Of Dirty Kisses and Things by Rhys Ford

I am not an activist.

I don’t march in parades. I don’t wave signs in protest. I don’t stand on a street corner and shout from a soap box.

What I do do is write.

I really didn’t start writing to make a point. Mostly I wrote because I had stories piling up on the rocks in my head and figured if I didn’t scrape them out, I’d soon go crazy. It’s not a calling. It was never meant to be a higher purpose. They were just stories.

Then something happened on the way to the pixels.

I found I wanted to write about things I felt and knew. Of feeling like an outsider. Of straddling the line of different cultures and having to not talk about how I act in some instances because I know the people I’m speaking to wouldn’t understand. Of the process of exploring who I was and where I needed to be. Of not liking who I’d become and changing it — one behaviour, one word at a time.

I never meant to do anything other than write about the world as I saw it and how it affected the people around me.

I am not an activist.

But at the same time, I wish I had a larger voice.

The video at the beginning of the post is something I wish everyone would have a chance to be — happy and singing about loving themselves today. I think that there are a lot of people — from gay teens to culturally trapped adults to that guy standing there waiting for the bus — who wish they could sing with such abandon and in the safety of a loving environment.

That is what I want to write about.

Flawed and cracked characters, preferably gay and male, reaching the point in their lives where they can sing that song with such gleeful abandon.

When I started Dirty Kiss, I knew I was going to write about a Japanese-Irish detective, Cole McGinnis [1], who was raised in a purely culturally Caucasian family.

I have friends who are Caucasian and have adopted children from various parts of Asia and this is a subject we’ve talked a lot about; being ethnically Asian but culturally Caucasian.

On the flip side of this couple coin would be someone who was culturally Asian, a young Korean man named Kim Jae-Min [2], trying to fit into an American social structure while balancing his filial duties.

Oh… and there had to be sex. Did I mention the sex? Two hot men. Having sex. Isn’t that a good reason to write a book?

See? I can’t be an activist. I’m too shallow.

At the core of the book(s) is Cole solving mysteries and dealing with the fallout of the death of his lover Rick and his growing relationship with Jae. I didn’t delve much into Rick’s death, wanting to leave the gristle of it to another book but I did want to lay the groundwork for that in Dirty Kiss. Nothing pisses me off more than a “surprise” complication introduced in Book Three when something could have been worked in at the get go. So, I tried to lay all the cards on the table. So to speak.

Jae was a deeper oyster to shuck. I wanted to keep him as Cole saw him and not peek too far into his psyche other than where necessary. Jae’s much more private in his emotions and thoughts than Cole who wears his heart on his sleeve. Jae needed to be coaxed out to the reader until more and more of him was revealed. I wanted the reader to know he was unconsciously sexy and more than a little bit stubborn. He’s more damaged than Cole and much more wary.

Dirty Kiss is as much about Cole drawing Jae towards him as it is solving the mystery of Kim Hyun-Shik’s death.

But Dirty Kiss also needed to have a bit of fun so it wasn’t all sturm und drang.

I wanted the reader to feel that Cole had a full life, close friends and really just was a guy fumbling a bit through life despite his intelligence and good nature. Enter the supporting cast; his office manager Claudia, best friend Bobby, and his brother Mike. Rounding out the book’s supporting cast is Scarlet, a Filipino “ladyboy” and “older sister” to Cole’s love interest, Jae. Creating Cole’s world and filling it with people who loved him was very satisfying and in some places, like eating cotton candy. They love him but damn, he drives them crazy sometimes.

The mystery itself is pretty simple. Kim Hyun-Shik is found dead in a Korean gay club. He supposedly killed himself but after a few hours of questioning, some destruction and meeting Hyun-Shik’s hot cousin, Jae, Cole is convinced Hyun-Shik was murdered. The mystery is pretty simple. Find out who murdered Hyun-Shik.

See, this is where writing gets interesting because I didn’t want a hard-boiled detective who spots a hot Korean boy and has sex on the kitchen counter as soon as he meets him. I wanted a intuitively-intelligent but sometimes obtuse young man who relies on his wits and dubious charm to get from Point A to Point B. Unfortunately, people don’t necessarily want Cole to get to Point B. See? Mystery is fun and easy!

Jae just wanted Cole to get to the Tab A into Slot B parts but that’s to be expected. Cole wanted to get there too, eventually. And he did.

Their relationship begins here. Amid the death, blood and grit, Jae and Cole begin to create something that hopefully will heal their wounded and lessen the scars life has given them.

More importantly, by the end of Dirty Kiss, Cole takes the first step in being able to sing “I love myself today”. And maybe — just maybe — Jae has as well.

Dirty Kiss can be purchased as an ebook or dead tree book at Dreamspinner Press, Amazon and other fine bookstores.

