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Travis Miller has a machining job, a cat named Elwood, and a pathetic love life. The one bright spot in his existence is the handsome guitar player he sometimes passes on his way home from work. But when he finally gathers the courage to speak to the man, Travis learns that former novelist Drew Clifton suffers from aphasia: Drew can understand everything Travis says, but he is unable to speak or write.
The two lonely men form a friendship that soon blossoms into romance. But communication is only one of their challenges—there’s also Travis’s inexperience with love and his precarious financial situation. If words are the bridge between two people, what will keep them together?
Kim Fielding lives in California and travels as often as she can manage. A professor by day, at night she rushes into a phonebooth to change into her author costume (which involves comfy clothes instead of Spandex and is, sadly, lacking a cape). Her superpowers include the ability to write nearly anywhere, often while simultaneously doling out homework assistance to her children. Her favorite word to describe herself is “eclectic” and she’s currently considering whether to get that third tattoo.
Q: How important are character names, to you, and how do you go about naming them? What about titles?
A: Names are very important to me—they’re one of the first things I decide. They can tell you something about the age and background of the character, and I also try to choose names that tell you something about personality. For example, in my novella Speechless, one of the characters has aphasia and can no longer communicate verbally. His name is Drew. In an upcoming novel, Venetian Masks, Jeff is a very ordinary guy with a very ordinary name. His love interest is Cleve, which is sort of a play on words because “cleave” can mean either “to sever” or “to stick,” and it’s unclear whether Cleve is going to stick around.
As for titles, I agonize endlessly, but usually end up with one that pleases me. I have a bit of a weakness for puns and double meanings.
Q:In what locale is your most recent book set? How compelling was it to set a story there? Do you choose location the same way every time? How?
A: Locations are also very important to me because I see the scenes in my head, and also because they often dictate parts of the storyline. In fact, it’s very often a location that gives me the plot idea to begin with. Both Good Bones and Speechless happen to be set in Oregon. Dylan in Good Bones buys a farm that bears a distinct resemblance to the farm some of my family members own. My upcoming fantasy romance, Brute, is set in an imaginary city called Tellomer. And Venetian Masks is a bit of a travelogue, set in Venice—of course!—but with scenes in a few other central European cities as well.
I love to travel, and it’s often my travels that suggest story locations.
Q: How much power do you give your characters in steering the story line?
A: I don’t give it—they take it from me! I start out with a very rough outline, but rarely stick to it very closely. Once I give my characters life, they run the show.
Q: What is the most satisfying element for you in writing gay relationships, and why?
A: I like to be able to depict the positive aspects of love, even when the people involved face serious challenges. I also like being able to free myself from stereotypes.
Q: Are readers involved in making your fiction—do they suggest stories or say what they’d like to read?
A: Not much, aside from requesting sequels—which is always flattering!
Q: Describe the ideal relationship between author and readers.
A: Ideally, what I love to write is what readers will love to read. Also ideally, my stories can entertain, can stir emotions, and can maybe make people think about things in new ways. If my stories inspire people, even better. And of course readers are really important to me, because otherwise I’m just writing for my own amusement.
Q: What do you find useful about reviews?
A: I find reviews especially useful when people give specific constructive criticism. Also, if several reviewers say more or less the same thing—either negative or positive—that tells me I should probably listen.
Q: I’m well known for demanding to know an author’s opinion about which of their characters is the sexiest, and I’m making no exception for this group. Who, how, and why?
A: Wow, this is a tough one! I guess I’d have to choose Drew Clifton from Speechless. What’s sexy about him is that, because he can’t communicate with words, he has to convey all his thoughts and feelings with his body and face. He’s also vulnerable yet very strong, which I find an irresistible combination.
Q: What are the fifty hottest words (approximate the word count) you’ve ever written, in your opinion. (Be sure to include citation).
Dylan buried his nose in Chris’s hair, inhaling deeply. He wondered vaguely if he could become drunk off the rich odors of drugstore soap and hard work and spicy meals, and a scent that spoke eloquently to him of Chris’s desire and need.
Q: What are you doing now, what do plan to write next?
A: A lot! My short story “Tyler Wang Has a Ball” releases October 8 in Dreamspinner’s Don’t Try This at Home anthology. In December, my story “Joys R Us” will come out in Silver Publishing’s holiday anthology. My fantasy romance novel Brute releases in December or January. Venetian Masks will come out in February or March. And my gay fantasy trilogy (Stasis, Flux, and Equipoise) just began production as audiobooks. I also have a couple other short stories in various stages of progress. Whew!
My next novel will be a sequel to Good Bones. I have another novel planned after that as well, a contemporary romance set in rural California, and involving a former mental hospital.
An excerpt from Speechless
Drew stopped at a Walgreens, where the stringy-haired woman behind the counter gave them a deeply skeptical look. Travis supposed they did look pretty disreputable. But they gathered up a basketful of Band-Aids and Neosporin and ice packs and other first aid supplies—which Drew cheerfully paid for with his MasterCard—and then headed to Drew’s house.
Drew took Travis by the hand and towed him to a neat bathroom with white tile, a claw-foot tub, and an antique shelf full of fluffy towels. He gently pushed Travis down onto the closed toilet and dampened a washcloth in the sink. And then he reached for the eye patch.
Travis jerked his hands up and grabbed Drew’s arms. “You can clean around it.
It’s… it’s gross.”
But Drew shook his head and twisted his arm away, then slid the strap off Travis’s head. He tossed it onto the counter and for a long minute just stood there, staring. Travis tensed, waiting for the revulsion and rejection. But instead, Drew leaned down and, light as a butterfly, brushed his lips over Travis’s empty lid. Then he stood straight again, and Travis took a deep, shuddery breath. “It doesn’t disgust you?”
Drew shook his head impatiently and then pointed to a scar that ran across the upper part of his forehead.
“Well, yeah, but yours is sexy. Sort of like a dueling scar from your student days at Heidelberg or a slash from an assassin’s blade when you were saving the Ark of the Covenant.” He paused. “Is it from the car accident?”
“Well, it’s still sexy.” Travis lifted his hand and smoothed his forefinger across the length of the mark. “Sexy,” he repeated, aware that his voice had gone kind of gravelly.
After that, well… it sort of started out as the mutual administration of first aid for the various scrapes and bruises they’d acquired in the fight. But a thorough rendering of aid required removal of clothing, and then Drew apparently decided that kisses would do a better job of healing than would antibiotic ointments, and then…. How the hell had Drew managed to slip some K-Y and Trojans into their Walgreens basket without Travis noticing?
The bathroom floor was hard and cold, but Travis barely noticed as he was flooded with sensation. Drew was so tight and warm around him, uttering ragged sounds that weren’t quite words but didn’t need to be. His pale skin was so fine and smooth, and his nipples ripe like fruit. And afterward they stumbled to the couch and wrapped themselves in a fuzzy blanket and sort of floated for a while.
Travis was drifting toward sleep—Drew between his legs and leaning back against his chest—when he roused himself and kissed Drew’s mussed hair. “I gotta go.”