally can’t tell Derek what he needs, which is where non-verbal puppy play became so important for them.
AB: Have you ever been tempted to get involved in real life?
LH: I live in a smallish provincial city, and while we have a thriving LGBT scene, we don’t have any BDSM clubs that I’m aware of. So my experimentation has been very much in private, and not at all in formal scenes.
LH: While I’m writing, I tend not to read much because I’ll either get depressed if I read something fantastic (Why can’t I write like that?) or I’ll worry that I’m being influenced too much by someone else’s writing.
AB: Which of your current stories are you considering writing sequels to?
LH: Dark Space. Mostly because I loved Brady’s voice. He was so much fun to write. He’s wonderfully volatile and vulnerable at the same time.
AB: Tell us about The Boy Who Belonged, with J.A. Rock - coming soon from Loose Id.
LH: The Boy Who Belonged is a Christmas-themed sequel to The Good Boy. Here’s the blurb:
Twenty-year-old Lane Moredock finally has a normal life. Six months after he was wrongly made a suspect in his parents’ ponzi scheme, he’s settled down with his older boyfriend, Derek, and is working and attending school. But his happiness is threatened when his mother launches a Christmastime PR campaign to help appeal her prison sentence, and asks introverted Lane to be part of it.
Derek Fields has his hands full taking Santa photos, bird-sitting his sister’s foul-mouthed macaw, and helping Lane prepare for a television interview neither of them wants him to do. As he eases Lane through his anxiety, he worries that Lane sees him as a caretaker rather than a boyfriend, and that their age difference really does matter. He and Lane compensate for the stress in their lives by taking their D/s relationship to new levels--a relationship that Lane’s mother insists he should be ashamed of.
As Christmas draws nearer, the pressure builds. Pushy elves. Snarky subs. A bad fight. A parrot in peril. How the hell is Derek going to give Lane a perfect Christmas when the Moredock legacy threatens to pull them apart before the new year?
It was a lot of fun to revisit Derek and Lane, and throw some more angst at them. It also contains more Mr. Zimmerman, the obnoxious macaw.
AB: Tell us about Mark Cooper Versus America, with J.A. Rock - coming soon from Loose Id.
LH: On face value, this is a book about Mark Cooper, an Aussie boy whose mother marries an American. Mark moves to America, starts college, and starts a relationship with a hot guy from a rival frat. It’s full of cultural misunderstandings, an Aussie boy who is fluent in sarcasm, and cross-dressing.
Underneath that, it was an excuse for J.A. and I to hash out all our old arguments about American spelling (It’s wrong, J.A.), cultural differences, and which are scarier: sharks or bears.
The whole idea of it started during The Good Boy when Derek arrived at Lane’s hotel with a flat white, and J.A. asked me why he’d brought paint. No, I told her, a flat white is a coffee. Americans are weird.
She’s in NZ at the moment, discovering the wonders of flat whites. I got an email the other day about her trip to see where they filmed Lord of the Rings: I didn't die. But they almost didn't let me go because the forecast was 70 K winds on the mountain. Which means nothing to me because I don't know what that is in mph.
And that’s pretty much what inspired Mark Cooper. That, and a long email exchange about alternate meanings of the word “root”.
LH: I have one under submission at the moment, and another few plotted out. By plotted out, I mean I have things scrawled on Post-It notes. I am not a plotter. I think that probably shows in the number of WIPs I have on the go at the same time. I have ADHD when it comes to writing.
AB: I see you have a book The King of Dublin, written with Heidi Belleau under contract. What prompted you to team up with another author?
LH: A Twitter conversation. She asked, and I said yes. I’ll say yes to anything, really. J It’s why so much of my solo stuff is on the backburner at the moment. Also, I’d been a fan of Heidi’s for a while before we started writing together.
AB: Are you finding the writing process very different with Heidi?
LH: Very different. J.A. and I tag team, which means that I’ll go to bed one night, and in the morning there might be a whole new scene waiting for me. It’s like magic!
Heidi and I literally write together. We have a Google doc open, and work on it at the same time. At first it was weird to see writing appearing on the page, but I’m getting used to it now! Heidi is also more of a planner than J.A. or me, so that’s been a learning curve for me.
It’s also a slower process, since we have to wait for our timetables to sync up. Luckily I work odd hours, so I’m often up in the middle of the night my time, which is morning Heidi’s time.
AB: Did J.A. give you permission? (Lol)
LH: She’s not the boss of me!
LH: I chose LooseId when I was submitting Tribute because they published my favourite m/m titles. And then I became aware of Riptide, which is a lot more dub-con friendly, and open to much darker stuff. When they were after submissions for their Warriors of Rome collection, I couldn’t resist. Dub-con and Ancient Rome — two of my favourite things!
Speaking of Riptide, J.A. and I have another coming out with them in March 2014 entitled When all the World Sleeps. It’s available for pre-order now and who knows, if you do, you may win free books for a year.