Dreamspinner ebook, Dreamspinner Paperback Trade, Amazon Kindle, and Amazon Paperback Trade

Rhys Ford can be contacted at: rhys_ford@vitaenoir.com

Caveats:

[1] If I had enough money to license him for Cole’s face: Leandro Okabe. Much lust over this boy. What? I’m human.

[2] If I had enough money to license him for Jae’s face’s: Kim Jaejoong. I chose Kim Jae-Min because it’s an approachable name for English audiences as Jae and Kim’s a very common surname in Korea.

[3] Dirty Kiss cover by the talented and wonderful Anne Cain

10 Comments

Filed under Dreamspinner Press, featured authors, just a category, M/M romance

10 Responses to Of Dirty Kisses and Things by Rhys Ford

  1. MandyM

    Nice post Rhys. I loved Dirty Kiss and made a remark about the great cover in my review. I really like it when the guys on the cover match my impressions from reading the book. Although the 2 guys in your post are on the money too. I wasn’t an activist either but as a reader in the genre you can’t help but question the inequalities that exist out there and now I always give my opinions when the subject of gay rights comes up.

    • Oh yes, I am pretty strongly opinioned about gay rights. I’ve never seen the need for who someone loves to be anyone’s business but their own (barring children… and possibly dead possums but I don’t think I should have a say on the latter as well). I DO want to question inequalities and the pain that rejecting a gay son or daughter causes. I think it’s one of our final battle fields in society and I’m more than willing to don what armour I can to fight it.

      Heh. The cover. Ah, Anne Cain rocks. I’ve worked with her before and honestly, she ALWAYS delivers spot-on. I shall pass on your admiration. She’s lovely to work with.

      Thank you!

  2. lsylvestre

    Hey, Rhys. Great post. Love the vid. It’s good to see your explanation of how you brought your ideas together to make Dirty Kiss a great novel. Just a question. How do you feel about character surprises in the second book, as opposed to the third? 🙂 (No, really–legit question.)

    • Thanks, love!

      Character surprises. I think if I tossed Rick into the second book, readers would feel a bit betrayed and confused. Not to mention pissed off. I think character surprises for me is something HUGE that alters a person so much that they change inside. Since Dirty Kiss was first person POV, I had to include Rick and his death in the narrative, especially where Jae was concerned.

      Now if you suddenly decided that Luki had a conjoined twin in the second book, THAT would be an unpleasant character surprise since we didn’t have mention of it in the first book. Things like a child surfacing or that someone had gone to prison for dancing naked through the Capitol sprinklers is different. And if handled well, can really add to a story.

      Josh Lanyon did a GREAT character surprise with Jake in one of the latter books of the Adrien English series. Since the AE series is told from Adrien’s POV, it hit hard and painfully. Great example of how a character changing course can alter a series.

      And now I’m going to go make rice and stop rambling. ::::Grins::: Thanks again for letting me play in your sandbox, love!

      • lsylvestre

        Well… that’s a great answer, Rhys, about the character surprises. Interestingly enough, it hits a bit close to home (not with the conjoined twins). I think we might speak more upon this topic. Another character philosophy question. I’ve recently heard/read people voicing the opinion that as readers they want their tough guys to stay tough, so to speak, their alpha males to… well, you get it. Now, Cole is obviously a strong man, but when I read him I also see him as flawed and vulnerable and so very human. If I didn’t see him that way he’d seem like a very tough version of a paper doll. And, it would leave me wondering, why write a story about this guy? What do you think? Should our heroes never fail?

  3. Heh. Conjoined twins are the most unpleasant of surprises. :::grins:::

    I don’t think readers want their heroes to stay tough. They like a little scoundrel. The best part of a hero is when he cracks himself open and you see the tenderness inside. Doesn’t mean he’s weak. It means he’s got a heart and can love.

    Writing Cole is very interesting because if someone were looking at him from the outside, they’d probably see something very different from how he sees himself. I wanted to show a strong man but with those cracks and soft spots that would make him a whole person. Jae on the other hand is only seen from Cole’s point of view so the gradual unveiling of his character will be a slow process.

    The thought that a tough guy can’t be a little tender is cleaving to a gender role that I wouldn’t want to write. :::grins::: Sure, some guys can be hard as nails tough but really, would he NEED anyone else? Why write a story about someone who needs no one? I don’t think that character would be accessible to the reader over a long period of time… so in a series, the reader (and probably the writer) would get bored. Okay I would get bored.

    See? I ramble! RAMBLE! ::::grins::: What do you’ve got planned for Sonny and Luki?

    • lsylvestre

      Rhys! I missed your reply! How could I have done this. Great answer, I agree, but I didn’t have it that clear in my mind. Now that you said it, that’s it exactly. What good is a hero without a human (vulnerable) heart? Thanks!(But that wasn’t rambling.)

  4. Great post. Love your inspiration.

  5. Aw, thank you very much.

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