AB: Are there any other publishers you’d be interested in writing for?
LH: I’ve heard only good things about Samhain, so I might consider submitting to them one day. But at the moment I’m happy with both my publishers, so I’m in no rush to spread myself around too much.
AB: What happened to these books mentioned in your blogs? “There is 1920's England. I love the societal conventions, the fashions, plus this has the added bonus of séances and Spiritualism!
LH: I got totally sidetracked into research about Spiritualism. This one has sort of ground to a halt, sadly, because I do this thing where I have an idea, run with it, then get distracted by a newer, shinier idea. So instead of finishing one project, I dabble in at least six or seven at once.
AB:...There is 1880's England. And I have had so much fun researching this one! Opium dens and gaslights and the Limehouse... the only downside is those walrus moustaches. Not a great look.
LH: This is my attempt at a paranormal. I love Victorian England, and magic, but at the same time as I was starting this, another book came out set in that period with an MC who stammers, and recently another one has been released with the whole magic thing happening. So I’ve put this one on the backburner for a while.
LH: This one is still being written. It’s my go-to project when all the others are hurting my head. So it’s getting there, in fits and starts. I also now want to visit Samoa, for research purposes. Until then, I guess I’ll have to rely on my Samoan mates to make sure I don’t stuff up the cultural details.
And what is it about those big South Pacific guys? Yes, please! (Gratuitous picture of Dwayne Johnson included just because he's purty)
AB: And another WIP mentioned in your blog: I want to write a series of novels set in the one universe, full of political machinations that would make the Borgias proud. At the moment I’m leaning towards space opera rather than historical, because that way I can do all the world building myself, and fit all the pieces together without having to worry about historical accuracy.
AB: I’ve got about half of the first book finished, and then I got distracted by something else. But it’s still there, and still waiting!
LH: This is the one that’s currently under submission!
See? I do get things finished occasionally!
AB: Gee, I thought I was bad…How many WIPs do you have out there?
LH: Way, way, way too many.
AB: Do you feel pressured/guilty that you start books and don’t finish them?
LH: I work on the theory that I’ll eventually get everything finished. This theory can’t be proved false until I die, right?
AB: Do you prefer working under contract and having a deadline?
LH: Deadlines are my friend. I work best under pressure. If you give me a deadline, I’ll make it. If you ask me to set my own, it means nothing to me. I think this dates back to my university days, where I was the queen of “The exam isn’t until tomorrow. I can totally study tonight.” Somehow I got a degree.
AB: You state in one of your blogs: “Love is the thing that makes you stick together when you've told him a hundred times to put his fucking socks in the laundry basket, not the floor, and you pick them up anyway. And when he's told you a hundred times how to refill that thing in your car where the water goes for the windscreen wipers, and then does it for you anyway. It's sleeping in when his alarm goes off and copping a goodbye kiss to whatever part of your head that isn't shoved under the pillow. It's leaving sticky notes on the fridge to maintain some sort of human contact when you don't cross paths for days.” Beautifully put BTW. Do you ever feel constrained by the demands of writing mm romance?
LH: Sometimes. I think there’s pressure to always end with a declaration of love and a HEA, which is not really my style at all. Because real love stories don’t end there. That’s where they start. And I always have more faith in a realistic ending, in a couple that I can see are still working on things, rather than with fireworks and a grand gesture of love. That’s how love stories are packaged in movies all the time, but it’s not how things are in real life. It reminds me a little of those wedding shows you see, where it’s all about spending a gazillion dollars on looking gorgeous for your photographs…but that’s a stage production, not a journey. I’m much more interested in how people will travel together.
That might seem a bit weird coming from someone who writes romance, since I’m marketing that fantasy as well, but I’ve never liked the fairytale “and they all lived happily ever after”. That’s not what life is, and it’s not what love is either. Life and love are infinitely more complicated than that, and infinitely more interesting. I prefer to leave my characters’ relationship as a work in progress.
I love this quote by Stephen King: "And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live."
How is that not perfect?
AB: I ask this because I was criticized by one reviewer about Don my hero in Leather+Lace because he never said “I Love you” in so many words to Steve. Yet if you read my book, I believe you can see it in what he does…
LH: I love Leather+Lace! Too often drag queens are portrayed as the comic relief, which is fine as that’s very much the theatrical public persona, but you can’t be on stage twenty-four hours a day. I love seeing the men behind the makeup.
And I liked that Don never said “I love you”. He showed his love in his actions, rather than his words. And to me, that means more than any declaration could. It is much more abiding.
AB: Thank you so much for giving your time. Whoever Tom is that commented on your blog, I thoroughly agree with every word he says. It’s rare to find a writer who can pull me into so many different sub-genres and keep my respect at the end of the story. Every story you have written is different and in a age where a lot of writers are churning out books with strikingly similar setups, that is a breath of fresh air.
You can find more about Lisa from her website here
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